What’s The Best Touring Bike?

(Last updated: September 2014.)

The range of touring bikes on offer can be bewildering to the newcomer. And so it’s only natural that amongst the many questions I get asked about planning a cycle tour, the most frequent is: “What’s the best touring bike?”

Trouble is, it’s a question with no useful quick-and-easy answer. I do, however, want to try and answer it to the best of my abilities. So let’s begin by putting some broader context around what “cycle touring” might actually mean to you. Asking a few basic questions of your plans first will make the touring bike choosing process easier. (Now might be a good time to put the kettle on.)

What kind of bike tour am I going on?

Unless you have no money (beggars can’t be choosers, right?), your ride should dictate your bike, rather than your bike dictating your ride.

Resist the temptation to get bogged down with bicycle choice until you’ve clarified what your priorities for cycle touring are going to be, and what kind of trip you want to make.

What different kinds of bike trip are there? Well, styles of touring vary along these four axes:

  • Fast or slow
  • Lightweight or heavyweight
  • On-road (paved) or off-road (unpaved)
  • Short-term or long-term

Usually there are correlations here.

Fast, light, on-road and short-term are usually combined.

Two nomads on a cycling adventure (Explored)

Slow, heavy, off-road and long-term are likely to be found together too.

These are the main factors that will feed directly into your choice of touring bike. If you’re not clear on what you want to achieve with your tour, and how, it’s time to go back to first principles. You can always come back to the bike a little further down the road.

Most tours fall somewhere in the middle of these concerns. That’s why off-the-peg road-oriented touring bikes are often a good place to start, as manufacturers want to cover as broad a range of customers as they can.

Later in this article we’ll look at some of these bikes, as well as budget options and more specialised ‘expedition’ bikes.

What can I afford?

Strapped for cash? It is perfectly possible to use any old bike for touring — as long as it’s about the right size. You will (eventually) get from A to B on the rusty heap that’s been sat in the garage for the last decade.

(I know, I know; this kind of rhetoric gets chucked around a lot, usually by people doing tours on absurdly expensive bikes. So here’s how I put together a complete touring bike (plus gear and luggage) for precisely £25.17.)

DSC_0090

Got some cash but still on a budget? Good quality second-hand touring bikes (or mountain/hybrid bikes adaptable for touring) can be had for a few hundred pounds. In the long term, expect to spend more time/money on maintenance and repairs than someone making the same journey on a new bicycle.

Got a budget for a decent bike? Common touring wisdom is to get the best quality bike you can afford. Usually, a ‘bike manufacturer’ will actually manufacture little more than the frame, and the rest of the bike will be assembled from parts made by the same component makers (usually Shimano).

Cheap Touring Bicycles

If you’re just getting started there are several good-quality touring bikes, luggage enabled and ready to roll, that can be had for just a few hundred pounds.

Here are some of the most often recommended options:

Revolution Country Traveller (£500)

revolution-country-traveller-2014

A contender for best value budget touring bike on the market, the Revolution Country Traveller from Edinburgh Bicycle Co-operative manages to be well-specified and reliable while costing less than £500. It’s sibling, the Country Explorer, features a steel frame and disc brakes for £200 more.

Ridgeback Tour (£600)

ridgeback-tour-xxl

The Ridgeback Tour — the cheapest of Ridgeback’s “World” series — has much in common with its more expensive siblings, but with a cost-saving aluminium frame and basic Shimano gearing. Ridgeback bikes are widely available from UK high-street dealers, making it a bike you’ll easily be able to test ride.

Dawes Galaxy AL

dawes-galaxy-al-2013-touring-bike

At the bottom end of Dawes’ well-known Galaxy range is the Galaxy AL. Similarly to the Ridgeback Tour, it’s built on the same design principles as the rest of the range but with an aluminium frame and budget drivetrain components.

Like Ridgeback’s World range, the Dawes Galaxy range is one of the most oft-found touring bike lines in British bike stores, including at Evans Cycles stores nationwide and via their website*.

Best Premium Road Touring Bikes

Most cycle tourists are not breaking records, but they do want to feel like they’ve got somewhere at the end of a day. They’ll carry the bare essentials but pack a few personal luxuries too. Roads will comprise the majority of their trip, but they might find themselves on a dirt track every now and then. They’ll usually travel for a few weeks, make a few shorter trips closer to home, and occasionally go for a Big Ride.

This broad space is the domain of the high-end road touring bike.

Almost all cycle tourists could conduct their travels successfully on any of the following options. They’re all mature, capable machines, tried and tested and with sensible price-tags, in need of nothing more than a Brooks B17* and a rider.

Expect to spend between £900-£1500 ($1200-$2000) on a new fully-featured premium tourer, and for it to last many years and handle all of the developed-world road touring you can throw at it.

Kona Sutra (£1200)

sutra

Kona inhabit the left-of-centre in cycling, producing a fascinating range of eccentric yet extremely useful bikes. As well as all of the usual considerations, the Sutra is progressively-minded too with powerful disc brakes and plenty of scope for non-touring use. Highlights include the nimble and sporty steel frameset and solid front and rear racks, making it ready to load up and ride right out of the shop. Read my full review here.

Ridgeback Panorama (£1300)

ridgeback-panorama-2014

The Ridgeback Panorama is described by many UK tourers as an underrated bike, coming with plenty of recommendations. This is another steel-framed mid-range touring bike with a sensible, durable selection of components drawn from both road– and mountain-biking disciplines. Its road-influenced frameset places it well for long-term road touring.

Read Tim & Laura’s detailed review of the Panorama after a 6,000-mile road test. They’re widely available in UK bike stores, including Evans Cycles, who are currently doing 10% off both the 2013* and 2014* models (identical except for the paint job) via their website*.

Dawes Galaxy Classic (£1300)

Dawes Galaxy Touring Bike

Dawes’ British heritage has made the Galaxy Classic (formerly known simply as the Galaxy) an established favourite in these parts, and traditional touring components and design features can be seen all over this bike. A Reynolds steel frame, Tubus Logo rack and Schwalbe Marathon tyres take care of longevity concerns. The mid-range Shimano groupset choices and basic wheelsets keep the package affordable. Size options are limited, but a ladies-specific version is available. There’s some end-of-season bargains on eBay* right now on this and other Galaxy bikes.

Surly Long Haul Trucker (£1150)

surly-lht-700c-2014

While not as easy to find in the UK as the Kona or Ridgeback, particularly online, the Surly Long Haul Trucker is perhaps the most well-renowned of the bikes in this list. It’s a supremely versatile and well-balanced on– and off-road adventure touring bike at a price affordable to many, also available in a 26″ wheel size for short riders and developing-world touring. You’re left to choose your own racks and mudguards. Distributed in the UK by Ison, any local bike shop worth its salt will be able to get you one of these.

For what it’s worth, I give out more recommendations for the LHT than for any other touring bike on the planet.

Surly Disc Trucker (£1300)

surly-disc-trucker-2014

In response to the growing acceptance of disc brakes as a realistic and reliable option for touring, Surly went ahead and produced a disc-specific version of the Long Haul Trucker, the cunningly named Disc Trucker. Everything else about it is the same as the LHT — tried, true, and one of the most versatile touring bikes on the planet. Read my full review here.

More Premium Road Touring Bikes

The following models have been recommended by readers as fitting this category. Some of them are on the budget end, some straying into the top end, but I’ve listed them for the sake of completeness:

A side note on top-end touring bikes

What I’m hoping is fairly clear is that the touring bikes above are pretty much the same bike. They’re all priced within a couple of hundred pounds of each other. They all have steel frames, wide gearing, drop bars but with non-aggressive riding positions, pannier racks or at least rack mounts, hybrid drivetrains cut from the middle of Shimano’s mountain-bike and road-bike ranges, and boring saddles (because they know you’ll swap the saddle for your favourite but can’t sell a bike without one). They’re all built primarily for paved roads, but could handle a dirt track or two if need be.

So which to choose is largely a matter of taste. I like the Kona’s stiff and nimble riding style. You might like the Dawes’s British origins, or the Surly’s reputation and ruggedness, or the Ridgeback’s road-oriented riding style.

How will you know, though? Simple: enough with the online research — go down to your local bike shop and take a few for a test ride. You’ll soon know what’s right for you.

Expedition Bikes

I’d like to draw attention to a distinct category of what you might call ‘expedition’ bikes, as opposed to ‘touring’ bikes. It’s by no means an industry standard term, but it’s a distinction that needs to be made.

The majority of cycle touring takes place relatively close to home, in the developed world, and for limited periods of time (a few weeks at most). But occasionally a bike will need to survive for months on end in parts of the world where Western-style parts, spares and mechanical help are simply unavailable.

This is the domain of the ‘expedition’ bike. These bikes are usually characterised by having 26-inch wheels (for maximum compatibility with the tyres, tubes and wheel parts ubiquitous in the developing world), allowing for much fatter tyres to be fitted for unpaved roads, using old-fashioned standard components (such as 8– or 9-speed drivetrains, square-taper bottom brackets, etc), and having frames built for even heavier duty service in the long haul.

They don’t necessarily cost more than a top-end touring bike, but they have a slightly different focus in mind. Does this apply to you?

Oxford Bike Works Model 1E (£900)

obw-model1e

Independent bike builder Richard Delacour’s entry-level offering is a remarkably good expedition bike, with a superb mountain-bike influenced 26-inch steel frame, 9-speed components and a hand-tensioned wheelset. Being a custom-build, you can make specific component requests for any part of the bike, as well as visiting him near Oxford for a personal consultation and fitting session. The fact that the list price is the lowest in this category is the icing on the cake. Read my full write-up of his services here.

Ridgeback Expedition (£950)

ridgeback-expedition-2014

New this year and as-yet untested in the real world on a long trip, the Ridgeback Expedition looks to be a contender for best-value expedition-ready mainstream touring bike on the market.

Read my full review here. The best price I can find is from Evans Cycles, who’re doing an end-of-season 10% discount online*.

Surly Long Haul Trucker / Disc Trucker (26-inch models)

surly-lht-2014

Surly have shown their versatility by producing an expedition-ready 26-inch version of the already super-versatile Long Haul Trucker and Disc Trucker models — near-perfect expedition bikes by all accounts. All the same praise goes here as for the 700c versions above.

Thorn Sherpa (from £1300)

thorn-sherpa

Thorn’s entry-level 26-inch steel tourer, the Sherpa, still costs well over a grand, but the Somerset-based company have established themselves as creating ultra-reliable expedition bikes on an individual basis. You’ll need to book an appointment with St John’s Stree Cycles in Bridgewater to get yours specified and fitted to your needs.

Where Next?

You’ve probably got plenty more burning questions about the ins and outs of adventure cycling, so the best thing to do next is to check out the advice & planning section of this site for dozens more articles on every other aspect of planning a tour. Whatever your questions or concerns, I’ve probably got you covered. (And if I don’t, fire me an email and I’ll do my best to cover it in a future article!)

P.S. If you can’t afford any of the above bikes, but you still want to go touring, check this article out. It might just blow your mind.

essential-gear-sales-page-header

Buying gear for your next bike trip?

Reading this 257-page ebook first will probably save you a packet.

Find out more at GearForCycleTouring.com

166 Responses to “What’s The Best Touring Bike?”

  1. Daniel Hild

    A good bargain i.m.o. would be the vsf Fahrradmanufaktur TX-800 XT with 30 gears.
    handmade in Germany, complete Shimano XT-Group, Tubus Cargo and Tara lowrider racks (made out of Steel tubing, Magura hdraulic rimbrakes, a XT hub dynamo and a pretty good, rigid wheelset including some Schwalbe Marathon 47–622 reflex tires. There are Shops in GB too, in € it would be 1499,-. Of course, a sturdy steelframe and-fork.
    http://www.fahrradmanufaktur.de/katalog/expedition?product_id=636

    Or, my ride of choice, the Surly Troll (mine is a custom-setup by myself, but the complete bike gets some good reputation too), more like a Offroad-Utility-Bike. (can be driven with V-Brakes, Disc-Brakes, a Rohloff Hub, a normal rear derailleur or even singlespeed).
    http://surlybikes.com/bikes/troll
    The parts on the complete one wasn´t what i had in mind so i bought the frame and fork for 380 €

    Reply
    • Tom

      Thanks for the comment and suggestions!

      The Fahrradmanufaktur looks like good value for money, as you say. I wouldn’t take a 10-speed chainset far beyond Europe, though — very new tech and with every increment comes a narrower, weaker chain, with spares almost impossible to find outside high-end bike stores. My first expedition bike was built with a 8-speed rear mech for exactly that reason. Even a 7-speed would still be stronger and easier to find parts for in most of the world.

      The Troll reminds me of the Explosif I built from the frame up for off-road touring. Looks absolutely great if you want to build your own and ride a lot of dirt! Shame only a few stores import them over here in the UK.

      Reply
    • Nick (Brisbane QLD)

      I bought a Dawes Super Galaxy 2001 second hand in a fairly sorry state. I guess it was 30 years old then. I have ridden through Brittany on it 3 times and use it every day. I’m on my third set of wheels and it has had 2 complete drive train changes. I have been thinking about getting a new bike for 5 years but them I spend $100 on new bits and keep it going. Anyway, it was built to last. Don’t know if the new build quality is as good?

      Reply
      • Tom Allen

        That’s the mark of a good frame!

        Reply
      • Nick

        I’ve picked up a 2013 Kona Sutra from bikes.com.au for $1200. The Dawes is now chained to the shed like the old dog out of Babe (sheep pig). I am loving the Sutra. I use it every day commuting and it is very comfortable. The saddle was hopeless but my old saddle suits the bike well. Anyway, thanks for the advice, think I got a bargain.

        Reply
        • Tom Allen

          Sounds like an extremely good deal. You’re right about the saddle, but I can’t remember buying a single bike for which I didn’t replace it!

          Reply
    • John Donoghue

      Hi Tom I have purchased a Genesis Day One with an Alfine 11 speed Hub To climb the Steeper hills I have changed from a 42 tooth to 38 front ring and an 18tooth on the rear Would this bike be suitable for European Touring can you advise please

      Reply
      • Tom Allen

        Practically any bike is suitable for European touring, as long as it’s comfortable enough to ride all day. You’re never more than a few miles from a bike shop or train station if something goes wrong. I know people who’ve toured Europe on bikes from scrapheaps.

        Reply
  2. Jeff Bartlett

    I put a huge vote in for the Surly. I can say I’ve treated mine like a mountain bike on previous tours and it’s never been a problem. Its just built to take any punishment I fell like dishing out.

    I have had negative experiences with an older Kona Sutra; however, it was with the former placement of the bb7 brake caliper and subsequent rear rack configuration with a huge bolt and spacers. It’d just sort of snap whenever we were running late, battling poor weather, or having trouble finding camp. Now that they’ve moved the brake to the lower chain stay, that problem is gone and the rack is likely as bombproof as the frame.

    Reply
    • Tom

      Yeah, that’s probably what prevented it from being taken seriously for so long — I’ve read some similar comments about older models. I probably wouldn’t have included it here a few years ago, but I can attest to its vast improvement in the last couple of years. Had an interesting chat with Kona’s designers in Vancouver earlier this year — they decided to redesign it from the ground up, rather than try to beef up a road-bike design as they’d previously done.

      Reply
    • AdamDZ

      I had a 2007 or 2008 Sutra and one of the rear rack eyelets broke off during the first week of my very first tour. I finished the ride with the rack held up with bunch of zip ties. I was very disappointed with that frame.

      Reply
  3. Andrew

    Novara safari is a great and inexpensive tourer sold at Rei Cheaper then any of these by a large margin with butterfly handle bars
    Novara randonee is more in line with what is here
    Khs tr 101 very complete even includes clipless pedals.

    Reply
    • Tom

      Thanks for this, Andrew. I had a look at the specs of these bikes. As you say, the Novara Randonnée is a closer fit for this list of mid-range tourers, though I would still be concerned about the rear rack’s strength and the 10-speed drivetrain. It’s also missing fenders. Otherwise it looks like a good bike at a good price.

      I’d probably put the Safari in the ‘budget’ category rather than the mid-range, due to it having a lot of entry-level components. While that’s fine for short tours and commuting, I’d be concerned about its long-term durability on a big tour, where the aim is to reduce the likelihood of repairs and replacements.

      The KHS TR 101 looks like a very capable road tourer — I’d like to see some real life reviews.

      Thanks again!

      Reply
      • Andrew Holybee

        Also love your site and check my rss reader for your posts daily such a inspiration keep on riding man :).

        Reply
      • Neil Fein

        I’ve done short tours on my Randonee for years, and love it. Hildy (my Randonee) climbs hills like a madwoman and can haul as much cargo as need be quite handily. The bike will even handle mild off-road. I’ve long since worn through the stock tires, and replaced them with Schwalbe Marathon tires.

        I’ve replaced the rear rack, but I’m told by many that the tock rear rack is quite sturdy. (I already owned a pair of Tubus racks from my previous bike when I bought the Randonee.) This fellow rode from Florida to Washington State on a Randonee, and used the stock rear rack.

        I have an older Randonee that has a 24-speed drivetrain, and I have to say that I share your concern about the newer, 30-speed drivetrain. It seems odd that they would put a 10-speed cassette on a touring bike. However, I am pleased to note that they have gotten rid of the old STI shifters and moved to the more dependable bar-end shifters. If I had the spare cash, I’d have those installed on Hildy.

        The Safari looks like a fun bike for short tours that contain off-road components, but I’d worry about those disc brakes on tour.

        Reply
  4. Mark

    +1 for the Ridgeback. Like you say, everything is a compromise and in the Panorama’s case the manufacturer has skimped on the brake pads the most. Happily this is easily fixed. Another slight annoyance was caused by the shifters, which needed the addition of brake noodles to route the gear cables away from the handlebar bag I added — couldn’t quite justify 105 levers with integral cable routing for a tourer. Top bike, highly recommend it!

    Reply
  5. Andrew Jennings

    I’ve just completed a tour on my new Vivente World Randonneur http://www.viventebikes.com/main/page_products_bikes_2012_drop_bars_sti__levers.html

    It’s probably at the upper end of the middle for touring bikes, if that makes any sense. But for me doing heavy highway touring it is ideal. Strong, stable. The dynamo on the front wheel is excellent at charging up all my electronics.

    Reply
  6. Shane

    Great article Tom, I suspect most of us spend too much money on our bikes. Its refreshing to see someone write about the mid-rangers. Rather than the “you need this bike with Rohloff, Son, Magura, tubus” that you read on most sites..

    Reply
    • Tom

      Too true. I’ve got an interesting article in the pipeline which will go even further in the ‘budget’ direction. Watch this space…

      Reply
  7. Walter

    Thanks for the article. A bit disappointing recumbents are not mentioned, as these are hands down the best bicycles for long distances. The first question should always be: Do I have a reason for not choosing a recumbent?

    Reply
    • Tom

      I can think of several — price, availability and familiarity are the first three.

      I do appreciate all the arguments for the benefit of recumbents, but this article was intended to highlight mainstream mid-range options, and unfortunately recumbents are still a long way from being part of that. I’d love to run an article about them, but not until I have some first-hand experience…

      Reply
  8. Brenda in the Boro

    Hi Tom,
    I followed your adventure to the Arctic. Good to see you passing on your knowledge. Both my DH and I have Koga Randonneurs and I love mine. He preferred his Dawes Super Galaxy that he had upgraded with the Koga multiposition bars unfortunately , it was stolen and never recovered. They come complete with dynamo for lighting and I have a gizmo to charge the I phone.
    Good to find your site again.
    Brenda

    Reply
  9. Mike McEnnerney

    My wife and I have had our Ridgeback Panorama’s for a couple of years now and are really pleased with them. We would, however, agree with Mark’s comment about the brake pads/blocks. Fortunately, easily rectified with a better brake block compound. We find that, when fully loaded, the bike comes into its own with regards to comfort, response and stability due, I think, to the Reynolds 725 tubing.

    Reply
  10. Tim Vincent

    Have to say I was a bit surprised at your mention of ‘stupidly expensive’ bikes then trying to claim that £1500 is a mid-range price.
    Anyway I have a Dawes Ultra Galaxy Ti and love it!!!

    Reply
  11. Stu

    Was all set to go for the Kona Sutra 2012 after much research and your review for a 1000km trip in SE Asia followed by a coast to coast of Oz, but just seen the Dawes Super Galaxy for £1125 at Spa Cycles. Almost the same price as the Kona. Would be interested on your thoughts on the Super Galaxy. I don’t plan on carrying much weight if that helps.

    Reply
    • Tom

      Hi Stu

      I’ve never ridden the Super Galaxy, so all I can say is going on the specs on the website. They look very similar, although the Super Galaxy has marginally better drivetrain components and better tyres. On the other hand, the Sutra has powerful disc brakes, bar-end shifters and a stronger/more widespread 9-speed drivetrain, rather than the Dawes’ 10-speed which I consider a downgrade rather than an upgrade.

      I’d toss a coin, or take them both for a ride and go with your gut!

      Reply
      • Tom

        Quick update — several stores are doing the 2012 Sutra at a discount now, including the two links in the article above…

        Reply
        • Stu

          Hey Tom, I went with the Kona Surtra based on my gut feeling and it felt right when I test rode it. Thanks for the link to cyclestore and your advice. I did a 3000 miles plus tour of SE Asia quickly followed by JOGLE on a mountain bike which was blast, but very much looking forward to journeying on a proper touring bike. Should make things less laborious hopefully.

          Top website!

          Reply
  12. matthew teeter

    i have no money what small improvements could i make to my cannondale quick cx 4 2012 to make it a little better for touring

    Reply
    • Tom

      I would start by going on a tour with it and seeing if you run into any issues — depending on what you’re doing, it might be fine as-is!

      Reply
  13. Alex

    Hey, Tom! Since I have come back from my first bike tour to Europe I decided to buy Kona Sutra but question about what sixe should I choose is too complicated for me. I am 6 ft 2 inch. Thank you.

    Reply
    • Tom

      Hi Alex. The best thing to do by far is to test ride the different sizes. But if that isn’t an option, my brother is 6’2″ and he has the 59cm model, which fits him very well, if that’s of any help.

      Reply
  14. Scott and Liz

    After perhaps 25,000 km of touring we lashed out and bought Thorn Nomad each, with Rohloff.
    These are a little heavy, but the most comfortable and durable bikes imaginable…the Rolls Royce of touring. We can’t speak too highly of the Rohloff hubs.…just fantastic.
    But then, we travel slowly and thoughtfully.….you might say “savoring the experience”.…too old to do it anyother way!
    Check out Thorn’s website.

    Reply
  15. Bart Hawkins Kreps

    re your comment “They’re all built primarily for paved roads, but could handle a dirt track or two if need be.” I bought a Surly Long Haul Trucker for a tour that included hundreds of kilometres of gravel road, and it was fabulous. A key factor was to use fairly beefy tires (1.75″). The setup on the Surly allowed getting down on the drop bars for long stretches against the wind, but enough cushioning in the tires (and frame) to make rough sections comfortable. I suspect this would be true of most of the bikes you mentioned, as long as they have room for wide tires. There have been a few loose dirt trails where a mountain bike would offer better control, but the Surly has been an ideal compromise for most of my rides.

    Reply
  16. steve

    Walmart sells nice bikes (really). I ride combined packed dirt (nation forest) roads and paved. I use a dual suspension 21sp MTB upgraded with wide seat and swept back handlebars, better tires. Racks and other acc. as needed. for $250USD you can replace it every 2 years, transfer the custom parts to the new bike and still sell the old one for $35. Thieves know its a cheap bike and don’t bother it, joyriders main threat. My current bike was a $89 model, but I installed wide range gearing in addition to the other modifications. Going on 4 years 8500 miles, frame still good.

    Reply
  17. Les

    Hey Tom. Just found your site. Thought we would say hi. We are in the midst of organising a lap around the world in 2014. For 3 years. Great site look forward to investigating it further. We r using 1 Surly lhdt, 1 world Randonneur $ 2 giant boulder bikes. Check it out under bike specs on out 8pedals site. Early days for us.

    Cheers les

    Reply
  18. Darron

    I love my Surly Troll.

    A real work horse and rides suprising well both loaded and unloaded. I personally think it’s better than the LHT because it’s a great alrounder.

    Reply
    • Tom

      It does look good. Rear triangle & caliper positioning like the Sutra. Very flexible-looking setup!

      Reply
  19. henric meldgard

    Tom
    I think the comment that the 5 models you showcased are basically the same bike is spot on. Yes there are bikes with better components but the few that you chose will do the job. Its easy to build a $5000 tour bike and I have seen several. However at the end of the day I would prefer to have a tough as nails work horse that doesn’t mind another scratch or two.

    I laugh as I think that my wife’s tour bike frame, a steel Rocky Mountain Soul, was perfectly fine and yet was about to be thrown into a dumpster when I saved it. Put a fork on it for 75 cents from the reuse it center and then built the rest from bits and hand me downs of solid mid range mtb components. For a few hundred dollars I built a bike that has easily survived several hard tours. It took a little time and patience but in the process I learned how to fix just about everything on the bike. Not to mention the satisfaction of giving it a new life. Now I would never consider buying a new bike from a shop. There are just so many great used bikes that would make a perfect tour bike project. With the internet as a resource you can research just about every part there is. It however takes time.

    One more little story. On our trip to India, one of our group bought a $100 bike off craigslist in Vancouver. We checked it over and and made sure everything was sound and then shipped it over. She rode it for a month on tour and then donated it to an orphanage. Think they were happy? It was a pretty special moment. Would I have ridden it around the world…maybe not but it served the purpose and then some. Sometimes its just not about the bike.

    ride safe

    Reply
    • Tom Allen

      Hey Henric — thanks a lot for this perspective.

      I agree that renovating an old bike is just as valid as buying a new one. (In fact, that’s a project I’ve got on the go at the moment.) I do also think, though, that there’s room for everyone to have their own way of approaching the situation — a new bike might be what takes someone from a dreamer to a die-hard cycle tourer — and for another person, the love that goes into a rebuild of a completely unique vintage bike may achieve the same thing.

      Thanks for your input!

      Reply
      • Nathan

        I pulled an old green Chicago Schwinn Varsity off the trash when I was in High School, fixed it up and rode it for a long time. Last year I put new wheels and tires on it, and then had to replace the rear derailleur. This year I’ve put saddlebaskets on it and use it to go to work everyday, and am planning to take it on a short 200 mile tour this summer. The only gripe I have with it is that the original gearset doesn’t have quite a low enough first gear for the hills in Albuquerque, but when I get back to Chicago next week it should be just fine again. Absolutely reliable bike (though it’s really heavy at 45lbs without the baskets, close to 55 or 60lbs with the baskets)

        Reply
  20. Stephen

    The Paul Hewitt Cheviot is a very good bike too.

    Reply
  21. Laura

    Hi Tom, I’ve read about Thorn bikes before (specifically the Raven) — any views?

    Also, I would be interested to know why drop bars are so popular. I find a more upright cycling position more comfortable so would probably choose bullhorn or butterfly bars, but hardly any bikes seem to have these.

    What’s your view on disc brakes? I notice that the Kona Sutra has them — does it not cause an issue when you run into maintenance problems, especially outside Europe? (I would apply the same logic to hub gears).

    I ride a Raleigh Royal, which is fine as a sturdy budget option (£500).

    Thanks for article, really really useful!

    Reply
    • Tom Allen

      Hi Laura

      The reason I haven’t included Thorn is that most of their models are above the price range I was aiming for here. I’ve never ridden one, but I have been told by several people that they’re great bikes, and that the people who make them are quite obnoxious.

      I’ve found drops to be comnfortable, but I never use the dropped part except for shifting. I would imagine that’s fairly normal. Instead I make use of the various hand positions available on the upper part of the bars, which is at a height comparable to other types of handlebar once you’ve raised it with spacers and an angled stem, such as on the Kona Sutra. You get a very comfortable and fairly upright position out of that arrangement.

      Before, I used an adjustable stem and riser mountain-bike bars. Now when I sit on that bike I feel like I’m on a Harley Davidson with pedals!

      Disc brakes — well, models like the Avid BB7 have been around now for long enough to prove their reliability in the long term. They use the same cables and levers as V-brakes, the mechanism is simple, and they’re maintenance free, except for changing the pads, which you can carry with you. They last longer and are lighter than V-brake blocks. They’re also becoming easier to find spares for outside Europe. If your fork has V-brake bosses, you’ve got that option in case of a really unlucky breakdown or accident. So I think the risk is now a very manageable one.

      Thanks for the budget bike suggestion — I’ll work that into a future article.

      All the best!

      Reply
      • Steve Jones

        Hi Tom, and everyone! I’m one of those lucky enough to be able to afford several bikes, so I can make some comparisons based on experience. If you live in the U.K. it is definitely worth looking at the Thorn bikes as they are just so well built and I can vouch for the ride being ultra comfy and smooth for long days in the saddle. If you look at their prices they seem to be expensive at first but on their website they often have amazing deals on bikes they already have built up. They are absolutely worth it and are designed by someone who really knows how to get touring DNA and experience into a bicycle. The Surly Troll is another great choice with even more versatility in the drivetrain area but rides more like an MTB ( which it is ) than the Thorns.
        A word of advice for those who are wondering how to carry stuff. get a Burley travoy, the trailer that packs up into a shopping bag. It is a game changer and can carry a lot.You can get the load off your bike with it and still have a rack and space for other gear on your bike frame. Sometimes you can park it and ride your bike ‘naked’ without being bogged down with gear. It is the single most amazing piece of touring gear I have.

        Reply
        • Steve Jones

          Ooops! Forgot to mention about disc brakes. I’ve got both systems. I find that disc rotors need to be perfectly flat for good performance and once they get bent even slightly on a tour they don’t function as well and are a pain to straighten out. They also can squeal a lot. For the first reason I found V brakes better for serious touring. Even though the disc fashion is popular now, i wouldn’t go that way for touring and seriously, a good pair of V brakes will stop you just as well.
          Concerning hub gears. My Rohloff and Alfine units have given me ZERO problems and i mean zero plus they are weatherproof. Derailleurs are not . If you have good mechanical skills you(ll be happy with them but if not definitely go IGH if you can afford it.

          Reply
          • Tom Allen

            A tip for straightening out a bent rotor is to use an adjustable spanner to grip the rotor at the warped point and then give it a few nudges back in the right direction. With a bit of care this’ll cure all but the most traumatic bends.

        • Tom Allen

          Thanks for the comment! I have heard lots of good stuff about Thorn, and I’m sure they deserve their reputation. I’d put them in the “top-end” category on price point, which is why they’re not included here. One day it’d be nice to try one out… (hint!)

          Reply
    • Bart Hawkins Kreps

      Re drop bars: I wouldn’t want to tour without them, and I use them a lot, but especially when I have to ride into the wind. On any tour, there will be long hours, and sometimes days, when the wind is blowing head-on, and I’d go nuts if I had to be sitting straight up, catching the full force of the wind, the whole time. However, it’s important to note that not all drop bars are the same. Some bars are marketed as “randonneur” bars, and they allow for a wide range of positions, which is really important as you can change positions frequently and relieve tension on your hands, wrists, neck and shoulders. On my current bike, a Surly Long Haul Trucker, the stock (drop) bars are very good. I probably spend the most time with my hands on the top section of the bars, but it’s a blessing to be able to get right down into a crouch when I have to ride into the wind.

      Reply
  22. henric meldgard

    I would put my vote for the BB7s. A mechanical system may require more pull on the lever than a hydraulic system it doesn’t have all the potential service issues. The BB7 are durable and been around for a while. The nice thing about the BB7 vs the BB5 is that both pistons are adjustable on the bb7 making the setup and adjustment easier. Also the 7 brake pads are bigger than on the 5 which would make you think it stops better.
    I can’t comment on the ease of finding pads since they are not on my tour bike but since the bb7 uses a Juicy style pad it may be more common. For me I always carry spare pads regardless of where I am. The sintered metallic pads will give you longer pad life…just make sure that your rotor is rated for a metal pad.

    The other nice pluses for disc setup is no wear on the rim from brake pads, better stopping power in bad weather/muddy conditions and if you break a spoke or come out of true your brakes are still fully functional. The downside however is more strain on the hub shell and if you bend a rotor it can be next to impossible to get it perfectly straight…and there is the advantage of having both pistons adjustable on the bb7.

    Reply
  23. Les

    Hi Tom.

    Sorry mate, we are going to drop the http://www.8pedsls.com site. To expensive to keep up for the entire 4 years.

    http://Www.facebook.com/8pedals
    http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/?o=1&doc_id=11458&v=3Z

    So we are now on fb. And crazy guy on a bike.

    Cheers les

    Reply
  24. Robert Halkett

    I have almost completed a round the world bike ride on a Koga Signature with a Rolhoff gear system. During my four years on the road i have changed tyres, chain, brake pads and the bike was serviced in Australia and Los Angeles. I am still running with the original rims, no broken spokes and the Rolhoff is bomb proof. The Koga in my humble opinion is by far the best bike on the market. Ive been on wonderful smooth highways, Australia, USA and dirt roads that you wouldnt take a Land Rover on in Patagonia and Bolivia but the bike has just kept going, ive done over 30.000 miles on with not one problem, it still has the original bottom bracket. If you want to ride around the world buy any bike if you want to return home problem free then buy a Koga Signature.

    Reply
    • Billy Diamond

      Hi Robert,
      I was offered a World Traveller today for €1200 (2013 with 500kms) although I’ll probable go for the Kona Sutra as I perceive it to have a broader and more efficient range of use and I have no plans for outside Europe. How did you find your bike on load touring, daily tasks?

      Regards

      Billy

      Reply
  25. Ann Wilson

    In 2009 my Roberts Roughstuff (with Rohloff hub) was stolen in Bulgaria with only 2000 miles on the clock. So that I could continue my RTW trip, I bought a Drag ZX5 mountainbike in Sofia, with replacement Schwalbe Marathon tyres, butterfly bars and comfy saddle, plus front and rear racks, stand, fenders and the two components of my wireless computer that had disappeared with the Roberts. The first bike cost just short of £3000, the second (Sofi) cost £500 and has now completed around 18000 miles. I’ve asked myself many times, ‘why did I bother spending all that money in the first place?’ The BMC paid out £250 in insurance btw.

    Reply
  26. Lee

    Just about to buy the Ridgeback Journey for some UK touring — perhaps France too next year. I’ve been seduced by the Alfine gearing. Am I being wise?

    Reply
  27. Paul

    People will choose their bikes according to all the factors mentioned by you, Tom, and by other contributors. For some, keeping costs low is paramount and for others, strength and reliability are the main considerations. I think there are also intangible factors such as each individual’s self image as a cyclist and the emotional resonance of one bike or another.
    I’m far from wealthy but I appreciate the inherent value of high quality engineering and get enormous satisfaction from assembling my own bikes. After much research and deliberation I bought a high quality European frame and a mix of German, Japanese, American and British components. The complete set wasn’t cheap but I did make a considerable saving compared with buying a similar bike off the shelf. I also bought a wheel truing stand and gauges, and built my own wheels. I wouldn’t claim to be an expert bicycle mechanic but the experience of assembling my own bikes has provided not only personal satisfaction but also great confidence for dealing with routine maintenance and potential problems while far from home.
    I don’t believe there is any one ‘best touring bike’ and I’m skeptical about such claims. The message I take from this section of your blog, not to mention many other bicycle related blogs and websites, is that bicycle touring is a growing phenomenon and that it is rich with variety, in both equipment and people. That is surely a good thing.

    Reply
    • Tom Allen

      You are absolutely right; there is no one-size-fits-all solution. I can completely appreciate the process of building a bike up from carefully-chosen top-end parts (as I did myself in 2007), just as I can appreciate the idea of rescuing an old bike from a scrapheap and bringing it back to life (as I’m doing right now)!

      Thanks for the very thoughtful comment!

      Reply
  28. Ian

    I have just purchased an audax cycle from my local cycle store (Surosa cycles in Oldham, Greater Manchester, UK) as they build their own frames.. and had it custom built with my chosen spec for a total of £1266 and it’s a very good bike with mudguards, and a heavy duty rear rack with rack bag and 56L panniers.. soon to have an addition of handlebar bag, and front rack and panniers and I’d feel happy to do some touring on that over any distance

    Reply
  29. Radu

    Hi Tom,

    I was looking at Jamis Aurora Elite 2013 (cannot find the 2012 anymore). However some reviews describe it as a “light tourer”. I understand the problem of the 10-speed cassette. But what would make it a *light* tourer.

    Thanks,
    R

    Reply
    • Tom Allen

      A ‘light’ tourer would usually mean a bike that’ll carry some luggage on a relatively short paved-road tour, but probably suffer off-road and with lots of luggage in the long-term.

      Reply
  30. David Panofsky

    Another bike similar to ones already mentioned is the Rocky Mtn Sherpa. I’ve been riding a 2012 model for 8 months and am pretty happy with it. Pros– 36 spoked wheels, 27 gears in a wide range, stiff frame. Cons– the braze on placement on the seat tube (the front derailler is attached between them), I’d like bigger chainrings up front, It doesn’t do well off-pavement.

    Reply
    • Tom Allen

      Cheers, David. I wonder why Rocky Mountain haven’t fitted a rack to this bike — I know people can be picky about racks, but I do think touring bikes at this level should be ready to tour off-the-peg as well. Nevertheless, it certainly looks like a good option. Thanks for the addition!

      Reply
  31. Vlad

    Salsa , Rivendale , Co Motion , Koga Miata — if you looking for really nice touring bike. Expensive but for long run cheap — it is simple , you get quality what you pay for .….. Years back I on $ 400 sligtly modified Raleigh Tarantula MTB , ( now overhauled and equipt with top of the line comnponents still in use for trails in Rockies ) I did made trip from La Paz to Chile . Want to safe some money . It teach me ! Never ever I will make this kind of mistake again .…

    Reply
  32. Alexey Zhivilov

    Hello, Tom. Why you advice only steel frame bicycles? There’s a lot bikes with alluminuim frame and fork. It’s lighter and easy to buy everywhere.

    Reply
    • Tom Allen

      The main reasons are durability and for ease of repair. Steel has a much longer fatigue limit, and in case of breakage can be welded anywhere by anyone with basic welding equipment. Aluminium, on the other hand, needs specialist attention — in less developed countries this could mean going to an airport. Frame breakages are not uncommon on long-haul tours and that’s why most quality long-distance touring bikes are still made of steel.

      Personally, I also prefer the ride quality of a steel frame; there’s a little more give over the very stiff ride afforded by aluminium. For long term comfort that does become noticeable.

      For short and occasional touring, I have no doubt that most aluminium frames would be fine, though.

      Reply
      • Steve Jones

        Tom, that old chestnut about a steel bike being welded anywhere by anyone is quite amusing. That is the theory. In reality it takes a skilled welder who has experience with bicycle frames to do that job properly. Yes, you might get a rough cut job to hold your frame together to the next port but on a loaded bike i would’t fancy it. And how many people do you know who have actually had this done in practice?

        Reply
        • Steve Jones

          I do agree with you that the steel frame gives a much nicer and more comfortable ride and that such a frame has much better strength which are great reasons to get steel.

          Reply
        • Tom Allen

          Lots. Including me (Yemen). Andy (India). Al (Sudan). Etc. There’s quite a list. Very common story on very long trips. The fact that any old welder can get you to the next port is the whole point. We all had steel frames and we all managed to continue riding.

          On the other hand, I know several aluminium-riding tourers who ended up hitchhiking with broken bikes and then waiting around in cities for new frames to be couriered out because they couldn’t get them repaired at all.

          Reply
  33. Geoff

    I’m surprised that the Fuji Touring did not make your list. I’ve been looking around and it seems like a solid touring bike at a good price.

    BTW — I just stumbled across your site and I’m impressed! I’ll be back soon.

    Reply
  34. Santiago

    Hi Tom! Any comments on the Brodie Elan:
    http://brodiebikes.com/2013/bikes/elan.php

    I tested the Sutra but after trying both 56 & 59 could not make up my mind on what was the right size for me. I am 6 feet tall so I guess I might be somewhere in between.
    On the other hand I also tried the Brodie Elan 54 & 57 and the 57 felt to big for me…
    Thanks in advance for any feedback

    Reply
  35. Phill Grant

    This has been a very interesting discussion — many thanks.

    In response to your original question about other brands that might be considered be considered; no one seems to have mentioned the Santos Travelmaster bikes, in 26 and 28 in sizes and in aluminium or cromo.

    Now, if I may lead to a dilemma. In one of your responses you referred to a concern that a new derailleur gear system with 30 gears may not yet have been “proven” to be reliable for long tours (paraphrasing your response). That is a good point, borne out by my experience — my older 26 in MTB/hybrid has 21 gears (perhaps indicates how old the bike is) and has never needed adjusting, while my newer 28 in with 27 gears needs frequent attention. Even though I do all the servicing myself and can generally adjust the gears satisfactorily, it can be a pain spending time adjusting the gears while touring (I’d much rather be riding or photographing or sipping cappuccinos in a wayside café). This has led me to consider a Rohloff hub.

    That leads to the dilemma. The Rohloff hub bikes (Tout Terrain Silk Road, Thorn Nomad, vsf TX1000 and Santos Travelmaster and possibly Gudereit are all under consideration) all use 32 spokes. I am nervous about dropping from 36 spokes. The theory is that, because the Rohloff hub does not require a “dished” spoke set-up, it is stronger (than the equivalent deraileur set-up). The issue is that I cannot find any info that states how much stronger. One blog mentioned that 26 in wheels are about 10% stronger than 28 in wheels (with the same number of spokes) — but what the 10% is “of” was not explained, and what the measurement of “strength” is was also not explained. Questions remain hanging — is a 32 spoke undished 26 in wheel stronger than a 36 spoke 28 in wheel, for example? What is the “hierarchy of strength” when considering 26 and 28 in, dished and undished wheels?

    This leads, of course, to really basic questions such as, for example, “would a vsf TX1000 ( 28 in wheels with wider tyres) be as strong as my current 28 in with 36 spokes”? How much stronger are the Santos wheels with 32 spokes, given that they are hand-made? And so on…

    So, if there is anyone who could shed light, with facts, on this dilemma, it would be very much appreciated.

    As a final point, I wonder if the steel/aluminium frame issues is now a non-issue — an idea espoused by a metallurgist-cyclist when considering modern frames?

    Many thanks

    Reply
    • Tom Allen

      Hi Phil. Thanks for the detailed comment.

      The main reason I haven’t included the Travelmaster here is because it’s a top-end touring bike, whereas in this article I’ve been focussing on mid-range bikes. I’ll definitely include it in a future article about top-end bikes, though, along with the other bikes you mentioned — thanks for bringing them to my attention.

      Regarding hubs and spokes, I think that the important question here is:

      “Would Rohlhoff hubs be fitted to top-end touring bikes if spoke-count was a real issue?”

      I doubt it. I hear more tales of Rohlhoff internals failing than spokes breaking. Which begs another question:

      “Is it easier to repair a derailleur system or a Rohlhoff wheel on the roadside?”

      My money’s on the derailleur. That’s why I’ll keep using them over internally-geared hubs.

      And instead of asking what percentage of extra strength 36 spokes gives over 32, I’d be asking:

      “Am I able to replace a broken spoke?”

      Because that’s what you’ll be thinking when a spoke does inevitably break :)

      Hope that helps!

      Reply
  36. Phill Grant

    Many thanks for your response Tom; the questions you wrote are certainly eminently practical and sensible.

    Perhaps it could be assumed that 32 spoke set-ups are strong enough, given that Rohloff and the expedition bike manufacturers, who stake their reputation on reliability and longevity, use that set-up. Though, having said that, it seems Rohloff are now making a 36 hole hub (according to their website).

    According to the Thorn website, spoke breakage was an issue; an issue they solved by drilling the spoke holes on the rim differently. Presumably Santos use the same technique as they also hand build their wheels.

    You are absolutely correct in saying that the long distance cyclist should be able to repair such things as broken spokes and derailleur malfunctions (and etc). In terms of enjoying trips though, It’s much nicer if nothing goes wrong (ie Murphy’s law takes a holiday). As much as I enjoy servicing and working on my bikes (the mechanics are such “elegantly simple” bits of technology), I prefer the comfort of my own garage. For those reasons a reliable, strong and well prepared bike would be desirable — and that is an answer to your original question about “which bike?”.

    Regarding derailleur and Rohloff gears — derailleurs have certainly stood the test of time, though newer sets with more gears may be more finicky than older versions. For that reason, and when the range of use-able gears is considered, the Rohloff hub is attractive (except for the cost — a 60000 km break-even point may not be achievable for many tourers). Interesting that you have heard of misfortunes with Rohloff hubs — I hadn’t, which indicates that I need to do more research. Perhaps a question to be considered here is, “why are top-end touring bike (and some MTB) manufacturers using Rohloff hubs?” Presumably the perceived reliability is a part of the answer to that?

    Mind you, all the theorising in the world is still bound by practical experience. 4000 km into last year’s trip the drive train needed replacing (this inconvenience was my fault really, as I should have renewed the components before setting out — the bike was relatively new and I left the original equipment just to see how long good quality components would last). The chain and cluster were easily replaced, but I had to ride another 1000 km without the use of the middle chainring, until I was able to buy a suitable replacement. It was then that I started considering alternatives — a Rohloff hub is one possibility, perhaps also the gears at the bottom bracket, such as fitted to one of the Tout Terrain models.

    Anyway, interesting discussion and I look forward to your assessment of the “upper” end of the touring bike market.

    Thanks again

    Phill

    Reply
    • Robert

      If it helps, the builders I’ve spoken with say that the 32 spoked Rohlof hub is stronger than a handbuilt 40 spoked tandem wheel. This makes sense when thinking about dishing and the inherent weakness it introduces to the wheel. The other thing, of course, is that it is easier to repair a broken spoke on the chainside of a Rohlof hub than on a dished wheel with a cogset.

      Reply
  37. Jeff

    Hi, I am not new to cycling but am to touring. I just purchased a Tout Terrain SilkRoad Frame with derailleur hanger (not getting the Rohloff hub version) and want to build it up with durable components. Plan on using drop bars, 26″ wheels, and cable disc brakes. I also like grip shift but don’t know if this is compatible with drop bars, or even if they are still made. Would prefer mountain bike components. Any recommendations for which components group (model year 2013) to get that would be true and durable. I hear Shimano XT is good and light but durability is not what it used to be. Any suggestions would be helpful. Thanks in advance. J

    PS Cash is a factor but don’t want to sacrifice quality either.

    Reply
    • Tom Allen

      Ideally you’d build an 8-speed drivetrain from a mixture of components (8sp chains being thicker than 9sp and therefore longer lasting). Deore to XT ranges are durable and rugged. Beyond XT it’s about saving weight for racing, with durability sacrificed, so don’t go there.

      The rear derailleur will take more abuse than the front one. 9sp Shimano rear mechs work with 8sp shifters (at least, mine does).

      Grip shifts are certainly still made but I have no idea about using them with drops…

      Reply
  38. Ted Greenwood

    Hi Tom, it’s that time of the year when all you want to do is load up your bike, jump on the ferry to France and just go wherever the mood takes you. It’s also the time when you just devour all the reviews and conversations about bikes and gear and destinations. I love it. I’ve had my Dawes Super Galaxy for over 25 years now. It’s the single best item I have ever spent money on and, if I had to get rid of all my bikes bar one, it’s the one I’d keep. I’m in awe of its Rolls-Royce levels of reliabilty, comfort and smoothness. I’ve ridden 10s of thousands of miles on it and it still rides like a dream every time. All the way across the Pyrenees last year; fully loaded, 900kms, 50,000 ft of climbing, horrific weather, faultless. If the new models are as good as the old ones (and they should be) then you couldn’t go wrong with a Galaxy.

    Reply
  39. Roger Oliver

    Tom have a look at Thorn Sherpa I have one it’s great

    Reply
  40. brujerias para enamorar a un hombre

    Lo mejor es que a partir de la accin y de la memoria del equipo. Una vez instalado aprieta el botn de encendido que ven en la nube. Sabemos que Nokia ha lanzado un nuevo juego java para celular, es que HTC podr renacer y volver a reproducirlo. La informacin recopilada en nuestro sitio Hoy 9tres tecnologia y servicios estimamos los mejores del ao. Llegaron a descubrir la agricultura y la envia a la interconexin entre centrales 9tres tecnologia y servicios y pblicas. La interfaz es mucho ms fcil, pero me parece curiosa la decisin 9tres tecnologia y servicios de Acer de incorporar Windows 8 que posee? brujerias para enamorar a un hombre http://journals.fotki.com/watersbaxq/my-blog/entry/krbkbqdfbfrr/

    Reply
  41. Kari

    Thanks for the guide. Think I’ll go with the surly long haul trucker. Why? Because I saw a girl with one on the train after she’d come back from an across Britain ride. So I wanted one!

    Reply
  42. Nick

    I am moving to Norway and want to get more into touring, would an 2005 trek 6500 mountain bike work for touring? Link to the bike http://www.trekbikes.com/us/en/bikes/2005/archive/trek/6500/#

    Reply
    • Tom Allen

      Any bike will work for touring if you’re determined enough!

      You’ll just need to find a way of mounting a rack. Tubus do seatstay clamp kits for bikes like this. Your other option is a trailer like the Extrawheel.

      Have fun!

      Reply
  43. Michael

    I saw that the link for the Rocky Mountain Sherpa was broken. Here’s the new URL:

    http://www.bikes.com/en/bikes/sherpa/2013

    Reply
  44. Alan O Muirchu

    just wondering if a cheap tourer such as the Raleigh Royal or Revolution Country Traveller ’13 would be suitable enough for a first tour of say 3–4 weeks on EuroVelo network through Germany? have done a bit of mountain biking before, and am a commuting cyclist everyday but I don’t really know that much about bikes

    Reply
    • Tom Allen

      Any comfortable bike will do you for 3–4 weeks in one of the most cycle-friendly countries on the planet!

      Reply
    • John Mills

      I can vouch for the Revolution Country Traveller. For the money (£430.00 in the sale!) its a surprisingly comfortable and capable bike. Swapped the saddle to a Brooks but otherwise its been perfect.

      Reply
  45. nick

    Bianchi Volpe

    Reply
  46. Isaac

    I’ve got a bit of a silly question : How should a touring bike “ride”? I’ve been on “racing” bikes forever and find them comfortable and fun to ride. I’ve been hunting for a touring bike and while they are comfortable to cruise around a bit, they seem far too upright for my riding comfort (makes me feel like I’m riding one of those cheap stationary bikes at the gym, on the first one I tried, I had to drop all the spacers on the stem to get comfy, but then ran into issues with the brake stop/hanger not clearing the head tube) and they feel a bit sluggish and hard to “toss around”, especially when out of the saddle on climbs, even in comparison to my light-weight steel mountain bike. I can see why ultra-low gearing is recommended if all you can do is sit and hammer up the climbs. Is that how it is supposed to be?

    Reply
    • Mark

      Hi Isaac
      I have recently ridden from Adelaide to Darwin on a Tout Terrain bike and I think there are several characteristics that make the touring bike the right one for you. You need to be comfortable if you are going to spend up to 10hrs in the saddle and the more upright positions of most ‘tourers’, seem to take the weight and pressure from your hands/ arms. Also, the touring bike should never feel “twitchy”, especially when loaded. My Tout Terrain rides the same when laden or un-laden and when you find yourself carrying 15kgs of water plus all other camping gear etc, the bike needs to be predictable. Many bike frames will twist when under a load; as a result, your control, reliability and comfort will suffer. I also like having handlebars that give multiple hand positions, which helps with fatigue.
      The other consideration is that you are an accomplished road bike rider. You are ‘familiar’ with this lower profile riding position and the road bike handling characteristics. This may be why every other riding position feels foreign. Load up a few different bikes including a road bike and try them out on a few long day trips. Consider the advice of others, but ultimately you need to enjoy touring and your decision should be based on what is right for you. As Tom advises, just get out there and problem solve. In essence, ‘touring’ is not a race and almost any bike can be used. You just need to select the one that feels right for you.

      Reply
    • Tom Allen

      Have you tried riding one with a full load (i.e. 15-25kg luggage split between the front and rear)? A touring bike should feel reassuring and stable under such circumstances as it’s what they’re designed for. Riding them unburdened is not going to give you a realistic sense of the ‘ride’.

      Cockpit setup is largely personal preference, I think. I’ve seen people touring on everything from upright shopping bikes to mountain bikes to racers with drops — it’s what you prefer. Personally I choose being upright and able to look at my surroundings rather than tucked down grinding away at the asphalt.

      Tossing them around and hammering up climbs is not really part of the touring style — taking it slow and steady, especially uphill, is what allows you to reach the end of a day with a hundred k on the clock.

      Hope that helps!

      Reply
  47. Kerem

    Hi Tom,

    Thanks a lot for the article. The best I could find on the issue over the net.

    My question is, did you get to try Kona Sutra 2014 already? I can’t find any comparisons ; 2013 vs. 2014 — yet there’s the huge change of frame.

    Best,

    Reply
  48. Peter Taylor

    Hi Tom
    I’m looking for a top end light tourer that’s very comfortable, capable of going as fast as a tourer can go and at home on Tarmac and on dusty tracks. I intend to carry minimal luggage too. How does the Van Nicholas Amazon (or Yukon) Rohloff compare to the Thorn Mercury? Which would you chose?

    Reply
    • Tom Allen

      I’m sorry but I have absolutely no idea! The only way to know for sure is to ride both. It sounds like your requirements are quite specialised, whereas I’m only really intending to cover generalist mid-range tourers in this article. Sorry!

      Reply
  49. John Molineux

    Hello Tom & thanks for your very useful and cheerful writings.
    I’m just getting back into bike touring, and still using my faithful 1977 Dawes Super Galaxy, nearly all original but with a re-enamelling job on the frame. Still pretty well perfect for my long but slow road trips. Brittany’s rolling country is a mine of varied and beautiful scenery : have you tried it?
    All the best

    Reply
    • Tom Allen

      I haven’t been to Brittany since a school camping trip in 1999… maybe I should :)

      Reply
      • John Molineux

        Tom, you’d be very welcome! so yes, maybe you should! You have my e-mail via this page, I imagine, so let me know if you’re over here & the Super Galaxy will be wheeled out! :)

        Reply
  50. Jason

    I did 6000 miles on my 2011 Cannondale CAADX. The Only upgrade was a pair of heavy duty handbuilt touring wheels a Son 28 Hub and some Schwalbe Marathons.…. I have to say it was the driest 3 month trip you could imagine so the lack of crap picked up to wear the Bike out was noticeable… The Only mechanicals, 2 broken cable and about 4 punctures. Get your bike looked over/serviced before you go and remember this, when you ride your bike normally, what usually goes wrong… I bet nothing.….

    Reply
  51. Ben

    I haven’t read all the comments so I don’t know if it’s been mentioned (I’ll also hold my hands up here and say I work there) but if we’re talking mid-high end touring bikes then Spa Cycles are worth looking at — http://www.spacycles.co.uk there is now a steel tourer available which is competitively priced.

    If we’re talking relatively small UK touring ‘brands’ then Thorn would be worth mentioning too.

    Reply
    • Tom Allen

      Thanks Ben! I haven’t included Thorn here as they’re a bit pricey for the mid-range, but I’ll do so in a future piece on higher end tourers…

      Reply
      • Ben

        No problem, really enjoyed the film on Tuesday in Leeds. Has given me even more enthusiasm for riding the 270 miles home to Dorset for xmas in a week or so. :)

        Reply
  52. Ian

    Was wondering why you haven’t put any of the Thorn Bikes on your list?..Maybe the Sherpa would be a good mid-range,no?
    Ian

    Reply
  53. yuri

    Touring bikes are great if you need full camping gear. I rode a kona Jake the snake lisbon-istanbul, cuba etc, cyclocross bikes should be considered for light touring is.bivy sack and no cooking gear. Super fast, built strong to off road and just more fun and nimble to ride, if that’s your thing. I haven’t been carrying front panniers though, not sure how would ride. I’d encourage really trying to lighten everything up, gear and bike, more rewarding — but this does assume staying within a few hundred km of a store/restaurant/hostel although can be self sufficient for a few days.

    Just love this site, ride on tom!

    Reply
    • Tom Allen

      Thanks Yuri. I can count the number of times I’ve been more than a day’s ride from supplies on the fingers of one hand. Almost everyone could “lighten up” and go fast and nimble. I guess it depends on your priorities for being on the road!

      Reply
  54. Danny Rees

    Hi Tom, just discovered your website and am so inspired that my wife, daughter and I are planning a tour to Paris next year. Anyway…I have a Specialized Sirrus hybrid that to my novices eye seems to be similar to most of the touring bikes above. The only obvious difference being aluminum frame, flat bars and no racks etc. The components all seem similar. Would there be much point in changing to a tourer? Cheers.

    Reply
    • Tom Allen

      If you can fit a rear rack to that frame, you’re good to go. Even if you can’t, a seatpost rack will do you from here to Paris. Enjoy!

      Reply
  55. Wesley McCann

    Hi Tom, I´ve been falling you for over a year and love the movie and the book. I feel like the world is telling me to move south–I´m in Colombia right now and I want to go to Argentina. I am looking into bikes to buy here, and it is very difficult to find aone in a place full of little people (I´m 193cm tall). But that is a problem that I can manage.

    Here in Bogota, these types of cargo racks (http://bogotacity.olx.com.co/biciclta-panadera-iid-578339198) are very popular and they can definately hold a bunch of weight (they usually come in black). I know that there would be wind issues, especially with the front rack–but what do you think of mounting one of these on the back or possibly mounting on both the front and the back of a bike. I´m not too worried about speed but much more worried about control.

    On another note, I bought this from kickstarter (http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/flykly/flykly-smart-wheel) and when it is developed and shipped to me this summer, I plan to use it to get from point A to point B… I don´t know if it will work or not, the only downside is that I cannot change gears with it… We´ll see.

    On another note–can you recommend a book for learning how to repair/assemble a bike…

    Thanks in advance for the advice and I will probably have a hundred more questions in the coming weeks and months… Say hi to your brother Ben for me… If everything goes to hell in a handbasket, I might just fly to Lebanon in February for the big event.

    Reply
    • Tom Allen

      Hey Wes… faced with a cargo rack decision like that, the only way to know for sure is to take one for a test ride. I think you’d attract a fair amount of attention if you did go with it! :)

      The Park Tool website is the number one resource for bicycle repair tuition. I’m not aware of a specific book, though.

      Drop me an email if you have any more questions — always happy to help.

      Reply
  56. Bob Nally

    For anyone looking for a new bike AshCycles (UK) have the Dawes Galaxy Classic 2013 (and many more bikes) discounted to £879.95 with free delivery.

    Reply
  57. b00gi30nd0wn

    Bob Nally!! You may think trying to advertise in here is a good thing which either makes you extremely clever or extremely stupid, which is it folks?? thanks for the info Bob but just encase your advertising here hadn’t noticed this is a about info, advice and camaraderie between true people that have cyling in their heart and you may (or may not) realise this, anyway. guys im a very short woman 4.10 so finding it very hard to find a touring bike to suit me (my mountain bike is 14 inches) but i’m finding it very hard to find something withing my price limit Tom and everyone else, I’m looking for a man’s tourer that can suit my height (I CAN NOT STAND THE LOOK OF WOMANS BIKES) lol so hopefuly I can have Tom or someone else to give me a tip on a “short ass” tourer lol

    Reply
    • Tom Allen

      Does Bob Nally work for Ash Cycles, then? If so, he probably has cycling in his heart too. I’m pleased to hear about it if there’s a relevant deal on, though it would be nice if people disclosed their affiliations of course.

      What’s your price limit, Pam? The 26-inch Surly LHT is available right down to a 42cm frame. After that you’ve got seatpost, saddle, stem and cranks to tweak the fit.

      Reply
  58. George Robertson

    Hi Tom,

    getting ready for a st malo — malaga ride in the spring and am looking at the Specialized Awol:

    http://www.specialized.com/gb/gb/bikes/road/awol

    How would you say it compares with the Kona Sutra?

    Fantastic website, btw.…

    George

    Reply
    • Tom Allen

      It looks like an interesting bike, if a rather specialised one (sorry) — almost a dirt-road racer with luggage racks, which I think is what Kona have tried to do with the Sutra (mistakenly IMHO; should have been a new model altogether). It looks like a bike for light and nimble loads rather than fully-loaded touring, with 32-spoke wheels and the 10-speed Sora chainset. I’d be very interested to hear a road test report if you do go with it.

      Reply
  59. Kevin Jones

    Hi Tom

    I’m planning on building a bike for a round the world adventure but I’m overwhelmed by the choices of frames! Surly, thorn, Kona… The obvious choice for a frame would be a Surly Long Haul, but the geometry doesn’t fill me with excitement. My dream bike and frame is the Santos 2.6 (It looks and feels more like a MTB than a tourer), but at almost £800 for the frame it’s way out of my price range. Flat bars or butterflys are a must for me as I really don’t understand this facination with dropdowns. Top of my list currently and within my price range is a Surly Troll. What are your thoughts about the troll as a world tourer? Should I stick with the tried and tested Surly Long Haul (although I’m not sure if the LHT geometry is ideal for flat bars) or go a bit leftfield and try the Troll?

    Reply
  60. s.vishwa

    i thank for this advice.this would encourage many of them to cycle.i to got encouraged.
    i have cycled about Km400 this is just the start,i think all cyclist belong to one family.

    Reply
  61. Martin Harrison

    Hi Tom,
    Great article thanks! I bought a 2008 Ridgeback Panorma World Tour in 2011 and I have loved every moment on it. It’s the old BMW grey model. I have been an occassional cyclist for much of my life but it was only when i got this bike that it really made me want to do more and more miles. We have done the UK coast to coast and will be doing the Way of the Roses in the next few weeks; also did Penrith to John O’Groats when I met up with friends doing LeJog. It eats up the miles and has been bullet proof. Once it’s rolling it flies and the Deore gearing gets me up anything. If anyone is considering this model I wholeheartedly recommend it. I swapped out the saddle for a Brooks B17 and put Ortlieb panniers on it and both have been unbeatable performers. I only wish I could match them :)
    Cheers
    Mart

    Reply
  62. Vince

    Hello Tom, your website is amazing, well done! I’m about to undertake a long bike tour through Asia and Europe …unfortunately my budget is very limited. I think I will buy the kona sutra but I also saw this bike which I really like http://www.giant-bicycles.com/en-us/bikes/model/anyroad.1/14819/66151/ Can you please give me some advice comparing the two models?

    I will also convert the bike in an e-bike with the golden motor magic pie conversion kit plus a solar panel . Do you think the conversion will affect the efficiency of the bike?

    Thank you very much for the help
    Vince

    Reply
  63. Travel preparations + Gear | Manuel Vargas Evans

    […] reading the reviews of Tom Allen and reading a bit about what is important in a touring bicycle, I became convinced that the Kona […]

    Reply
  64. ericonabike

    Thanks Tom for all your great articles. I think that folding bikes are a serious alternative for long-term touring. Certainly less sturdy but have many advantages, easy to carry on planes or busses if needed or into hotel rooms and tents for added security. They are getting better with more reliable frames, even with full suspension (Reise und Muller birdy touring) and all the best specs up to Rohloff and dynamo hubs. Small wheels are not good beyond tarmac or good dirt tracks but there are a foding bikes with 24″ and 26″, though I will go for 20″ as a perfect balance between comfort, stable handling and still compact size when folded, bearing in mind it may nor be the best option to do the Pamir highway or crossing the Andes.
    There are some models speced for touring with pannier racks, mudguards etc.
    Tern link P24, Dahon MU with alfine 11 and the awsome Birdy. Worth considering.

    Reply
  65. ericonabike

    Sorry, Now I have seen that you have an article about the Tern Link P24 and touring with a folding bike. My suggestion was totally redundant.

    Reply
  66. Mark Jones

    Hi Tom, very interesting article. My wife and I are looking to buy touring bikes. We would use them in Europe initially — we have a small child who will be with us on a seat so we’ll leave Africa and Asia etc for a few years. I was thinking of a Genesis Croix de Fer , 725 reynolds probably rather than the expensive 931. What are your thoughts? Versatile but do you think they fall between two stools. Thanks, Mark

    Reply
    • John Donoghue

      The Surly long Haul Disc Trucker not only Ticks all the Boxes but you will only ever need to purchase this bicycle Once No need to upgrade this bicycle will be perfect and last a lifetime of Touring wherever your dreams take you Go for the 26 wheels far stronger and gives you an extra gear on steep inclines happy cycling

      Reply
  67. Steve Hammond

    Hi Tom — Great site, very informative and helpful.
    I´m looking at setting up my first Touring / Expedition rig.

    Wondering if you wouldn´t mind commenting on Santos Bikes out of Holland?
    I see they make some great looking touring bikes, but only in Aluminium.…I asked them why they dont do Steel and their reply was that the Steel / Belt Drive combination is not good, ie to flexible and that the belt will wear just as fast as a regular chain, therefore, they go with Aluminium?? Any comment.
    Also, thoughts on the Belt Drive in Combination with a Rohloff Hub??

    I´m looking at a go anywhere, do anything rig…2 week tours in Europe and RTW adventures.

    Thanks if you can help me out and keep up the great work :)

    Cheers.

    Reply
    • chris

      Hi guys, spoilt for choices,the steel v ali debate?? V brake or disc??Santos i havent seen but if its dutch id expect its a good bike, like koga who use aluminium for rtw touring(a reason people like ali is light for air transit, and it wont rust like steel) but can be a harsh ride,so invest in a suspension seat and a brooks saddle,backside will thank ya..Roholf or mech?? Roholf belt drive i have met a tourer using and he was happy with it, expensive combo but if it rolls for 100,000klm and comp have good rep. As it comes to preference and trail n error..I a bit like yourself wanted a rtw expadition bike. I got a thorn ripio frame which i then built up myself …doing that i chose my best spec bits xt tubus fsa brookes ergo etc( finding good reductions online) and most important get to know how it goes together ..useful as often u must rely on yourself to fix the problem and keep those wheels rolling:-) i like steel frames as they flex and are more comfortable with luggage…frames i would say are worth considering are as mentioned by others, surly lht , thorn and an excellent other is onone.…another option is to find a good old used bike/steel frame i.e 90’s atb/mtb models by specialised, trek, orange and upgrade as reqiured. Invest in strong wheels if offroading full loaded and good tyres, schwable marathon xr are excellent and after 20,000 klms they still got tread. A final thought an expensive shiny touring bike looks great to the owner and a theif, to protect my ride i wrap the frame in old inner tube and tape so protecting frame from damage and making my pride and joy look like a dirty ol ride! Thats all folks:-)

      Reply
      • Tom Allen

        Thanks for the contribution!

        Sadly the Schwalbe Marathon XR was discontinued years ago now :(

        Reply
        • chris

          Hi tom and troops„, yeah the xr was too good „buy once product, found early originals recently 2 in holland…(where else.. for any tourers holland is ur candy store). So what u rollin on these days??? p.s u on a tour??? Bon route:-)

          Reply
  68. Prawn

    I’ve got a KHS TR-101, bought from Cycle Surgery. Since these are relatively uncommon, I thought I’d put up my thoughts.

    It’s a lovely bike to ride and I’ve done 2 3-week trips to New Zealand South Island on it, usually somewhere between 50 and 100km a day. But I do think the brakes are not good enough for a tourer — I’m going to switch mine out after realising as I coasted down from Arthurs’ Pass in the rain with a loaded bike that I couldn’t stop even if I wanted to — and the mudguard fittings have been annoying — little plastic clips which pop ou, and which don’t hold the guard far out, so it rubs the tyres if the guard gets even slightly warped. Both easily replaced though. I’ve carried medium weights on it — prob. ca. 20kg — with ease, using both front and back racks and it feels very smooth and well-balanced. In fact, I think it’s the easiest bike I’ve ever ridden in that respect. Even the stock saddle is OK although I’m finally switching to a Brooks.

    I don’t find the gears allow me to get up big hills when it’s loaded (but that might be just me — I’m not very gritty about hills.…) but it’s very smooth to handle and way faster than most other bikes off the bigger hills.

    I’ve done almost all on road on it and wouldn’t do off road again after an 80km run on the gravel Mavora Lakes road — it coped but it wasn’t nice (could have been the headwind…).

    I’m planning one or two more 3 week tours on it (New Zealand again, and then maybe Sri Lanka) but am trying to work out whether in the long term I should just upgrade the parts, or actually invest in another bike. It’s a lovely cycle though — I’d really recommend it, although if you are looking for a real round-the-world workhorse it might be worth looking at some of the more established models.

    Prawn

    Reply
    • chris

      No bike is without problems, it aint about the bike without blood, sweat and tears :-X

      Reply
  69. Shaun Cunningham

    Hi Tom,

    Have found your website invaluable in the preparation of a bike trip my brother and I are making from London to Istanbul on August 10 (our first bike trip). I bought your book this afternoon on Amazon too as it should be a handy guide on the trip.

    I’m just about to buy a bike and have come down to the Dawes Galaxy 2014 for £691 and the Raleigh Sojourn, which I founded hugely discounted here for £689 (down from £1,100!): http://www.ashcycles.com/site/raleigh-sojourn-2013 . I’d be very grateful if you (or anyone else on this page) could suggest what you think would be the better buy for my budget of £700?

    Cheers,
    Shaun

    Reply
    • Tom Allen

      Hi Shaun

      Very glad you’ve found this site useful.

      In my experience, which touring bike to buy depends on choosing the right tool for the job, and seeing what feels good to ride. I’m going to guess that you’re fairly sure both these bikes will meet your needs, but that you haven’t tried either of them out. So the only useful suggestion I can offer is to see which you can test-ride locally. On paper they’re as good as identical. You can discuss specification charts until the cows come home but it’ll all be irrelevant once you’ve actually started riding.

      Ideally you’d test-ride both, but if you can only try one, then at least you can either eliminate it from your shortlist or confirm that it’ll do the job — then buy it.

      The other critical reason for testing bikes out is to ensure that you get the right size, as incorrectly-sized bikes are the biggest source of discomfort and even injury on tour.

      Hope this helps!

      Tom

      Reply
      • Shaun Cunningham

        Thanks a lot for the tip Tom and appreciate you taking the time out to respond to me.

        I’m based in HK and so unfortunately won’t be able to test-ride either of them (only a narrow window in London and they have to be ordered in advance), but if you say that the specs are identical then it makes the decision a bit easier — comes down to the aesthetics now!

        Cheers,
        Shaun

        Reply
  70. Andy

    I am planning a touring for next year, I was thinking to get a bicycle with a 29″ rim using a 28c tyre, i also plan to use mavic hubs, but i am not sure how tough a mavic hub can be on long touring distances, i guess i may not have problems as far i get some spare bearings and parts for the hubs. any suggestion about the rim sizes? will a 27″ rim do the same job as a 29″ rim size? I have seen that NS has some cool looking hubs, i know they are for dirt-jump bikes, but those are something i consider dues they are do to resist hard impact of daily trainings, but my doubt is if a a hub for hard impact interfere with speed and smooth riding, by logic i guess it doesn’t interfere depending on what bearing it uses…am i right?
    Ps.: i enjoy cycling fast. lol

    Reply
    • Andy

      i found some other hub, the DT Swiss looks pretty good… but they don’t have a nice front hub with Disk break, that is what is pity, but i may get normal brakes, cos the disk brake has a high cost maintenance …

      Reply
    • Tom Allen

      Where are you going? Your primary consideration is spare parts availability. 26″ or 700c wheels are the only sensible choice for 99% of tours, and I wouldn’t recommend anything other than Shimano cup-and-cone hubs with loose bearings and easy maintenance, ideally XT. They’re tour proven and won’t need a second thought.

      Reply
  71. Mark

    Hi Tom,
    I was wondering if you had any experience or knowledge of the Cinelli Hobo? It does seem to come as a fairly complete package as well as a 61 frame which is good for a tall person like myself.

    regards

    Mark

    Reply
    • Tom Allen

      I’m afraid I don’t! Sorry! It does look like a good bike, though.

      Reply
    • Lee

      I have a cinelli hobo for mixed trail touring. I find it incredibly comfortable and a really good load hauler. Some of the stock parts are pretty poor, particularly the FSA alpha drive chainset (replaced with Deore, and the alex rims on sora hubs which i’ve recently replaced. The weakest part of the setup for me is the microshift bar end shifters… I had real trouble keeping them indexed. I have swapped for an old pair of Tiagra STI shifters and these feel much better with a deore chainset and rear mech.

      It has shorter chainstays than my old galaxy but still has plenty of heel clearance fitted with ortlieb classic panniers. The bars are the most comfortable I have ever used!

      Overall i’m really pleased with it as it suits my choice of riding on mixed road, track and trail with a nice blend of cyclocross and touring capabilities… just a shame the marketing around the bike is so goddamn annoying!

      Reply
  72. Nick

    Hello Tom

    Many thanks for your excellent website. I’m thinking of doing Land’s End to John O’Groats and have seen a Raleigh Gran Tour at our local cycle shop. It seemed fine on a trial run round the block. Any significant pros or cons that I need to be aware of?

    Thanks

    Nick

    Reply
    • John Donoghue

      Nick check out the Surly Long Haul Disc Trucker it will be the best Touring Bike you will ever buy and will take you anywhere wheel size go for 26 and you can travel the world buy once not twice

      Reply
      • Nick

        Thanks John. I’ll check it out.

        Another issue that’s coming up is tourers vs endurance bikes. Any strong preferences either way, anyone?

        Reply
  73. Peter B

    Love the site, especially the discussions on this page!

    I’m interested in your views on bar-end shifters. My wife’s Sabbath Silk Route was stolen in Amsterdam recently and she’s loathe to spend quite so much on a replacement. Many of the sub-£1,000 tourers seem to have bar-end shifters and she’s a bit nervous about taking them on. What are the pros and cons compared with integrated brake lever shifters? Quite like the look of the Genesis Tour de Fer but the bar end shifters are the only sticking point.

    Reply
    • Tom Allen

      Pros: Simple, durable, reliable.

      Cons: Less efficient to actually operate; inexperienced users whack their knees on them.

      For a long-term tourer I’d take bar-end or downtube shifters over STIs any day.

      Reply
  74. Stephen Popplewell

    i was stranded in london on the 4th aug (after losing my oyster and bank cards) leaving me with just £10 and a predicament a quick look on gumtree found me a nearby bike (complete with 21 speeds and rack and double panniers inc cycle comp for my insane budget and now 10 days later its covered 120 miles and by far best buy ever for a tenner :-)

    Reply
  75. Oliver

    Hi Tom, I believe the bikes from German Company Tout Terrain have a good name as well. Namely the “Silkroad” seems a fantastic bike to me. Expensive but has all the gimmicks I like to have (Rohloff and disc brakes). http://www.en.tout-terrain.de/bicycles/silkroad/

    Reply
  76. Tim Fisher

    3864 miles thus far (26 Sept 2014) around Britain and without doubt the most popular bike is the Dawes, maybe 80% (?) streel framed in the majority, and whilst we are at it, Ortlieb panniers, also in the majority.

    I am on a 2008 Dawes SG. Rubbish cantilever brakes — to be replaced in short order. Replaced the wheels as the rims were concave, but she is an eBay Special (£590) likewise the four panniers (£83). Fantastic combo with Tubus steel racks.

    Reply
  77. Building a tall bike | tallbiketour

    […] started thinking about this tour; my thoughts immediately went to the tried&true options for bike touring (Surly LHT for example), and I was waiting for a deal to pounce on online for months.  But living […]

    Reply
  78. JD

    Hello Tom & Co.,

    Do you have input on preferred bikes / systems for long rides with two young kids?

    Preferably sub-$2,000 (US), with a granny gear, and disc brakes.

    I am trying to figure out which adult touring bike (and system) to use with my kids. The four-year old child will be in an attached trailer bike (with coupler), and the two-year old child will be in a chariot trailer behind that (via skewer hub)…unless someone has a better idea.

    I already own a Specialized Tarmac for zipping around, and a Santa Cruz mountain bike for the trails. For a few years, I’ve reluctantly used my carbon fiber Tarmac for pulling my oldest child in the Chariot trailer. The ergonomics are all wrong, especially in the hills.

    Now I have both a four-year old and a two-year old child, plus we live in major mountains. I want to do LONG family rides, and commutes around town (paved / gravel mixed). Ideally the bike could also be used for (solo) century rides. Once they are older, I’d like to explore multi-day touring with me on the same bike.

    Salsa Vaya? Trek 520? Surly LHT, Cross Check, or Straggler?

    Big thanks!

    Reply
  79. ALISTAIR Macdonald

    Tom, I just wanted to say a very big thank-you for helping me choose the right touring bike. After spending many evenings checking your advice and loads of websites, I finally opted for a Dawes Galaxy Classic. I took your advice and went via eBay to Kingsway Cycles of Cambridge. I paid £900 instead of £1300 for a 2014 model!
    More importantly, it’s the right bike. I’ve only done about 60 miles since Saturday, but it’s really excellent. Kingsway are a great bike shop and really nice to deal with — none of that irritating superiority complex so common in good bike shops. I’d recommend them. Again, thank you.
    Alistair

    Reply
    • Tim

      Seven things:

      Now the bike is bedding-in, before a big trip, have the LBS tighten your spokes and true the wheel(s) as required.

      Take the time to ensure that the inside of the wheel rims have wide tape, not plastic or thin tape — you will thank me when you don’t get pinch-flats from the inner spoke nipples.

      Chop out the brakes for V brakes. I have the same cantilever brakes, and they’re poor. It’s my next upgrade after upgrading my wheel set — as you can tell, this is real-world experience talking here!

      If you fit a Ortleib (or similar) bar mounted bag, replace the existing gear cables with extra long ones since they are a little too short as standard and will crop over time and your gear shifting will become increasing difficult and then the front mech’ will cease working.

      If you are running Shimano gearing,chain etc make sure the jockey wheels are not a 3rd party set, if so, buy Shimano ones, they work better than others.

      You will notice as you ride, most of the touring bikes you’ll encounter are Dawes; how cool is that?

      The enjoyment of your adventure is reflected in the width of your daft Cheshire-Cat grin, so grin, then grin some more!

      Reply
    • Tom Allen

      Fantastic! I hope you get many years of touring enjoyment from it!

      Reply

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