Home > Gear, ultralight bicycle touring > Touring on an all Carbon Racing Bike

Touring on an all Carbon Racing Bike

“Never let a silly little thing like not owning a touring bike keep you from touring” Some Wise Guy.


Every bike is a compromise.  Racing bikes compromise comfort and cargo carrying ability for speed and agility.  Touring bikes compromise speed and agility for comfort and cargo capacity.  There is a spectrum of bikes that fall somewhere in the middle.  If the bike you own is of the speedy agile variety, and you thought you could never tour on it, think again.

I had a great time last weekend doing a quick S24O with bike shop co-owner and mechanic Andy of Bryson City Bicycles.  Andy knows bikes.  He spends his days repairing, building, selling and renting bicycles.  Being a shop owner, and having a fleet of rentals available he can ride just about any type of bike he likes.  So why chose an all carbon bike for a bike camping trip?  Because that’s the bike he enjoys riding.  You may make that choice for the same reason or because that’s the only bike you have available.

Andy’s bike is a Marin Stelvio and he added a handle bar bag and a seat post rack.  Although in the picture it looks as if the bike is loaded down, we were carrying light but bulky items to stave off the cold night-time chill.  One word of caution, if you chose a rack of this type with pannier side stays, be mindful the rack doesn’t shift and get into the spokes.  Andy’s setup was solid.  I weighed my bike before heading out.  Bike and gear (including three full water bottles) weighed a tad less than 35 pounds.  I lifted both bikes to compare, and they seemed to weigh the same.  Andy’s bike may have been a bit lighter than my own.

By knowing your bike’s limitations, and designing the tour around the bike, there’s no reason to let the lack of a touring bike stop you from touring.  Here’s a few things to consider:

  • Racing bikes lack eyelets for racks.  You can get around this by using a seat post rack, handle bar bag, frame pack or small back pack.
  • Racing bikes lack the clearance and attaching points for fenders.  Don’t ride in the rain or cowboy up and deal with the wet stuff.
  • Racing bikes have a tight and rigid geometry.  Avoid pot holes and try to pick a line on the smoothest part of the road.  I’ve found that the center and often the white line is the smoothest.
  • Racing bikes (and often their wheels as well) are not designed to carry a lot of weight.  Pack light and explore Ultralight gear options.  Hammocks are often lighter than tents.  Leave the cooking gear at home.  Consider touring Inn to Inn and leave the camping gear at home.
  • Racing bikes are usually not geared for loaded climbing.  Avoid a lot of loaded climbing.

Andy’s computer told us we averaged 14 miles per hour on our ride to Smokemont.  That’s  pretty speedy considering we’re in the mountains on loaded bikes.  On one stretch of road coming out of the park, we took turns drafting and were clipping along at 22 miles per hour.  Great fun!

The bike I rode was a Specialized Sequoia, an aluminum sport/touring bike with carbon front forks and seat stays.  My Sequoia is geared super low and I tend to spin up hills instead of ‘mashing’ up them.  Andy’s bike is geared with a compact double and he was much faster on the climbs and much faster in the straights.  I think where the gearing difference would reveal itself the most, and I might find an advantage in my super low gearing, would be on an extended tour with multiple days of mountain climbing.  I think spinning up mountainsides takes less of a toll on the body.  But, for short overnight trips, mashing up the hills doesn’t seem to be a problem (if you’ve got the legs to do it).  By adding the option of overnight camping, Andy has added a whole ‘nother level of fun to riding a speedy racing bike.

For years my wife Raquel has toured on her vintage lugged-steel Tommaso racing bike.  She carried all she needed in a small handle bar bag and a large trunk bag sitting on a seat post rack by packing with thrift.  Her Tommaso made a great Ultralight tourer for inn to inn trips.  Here’s a picture:

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  1. September 15, 2012 at 5:54 pm

    Hey, I’ve managed with far worse set ups, but if you have the money for a carbon bike… Frame bags, and extra-large seat bags would balance lower/better/lighter. And the handlebar bar bag would hang lower and better off one of these: http://www.sjscycles.co.uk/thorn-accessory-bar-t-shaped-55-mm-extension-0-deg-prod11041/?geoc=jp

    That said, if it works for him, so be it.

  2. The Velo Hobo
    September 16, 2012 at 8:00 am

    Thanks for the link. I’m warming to the idea of frame packs. I’d like to add one to my Surly. I believe I could pair my kit down on the surly and leave the Carridice behind on shorter trips. I think that’s going to be a summer project for myself.

    Jack

  3. Mark
    January 10, 2013 at 1:26 pm

    Is that a Topeak rack on the rear. What are the bags front and rear?
    Thanks
    Mark

    • The Velo Hobo
      January 10, 2013 at 2:50 pm

      yes I think Andy used a Topeak clamp-on rack…and if my eyes do not fail me those look like very old Lone Peak panniers. Seemed to work well.

      On my wifes Tonasso is a Topeak rack. I took a hack saw and chopped off the pannier stays because they were freaking me out. I would follow along behind her and imagine them getting into the spokes. She has a cheap Nashbar trunk bag and a small Topeak handlebar bag. Her setup worked very well,

      Jack

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