Tuesday, July 08, 2008

What's next?

As I pack up the Thorn Sherpa for shipping to its new owner I'm pondering what I'll take on next as a bike project. My summer is full of travel and touring so nothing will happen until the winter, but I've had a bike project every winter for the last few years. It keeps me sane when the temperatures outside plummet and the snow is falling.

The Sherpa was one such project and although it didn't work out quite as I'd hoped the fact is I did have lots of fun specing and building up this bike. I got to try an interesting frame from the UK and got my friend Kurt out on his first bike tour on the Sherpa. In the end I sold it at a price that recouped most of my costs while giving its new owner a discount over buying new. Ultimately that's a win-win situation in my book.

I'm left with a nice pile of bike parts and some lessons learned about what I want from a 26" wheeled expedition touring bike. My first thought was to get S&S couplers installed in the Big Dummy. This would make it much easier to ship or travel with on tour. I love the Big Dummy so that would be a good investment. However, upon investigating the costs I'd be looking at approximately a $1000 touch to make that happen. That got me thinking perhaps a better idea would be to leave the Big Dummy as is. I can use it for fun rides, hauling cargo and tours I ride or drive to. Instead I'd take the $1000 the S&S coupler project would cost me and build up a MTB + Xtracycle combo.

The advantages to the MTB + Xtracycle project are:
  • I'd end up with two longtail bikes so I could lend one to a friend or ride one while the other was down for repairs.
  • I'd get to compare the Xtracycle to the Big Dummy.
  • I'd have a 26" wheeled touring setup that I could pack into a standard bike box for shipping/flying.
  • I've got loads of Xtracycle accessories I could use them on both bikes.

The disadvantages to the MTB + Xtracycle project are:
  • I'd have to store 2 longtail bikes in my apartment. Totally possible, but I'd need to figure out the best way to do that.
  • I may not love the MTB + Xtracycle as much as the Big Dummy. This is a risk, but the only way to figure that out is to try.
  • The MTB + Xtracycle likely won't ride as well with really crazy big loads as the Big Dummy. This should be okay since the primary job of this rig will be for touring with moderate loads.
Assuming I go ahead with this idea I've come up with a few options:
  • Use my existing Schwinn Moab MTB and just add an Xtracycle. I'm not sure this AL frame is a good choice for Xtracycle duty as it's not particularly stiff. The suspension fork on this bike may not work with my weight more centred on the frame once I add the Xtracycle and I'm not going to spend any $$$ to modify/upgrade this fork.
  • Buy a Surly 1X1 frame and add an Xtracycle for a rigid longtail touring rig. I'd use the parts from the Sherpa to build up the 1X1 using a MTB drivetrain.
  • Same as the 1X1 option above, but get an 80mm travel suspension fork with stiff enough springs to compensate for the added weight on the front end. This would give me a nicely plush rough road/offroad touring rig. I'd probably go with the rigid 1x1 option first to ensure I loved the MTB + Xtracycle rig enough to invest in a suspension fork. I'd also have the option of swapping the rigid fork back in if I was going to fly somewhere and mostly tour on pavement.
  • One thing I'll definitely do is build up this rig with drop bars. That's the one thing I miss on my Big Dummy, but the Titec H-bars make so much sense for handling heavy loads I can't see myself removing them and swapping bars in/out seems way too much like work!
I'm not a 100% on this yet. I'll spend a few months pondering it and enjoying my less bike encumbered apartment for the rest of the summer. Perhaps I'll decide to just stick with the LHT & Big Dummy as my touring machines. I may also go the route of a Bike Friday New World Tourist travel bike as my easily transported touring rig. I've got two more Big Dummy tours on the books this summer [The Dempster Highway & the Canadian Great Divide MTB Route]. I think how these pan out will either motiavte me to have a longtail touring bike I can ship/fly with or make me happy with the Big Dummy as my sole longtail.

Time will tell.


runawayscreaming said...

Ok, I gotta comment. I confess that I have always found you Calgarians to be a bit loco. Who else has a cattle drive on city streets? However, you may be onto something with that Big Dummy Dempster tour thing.

Advantages of Dummy:

- smooth ride like a tandem captain (due to long chainstays).

- no possibility whatsoever of heel strike on panniers.

- lots of room for stuff!

- room on top of Extracycle rack for moose antlers.

Disadvantages of Dummy:

- not exactly lightweight.

- may be tempted to pick up moose antlers.

- children and hobos may ride on top of Extracycle rack because it obviously begs for passengers.

Vik said...

David the only part of your analysis I'd contest is that my Big Dummy setup for the Dempster is within a few lbs of what my Thorn Sherpa would have weighed for the same trip.

The benefits as you note [especially the carrying moose antlers] are well worth that small penalty.

I think the long wheelbase absorbing the roughness of the road will be a critical advantage over a normal touring bike.

Naturally I'll let you know how things go!

runawayscreaming said...

I think the long wheelbase absorbing the roughness of the road will be a critical advantage over a normal touring bike.

Absolutely. No kidding, I think you may be starting a trend. I am a (bastard of a) touring tandem captain and the extra (no pun intended) distance to the rear wheel of the Extracycle makes all the difference in the world to smooth riding on dirt roads.

Our BC Round-the-World boy Tim Harvey used an Extracycle (on the North American part) of his human-powered circumnavigation (he was sponsored by Extracycle).

I would also like to point out that for full style points the moose antlers should be extricated from a moose you killed with your bike and then ate.

Vik said...

"I would also like to point out that for full style points the moose antlers should be extricated from a moose you killed with your bike and then ate."

Of course that goes without saying...=-)

Anonymous said...

Vic, why not get a 700c size frame & XtraCycle attachment? You could then swap out your XtraCycle parts, and have a fast, pavement long-tail. If you got a frame with discs and the bottom bracket wasn't too low, you could swap between 700c & 26" on this one as well. Heck, with discs you could just build some 650b wheels and have a go at that too.

Vik said...

Well I have a 700c touring bike I have perfectly dialed in - my LHT. I'm after a 26" wheeled touring bike for trips overseas where 26" wheels are ubiquitous and parts for 700c wheels or 650B would be scarce. So getting something other than a 26" wheeled bike doesn't really help.

My recent trip up north with the Big Dummy reminded me of the logistical hassles of traveling with a longtail bike. Not insurmountable, but something to take into account. I'm going to do some more work looking for a "normal" 26" wheeled touring bike I like. If nothing makes me happy I'll start back down the road of an Xtracycle rig.