Cheap Touring Bikes For Low-Budget Bicycle Adventures – A Growing List

As cycle touring has grown in popularity in recent years, a handful of manufacturers have begun producing cheap touring bikes aimed at cycle tourists on a low budget.

In this article we’re going to have a look at some of these entry-level tourers available in the UK.

Cheap Touring Bikes – What To Expect

When I say ‘low budget’, don’t expect prices as cheap as those sub-£100 spam bikes from Halfords (though I have no doubt you could pull off a low-budget cycle tour on one of those bikes).

There’s a line below which a cheap touring bike would be so full of compromises and therefore so unfit for its intended purpose that it wouldn’t be worth making or selling it. Touring bikes need to be able to do a lot of miles and carry a lot of luggage – something that will never change.

The result is an entry level price range roughly between £400 and £600 GBP.

For that, you can expect to get a cheap new touring bike from a reputable manufacturer that will serve you well if you understand its limitations.

These bikes are usually road-oriented, with classic touring geometry, 700C wheels, drop handlebars, cantilever rim brakes, and drivetrains taken from the bottom end of the mountain-biking market (or a mix of mountain bike and road components).

They’ll generally be based on aluminium frames (which are cheaper to manufacture than steel), and will come with a basic rear rack and mudguards.

Don’t expect a front rack, though, and expect contact parts like saddle, pedals, grips and tyres to be relatively cheap and cheerful, designed to get you started rather than to keep you going forever.

Such bikes are a good choice for those who want to give cycle touring a try but don’t want to invest several thousand pounds in a top-end touring rig. If you like it, these bikes are often prime for upgrading; if you don’t, you can sell it and lose very little in the process.

Let’s have a look at some of the cheap touring bikes on offer right now in the new touring bike market…

Adventure Flat White (£430)

Adventure Flat White

New from the previously unheard-of Adventure Outdoor Co. is the Flat White, part of a new series of entry-level bikes. It’s an impressive effort to produce what is probably the cheapest off-the-peg touring bike on the market in the UK right now.

The cromoly steel frame in particular will attract a lot of interest, and it looks to be well thought out in terms of eyelets and braze-ons. The 2x7sp Tourney drivetrain isn’t going to impress anyone, but there’s no particular reason it wouldn’t take you a couple of thousand miles before needing attention – and spares for this range are abundant and cheap.

Being a brand new offering from an unknown brand, the Flat White hasn’t yet garnered any reviews; nor does the company’s website offer anything in the way of background information. But the marketing & styling is a cut above, and given that they’re distributed by Sportline, my guess is that it’s an offshoot of a much bigger brand, set up to produce entry-level bikes in a handful of growing niches. It would be interesting to find out – and interesting to hear the first reports on how the Flat White deals with life on the road. Any takers?

Read more at the Adventure Outdoor Co. website.

Revolution Country 1 (£500)

Edinburgh Bicycle Co-operative’s low budget tourer the Revolution Country 1 long held the title of best value budget touring bike in the UK under the name ‘Traveller’. Not only that, but reviews of the bike – including one in the CTC’s ‘Cycle’ magazine – have been unanimously positive. Based on an aluminium frame, it’s slightly higher specced than the Flat White, and the improvements in the drivetrain area may justify the higher price tag to some buyers.

As with many bikes at this end of the market, the Revolution Country 1 has a 3x8sp drivetrain. I’ve written in depth in The Complete Expedition Bike Buyer’s Guide about how, under most circumstances, 9sp and 10sp drivetrains can be considered a downgrade on a touring bike, not an upgrade, so don’t be fooled into thinking this is a weakness of the cheap touring bikes listed here.

Edinburgh Bicycle Co-operative have 8 stores across northern England and Scotland, making it a good candidate for a test ride if you’re based at the top end of Britain. They also do mail-order, of course.

Read more at the Edinburgh Bicycle Co-operative website.

Roux Etape 150 (£500)

roux-etape-150

The Roux Etape 150 is a classically-styled road touring bike based on an aluminium frame; very similar to the Revolution Country Traveller and at the same price point, but with a more basic 3x7sp drivetrain. Aside from that, it has all the features you’d expect from a budget touring bike in this list. It’s available in just 3 rather middling sizes – especially tall or short riders will probably need to look elsewhere.

It’s likely that you’ll find little to choose from between this, the Country Traveller and the Regent on paper. The Etape 150, however, will probably be one of the easier ones to find and test-ride – which, as we all should know, is the single best way to avoiding buying the wrong touring bike.

Read more at the Roux website.

Ridgeback Tour (£550)

ridgeback-tour

Ridgeback’s World series has gone from strength to strength in the last few years, with an increasing number of long-distance tours being pulled off on the Panorama, and a brave move into 26-inch wheel expedition bike territory with the Expedition. The Ridgeback Tour is their entry-level offering, and for the price, you’ll find an impressively well-specified aluminium-framed touring bike with plenty of upgrade potential.

The 3x8sp mountain-bike drivetrain with an Acera rear derailleur and an 11-32t cassette gives the Tour a very good range of gear ratios, and the Continental Contact tyres are above average at this price point – expect to get a good few thousand miles out of these. 36-hole rims, toe clips, and a range of 5 frame sizes are all plus points too. Ridgeback being distributed by Madison, you’ll have few problems finding a dealer in your area.

Read more at the Ridgeback website.

Claud Butler Regent (£575)

claud-butler-regent

The Claud Butler Regent is a middle-of-the-road budget tourer designed with light road touring firmly in mind, as the rather narrow-ranged 12-26t cassette and sportier geometry will attest. Also based on an aluminium frame, it caters slightly better for smaller riders than some of the other bikes in this list, with a 48cm frame size available.

Claud Butler bikes also benefit from wide distribution across the UK for the purposes of test riding. Given the specification, however, the Regent does feel somewhat overpriced when compared to, say, the Ridgeback Tour.

Read more at the Claud Butler website.

Raleigh Royal (£600)

raleigh-royal

The Raleigh Royal is the only other sub-£600 touring bike I’ve found with a cromoly steel frameset, which is of interest to tourers for several reasons. The classic styling will only add to its old-school appeal. Aside from that, it’s a sensibly-specified drop-bar touring bike, comparable in many ways to the other bikes on this list, and available in four frame sizes.

You won’t just get the cromo frame for your extra money – Schwalbe’s flagship Marathon tyres are a strong indicator as to the designer’s intentions for this bike. All in all, it’s a strong entry-level touring bike offering from the previously flagging British brand, who look to be making a bit of a comeback (though, sadly, no longer manufacturing their bikes in the UK).

Read more at the Raleigh website.

A Quick Word On Buying The Right Bike

As I’ve hinted (OK, drilled into you) in this article, the only guaranteed way to avoid getting the wrong bike is to test ride it first.

You’ll also benefit from getting the bike set up by an expert bike fitter for your unique size, shape and comfort preferences.

Read this article for more on why this is such a critical stage of choosing a bicycle, be it a cheap touring bike from this list or a ludicrously expensive expedition bike to take you round the world.

It is all the more relevant when you look at the specifications of the bikes in the above list and realise that they are all pretty much the same bike, with just a few minor differences.

If you’re having a hard time choosing between one or the other on paper, that’s probably because paper is no longer relevant – by the time you’re at that stage, the one to choose is the one that feels right when you ride it.

Upgrading Cheap Touring Bikes

As mentioned earlier, many of these bikes – particularly those with steel frames – are prime for upgrading if you decide to make touring a more regular thing, or you have something more adventurous in mind.

Among the best places to start are with the wheels (changing the stock wheels for a hand-built pair), the tyres (upgrading to a durable set such as the Marathon Plus), and the racks and lowrider (Tubus’ cromoly racks are second to none). You might also consider getting the headset switched out for a more durable unit.

Upgrading these parts alone will make your bike a much more capable long-haul touring machine, as they’re critical structural parts that you’ll want to make as fail-safe as possible.

Drivetrains, pedal bearings, gear and brake cables and the like will wear out, of course, but that’s true of bikes twice the price – and in any case, these are things you can easily replace when you’re already on the road.

Any other cheap touring bikes in the UK that I’ve missed from this list?

(Readers from other countries – feel free to add suggestions for your own part of the world and I’ll incorporate them into this article.)

Understanding Touring Bikes For Epic Expeditions

Choosing a touring bike for the ride of a lifetime?

Understanding Touring Bikes For Epic Expeditions will bring you up to bang speed on what matters (and what doesn't matter) when you're choosing a bike for a truly epic trip.

Click here to find out more →

19 Responses to “Cheap Touring Bikes For Low-Budget Bicycle Adventures – A Growing List”

  1. Sandra

    Hi Tom, maybe have a look at the Trek520 – I’m very far from an expert, but the guy at the bike shop who’s done lots of touring pointed out all the features to me (steel frame, disc brakes, good gearing) and said it’s punching above it’s weight when it comes to quality vs price. It’s AUD $1399 so that’s in about the same price range as those above.

    Reply
    • Tom Allen

      It’s always been considered a classic touring bike, but definitely not at the low-budget end of things – £900 RRP in the UK.

      Reply
      • Sandra

        Ouch! Looks like I got a bargain – I paid about 645 at the current exchange rate, and that was getting it here (through a dealer) from the USA.

        Reply
  2. Ilona

    Hi Tom,
    Thanks for the article. This is very helpful, especially tips at the end. I am just thinking about getting a new touring bike and I had in mind Trek 520. What is your opinion on that one, comparing those above?
    Thank you!

    Reply
    • Tom Allen

      It used to be a classic, but I’m not sure how today’s version compares. At £900 I’m afraid it wouldn’t fit this list.

      Reply
  3. Sandra

    Hi Ilona, I can tell you it’s a really, really comfortable bike to get around on – I haven’t taken it on a long trip yet, but I have ridden it with a pretty heavy load front and back to test it and it’s worked really well for me.
    Cheers
    Sandra

    Reply
  4. Ram

    Hi Tom, noob and a big fan here. I bought a 2014 fuji touring bike for 55k here in India.

    What is your opinion on that bike?

    Reply
  5. Tony

    My brother and I recently did a 1000km tour from Newcastle to Brisbane (Australia). It was on a mixture of tar and dirt roads. It rained half the days. At one stage we road several kms over a flooded swamp like road; we also road several kms over a gibber road and many of the dirt roads were muddy because of the rain. We carried camping gear.

    My brother purchased a Fuji Touring bicycle to do the trip. The touring bicycle market in Australia isn’t big and the Fuji is at the entry level of what is available. The cost was around 1100 AUD which current is about 509 GBP at current exchange rates. (The Oz dollar has been on a roller coaster recently so not sure how useful this comparison is.)

    He rode the bicycle as purchased except for swapping the pedals out for his preferred clip-ins.

    The bicycle worked perfectly with no problems what so ever other than needing to use the barrel adjust on the rear derailer cable to tighten it about half way into the tour.

    I’ve been touring for many years and I thought the bicycle was very well spec-ed for the price.

    Chrome-molly steel frame. It’s a welded frame the finish look quite good to me. Low rider mounts Includes a spoke holder!
    9spd Deore drivetrain. Comes with a triple so the gearing is fine for touring.
    Tektro, linear pull, alloy
    Comes with a OK rack for light touring. No mudguards.

    We looked at a number of entry level bicycles and this was the best. I’d certainly recommend it if you are getting started.

    Reply
    • Tony

      Typos! Sorry.
      road -> rode
      Tektro, linear pull, alloy -> Tektro, linear pull, alloy brakes

      Reply
  6. Mike

    I wouldn’t be surprised if those are all the exact same frame with different branding. Not that there is anything wrong with that. They just all look identical.

    Reply
  7. Aaron Nelson

    I have owned a 2016 Fuji Touring bike for the past year. I have done several 3-4 day light tours on it in New Zealand where live. I ve toured on tar seal and gravel roads and a mixture or road gravel and dirt. I also use it as my commuter in the city and for city rides for leisure. In all circumstances the bike has been an absolute pleasure to ride. I have changed to a Brooks saddle, and I did put Schwalbe marathon tyres on it. Also I put mudguards on it. Overall it has been a great purchase and when I compare it to other touring bikes I think it’s fantastic value for money. If your looking for a light tourer that you can use as a commuter when your not touring, The Fuji touring has my full recommendation.

    Reply
    • Melanie

      Hi Aaron,

      Good to hear your experience with this bike. I am in NZ now, and considering to purchase a Fuji Touring bike as well. I was wondering where you bought it? I’ve got some troubles finding it… :/

      Reply
  8. Ric Moffet

    I bought an Malvern Star Oppy S1 for $850 Aus 3 months ago for touring here in Australia. It was fitted to me but I would prefer a slightly more upright ride position. I have just finished a 1200 klm tour of NSW and Qld, my second large tour and found it virtually perfect for me. Its a 16 speed Claris with mech disc brakes, STI’s and even though I predominetly rode in the Dividing range fully loaded with front and rear panniers I never once got into the lowest gear., In all hills I train in 3rd or 4th gears only as if I am carrying weight. Their is an Oppy S2 with 105’s and Hydraulic disc, it is slightly better spec’ed then mine but it is $400- $600 dearer and I didn’t want hydraulics. I find it an excellent lower priced cromoly steel bike for the touring I do, sure many people want triples, but the way I ride, I don’t need them.

    Reply
  9. Quentin Silvand

    Hey Tom, this is Quentin Silvand. You most probably don’t remember me. We met years ago at a Horizon Unlimited meet in the Uk. I was on a motorbike at the time. For the last 2 years switched to cycling europe and not looking back. Still got your DVD and using it as inspiration documentary for wannabe travelers. Got a new gf and plan to go rtw and by accident saw your article on cheap touring bikes. And I think I found the bike we will buy for the trip. The ridgeback tour 2017. Cheap and cheerful I feel. Anyhow, just to say hi and thanks again for the inspiration. Regards, Q

    Reply
    • Tom Allen

      Hey Quentin! Well done on making the switch! 😉 Good luck to you and your girlfriend on the RTW ride – when do you leave?

      Reply

Leave a Reply