Giants budget expedition touring bike - the "Tracker"
Now 20 years old, I hope that this review still makes interesting reading
Spending over 1000 pounds on a touring bike is not a luxury everyone can afford, so this issue we look at a bike that will get you touring for under 400 pounds, a remarkable acheivement.
With 400 pounds to spend on a fully equipped expedition tourer you have to expect compromises and here it is in the frame. Only the seat tube is butted chromo, the rest is hi-tensile steel, pushing the weight to 34 pounds. The forks too are Hi-ten, but seem responsive enough. In fact there's nothing inherently wrong with such a frame, the lower grade steel dictates thicker tube walls to maintain strength, but this gives a stiffer frame, exactly what a heavily loaded tourer needs. The TIG welding is neat and the tubes oversized and ovalized. Every conceivable braze on is included including three bottle cage sets and dynamo bracket. The wishbone stays have rack braze ons and the sloping top tube gives a low standover height and a longer head tube, good for headset life.
Here are more signs of cost being cut with minimal effect on durability. Alivo hubs are not XT, but have a well supported axle and pretty good seals. These are laced to Rigida rims identical to the ones on my 1500 pound tourer, using stainless steel spokes all finished off with Vredestein semi- slick 40mm *700c tyres. They'll take a hammering - a nice choice.
More mix-and-match, the SRAM shifters being a bit woolly, but mate with a servicable Alivo front mech and excellent STX RC rear derailleur which should last a long time. The chainset is again Alivo - nice looking with long lasting steel rings 42/32/24, which with the 12-28 cassette give pretty low gears, though if you really are going to load up I'd go for a 14-32 set...
Again good basic kit - Dia-Comp two finger levers and Alivo canti's, not flash, but they work impeccably...
Here you need to remind yourself that this is a 400 pound bike because the list of kit is amazing. A "Bob Yung" front low rider rack, a tough tubular rear rack, Bumels mudguards with stainless fittings, Zoom stem, straight alloy bars with bar ends, rattrap pedals with clips and straps, a good quality seatpin topped by a Sell Marco Gel saddle, built in lock, a full dynamo lighting set and even a pump. Add three bottle cages and bottles and you really could set off round the world tomorrow on this bike - remarkable.
What's it like to ride?
With 34 lbs weight and a Hi-Ten frame this isn't going to be a ball of fire. It has the "dead" feel of a very stiff frame and is sluggish compared to something more expensive, but load it up front and rear and the bike is in it's element, shrugging off heavy loads like an oversized 531 frame, but at a fraction the price. Steering is stable and easy and the riding position nicely spreads the weight between hands and bum.
Fancy serious touring? Lottery not come up? Well here is the answer, a bike I'd be happy to tour on myself. The 700c wheels won't cope with very rough surfaces, but tarmac or tracks are fine, and you'll leave friends touring on mountainbikes far behind. I have to keep asking myself - 400 pounds.... How do Giant do it?
Rating 6/10 Value 10/10
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