Cheap Touring Bikes for Budget Bicycle Adventures in 2018

Last updated in April 2018.

As cycle touring has exploded in popularity in recent years, a handful of manufacturers have begun producing cheap touring bikes aimed at cycle tourists on a low budget. In this article we’re going to have a look at some of the entry-level options available in to UK buyers.

Cheap Touring Bikes – What To Expect

When I say ‘low budget’, don’t expect prices as cheap as those sub-£100 spam bikes from Halfords. There’s a line below which a cheap touring bike would be so full of compromises and therefore so unfit for its intended purpose that it wouldn’t be worth making or selling it. Touring bikes need to be able to do a lot of miles and carry a lot of luggage – something that will never change.

The entry-level price point for touring bikes is therefore roughly between £400 and £650 GBP.

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

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

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

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

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

All the usual advice regarding buying bikes online applies equally here. Having said that, let’s have a look at some of the cheapest touring bikes on offer right now in the new touring bike market…


Adventure Flat White (RRP £440)

First up from Adventure Outdoor Co (a sub-brand of Sportline, one of the UK’s biggest bicycle distributors) is the Flat White, part of their series of entry-level bikes. It’s an impressive effort to produce what is probably the cheapest off-the-peg touring bike on the market in the UK right now.

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

Read more at the Adventure Outdoor Co website, or read a review of the Flat White by an experienced bike builder right here. I’ve found them online at Very.co.uk, as well as Damian Harris Cycles in Cardiff, Freeborn in Horsham, and Swinnerton Cycles in Stoke-on-Trent.


Roux Etape 150 (RRP £530)

roux-etape-150

The Roux Etape 150 is a classically-styled road touring bike based on an aluminium frame and a basic 3x7sp drivetrain. It has all the features you’d expect from a budget touring bike in this list. It’s available in just 3 rather middling sizes – especially tall or short riders will probably need to look elsewhere.

On paper, you’ll find little to choose from between this and other bikes in this list. The Etape 150, however, will probably be one of the harder ones to find and test-ride – which, as we all know, is the single best way to avoiding buying the wrong touring bike.

Read more at the Roux website, from where you can also order online. It’s also sold by Broadribb Cycles in Bicester.


Ridgeback Tour (RRP £600)

ridgeback-tour

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

The 3x8sp mountain-bike drivetrain with an Acera rear derailleur and an 11-32t cassette – a step up from the Flat White and the Etape 150 – gives the Tour a very good range of gear ratios, and the Continental Contact tyres are above average: expect to get a good few thousand miles out of these. Other plus points include 36-spoke wheels, toe clips, a sturdy rear rack, and a range of 5 frame sizes. Ridgeback are well distributed; it shouldn’t be hard to find a dealer in your area.

Read more at the Ridgeback website. Your best bet for trying one out (or buying online) is probably Evans Cycles*, with stores all over the UK.


Dawes Galaxy (£650)

Dawes Galaxy 2018

Long known as the archetypical British road touring bike, the Dawes Galaxy moves down to the bottom of Dawes’ current range with an RRP of £650. For the money, you get a remarkably accomplished machine with one of the longest-running British bike manufacturers’ names behind it.

Very close on paper to the Ridgeback Tour above, the Galaxy is fitted with Schwalbe Marathon tyres, which will get you across a continent or two before needing replacement. Gearing is a little road-oriented in terms of lowest ratios available (28×32), but this isn’t a deal-breaker.

What’s particularly nice is that Dawes have seen fit to offer a step-through version (the Galaxy Low Step) at the same price and specification, especially for shorter (and probably female) riders.

Check out the official webpage, from where you can also order online. Dawes bikes are generally available very widely in the UK, but Evans Cycles* as usual has the greatest reach of any one chain.


How To Get Cheap Touring Bikes Even Cheaper

Whether online or in store, getting good discounts on bikes is usually a case of timing.

New season models start rolling out over winter, but sales decline at this time of year. Come springtime, however, most stores will start flogging off any left-over stock with greater urgency to make way for incoming new stock. Discounts are generally around the 25-35% mark. (This often coincides with the time a lot of people start drawing up their touring plans for the summer. Handy.)

Summer/autumn is peak bike-buying season and old-stock models will have long since been snapped up, making it the worst time to get a good deal on a bike.

A Quick Word On Buying The Right Bike

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

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

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

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

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

Click here for a map/list of UK-based touring bike specialists, any one of whom will sort you right out.

Upgrading Cheap Touring Bikes

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

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

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

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

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

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

Understanding Touring Bikes For Epic Expeditions

Choosing a touring bike for the ride of a lifetime?

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

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31 Responses to “Cheap Touring Bikes for Budget Bicycle Adventures in 2018”

  1. Sandra

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

    Reply
    • Tom Allen

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

      Reply
      • Sandra

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

        Reply
  2. Ilona

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

    Reply
    • Tom Allen

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

      Reply
  3. Sandra

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

    Reply
  4. Ram

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

    What is your opinion on that bike?

    Reply
  5. Tony

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Reply
    • Tony

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

      Reply
  6. Mike

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

    Reply
  7. Aaron Nelson

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

    Reply
    • Melanie

      Hi Aaron,

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

      Reply
    • Carlos

      Thanks for the guide Tom. After touring for some years on hybrid bikes, we need to replace one of our bikes and are looking at some budget options to upgrade to a proper touring bike. As I have access to the cycle to work scheme, I may have to go mainstream so leaning towards the Dawes Galaxy however, Chain Reaction has a good deal on the Fuji Touring at the moment.

      So, with a 25% discount, at £636, the Fuji has CrMo frame, and Deore and Alivio components all for the same price as the Galaxy. It feels like a better deal. Would love to find a comparison of both bikes to help my decision.

      Reply
      • Tom Allen

        Hey Carlos – if the bike looks comparable on paper, the only way to decide from this point on is to test-ride it! Perhaps you could find an LBS that stocks it?

        Reply
        • Carlos

          Yes, that’s what I’ve been trying to do but the combination of Halfords cycle2work vouchers, it’s a touring bike and it’s a Fuji, which seem to have a limited distribution network in the UK, is making it very hard to find a LBS which has one to test… and I live in London.

          My LBS suggests the Ridgeback Tour or Voyage over the the Dawes Galaxy, which they believe is overpriced. But the 2018 Tour is £750 and the Voyage £850. Will continue searching.

          Reply
  8. Ric Moffet

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

    Reply
  9. Quentin Silvand

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

    Reply
    • Tom Allen

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

      Reply
      • quentin

        we will leave probably in July. I am gutted, we bought x2 fuji Touring 2017 bikes from a german website which turned out to be a scam and we lost all the money. went to the police and all but money is gone. now looking again at cheap options. on your list though it seems quite a few are now hard to find. the Adventure flat white is just out of stock everywhere. Edinburgh coop seem to have less bikes these days. really stuck as what to get now.

        Reply
  10. Colin

    Very interesting reviews of budget touring bikes. I’m very taken with the Flat White but the site doesn’t seem active? I’d like to find out how to purchase one of these as they seem outstanding value.

    Enjoying your blogs

    Colin

    Reply
  11. Steve

    Hi Tom, A bit of a wild card, but people looking for a budget “euro-tourer” as opposed to a “world-tourer” would probably like the Decathlon “Hop-rider 500” priced at £400. 700c, 38c, triple shimano and hub dynamo to boot. lightly loaded this would make a fine short to medium distance machine. Could be easily upgraded as things wear. Although I use a dropped barred tourer, I would definitely consider this for relaxed trips up the Danube, Canals of Holland etc, etc. Also available in ladies frame.
    https://www.decathlon.co.uk/hoprider-500-urban-hybrid-bike-id_8405476.html

    Reply
  12. Julia

    Hello Tom, have you come across the Kalkhof range? I’ve only just come across it – I’m on a quest to find a bike for modest length trails (20 – 40 miles at the moment). My current bike is a Dutch-style McKenzie with all of 3 gears. I’ve just found a Kalkhof Voyager 21 2018 step-through Hybrid bike. I like the upright position and 3 years in Germany biases me towards German design but I know nothing about bikes beyond how to ride one. Any thoughts?

    Reply

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