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Choosing a new touring bike can be stressful for the newcomer – especially considering the likely price tag. So it’s no surprise the most frequent question I get asked on this blog is some version of this:
“Help! What’s the best touring bike for my upcoming bicycle tour?”
It’s a perfectly natural and understandable question to ask – but it’s meaningless question without context.
That’s because your choice of touring bike should be informed by the type of ride you’re planning, your unique physiological needs, your preferences as a touring cyclist, and – an oft-forgotten factor – what bikes are actually available in your area.
For example, the “best touring bike” for a young Brit planning a low-budget tour close to home would be totally different to the “best touring bike” for an experienced US-based rider planning a once-in-a-lifetime, round-the-world, multi-year adventure.
Similarly, and as I’m sure you can imagine, the best touring bike for a 5 foot (152cm) tall mature rider with reduced neck mobility and no interest in bicycle maintenance would not be the same as the best bike for an athlete out to win the Tour Divide!
Simply put, there’s a diversity of needs in people who are searching for the “best touring bike”.
I’ve written extensively in other posts about detailed aspects of touring bike choice, from the three critical questions you should ask at the start of the touring bike buying process, to deep-dive topics such as what exactly defines a touring bike and what’s really going on when you can’t decide between two bikes, to in-depth tutorials like how to custom-build your own expedition bike, to super-nerdy technical discussions like the debate over disc brakes versus rim brakes.
(There’s loads more like this on my absolutely massive advice and planning directory page, which I suggest you open in a new tab and/or bookmark right now.)
And, touring bicycles being a mature product with decades of heritage, there are plenty of good commercial touring bikes on the market today. These bikes have been designed to serve the needs of as broad a range of touring cyclists as possible, and are readily available through local bike shops and dealership networks around the world.
In this post, we’re going to take a look at some of the most time-proven ‘mainstream’ touring bikes, as well as some lesser-known options for riders with specialist requirements.
Perhaps you’ll find your perfect touring bike here. Perhaps you’ll realise you’re looking for something else altogether. Or perhaps you’ll find something more interesting to read on my absolutely massive advice and planning page.
Shall we begin?
In This Post:
The list of touring bikes below is arranged in ascending price order. I’ve mentioned the worldwide availability of each bike, roughly speaking, and the manufacturer-suggested retail price (MSRP, aka: RRP or list price) in £/€/$ as applicable.
This is not an exhaustive list of every single touring bike on the market.
For one thing, such a list would be hundreds of entries long. For another, this isn’t a product comparison site. I’m a veteran bicycle traveller with years of real-world experience, and my goal with this blog is to tell you what you need to know, not to churn out search-engine-optimised fluff in order to generate more ad revenue.
(If you really want that list, there are other bloggers out there who will charge you money for downloadable lists of touring bikes that’ll take you days to wade through and leave you even more confused than when you started.)
My intention here is to give you a taste of the diversity of commercial touring bikes available today, considering the three big pre-purchase questions I’ve covered elsewhere.
(Note that several entry-level touring bikes have been discontinued in recent years, including the Adventure Flat White, Ridgeback Tour, Dawes Galaxy AL, and the Revolution Country Traveller, to name just a few. You may find leftover stock of these bike still being sold today at a bargain price, and you can be sure they’ll do just as well as any of the other bikes in this list.)
Shall we begin?
Summary: Feature-rich flat-bar trekking bike
List Price: £800 / €730 / US$760 / CA$1,090
The entry-level touring bike from major German bike maker Cube is the affordable and simply-named Cube Touring. The basic model in this extensive range is currently one of the cheapest off-the-peg touring bikes on the market, and is widely distributed across Europe and North America.
If you’re used to the appearance of British or American designed tourers, you’ll notice some big differences, such as the flat handlebars and adjustable stem, the resulting upright riding posture, and the front suspension fork, as well as other details like a kickstand, a hub dynamo, and LED lights as standard. These are all fairly typical features of touring bikes from German and Dutch makers, where utility and comfort takes precedence.
In an effort to cater for a diverse customer base, the Cube Touring range comes in several frame variations and sizes, including the classic diamond frame (5 sizes), women’s specific with a sloping top-tube (3 sizes) and a step-through frame for riders with impaired mobility (3 sizes), all in a choice of two colour schemes.
The ‘semi-integrated’ rear rack, which is held in position by the mudguard/fender, is unorthodox, and the seat stays and front fork don’t have standard mounting points, complicating any modifications to the bike’s luggage-carrying capabilities. Riders looking for an entry-level touring bike that can be upgraded in the future may also decide to pass on the Cube Touring for these reasons.
The rest of the specification is impressive at this price point. The entry-level Shimano V‑brakes and drivetrain components are sensible. As with any bike, you’ll want to fit your own preferred saddle, but the inclusion of ergonomic grips, lights, fenders and a kick-stand makes the Touring more or less ready to hit the road right out of the box.
All that said, perhaps the bike’s strongest selling point is the price. The recent disappearance of several popular entry-level touring bikes has left a gap at this end of the market – one that the Cube Touring happily fills.
Decathlon Riverside Touring 520
Summary: Good value forward-thinking light tourer
Availability: UK & Europe
List Price: £800 / €800
There’s no denying the success of Decathlon’s no-frills approach to designing, manufacturing and selling sports and outdoor gear. The Riverside Touring is the entry-level model in Decathlon’s new foray into touring bikes, and for many riders will be a welcome addition to the sparse options at this lower-budget end of the market.
The Riverside Touring 520 is based on an aluminium frame, whose geometry sits somewhere between the old-school rigid mountain bike and today’s trendy gravel/hybrid rides. The frameset sports a big range of mounting points for more or less any luggage configuration you might imagine, including a front lowrider or fork cages, a traditional rear carrier rack should the semi-integrated stock rack not be to your tastes, and no less than five bottle cages.
The riding position of the Riverside Touring leans towards relaxed and upright, with the sloping top-tube helping with mounting and dismounting, and flat bars with so-called ergonomic grips and bar-ends atop a stack of head-tube spacers, all pointing to a bike designed with the casual or newcomer rider in mind. Comfortably wide 1.75″ tyres will be equally content on asphalt and gravel at the 700C (28″) wheel diameter.
Looking at component choice, Decathlon have specified a 1×11 drivetrain (ie: a single front chainring driving an 11-sprocket rear cassette); unusual on a tourer where riders tend to benefit from a wide and fine-grained range of gear ratios. The hydraulic disc brakes are also an unorthodox choice for a touring bike. Both will have traditionalists up in arms, citing increased chain wear rates, a reduced choice of gear ratios, and the near-impossibility of repairing hydraulics on the roadside.
There is a certain amount of validity to such criticisms, but a quick scan of the many customer reviews of this bike suggest that these concerns may be more theoretic. In the regions of the world this bike is likely to be used, spares and repairs for this bike will be abundant. And if you want to take it further afield, you can always fit cable disc brakes and/or a regular drivetrain.
Certainly one of this bike’s great strengths is how widely available it is for test-riding, Decathlon having hundreds of locations across Europe and increasingly further afield. Indeed, I can easily imagine a first-time tourer with a reasonable gear budget walking out of the store with not just the bike but a full set of luggage and maybe some camping gear too.
There are only four frame size options, however. Taken together with the wheel size, this may prevent those with short body lengths from finding a good match with the Riverside Touring 520.
In summary, while Decathlon have leaned pretty far into the crossover between classic touring and the gravel bike trend, there’s little to find fault with at this price – and there’s considerably more scope for upgrades here than other entry-level touring bikes in this list.
- Buy the Riverside Touring 520 in the UK from Decathlon.
- The bike is also available from Decathlon branches across Europe and beyond.
Fuji Touring Disc/Disc LTD
Availability: Sporty steel-framed light road tourer
List Price: £1,250+ / €1,450+ / US$1,500+
Japanese manufacturer Fuji’s entry-level touring bike is the Fuji Touring Disc (mainly for the US) or Disc LTD (for Europe). It features a Reynolds 520 cromoly frameset with classic British/American-style drop-bar touring geometry and a full set of mounting points for racks/lowriders, fenders, and bottle cages.
Both versions feature the well-regarded TRP Spyre cable disc brakes, 36-spoke 700C wheels on Shimano hubs, and a reasonably solid rear rack as standard.
The plain Disc has a Shimano Deore 3×10-speed chainset from the mid-level ranges of the mountain-bike series of components, and is a little more bare-bones than some of the bikes in this list: you’ll need to fit your own front lowrider, fenders, lights, etc. The Disc LTD has many of these accessories fitted as standard, and has a 3×9‑speed Shimano Sora chainset with slightly higher gear ratios, making it a more road-oriented package.
Both variants represent high ambitions in a good-value package aimed at a rider who wants a classic road-oriented touring bike, with the plain Disc in particular still happy on a bit of gravel and dirt.
The Fuji Touring Disc and Disc LTD come in no fewer than seven frame sizes, allowing precise fitting and fewer compromises for short or tall riders. A final note is that the distribution of the Disc and Disc LTD model variants seems to vary depending on whether you’re looking in Europe or North America, so do check what’s available in your local area.
Summary: Beefy yet comfortable long-haul all-rounder
List Price: £1,350
Launched in 2014, tweaked in the years since and now thoroughly tested on longer trips, the Ridgeback Expedition is a strong contender for best value expedition touring bike on the market.
The current model shares design principles with many more expensive touring bikes designed specifically for worldwide expeditions beyond the developed world: wide-range 3×9sp mountain bike gearing, chunky 26-inch wheels, and a comfortable upright riding position. Unusually for a British tourer, it comes with flat bars and bar-end grips for a variety of hand positions. Cable disc brakes are now fitted as standard (the first incarnation had drop bars and V‑brakes).
The Ridgeback-branded integrated grips and bar-ends are modelled on the very popular but expensive Ergon range. The latest version of the Ridgeback Expedition also sees a brazed-on kickstand mounting plate added to the non-drive-side chainstay (though not an actual kickstand).
In many ways, as well as being excellent value for money, the Ridgeback Expedition is one of the most full-featured off-the-peg bikes in this list for extremely demanding trips where comfort and durability over time are paramount. Upgrade the rear rack, add a front lowrider and your favourite saddle, and you’ll be ready for the most remote of the planet’s backroads.
- Read my full review of the legacy 2014 Ridgeback Expedition here, and check the comments for feedback from long-haul riders.
- Like the rest of Ridgeback’s range, the Expedition should be available from any authorised Ridgeback dealer.
- Don’t buy this bike online. Support your local bike shop (UK list)!
Summary: Classic British fully loaded drop-bar tourer
List Price: £1,600
The Ridgeback Panorama is a British-designed, Reynolds 725 cromoly-framed, disc brake-equipped, classic touring bike with a durable selection of 3×9sp drivetrain components from both road- and mountain-biking ranges.
Its road-oriented frameset is prime for being built up into a fully-loaded, long-haul, asphalt touring machine. Both a front lowrider and a rear rack are fitted as standard – Tubus lookalikes, not the genuine articles, but still a welcome addition for fully-loaded riders who are just getting started.
Potential weak points on the Panorama include the integrated shifters/brake levers, which break away from the principle of separating possible points of failure (although you could theoretically swap them out for bar-end or even downtube shifters). The wheelset components are also nothing to write home about; get the spokes re-tensioned before taking this bike on a long-haul tour.
In spite of these question marks, the Panorama has been around for a long time and is very much tried and tested: read Tim & Laura’s detailed guest review of the Panorama after a 6,000-mile road test, after which they completed their round-the-world trip on the same bikes.
Surly Disc Trucker
Summary: Customisable high-performance road/gravel adventure bike
List Price: £1,600 / US$2,050 / CA$2,800
Back in 2012, when the jury was still out on disc brakes as a reliable choice for long-distance touring, Surly produced a disc-specific version of their legendary but sadly discontinued Long Haul Trucker, cunningly naming it the Disc Trucker. It has since evolved into one of the most versatile and tried-and-tested touring/adventure bikes on the planet.
The Disc Trucker platform had a major update in 2020, about which more detail on the Surly blog. Wheel diameter now complements frame size, ie: bigger wheels suit taller riders and the vice-versa, for a whopping 11 frame/wheel size combinations. If, having tried all the Disc Truckers for size, you still can’t find a good fit, you should probably visit a bespoke framebuilder.
Geometry has been tightened up, and gear shifters are now integrated with brake levers. This won’t please everyone, but will certainly please riders looking for a performance boost over the uncompromising durability often seen in the expedition bike niche.
Similarly to the Kona Sutra SE (see below), Surly have made additional tweaks such as bolt-through axles, space for fatter-than-usual tyres, and touring/bikepacking versatility improvements such as multiple fork mounts for fenders, cages or lowriders, to match the kind of wilder, mixed-terrain rides for which the Disc Trucker is increasingly used.
As ever with Surly, racks and mudguards remain excluded, the intention being for you to fit your own according to your needs.
The garish fluoro-yellow paint option of the current Disc Trucker won’t be for everyone, but Surly tell us that it’s also available in hi-viz black.
- Click here to read my full review of the legacy 2014 Disc Trucker.
- To find a place to test-ride one, start with Surly’s global dealer locator.
- Don’t buy this bike online. Support your local bike shop (UK list)!
Kona Sutra SE
Summary: Classy, fully-featured & forward-thinking road/gravel tourer
List Price: £1,900
Canada-based bike manufacturer Kona have long inhabited the left-of-centre in cycling. The Sutra range, too, is progressively-minded, being one of the first mainstream touring bikes to switch to disc brakes back in the early 2010s.
Since then, Kona have adopted the stiffer and stronger bolt-through axle standard (another first amongst bikes in this list), and tightened up the frame geometry to produce a nimble and sporty cyclocross-inspired steel frameset, which is shared with the firmly gravel-oriented Sutra LTD but remains a touring bike at its core.
In 2022, Kona further diversified the platform into regular and SE models.
The standard Sutra goes in a sportier, trendier direction, swapping the rear rack for a Tubus front lowrider, switching to a road drivetrain and cable-actuated hydraulic disc brakes, and speccing retro Brooks bar tape to match the retro leather saddle. The Sutra LTD does away with touring-specific accessories altogether and essentially pitches itself as a mountain bike for roadies.
The Sutra SE, however, remains the ‘traditional’ touring bike of the bunch. This is the variant of the Kona Sutra I continue to recommend as the bombproof, ready-for-anything classic tourer the Sutra always was.
Mountain-bike 3×9sp gearing on road wheels and drop bars, plus mixed-terrain Schwalbe Marathon Mondial tyres and a Brooks B17 generously fitted as standard, all point to the happy blend of on-road and off-road use increasingly preferred by riders going on shorter, wilder adventures, as well as world-ranging epics. Where others have moved to integrated shifters and brake levers, Kona have wisely stuck with bar-end shifters for the Sutra SE; less trendy but certainly more durable.
The Kona Sutra range comes in six fine-grained frame sizes and two colour options. Fenders and a decent rear rack are fitted as standard. The 2023 update adds yet more cage mounts to the top and bottom of the top-tube to cater for a huge variety of frame luggage and bottle cage configurations.
- I’ve been riding a Kona Sutra myself since 2012 and I love it. Read my original long-term review of the legacy model here.
- The Kona website has a handy list of worldwide dealers so you can find a place to test-ride the Sutra.
- Don’t buy this bike online. Support your local bike shop (UK list)!
Oxford Bike Works Expedition
Summary: Bespoke-built round-the-world expedition tourer
List Price: from £2,789
Originally a one-off ‘ultimate expedition bike’ built to my own specification, Oxford Bike Works have been refining and custom-building bespoke Expeditions to order since 2015 from their workshop in Abingdon, Oxfordshire, England. Many have now circled the globe. This is my personal expedition bike of choice. It’s not cheap, but you certainly get what you pay for.
As standard, each bike features a hand-built Reynolds 525 cromoly steel frame, a choice of 26″ or 700C hand-built wheels, top-end Tubus racks, rim or disc brake options, thumbshifters, and tons of other expedition-specific touches.
From a baseline specification, each bike is custom-built to the rider’s exact needs and preferences after an in-person consultation and fitting session at their workshop.
Oxford Bike Works are currently moving all frame production to the UK, minimising shipping emissions and allowing yet more individual tailoring – especially attractive for diverse riders who may find that the off-the-peg bikes in this list don’t cater well for their needs.
- Check out the full specifications of the Oxford Bike Works Expedition.
- Read my 10,000-word epic blog post entitled How To Build The Ultimate Round-The-World Expedition Touring Bike (With Pictures), which details every design decision that went into this bike.
- Don’t buy this bike online (you can’t anyway). Support your local bike shop (UK list)!
More Reader-Recommended Touring Bikes Available Worldwide
This is not an exhaustive list, because if it was we’d be here all day. With that in mind, and in alphabetical order, the following bikes have also been recommended by readers of this blog over the several years since I first published this post, and have also proven themselves capable touring machines over time and miles:
- Bombtrack Arise Tour (Germany & Worldwide)
- Cinelli HoBootleg (Italy & Worldwide)
- Fahrradmanufaktur TX-800 (Germany)
- KHS TR 101 (USA)
- Temple Cycles Adventure Disc 3
- Trek 520 Disc (USA & Worldwide)
- Vivente World Randonneur (Australia)
- Remember – don’t buy a touring bike online. Support your local bike shop and have one chosen, fitted and customised by an expert whose livelihood depends on getting it right!
Bonus: The Secret To Actually Choosing The Right Touring Bike
Finally, I’m going to tell you a secret.
It’s something other bloggers won’t tell you, because they’d prefer you to click on their affilliate links, buy bikes online, and earn them commission.
If you’re having trouble choosing between the touring bikes listed above, the reason is probably because – on paper – they are basically all the same.
They’re all priced within a few hundred pounds/dollars of each other. Most of them have steel frames, wide gearing, non-aggressive riding positions, pannier racks or at least rack mounts, and hybrid drivetrains cut from the middle of Shimano’s mountain-bike and road-bike ranges. They’re all built primarily for paved roads, but could handle a dirt track or gravel road if need be.
So how should you choose between them?
The answer is actually very simple.
Forget buying a touring bike online. (Yes, I’ve said this a few times already!)
Instead, go visit a local touring bike specialist and take a few models for a test ride.
In doing so, you will discover that the “best touring bike” is the one that’s available nearby and has been set up for you by a touring bike specialist who’s taken the time to understand your needs.
I’ve written another long post about what to do when you get to this stage of the touring bike buying process, when you’ve got a shortlist of dream bikes and you’re struggling to choose between them.
Because of all the things you’re going to spend your money on while getting ready to go cycle touring, the bike itself is the purchase you really don’t want to get wrong.
Bogged down in research for your next big bicycle adventure?
I wrote a book to help with that! How To Hit The Road is here to make planning a bike tour simple and achievable, no matter the length, duration or budget. Available as an ebook or paperback.