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Touring bike recommendations

P_J_RogersP_J_Rogers Posts: 29
edited January 2009 in Workshop
I'm after a new touring bike to replace a 17 year old Raleigh Randonneur and am weighing up various alternatives:

Dawes Ultra Galaxy £900 (or about £1000 with Spa handmade wheels)
Condor Heritage XT £1200 depending on spec
Thorn Club Tour XT £1000
Hewitt Cheviot SE £1100
Roberts custom Clubman £1600

What do people rate? Does anyone ride a Condor Heritage - I've not been able to get any feedback on this one?

Thanks

Philip
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Posts

  • JWSurreyJWSurrey Posts: 1,173
    What sort of touring load are you planning on?
    I've got a Condor Fratello (Steel frame with carbon deep-drop fork) that I use for Audax style riding.
    Very nice, well fitted, specified/customised exactly how I wanted it.

    You rung the shop to see if they have a Heritage "demonstrator" available?
    Most are available for demo provided you ring in advance and arrange an approx. time to go in / person to see.... Always best to ask for a quiet time.
    There's a cobbled strip behind the store, which gives a good impression of how the bike will ride.

    They get stupidly busy, so best to ring in advance and avoid lunchtimes like the plague. Great setup/service though.

    Paul Hewitt is an obvious one missing from your list.

    Edit: I think it was Cycling Plus that did a review of the Heritage this year.
    At the back of my mind, they recommended one upgrade - was it to go for handbuilt wheels?
  • Thanks JW

    Lightly loaded (say B&B) touring, plus use the bike for a 10 mile each way commute over hilly terrain. Popped in Condor when in London a couple of weeks ago and the bike looked good and staff were helpful with suggestions.

    Philip
  • JWSurreyJWSurrey Posts: 1,173
    One useful customisation - I changed my bars for ITM Marathons - Strictly speaking, not made any more - but they got them in, and I believe Ribble have them in stock.
    Very comfy, with a rather agressively swept-back top that gives a multitude of positions, plus a nice upright back-saver position!
    Needs to be spec'd up-front, since you'll need slightly longer cable runs.

    Riding on the drops is less comfy with these bars though - only 1 position covering the levers, as my wrists otherwise bang in to the sweep-back.

    (My regular run is 3,500ft over approx. 50/60 miles with mudguards and light rack pack).

    I ride single panniered light "commuter" load for a 2x15 mile commute up a couple of tasty inclines - all beautifully stable and comfy, though not as direct as my ally/carbon framed Squadra 'race' bike.

    The Heritage will differ from the Frat. with stronger rear stays and the rock solid 'low rider' fork plus monster canti-brakes!
    If you choose anything with deep-drop dual-pivots (mudguard clearance), note that I found the Tektro dual pivots adequate.
    I'm led to believe the Shimano deep-drop dual pivots are better.
    I uprated to Swissstop GHP pads, which made a big difference to stopping power and reduced rim wear. If you're running Cantis, then I suspect this will be unnecessary.

    Rack-wise, check out the Tubus range - very nice - no problems with mine.

    Edit: Saddle-wise, I went with the Fizik Pave that was on the demo bike, but I guess you have your "old faithful".
    I have a Spez. BG Toupe on the road bike, but it's not as comfortable.
  • Philip,

    in the last few years I've ridden 4 of the 5 bikes (the exception being the Roberts) and I own and ride a Hewitt Cheviot SE. This is now my primary bike following the theft of my Cannondale T2000. In fact it was me who reviewed the Italian-built Condor for C+ (along with the Hewiit, Thorn and Dawes) - and it's one of my three bikes of the year for the magazine too. It had no obvious weak points. (Incidentally I also tested a Raleigh Randonneur for C+, and my old Raleigh Zenith - with the same frame - is still doing well, now ridden by my girlfriend).

    I think it's fair to say that any of the bikes would be up for the type of cycling you're planning. Unless you desperately want the Roberts I can't see much point spending the extra 500 quid. Yes, you'll get a very good bike, Roberts has a very fine reputation, but each of the others would be likely to last a lifetime.

    If you were going for the Dawes I'd certainly recommened going for the handbuilt wheel option; the Hewitt, Thorn (I think) and Condor all come with handbuilt wheels and it's an investment worth making. The Hewitt's made to a high standard in Taiwan, painted/finished in England to a very high standard; Paul Hewitt's wheelbuilding is also very highly renowned - I've used his wheels for years without problem. That said, the Condor's wheels were also impeccable, and a London-based friend is also impressed with their quality.

    It's incredibly hard to choose between the bikes you've listed - gut feeling I'd probably go for the Hewitt/Thorn or Condor. None of these will let you down. It might just be a case of talking to all three companies and seeing who offers the best advice, which shop you feel most comfortable talking to.

    Sorry if this hasn't exactly helped to pin things down, but I would say that they are all good bikes, hence the difficulty in making a more specific recommendation. And I'd second JW's advice about having a test ride - always a good idea if possible.

    Saddle-wise I'd always go for a San Marco Rolls; and I'd second the Tubus racks recommendation.

    Simon
  • Simon

    This is most helpful. It is really difficult to choose. Condor were very helpful when I visited and gave me good options (e.g. use my own B17, upgrade to a TA chainset, use Tubus); Thorn are more local to me but difficult to get to as closed on Saturdays; Paul Hewitt is a very long journey but nobody speaks ill of the man; Spa have been helpful over the Ultra Galaxy but upgrading wheels takes the price up to nearer the rest of the pack; Roberts look very traditional and much cheaper than the £2100 I was quoted by Argos locally to build much the same bike.

    Some of the custom builders claim that lugs or fillet brazing are much better than tig-welding. Is this a consideration or not? Also does custom fit make a bike look "neater", e.g. I would probably need a lot of spacers and seatpost on the second to largest Thorn frame?

    Thanks again!!

    Philip
  • andrew_sandrew_s Posts: 2,511
    P_J_Rogers wrote:
    SimonSome of the custom builders claim that lugs or fillet brazing are much better than tig-welding. Is this a consideration or not? Also does custom fit make a bike look "neater", e.g. I would probably need a lot of spacers and seatpost on the second to largest Thorn frame?

    Custom build should give you a frame that doesn't need unusually long seatposts or stem, or lots of spacers. You get to choose, so normally that would be an inch or so or spacers below the stem (unless you think you are unlikely to change position), and enough seatpost to fit an SQR comfortably.

    On TIG vs brazing, properly done both should be equally strong. Brazing is more repairable than TIG as it can be "unbrazed" without too much effect on the tubes whist with TIG it's more a matter of cutting off the damaged tube and filing the other smooth. This might when replacing a dented top tube.
    Fillet/Lug: Lugs can hide bad joints or tube mitreing. Do you like to look of lug lining or fancy lugs?
  • giant_mangiant_man Posts: 6,890
    To get a better idea, speak to Paul Hewitt and he will give you an impartial view of the situation I'm sure. At the end of the day it's your choice but I know where I'd put my money if it were my dilemma.
  • robbarkerrobbarker Posts: 1,367
    Thorn have had a new batch of audax bikes made - the audax mk3 I believe. They seem stonking value for what they are - 700 quid built up with handmade wheels and shimano bits I think. I'd be biting their arms off before they put the price up.
  • robbarkerrobbarker Posts: 1,367
    Sorry - duff gen in my message above - £899 for a complerte bike with Tiagra it seems. Still not a bad deal IMHO, but not as stonking as I'd originally heard.
  • Thanks anyway Rob. I did look but the gearing needs to be a shade lower for the hill I need to go up. If I went Thorn, I'd go for the Club Tour.

    Are there any Club Tour or Ultra Galaxy riders out there who can give feedback?

    Philip
  • robbarkerrobbarker Posts: 1,367
    They'd build it up with whatever gearing you wanted - they get the frames shipped from Taiwan and build them up in the shop. You could get a Deore build, for example, which could potentially give you some silly low gears! Hewitt will do the same, s will any retailer who bring their own frames in.
  • shaw8670shaw8670 Posts: 264
    if using for commuting try a 2nd hand dawes Galaxy. I bought one for £300, put Sora stis and lighter wheels on it. I now have a sprightly tourer suitable for hilly commutes and the option of puting the heavy wheels on for heavy touring and the bike doesn't look so shiny that it will be an obvious target to the sticky fingered! Total outlay for a neat and tidy versatile bike for £450. Good wheels that would fall in the Audax type class can be found insales for £70-90 per pair and Continental ultrasport tyres are about a tenner each.
    Greetings from the wet and windy North west
  • PHcpPHcp Posts: 2,748
    As you've stuck with your Raleigh for 17 years I'd guess you fit a standard size frame, so I see now reason to go custom. If you still want flexibility over fittings, colour and components, Hewitt’s probably offer the best choice. If you have any bits on your Raleigh you want to keep, Hewitt's will move them over for you, or just leave them off. I wanted to use my dynamo hub and Tubus rack, he deducted the full price of the hub and rack he'd have supplied. It made upgrading better value than with many.
    Thorn offer decent value if you are happy with the standard kit, if you start upgrading or want anything they don't normally supply they can get expensive.
  • DEJDEJ Posts: 19
    You can get "Hewitt" frames from other shops e.g. Aravis from Byercycles are the same - who are also cheaper. They are imported from Taiwan by a West Midlands firm.

    Note that Hewitts and Thorns have different sizing options so that may be a factor for you.

    I've no experience of either myself but dare say you'll be fine with any of your shortlist.

    Dave
    David Jones
  • acorn_useracorn_user Posts: 1,137
    Why do you fancy replacing the Raleigh? I borrowed one for a month, and it was an excellent bike. To get one better, I would think you would have to get a custom frame....
  • andrew_sandrew_s Posts: 2,511
    acorn_user wrote:
    Why do you fancy replacing the Raleigh? I borrowed one for a month, and it was an excellent bike. To get one better, I would think you would have to get a custom frame....
    At 17 years old, it will probably be one of the grey/white headtube 531ST versions.
    It will need the rear end spreading from 126 to 130 or 135, possibly a change of steerer for threadless, and presumably a respray, so that will mean being without it for a month or so.
    If it's an only bike, and the budget allows, what more excuse do you want, especially if you consider that with a full overhaul of all the parts, you could end up spending as much as the new bike.

    I agree though, excellent bikes. I thought mine was better than the Galaxy that preceded it.
  • I've had a Thorn club tour since May,delighted with the service from st john street cycles when I bought it.The bikes been great,no problems.so I would recommend it.
  • I did wonder about getting the read drop out cold set to 135mm, but am worried it might not like it at its age!. Also the bike is in really good condition and would probably sell for £250+, so consideriing that and the fact it'd need new wheels and most of a new transmission I might as well have something new. The more I think about it either Hewitt or Condor seem the way to go.

    Philip
  • P_J_Rogers wrote:
    I did wonder about getting the read drop out cold set to 135mm, but am worried it might not like it at its age!. Also the bike is in really good condition and would probably sell for £250+, so consideriing that and the fact it'd need new wheels and most of a new transmission I might as well have something new. The more I think about it either Hewitt or Condor seem the way to go.

    Philip


    Mine was older when I cold-set it so I wouldn't worry about doing it. 531 is 531 after all.
  • JWSurreyJWSurrey Posts: 1,173
    If you have the space, keeping the "old faithful" is quite nice - I was thinking about doing the Eroica classic short ride this year - That way, if British Airways time-travel it to Bermuda, I won't be too much out of pocket either!

    I'd go for the new bike, whatever it may be - Changing from my old 531 to my new Condor was a revelation.
    In fact, I took the Fratello out this weekend for the first time in ages - Fantastic - Super silent - dancing uphill - no creaks and groans (except those from the rather unfit "weekend DIY overload" rider)!
  • araceraracer Posts: 1,649
    andrew_s wrote:
    acorn_user wrote:
    Why do you fancy replacing the Raleigh? I borrowed one for a month, and it was an excellent bike. To get one better, I would think you would have to get a custom frame....
    At 17 years old, it will probably be one of the grey/white headtube 531ST versions.
    It will need the rear end spreading from 126 to 130 or 135, possibly a change of steerer for threadless, and presumably a respray, so that will mean being without it for a month or so.
    Not sure why you'd need to change the steerer for threadless, and no idea why you'd need a respray after cold-setting the rear end.
  • andrew_sandrew_s Posts: 2,511
    aracer wrote:
    andrew_s wrote:
    acorn_user wrote:
    Not sure why you'd need to change the steerer for threadless, and no idea why you'd need a respray after cold-setting the rear end.
    You don't "need" to, but after 17 years it must be up for a general overhaul/respray, and it makes sense to bring up to date those parts that can be done relatively easily. Eg there's now not much choice in decent quill stems.
  • Hi,

    i'm new to the forum, but found this thread as I was looking for some idea;s of what bike to replace my Raleigh Randonneur with - so, i'm really curious to know which way the writer of this thread went?

    I do love my Raleigh, but it is old now, and whilst its in great nick, i'm enticed by the thought of a lovely new bike!.

    Having had a long time off bikes, I want to get fit again - its likely to be road's (lanes) or the odd track perhaps disused railway lines or canal tow paths - nothing that is serious off roading.

    I've only ever had drop handlebars on bikes, so its odd to me to be looking at bikes that are in this traditional style, but then, they are probably a whole lot more comfortable to ride!.

    So, wondered how the choice panned out?
  • acorn_useracorn_user Posts: 1,137
    robbarker wrote:
    Thorn have had a new batch of audax bikes made - the audax mk3 I believe. They seem stonking value for what they are - 700 quid built up with handmade wheels and shimano bits I think. I'd be biting their arms off before they put the price up.

    The build price is a lot better than the frame price :)
    For 1000 pounds or so: http://customframebuilding.ellisbriggsc ... _bikes.php
    I would be slightly uncomfortable buying a bike mail order. Could you buy the Dawes through a local shop? Fwiw, we have two sets of Spa Cycles wheels, and both of them have been very good (owned them for three years).
  • robbarkerrobbarker Posts: 1,367
    Since I posted those messages a friend bought a Thorn Audax Mk 3 frame and we built it up together with XT kit. I was very impressed indeed - and it rides brilliantly. Comfortable but nice and lively but sufficient clearance for mudguards and 28c tyres. Lookslthe business in British racing green with a honey Brooks saddle and matching leather bar tape.
  • I've got a Club Tour and a Saracen Skyline. I've ridden a (too small) Galaxy in the past. Both the Club Tour and the Skyline are very similar. I haven't toured but have used them both for my 15 mile commute and am certainly, er, very generously proportioned, making a fairly strong test as they are fully "dressed" with panniers, bar bag, stand, lights etc. My Club tour is a more highly specced XT rather than Deore of the Skyline with both sporting Avid V brakes. No problems with either bike - they are very similar. Given a choice, probably would plump for the Saracen, but that's probably familiarity as it's now my main hack/commuting bike.

    I'll second the earlier comment about handbuilt wheels. My Spa XT/Sputnik's on my Club Tour frame are running as new whereas my SJS Deore/CR18 machine built wheels have required a bit of tweaking. Well the rear has. To be fair it's done 3 winters now and I've just serviced the hub and will need to replace the rim soon.

    Hope this helps

    Pete
  • I've got a Club Tour and a Saracen Skyline. I've ridden a (too small) Galaxy in the past. Both the Club Tour and the Skyline are very similar. I haven't toured but have used them both for my 15 mile commute and am certainly, er, very generously proportioned, making a fairly strong test as they are fully "dressed" with panniers, bar bag, stand, lights etc. My Club tour is a more highly specced XT rather than Deore of the Skyline with both sporting Avid V brakes. No problems with either bike - they are very similar. Given a choice, probably would plump for the Saracen, but that's probably familiarity as it's now my main hack/commuting bike.

    I'll second the earlier comment about handbuilt wheels. My Spa XT/Sputnik's on my Club Tour frame are running as new whereas my SJS Deore/CR18 machine built wheels have required a bit of tweaking. Well the rear has. To be fair it's done 3 winters now and I've just serviced the hub and will need to replace the rim soon.

    Hope this helps

    Pete
  • John C.John C. Posts: 2,113
    If it's just for light touring have you thought of a Kenesis Racelight. It's light, has all the required bolt holes for bottles, gaurds and rack. I like mine.
    http://www.ripon-loiterers.org.uk/

    Fail to prepare, prepare to fail
    Hills are just a matter of pace
  • tenortenor Posts: 278
    Go for the Condor. You can spec it any way you like and get a very good fitting service that will get the riding position just right. They also have a tall headtube, unlike the strangly low Thorn, so you will be able to get a comfortable touring position without an ungainly stack of spacers.
    The frames are also made in Italy - passionate about cycling - rather than in Taiwan, where they make anything well, but without caring much for its purpose. Heritage, you see...
    I am a bit biased, perhaps, as I have recently ordered a Fratello. They even allowed me to provide my own levers (Chorus) and provided a full rebate against the deleted Centaurs that would have been fitted. They couldnt have been more helpful.
  • tenortenor Posts: 278
    Go for the Condor. You can spec it any way you like and get a very good fitting service that will get the riding position just right. They also have a tall headtube, unlike the strangly low Thorn, so you will be able to get a comfortable touring position without an ungainly stack of spacers.
    The frames are also made in Italy - passionate about cycling - rather than in Taiwan, where they make anything well, but without caring much for its purpose. Heritage, you see...
    I am a bit biased, perhaps, as I have recently ordered a Fratello. They even allowed me to provide my own levers (Chorus) and provided a full rebate against the deleted Centaurs that would have been fitted. They couldnt have been more helpful.
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