I’ve ridden the Nashbar Touring Bike a few times, never real far, nor did it have the appropriate number of clamped on accessories to be considered an actual touring bike. That changed today when I took the NTB out for a 75 mile jaunt all geared up.
My plan was to make this bike as dorky as possible. I’m not going to put an orange flag or kickstand on it, but I haven’t ruled anything else out. I put all 3 water bottle cages on, a pump, rear rack and aero bars. Nothing really dorky but the aerobars. In the mid 90s it seems like almost everyone mounted some clip on bars and went aero then realized how dorky they were and took them off. Now days you see aerobars on two kinds of bikes, Time Trial/Triathalon, and Endurance/Touring rigs. People who ride either real fast or real far and usually alone.
I recently swaped out the stem for a super short hi-rise model and am much happier. I’ve written how I don’t like the geometry of the bike. My gripe boils down to a short headtube and long top tube. The short stem address this problem shortening up the cockpit, and making me enjoy the ride much more. The NBT has just about every possible mount option you can put on a bike. Mounting the rack was super easy with all the bosses. I don’t have fenders yet, but if I do some serious touring I will get some, the mounts are there.
Today’s ride was all about putting on miles, I had no real aspirations to go fast or climb hills. Shauna went with for the first half of the ride which took it us out to Glenn O Jones lake and back towards Harrisburg where she broke off and Mom and I went Southeast. Unbeknownst to us there was a grand opening of the trail in Equality today celebrating the new section of bike trail. We were only a few miles from it, but probably wouldn’t have went anyway.
The story is they built some new bike trails basically out in the middle of nowhere. Now this is going to be a shock, but I don’t care much for bike trails, at least the multi use kind that are covered in limestone. I believe that bikes belong on the road, unless they are mountain bikes then the belong on mountain bike trails. Now I know I’m looking at this from only my shallow perspective. Many, many folks out there want to ride, but don’t want to ride on roads, or challenging mountain bike trails, and the rail trails are perfect for them. OK fine, but I don’t want to relegated to a bike trail. The only problem now is the occasional blow hard who screams, “GET ON THE BIKE TRAIL” if they drive by anywhere near a bike trail. I fear this attitude could spread and bikes could become bike trail only.
One other observation, the bike trail has done nothing to foster cycling in my town. You’d think with the trail available more people would get into riding. That hasn’t been the case. There was an official pay-ride on the trail years ago but it died out after a few years. We had a larger body of road bike riders years ago back before the trail existed. One group the rail trail has really helped is runners which is primarily the group that uses the trail, well runners and dog walkers.
Anyway sorry about the rant, back on topic. We rode 75 miles and the wind was bad, or good depending on which way you were going, after fighting the wind for hours the last 15 miles of the ride where in some sweet tailwinds and that pushed us home with little effort on our part. Riding in spring is like that, accept it and wind will make you stronger.
The Nashbar Touring Bike is a very different experience from my CAAD9, which makes sense since it’s a race bike. The NTB offers up a super comfy ride on the big 28mm tires, though my carbon seatpost helps with that a lot. I find my cadence constantly drifting down if I don’t focus on it. The bike is sluggish and wants to be pedaled slowly. Fast pedaling upsets its balance and seems to make it want to sway side to side. Standing up to crank out a hill will reward you with a thrashing, wollering ride that gets you nowhere fast. Stay seated other then to rest your rear.
I could feel all the additional weight today, it wasn’t a drastic difference more of a slow drag. Near the end of the ride I was exhausted, my body was running on fumes and I desperately needed calories. I’m certain I was burning more fuel on this ride because I was eating at closer intervals and still feeling hungry. The ride was pretty flat but the headwinds were obnoxious they ground us down. This is by far the toughest ride I’ve done in two years. I did a century last year that wasn’t nearly this tough.
The aerobars were an interesting addition. Profile Aero Strykes were the standard goto clip on bar back in the day, but its pretty rare for me to see them on a bike these days. The set I own came from a second hand bike store and I only mounted them for a few rides. I found they rattled so bad that I couldn’t stand it, plus the additional weight on the handlebars seemed awkward to me. On the touring bike it wasn’t so bad since the bike is already heavy, but the rattles still annoy me. Using the aerobars is like cheating. Here is an undeniable piece of bike knowledge. The cheapest way to go faster on your bike is to add aerobars. Whenever I got down on the aerobars my speed would increase by around 2 miles per hour.
Nothing is free and while the aerobars did make me go faster I wasn’t really comfortable, I was a bit strained in my back and shoulders. I’m sure I need to tune the position and spend some time riding that way to get accustomed to it. Besides comfort the ride is a bit sketchy, something I’m sure gets better with practice. I didn’t use the aerobars much yesterday because I noticed I would usually begin leaving mom behind, it felt like cheating. They are not for group riding, but great when you’re alone.
I haven’t tried the Nashbar with a load yet, I’ve always heard that real touring bikes ride better when fully loaded, hopefully that will happen this summer. I don’t foresee heelstrike being a problem, the chainstays are seriously long. I have not ridden any other touring bike so I don’t know how to compare, my guess is that a better steel touring bike would have a better and more refined ride, but cost about 6 times more than the Nashbar. If you want a touring bike to compliment your road biking and you don’t want to spend alot of money I highly recommend the Nashbar, despite my gripe about the geometry. Don’t cut the steer tube if you want an upright position, and consider getting a smaller size if you want a shorter top tube.