Are you tired of reading about this? If you said, “Yes,” I completely understand, because I’m tired of thinking and writing about it. But maybe writing will help clear my thoughts (or help someone else who’s bike shopping), so here goes.
On Friday, I visited The Hub and rode two Kona touring bikes, the Sutra and the Rove. They both have steel frames and disc brakes. The Rove has SRAM integrated shifters, and the Sutra has bar end shifters. They felt fairly similar, ride-wise (their geometries are basically identical). When I lifted each bike, the Sutra felt heavier, due to some heavier-duty, touring components (the Sutra also comes stock with fenders and a rear rack, which contribute some to the weight).
If I was choosing between the two, I’d lean slightly toward the Sutra. If I buy a bike with bar end shifters (the Sutra or the Surly LHT), I’m going to have the shop swap out the bar end shifters for the Shimano integrated shifters (planning to use those currently on my Kona Jake, assuming they are undamaged, which they appear to be).
I spent a decent bit of time on both Konas on Friday, and, while I have not made an overall bike decision, the time on drop handlebars clarified a feature of the 2010 Kona Jake that I really liked — a second set of brake levers for the “top” position (for a tutorial on possible drop bar hand positions, see Lovely Bicycle’s overview).
It may be mostly the fact that I got used to having those brake levers there on the Jake, but I really, really like having that option. I feel like I have more stopping power using the brakes on the tops (though, technically, adding the second set of brake levers to the system reduces overall braking power slightly).
So, I’ll also be asking the bike shop to move the bar top brake levers from my old Kona Jake to whatever the heck I finally decide on.
At this point, my gut and/or make-a-decision-and-get-this-over-with feeling is to order a non-disc [brake] Surly Long Haul Trucker from The Hub. They don’t stock Surly bikes, but, unlike Salsa, they can order Surly bikes. (But part of me says the LHT is similar enough to the Kona Sutra, and I’m being silly and should just go with the Sutra they have in stock.)
But there’s still a little piece of me leaning toward the Salsa Vaya (from non-preferred bike shop), in part because of this review over at The Path Less Pedaled, which talks about it being more responsive and less sluggish than the Surly LHT. The other feature I like is the sloped top tube. I’m not sure it will make that much of a difference for most rides, but it would be nice when riding in a skirt or a dress (though I could use BUB or Big Blue for that). On the other hand, I’m not really sure that I want disc brakes (which come stock on the Vaya, vs. the option for a non-disc LHT).
I should probably revisit the bike shop and ride both the Surly LHT and the Salsa Vaya again, but I’m feeling worn out, and the trip across town, just to do that, again, is not exciting.
If money were no object (and I lived in the U.K. and could go to the shop in person), Thorn bicycles seem pretty interesting. In the U.S., Rivendell Bicycle Works has some interesting options (again, not realistic on my current bike buying budget).
It’s frustrating because I don’t feel excited about anything. I realized over the weekend that this point in our longtail search, the trying to make a decision, wasn’t particularly fun or exciting either. The excitement and anticipation came after we’d made a decision, while we were waiting for the bike to arrive. Then, once Big Blue arrived, riding was fun. I’m just ready for the fun part here.
Update: A friend shared this very appropriate TED Talk link. “Paralysis” very accurately describes what I’m feeling right now regarding this issue.