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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hey all,

Here's the scoop:

I'm planning on doing some touring this summer (200-300 miles round-trip), I weight 180 lbs. and am considering a load of approx. 30 lbs. in weight, loaded on a rear rack in panniers. Currently, I have a 105 hub laced to a 3 yr. old, 32 hole, 700c WTB rim (all in good shape). I'll be running a 25c Specialized Armadillo tire, as I can't fit a wider tire between my stays. (The bike is a steel framed allegedly "light touring" bike, whatever that means...)

I'm wondering if I should consider a stronger rear wheel, or if I can get by on the set-up I've got. I've spoken to a few bike shop folks, all of whom have advice, but none of whom have any real-world loaded-touring experience. (???)

Any input regarding my wheel set-up, or wheel-related advice gleaned from your touring experience would be most appreciated. I don't think I can fit a wider touring specific rim (mavic A719, etc.) due to clearance issues, but I can fit a more burly 36 hole rim (Open Pro?), that'd be my plan if my current set-up is too flimsy. I'd rather plan ahead, than be popping spokes somewhere on the road. Am I asking for trouble with my current set-up?

Thanks in advance.
 

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Mr. Peabody said:
Any input regarding my wheel set-up, or wheel-related advice gleaned from your touring experience would be most appreciated. I don't think I can fit a wider touring specific rim (mavic A719, etc.) due to clearance issues, but I can fit a more burly 36 hole rim (Open Pro?), that'd be my plan if my current set-up is too flimsy. I'd rather plan ahead, than be
Back in my touring days, I think I was carrying quite a bit more than 30lb, but I also had beefy wheels. I kept breaking spokes until I transfered some of the weight to my front wheel. You can get front racks very cheap from Nashbar (www.nashbar.com). Does your fork have eyelets?

I would definitely recommend going to a burlier rear wheel. I've never ridden the Open Pros, but I hear good things about them. I have thousands of miles on my 32 spoke MA3s, and they are not as sturdy as the Open Pros, from what I've heard. I haven't been running panniers, but I am 250lb, so I give my wheels a workout. You might also look at the latest and greatest narrowish tandem rim from Sun (CR-18??). 36 spokes would really help distribute the torsional loading you get on your rear wheel when you've got rear panniers. 40 spokes would be even better, but those are hard to find. It took me months to find the 40h Sun CR1 IIs I just built up on my Sansin tandem hubs, but they sure are purdy. It was worth the wait.

Good luck!

- FBB
 

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A well built 32H should handle your total 210 lbs, but would probably be happier if you put the 30 lbs on the front wheel hanging on a low-rider rack. At a svelte 185 lbs, I've toured for 5 days with that setup and load on a 32H wheelset.
 

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The issue with stuff you carry on a rack is that it is dead weight directly over the rear wheel. 30lbs sitting over the rear wheel can cause a lot more destruction than 30 lbs on you (not that I suggest a backpack or anything).

If you are going to stick with your 32 hole wheels it is well worth your time and effort to learn how to replace spokes and carry the tools required and some spokes with you on your trip. FWIW I don't really think there will be that much of a problem but it really does depend on the condition of the wheel and roads as well as your riding style.

OTOH if you pull a trailer your bike wheels are no longer an issue.
 

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KWL said:
A well built 32H should handle your total 210 lbs, but would probably be happier if you put the 30 lbs on the front wheel hanging on a low-rider rack. At a svelte 185 lbs, I've toured for 5 days with that setup and load on a 32H wheelset.
Generally speaking, I agree with what you say here, especially about transfering some weight to the front if possible. And it's hard to argue with your real-world experience.

But since I am bullheaded ;)... Keep in mind that 30 lbs on a rear rack can exert more stress on a rear wheel than an extra 30 lbs of rider weight. This is especially true if your bike has a relatively whippy rear triangle because the spring forces can amplify the momentum of the rear load. Any side-to-side motion on the bike causes the load on the rear rack to exert side loading onto the rear wheel. If you think about how the rear rack is attached to the seat stays and the rear dropout, you can see than all the weight on the rear rack is going to exert a big moment on the rear triangle as it moves from side-to-side, which will get translated to the rear wheel as additional side load.

Of course, wheels are designed to handle vertical loading better than side loading, so adding extra spokes can help distribute the per-spoke side loadings very well.

Keep in mind that I did most of my touring on a 68cm high-tensile steel Fuji frame, and that I am far from a "smooth" rider, so my bike was probably a "worse case scenario" in terms of whippy rear triangle and unsmooth riding style. Still and all, if you want to save your everyday rear wheel from potential damage (or just wear and tear), building up a good, sturdy 36 spoke rear would be relatively cheap insurance for you.

My Two Cents,

FBB
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thanks for the replies everybody.

Yesterday evening I managed to pack all of my touring gear into my panniers and got out for a test ride. All of my gear (not including two water bottles) weighs 27 lbs. I rode around 12 miles just to test things out and get the feel of the bike loaded down with extra weight. Bike handling certainly feels different, though I'm assuming it's just going to take some time to get used to. The loaded bike feels pretty stable, though I'm assuming it's wise to keep the speeds rather low (10 - 15 MPH), also, I think my current gearing might inadvertently help with regards to this (at least until I get a bigger cassette). As for the wheel issue, everything seemed just fine. I didn't hear any unusual popping noises or creaking from my rear wheel, and the wheel was as true when I returned home as it was when I embarked.

MB1: Thanks for the advice, but I think I may just try and lighten my camping load and lower the overall weight I'm carrying. If I packed all the tools necessary to change some rear spokes, I'd be adding more weight (albeit nominal) which I'm eager to avoid. But just to err on the side of caution, I think I'll try some longer test rides (with the tools and spare spokes you suggest) before setting off for longer distances. If I pop some spokes during test rides, I'll invest in a stronger rear wheel (36H). Many thanks for your input.

If my normal road bike were to be compared to a sports car, I think the appropriate analogy for the loaded tourer might be to compare it to a U-Haul truck or Semi. Does that sound about right to you folks? I'm just trying to gauge if the feel of my loaded bike is in line with what others experience as the "normal" feel of a loaded bike, as I'm quite new to this aspect of cycling.

Also, would balancing out some of my load in a handle-bar bag give me a more balanced feel with regards to handling? (As for front panniers, I don't have mounts for a front rack unfortunately.)
 

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Mr. Peabody said:
Also, would balancing out some of my load in a handle-bar bag give me a more balanced feel with regards to handling? (As for front panniers, I don't have mounts for a front rack unfortunately.)
A handle bar bag places the weight too high and can make handling really squirrelly. At $17 from Nashbar you really can't pass up trying out a low-rider rack. This one clamps so you do not need the mid-fork mounts.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
KWL said:
A handle bar bag places the weight too high and can make handling really squirrelly. At $17 from Nashbar you really can't pass up trying out a low-rider rack. This one clamps so you do not need the mid-fork mounts.
Thanks for the link. I'm curious, when you toured with 30 lbs. of gear, how did you break up the weight between the front and rear panniers: 50/50? More weight on the front or more weight on the back?
 

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KWL said:
A handle bar bag places the weight too high and can make handling really squirrelly.
Yeah, but can you grab a handfull of trail mix from a low rider bag? I think not... ;)

Seriously, though, if you keep the weight to a reasonable level, a handlebar bag can be a very useful tool. Yes, it will make your steering heavier, but the steering is manageable none-the-less.

- FBB
 

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Mr. Peabody said:
Thanks for the link. I'm curious, when you toured with 30 lbs. of gear, how did you break up the weight between the front and rear panniers: 50/50? More weight on the front or more weight on the back?
I usually break it up 70% rear/ 30% front.

- FBB
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
slowmo1 said:
There you go, instead of buying new rims, buy a BOB trailer, or something equivalent.
I'd beg to differ that a BOB would put all my wheel woes to rest with the roads I ride on...

Man, I wish I had a camera to take a picture of the 10 inch deep pothole/sinkhole I rode by this morning (yes, I'm a good citizen, I called the appropriate city department about it). The BOB might prove to be an option in the future if I decide on carrying more gear, but for now, I already have a rack and panniers, and I'm keen to reduce the weight of my camping gear; I know there's some stuff I can leave home to lighten my load (umm, without cutting my toothbrush in half).

Thanks for the replies everybody.
 

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Mr. Peabody said:
I'm curious, when you toured with 30 lbs. of gear, how did you break up the weight between the front and rear panniers: 50/50? More weight on the front or more weight on the back?
Just the opposite of FBB....2/3 front, 1/3 rear. The tent (3 lb) went on the top of the rear rack, a mini-pannier set held light items at the rear and small full-sized panniers held the bulk of the load on the low-rider.

I'm not averse to using a handlebar bag. FBB pointed out the benefits. It just won't work well for a major weight shift to the front.

Speaking of lightening the load, on my first tour, we sat outside my house and start pulling out stuff to leave behind, including a stove we planned to use just one night. My partner on this trip stopped by a Post Office and mailed home a bundle of stuff half way through. When we got home I made a note of items from my packing list that were never used.
 

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KWL said:
Just the opposite of FBB....2/3 front, 1/3 rear. The tent (3 lb) went on the top of the rear rack, a mini-pannier set held light items at the rear and small full-sized panniers held the bulk of the load on the low-rider.

I'm not averse to using a handlebar bag. FBB pointed out the benefits. It just won't work well for a major weight shift to the front.

Speaking of lightening the load, on my first tour, we sat outside my house and start pulling out stuff to leave behind, including a stove we planned to use just one night. My partner on this trip stopped by a Post Office and mailed home a bundle of stuff half way through. When we got home I made a note of items from my packing list that were never used.


And you didn't post your packing list so we could learn from your experience? Come on, get that modified list posted.
 

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With a BOB trailer, close to half of the weight of the trailer and the load on the trailer are still on the rear axle of the bike. It still isn't as rough on the wheels as having the same weight load on the bike over the rear wheels.

On our trip, the guy pulling the BOB had 700X23 tires on and had four pinch flats. So there is an additional stress on the rear wheel.
 
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