Choosing a bike for a long tour is not easy

Once that tour idea settled in, worries were backed up and the news about our decision spread out among friends we started looking for THE bicycles.

choosing-a-bike-for-a-long-tour

The BICYCLES that are going to carry us and all our home for a long way.

Though I have used the verb choose for the title, but the whole process should rather be called searching as in the beginning we had no options.

How did we start the search of THE bicycle?

First thing- googling: what kind of bicycle do we even need? Like what bicycles do other travelers use?

That brought us so much information, we got lost. We weren’t even sure anymore what we were searching for! Apart from dozens of companies, various customizations, did you know that there are even different types of touring bikes as there are different styles of touring?
And also, that you do not need any particularly expensive or special bike to make a tour?

Well, if you have decided for searching one have a look at advice section of TomsBikeTrip for starting, as well as a short free guide on bicycle touring by TravellingTwo, and if you really into bikes and their comparisons, then CyclingAbout compiles a Touring Bicycle Buyers Guide yearly, but well, not for free.

Our research took awhile, but we have learned the first and very important lesson in choosing a bike for touring.

preferences_vs_limitations_bicycle

Lesson 1: Nearly everything depends just on your and only your preferences. And limitations.

Choosing a bike: preferences vs. limitations

As we still did not have googled out our preferences, we have set a limitation:1000 EUR per bicycle. And we restarted our search with a limitation. We browsed in sales and we kept reading… blogs, reviews, journals, books. We learned about Warmshowers and started hosting cyclists, seeking their bits of advice too. Many bike shops were visited, various bikes were ridden, but special touring bikes. They aren’t popular in expositions. And our expectations started growing, consequently, our budget was increased.

We are going to make a long tour through all kinds of surfaces, vast lands without civilization nearby: we want to see the Himalayas! So we for the first time set our preferences. We decided for a sturdy and trusty bicycle, that would not need much attention on the way.

So we have settled our needs:

  • steel frame (easy to weld),
  • 26inch wheels(everywhere available),
  • simple gear systems, like Shimano deore: easy to repair and to replace,
  • simple Cantilever breaks, that we already know how to repair
  • all new as we aren’t bike mechanics: can’t determine levels of usage and we don’t want to become one.

That already narrowed the search, but it still it took us months of thinking, reading and a test ride on a loaded bike, to make a decision. The tested bike was of our Warmshowers guests, the customized Surly Long Haul Trucker.

Now if you are a bicycle touring fanatic.. your mind is laughing with ‘what a surprise’. Or else, you haven’t heard anything about it. But let me tell you, once you start following bicycle tourers, you realize that half of them are riding the Surly, the American brand. Indeed it is one of the oldest brands offering special touring bicycles and shipping it everywhere.

But we both secretly believe it is one of those fashions no one knows where it comes from. The same with MSR gear.. We still cannot get why it’s so popular. But it’s just an observation. No conspiracy.

Also, our WS guest said, that the followed bloggers are just a very small part of all tourers. So, it might be a false image of the reality, we will check this on our road..

Riding experience is convincing when choosing

Feeling of riding the Surly was so great, we easily got convinced that this is it, that we want it. Or we want something that feels like that. But Surly would be good, yeah. I easily fell in love with it though I don’t particularly like popular brands, but as we haven’t tried anything else in that direction, we have settled about this frame and we started searching again, this time for custom parts we would build on a Surly frame. We decided for a Surly LHT frame, Brooks saddles, straight and butterfly bars and old school cantilever brakes with Shimano Deore gears. And got lost again, especially in customizing the rest, which is a lot lot more… we did not even know exist. So we went to the great bike-shop-guy Tino from Bike Center in Dresden. He made the list for us of what to choose and what would that cost… and it got clear that we would have to go over our budget even more with a custom Surly. Especially as we are not bike experts and would not be able to choose and build on our own. And so here is the second lesson from us.

building-your-bike

Lesson 2: If you do not have preferences for each and every part and instead you have more limitations it does not make sense building the bike.

So we finally fully turned to our bike-shop-guy and took his advice on an unknown brand bike INTEC M1, that well corresponded with our preferences and limitations. And it was made just here and not in USA. We discussed, compared, thought over and what a luck, had a chance to try the cousin of it in a Bike24 shop! And we got positively surprised how similar the feeling of riding it was. It felt like riding the Surly! But it was the INTEC! Trusting the d
feeling and our bike shop guy next day we went to him and ordered the bike.

The chosen one: INTEC M1

And that is how we after loads of googling,reading and testing have chosen our bikes.

INTEC M1 bicycles in steel with 26 inches wheels (since we are going deep into MidAsia) and with a mountain bike bar, as well as basic cantilever breaks, Shimano Deore gear system and Shimano ..smth… hubs, and plenty other things we didn’t care much about.
And we are going to update it with Ergon grips, Brooks saddles,Tubus luggage carriers, Shimano spd pedals and we’ll see what comes more on the way.

It rides perfectly! Seems like it is exactly what we wanted; it is just we didn’t know that from the beginning.

intec-m1-back

From the very start, I was convinced that it’s hard to choose a bike for us since we knew basically nothing about bicycles. But I have forgotten of course that it doesn’t get so much easier with knowledge if you have limitations. As choosing a bike it is about the two: preferences and limitations. It doesn’t matter how much more you know it often cannot help as either there are limitations or you have so many preferences for specific cases you would end up taking several bikes for a trip.

After loads of reading about bikes as well as about choosing and buying bikes, I am very thankful for an advice of Tom Allen.

Do not buy a touring bike online.
Unless
1. you know exactly which bike you need and are utterly confident in its suitability for your tour,
2. you know exactly what size will fit you (from previous experience of fitting and riding similar bicycles, not just by looking at sizing charts), and
3. you are an experienced enough mechanic to build it, fit it and tweak it to perfection yourself.

Pay close attention: if you don’t honestly, truly satisfy these three criteria, you’ll be better off with a slightly cheaper bike and spending the savings on visiting a store and getting it sized, fitted and set up properly.

(Tom Allen, TomBikesTrip)

And after visiting some retailers we were happy we have found Tino. Recommended by RadmaedchenDresden rules! That was the best that could have happened in preparing for our bike trip.

Viva la Bike Center!

Bike Center in Dresden


CONCLUSIONS
If you aren’t an expert in bike touring, read on it as much as you like, but also seek advice and guidance from a bike guy with a touring experience! It helps if you know your limitations like budget and also possible destinations, but all is possible and you can go with any bike! And don’t worry, let adventures happen!



What do you think?