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Is The Touring Bike Slowly Dying Out?

A couple of weeks ago, while updating the all-time most popular post on this blog, “What’s The Best Touring Bike?”, I realised something.

Every year, the list of touring bikes gets shorter.

First we lost bikes that were relatively obscure. One that comes to mind is the Revolution Country Traveller made by the Edinburgh Bicycle Co-operative. This was a fantastic value entry-level tourer and earned great praise as a result. But it was very limited in its distribution, and I’m guessing it didn’t turn much of a profit because it was just so cheap for what it was.

But then, a couple of years back, Dawes quietly announced that the entire Galaxy line was being retired, citing declining sales over time. 

For those unfamiliar with the brand, Dawes are a British outfit who have been making touring bikes for decades. Indeed, when the first Galaxy was launched in 1971, it could be said that Dawes had created the first mainstream off-the-peg touring bike, at least in the UK. When the originator of today’s archetypical touring bike pulls their entire range without warning after almost 50 years on the market, you know something’s up.

The following year, something similar happened Stateside. Surly, who since 2004 had built the reputation of their Long Haul Trucker into a firm favourite of the North American cycle touring community, announced that the “LHT”, too, would cease to be manufactured. Their webpage for the bike and frameset has since been updated with a cute image of a gravestone reading ‘gone but not forgotten’.

Photo of a Surly Long Haul Trucker touring bike with overlaid with a tombstone illustration
Product image © Surly Bikes.

These are two striking examples of a trend I’ve noticed while keeping that blog post updated over the 10 years since I originally wrote it. 

But the list of discontinued touring bikes doesn’t end there. We’ve also lost the Ridgeback Tour, the entire Co-op Cycles touring bike range by REI, and the Adventure Flat White, all of which used to be manufactured at scale. At the bespoke end of the spectrum, Roberts’ truly legendary Roughstuff was another British classic whose story came to a slightly quieter conclusion. The picture is even more grim when you look at bikes designed for worldwide expedition touring, where the market is even more of a niche.

And the retailers have followed suit. As I write, the two big online bike retailers in the UK, Chain Reaction and Wiggle (which have now merged in any case), between them list a total of two touring bikes – or, more correctly, two versions of the same bike, the Fuji Touring. In fact, Chain Reaction have deleted the touring bike category from their website altogether. And across the industry the phrase “touring bike” is rapidly being replaced with “adventure bike”. Some of the bikes sold under this banner bear little resemblance to anything I’ve ever listed on that blog post.

This all begs the question ‘why’.

You might think the answer is obvious: the coronavirus pandemic has effectively cancelled the type of free and unrestrained travel exemplified by cycle touring, and manufacturers have simply cut their losses as a result, focusing on bikes for short adventures close to home.

But while there’s little doubt that the pandemic will have hit the cycling industry hard at the crossover with international travel, the downward trend in touring bike sales and availability had already begun before the pandemic.

There’s another easy target here, of course: the rise of bikepacking. I’ve written extensively about my views on this in another post. If you can’t be bothered to read it, the short version is that – in my humble opinion – today’s bikepacking boom is the result of an industry-wide campaign to make what were previously the concerns of a tiny cohort of time-rich mountain-bike travellers appear relevant to people who would otherwise just have bought a touring bike.

I might take some flak for holding this position, but I’ve been watching this industry for a long time, and I’m acutely aware that bikepacking was a thing long before it was a thing, even if its absurdly niche status meant we’d never quite needed the language to describe it. A good example of this is the Rough Stuff Fellowship. Today we would call them a bikepacking club, but they were officially founded in 1955 and they sure as hell didn’t call themselves bikepackers. It would be another two decades before the mountain bike was even invented. All that’s happened is that what they’ve been quietly doing for 70-odd years has suddenly become trendy.


So much for obvious explanations. The truth is that I haven’t conducted an industry-wide survey to gather empirical data on the matter, and I have no intention of doing so. Instead, I’d like to offer the community a few observations on the topic of what this all might mean for us:

1. Let’s first remember that we are experiencing a decline in the manufacture and sale of new touring bikes on an industrial scale. This is not the same as the death of cycle touring itself. It doesn’t mean that every touring bike already in existence suddenly vanishes, nor that smaller manufacturing operations won’t continue. (I just went down to my workshop to check, and my 2012 Kona Sutra is definitely still there.)

2. Let’s also remember that while we’ve lost bikes of real pedigree, none exhibited any major mechanical differences from each other. That’s because the core design principles for a good touring bike are tried and tested; no longer unique to any one brand. In any case, almost all manufacturing is outsourced to the same handful of factories in Taiwan, some of which I’ve visited and watched all the brands roll off the line together. In other words, what we’ve seen is the closing of a few chapters in the story of the bike industry, not the loss of some essential body of engineering knowledge.

3. Because touring bikes tend to be “forever” purchases, they’re intrinsically bad for business, so none of this should be a surprise. Most of us spend a rather large amount of money on the one touring bike we intend to ride for the remainder of our touring careers. These bikes were probably never particularly profitable for their manufacturers anyway, but they’re even less of a compelling product when you consider the unlikelihood of repeat purchases. Given that, it’s hardly surprising that the touring bike would be an easy target for cost-cutting in times of financial duress.

4. Good news – limited choice should make it easier to choose a touring bike. Some personality types (I believe they’re known as “maximisers”) want to see all the options and spend endless hours picking over the most trivial of differences in order to somehow divine the best possible purchase. On the other hand, I recently received an email from a reader complaining that the only bike she could find in her local bike shop that fitted her was an extra-small Salsa Fargo, and that she didn’t want to buy it just because it was the only choice. I suggested that it being the only choice might actually be the best reason to buy it.

5. There’s probably never been a better time to buy a custom-built touring bike. Especially if it’s a “forever” purchase, and even more so if you have diverse physiological requirements, there’s a strong case for shunning the mainstream altogether and getting yourself a one-off touring bike that’s finely tuned to your individual needs. While expert touring bike builders can be found throughout the land, I shall cheekily take this opportunity to recommend to UK readers Richard at Oxford Bike Works, whose workshop is open to anyone within visiting distance, and whose flagship expedition touring bike I helped design.

What do you think? Is the touring bike dying out? Or are we just seeing a spurt in its evolution?

Bogged down in research for your next big bicycle adventure?

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60 replies on “Is The Touring Bike Slowly Dying Out?”

The Long Haul Trucker was phased out only because it was replaced with the Disc Trucker. A 26″ rim-brake-based frame just seemed obsolete today to those making these decisions in the bike industry. The LHT and Disc Trucker frames are pretty much identical, so Surly seems to still be just as committed to touring.

What about German and Dutch manufacturers such as Tout terrain, Fahrrad manufacturer, Santos…?
It seems they are going great and even pushing their touring bikes.

Cancelling the old rim brake Long Haul Trucker was probably a no-brainer for Surly, because I bet the overwhelming majority of buyers spent the extra $150 for disc brakes (I certainly did when I bought my Disc Trucker last year). 

Anecdotally, I think you’re right about the fact that there’s little pressure to upgrade a good quality touring bike every few years to get new technology, like there is in the mountain bike world. 

But I’m hearing that there are a lot more first-time tourers out there, at least in the US in places like the GAP trail, the Erie Canal Towpath and an increasing list of scenic rail trails of 100–300 miles in length (150–500 km).

I’d be interested on your take of the Bombtrack Arise. It’s a fairly new entry into the touring bike market and looks pretty sweet in my estimation. I think touring bikes have always been a niche market, maybe more so with the advent of “adventure bikes”. And for what it’s worth, I cannot count how many folks have asked me where I got my adventure bike… I just smile and tell them it’s 2011 Dawes Galaxy Touring bike!

Is it possible that political instability around the world has made super-long-distance bike tours less attractive for people with the time and means to go on one?

FWIW I see quite a few “adventure” bikes, round where I live in London, which don’t have a speck of mud on them. So I wonder how much of the trend stems from industry marketing to get people to buy a new bike.

As opposed to turning their existing bike into an “adventure” bike by putting slightly wider tyres and a shorter stem on it, as I did with my 2013 Ridgeback Voyage.

Great post and agree with all.
A factor here may be the rise of gravel bikes which are obviously trendy right now but in many ways make good touring bikes. My wife and I both bought “gravel” bikes for touring the last couple of years and these have worked out well.
A thing I fear which may be getting lost in this decline of true touring bikes is the “longer” frame which just kind of feels more stable for touring, especially on long descents.

You may have overlooked one other possibility, at least for the US. More and more folks are getting off the asphalt due to distracted drivers and heading to rail trails and gravel. Seems to me the industry is just replacing the traditional touring bike with designs that can handle more off road adventures and tires wider than 2 inches. The surly Ogre and Bridge Club come to mind. As for the Bikepacking craze….I believe it may be short lived as I hear many on social medial praising the ability to carrying more gear no mater the cost in weight simply to be more comfortable. I for one would rather carry 2 or 4 panniers with a little extra clothing or food and with the ease of being able to remove bags knowing exactly what is in each. It seems crazy to me to have bags strapped to evert possible frame part Bikepacking style and not easily be able to carry them off the bike to camp or lodge. That may be fine for a weekend trip, but for longer rides I prefer panniers.

“Distracted drivers” is an excuse. Fundamentally, in the US, cyclists have indeed been frightened away from the roads. US motorists and US governments and even US cycling advocacy organizations simply think cyclists do not belong on the roads. For their own good. And for the good of traffic. So US cyclists and all 3 above organizations are asking for separate facilities. Such facilities are quite limited in availability much less in distances and destinations (and surface quality).

Following all the big FB pages on touring and bikepacking I think there is still the interest in touring specific bikes but I think one of the reasons it may be getting less popular generally is as mentioned above, a lot more people want to get off-road and away from traffic and want a bike that can do it all. I’m a typical example of that, just retired and had the funds to buy pretty much anything I wanted. Looking at the overloading I see with many traditional touring set-ups this was not appealing to me. I have bought a custom Titanium/Pinion all-terrain bike with 2 wheel sets(one 27.5 2.8inch) for the rough stuff and a 29er 2.25 set for gravel/road. I can run mainly bikepacking bags but a rear rack gives me versatility to run micro panniers as well and or a just change the rack and run a traditional pannier system if I want. I looked at all of the main high end tourers and none really delivered on this sort of versatility being one bike that could take you anywhere. I look at the standard birds eye view of what people are taking on these big trips and most are taking far too much crap IMO. And the rise of the Gravel bike which is also a handy tourer must surely be eating into the touring market.

There’s so many articles and YouTube videos about gravel bikes these days. The idea of getting away for the weekend with that weird bag that hangs from your seat post clearly appeals to many people. Who has time for touring? Actually, me sometimes.

I have a feeling that, just like people who own SUVs, many mountain and gravel bikes owners never get into the countryside. They are buying what’s fashionable rather than what they actually need.

I visited a bicycle manufacturer near Bon in Germany. He’s a 4th generation bike builder. His parents started KOGA. His great grandfather made penny farthings!

IDWorx make off-road touring bikes. They are designed to accommodate panniers like a traditional touring bike, but the frame geometry and large tyres makes them suitable to handle rough terrain — best of both worlds.

https://www.idworx-bikes.de/product/opinion_ti_blt

Great stuff Tom as always.
I built my ‘Touring’ bike from your list and also bought a frame from Richard at Oxford Bikes (who everyone knows is a top guy and so helpful).
I agree with Tim about panniers, so much easier to use and be organised daily- who cares about ‘streamlining’, just get out and ride.
As I move into my 60’s and do ‘shorter’, but still quite challenging rides, the only thing I have had to do is buy a bigger cassette for a couple of extra low gears ( still using a 2 x system, the other craze being 1 x system that Manufacturers have got into peoples heads, though I have nothing against it.
Thanks Tom , cheers
Mike

We are doing our first tour on e‑bikes this year, as we are both now mid-60’s. Camping and charging the bikes is difficult, so we are staying b&b. Not cycle touring for purists, but better than car touring!

I enjoyed your essay Tom and think there has been a change… but it’s based on the rise of gravel based touring. The Surly LHT was already there with their FFF (Fatties Fit Fine) approach and the Disc Trucker remains. I think there is a shift… but it’s not exactly “away from touring” rather is “towards gravel”.

Wow!!!😳😔I’ve not been following the latest trends too closely, so didn’t realise thing’s were getting this bad! I was particularly sad to read about the Dawes Galaxy, having bought a 1989 Mixte framed 531 version last summer. It did require some restoration though, with it having no front wheel, saddle, pedals…and cables all over the place! 😂 I’ve recently got it going though and fitted a dynohub front wheel, 1980s ‘Rolls’ saddle…and ironically some beautiful MKS Sylvan quill pedals with toeclips…that came from a 1989 Dawes Galaxy!!! It’s a triple Shimano Deore chainset and Deore cantilever brakes, with Dawes engraved handlebars. The Mixte frame is REALLY comfortable, and without the top tube you can really lean it around bends. It’s got a 6 speed freewheel and Suntour downtube shifters, that you can switch from Indexed to friction modes… I love it! I’ve fitted mudguards and some Busch & Muller dynamo lighting. It already had a Bor Yueh rear rack already fitted, but I’ll also be fitting a front rack…the type that goes over the front wheel…not low loaders. Next month I’m hoping to take it for a one month cycle ride in Ireland, wild camping and hostelling. After the overnight boat to Belfast I’ll make my way to Galway, Connemara and Co. Mayo for some exploring, as I missed those areas on a 6 week 1400 mile ride around Ireland I did in 2019 from Belfast to Cork on my old 1990s MTB… that I bought for £40 and adapted!😀. Can’t wait…it’s been a LONG 2 years!
Very sad to read about the Dawes Galaxy though! 😏.
G…

Plus. One contributing factor. The world in general has become a more dangerous place. Local and world news can back up opinion 🤔

I see more ebikes on the road than before. The Sunday ebike riders are everywhere. I think the ebike business will fade while the batteries are getting more expensive than previously anticipated. The raw finite materials are going to be harder to get a hold of. 1 Tesla is also equal to 100 ebikes. So when people realize when it’s time for a new battery, there may be serious problems. The problem was also emerging before the pandemic. This could also be part of the reason. More people are buying ebikes and they can’t go on long distance tours unless they stay in motel, hotel, b&b , pension and so in. Some campgrounds offer charging stations, but I personally don’t take chances
So more ebike tours, fewer touring bikes. It’s not easy to fit multiple water bottles and the cockpit seems limited.
You can find second hand excellent steel frame lugged touring bikes in great shape for 100–200 depending on brand.
So ebikes might have contributed to the problem

I agree with you Tom.
I don’t think the world is any more dangerous now — we are always creating wars — and always have been — its the main way the economic system gets propped up!! (what if they gave a war and nobody came?! Brecht?)
I do think that everything is only about making money — and there ain’t much to be made from tourers — cos you tend to spend years riding them — they are not a fashion statement — and therefore probably doomed..! Best to hang on to the good ones!
Bikepacking is just a fashion too — it seems quite ridiculous to me — people haring along as fast as they can — carrying the bare minimum — just to get there and say — ‘I did it’.… No sense of enjoying the journey or exploring.…. but that fits modern society too — no depth, no content — just a perfect instagram pic.….
Obviously this is a gross generalisation — (smiley smiley) — if you really are short on time and want a micro adventure — it is a way to do it.… But surely we should all be trying to slow down and smell the flowers — never mind the coffee? We recently cycled the King Alfred’s Way — and scaled down to just rear panniers and tent on top — It took us 8 days and we had a fantastic time — camping by the racehorse tomb, all those endless gravel tracks, Wayland’s smithy — so much history on the way — so many clouds of butterflies to watch.….we could go back round again.… But everyone we met were steely determined to do it in anything from 2 days to 4.….. When you asked them had they seen this or that.…. no — they hadn’t — all they had seen was the track and their gpx file.….. We showed a mother and son Wayland’s Smithy and the kid was blown away — he had never seen anything like it — but they didn’t even know it was there.…
This is the difference between touring and bikepacking I think.…
Bikes wise — I really think you can tour on whatever.…. I did over ten thousand miles on a Specialised Globe with a dodgy set of gears — that’s on and off road — it went over mountains and across an estuary or two!! After seeing so many folk in Europe with Rohloff — I bit the bullet and got a proper tourer — a Thorn Raven with Rohloff — secondhand! It is a beautiful bike to ride — and I’m taking it in its first proper tour round Scotland this summer. But I will be going slowly — and seeing everything along the way.……!!!

You have over focussed on big wheel bikes. One firm with quality touring bikes is Moulton and the Pashley built TSR range are good tourers and not overpriced.

An interesting post. As a happy owner of a Surly Long Haul Trucker for the past fourteen years, I’m sorry to hear the market just wasn’t there for continued production.

I’m bemused by the fact that “gravel bikes” are the current fad. I bought my LHT in 2008 specifically for a trip that finished with 750 km on a rough gravel road. I’ve since toured on perhaps thousands more km of gravel roads and a considerable number of km on off-road routes. The LHT has been a great gravel bike for me, in part because it also rides comfortably and with reasonable efficiency on long stretches of pavement.

So I can’t help wonder if many “gravel bike” buyers are actually well-served by a bike that is designed specifically for non-paved routes.

By the same token cargo bikes get a whole lot of play in recent years. To read some breathless reviews, if you plan on hauling more than a liter of oat milk by bike, you should buy a cargo bike. But given how much cargo can be carried with a touring bike, I question how many people actually need the extra weight/bulk and handling complications of a long-tail cargo bike.

Good article though a lot of touring brands have gone unmentioned, also how many e‑bikes have moved into this marketplace.

A couple of years ago I built my own touring bike for the first time, based on a hard tail 29er mountain bike frame and rigid fork with a pinion gearbox and gates belt drive. I ditched the panniers and old man mountain racks for bags, simply because they’re easier to manage and lighter. After two tours of Europe, a 4 day break in the Scottish highlands and a 24 hour mtb race I can confidently say it is the most comfortable, yet toughest and easiest to maintain bike I’ve ever owned. About twenty years ago I started with a cheap tourer/hybrid, a Dawes Sonoran, when I first rode it out of the shop I loved it, they put on some butterfly bars and basic srsuntour shock forks for comfort. But boy did it like to break; broken spokes, rack, bottom bracket.… and that was just one tour of the highlands of central Iceland. In the end I gave up on it, it needed so much attention, it just seemed fragile, especially under load off-tarmac and I do love to go off the beaten track. Although I do have some great memories of that bike. I don’t think there’s a strict definition of a ‘touring bike’ and I don’t think there ever should be. My journey began pretty cheaply, but it’s no crime to progress, change, spend a bit more and embrace the new based on your own touring experiences.

In the UK, Spa Cycles in Harrogate are worth a mention for their own touring bikes. Very knowledgeable and helpful people.
Paul Hewitt in Leyland, Lancashire also have very well regarded touring bikes, I have one.

I am also disappointed that 26 inch tyres are almost extinct while they make 650b tyres that are only a few millimetres different but not interchangeable.

Pure marketing hype to make 26 inch obselete.

“For as long as the majority of the world’s existing bicycles have 26″ wheels…”

Even if that is still the majority of the world’s bicycles, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll be the situation wherever one happens to be traveling. It has been a few years now that cyclists in various parts of Latin America, for example, have found it challenging to quickly replace a 26″ tire because the LBS have gone over to 700c.

Moreover, while manufacturers like Schwalbe will continue to offer some tires in 26″, that doesn’t mean those tires will be among their best. Compare the situation to, say, Shimano that still offers some 9‑speed parts but no longer in their premium product lines. Our community has already been impacted by the fact that Schwalbe has discontinued the 2.25″ version of their 26″ Mondial tire.

Great article — but sad, to me — though it led me to your book and other interests I had forgotten. I’ll order the book in physical form shortly. Lost my mojo the last two years!

Are you Stephen Lord of The Adventure Cycle Touring Handbook: A Worldwide Cycling Route & Planning Guide?
If so, and you’ve ‘lost your mojo’, I’ll stop worrying about mine!

This is a very nuanced subject. I appreciate the way you’ve handled it.

I am a huge fan of a bomb proof setup. For touring, I prefer bike frames that haven’t been made in decades. Specifically, steel frame mountain bikes from the 80s and early 90s. I also prefer rim brakes to disc brakes because they’re compatible with even a junk wheel I could buy from a rancher in the deserts of Utah or west Texas, if need be.

So, that certainly vindicates the idea that manufacturers might be leaving the industry because of lack of new bike sales. But it certainly doesn’t necessarily mean the touring community has dropped.

This is probably more like the dawn of the internet… meaning we have probably hit an era of WTF, but not necessarily a decline.

Maybe us touring champions should put as much effort into our passion as those who are marketing Bikepacking and just going it out, like we always do. 🙂

Again, Moulton has an overfull order book with much of the output going overseas.
If firms are leaving the trade for lack of sales they must be making the wrong bikes.
Perhaps it is time to redefine the touring bike or are their insufficient tourists to support purpose made machines?

I think you might be right on both counts. A revolutionary touring bike might fit the bill. I’d love to see something that’s so different than a 1989 Specialized Stumpjumper that it impressed me to want the new bike rather than just an well made old ridgid MTB frame. And maybe us touring fanatics are just going the way of the Buffalo.

Everyone these days, not just us touring cyclists, are customizing there bikes. Maybe manufacturers aught to start selling great, new frames rather than selling “perfect” bikes fully built.

Also, I spend $150 on tires that are 26″, because I love 26″ for tons of reasons. I’d love to have a LHT in 26″ and I’d swap all of my components from my current bike over to a 26″ Surely LHT in a heartbeat. But it’s a 700c bike, and I’m paying an extra $500 for wheels and components that Surely thinks I’d want. “Hey, Surly! Make me a 26” LHT frame-only, with rim brakes, and I’ll buy three!”

“Maybe manufacturers aught to start selling great, new frames rather than selling “perfect” bikes fully built.”
They do. They are bespoke builders and you get exactly what you ask for and then realise that the angles and tube lengths are the same as your old On One Inbred.

dexey, you are right! And I love craftsmanship too. I think we’re on the same page.

I will likely buy a hand-made frame next. But to address this article as well as your reply, in Louisiana/Texas USA it’s hard to find any frame that has added much to the double-butted chromoly steel MTB frames of yesteryear.

I think you and I both would jump on something that offers us more than just traditional geometry, and maybe bike builders should invest in more than that.

I’m enjoying the conversation with you though! Gracias!

A smaller, craft manufacturer (or a dozen craft manufacturers) might do well to become truly innovative/experimental, and produce one-offs of new “touring concept” bikes. What do you think?

I for one don’t think I’ll be swayed by social media trends and bike industry advertising, which appear to go hand in hand. The Koga World Traveller purchased over 10 years ago could and has handled anything that the trendy latest gravel bikes purport to be able to cope with. The same bike gives excellent riding comfort on tarmac over long distances. A strong durable bike with simple components easily self fixed or with the help of pretty much any bike repair shop if necessary. You are right of course it probably is a ‘forever’ bike. The only attraction for the latest ‘bikepacking’ trend for me would be weight saving but that in itself can lead to a machine that is less robust and I couldn’t be doing with all those zips, bits of Velcro straps and ties and as for that big ugly tail fin thing sticking out from the seat post …..!! — give me good old Ortlieb waterproof pannier bags evertime, easy on,easy off and easily opened and closed.
Another plus for tourers — with the right drivetrain set up you can easily get down to between 15 and 16 gear inches, great for those really long steep climbs.

In the late ’80s, touring bikes died out in Australia: replaced in manufacturers’ lineups by “hybrid” bikes: flat bar machines with 700 x 35C knobbly tyres. I mourned their passing, and bought a custom touring frame. Then in the 90s, they reappeared! Surly, Trek and others. They may be in decline again, but fear not, they will rise phoenix-like from the ashes (of broken carbon gravel bikes!) again.

And Tom’s right: the new gravel and bikepacking bikes are just mountainbikers’ and roadies’ attempt to do bike touring but still be cool. Because everyone knows that cycle tourists are Not Cool, so the answer was to do a bit of product differentiation: we don’t have panniers, so we’re not like them, we’re cool!

That said, my 1987 touring bike now has flared drop bars, and is the better for it. And deep, narrow ruts do not play well with low-rider front panniers, so there are lessons the bikepackers can teach us.

Law of supply and demand comes to mind. Capitalism is big. The best bike is the one that fits. The reader mentioned above eventually found one that fit. We have the secondary market. Read it or Google it. No shortage of ideas here.
There is a rich variety of MTB and touring 700c frames with the correct size and geometry for every use, used. New components likely a problem. Disc brakes, suspension systems even tubeless tires tie the adventurer to the LBS. Simple on trail or road repair is one of the basic goals of touring.
For the individual who has no interest in DIY he/she doesn’t have to DIY. Cost of new gravel bikes can run into several thousand dollars. I’ve made up from bare frames my fleet. Sold some on Craigslist.
The touring crowd are generally not willing to pay top dollar to manufacturers for planned obsolescence.
Sorry if this sounds like a rant. I’m really a good person on most issues.

“Disc brakes, suspension systems even tubeless tires tie the adventurer to the LBS.”
I would rather be ‘repairing’ my cable operated disc brakes by the side of the road than V brakes (discs sadly unavailable on my Moulton) which itself has a suspension system that promotes confidence in non failure.
I do not know about tubeless tyres. I know that the last tube repair I had to make the patches from a well known US company failed to stick. I’ve thrown them and restocked with Red Devils or some such and have poured Wilko’s slime into my one lot of tubes. Doesn’t stop a hole from an unflush spoke end. Lastly, motorcycles seem to have made the transition from tubes to tubeless.

Dexy,
Forest: Touring bikes are in short supply. I’ve offered a solution. DIY at home and on the road. Dexy, the issue isn’t V brakes or tubeless tires. Picky, picky.
Respectfully, JimM

Dexy,
Rant: an impassioned communication. Sorry to offend.
Perhaps we are both referring to different aspects of bike travel, same but different. If you can do DIY on the trail, you are the one I’d like to accompany on tour. Simple is my mantra.

Let’s stick to the OP article and it’s content.
Respectfully JimM
PS: Two apologies should suffice.
I can assure it won’t happen again.
Most of the important stuff I learned in kindergarten.

MTB are easily available in size and geometry to fit any budget or body type. Cantilever brakes, friction shift, 21 speed or more. Eminently fungible.
Get another bike whenever it suits your taste. Cost for all in build shouldn’t set you back more than a house payment. When you make the move to something else your resale should give a good start to future DIY bliss.
Frames from the 70s thru the 90s can’t be beat. No disc, no dual suspension, no tubeless tires. (And fewer trips to the LBC.)
Simple is better. MTB, a thing of beauty. Some say mankind’s greatest invention.
Respectfully, JimM

An update about the part 1989 Dawes Galaxy mixte I bought for £65 last year and ‘upgraded’ or restored! I put a 7 speed cassette on it with a 32t sprocket, replacing the original 6 speed freewheel and 32 spoke silver single skinned rear wheel with a double skinned black 36 spoke one that came from my old Peugeot. The downtube shifters only had 6 clicks though, so I had to run it in friction mode, which wasn’t a problem 🤷‍♂️. I had traditional panniers front and rear and covered over 800 miles in Ireland on it, in 30 days of wild camping and hostelling, in May/June this year, but didn’t cycle every day. The bike rode beautifully, but I wished I’d fitted my Brooks B17 saddle from my Carlton, and not gone with the beautiful but uncomfortable vintage ‘Rolls’ saddle I had. The extra comfort would definitely have made up for the double weight… imo! The bike got a lot of attention and admiring comments too, which was nice🙂. However, I took it camping to the Isle of Man for a week at the end of July, but only took rear panniers and this made the handling all shaky! Maybe the twin top tube didn’t like that set up?! 🤔. In Ireland I met quite a few other cyclists touring, but they all looked about half my age(I’m 62)and were all on bikepacking set-ups…usually with carbon frames. Not really my cup of tea tbh though and I proudly flew the flag of the old traditional set-up! 😂

A lot of good comments and perspectives here. As a newcomer to touring, 8 find it difficult to find a good tour bike at the shops I go to. 8 agree, I usually only see recreational, mountain e‑bikes and road bikes. When I ask about touring, I am always told I have to build my own. I had to really modify my Jamis for daily commuting to work.
I am currently getting into longer trips but already know I will have to build my own bike. Even thr Trek 5000 is no longer carried by a very large bike shop in Ohio. I hope touring has a resurgence. It has changed my life for the better.

Everyone has their own thought’s and ideas on what makes a good touring bike, but for me simplicity and reliability are the two main things. Modern touring bike’s seem to automatically come with STI/Brifter gear change…why??? Yes they’re beautiful and easy to use, but if something goes wrong under those brake hoods, unless you’re a good mechanic, they’re not a roadside fix! I have old fashioned downtube shifters on all my touring machines, or in the case of vintage MTB’s thumb shifters! Usually with the type of set-up where you can switch between index and friction modes. I’m not a great mechanic, but can fix the basics. However, if the indexing goes out of sync I can be messing around with it for ages! Friction mode eradicates that. 3 years ago I spent 6 weeks doing 1400 miles around Ireland solo, wild camping and hostelling, on a 1990s MTB with thumb shifters. They were old Suntour one’s and I had them set in friction mode the whole time because the jockey cage on the rear derailleur was badly bent and wouldn’t have worked in index mode. Speed, when I’m touring, isn’t an issue for me…the main thing’s are ease of maintenance and reliability. Other’s may feel differently though.. 🤷‍♂️

I agree with friction, 8 or 9 spd cassettes maybe 7. The components were more durable. I learn by doing and a few years back I bought a steel frame trekking/touring bike and it was expensive because of the xt shimano 3x10 and Magura hs11. I put a brooks saddle, flyer, and it’s got a hub dynamo and raised handlebars and got one with more backsweep.
I adjust the shifters with the barrel adjuster on the front and brake pads are easy to replace. It is basically a good bike. I replaced middle chain ring, cassette, a few chains, and I used to have a Trek single track with 3x8 and V brakes or cantis. I had no problems either and I was able to ride over steep mountains. I think people buy unnecessary or unneeded, components and we pay more and the more is really just the bike industry selling fancy stuff. The minimalist in me wants a 3x8 , v brakes, and comfortable riding.
I have a 9 spd cassette, shimano altus, and sunrace shifter.
I probably will just keep riding my bike the way it is and stop obsessing about it but I am a fan of bicycling and only have one bike to rule them all.

Insightful article and interesting replies as usual. Thanks Tom, and all.
I’m in the early rigid MTB camp, and panniers. Most versatile and road-fixable combo I’ve found

Yep Michael I agree. Simplicity and durability are the key’s to my idea of a good touring bike, or tour. You want a bike that is easy to fix if it goes wrong, parts are easily available…and they’re cheap! Old bikes usually cover all those criteria imo. In fact I’m even toying with the idea of no gears at all, after being inspired by a couple of long distance, single speed riders! On a bicycle you’re still travelling at least 3 times faster than walking, much of the time. Single speed will make a bike even more reliable.…and I’ve never found a hill yet I can’t walk up😉(as the saying goes). When touring in Ireland for 30 days earlier this year on a 1989 Dawes Galaxy mixte I found I was the only rider with a traditional touring set-up…every other touring cyclist I met often had a carbon road bike and were bikepacking! Mind you they were usually in hostel’s, not wild camping with a tent and loads of crap! 😂. Like is mentioned earlier though, they all seemed to be rushing around, ‘box ticking’, instead of drinking in the country and it’s people. Some people have more time pressures and work commitments, I accept that, but it wouldn’t be my kind of thing…

Hi Graeme, I contemplate often buying a single speed or making one. Mark stitz? German guy living in Scotland, toured on a nice single speed around the world. But I see on many of his videos he uses gears ⚙️.
I tried my bike commute 18km one way without shifting. I thought it would be awesome to convert to single speed or fixed gear. I am 57 and thinking why do I think so much about this. I might do it eventually, but I like shifting. I have to admit it. I toured in France in the Voges , the Grand Ballon, on a tank of a bike but my wife and I did it slowly but surely.
We are not in tour de France fitness level, and we were passed by those types. The gears made life awesome.

Hi, Michael, I’m 63 next month(😭) and have had geared bike’s since the mid 1970s. Last time I had a single speed was the 1960s..as a little kid! 😂. Absolutely agree that gears make life easier , but no gears perhaps makes it simpler? 🤔. I’ve got around 10 bikes, mostly vintage, with the oldest dating back to 1951,and all are geared. However, a young American guy came on a website I use yesterday and he’s ridden through 22 European countries, with just Britain and Ireland to go, on a loaded single speed bike, for charity!
I also remember reading a book in the mid 1980s by an Irish lady called Dervla Murphy. In her book she rode from Dublin to India in the terrible winter of 1962/63…on a single speed(I think 🤔),flat handlebar steel bike! She dragged the bike through snow drifts in some places! That was my original inspiration to the capabilities of a bicycle! Her book was called ‘Full Tilt’. Sadly she died whilst I was touring in Ireland in May, but was 90 years old. You can still find plenty of of info on this amazing lady online though… cheers.. 🙂 G

Hi again ☺️
I know what you mean about the simplicity. And pushing when you need to is no big deal. Also the parts are more durable and a better chain line. It seems better, more efficient and achievable to ride anywhere because it has been done before and somehow it seems logical. You get used to the one gear and you learn to use physics, momentum, and all that stuff. I had a single speed, too. Also had a friction shifter downe tube steel trek. I never thought how much I would miss it and reading about people who use friction shifting. Friction shifting has become a thing. Minimalist, and fun. All of the new stuff, electric shifters, disk brakes and so on don’t interest me. By the way, 63 is great and we are still thinking about bikes which is awesome. I am a Yank but been slaving in Germany for 21 years. Production work . Shifts.

Yeh I sussed you were Yank Michael! 😂. Totally agree about friction gears too. Both my Dawes Galaxy mixte (1989)and my mid 90s MTB with Suntour thumb shifters are both index and friction. When touring I run them in friction mode as I’m not the world’s greatest mechanic…it rarely goes wrong like that…and they were the bikes I grew up on! 🤷‍♂️. 3 years ago I toured for 6.5 weeks around Ireland on that MTB, fully loaded with camping gear etc. I covered 1400 miles, which included the 200 mile ride home from Holyhead to my home in Blackpool! I ran the bike in friction mode because the rear derailleur was bent! It never missed a beat! Yes you get slicker, faster changes with indexing, but when touring is that really necessary? 🤔. To me rugged reliability is what matters when touring, but I’m old school, so each to their own.. 🤷‍♂️

I was looking for Dawes Galaxy touring bikes. I found one with Reynolds 531 frame and fork. The frame was too small, and the price was 150 Euro. That 531 steel is gold.
My dream is to get one. I know how the steel feels. My 4130 chrome alloy is decent. 53cm. Somewhere down the line I am going to change out the gears. I wish I knew more people who understand and have similar interests in bikes. I also rode a recumbent for three years, but disliked the laid back feel. While riding relaxed, but not able to pay attention as well as on an upright.

We’re seeing a spurt in its evolution, for sure! I don’t think touring is dying our perse, rather terminology and preferences are shifting toward bike packing. During covid, there was a surge of people looking for ‘bike packing’ vs ‘cycle touring’ and I can see why! I’m all for it and don’t think cycle touring is threatened or anything like this. To me, it’s all a version of a theme; long distance, outdoor adventures, by bike.

I find it surprising to hear that “bikepacking” and “cycle touring” are now seen as two different things. The first book I read on the subject, which inspired me to take my first long trip the following year, was “Backcountry Bikepacking” by William Sanders, published in 1983. You can pick up a copy here:
https://www.thriftbooks.com/w/back-country-bike-packing_thomas-sanders-jr/1219815/item/5573142/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIrIP71Mzi-wIVtvzjBx238AgOEAQYASABEgKmEPD_BwE#idiq=5573142&edition=399026

Tom Allen, that is a very interesting piece! And the rise of the micro-adventure actually makes sense. Covid kinda proved your hypothesis to some degree there. We definitely saw a spike in people looking at ‘bike packing’ in March 2020 — https://trends.google.com/trends/explore?date=today%205‑y&q=bikepacking,cycle%20touring just as lockdown came about!

I quite like the ‘do you really want to go biking’ or ‘traveling’, too. That actually makes sense.

Hi Bart, I think the main idea for ” bike packing ” is to ride on trails not Suitable for regular touring bikes because the mud would cake under the fenders, and so on. We all know mtb degrade the paths and cause erosion. Personally, I like panniers, and pack two minimalist style. It depends how much stuff you want to carry. I also like lifting the panniers off easily. I get it if you are tearing up the trails on a mtb with fat tires, strapping everything to the frame makes sense but I don’t know how the trails hold up and if the hikers, backpackers are inconvenienced. Some places mtb are not allowed. Touring on a comfortable bike is a great experience. And I use schwalbe marathon plus and the work great on forest paths made for farmers or locals.

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