Deciding on my dream touring bike
After pinching pennies and saving for years, and setting aside a tax refund I finally had saved enough to order my dream touring bike. You may think this very exciting; however, this meant that I actually had to decide on what bike that would be. Unlike the Raleigh Sojourn which I just picked up from a bicycle shop, I needed to educate myself and make some important decisions.
Before I could even think about anything else I needed to really nail down what I was looking for this bicycle to do. I am not going to have the luxury of purchasing another bike like this for a long time so I need durability. I wanted to travel around the world with no boundaries so I need versatility: it needs to be at home on dirt and gravel as well as on the pavement. It must be comfortable to ride and should be made in America to support my local frame builders and needs to be able to packed up for easy travel. With all of these criteria in mind I began looking at each piece of the bike.
Frame Material: This ends up being incredibly easy; if looking for comfort, repair-ability, and durability only one material really meets these criteria. Steel. A bike framed out of steel rides well, can be welded by any stick welder in the world, and should last forever.
Drivetrain: Currently there are two viable options: a derailleur system or and internal geared hub. The derailleur setup technically meets every criteria I laid out, however I am sick and tired of tweaking the shifting of these systems and cleaning the dirt and grime off them. Not to mention my wife’s experience with a stick snapping her rear derailleur right off and me having to tow her 2 miles on a dirt road back to civilization.
Internal gear hubs (IGH) move all the gears inside the rear hub. There is really only one option for touring with an IGH because of the large gearing required for a touring bike and that is the Rohloff Speedhub. With 14 gears covering a 526% gear range, it is the equivalent of a 27 speed derailleur. Additionally, you can change gears while stopped, no real cleaning is required since the gears are inside the hub, and if the shifting cables break you can set the gear manually. It will not auto return to the lowest or highest gear like a derailleur. The downsides are that no one will likely be able to repair it in remote areas of the world, and it weighs slightly (~150grams) more than a full derailleur system.
The last piece of the IGH puzzle is deciding if you want to use a chain or a Gates Carbon Belt Drive. While the carbon belt drive offers a grease free option and is lighter weight than a chain, I decided there were several significant negatives. You can read more about this comparison in its own article. My final choice was to use a chain for my long distance touring bike. While I will still have to grease the chain, I will always be able to find a replacement chain and my frame will be one solid piece of steel.
Wheel Size: 700c or 26” is the simplest way to sum up this question and I will try to make this short and sweet. 700c wheels tend to feel smoother and have less rolling resistance. 26” wheels accelerate quicker, are less likely to have toe-overlap and are available world-wide. Because I didn’t need speed, and wanted to go worldwide I choose 26” tires. However I do think that there will likely be a time in the future where 700c wheels are the dominate tire size since it seems to be the direction manufactures in the US and Europe are going.
Manufacturer: There are several touring specific manufactures in the US, however only Co-motion happened to have a dealer nearby me that stocked bicycles for me to test ride. This let me actually try out the Rohloff and feel the geometry of the bike, and after riding it I knew that this company knew what they were doing. Since they hand build each bike in Oregon if you need a custom frame change it is only $300 extra.
Conclusion: After all the research and time I spent looking I finally, nervously, decided that the Co-Motion Pangea Rohloff was the bike for me. I will document my experience ordering the bicycle, and give a review of it further down the road. If I missed any considerations, or you want to share your dream bike, leave a comment below!