Before we head off on our next long bike tour, we needed to find new touring bikes. My list of requirements wasn’t very long. I was looking for bikes which had disc brakes, 26 inch wheels and were capable of occasional off-road riding as well as on-road touring. And of course the bikes should be comfortable for long days in the saddle. Given these requirements, the Surly Troll was high on my list, but I did some research into other models of touring bikes just to cover all the bases. Many thanks to the folks at Cycling About for their comprehensive list of touring bikes. There are a lot of great touring bikes out there, but a major concern was that we wouldn’t be able to test ride most of them since they aren’t sold locally.
Enter Salvagetti bike shop, which is conveniently located about a mile from our house. They’re the best local shop I’ve found for bike touring gear and they usually have several touring bikes on hand for test rides. On a warm Saturday in January we stopped by to test ride the Surly Ogre (they don’t keep the Surly Troll in stock) and a Salsa Vaya. The Vaya was a nice bike, but the flat bars and upright position of the Ogre are more in line with what we’re looking for. However, the 29 inch wheels were not what I wanted. Why? Because apparently in some parts of the world (South America, Africa, SE Asia) bikes with 26 inch wheels are the norm and other size wheels and tires are very hard to come by. I didn’t want us to run into problems due to unusual wheels sizes. But Caroline really liked the Ogre and I too could appreciate how those larger wheels rolled smoothly over bumps.
About that time I noticed someone selling a never ridden Ogre on Craigslist. I contacted the seller and learned that he never rode the Ogre because he had a Salsa Fargo he preferred to ride. After much internal debate I decided to buy his Ogre for Caroline to ride. His price was too good to pass up and I decided that those parts of the world where 26 inch wheels are the norm are not high on our list of where we want to visit. So we could take a chance with 29 inch wheels. Also, it sounds like 29 inch wheels are becoming a bit more common in large cities in South America and SE Asia, so if we did venture into those areas maybe we’d be able to find spare parts. I’ll make sure our wheels and tires are in good shape if we do travel in those areas and carry spare folding tires, spokes and enough tubes to see us through. I hope the 29 inch wheels provide more comfort and make any inconvenience worthwhile.
Here’s a photo of Caroline’s new bike, dubbed “Freya” before adding racks and fenders:
Eventually I’ll buy the same bike for myself, but first I need to sell my current touring bike, which is a recumbent with 26″ wheels. It’s a comfortable ride, but I want an upright bike like the Ogre for our future travels.