*to Hanlon's razor: Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Choosing a road, randonneur or touring bike.

This article on equipment for the 1200km Paris-Brest-Paris event is a great place to start research on how to set up a reliable bike. Can you think of a harder on-road test?
These results are of interest not only to randonneurs, but to all riders who participate in long events. We found no consistent evidence that bikes with racing-oriented equipment provided a speed advantage over more completely equipped bicycles, among riders with similar goals. Considering this, it makes sense to use the bike that is most comfortable, most reliable, and that best protects the rider from rain and road spray. Unsatisfactory equipment can be a distraction, whereas a perfectly working bike can contribute greatly to the enjoyment of the ride.
The good news for me is the bike I have is good enough, when I run clip-on fenders, despite the low spoke count, small tire clearance and other niggling issues... That's going to save me some money.

The most telling information is in the DNF section.  The ideal bike for a long course, based primarily on their results and my opinion of value for money, has:
- a steel frame with geometry you like
- fenders front and rear
- battery powered lights with lithium AA or AAA cells
- a leather 'hammock' saddle, such as a Brooks
- baggage that keeps the weight as low and centred as possible, with as little extra weight of racks as possible: handlebar bags*, saddle bags, frame bags...

Here is what surprisingly doesn't matter too much, and can be left to preference:
- bike weight difference of a pound or two
- the height of the bars
- the trail of the fork
- the length of the chainstays
- the number of spokes

Given the demands of PBP, this would be an ideal set up for an extended tour also, so long as you were not camping and needed panniers.  Of course, when I put this information and link up on a cycling board the juice-heads with a garage full of plastic (carbon...) went apoplectic.  Sigh... 'roid-rage.

*I have used a standard 'quick clip' handlebar bag off of it's mounting and velcroed directly to my bars.  It saves the weight of the hardware, and brings the bag two inches toward my frame, and two inches downwards.

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