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For a while now I have been trying to find the perfect bike. One that is fast and allows me to ride 20 mph for 50 mi. One that I can load stuff on and has braze-ons for racks, fenders, etc. A bike that does not punish you for riding more then 40 mi.

So my question is does this bike exist? Is there a bike out there that will suit all of my needs or will I need multiple bikes for every occasion?

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The short answer to your question is "no", unless you are hoping to find it at a thrift store for $20! <smile> –  DC_CARR May 11 '11 at 16:17
    
The key question is "can you ride 20mph 50 miles on any bike". If you can't, it's not the bike that's the problem. Adding racks, panniers and fenders is going to slow you down, so if you can ride (say) 35mph for 50 miles on a decent road bike there's some chance that a slower bike will still work for you. –  Мסž May 11 '11 at 23:27
    
Also, how much are you willing to compromise strength for weight? A nice light bike will be either flexible or fragile when loaded. Steel will flex, aluminium or composite will snap when overloaded. –  Мסž May 11 '11 at 23:33
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As others have said, a touring bike fits your criteria best. They're reasonably light and "road bike like", but designed for more comfort and weight-carrying. Braze-ons for racks and fenders are pretty standard. There is a wide range to pick from (well, maybe a dozen decent models), in both road and cross styles, and several different "weights", so you can pick your compromise between heavy-duty features vs lightness/speed. –  Daniel R Hicks Jul 29 '11 at 19:52
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5 Answers 5

up vote 6 down vote accepted

I think that it is generally true that any "all-purpose" tool is less-than-ideal for most purposes. There are trade-offs for everything.

If you are just looking for a bike that allows you to ride fast and long while carrying a load, though, I think you are looking for a light touring bike. Get something with drop-bars and road-y geometry. Get a comfortable saddle for it--maybe Brooks B17. It will go reasonably fast (not racing-bike fast, but certainly faster than my Globe Vienna).

Personally, I am not following my own advice--I am doing what you suggest on a mid-80's Schwinn steel road bike. I have racks and fenders on it. It goes not-as-fast as my racing bike but fast enough for sure. When I routinely carry lots of heavy loads on it, I start breaking spokes but that's the wheel's fault and not the frame. The old steel Schwinns really do never break--if you put the right components on them, they will haul anything you want.

At some point I may replace the Schwinn with something more modern. After all, I'm running it with old 105 gear and down-tube shifters. Generally fine, but when I can afford it I'll upgrade. My Vienna has started to spoil me, with its IGH and shiny paint.

In your position, I might consider a Civia Bryant. Go with the belt-drive option. It can haul a load, go fast, seems comfortable (having only looked at the geometry), and is low-maintenance.

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I added a link to the belt drive people. Unfortunately their FAQ just says "as efficient as a chain", with no numbers. So the cynic in me says yeah, as good as a rusty old derailleur system (50-80%) and not even close to a good single speed (95-98%). I know I can feel the difference between ~98% and ~90%, so this stuff concerns me. –  Мסž May 11 '11 at 23:31
    
My partner has a belt drive bike--she tells me that she doesn't notice any efficiency issues. She bikes everywhere and is pretty sensitive to her bicycle so I trust her. No numbers, but I can say certainly that it's better than the old rusty derailleur. –  DC_CARR May 12 '11 at 17:29
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A touring road bike or, better, a cyclocross or light touring bike is probably going to meet your needs.

Be aware that riding 50 miles in 2.5 hours will be unreasonable on any bike without a tremendous level of fitness. As folks say, it's more about the engine, than the bike!

Instead of finding a fast bike that will haul stuff well, consider getting a fast road bike and a trailer. You'll then have a bike unencumbered by racks that you can use to haul a trailer. There are still questions of the proper drivetrain configuration here -- I'd avoid a delicate 9-speed drivetrain, for example. You can also attach a seatpost rack for commuting.

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"delicate" has been redefined by 10 speed and 11 speed :) 9 speed is now "relatively robust". –  Мסž May 11 '11 at 23:34
    
@moz - Perhaps, but IMO, "delicate" is anything over 3 speeds. ;) –  Neil Fein May 11 '11 at 23:55
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Long distance? Carrying stuff? Speed? It sounds like you are describing a Touring Bike. I know that the Surly Long Haul Trucker is a popular model, but just searching for "Touring Bike" should give you a number of different options.

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I've had great luck with old Trek mountain hardtails (Trek 820, 930) retrofitted with road tires. I've been commuting daily on these for quite some time. They support racks and fenders and can be found for relatively cheap on Craigslist. A good friend of mine toured Alaska on his Trek 930 (fitted with fenders, racks, toe-clip pedals, and an extra water bottle holder).

I bought a Trek 820 for $105 on Craigslist and it's been great (albeit after replacing several parts - pedals, seat, tires - to name a few, and getting it tuned up and tightened).

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I lucked out and purchased this exact bike off Craigslist from the man who built it. It wasn't necessarily cheap, but considering it's done the job of three bikes, I've felt exceedingly lucky to have found it.

It's a Surly Pacer frame, full Ultegra 9-speed grouppo, and a Brooks B17 Standard saddle. I use 700x28c Panaracer Ribmo tires which have lasted for 3,800mi (6,100km) without a single flat. I can and have attached fenders to it (even on tire sizes up to 32c, I believe), although I leave the Race Blades off unless it's raining. The only thing I needed to do to add a rack was to buy a pair of P clamps, since it doesn't have a pair of braze-on eyelets on the seat stays.

The bike clocks in a bit heavy at 30lb (13.6kg), but I have no problem keeping up with the Faster Mustache Road Ride (30mi [48km], 17mph [27km/h] avg, 3,100ft [950m] of climbing) and the Airport Ride (50mi [80km], 25mph [40km/h], no climbing). It took my wife and I through 500 miles of touring from Amsterdam to Paris without the slightest problem, outfitted with a rack and two heavy panniers. And I commute on it daily on the poorly-maintained and pothole-stricken streets of Atlanta.

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