I have recently purchased an addition to my fleet of bikesdirect.com bicycles: the Windsor Tourist. This is a touring style bicycle that currently sells for $599.99 at bikesdirect.com, however I hear that price will be going up soon. Compared to other touring bicycles (Jamis Aurora, Surly Long Haul Trucker, Raleigh Sojourn, etc.) this bike is hundreds of dollars cheaper, but still features good quality parts and frame.
The reason I bought this bike was to have a bike I could take anywhere, yet was fast enough to get me where I wanted to go in good time on the road. I already own a couple of road bikes, but those do poorly on dirt and gravel trails. And the mountain bike that I own just won’t keep up with a touring bike on road ways. Thus, the touring bicycle is the perfect solution. The tires and rims are medium width, it has drop bars for a more aerodynamic riding position, and it has tire/frame clearance for fenders to keep yourself from getting mucked up.
After I assembled the bike, I put on some mountain bike sized fenders (60 mm x 26″, SKS brand) that I stole from a different bike of mine and they seemed to fit fine. I had trimmed the stays of the front fender to fit my mountain bike which was too short to reach the fork on this bike. As you can see in the photos, I used a bit of hardware to make this reach (I know, I’m such a cheap-o). Next, I put on some SPD/flat combination pedals, which I think are perfect for a touring bike since I want SPD for road riding, but I don’t want to be clipped in on rugged trails.
I have ridden this bike for about 2 months now, mostly as a commuter bike. Here’s my review so far:
- Very comfy ride. Fat tires and the 4130 steel frame is nice and soft. Speeding right over railroad tracks is pleasant.
- Pretty fast bike. Much faster than a mountain bike, but not as fast as a roadie.
- The Tiagra STI shifters are very nice and effortless to use.
- The forest green paint on mine is quite handsome. :-)
- The easy-to-turn derailleur adjusters on the cables near the handlebars are nifty and come in handy when you’re hearing derailleur or chain noise that you want to fix while riding. It’s a feature you don’t find on many bicycles nowadays.
- The rear derailleur adjustments took a bit of tweaking to get it to stop making noise. This was probably due to my own incompetance.
- The seat was pretty uncomfortable for the first couple of rides, but now it feels like it has “broken in”.
- This bike could use a bit more clearance on the fork and seat stay for tires and fenders. I’m used to seeing more clearance on some other touring bikes I’ve seen (especially the Surly LHT).
- You can’t adjust cantilever brakes after you’ve had a few beers. ;-) They can be tricky, but this is the case for all cantilever brakes.
- The chain-stays could stand to be longer. My heels brush against my saddle bags a bit. Of course, I wear size 12 shoes, too. I’ll probably rig my saddle bags so that they hang back further.
Overall, this is a good purchase, especially if you aren’t looking to spend $1000 on a touring bike. I will be riding this bike on a 100 mile round trip, partially off-road cycle-camping trip over Memorial Day weekend. I’ll be sure to post the results of that expedition here! Stay tuned!
And for your viewing pleasure, here is a photo gallery of this bicycle. As you can see, I didn’t have time to clean the bike before hand. Ah, well, all the dirt spots make it look more like a well-used bicycle. :-)
Update, June 21, 2009 – I have encountered my first problem with this bicycle. When I loaded it up with about 25 pounds of camping gear for a 100 mile cycle camp, I broke a spoke on the rear wheel. After the spoke was replaced by a professional bike shop, I loaded the bike up again and broke another spoke on the same wheel. Evidently, this was a machine built wheel and was not tensioned properly or something. I am going to have the wheel completely rebuilt with new spokes by a wheel builder friend of mine. Also note that this is a very common thing among many brands of bicycles and most often happens on the rear wheel. Most bicycles nowadays come stock with machine built wheels and may require a wheel rebuild if a wheel wasn’t properly put together.
Update, July 20, 2009 – My rear wheel has been rebuilt (all new Wheelsmith spokes) by a bike mechanic friend of mine. As I was attempting to put the rear wheel back into place, I noticed it just wouldn’t go in. This has always been a tight spot on this bike. I had drank a few beers beforehand, so I began beating on the tire like a caveman and making ape-like shrieks in an attempt to seat the wheel into the dropouts (not recommended). Then it dawned on me that if I just pull the chain-stays outward a little (the frame is chromoly steel and very supple), the wheel might go in. With just a little pulling on chain-stays, the wheel fell right into place. Ah, well, I hope this tip helps some of your Windsor Tourist owners. Oh, and next weekend, I will load up this bike with my camping gear and give it a good 20 mile test. Stay tuned.
Update, August 20, 2009 – Yesterday, I grabbed the chance to test out my newly rebuilt rear wheel. I loaded my panniers up with canned food to simulate the weight of the water and camping supplies that usually occupy the panniers. Then I strapped on my mattress, tent, mattress pump, and sleeping bag, and off I cycled with my friend and bicycle mechanic, John Bickelhaupt, on an approximately 20 mile ride. I went with John because he wanted to get out on a medium sized ride on this fine Saturday, and I wanted him along since I had previously broken 2 spokes on my rear wheel. Not that I was doubting his wheel building skills or anything. ;-) As you’ve read earlier in this article, a spoke breaks in my rear wheel at around the 10 to 15 mile mark in the previous 2 rides to this one; however, this ride was perfect with no problems at all except for a pinch flat (folks, make sure your tires are properly inflated before you ride!). I did some hard torquing, some bouncing around, sharps turns, and some offroading on a rocky trail and the rear wheel was fine under the approximately 25 pounds of luggage and my 200 pound ass. Success! Thanks to John Bickelhaupt! By the way, John is interested in doing some part time bike repair work, so we’ll be putting up a web site for him soon. Stay tuned for all those looking for a “personal bike mechanic” like I have! :-)