How to make your Carbon Fiber bicycle ready for touring
Bicycle manufacturers are coming out with “light” touring bicycles. The Jamis Xenith Endura Sport Femme I purchased came with 25mm tires, three chain rings on front, and rack mounts on the rear. It was almost, but not quite, ready to tour right out of the box. Here are a few adjustments that I made to my bike to make it tour worthy. It’s not an all-inclusive list; you may have to do more or less before your carbon fiber is ready to tour.
Gearing. A good touring bike will have 3 chainrings on the front. Especially if you’re planning on hauling gear, you will appreciate the ability to drop down into lower gears as you cross continental divides and summit several thousand foot mountain passes. There are very few places in the world that are perfectly flat; you WILL have to climb hills on your tour. That small chainring on the front will make a huge difference. If the bike you’re considering doesn’t have a triple front chainring, see if you can order it with one from the manufacturer, or if the bike shop can order just the frame and install proper gearing. For my bike I have a 30 tooth ring on the front and a 34 tooth ring on the rear.
Mounts. How are you going to carry your gear? Some carbon fibers are coming with eyelets for mounting racks and fenders. Check to see if yours has them. If there are no mounts, look into attaching clip on racks or pulling a trailer. But, be aware that attaching anything to the carbon fiber posts which involves tightening a clamp could damage the carbon fiber if tightened too hard. The 2012 Jamis Endura Sport Femme came with mounting eyelets on the rear, newer Jamis Endura models now come with a removable rack mounting system. In addition I considered getting a front rack that clipped on (similar to the Thule Tour Rack) but ultimately decided against it. I wanted to keep my weight as low as possible, and I was able to fit everything I needed into the rear panniers I carried.
Fenders. Most Carbon Fiber road bikes don’t come with fenders, as this adds weight to the bicycle. I decided against fenders on my first tour, and ended up regretting it. While on wet roads the water splashed up on me and the frame, and dirt roads were much the same by splattering mud everywhere including my drivetrain. For my next tour, I plan on installing fenders. This will help keep my gear cleaner, as well as my clothing, when riding on wet, dirty roads.
Tires. Most Carbon Fiber bikes will come with skinny tires, more suited for road cycling. See what the widest tire it is rated for and consider putting it on. Generally 28-35mm tires are used for pavement touring to allow for variable conditions and give a more comfortable ride than narrower higher pressure tires.
Brakes. My Carbon Fiber came with standard rim brakes. Before I left, I upgraded the brakes to a higher quality. This eased my mind about being able to stop with the added weight I was planning to put on the bike. I had no problems throughout my tour however I did miss the disc brakes from my previous touring bike.
I was very satisfied with my Carbon Fiber bike on tour. The decrease in weight from my Raleigh Sojourn steel-framed touring bike meant that I had much more energy at the end of the day. I felt like I could ride many more miles each day, which made the ride more enjoyable. It only took a few minor adjustments to turn it into the ideal cycle for my tour. I look forward to many more carbon fiber bicycle tours!