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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello all,

I am an avid MTB'r and am in the market for my first road bike. I plan on touring around the US and I will be riding across America in 2014. I have $2400 cash in hand for a new bike. I am still undecided on whether I will use Panniers or a trailer as of yet but I would like the option for either. I have been to two different LBS and each one has recommended the Jamis Aurora Elite. What are your thoughts? I currently ride about a hundred miles a week; all trail riding. Any advice you can provide would be grateful.
 

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Let me start this out by disclosing that I have a 2008 Surly Long Haul Trucker and my wife has a 2009 Jamis Aurora. We do credit card touring on trips lasting from three days to three weeks.

I have a set of Arkel panniers and a BOB trailer. Personally, I much prefer panniers for touring.

Panniers and trailers both work fine. The choice of one over the other is really a matter of personal taste. They both change the way the bike handles, but in different ways. Your best bet would be to borrow set of each kind of gear and give them a short try to see which you like best.

You can tour on any kind of bike, but a good touring bike makes the ride much more pleasant. Both the Jamis Aurora ($1025) or the Jamis Aurora Elite ($1650) are excellent touring bikes. There was considerable discussion about the Jamis Aurora over at CrazyGuyOnABike about a year ago. You can search for that discussion as well as get a lot of touring tips at crazyguyonabike.com: Bicycle Touring: A place for bicycle tourists and their journals

Other reliable sources for touring info are Bicycle Touring 101: Welcome to your next bicycle touring adventure! , Bicycle Camping and Touring -- Cycling Travel Advice and Long-Distance Touring Travelogues and America's Bicycle Travel Inspiration & Resource - Adventure Cycling Association

There are a couple of things to be aware of with the Jamis touring bikes.

They have normal mounts for a rear rack, but do not have mid fork mounts for a front rack. If you want a front rack it will have to be one that attaches to the brake bosses or to fork clamps like the Ultimate Low Rider with eyelet mounts from Old Man Mountain OMM Front Racks or ones that can be mounted with front rack adapters like these from the Touring Store Tubus Bicycle Touring Bike Racks, TheTouringStore.com That's not a problem, but it is something you should know about before buying racks.

The gearing is the same on both the Aurora and Aurora Elite, and it is on the high side for loaded touring. They come with 30/39/50 chain rings and an 11-34 cassette. The lowest gear is 23.8 gear inches. The calculation is:
(27 inch wheel diameter) * (30 teeth on smallest chain ring)/(34 teeth on largest cassette cog))

Most of the writers at CrazyGuy seem to prefer 20 gear inches or less for loaded touring in big hills. Replacing the 30 tooth chain ring with a 26 tooth chain ring gets the Jamis bikes down to around 20.6 gear inches
(27 inch wheel diameter) * (26 teeth on smallest chain ring)/(34 teeth on largest cassette cog))

I don’t think the other chain rings would have to be changed if the smallest chain ring was switched to 26t, but check with the LBS to make sure.

In any case, changing a chain ring or two doesn’t cost much, and you have 3 years to decide if you want to do it.

The Jamis Aurora has regular cantilever rim brakes. The Jamis Aurora Elite has disk brakes. There are never-ending discussions about disk vs rim brakes on touring bikes. Disk brakes are great at stopping in wet weather, but are a huge pain to fix if something breaks when you’re in Middle Nebraska. If repairing disk brakes in the field is something you would rather not do, you can save yourself $600 and a lot of complexity with the Jamis Aurora rather than the Jamis Aurora Elite.

All that said, either the Aurora or Aurora Elite would take you comfortably across the country.

If you want to check out a couple of other touring bikes in the $1,000-$1,500 range, look at The Trek 520 ( Trek Bikes | Bikes | Road | 520 ) and the Surly Long Haul Trucker (Complete Bikes | Long Haul Trucker Complete ).

Let us know what you decide on.

[edit] Just noticed you mentioned all your riding is on trails. If you're going cross country, you're going to have to get comfortable riding on roads, sometimes in traffic. A good on line resource for riding safely in traffic is http://www.bikexprt.com/streetsmarts/usa/index.htm You might also consider one of the League of American Bicyclists Traffic Skills courses http://www.bikeleague.org/programs/education/courses.php
 

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For that budget a Sam Hillborne from Rivendell would also be worth a look.

Or you could even look at having a frame built for you. That's what I'd probably do if i could afford it.

I'd go for a Woodrup Stelvio: http://www.woodrupcycles.com/frames.html

Incredible value for money really. There must be some great builders in the US who'd do something similar for the price.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thanks for the advice. I am still searching because I hope to purchase a bike that will last me several years and miles. I do not want to limit myself to what is available at the LBS. I do have the cash to purchase something nice but so far everyone has been recommending the Jamis Aurora Elite. Not sure if it is just because it is what the LBS carries or if they really feel that is the best bike. I am going to try another LBS that specializes in Treks. I have looked online but am nervous of buying something without trying it. I never considered having one built for me. That may be an option.

Anyone else with advice on a good touring bike. I will be riding it across america with panniers.
 
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