New this year at the budget end of the UK touring bike market is the Adventure Flat White, an entry-level road tourer whose RRP of £430 makes it the cheapest off-the-peg touring bike in the UK (at the time of writing).
Being abroad for an extended period of time and thus unable to try the bike myself, I invited Richard of Oxford Bike Works (who recently bought himself a Flat White to see how they’d made it so cheap) to deliver his verdict on it. Take it away, Richard…
Two disclaimers from the outset:
- These comments are written very much from a specification point of view.
- As the owner of Oxford Bike Works and a designer and maker of my own touring bikes, I have a vested interest in getting people into touring in the hope that they may one day buy one of my bikes.
The Flat White has a steel frame, and it’s not that heavy. Unsurprisingly, the white paintwork looks a bit, er, flat…
Unusually at this price point, the frame is of lugged construction, except at the bottom bracket shell (which is tig welded).
Amazingly, the frame has every single braze-on you’d expect of a good touring bike – a third set of bottle cage mounts under the downtube, lowrider braze-ons on the front forks, and rack and mudguard braze-ons at the rear.
That said, everything about the frame is executed with a crudeness that you might expect for such a cheap bike. The frame’s lugs are very thick, and there are signs of excess solder on the tubes and the lugs that have been painted over. In places, you can see where an angle grinder has been used to smooth off imperfections.
Despite all this, there’s no evidence to suggest the frame is weak – it’s just a bit agricultural in its construction.
For me, the real compromises start with the equipment hung on the frame.
The saddle is hard and poorly padded with a fragile covering, and if there’s one thing that needs to be right on a touring bike, it’s the saddle.
The mudguards are equally flimsy and unlikely to get you out of England unscathed. The tight clearances mean it won’t allow stuff flung up by the tyres to go anywhere.
The rear rack is equally flimsy and has a spring clip on it that will probably rattle and annoy the rider to insanity before too long.
The gearing range is limited – a compact double chainring at the front and 12-28 tooth cassette at the rear won’t help people grow to love cycle touring, because what a cycle tourist needs from a touring bike is gears that will keep him or her moving regardless of gradient and load.
Another criticism is the use of cantilever brakes, which never have much stopping power. In the Alps with a heavy load, for example, this could be quite stressful.
The bar tape is flimsy and lacks padding, and the plastic pedals won’t last very long at all.
Apart from these shortcomings, the bike is awesome.
What amazes me about Shimano is the ability of the company to produce gearing systems at every price point that still work. Unlike other commenters, I’d have no qualms about touring on a Shimano Tourney groupset – I know that Shimano components work if properly adjusted. Okay, it might not last as long as higher-end groupsets, and the shifting won’t be as refined. But on tour you just want stuff to work, which it does, and I think Madison have got it right with this groupset at this price.
The Schwalbe Tyrago 700×35 tyres look like cyclocross tyres, but should serve admirably in the short term. The wheels are machine built from unbranded rims and hubs – again, fit for purpose in the short term.
This is the perfect entry level touring bike for someone who’d like to try cycle touring without spending a load of money.
You could buy this bike new for £430 take it on a tour, and if you decided you hated cycle touring (unlikely) you could sell it for £300 when you got back.
If you loved it, on the other hand, you could sell the bike and use the money as a downpayment on something better suited to your new aspirations and broader horizons.
Either way, it’s an inexpensive way to get started.
If you want to try cycle touring for the first time, this is a good bike to buy. If you already have experience of cycle touring, there are probably too many annoying compromises to make it a sensible choice.
Thanks, Richard! Check out the Adventure Flat White budget touring bike here. It’s available from a growing number of UK bike retailers.