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

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New this year at the budget end of the UK touring bike market is the Adventure Flat White, an entry-level road tourer whose RRP of £430 makes it the cheapest off-the-peg touring bike in the UK (at the time of writing).

Being abroad for an extended period of time and thus unable to try the bike myself, I invited Richard of Oxford Bike Works (who recently bought himself a Flat White to see how they’d made it so cheap) to deliver his verdict on it. Take it away, Richard…

Two disclaimers from the outset:

  1. These comments are written very much from a specification point of view.
  2. As the owner of Oxford Bike Works and a designer and maker of my own touring bikes, I have a vested interest in getting people into touring in the hope that they may one day buy one of my bikes.

The Flat White has a steel frame, and it’s not that heavy. Unsurprisingly, the white paintwork looks a bit, er, flat…


Unusually at this price point, the frame is of lugged construction, except at the bottom bracket shell (which is tig welded).

Amazingly, the frame has every single braze-on you’d expect of a good touring bike – a third set of bottle cage mounts under the downtube, lowrider braze-ons on the front forks, and rack and mudguard braze-ons at the rear.

That said, everything about the frame is executed with a crudeness that you might expect for such a cheap bike. The frame’s lugs are very thick, and there are signs of excess solder on the tubes and the lugs that have been painted over. In places, you can see where an angle grinder has been used to smooth off imperfections.

Despite all this, there’s no evidence to suggest the frame is weak – it’s just a bit agricultural in its construction.


For me, the real compromises start with the equipment hung on the frame.

The saddle is hard and poorly padded with a fragile covering, and if there’s one thing that needs to be right on a touring bike, it’s the saddle.

The mudguards are equally flimsy and unlikely to get you out of England unscathed. The tight clearances mean it won’t allow stuff flung up by the tyres to go anywhere.

The rear rack is equally flimsy and has a spring clip on it that will probably rattle and annoy the rider to insanity before too long.


The gearing range is limited – a compact double chainring at the front and 12–28 tooth cassette at the rear won’t help people grow to love cycle touring, because what a cycle tourist needs from a touring bike is gears that will keep him or her moving regardless of gradient and load.

Another criticism is the use of cantilever brakes, which never have much stopping power. In the Alps with a heavy load, for example, this could be quite stressful.

The bar tape is flimsy and lacks padding, and the plastic pedals won’t last very long at all.


Apart from these shortcomings, the bike is awesome.

What amazes me about Shimano is the ability of the company to produce gearing systems at every price point that still work. Unlike other commenters, I’d have no qualms about touring on a Shimano Tourney groupset – I know that Shimano components work if properly adjusted. Okay, it might not last as long as higher-end groupsets, and the shifting won’t be as refined. But on tour you just want stuff to work, which it does, and I think Madison have got it right with this groupset at this price.

The Schwalbe Tyrago 700x35 tyres look like cyclocross tyres, but should serve admirably in the short term. The wheels are machine built from unbranded rims and hubs – again, fit for purpose in the short term.

Adventure Flat White

This is the perfect entry level touring bike for someone who’d like to try cycle touring without spending a load of money.

You could buy this bike new for £430 take it on a tour, and if you decided you hated cycle touring (unlikely) you could sell it for £300 when you got back.

If you loved it, on the other hand, you could sell the bike and use the money as a downpayment on something better suited to your new aspirations and broader horizons.

Either way, it’s an inexpensive way to get started.

In summary:

If you want to try cycle touring for the first time, this is a good bike to buy. If you already have experience of cycle touring, there are probably too many annoying compromises to make it a sensible choice.

Thanks, Richard! Check out the Adventure Flat White budget touring bike here. It’s available from a growing number of UK bike retailers.

Comments (skip to respond)

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

  1. What happened to these bikes?

    1. The brand dropped it from their line-up a couple of years ago. It seems they’re now more focused on e‑bikes and children’s bikes.

  2. Hey, posting after some years from my original reply.
    I have now upgraded to Tiagra and of course have changed wheels and rear hub.
    It is excellent!

  3. Mark Hardy avatar
    Mark Hardy

    Bought one from Amazon on the strength of this review.
    My 15YO son rode it on a tour of Normandy in July and absolutely loves it. I had to adjust the brakes and I fitted different pedals, otherwise it was ridden pretty much out of the box. I was working to a tight budget and along with budget decathlon pannier bags and some bargain remainder camping gear enabled our adventure. We will be touring again next year sometime. I think a brake upgrade will be worth doing, otherwise I’m only envisaging a quick service.

    1. Great to hear, Mark! Thanks so much for posting this update for the benefit of other readers.

  4. Mark Collins avatar
    Mark Collins

    Superb technical review and excellent comments from users and future buyers. I’m just getting into cycle touring and have completed 2 and 3 days ventures (time is my biggest enemy sadly!) around the UK.

    I’m currently riding a Boardman CX fitted with a Tortec TransAlp Pannier rack with Ortlieb panniers and rack pack. Its fairly well balanced at the rear, but the bike is quite front heavy. I’m assuming that the Flat White will be better balanced? I’ll be looking to purchase a ‘proper’ touring bike next year but will have a limited budget of about £800 for an entry level bike. 

    Any suggestions greatly appreciated.

  5. I’m considering getting a 2nd hand version of this bike for just under £300. It has been damaged by a car, various dents etc. Worth investing in a damaged, but working version of this for someone new to touring?

    1. If it’s been in a collision it’s very possible that the frame has been structurally compromised. At the very least I would get it checked out by a professional bike mechanic – ideally with frame building experience – before considering buying it.

    2. There winstanleysbikes has it for 350 at present.

  6. I bought a Flat White in Feb 2019 for a long distance charity bike ride. It’s got me into long distance cycling and it has been a fantastic purchase. I’ve done day rides of over 100 miles across the Cotswolds and am planning longer rides yet — I don’t regret it for a minute, but the bike has some drawbacks:
    1 The quality control is pretty shocking. For example my headtube badge was stuck on at a ridiculously jaunty angle. I poked it and it just fell off.
    2 Inexplicably (maybe another QC issue) there is absolutely no adjustment on the rear canti brake (aside from pulling the cable through the right canti arm). This is a right pain when the pads start to wear. Adding a barrel adjuster is a 20 min job costing a couple of quid but why should you need to do it?
    3 The wheels were not quite true from the day I bought it. A small imperfection but noticeable when braking (again QC issue).
    4 Upgrading the bike would be a big job — small increments are difficult or impossible. The whole 7x2 speed transmission is pretty much Tourney specific unless you can find parts from the 90s. You basically need to replace the whole transmission and wheels at the same time — the frame probably does not merit the best kit. Parts at this level are cheap to replace though, but wear out quickly. 

    As a positive, yes it’s a heavy bike but the frame is quite a nice ride and comfortable. IMHO unless you’re extremely lean buying a very expensive much lighter bike is less effective for weight reduction than simply eating carefully. 

    If it’s on budget I’d buy it. If you can afford and are willing to buy a more expensive bike I’d seriously consider that too.

  7. It looks like it comes with short brake pads. Not sure it is necessary to put Vs or mini-Vs on this bike. Did anyone who has this bike try putting 70mm XTR-style cartridge upgrade adaptors and pads on this bike? I suspect that would improve braking quite a bit. I use those my cheapo Shimano CT91 cantis and they work just fine.

  8. I bought an Adventure Flat White last spring, to get back into cycling after a long lay off. After fitting a comfier seat and front and rear panniers (£150) I realised that the cantilever brakes struggled to stop a fully-laden bike, so I upgraded them to mini‑V brakes (£25). Now it’s a very capable and immensely practical bike, and if it’s stolen tomorrow I wont be crying myself to sleep because I could replace it three or four times over for the same cos as many other tourers! In summary, yes it’s built to a price but it’s still an absolutely bargain!

    1. Thanks for your reply Danny. I thought about this for a while but ended up buying a Trek 520. It was a preemptive deal so the price was very nice. It will be here in March, can’t wait;)

  9. Bjarni Jónasson avatar
    Bjarni Jónasson

    Thanks for the review Tom. I’m looking for a bike to get me through next winter and perhaps a 700 km one week tour next year on flat paved roads. Do you think this will do the job? I would be the Trek 520 but I’m on a tight budget.

  10. Echoing the review and the comments above, whilst the frame seems pretty solid, I think it makes more sense to sell this bike than make too many upgrades. For example it could do with a triple chainset and bigger range cassette but the LH shifter I believe is specific to a double chainset, so along with cassette, rear derailleur, new chainset (and probably BB), new shifters would be needed, which can be the most expensive part of groupset. 

    The money could be put towards a decent touring frame which can then be dressed up with whatever components suit your style of touring.

  11. I have had this bike now for nearly 3 years. Run a lot of km´s with it. Biggest journey was from Santiago de Compostella to Andalucia throught the whole coast of Portugal and it did not fail me once! (some 2000km).

    I have only upgraded the saddle so far.

    For the near future I will put on some V‑Brakes, cantis now is like having no brakes as well as upgrade the Tourney derailleur a bit.

    Apart from that, the frame is awesome and anything else I need I will just upgrade. Nice one!

  12. Keith Scholey avatar
    Keith Scholey

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

  13. Chugger avatar

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

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

  14. Steven Huffer avatar
    Steven Huffer

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

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

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

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

    Great blog post!

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

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

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

Something to add?