What this blog is about

Bicycle commuting, bicycle touring, bicycle racing; bicycle ADVENTURING.
To the grocery store, up a mountain, across the country or to the finish line--
it's all an adventure.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Trek 520 Touring Bike Review

We made it! Parked on the shore of Atlantic waters.
*There is a sleeping bag and cowboy hat under that yellow jacket,
in case you're wondering why it's piled so high. :)

Last summer, I rode a Trek 520 across the country. These days, the 520 rolls both as a super commuter and a plain ol' fun bike. This is my review.



As a touring bike..
The 520 is fantastic. When purchasing any bike, what you're really buying is the frame. The material and geometry of the frame dictates both how it fits you and how the bike behaves.
  • Is it a long or short reach? 
  • Is it snappy or stable? 
  • Is it harsh or forgiving? 
The Trek 520 frame has remained unchanged for many years. Probably because they got it right. 
  • The 520 supports a comfortable upright position. 
  • The bike is super stable, with or without a load (downhills are a delight!), yet still remains lively (not sluggish) when pumping and rocking (loaded!) uphill. This bike performs not just under the weight of a cross-country tour, but when unweighted-- it's still a joy to ride.
  • As to be expected, the steel is stiff (power transfer!)-- but absolutely melts over bumps and lumps. The only downside to steel is the heavier weight-- but heck, this bike has gears your great grandma could turn over! So who cares?!
So the frame, complete with a metallic powder coat finish which absolutely glows in the sun, gets 5 of 5 stars. 

If you plan to use the 520 for day to day commuting and leisure use, I wouldn't change a spec on the bike-- except that saddle appears to be there just for looks. Slap on your favorite saddle and you're good to go!

However, if you plan to ride this steel beauty on a long and loaded tour-- there a few key parts and accessories that I would recommend replacing:
  1. TIRES. Those Bontrager Race Lite Hard-Case tires are great for rolling around town and over your favorite hill and dale.. but their durability and flat protection is lacking for true long hauls. I had 2 flats and my tire shredded in Booneville, KY. Mia, my touring partner, rode Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires-- not one single flat. So I recommend a tire out of the Schwabe Marathon line. Remember, though-- the addition durability and flat protection aren't the only features of a tire, that extra rubber detracts from the butter and snap of your ride; though I have no complaints of the Schwabes which now roll on my wheels.
  2. RACK. The suggested max load of the Bontrager rear rack is 50 pounds. My total gear nearly weighed 50 pounds, depending on the food and water we carried-- so only 30 pounds at most was ever mounted on the rear rack. And it broke. Fortunately-- we were in Blacksburg, KY-- where there was a bike shop. My rack recommendation is a set of Old Man Mountains, Tubus or Surly. OMM for pure performance and reliability, Tubus for the same plus they're pretty, Surly for all of the above plus added durability (and weight). I ride OMMs.
  3. FENDERS. While the abbreviated fenders improve your toe overlap (the fender simply 'boings' out of our way should you hit it with your foot while making an awkward u-turn in a grocery parking lot), you'll be much happier on the road with FULL FENDERS and dry feet. 
  4. SADDLE. It's not uncommon for a bike to be spec'd with a saddle that the maker expects the consumer to replace with his or her favorite or preferred saddle. This is one of those saddles-- it's pretty and brown, but it has no cut-out and instead, is rather crowned and squashes all the things you don't want squashed. I ended up riding my Specialized Jett, my racing saddle. If you want something softer, I'd recommend a Specialized Lithia Gel-- but remember, softer does not necessarily equate better! That's a whole 'nother post.

And finally, full disclosure-- I was obligated to ride a Trek 520, as I was sponsored by Trek at the time. I already had a Surly Long Haul Trucker that I planned to detach from my Xtracycle. So would I buy a Trek 520 now? Sure would. The Trek 520 is great for:
  • A $1300 price point. 
  • Touring trips from one night to several months (or years?!).
  • A sturdy commuter.
  • A stable, comfortable, wide-gear-range everyday bike.
The only reason that I would buy a different bike: if I had twice or thrice the cash to spend. In that condition, I might ride more expensive parts and wheels-- but I'd still enjoy a frame just like the 520.

Was this review helpful to you? Leave a comment if you have any questions!

7 comments:

Stacy said...

Good advice on the accessories! Good things to keep in mind when outfitting my new touring bike I plan to buy this summer. Would love to see your review of your Surly LHT as well.

Phil said...

Hi:

Blundered across your blog looking for information on the Trek 520 for a TransAm Trail bike ride. Wow! Lot's of good information I'll have to study and digest. Thanks so much for publishing all this.

Cheers,

-- Phil

Richard said...

Hi RJ,
Can't possibly tell you how much I've enjoyed your blog. Incredibly useful, very well organized and presented, and just flat-out entertaining!
I've spent HOURS looking over all of it, and the video/slideshow of the actual tour nearly made me weep it was so beautiful (great soundtrack too btw...loved the Iron and Wine in particular). My brother and I (he's 56, I'm 47)did a "credit card tour" of Slovenia last year, and now I'm inspired to try something "substantial and self-contained"
Can you comment on the Novara Safari as a combination "around town and also touring bike"?
Thank you so very much for what you've done here...I'm using all your knowledge to my benefit.
Richard from Denver

Mike H said...

Ive had my 520 now for around 20 years, and enjoyed every minute I've been on it. Great bike for me.

Anonymous said...

Nice review - thanks for taking the time to write and post it!

nepalguideinfo said...

Sanjib Adikhari ist recomended 2011 by German trekkers Sabine and Frank from Berlin.

Sanjib Adhikari 2 x 250The ultimate compliment for Sanjib came from fellow trekkers we met along the way who remarked how lucky we were to have a guide so personable, knowledgeable and dedicated to us and our experience. We could not have agreed with them more. *We did a 21 day Annapurna circuit, Annapurna base camp trek and Langtang Valley trek and having never trekked this length before, we were both novices. It is without a doubt, that had our guide been anyone other than Sanjib, we would not have had nearly the rich, authentic and thoroughly enjoyable experience we did. When trekking with Sanjib we enjoyed: * honest, knowledgeable and sincere discussions regarding anything from Nepal's history and current politics, local religions and culture history, to geography natural landscape and all Mountains Name. * a sensitivity and sensibility to allow a good balance between conversation and respecting an individual or couple’s need for privacy * over 9 years of trekking guide experience. * a respect for an individual’s desired pace and physical condition. * an intimate knowledge of the best accommodations, tea stops and places of interest along the way, according to our own individual budget. We would highly recommend any potential trekker in Nepal to enlist the services of Sanjib Adhikari. It is without a doubt that you will be richly rewarded if you do so Trek in Nepal his contact address is: sanjib-adhikari@hotmail.com and his website : www.nepalguideinfo.com.

Silvana Pagani from Italy wrote in 2011: "My friend Sanjib Adhikari, Nepalse Guide.

Silvana Pagani from Italy wrote in 2011 about my experience in Nepal and recommends as guide, Sanjib Adhikari. This year at the end of february I went in Nepal for 18 days for the second time and I did a small trekking in the Annapurna region, I went to visit Pokhara, Kathmandu, Bakthapur and Nagarkot and I saw the National Park of Chitwan and in this trip I had the pleasure to meet Sanjib Adhikari. He is an independent trekking guide and tour operator in Nepal and he has already obtained trekking guide license from the ministry of tourism, government of Nepal. In his work Sanjib is a person very responsible and serious, very helpful and attentive to his customers, he knows very well the mountain because he has many years of experience and is also an excellent guide for visiting the cities. He is someone very competent in his work and always ready to find the best solution, if necessary and speaks English very well.During the trekking and the tours he will tell you many interesting things about culture, about life in the villages, mountains, history and traditions in Nepal. The best thing is that Sanjib loves his country very much and loves his work and always manages to convey all his enthusiasm with simple ways and always with the smile. He is a very nice person and is always attentive to the needs of his customers. Sanjib is also very funny and after this experience we became a very good friend. Next year at the end of January I will return for the third time in Nepal and Sanjib will be again my guide. . For these reasons I am very glad to report all references of Sanjib. He Is cantact adress www.nepalguideinfo.com www.hikehimalayas.com
email-sanjib-adhikari@hotamil.com mobile No= +9779841613822

Mt. Everest base camp Trek said...

Ghorepani Poonhill Trek

It's not possible todescribe thetrue beauty of the nature in words. Though in the context of Nepal, you can find the numerous places where you will be truly obsessed with the beauty of the nature. Ghorepani Poon hill trekking is one of the trekking that is of short trail in the western hills of Nepal. It is the unparalleled experience of gaining an adventure as well as glancing the unique traditional culture of Gurung and Magar communities.
Nepal has always been the perfect place for the various types of trekking. Ghorepani Poon hill trekking is one of the popular trekking routes. Every travelerhas definitely heard and yearns to experience the trek to Pun hill. This trek is a short route which is the part of the Annapurna trekking route. Also, it is considered that the trail used to be the historic trade tour to the Tibet. It is the easiest as well as the most travelledtrekking routes of the Annapurna trekking region.The highest point of the Poon hill is 3210m. The PoonHillis widely famous for the early morning sunrise. Enjoy the glimpse of early sunrayson the high hills of Poon. Along with that, the Poon hill is the perfect place to glance the stunning view of the Annapurna ranges, Dhaulagiri, Machhapuchre.Also, this trekking is equally preferred by bird watchers as well as those who want to step the footprints in the narrow trails of the nature.The Annapurna conservation is protected region which is also a part of the Annapurna trekking trail. That is the reason you can encounter with the various wild flora and fauna at the time of your visit. The trekking route starts from the beautiful city of Pokhara which leads you to the northern hills and finally to the high mountains. As, Pokhara it is one of the most beautiful places of Nepal which is embedded with the breathtaking mountains beautiful lakes, rivers, caves, waterfalls and complex geography etc. Yet small but beautiful, there are lots of exciting things you can explore in a Pokhara valley.
Ghorepani Poon hill trekking is mostly preferable to travel in the month of September to December and February to May. The route also follows the other major location to the Ghandruk, the Gurung villages. This village is widely known for warm hospitality. You will be introduced to their interesting and rich culture and traditions, lifestyle, farming practices.


Itinerary:
Day 01: Fly/ drive Kathmandu to Pokhara
Day 02: Drive to Nayapul & trek to Tikhedhunga
Day 03: Trek to Ghoreopani
Day 04: Trek to Poon Hill & back to Ghorepani & back to Tadapani
Day 05: Trek to Ghandruk
Day 06: Trek to Nayapul & drive to Pokhara.
http://www.nepalguideinfo.com/Ghorepani-Poonhill-Trek.php

http:/http://www.nepalguideinfo.com/Annapurna-circuit-Trek.php http://www.nepalguideinfo.com/Annapurna-Sanctuary-Trek.php/www.nepalguideinfo.com/
http://www.hikehimalayas.com

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