How to Turn Your Carbon Road Bike Into A Touring Bike (Or Why I Am Not Cool: Part 7 In A Continuing Series)

Carriage ford rd

Global warming continues to disappoint.  With one week remaining before my 200k ride, I threw on my cold weather gear and shoved off into the teeth of a brisk northwest wind, making the 37 degree temperature feel decidedly colder.  In addition to cold and wind, I was treated to some light snow flurries along the way.  What joy.  After 36.5 miles, I was happy to be done.  This was my longest ride of the year, which leaves me slightly concerned about the 126 miles I’ll be riding next Saturday.

A home from a bygone era, near Nokesville.

A home from a bygone era, near Nokesville.

I’m sure everything will be fine.

In related news, I wanted to share with you my exciting attempts to rig the Trek Madone for long-distance randonneuring rides.  The problem with self-supported rides of 200k or longer is you kinda need to bring a few things with you – things that won’t fit into the fist-sized saddle bag I normally use to hold a spare tube, CO2 cartridge, tire tools, and a $5 bill.  I’ve used a cheap handlebar bag in the past with good success, but I wanted something more substantial to hold a rain jacket, spare gloves, or other items which can come into (or out of) use over a 15 hour event.  The result is this handsome seat bag.


As you can see, it is quite a bit bigger than a typical roadie saddle bag (and it should be noted that using seat bags AT ALL is looked at with some disappointment by hardcore roadies).  I like its traditional look and it will hold the stuff I want it to hold.  Its biggest feature is that it is held to the bike by a leather strap through the rails underneath the seat.  This is important as many seat bags rely on a clamp around the seat post to bear most of the weight.  The Madone’s seat post is carbon and wouldn’t hold up well with that arrangement.  It would be very unfortunate to have my seat post break 80 miles into a ride and this bag will make that event very unlikely.

Loyal readers will immediately recognize the afore-mentioned handlebar bag as well as my night light.  The light is a requirement for most randonneuring events, as are reflective vests and ankle bracelets.  I can now store these items in my seat bag during daylight hours.  Another small item to point out is that my reflectors remain stubbornly affixed to my wheels and rear seat post.  No reasonable roadie would be caught in public with these, but because I have a very strong urge to let passing motorists know I am present, I leave mine on.  The sum total of seat bag, handle bar bag, light, and reflectors is the cycling equivalent of using your corvette to tow a camper.  Until I break down and buy a proper touring bike, I’m afraid this is the best I can do.


All the gear tested out well.  I may not be ready for the ride, but I believe my bike is!


25 thoughts on “How to Turn Your Carbon Road Bike Into A Touring Bike (Or Why I Am Not Cool: Part 7 In A Continuing Series)

  1. You’re cool, but with a different group of road cyclists.

    I like the saddlebag. Making your bike useful for a variety of applications is the only way to delay the onset of n+1.

    • Delaying the purchase of another bike would be a good thing, since I’ve purchased three in three years. Unlike you, I am not very good at the “fixer-uppers” so I buy new versions. My check book needs a rest.

  2. One ‘cool’ out of two isn’t bad though.. even if you think you are uncool style-wise, (I don’t agree by the way) the weather sure seems to be keeping you COOL at the moment !! 🙂

    • Good point, Brian. I was definitely cool in the literal sense. However, the long range forecast is encouraging. We might have a decent day next Saturday to ride. At least I’ll be suffering in good weather!

  3. I stopped being cool LONG ago. My road bike has a luggage rack and a much bigger bag. But I like t have what I need. I’m not in it fr the speed :). And I know I be side glances form the cool kids, but when they’ve broken down and have to wait for the sag wagn, or, better st, I can give tem what they need from the bag. It makes it all worthwhile!

    Good work

    • I don’t suffer any ill effects. Then again, the aggressive riding position is the only one I have known for such distances, so I may be in all sorts of uneccesary pain. One day, I’ll get a proper touring bike and will no doubt kick myself for not using one sooner. Until then, ignorance is bliss.

  4. I’m thinking that being able to ride 200km is, by definition, cool. I kept my reflectors too. I’ve heard too many stories of cyclists being hit by cars to voluntarily give up any safety features. Good luck!

    • Thanks. I am watching the long range forecast with growing alarm. Saturday’s high temp has slipped from 60 degrees to 52 degrees. Good times.

  5. Oh, you’re cool. Only cool people say they’re not cool, besides your gear is cool, not to mention those long rides of yours are extremely cool … nonetheless your reasons why you’re not cool posts are totally amusing, don’t quit!

    I’m not so sure you want to buy a touring bike for randonnees. Maybe unless you are planning on Paris-Brest-Paris. Which would be a fabulous adventure. At least an adventure. My touring bike is fabulous, wonderful, perfect, for tours. Multiple days, 2 or 4 panniers plus handlebar bag. Put a tent on the rear rack, ride around the world….It is stable in winds and descents, much longer, sturdier and heavier than my road bike. The geometry is just different.

    I bought my road bike for long group rides, partly because I didn’t have any hope of keeping up and was worried about not finishing on time on my much slower touring bike. Faster stronger cyclists such as yourself needn’t be concerned, but … I’ll take all the help I can get.

    There are a lot of very cool bags, seat bags out there to carry gear. Like the one you just wrote a post about.

    Best of luck for a good ride … decent weather, interesting route, good company. I look forward to your report.

    • Good points, Suze. I guess what I’m looking for is a proper randonneuring bike, capable of holding a nifty bag off the front fender. Braze-ons for panniers would be nice in case I decide I want to wander off for a few days.

      And thank you for referring to me as a faster, stronger cyclist. It gave a much-needed boost to my self-esteem!

  6. I’m impressed. I sometimes think the randonneuring bug has also bit me, but am not sure how to treat the symptoms. You’re on your bike and you’re on the road. ‘Nuf said.

    • I’m enjoying my little forays into randonneuring. It combines elements of touring with a time requirement that adds some spice to the event. I’m not ready for some of the really serious (400k+ rides) but it’s fun to dabble.

    • Thank you, Matt. Lots of randonneurs will tell you I am crazy for riding on 23mm tires. A lack of braze-ons also makes it difficult to bring everything you need, especially in cold/inclement weather. Still, I agree I could do a LOT worse than riding a light-weight carbon bike!

      • If or when your checkbook has recovered I have a 2011 Jamis Aurora Elite with less than a hundred miles on it just taking up space in my garage I’d love to sell. Flexible payment offers considered. I’m putting more time in riding my old Bottecchia these days.

  7. I too am most uncool….my road bike has a rack fitted, and i normally ride with at least 1 pannier bag. I also keep reflecters fitted, and in the winter spokelights. I may not be cool, but I am still living, and ridden up to 200 miles in a day.

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