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What Type of Bike to Ride on DALMAC (or any other multi-day tour)

What bike should one choose for a ride like DALMAC – or any other cross-state, multiple day ride for that matter?

A road bike is the easy answer, but let’s get a little deeper than “easy”.

If you weren’t already aware from reading my blog, I turned into a multi-day junkie in the midst of my first DALMAC.  The Horsey Hundred in Kentucky, the Northwest Tour in northwestern Michigan…  I absolutely love the tours.  DALMAC is my longest thus far but I’m limited by my job for taking time off.  I’d do more if I could.

On every tour I’ve done over the last two years, I’ve taken my Specialized Venge race bike.  Put simply, it’s my best, fastest, easiest and most comfortable to ride.  As comfortable as it may be, the Venge is, however, a race bike.

That’s from DALMAC Day 4 last year.

So, that takes care of what I ride but I’m a little nutty.  A race bike is probably not the best bike for a multiple day tour, for everyone else.  It’s not that aero race bikes are bad, they’re ridden on the pro tour every day.  The one problem they do have, especially my Venge, is that the frame is exceptionally stiff.  Mine is built for pro sprinters, so it’s really stiff.

A stiff frame, over 380 miles in four days, gets a little rough by day four – and the worst roads of the tour cover the last 30 miles.

Before I give away my choice for the best bikes for DALMAC, both road bikes, obviously, let’s look at the others that aren’t the best – and why they aren’t.

  • The BMX Bike.  Dude, no.
  • The Beach Cruiser:  A bike built for cruising beaches is not a bike to be ridden 65 to 107 miles a day (depending on the route chosen, I ride the 4-day west, 107, 101, 100 72 miles respectively).
  • The Leisure Bike:  See Beach Cruiser
  • The Mountain Bike:  While the gearing would help on some of the steeper climbs on the ride, the weight of the bike and it’s horrible aerodynamics would make for a slow ride… though a 3″ wide tire sure would be nice on that last day (the roads aren’t that bad).

Now let’s look at some of the “They’ll work” bikes:

  • The Hybrid (aka the Flat Bar Road Bike):  While the hybrid is typically truly adored by those who ride them, I am not a personal fan of the  bike.  If, however, this is what you’re comfortable on, the hybrid’ll do.  No doubt about it.
  • The Time Trial Bike:  Though you’ll see plenty of high-end TT bikes on DALMAC, if you own a road bike that’d be the better choice.  TT bikes are awesome for 80% of the ride and horrid for the 20% that is uphill.  Watch out for days two and three (one and four will present some problems too).  You’ll have your work cut out for you.
  • The Touring Bike (Drop Bar):  If you own one, this is your bike for DALMAC.  The wider tires and gearing will be perfect for all aspects of DALMAC – including The Wall on day 3.  The weight of the bike is its only negative.
  • The Road Race Bike:  The fastest and lightest of the road bikes, you can’t go wrong with a good race bike… just watch out for the potholes in the pace line!
  • The Entry-level Road Bike:  All I can say is get a tuneup before you ride.  The heaviest of the road bikes (with the exception of the Touring Bike), climbing will be a little tougher and the cheaper components mean upkeep will be a necessity.  The last thing you want is a mechanical.  Mechanics are available at each camp site and the ride is SAG supported, but you’re out there to ride, not tend to your bike.

Now for my personal favorite for DALMAC or any multi-day tour:

  • The Squishy Bike (Drop Bar Road Bike):  The Specialized Roubaix and Trek Domane are two fantastic examples of the “Squishy Bike”.  They represent the perfect multi-day tour bike.  They take everything that is fast (and light) on a road bike and add special vibration dampening features that smooth out rough roads.  Also, they typically come with either a compact (50/34) or pro compact (52/36) crankset and a decent range of gears on the cassette.  The high-end Squishy Bikes also come with disc brakes.  A dry four days is rare over Labor Day weekend in Michigan and disc brakes provide unmatched stopping power in wet conditions over rim brakes.  While they’re not the fastest of the road bikes, the technology has come a long way from the days when they felt like riding with 30 psi of air in the tires, thus the term “squishy” (not my observation, I read that in several reviews when I was considering whether or not to buy my Venge).

$3,200

So, considering what I’ve written, this begs the question:  Do I ever regret choosing my Venge over a more compliant road bike?  I’d be a liar if I said never, though I’d love to have my Venge and that Trek Domane S 6.  I’d ride the Venge for the club ride and take the Domane on the tours.  😎

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