A New Bike – Problem or Not?

New Bike

I’ve got the green light to buy a new bike, so no problem, right?

So, I’m in search of a new bike or should I say an “additional bike”. If you stepped into my bike shop, aka “the garage”, you might wonder why. After all there are 8 bikes hanging from the hooks. Yes, that’s a lot of bikes, but they don’t all belong to me.

Melodie’s “Winter Bike”
Melodie’s “Winter Bike”

First off there are my wife’s 2 road bikes; her 80s era Raleigh Scott Tinley Tri-Lite. That’s her “Winter Bike” (See my previous post about “winter bikes”). Second is her 2003 Jamis Quest, her current road bike. Then there is my winter bike, described in the post above and my newer road bike, a 2010 Scattante CFR Elite. We also have a 2003 Burley Tamburello tandem. That accounts for 5.

Well, of the other 3, one is a project bike that I’ll eventually get around to rebuilding and the other 2 belong to my adult kids who are staying with us for a bit. Once they move on to better digs, there will be at least 2 vacant hooks. So yes….I’m shopping for a new bike.

Burley Tamburello
Burley Tamburello

You might ask, “How many bikes does one need?” I phrase my answer with an analogy; the same could be said for automobiles. I have a 2010 Kia and a 2000 Dodge pickup. Yes they both run on gas and get me from point A to point B but they clearly have different purposes. In the same manner, so do my bikes.

Our winter bikes could be considered “commuters”, bikes that we ride when the weather is poor. The newer road bikes (Quest and CFR) are like the fast sports car we take out on the weekends and well…..the tandem could be considered the station wagon we take out when we want to be together.

A loaded what?

WRONG – So much on this bike that the rider should have stayed home.
WRONG – So much on this bike that the rider should have stayed home.

So, the new bike I’m looking for is a ‘loaded touring” bike, which might be compared to a jeep with all kinds of bells and whistles to take me on long trips, even off pavement if desired. With this bike I’ll be able to strap panniers (bags) and other items to specially designed racks over the front and rear tires and basically travel unsupported on bike camping trips ranging from overnight to across the country. The only limit is time and imagination. Unfortunately there is no limit to my options and this proving to be problematic. I’m having trouble finding one bike with everything on it that I desire.

Awesomeness defined

This is how it’s done
This is how it’s done

Let me start by saying that Melodie is unconditionally supportive. She’s awesome that way. Actually she’s awesome in many ways but I’m getting off topic. She knows that this bike will help me fulfill many of my cycling goals, some of which are more than 40 years old, sadly enough.

Ever since I was 14 it’s been my desire to ride my bike from the Canadian Border to the Mexican border (1830 miles) down what is the entire coastline of three states. I’m also very interested in Pacific_Coastother long distance routes; the TransAmerica (4232 miles) route which really has about 4 variations or tiers and then a newly completed route called the Sierra Cascades (2395 miles), which basically follows the mountain route, rather than the coastal route, from Canada to Mexico. I’m excited about this one because it runs right through my neck of the woods, locations that I lived near camping, fishing and backpacking.

Melodie has given me the green light to spend what I feel I need to as long as we pay cash. That’s kind of how we operate and that adds a whole new element to the search, this little thing called “patience”. Whatever I choose to buy will require laying $100 bills on the counter of the bike shop. That causes me to be really, really mindful of what I’m doing.

What this bike should have

I have 3 specific things I want to have on the bike which are:

1. Disc brakes

Disc brakesTypically bikes have caliper type brakes where pads are forced into the rim using springs and cables. These pads tend to wear and come out of alignment causing noise and other problems. It is also possible, while descending long steep grades, to use your brakes so much caliper brakesthat your rims overheat and cause other issues, like warping or blown tires.

While disc brakes themselves can be noisy they don’t easily become misaligned. they have increase stopping power especially with loads and in wet conditions.

2. S&S couplers

S&S Couplers are the brainchild of S and S Machine out of Roseville, CA. These couplers have revolutionized the travel bike world because they allow the frame to be broken into two halves so that the bike can be packed into a traveling case that meets most airline standards for checked luggage. Without that ability, flying with a bike to a remote location can cost hundreds of dollars extra for each segment.

They are expensive, costing between $500 and $700 per bike, plus installation but you can see that within a few years of traveling the return is quickly realized.

3. Internal hub with a belt drive

There two reasons that I really would like to have this setup. It will entail very little, possibly no, maintenance and there is something about these hubs that are very, very cool.

On my road bikes, I generally clean the drive system (i.e. chain, chain ring, rear cluster or gears) every few hundred miles or so. At least after 500 miles I completely degrease the entire system. Doing this while on a long tour would prove to be challenging. A belt drive doesn’t need to be lubricated and thus doesn’t require regular cleaning.

The internal hub, a Rohloff Speed Hub, would replace the regular derailleur style of shifting and again removes maintenance issues. They also look very nice on a high-end bike, which is something that I can appreciate. However, the cost of this system really adds up, somewhere between $1000 and $1500 just for the hub and belt drive. All my wants and wishes aside, it may be hard for me to justify the expense of this.

I’m down to 3 candidates

I’ve narrowed my list down to 3 different bikes:

Surly Disc Trucker

Surly Disc TruckerThis is essentially a Long Haul Trucker (LHT) that is so very popular with many tourists. Its rock solid, handles loads well and is built for longevity.

  • Price & reputation
  • Bar Con shifters
  • Disc brakes
  • Most shops familiar with bike
  • size dependent
  • One color option each year (Maroon)
  • Belt drive only after modification
  • No S&S Couplers on fully built bike
  • No options on wheel sizes, frame

Salsa Vaya Travel

Salsa Vaya TravelThis S&S coupled bike is factory ready for travel.

  • S&S Couples built in
  • Stainless Steel finish (no rust)
  • Scratches will buff out
  • 26” or 700cc wheels
  • Disc Brakes
  • Belt drive modification ready
  • Accepts wide tires (sand & gravel)
  • Belt drive only after modification
  • No Bar Con Shifters (STI only)
  • Price

Co-Motion Americano

Co-Motion AmericanoThis bike is meets all of my needs except for the S&S couplers. The manufacturer does offer it but an added cost of course, but no other modifications would be needed.

Co-Motion Americano w/ S&S Couplers

  • Excellent craftsmanship
  • Many custom paint options
  • 26” or 700cc wheels S&S
  • Disc Brakes
  • Made in USA (Oregon)
  • Bar Con Shifters
  • Accepts wide tires
  • Price, Price and Price
  • Custom paint can scratch
  • Couplers add $700 to cost

A new hitch in the process

Another element to all of this angst is that in my search I have bumped into a few custom builders that can do exactly what I want, but again at a cost – a pretty cost. I may end up talking to one of them. Check out this builder that I found in Olympia, WA just 1 hour south of me. In a perfect world I’d just order up what I want and find out what the cost was later, but that really isn’t realistic.

The search goes on

Somehow I’ve got to sort through this information. I’ve been reading and asking questions of anyone who will listen. But it’s like trying to get a drink of water from a fire hose. What I will have to do is to visit shop after shop and talk with mechanics both young and old. I’m finding that each has an amazing amount of information. Maybe with each visit I’ll get closer to a decision. But then again, after each visit I often leave with a question that I hadn’t considered before. So the search continues on.








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