A Pro Bike Builder Reviews The ‘Adventure Flat White’ Budget Touring Bike

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:

  1. These comments are written very much from a specification point of view.
  2. 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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Adventure Flat White

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.

In summary:

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.

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8 Responses to “A Pro Bike Builder Reviews The ‘Adventure Flat White’ Budget Touring Bike”

  1. Graham Wilson

    Difficult, isn’t it? No matter how much you do or don’t spend, an off-the-shelf bike always needs money spent. My high-end tourer cost in the region of 2 grand and (due to that being how much I could afford) isn’t quite perfect. It needs another 3 or 400 quid spending to make it just right. My dilapidated MTB-based home-made expedition bike has had a grand spent on it over the years and is almost perfect. The Raleigh Royal tourer I bought on a whim had everything thrown away except the frame due to Raleigh’s over-cheapening (lesson learned). A Dawes Ultra Galaxy I calculated would cost another 500 quid to make right. Maybe I’m an odd shape or something, but I’ve yet to find a bike that’s ‘right’ out of the box. I now work on a 50-50 rule, which is basically buy a bike priced at half what I can afford and spend the other half making it right (for me). Biggest spend is usually on the pannier racks, which are universally poor by default, and wheels for the same reason. Usually works out cheaper than a fully bespoke machine and becomes something I love and keep forever (my garage is heaving with bikes of all different types). Most importantly, I get to know the bikes mechanical parts intimately which pays dividends when something breaks in the middle of nowhere.

    One day (before I die, ideally) I’d like to go to Oxford and come away with the perfect bike that needs no fettling. Until then, these budget bikes are how I can afford to live a big part of my life in the saddle 🙂

    Reply
  2. David Pritchett

    wonderful touring bike, this is the bike i want but presently i have bought $50 bike and using it for my daily work. that is not so much good but as far as it is working for me, it is fine.

    Reply
  3. Mich

    Hey Richard, you’ve made the review of adventure flat white touring bike very informative. Actually I was looking around for some broad information regarding this bike to prepare an infographic, and really have found resourceful all the review details shared.

    Great blog post!

    Reply
  4. Andrew

    Good piece of writing and the post is very informative. It’s a great bike. I read out full review and I am satisfied with the information provided. A good bike to ride and satisfied for price because it’s mostly affordable for all. I didn’t expect flaws which found in the saddle and also the less stopping power brakes. Overall it’s good to ride and thanks to author for making such resourceful article.

    Reply
  5. Steven Huffer

    Good write up. The only thing I’d argue with is the brakes comment; I’ve toured with high end versions of every type on the market and cantis (whilst they have their issues) have been the best overall.

    Reply
    • James

      I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that I’ve been using Shimano CT91 cantilever brakes with XTR clone cartridge pad holders for years now. I’ve been down over 200 passes on them in the Alps. I have thought many times that I should upgrade them for something better, but when it comes to it I daren’t change them because I know they have never failed me.

      Reply
  6. Chugger

    Honest review and manages to be informative and objective without resorting to the style of the lycra-bunching condemnations you’d see in the bike fashion magazines. At this price you’d expect to see hi-ten ‘gas pipe’ tubing; but here, a lugged cro-mo frame has got to be good value – whatever its origin and however rough and ready it will be finished.

    Canti brakes are enjoying a retro revival and work well when set up correctly. It was a little bit of gear-mag hyperbole to state that these wouldn’t stop you on the Alps. The Alps! Maybe they wouldn’t perform as well as electronic-actuated hydraulics or whatever, but they’ll serve soundly and safely in Exmoor and Wensleydale. I like to maintain a powerful cynicism about the bike biz – the amount of hype and nonsense has made it the equal of the fashion industry and plain-speaking has fallen by the wayside. As commented on above, it seems if you fork out for off-the-rack machinery at even the higher end of the market, you will find yourself replacing much of the stock componentry – starting with the wheels. And irrespective of how much your Genesis or Surly cost, on hills you have to pedal just as hard as those equipped with less exotic steeds!

    Reply
  7. Keith Scholey

    Went from Lisbon to London on one of these in Spring. I bought it last year with this in mind and wanted to wear it in a bit. You’re right about the fittings. The tyres, pedals and mudguards got replaced before departing or en route. Brakes are a bit of a pain. It’s not the stopping power but knocks put them out of true really easily. Rear rack is okay. Ditto the gears. But I didn’t do a lot of hills. Seat looks crap but I like it hard (fnarr!) and hasn’t worn through yet. The whole thing has lasted well. Weight is the big problem. It is fucking heavy. And I was lugging it on and off of trains part of time. Spanish trains have girt big steps and a suspension storage system for bikes – it’s a big effort getting it up (as the bishop said to the actress). Still I got mine for £300 odd (part of a dealer’s job lot) so I’m not complaining.

    Reply

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