Thursday, September 13, 2007 11.00pm
By Cara Coolbaugh
The Karakum falls under the touring title as well, but differs from the others in looks with its butterfly bars. They're actually really practical, offering more hand positions than flat bars, without the hunched-over feel of drops. In fact, the Karakum has a fairly short top-tube for a close reach on the lowest position and a really upright body angle when using the tops of the bars.
Similar to standard continental European trekking bikes, the frame is aluminium and it uses 700c wheels. Although alu is generally discouraged for remote touring as it can't be welded, the frame appears robust with big weld areas and an extra gusset on the down-tube. It comes fitted with full racks and mudguards, making it ready straight out of the box, and there are three well-placed bottle mounts too. The rear rack is solidly attached and it has a large top platform for wide loads. Low-rider mounts on the forks are good for stability, but the rack wasn't as securely mounted as the rear.
Handling was predictably neutral when loaded up evenly, though steering felt a touch light with only panniers at the back.
The component mix is great value, including Deore mechs, rapid-fire shifters and a 48/36/26 Hollowtech chainset. Tektro levers are reach adjustable and basic Shimano V-brakes provide solid stopping power. An old-style quill stem is adjustable but fiddly to get to and the threaded headset is fine once you get it set up (requires special spanners). WTB rims with Shimano hubs are a reliable combo, while Schwalbe Silento II 700x38c tyres blend street-ready puncture protection with some side grip too.
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