The idea of another bike was both exciting and entirely stressful. I was finally ready, or so I thought, to make a decision and the choice was the one thing I found myself incapable of making. My biggest fear in purchasing a new bicycle is having it go awry and finding myself in a situation that requires starting over (again). I wanted this one to be right - or as right as it could possibly be.
|*Image found here - Surly loaded to tour|
The Rivendell Sam Hillborne seems like an appropriate choice, but as has been discussed prior, the top tube is too long for me to get more than about 40mi/65km - and that's pushing the limits of what my body is willing to tolerate. In the days following such a ride, I am often ill-equipped to ride again until my upper body mends.
As I browsed initial options, there were a lot of possibilities to consider - even more than the list here. Just do a quick search for "touring bicycles" and it's easy to become overwhelmed. I looked at and more seriously considered bike possibilities from Soma, Co-Motion, Salsa, Velo Orange, Surly, Rivendell, and I thought about custom options from Bruce Gordon and even another Rodriguez. I also looked through used bicycles on Craigslist and eBay, thinking that perhaps there would be a good option in an older, steel Trek or other bicycle. I figured there's no reason to buy a new bike if something used will work just as well.
Realizing quickly that the list was already too long, I began narrowing down the possibilities. I really didn't want to look at a custom bike at this point. Having never toured, it just didn't make sense to spend the sort of money that would be necessary for a custom. Until I have some experience under my belt, and better understand what I like or don't, I really couldn't justify a custom bike for this purpose.
|Rivendell Atlantis - *Image via Rivendell|
The one bit of wisdom most touring cyclists seem to share is that the "best" touring bike is one that you can/will ride and that is comfortable (of course, that wisdom is true of any bike). Obviously, there are other needs for touring, such as being able to carry the weight of the load for a tour, and for me, I wanted to be sure that I wouldn't be on a bike that was neither too big nor too small.
One problem with my narrowed down list was the ability to test ride. There were only two bikes available for testing locally: the Surly LHT and second-hand bike possibilities. Sam owned a Long Haul Trucker that I was able to ride in the past, so it was the one bike I didn't feel the need to actually test. I'd also considered it as an option after extensive test riding before ultimately purchasing my Sam Hillborne. The other possibility, a used bike, would be difficult to pin down locally, but if I could find one it would be the perfect opportunity to test ride before purchase.
I have never ridden Rivendell's Atlantis, but I like the ride quality of my Hillborne and I liked the Homer Hilsen, so I kept this in the mix. The Atlantis has a shorter top tube which would make it easier to set up and ride long distances. I had also never ridden any Velo Orange bicycle. These two possibilities from VO were the options that scared me most on the list because it would be a dive into the complete unknown.
After more research, I wanted to narrow down the two VO options to just one. I had done a lot of mental (and verbal, to the utter annoyance of poor Sam) back and forth between the Camargue and the Campeur. I was fine with either the quill or the threadless stem, but what had begun to sink in was reading on a website that the smallest Campeur had an effective top tube of 53cm, which seemed a tad long for me. I also feared the forward/down sloping top tube. In the past, this hasn't been a good position for me. It is technically a horizontal top tube, but I could see from photos that there was a tendency to lean down toward the handlebars.
While the Campeur seemed like a great possibility, I dropped it off the list because I feared some of the potential pitfalls. The Camargue, however, had the choice of a 51 or 52cm effective top tube and the top tube had more of an upward slope, an angle that seemed more reasonable for my needs. It also had the possibility of wider tires which had me thinking that it would make riding on dirt and rocks easier.
|Velo Orange Camargue - *Image via Velo Orange|
In addition to this soon-to-be bicycle functioning as the touring bike, it also needed to work as a city bike. Of course, just about anything that works as a touring bike could also easily do double duty as a city bike, but the idea of comfort and hauling became the primary mission of this future bike.
Thoughts of my comfort on the current Rivendell were circling. If the top tube was just a bit shorter, perhaps that would make the difference and the Atlantis could be the ideal bike? The more I pondered this option though, the more I thought of it inline with the cost of a custom frame and decided that I probably wasn't ready to plunk down that sort of money for a bike that I would be using as a means to gauge my interest in touring, and if I were going to spend, perhaps a custom would be a better route to go anyway.
So, it was down to the LHT, the Camargue, and the possibility of a used find. I held out hope for finding something used, but realized that it was unlikely that something in the proper small size would materialize, so I viewed the potentials as a list of two. Two fine bicycles. Two great options.
As I'd wander back and forth between Surly and VO's website, I couldn't help but continue to glance at the Campeur. I had to admit I was drawn to it, but I had eliminated it for solid reasons, and so I would have brief thoughts of selecting this frame, but then return to the debate between the aforementioned two.
One day, I decided I just needed to make a decision. The back and forth, the pros and cons, the unknown possibilities were getting to me. I had decided that the LHT was going to be my bike. For better or worse, the choice needed to happen.
|Surly Disc Trucker - *Image via Surly Bikes|
Time is an interesting component to decisions. The longer I had to think, the more I thought back to the ride of the LHT. I had recalled liking the bike, but also remembered that it had a heavier, slower, more "dead" feel to it. I also recalled feeling in between two sizes with one feeling a bit small and the next up feeling too large. There are ways to work with this, but I would prefer an option that was a bit more precise. The more I thought, I wasn't entirely sure that the LHT would be the best option.
While I continued to look for a used possibility, I went back to the Camargue. Maybe it was a better choice? Since I had the time, I continued to debate.
It was about this time that I received some information from MG and friends of Chasing Mailboxes. MG was very kind and accommodating with my request in which I asked for thoughts and feelings regarding the Atlantis, the Camargue, and the LHT. The information she sent was both extremely beneficial and added to my internal dilemma. As I went through all the information I'd gathered, and re-read the thoughts received from MG, I was struck by a statement from one of her friends who stated that he believed he preferred the Campeur to the Camargue for touring, unless the rider needed extra stout tubing and/or really big tires.
Would I ever actually ride on rocks? I mean, who am I trying to kid... this is me we're talking about. Dirt is about the extent of my off-road riding, so how wide a tire would I actually need? And, at this juncture, any touring I would be doing would either be supported partially or completely, or it would be for only a few days at most with minimal packing.
I went back to look at the geometry of the Campeur and realized that the measurement listed for the top tube was actually 52cm, not 53cm as I'd previously believed. In reality, it was not a bad starting point at all. In addition, the quill stem would allow me to raise the handlebars up as needed with ease. It looked as though I may have given up on this option too quickly.
Sam had grown weary of my debating. He was patient though as I spoke fondly of one choice and then switched over to the next, and I'd even sucked him into reading about the different possibilities. While he was hesitant to tell me what to do (partially, I'm sure, because he didn't want to influence my decision or feel responsible if the choice didn't work out), I continued to press for his thoughts. He believed that he would go with one of the two VO options as it was difficult to find anyone with anything bad to say about either. I certainly couldn't disagree with that statement.
Still, it's difficult to choose something that I've never ridden. After having very little luck finding something used that I could actually ride before buying, I decided that I had to make a choice. What was the worst that would happen? The frame would arrive and be built up and it wouldn't work. Yes, I was trying to avoid this problem, but without making a decision, I'd never know.
And with that thought, I hovered the mouse cursor over the online cart. I couldn't believe how sick I was feeling about making this decision, but I was ready to move on with life and other happenings, and this was taking up far too much time during my days.
"I'm going to do it," I announced to Sam, my face grimacing. Hardly the sort of feeling one wants to have when making such an exciting purchase. "Really. I'm going to get it." He just laughed and told me, "Just do it already."
And with that, the decision was made. I pressed the checkout button and decided to move on with life. "It's done. No turning back now, right?" I'm not usually so slow or fretful when making bike decisions, but this decision seemed to really weigh on me as though my life depended on it in some way. Sam reassured me that it would be fine - regardless of the outcome.
The frame coming my way was the Velo Orange Campeur. I was excited. I was nervous. I was hopeful. And then, I went back to looking at other options for a brief time, thinking that perhaps I'd made the wrong decision... but, what could I do about it now?
*Note: I'll have the second part of this post up soon, which will include more specific information on the bike itself and less of my rambling-indecisiveness.
The second part of this post is up now and can be found by clicking here.