Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Return of the Camping Bike

Velo Orange Campeur Decals
The idea of bike camping has been creeping into our insular little bicycle culture for some time now, but I confess to being rather dismissive of the trend. Sure, some people go camping by bike. But so much so as to create demand for camping-specific bicycles? Nah, I thought. But seeing the decals on the new Velo Orange "Campeur" model at Interbike earlier this year really brought it home for me: Camping bikes are for real. The now in-progress long term review on the Gypsy by Trade blog has further fueled my curiosity. 

Le Campeur
The camping-specific bike is not a new concept. The original French campeurs, popular through the 1940s-1960s, were designed for cyclo-camping - a variation of cyclo-tourisme involving shorter trips and heavier loads. Typically these bikes were built with 650B wheels and wide tires. Front and rear low-rider racks were standards features. 

French Fender Day
Frames in larger sizes were often built with supplementary diagonal stays, to prevent flex. 

Rivendell Hunqapillar
Today, Rivendell offers several "diagatube" bicycle models based on a similar premise. This is fitting considering that the current popularity of bike camping is in no small part due to Rivendell's promotion of what they call the S24O: the sub-24 hour overnight trip. The idea is that you set off after work, ride to a local camping spot, spend the night there and return in the morning. Whereas full-on bicycle touring requires considerable time commitment, even the busiest of people can manage the S24O. There are now blogs and a flickr group dedicated to the practice. 

Rivendell by the River
So what is the relationship between bike camping and a camping-specific bike? In a sense, any bike that can carry camping gear comfortably will be suitable for the job. Beyond that, it mostly depends on the length and terrain of your route. Touring bikes equipped for wide tires, fenders and racks - such as the Surly Long Haul Trucker and a number of Salsa and Rivendell models - have made popular choices. There has also been a trend to convert vintage touring bikes to 650B wheels (for extra tire clearance) and use them in this capacity with the addition of front and rear racks. But a camping bike could also be a transport bike, even a cargo bike or a capable folder for that matter. There is no precise definition.

Velo Orange Camping Bike
So what can we expect from a camping-specfic bicycle model? A number of features come to mind: robust tubing to accommodate the weight of gear, long chainstays for pannier/heel clearance in the rear, eyelets for front and rear racks, clearances for wide tires and fenders, and a reliable braking system. The VO Campeur is additionally interesting in its low-ish trail front end geometry, which some believe to be helpful for carrying a considerable front load. 

Will camping bikes take off? The concept of bike camping already has, so it's really a matter of whether the campeur is sufficiently distinct to carve out its own niche. I suspect the concept inspires and attracts a slightly different crowd from those who would go for a standard touring bike, and that's kind of interesting in of itself to observe. Personally, let's just say I am happy to live vicariously through others' bike camping adventures, while traveling light myself. But to the bike campers out there: What is your bicycle of choice, and do you see value in a bike that is optimised for camping?

95 comments:

  1. I've been riding my mini Campeur (51cm) for about a month now, and have about a thousand miles on it. I have not actually done any camping on it, but I have pulled a heavy trailer (usually with a wiggling kid in it) much of that distance, and also taken it on dirt, gravel, grass, and 4wd roads. It has performed admirably. I am really impressed that this bike is as cushy as it is, while also being not-sluggish on the smooth pavement. I hesitate to call it zippy, but it is great fun. If you can get over its lack of lugs, I believe it serves well as a Riv for the Rest Of Us.

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    1. I meant to add that my only complaint, if you want to call it that, is that the 51cm size should really have been redesigned for smaller wheels. I get a fair bit of toe overlap, especially with the fenders (and their standoffy stays) mounted. It is totally manageable/avoidable, and people like me with short legs have learned to deal with this decades ago. Nonetheless, would have been a cool option. Otherwise, I really love this bike, and while I will not name names, I am glad I went this route over the very popular "cross" frame I was about to get when I saw this was released. I took a huge leap of faith in mail ordering a bike site unseen, but since I can rarely test ride bikes in my size anyway (I am a ridiculous 5'5"), I took the plunge and am really glad. I had a couple minor problems with my order but VO has provided great customer service and I am super stoked on the whole experience.

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    2. Thanks for sharing your impressions of this bike (direct links: here and here and here). I agree that smaller wheels would have been nice for the small frame size. As for the comparison to Rivendell, I think the lugs are not the biggest difference, but rather the handling and the tubing &geo specs. This is just a different type of bike, rather than "a Riv for the Rest Of Us." Same deal when it comes to the comparison with the "popular cross frame." Different strokes for different folks. Enjoy!

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  2. Never heard of a camping bike, but then again, I'm always surprised when I head into a bike store these days. Know lots of folks who use bikes to travel and camp, however, and have ridden a whole variety of bicycles for this purpose. When I bicycled across the country in 1980 it was on a modest machine not especially designed for long tours but worked flawlessly (thankfully), even though it had been in a crash and was not completely perfect :) Oh, I see the folks at path-less-pedaled have just compared their new Salsas to the Surly LHTs for loaded touring and other uses--good observations. Really, it's very popular in the western states to head out camping with minimal gear and, again, most any bike will work, but especially bikes with a bit of off road capabilities and most who I run into are not too into bikes but rather into fishing, camping, climbing, etc, so why not a camping specific bike?

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    1. " but rather into fishing..."

      There are custom fly-fishing bikes, I hear. I am still waiting for the return of the Photography Bike (previously known as the photographeur: http://instagr.am/p/Q_MMecD7iV), with built-in tripods and such...

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    2. Don't forget the bear hunting bike and the now sadly defunct spelunking bike.

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    3. Fly fishing bike? Just add a rack.
      Bike to go skiing: a little bigger problem; the gear isn't nearly as heavy or unwieldy as it was just a few years ago. And backcountry access ofter requires 4WD if you were to drive. The problem is putting the gear on the bike or trailer so that the cg isn't so heavily affected. Any gravel crusher or MTB could be tractor to a trailer, but since we are talking serious hills, a cargo bike would have to be both light and strong.
      Perhaps only something a custom bike or trailer could solve, but I'm at a bit of a loss even who to take it to.

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    4. An Xtracycle setup with fat tires would be perfect for skis I would think? I've been meaning to try this on the demo Radish.

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    5. Fat Franks in sand don't provide enough flotation ime. We're talking way bigger depending on the snow.

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    6. Ooooh. Do tell about it when you've tried it. I've been considering this:
      http://www.fftouring.com/trailers

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    7. I have used my shogun trailbreaker III (89-90's )
      with a carver surf rack to carry my snowboard for my when riding toYosemite's Badger Pass
      worked great

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  3. what a beautiful photo of a beautiful Rivendell!

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  4. I haven't done any camping-by-bike yet, but the guys I ride with have been talking about it for years. The two guys have already built bikes for it: in both cases, vintage steel mtb's with the usual touring treatment. I was thinking of building a Fargo with some Small-Block 8's, but the geometry on the thing just looks wrong to me. The frame's numbers look great, in theory, on paper... but the complete bikes just seem so awkward.

    I guess, if I go, I'll just use my vintage steel mtb with the typical touring-treatment.

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  5. Re the several mentions of Salsa in the comments: I wanted to link to the Casseroll, but apparently they've discontinued it. Surprising, since it seemed to be one of their most popular models. Anyone know what the story is?

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    1. The Vaya is taking over.

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    2. I submit the Fargo for consideration, because of its versatility. The tubing may actually be rather light compared to that of full-on campeurs (not so the fork!), but I've carried rear loads of up to 40 lb with no problems (Tubus Logo rack) and of course you can get 30 lb more in front (Duo). As the frame is very compact, this may compensate for the lighter tubing to some extent and for the absence of a supplementary diagonal. It certainly has all and every braze on you could want, and will take tires up to 70 mm (I am extrapolating) at least in front -- am waiting for said tires to multiple and get cheaper. Handling with 35s is fine, tho' I'd not try 23s. And the frame is $500 list.

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    3. Salsa said that it wasn't selling enough, which is odd as a few years previously they said it was one of their top sellers. I suspect that the real reason may be that it was too close to other QDP bikes which sort of fill that niche, such as the Surly Pacer and All-City Space Horse / Mr Pink. None are quite the same as the cass though. Salsa also seem to moving away somewhat from all-steel bikes in their latest offerings. I have taken advantage of the clearance prices to get my hands on a lovely cass which is waiting for me when I get back home from travels at Christmas, can't wait.

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  6. I'm all for whichever manufacturer wants to develop a newish breed of bike specifically for camping and I'm sure that I would admire said bike if I saw one in the wild, but really, S24O specific models? I think the point of the S24O is that anyone should be able to throw a rack on any rack-compatible bike and head out of town for the night. I've enjoyed overnighters on my Surly Crosscheck with companions riding a Surly LHT, Salsa Vaya, a cobbled together 30yo Raleigh touring bike and a Kona Jake. I haven't done it yet by intend to use my Bridgestone MB-3 for overnighters as well. Point being, figure out how to carry your gear and go.

    That being said, I honestly don't begrudge anybody designing, or anyone else procuring, a camping specific bicycle. I just haven't developed the need for more than two bikes (though I have tried!).

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    1. In as much as I can claim to have preferences after not-yet 4 years of regular riding, I have noticed that with both commuting and road cycling, I try to get away with the least bike for the task. That is, I prefer to carry cargo on a non-cargo bike if at all possible, and I'd prefer to tour on a non-touring bike. And it's not even about minimising the # of bikes I own (obviously!), as simply about having those preferences. In others I notice it is the opposite - any excuse to ride a cargo bike or loaded tourer makes them happy. In the end anything goes; it's all about what excites and inspires us.

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    2. "it's all about what excites and inspires us"

      It's about what the right tool is.

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    3. I'm not sure, but it seems like we've come a long way in terms of design and fit of bikes so much so that touring on a bike designed for touring would make a lot of difference.

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    4. Touring and camping on a bike designed for touring makes about as much difference as you believe it does.
      I have toured on large and small wheeled, uprights and recumbents, purpose built frames and off the shelf folders. Currently I use a 'mountain bike' with internal hub gears and it works as well as anything else does.
      Lots of folk out there peddling bs to pedallers. Grant Petersen has something to say about it in Just Ride.

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  7. E(u)r...campeur, randonneur, Bob le Flambeur, boulevardeur...that bike needs a Weblos kerchief gratuit.

    Je fait du camping!

    I kinda like this bike in theory: normal bike, not overbuilt with attendant ride quality, easy to strip and make an everyday ride, carry some crap fore and aft easily, fun enough? Anyone out there build this as a zippy ride with fastish wheels?

    Someone should drop the top tube for me.

    WTH is that diago bike with the world championship stripes, Honjos and bottle dynamo -- someone whittle a spear, catch trout, read On Walden Pond and sear a poisson au feu to win the Hirsute Quadrathalon Worlds?!

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    1. Ah this reminds me that I need to write about French Fender Day. Brace yourself.

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    2. We are, how you say, "well braced" and panting with the anticipation! We are also prepared to express our disgust and disappointment so BEWARE! French Fender Day is a thing of which the wise participate with abandon and comment upon with circumspection and FEAR, Mon Ami...

      Proceed.

      Dizmond Rotsserie

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    3. I am sorely disappointed in your readership; no one has answered my question but reading upriver's "slower than a Smoothie" characterization I get it.

      This entire conversation illustrates why people debadge their bikes.

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    4. GRJ - The bike in question was brought by a visitor to Peter Weigle's 2012 French Fender Day.

      Not sure anyone identified who made it. Possibly when our host posts about JPW's FFD more details will be available.

      The bike is definitely French, as are the fenders which were made long before Honjo and the rest of Japan rediscovered vintage French bike style.

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    5. GRJ - If I wasn't clear, I was not really comparing the frame to the Smoothie since that is an unfair test. The Smoothie is built out with a carbon fork, narrow high pressure tires, light components, etc. It is steel, but it is still a reasonably light and sporty racing bike. I have no idea how the Campeur would behave built out similarly, but it is for different riding. The Smoothie is a comfortable triathlon bike but the Campeur is my city and country all-weather bike. Yes, I do intend to do a fair bit of camping on it, too. As to debrading... I have actually thought about it. I don't really care who makes it, nor what it is called, I just wanted an affordable (for me), comfortable bike meant for the type of use I wanted it for. Believe me, I had already planned to remove all stickers from the FATTIESW FIT FINE machine I had in mind. The VO labels are kindof on probation.

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    6. upriver thanks. I'm looking for my Holy Grail: racey fast, long long chainstays, maybe low trail, strong enough to haul stuff and haul ass, sweet ride. Your clarification is useful. What can I say, I'm always asking for the impossible.

      Maybe a Kinn midtail...

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  8. The Campeur does look nice. Nicholas from Gypsy by Trade and upriver/Kidhauler are going to put them to the test in the coming months, so it will be nice to get reports. I wouldn't mind trying one myself, but the Long Haul Trucker has been good to me and nowhere near dead yet. One can dream, though!

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  9. "Camping bikes" can't "return," because they never left: "Camping bikes" are simply "touring bikes," a category of bicycle that has been around for far longer than my 30 years of cycling. They are the raison d'etre of, for example, the Adventure Cycling Association, which began as BikeCentennial, which was created as a way of promoting bicycling through cross-country bike tours during, and since, the American bicentennial. Velo Orange is just putting a new (old) name on a type of bike which has been around for a century.

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    1. The way I see it, bicycle touring and bicycle camping, as activities, overlap to a large degree but they are not identical. You can focus on touring, in which case camping is the incidental activity - a side-effect, if you will, or a by-product of the touring (unless you are doing credit card, or couch-crash touring, in which case there is no camping at all). Alternatively, it can be all about the camping, with the bike riding being just something you do in order to set up camp away from home (i.e. Rivendell's model). This distinction can translate into tangible differences in bike construction, depending on how far the manufacturer wishes to take that. Alternatively, they can be one and the same bike.

      The VO campeur is basically a modern version of the 1940s-60s models I've pictured &linked to here. I am surprised by their choice of 700C wheels, but in other ways it seems to be the same concept.

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    2. could be a replica of a 1970's model then, I believe they transitioned to 700C wheels at that point?

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    3. How does a bicycle replicating designs used for camping in France in the 1940-60s meet the needs of the cyclists wanting to camp in the wilds of North America? Nostalgia ain't what it used to be.

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    4. Valid question, as back in the day it was common to go for short cycling trips with hostels and other simple lodging everywhere in the UK or France, with pubs and tea houses along the way. In North America you could be going long distances without such services, so you have to carry more, or pay more for any lodging. I still don't think a camping bike is any different from a touring bike. Both require strength for loads, comfort for long distance. Unless you are heavy or carrying heavy loads, a randonneur would be fine, and many prefer the practicality of a mountain bike. The romance is in the details, set up, components and the marketing. Strange that VO would make the campeur for 700 wheels even for smaller frames. It's already established that smaller frames don't do well with 700.

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  10. It really seems to be a bit of marketing. A well designed touring bike should be able to handle the weight of camping gear. With the tubing sets available now, the diagonal tube seem more for show than really needed to stiffen the bike. I rode across the country camping on an old Salsa (Ross Shafer vintage) racing mountain bike with a drop bars and 28mm tires. It fit me beautifully and was super stable with a 75lb. loaded weight.

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  11. The review of the frame is excellent as usual,although the return of a "camping bike" is a bit of a surprise to me. They have been around as long as I can remember dreaming of a Puch, advertised on the 50's version of the internet (the Sears catalog). The freedom it represented was the beginning of the cycling obsession for me and touring has been one of the few consistent forms of travel and recreation for me during the past 40 years. It always surprises me that others don't think of it and limit themselves to urban and/or club rides. On the other hand, bike shops know little about the models, don't carry them and continue to promote whatever shows up on TV. The S240 is a good introduction to touring for some people because a multi-day trip seems daunting at first, but week long trips are a lot more fun and have been common for me over time. The bikes themselves have always been around. Any touring or rando bike will work if the geometry is spec'd for all day comfort and can support 20-30 lbs of gear and most hybrids and Rando bikes can handle that. The VO looks like a good ride and it's great to see another choice in the market

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  12. Camping Bikes! I had forgotten about that little Sub-Niche. As a kid in the 70s I would comb the shelves at any library I found for anything to do with bikes, there wasn't much but I remember a couple of books that dealt with Continental Touring and non-racing riding, and they always talked about the Camping Bike as distinct from a "normal" Touring Bike. It was obviously an establish type with lots of people out prowling around the woods and foothills of Britain and Europe on such things.

    I remember that one article dealt with the things the author wanted that weren't available or beyond his ability to make or bodge. Mostly supple fat tires and light alloy rims up to the task. I was reading this just as the whole Mountain Bike thing was starting to leak out of N.California and it blew my mind that this guy was trying to invent the MTB almost 20 years before. I hope he lived long enough to get some of the tasty MTB goodies that were coming out then and if he could have imagined the neat stuff now he might have had hisself' frozen for 50 years or so.

    I think it's interesting how the camping bike as presented today is probably closer to the concept as explained 50 plus years ago, than the Mountain Bikes and BMX bikes I was so into are to today's versions. Then I would have thought that a modern "Campeur", built with 1970s technology would have been completely unrecognizable to the author but my 79' Mongoose and the Mountain Bikes we were all so excited about were somehow the ultimate expression of their types and unlikely to be improved in any significant way.

    I don't find myself wanting one of these but I recognize the enthusiasm and excitement. Pretty neat.

    Spindizzy

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  13. My take on a touring bike is a roadbike that can be loaded up for trips, whereas a camping bike starts as a mountain bike, similarly equipped.

    I've built my Bombadil as a camping bike; still working on dialing it in, haven't gotten time to go camping yet, but am looking forward to it.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/leslie_bright/7501897362/in/set-72157623199721925/

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  14. Eh, they're touring bikes, with possibly a little more focus on handling dirt. Though that isn't to deride -- they look like nice touring rigs, especially the Campeur for its price range. And extra sturdy for heavy riders plus heavy car camping gear, so that the new bike camper is happy, and can strip it down as they get better gear.

    Of course, the camping bike I'd want is a niche in a niche -- a folding, ultralight, dirt-capable canoe hauler, for making long portages easy. Under twenty pounds, capable of pulling a hundred, ride comfort not a priority.

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  15. A company like VO, since it is not on the "lighter, stiffer, more compliant weave, goes up to 11" bandwagon, has to find other ways to get its customers excited and thinking they need to buy something new. The company's forte is digging into the archives (or rather, letting others dig into the archives) to resurrect a "forgotten" category of bicycle.

    Velouria wrote: "The way I see it, bicycle touring and bicycle camping, as activities, overlap to a large degree but they are not identical." That level of distinction would definitely seem to be a modern sports equipment marketing angle, wherein we need 10 different sets of skis for ten types of snow.

    Velouria said: Ah this reminds me that I need to write about French Fender Day. Brace yourself.

    Très drôle!

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    1. "A company like VO, since it is not on the "lighter, stiffer, more compliant weave..."

      All is not lost for VO. If they want stiffer, they could could release a diagatube model...

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  16. I went on my first S240 while visiting my parents in CA. A friend and I planned it two days ahead and I used what I could borrow or scrounge in their garage. I used my first road bike which stays at home so I'll have something to ride while there. This meant I was bike camping on an aluminum road bike with 23c michelin pro race tires! While we ended up camping with a variety of bike tourists up in the Marin headlands who had bikes much better suited to long range touring, I felt that my road bike performed fine for this type of endeavor. I might have been more comfortable on one of my steel bikes, I might have had a better rack and pannier system, but for the S24O ride my bike was fine.
    That being said, I love the idea of the VO Campeur and what they've done with it. I hope to get a chance to ride one some day and see how it handles.

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  17. RVs, in Europe Caravans are a popular subset among the internal combustion engine crowd. Camping specific bikes at least create less pollution - noise especially for anyone unlucky enought to have to camp next to someone with a booming truck radio. The more the merrier.

    S240s - least ways door to door - are not all that doable for Chicago residents. Unlike the Bay Area or even New York City for that matter, in Chicago riding to a campsite and conveniently making it back is difficult to do even on a weekend, let alone a work night.

    My newest solution is a bike optimized for loading on a train. Train ride past the sprawl, then ride to a decent place to set up camp and do some star gazing. (yes, a folder would work but I'm not a folding type).

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/57976152@N07/sets/72157632032158851/

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    1. Speaking of S24Os in Chicago, here is a post about it from Dottie of Let's Go Ride a Bike. Her gang took a train to get out of the city, then rode the rest of the way.

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    2. Thanks for the link. I've seen Dottie's Betty Foy around with, one presumes, Dottie riding it.

      The bike - train - bike camping trip is the solution for Chicago sprawl. Definitely doable and fun.

      Still, I somewhat envy GP and the other bay area cyclists (works in LA too) who can go from busy urban areas to empty mountain top camp grounds on a fairly short all bicycle trip.

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  18. Finally a subject with which I have some experience. I'm old enough to have participated in bike camping in the 1970's, but I don't recall any camping specific bikes, but I'm not French either.
    A Raleigh International was my bike, fully loaded for a week-long camp-tour in the Texas Hill Country. Back-packing gear was light enough, and my buddy & I distributed the load, easy. We had a stove & pot, but ate lunch at Cafes, so we didn't carry much food. It was all down-hill as I recall.
    If I were to do it again, I would spend my money on a great sleeping pad & Cafes, not on cooking gear. Riding & resting more fun than cooking.

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  19. My camping/touring bike is a 1980 Assenmacher,(Michigan) - built with Columbus SP. In 1990 it was updated for a Bruce Gordon front rack & canti's. I have ridden it over 40,000 miles. It has mostly been used for sport rides and centuries (and 1 STP) since I my wife and I began tandem touring a year after I had it built.
    With the new fabrics and camping gear available today, I am confident my touring load today will be 10 lbs lighter than the 28-30 lbs gear I was using when this was built; (even adding an iPad!) . - http://blog.bgindy.com/blog/your-bicycle/40000-miles-and-counting

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  20. The Co-Motion Divide is named after the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route. The ultimate camping bike?
    http://co-motion.com/index.php/singles/divide

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  21. As an avid bike camper, I believe you could carve out a niche for a camping bike right between a road tourer and an adventure tourer (29er). I have an LHT with 37c tires, with fenders; and a mountain triple (lowest gear is 17.4 inches). I'd love to have something just a bit larger, but not quite in the Fargo range, for washed out fire trails, etc... If I wasn't skittish about 650B, I think a Rawland would be the ticket.

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  22. Will camping bikes take off? (Or 'campeurs' to put the ludicrous French affectation on it) You must be kidding, or have bought into the marketing bumf big, big time.

    Camping bikes - or Campeurs, if you must - are already with us and have been for years. they are called tourers. I have two presently in my shed, on which I have been travelling and camping for many years.

    Yes, you can get heavier-duty tourers for remote area touring - as I have done in Africa and Australia with my heavy-duty tourer (a Thorn eXp) but this is nothing new, except perhaps to you. I am assuming you have not done much touring?

    Roff Smith

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    1. Neither touring nor "camping bikes" are new to me, and the post says this much.

      Think of it as being about trends. In 2009, you could say that transportation bicycles were "back" in the sense that bikes specifically optimised for transport began appearing more frequently in manufacturer lineups, in bike shops and on the streets than in previous decades. And while some began writing about a "transportation cycling revolution," others protested that "transportation bicycles never left" pointing out that they have been commuting on their roadbikes steadily since the 1960s. In some sense both points of view are correct. But looking at it as trends, transportation bikes and the niche industry catering to them, began to thrive in the US in 2009 compared to previous decades. Same general idea, though on a much smaller scale, with the bike camping trend and subsequently "camping bikes."

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    2. Every generation rediscovers the wheel, or believes they have, and so it is with touring bikes. With the 21st century renaissance in cycling a large crowd of people - many of them in the US - who have taken up bicycles and cycling in the past five or seven years broaden their interest to include touring (or cyclo-camping) and find their ample buying power is amply catered to by bicycle manufacturers large and small who trot out trendy new designs in bicycles designed to accommodate the carrying of camping gear - stuff the rest of us in the garlic-and-onions cycling proletariat have been riding around on for decades and calling touring bikes.

      Truly, this is nothing new...

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    3. Yes. (Although garlic bikes have also recently become a niche for the elite, some would say.)

      But while some portray what you describe in a negative light, others see the power of rediscovery (and the purchasing power of those who have it) as a means to change our cultural perception of bicycles on a mass scale. Imagine, the guy with the midlife crisis opting to blow his cash on the hottest new bike trend instead of the hottest new car trend. The family of 4 shopping for the latest bells and whistle cargo camping bike they heard about at last night's dinner party instead of an SUV. And let's take it one step further: powerful lobbies demanding bicycle infrastructure and safe roads, because damn it, they want to ride their precious campeurs to the countryside in safety. You get the idea. The way I see it, when people get inspired by bikes it is good.

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    4. Roff - I have my issues with VO, but its use of French names is not among them. Most of VO's products have french names. Before making its own stuff, VO was importing bulk orders of swell NOS stuff like MaxiCar hubs and Phillippe handle bars.

      On a broader theme, the knee jerk reaction that anything French is affectation baffles me. Sure, Paris has its haute couture, but much of the country is very much into simple and hand made.

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    5. I know! I mean, for some people French is like a perfectly normal language. For instance, Canadians.

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    6. And, of course the French.

      But don't you think it is just a teensy bit odd that so many cyclists and bicyce makers just have to work a bit of the Francophone magc nti the marketing?

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    7. "But while some portray what you describe in a negative light, others see the power of rediscovery (and the purchasing power of those who have it) as a means to change our cultural perception of bicycles on a mass scale. Imagine, the guy with the midlife crisis opting to blow his cash on the hottest new bike trend instead of the hottest new car trend. The family of 4 shopping for the latest bells and whistle cargo camping bike they heard about at last night's dinner party instead of an SUV. And let's take it one step further: powerful lobbies demanding bicycle infrastructure and safe roads, because damn it, they want to ride their precious campeurs to the countryside in safety. You get the idea. The way I see it, when people get inspired by bikes it is good"

      Uh huh.

      But...

      Any of us who have seen this movie before have the right to roll our eyes. You will to when it is no longer "inspiring".

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    8. Velouria - I am all for the renaissance in cycling. That is not my gripe. The more people who are out there on their bikes the better, in my opinion, be they aboard touring bikes or transportation bikes. What makes my eyes roll is this breathless hands-all-aflutter proclamation of something new, a breakthrough, a great new discovery - the touring bike. Will it catch on?

      That, and this fascination with creating newer and ever more nuanced sub-species, and sub-sub-species of bicycles. It is probably endlessly absorbing to people who are new to all this, and no doubt damn good business to those who cater to the new demands, but for those of us who have been cycling and touring (and, yes, bicycle camping if we have to break it down like that) it just seems like a triumph of style over common sense and the bikes we've had in our sheds for decades.

      Delete
    9. Roff - I moved your comment here without changing it. Yes, I get/respect that you feel this way. I see it from a different, though still partly overlapping perspective.

      Delete
    10. ...oh and if I ever make a bike, the faux branding for my subniche will be in Icelandic. Time to mix it up!

      Delete
    11. "One more thing..."

      "The family of 4 shopping for the latest bells and whistle cargo camping bike they heard about at last night's dinner party instead of an SUV"

      These such people are pouring a lot of money into the econ, but if you were to look at carbon footprints the SUV's is probably larger but ultimately the anti-SUV/car bike mamas' rhetoric borders on obsessional or, more accurately, reflects how bikes make them feel. It's a straw man as justification for their emotions.

      Whether someone needs to be inspired to by a car or cargo bike...it comes from the same place.

      Delete
    12. Roff - I agree if there is no connection to France.

      With VO there actually is its past, although I am not sure if VO carries anything that is actually from France now.

      Delete
    13. I don't believe they do, other than copying ( very well, it must be said ) original French designs.

      Delete
    14. Velouria, I don't know about Iceland but there are Norwegian bicycles designed specifically for cycling along the ragged coastlines caused by the retreat of glaciers from the last ice age. They're called Fjordeurs.

      Pervert that I am, I use a bicycle designed solely for riding silently around my neighborhood so I can look at people while they're undressing. My bicycle is a Voyeur.

      Delete
    15. "My bicycle is a Voyeur."

      Man, I wish I came up with that. Perfect name for a bike!

      Yeah, seen plenty of Fjordeurs in people's sheds over the years.

      Delete
  23. It's time for something really radical in bike design. What about replacing the front wheel with a little ski?

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    1. to be clear, in 1960s France, they called them les skieurs

      Delete
    2. Mon Dieu, la jeune fille a un esprit malin.

      Delete
  24. I road bicycles though the Touring craze of the late 70's and early 80's Near the end these touring bikes were significant long distant steeds. Long chain stays and long trail were a common thread. It is interesting as many of the early mountain bikes incorporated their designs.

    I would recommend researching the bikes of this era. Trek 720, Myata 1000, Fuji Touring Series V, Cannondale T700. These are classics. The ride is comfortable for a bike to be ridden 8 hours a day for several weeks.

    The steel used in these frames were light and gave like a well tuned spring. The ride became even better at times when the bike was fully loaded.

    Kevin MacLachlan

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    1. I used a Cannondale T700 to do a solo 10,000 mile trek through the Australian outback in the mid-1990s. It performed perfectly, even when loaded with up to 23 litres of water, plus food and camping gear, on the longer desert crossings.

      Oh - and the 'steel' in a Cannondale T700 is actually aluminium

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    2. Lots of people know about the mystical touring bikes of the 1980s. That is why they are so expensive on eBay and Craigslist. I mean, have you seen how much a Miyata 1000 goes for these days?

      And the thing is, they aren't really any better than contemporary offerings. In some ways, they're worse: the tire clearance of my LHT allows me to go places my old road-touring specific Schwinn Voyageur couldn't. Also, the narrow canti-studs can make mounting modern cantis difficult.

      Anyways, we get it, grumpy old dudes. You've been touring for years. Awesome.

      Delete
  25. No special bike needed. Just get a trailer and hitvh it to your mtb (if the going is rough) or your road bike Iif it's smooth). Simples. A trailer doesn't affect the bike's handling.

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    1. Too simple a solution, only because thousands of words or dollars need not be used implement it! In brief, the trailer is my solution exactly... 1) Because I hate racks. 2) Because a decent trailer is a lot cheaper than a decent bike. 3) What Kevin said.

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  26. While i see the theoretical difference between 'bike camping' and fully or partially loaded touring, it seems that any 'bike camping' specific attributes of a bike would still place the bike in the 'touring bike' category in my mind. That being said, I am an avid touring cyclist, and I do it as much for the camping and hiking, and face-stuffing pig-out fests, as I do for the ride. A few years ago I purchased a bike so made for road touring that Fuji calls it the "Touring." I got this model for no reason other than it was being offered new, in my size, on ebay for about $500 below MSRP. It has everything a standard touring bike has, which happens to be exactly how you described a 'camping bike.'

    For me, as a city dweller (Boston for 6 years, currently San Francisco - I moved here on my bike), a touring bike serves as a most excellent city commuter. Steel frame for comfort and strength, slightly longer wheelbase than a racer for good handling, even when loaded, wide tires for comfort on crappy pavement and not getting stuck in metal grates or train tracks, racks for the load if I want it (I leave my front rack off unless I am fully loaded for a tour, as it is a low-rider and has little practical use without the panniers), fenders for all weather. My real touring bike, having covered over 13,000 miles, is too precious for me to leave locked anywhere in a city for too long, so I set up my current city bike similarly. When I lived in Boston, my touring bike served as my Snow bike, Rain bike, heavier loads bike, and longer distances bike, having gears ranging from 52/11 to 30/34 (on 700c). But honestly, another reason to commute / urban ride on a 'touring' bike is that they don't look anywhere near as ugly as anything marketed under the "hybrid/commuter" label.

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  27. Velouria,

    I always enjoy your thoughts. For many people a touring bike and a camping bike may be the same thing (vehemently defended above). But I think camping evokes sleeping in the woods, perhaps in undeveloped sites, and several features may differentiate a camping bike including wider tires and a higher bottom bracket.

    The distinction is best served by a comparison to car camping. Some people drive on pavement to developed sites, while others explore the woods in capable trucks and establish their own "camp". While the truck can drive to the local state park, the low-clearance sedan may not be so happy on rough dirt roads in the national forest. I have found that traditional touring bikes, as defended above, are not optimal for riding on real dirt roads. Vintage mountain bikes and their descendents, such as some Riv models and monster-cross types, are better suited to the task.

    The VO Campeur is more of a traditional touring bike with a low BB and standard tire clearances (38-40mm w/fender). The name is just clever and French. Above all else, a bike is neither a touring bike nor a camping bike until it is out touring or camping.

    nicholas

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    1. Yes, a true camping bike would require a high bottom bracket. I live on a dirt road and do some rough trail riding, my bikes are fine, but I definitely have to get off if the trail is too bumpy. In that sense the VO campeur is just another touring bike. Converting a bike to 650b can create more clearance and wider tires that are good on rough terrain. I have a vintage bike with original tires that are very similar to hetres and they handle rough logging roads and trails very well.
      But, the need for a sturdier knarlier bike is why people are doing serious back country camping on mountain bikes.

      Delete
  28. "We should make a touring bike. Touring bikes are making a comeback. Raleigh Sojourne, Jamis Aurora, Kona Sutra, the 520 never even went away..."

    "It didn't? ...well, yeah, but we can't call it a 'touring bike', that's so 70's - long white socks, stripy acrylic pullovers, Kumbaya round the camp-fire, hot-dogs under a tarp in the rain... Generation 650B will never buy into it."

    "Right. We need something authentic, heirloom, artisanal, but with a twist of the euro-now..."

    "Maybe something with acronyms? If that Petersen guy can turn going for a bike ride new and exciting just by attaching some random letters and numbers..."

    "I've got it.. Camper! Nobody called them 'camping bikes' back in the day, they were always 'tourers'. Camper says new and different and fresh. Nobody used to camp, it way always 'touring'."

    "Didn't some people call it 'bikepacking'?"

    "yeah, but not 'camping', though... but we're still missing that certain je ne sais quoi..."

    "Un petite cachet francaise?"

    "Exactement! C'est un Campeur!"

    "You don't think it's maybe a little umm.. ...fabulous ...for some of our more... erm... rugged clientele?"

    "Paint it grey. No problem."

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    Replies
    1. OMG, you nailed it! You must certainly be a fly on the wall at VO HQ!

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  29. "Vintage mountain bikes and their descendents, such as some Riv models and monster-cross types, are better suited to the task."

    My first camping bike:
    http://bikecatalogs.org/SCHWINN/1985/ATB/Sierra.html
    I used the Sierra for a 2 week ramble thru the canyon country of southern Utah. It performed admirably, even when loaded with 4 gallons of H2O. Long wheelbase, high BB, wide tires, mounts for fenders and front/rear racks. Rugged.

    Replaced with a Thorn Nomad.

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  30. Very happy with my road bike / rando bike / cross distance / Indy Fab Club Racer. But when it where's some light baggage and we go camping, it will henceforth be named the Raceur.

    And I'm uber happy with the crazy magic pixie dust that Salsa encrusted my Fargo in. When I take it bike packing, or overnighting, it shall thusly be called the 'Fargo-er'.

    And when I'm doing neither, but reading about bikes and dreaming about trips (when I should be working), I shall call myself a Flaneur.



    Love the diversity we are seeing in many a bike shaped object these days. The VO stuff is a bit fussy to my taste, but good on them for making a go of it. I think they may have just out Riv'd Riv. Or something like that.

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    1. Mike - Do you have a review of the Fargo? I recall seeing it, but can't find it now. That is one bike I would love to try, but I've never seen one in Boston.

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    2. I should write one. Lots of posts and some trips with it, never a full on review...

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  31. So, other than trendiness, what's the difference between touring and camping bikes other than campeur's obvious french leanings? When is a rando bike not enough for camping? All do the same, and would be able to carry enough for a short camping/cycling trip. I found my surly lht totally overbuilt, sluggish etc and wouldn't want to go touring or bike camping with it! Jan Heine wrote that he wants a campeur which I bet is getting people excited too. Qu'est que c'est une bicylette campeur? I have a vintage frame that I bought made by a custom british builder that is an 'audax' meant for touring or randos I guess and has low trail(!!!), plus my trek 420 frame is low trail, so both shall be built for 650b fun. So, I'd have 2 possible campeur/touring/randonneurs.
    I have yet to go bike camping as I am not into camping. Strange for a nature girl like me, I cannot sleep in tents, on the ground, I get too cold, become grumpy so no thanks. I live in the country and know what lurks in the night. In fact, I may have moved to the country so I could avoid camping! My husband fears it would be all credit card touring for us! If only there were more affordable hostels and hotels dotting the countryside for overnight sleeps. My touring attempts have not been good as my back cannot handle being on bikes for so long I'd definitely be into shorter adventures, as long as a comfy bed is involved. :) I admit, maybe a bit of a princess!

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  32. Looking at the geo chart this thing has 8.2cm bb drop. Like that.

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    1. GRJ: The bike is really stable and predictable, credit to the steering geometry and BB drop. However with large block style pedals and 175mm cranks, pedaling through turns is limited. Pedaling over obstacles off pavement also requires some care to avoid pedal strike. But yes, low and stable-- a very assured ride.

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  33. "even the busiest of people can manage the S24O". Right. I'll check with my event planner for time for my next S240. It ought to be next summer, and not because of the weather ;)

    I am amused at all of the variants of bicycles. Let's see, a touring bike to take a lot of gear a long way for a lot of days and a campeur bike that that takes even more gear for a lot less days and a lot fewer miles. I'm sure there are differences but I couldn't imagine being the one to get both, even if I were getting to do both kinds of rides.

    Long ago and not so far away, I bought a 1984 Trek 520. You can see it described here, although I'd argue about its real purpose, having toured on it extensively and put a lot of road and dirt road miles on it as well. I was a thousand miles from home when I ran into a guy riding a 1984 620 bought within a month of mine at the same shop. I was packed heavier than he was (front and rear panniers, plus rack for me, he had front panniers, handlebar bag, load on rear rack), both of us were traveling solo. He had the heavier duty bike to do lighter duty touring. Both bikes worked well for us. I met a friend in Wisconsin a few years later and he also rode a '84 620. I had a chance to do a S240 with him, Eau Claire to Elroy, WI, which sort of looked like this - maybe 30 hours, not 24. In any case, I'd compare the bikes as a light touring bike vs a heavy duty touring bike. I've done a lot of S240 trips on that bike and it worked as well for that kind of riding as for the 2-7 week tours although I think it was meant to be a sort of randonneur bike.

    Then there are the serious camper bikes. Way more weight than I would consider, even if my companion was riding a single speed.

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  34. There are serious camper bikes, and serious camper bikes...Might be a bit much for the winding, rolling hills of coastal California, tho.

    We just used whatever bike had a rack. The guy with the lowrider panniers got to carry the really weighty stuff.

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  35. Just watched a documentary about Tom Ritchey in which he mentions English Woodsie bikes as being a sort of precursor to the mountain bike. These bikes were used on trails and farm tracks and had drop bars and 650b wheels, so I thought you might like to know about them. Sorry but I can't paste a link into here due to the nature of my tablet and my lack of skill with it but if you search for 'Tom Ritchey's 40 year ride' you'll find it. Never heard of a Woodie before but a great alternative to something ending in 'teur'!

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  36. Just spotted that Gellert are making a version of this design of tent for about £42 on Amazon. Not sure of weights yet or the materials used for its construction, but its worth a look. Its a 2 man tent and cant be bad for the money.

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