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The Best Cheap (Sub-£1,000) Touring Bikes for Low-Budget Adventures

Last updated in March 2020.

As cycle touring and bikepacking have exploded in popularity, many manufacturers have begun producing cheap, entry-level touring bikes aimed at cyclists and travellers on a low budget.

In this post, we’re going to have a look at some of the best cheap touring bikes that have stood the test of time and proven themselves reliable on real-world bike trips.

What To Expect From An Entry-Level Touring Bike

When I say ‘low budget’ or ‘cheap’, don’t forget that a touring bike still needs the durability to cover a lot of miles while carrying a lot of luggage – otherwise it isn’t worth buying at all.

In this article, then, I have classified a cheap, entry-level touring bike as any touring-specific bicycle with a recommended retail price (RRP) of £1,000 or less.

Why? Because the most popular ‘premium’ touring bikes cost a lot more than this. ‘Cheap’ is relative.

For under £1,000, you can expect to get a brand new touring bike from a reputable manufacturer that will serve you well if you understand its limitations.

And if you find a good clearance deal in the low season (see the note at the bottom of this article), you could pay much less.

Entry-level touring bikes available in the UK are usually road-oriented, with classic touring geometry, 700C wheels, drop handlebars, cantilever rim brakes, and drivetrain components taken from the budget end of Shimano’s mountain-biking and road component ranges.

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

Don’t expect a front rack or lowrider to be included as standard, and expect contact parts like saddle, pedals, grips and tyres to be designed to get you started rather than to keep you going for the long haul.

These bikes are a good choice if you want to give cycle touring a try but don’t want to invest too much in a high-end touring bike or bikepacking rig before you’re sure cycle touring is for you. Entry-level touring framesets are often good for upgrading as your touring ambitions grow; and if you find you just don’t get on with bicycle travel, you can sell the bike and cut your losses.

All the usual advice regarding buying bikes online applies equally with cheap touring bikes. Having said that, let’s have a look at some of the best-value options available today.


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 here.


Dawes Galaxy 2020 (RRP £700)

Dawes Galaxy 2020 Touring Bike

Long known as the archetypical British road touring bike, the Galaxy is the entry-level model in Dawes’ current range. 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 (see below), the Galaxy is fitted with Schwalbe Marathon tyres, which will get you across a continent or two before needing replacement. Gearing is definitely road-oriented, with a low ratio of 28x32.

Check out more details on the official Dawes webpage, where you can order this bike online and find local dealers. It’s also available at Cycle Solutions.


Ridgeback Tour 2019 (RRP £800)

ridgeback-tour

Ridgeback’s touring bike series has gone from strength to strength in the last few years, with an increasing number of long-distance riders using the Panorama, and a move into 26-inch wheel 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.

The 3x8sp mountain-bike drivetrain with an Acera rear derailleur and an 11–32t cassette gives the Tour a very good range of gear ratios, and the Continental Contact tyres are above average: 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.

If you think you might want to upgrade at a later date, you might also consider the steel-framed Voyage (RRP £999).

Read more about the Ridgeback Tour and find dealer listings on the Ridgeback website, or buy online from Tredz.


Fuji Touring 2020 (RRP £800)

Japanese manufacturer Fuji’s entry-level touring bike, simply named the Touring, features a Reynolds 520 cromoly frameset with classic drop-bar touring geometry. It’s prime for upgrades and additions, with three bottle cage mounts on the frame, and lowrider mounts on the fork.

Strong 36-spoke wheels on Shimano Deore hubs, plus a durable mid-range Shimano MTB groupset and bar-end Microshift shifters, point to high ambitions in a good-value package.

Extra touches include LED front and rear lights, toe clips, a choice of two colours, and no fewer than six frame sizes – particularly interesting for short or tall riders.

Read more about the Fuji Touring bike on the official website, or buy online from Wiggle or Chain Reaction Cycles.


Pro Tip #1: How To Get A Cheap Touring Bike Even Cheaper

Whether online or in store, getting discounts on touring bikes is all about timing.

New season models start rolling out over winter, but sales decline at this time of year. So, in January, most stores will start clearing old stock to make space for new season bikes. Discounts are generally around 25–35%, but can be more.

Late spring and summer is peak bike-buying season, making it the worst time to get a good deal on a bike.

Pro Tip #2: How To Avoid Buying The Wrong Bike

As I’ve mentioned many times elsewhere, the safest 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 the list above or top-end expedition bike to take you round the world.

Related to this, if you’re having a hard time choosing between a small number of models on your shortlist, it’s probably because the one to choose will be the one that feels right when you test-ride it – and you haven’t test-ridden them yet.

This list of specialist, UK-based touring bike shops might help here…

Pro Tip #3: Some Advice On 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 more durable set such as the Marathon Plus or Mondial), and the racks (Tubus’ cromoly racks are second to none).

You might also consider getting the basic headset switched out for a more durable cartridge-bearing unit.

Upgrading these parts 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 on the road.

You might also consider building your own touring bike on a budget.


Any other good-value 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.)

36 replies on “The Best Cheap (Sub-£1,000) Touring Bikes for Low-Budget Adventures”

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.

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.

Surly LHT’s are available for a grand these days — active sport i think doing 33% off. same with the Surly Cross also a cracking tourer without the nobblies. The 700 wheels are better than 26 imo, as they are more flexible for all round usage particularly if wanting to use it as your only bike. Otherwise, if you’re hauling mega lots on the racks, then there’s no better than the 26 LHT imo

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!

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

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.

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.

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.

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… :/

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

Do you mind telling us which website it was? I live in Germany and will likely buy from something nearby!

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

Hi Tom, Yes the link does sort of work but no way to purchase on the site or a list of stockists. I believe they come under the group Madison and have emailed them for some help on this.

Colin

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

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?

Hi Tom, I love your website and have learned so much from it, so many thanks. Just a thought on your list of budget touring bikes. I seems to me that most bikes sold for “touring”, in the UK at least, are less than ideal in two principal respects. Firstly, they mostly have drop handlebars. To be honest, hardly anyone tours with drop these days, except (mainly English) traditionalists of mature years! Why can’t manufacturers get up to date and offer flat bars with decent bar ends? Secondly, and this is related to the type of bars, the gearing on most “touring” bikes is not really low enough for grinding up long steep hills with loaded panniers. In my respectful opinion a sensible touring bike will have more or less MTB gearing which is easier to achieve with flat bars. For what it’s worth, I am 69 years old and have been cycle touring for only about 5 years. I have learned from experience and experimentation. I bought a bike to help recover from two hip replacements, and became quite hooked! The problem was I bought a Boardman hybrid which wasn’t really suitable for cycle touring but over the years I have experimented with various handlebar set-ups and have changed from a double to a triple chainset combined with a big cassette, which gives very low gearing. It’s a bit of a compromise but does ok for simple UK touring such a the English Coast to Coast and a recent trip across Scotland.

Thanks again and keep up the good work

Dennis

I wouldn’t be able to write a dedicated article without riding one for a good amount of time. Having looked at the spec, the lack of racks and the road groupset (among other things) mean it doesn’t really fit the mould of a classic off-the-peg touring bike – more a gravel bike you might occasionally use with light bikepacking luggage.

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