Best touring bikes 2023: Machines for old-school, long distance riding

The best touring bikes to load up for the long haul or just for local load-lugging

Cycle touring

The best touring bikes are designed to be loaded up for comfortable long-distance riding, but they're also a robust, reliable option for local riding with a load or just for commuting .

They're a bit old school now, with bikepacking being the trendy fast and light way to ride far, either on one of the best endurance bikes or the best gravel bikes . The availability and range of models reflect that trend, although touring bikes still offer a great way to see the world.

They're built strong, often with a steel frame and fork and have reliable wheels with plenty of spokes for strength, as well as a wide gear range, which may be via a triple chainset with a smaller range of "speeds" in the cassette or hub gear. Expect an upright ride position and comfortable touchpoints.

Luggage is normally carried in panniers and bags attached to a rear rack, often supplemented by a front rack, as well as a bar bag. Mudguards are also normal, making riding more comfortable in all weathers, while multiple bottle cages mean that you can keep hydrated even when you're far from a tap.

Below, you'll find our pick of the best touring bikes and below that is our buyer's guide to how to choose the best touring bike for you.

Best touring bikes: our picks

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This Genesis touring bike option comes fully loaded, with front and rear racks, lights and a bottle cage, while its 35mm wide tyres give a comfortable ride. There's a Shimano Tiagra triple chainset, which gives a total of thirty gear ratios, which head below 1:1 for loaded climbing. 

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Another steel-framed tourer with many of the extras you'll need already there. The Kona Sutra has a high ride position and is equipped with a Brooks leather saddle for a retro touring vibe, although the disc brakes and wide gear range keep it up to date.

Yet another steel-framed option with front and rear racks and an upright ride, the Salsa Marrakesh has 3x9-speed gearing and mechanical disc brakes. Its 42mm Teravail tyres should provide comfort and grip wherever you travel.

Another long-haul steel model, the Disc Trucker has a very upright ride position thanks to its riser stem and yet more rise to its bars. A triple chainset that goes as low as a 26x34t ratio helps with long rides over steep roads.

With 42mm WTB Resolute tyres, the Marin Four Corners is a bike that can handle poor road conditions. The steel frame and fork are robust, while the triple chainset, nine-speed gearing and mechanical disc brakes should prove reliable. 

The Giant Toughroad takes a slightly different tack from most touring bikes, with flat bars, an alloy frame and carbon fork. Its 50mm wide tyres and very wide gear range equip it for off-road adventures.

Best touring bikes

1. genesis tour de fer 30, specifications, reasons to buy, reasons to avoid.

The Genesis Tour De Fer is a great option in this category. It's a top all-round bike, featuring a solid steel frame, durable tyres, disc brakes and all the practicalities such as three bottle cages, front and rear racks, mudguards and dynamo-powered lights.

Simply put, this is a bike ready for whatever you need to do straight away, whether it's commuting, leisure riding or touring. The bike offers an easy, calm ride, and is comfortable enough to get on and go right away.

35mm Schwalbe Marathon tyres come as standard, with their puncture-proof reputation. The Shimano Tiagra triple groupset gives you plenty of range including a sub-1:1 ratio to haul your loaded bike up the hills. You might need that range, with the extra features adding significantly to the bike's weight though.

2. Surly Disc Trucker

Another do-anything bike, the Disc Trucker features a sturdy and good-looking steel frame and fork. It is, however, more suited to road riding than exploring gravel and mud, though it's not to say that you can't tackle gravel tracks with it. The rise to the bars, paired with a long head tube gives a comfortable all-day ride position.

Mounts for three bottles, a pump, and mudguards add to the practicality, while the tyre clearance will let you get some meaty rubber in there. Surly quotes 2.1" tyre clearance on 650b wheels and the smaller frame sizes come specced with this wheel size for better toe clearance.

A Shimano Alivio MTB triple groupset with Sora road shifters provides steady and reliable 9-speed shifting, although it's quite a low end spec. Like the Genesis and the Trek, the Disc Trucker relies on TRP Spyre mechanical disc brakes for reliable, low-maintenance stopping power.

3. Giant Toughroad SLR 1

What do you get when you combine a mountain bike, a touring bike and a gravel bike? No, this isn't the start of one of your dad's jokes, you get the impressively capable Toughroad SLR 1. More suited to the offroad than any of the bikes we've looked at so far, Giant calls it a do-it-all bike capable of commuting, but make no mistake, it's built primarily for dirt and gravel.

There's no suspension fork, but the giant 50mm tyres are a dead giveaway. An 11-42 MTB cassette on the back will also help with tackling the steep stuff, although there's not the absolute range of the triple chainsets on the bikes above. Pannier racks front and back and three bottle cage mounting points mean you can pile on whatever you need to take with you.

There are plenty of modern features on the bike, including thru-axles, hydraulic brakes, and tubeless tyres. A reliable Giant wheelset and Shimano Deore groupset round off this bike. You might find the lack of variation in hand position with the flat bar configuration gets tiring on longer rides though.

4. Kona Sutra

The first thing to strike you about the Sutra is its retro features; the Brooks leather saddle and steel frame give a different look to many of the bikes we've looked at. Disc brakes and thru-axles remind you that this is a thoroughly modern bike, though.

It's another bike for touring and commuting on the road and on some gravel/dirt surfaces. Mudguards and front and rear pannier racks are included, while there are other bosses for more additions if needed.

The 10-speed Shimano GRX gravel groupset with Tiagra shifters gives plenty of range, although not as much as a triple like that specified on the Trek, while the hybrid hydraulic/cable-operated brakes should give a bit more stopping power than the TRP Spyre cable brakes specced elsewhere, they are more of a faff to maintain though. It's a classy-looking bike that can work well anywhere.

5. Salsa Marrakesh

A great-looking steel frame is the first thing to catch the eye on this bike, while the fat 42mm tyres give a signal as to its intentions. It's as comfortable off-road as on, whether you're touring, commuting or just riding for fun.

As with the bikes above, front and rear racks are included, though if you want to add mudguards, be warned that the wide tyres will need to go on a diet ­– down to a 40mm maximum.

It's a solid entry into the touring selection, even if it is a bit on the weighty side, however, though not so much that you'll be struggling under the weight. Components include a Shimano Alivio groupset with Microshift shifters as well as TRP Spyre-C disc brakes and wheels and tyres ready to be set up tubeless.

6. Marin Four Corners

The Marin Four Corners is part tourer, part gravel bike. It's got the clearance for really wide tyres on 650b wheels (which is the stock wheel size specced on smaller-sized frames), but you can also set it up for a more traditional touring configuration with 700c wheels.

The steel frame is bombproof while the long head tube gives an upright ride position so you've got plenty of visibility all around. There are mounts for a rack, mudguards and to lash extra kit to the fork legs, so you can load up to head into the unknown. It's a bike more geared to gravel than the road, unlike the more traditional tourers like the Kona and the Genesis.

7. Trek 520

Marketed as a bike for long-haul travel, the Trek 520 is the longest-running bike in Trek's stable, although its days look to be numbered. The 520 is no longer sold in the UK or US, but international buyers in some countries still have a choice of two specs on Trek's site, including the Sora/Alivio option above.

Like the Genesis, the Trek 520 comes with front and rear racks, although you'll have to add mudguards for all-weather use. Small updates include mechanical disc brakes with a thru-axle alloy fork, while the 9-speed Shimano Sora gearing provides massive range from its triple chainset, albeit with quite large jumps across the 11-36 tooth cassette.

It's also nice to see tubeless-ready wheels specced (although not the tyres), so you can set up tubeless, which should up dependability on long rides. 

How to choose the best touring bike for you

Whether you're looking for a practical way to get to work, want that extra durability so that your bike will stand the test of time or want to travel to far-flung corners of the earth with nothing but a tent and a change of clothes, a touring bike a great addition to your stable of steeds. 

You can still get around quickly – whether you're hitting the roads, gravel paths or other rough terrain – but plenty of space for mudguards and racks, as well as a more relaxed position, make a touring bike a better all-round option than a road bike, a hybrid or a mountain bike. 

The relaxed geometry and more upright riding position are also handy for commuting, and the best touring bikes are often built with durable, easy-to-maintain components so they can be fixed when hundreds of miles away from a bike shop. This lends itself to fewer mechanicals and lower running costs. Steel frames also have a far better chance of being repaired all over the world compared to aluminium or carbon fibre if you're on a big trip.

What types of touring bike are there?

Touring bikes can range anywhere from predominantly road-going bikes with horizontal top tubes and 700c tyres, to rugged mountain bikes with knobbly mountain bike tyres. 

What the best touring bikes tend to share, however, is a durable design, comfortable geometry and the ability to carry luggage. Some opt for bikepacking bags , which usually consist of frame bags and oversized saddle bags, whereas others opt for the traditional rack and pannier bag method of carrying luggage. 

As with any bike purchase, consider the riding you plan to do with the bike. For those looking to travel far and wide, a bike with more luggage-carrying capacity will be preferred. For those who are looking to travel off-road, look for a bike that can handle the rough stuff. Live in the mountains? Look for a wide gear range. 

What's different about touring bike geometry?

Touring bike frames feature a relaxed geometry , with a taller head tube and shorter top tube for a comfortable and more upright riding position compared to a racing road bike. In addition to this, they feature a longer wheelbase, which keeps the bike stable even when loaded with heavy luggage. Since they're designed to be cycled over long distances, they're equally designed to stay comfortable for as long as possible.

If you're a geometry nerd you may notice the trail is a little lower than you'd expect for a relaxed ride, but this is often done to counteract the slowing effect on the steering of a heavy front load to avoid the bike feeling like a barge when laden.

Which gearing should a touring bike have?

Gearing-wise, what you should pick really depends on what type of riding you'll be doing. If you're taking on hills regularly, then you'll want a cassette with larger sprockets on the back. Some touring bikes offer a triple chainset too, with easier gearing on offer compared to a double chainset. The addition of extra gear combinations into the mix will add an extra component to maintain, so those on flatter terrain might prefer a single chainring at the front.

The majority of touring bikes offer standard external gear systems – the chainset, chain and cassette we're all used to. Some do have internal gearing though, with an enclosed rear gearbox which requires a lot less maintenance and is less prone to damage but is heavier and will cost you more. Belt drives are also available – this is a multi-tooth belt instead of a chain, so no regular cleaning or lubrication is required. Hub gears like the Rohloff system are favoured by riders taking on huge worldwide tours for their durability. 

Should I look for rim brakes or disc brakes?

As with much of the cycling world, rim brakes and disc brakes are both available, with rim brakes found more often on lower-end bikes. Rim brakes feature two pads grabbing onto the wheel rims to stop the bike, while disc brakes grip onto a separate rotor on the wheels instead.

Disc brakes feature better and more consistent braking performance, which is useful for a heavily laden bike, and are better in wet weather, though. Both adjustment and maintenance are far easier with rim brakes, however, with an Allen key and some new pads all you really need.

Rim brakes will wear down your rim eventually, prompting a rim swap and wheel rebuild or a new wheel. Whereas that's not an issue with disc brakes, and there's more leeway to keep riding with a buckled disc brake wheel or a broken spoke.

Hydraulic disc brakes are generally maintenance-free in operation, however, if you snag your brake hose on a tree in the middle of the Atlas Mountains, there's little chance of repair unless you packed a bleed kit and spare hose. 

What should I look for in touring bike contact points?

Saddles are an important factor, being the main point of contact with your body. Padded saddles may look more comfortable but looks can be deceiving, with thinner padding usually better for you once you've gotten used to it after a few rides. Saddles should support your sit bones, and additional padding can move the pressure elsewhere and rub more, making things more uncomfortable over time.

If you're planning a long trip and already have a saddle that you like, it may be worth swapping out the saddle that comes with the bike, if you're not sure how comfortable it will be for the long haul.

On a multi-day trip, handlebars need to be comfortable as well. Some bars have a slight rearward sweep, which can feel more natural when riding on the tops. A shallow drop is likely to be more comfortable to use as well.

Which pedals should I choose?

It's worth choosing pedals wisely too. While the best road bike pedals give good power transfer, the best cycling shoes that work with them are difficult to walk in, which could be an issue if touring or even for a trip to the shops.

On the other hand, flat pedals may make it difficult to keep your feet well-positioned for longer rides. They will allow you to use standard shoes, which are easier to walk in, but unless the soles are relatively stiff, your pedalling will be less efficient and you may get foot ache after a long day riding without adequate support.

Gravel bike pedals are a good option, as they still let you clip in for more efficient riding, but the cleats are recessed on the sole of the shoes and so can be walked in much more easily. You'll need gravel shoes to go with them that accept two-bolt cleats. These will have soles designed for efficient pedalling and foot support, but most are not too stiff to walk in comfortably.

Alternatively, some of the best commuter cycling shoes also allow you to fit two-bolt cleats.

You can learn more about the pros and cons of two-bolt versus three-bolt pedals in our explainer.on Shimano SPD vs SPD-SL systems.

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Paul has been on two wheels since he was in his teens and he's spent much of the time since writing about bikes and the associated tech. He's a road cyclist at heart but his adventurous curiosity means Paul has been riding gravel since well before it was cool, adapting his cyclo-cross bike to ride all-day off-road epics and putting road kit to the ultimate test along the way. 

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Trek 920 Review: What’s an adventure bike?

Joining the ever-burgeoning ranks of the ‘adventure bike’, Trek’s 920 aims to rewrite the classic touring rulebook. For a start, it uses a lightweight aluminum frame, the latest in industry thru-axle standards, and sports clearances for 2.2in 29er tires. There’s custom racks and provision for 6 water bottles too. But does this mean it can really go where no touring bike has previously been? Skyler Des Roches takes one to British Colombia to find out…

touring bikes trek

It’s clear on paper that the Trek 920 is a category-confused bike. Is it a drop-bar 29er? A touring bike? A monster-cross or all-road thing? Several companies are calling similar machines “adventure bicycles”. What does that even mean? How does the curious mating of spec and geometry often found in this newly-minted category play out on planet Earth?

While I’ll concede that I don’t think it really matters what particular narrow niche a bike is labeled under, I do think that knowing what a bike does best is extremely useful when shopping. In a world where the word adventure has been appropriated by urban dog-walkers and picnickers, my challenge in reviewing Trek’s answer to the “adventure bike” was to figure out what the hell this bike was for.

From afar, the Trek 920 looks a lot like many of this year’s new breed of gravel or randonneur bikes. But, those bikes are adapted cyclocross or road designs and can usually fit 700x40c tires or more voluminous, but smaller diameter 27.5×2.1” (650Bx53) mountain bike tires. The 920 comes set up with Bontrager Duster Elite 29er wheels, and clearance for up to about 29×2.25” (untested, so this might depend on the tire). Running the stock Bontrager XR1 tires, which measure 29×2.0” (or 700Cx51 if you prefer), there is even space for fenders.

Trek 920 Review

One upside to the bike industry’s new love for the word “adventure” is that it has provided an opportunity for bike manufacturers to break some of the old rules of touring bikes. Gone is the old singular meaning of adventure cycling, the one that meant loading up a small mountain of gear strapped to front and rear racks, just sort of suffering along whatever road, and praying that the equipment would hold up.

These days, adventure means, well, just about anything if you believe the marketing. It’s the hottest thing in cycling, and everyone wants a slice. Adventure biking is being used simultaneously as a category, and an all-encompassing activity. Full-suspension mountain bike – adventure; hardtail – definitely adventure; cross bike – whiskey and adventure; expensive road bike – hella adventurizing. The spirit of adventure never changed, but the old rule book – the one that required 26” wheels, Schwalbe solid rubber tires, rim brakes, drop bars, 36 spoke wheels, square-tapers, leather and steel – has been shown out the back door. It’s rather confusing from a marketing perspective, so it’s perhaps understandable that the 920 would appear so category-confused.

At its core, Trek’s 920 seems to aim to achieve the same thing as those rule-bound classic touring bikes, but freed the Luddite mentality that is becoming less and less necessary for international touring as bikes get more reliable, and a variety of parts more easily available around the world. Its aluminum frame features thru-axles, internal cable-routing, a bent top tube that allows three bottle cages within the front triangle on sizes 56cm and up, braze-ons for front and rear racks (which come included), and bottle cage mounts on each fork leg and below the down tube. That’s a total of six bottle mounts on the frame and fork. The aluminum material is exotic in itself for a touring bike, but it allows for a bike that weighs only 26lbs in size 58cm.

Trek 920 Review

Though a frame will always be the heart of a bike, I’d guess that the 920 is the sort of bike that will almost always be purchased and ridden as a complete package. As such, the stock parts spec will be important to most people looking at this bike.

The 920’s build, with a few exceptions, offers a build spec that will come as a breath of fresh air for cycle tourists: its components, for the most part, are exceedingly well-suited to the unique needs of pedaling a loaded bike. Namely, its mountain bike gearing, powerful brakes, decent tires, and strong racks will mean forgoing some common component swaps made to brand new touring bikes.

  • Frame 100 Series Alpha aluminum w/rack + fender mounts
  • Fork Trek Adventure alloy disc, 15mm thru-axle
  • Rims Bontrager Duster Elite Tubeless Ready
  • Hubs 15mm front, 142×12 rear
  • Tires Bontrager XR1, 29×2.0″
  • Shifters SRAM 500 TT, bar end control, 10 speed
  • Front derailleur SRAM X5
  • Rear derailleur SRAM X7, Type 2
  • Crank SRAM S1000, 42/28T
  • Cassette SRAM PG-1030, 11-36, 10 speed
  • Chain KMC X10
  • Saddle Bontrager Evoke 1.5
  • Seatpost Bontrager alloy, 2-bolt head, 27.2mm, 8mm offset
  • Handlebar Bontrager Race, VR-C, 31.8mm
  • Stem Bontrager Elite, 31.8mm, 7 degree, comes w/ computer & light mounts
  • Headset FSA IS-3, 1-1/8″ threadless, sealed cartridge bearings
  • Brakeset TRP Hylex hydraulic disc

A highlight reel

  • Tubeless ready wheels with asymmetrical spokes (for more even spoke tension).
  • Bontrager 29×2.0” XR1 Comp tires: cheap yes, but also pretty ideal for rolling efficiently on gravel and paved surfaces. I was able to run these tires tubeless for duration of the test, even if they’re not a tubeless ready tire.
  • 2×10 Sram X7 mountain drivetrain: mountain bike drivetrain on a drop bar bike?! A 42/28 crankset?! Pinch me. This gear range is actually suitable for cycle touring.
  • TRP Hylex hydraulic disc brakes: because being able to actually stop a loaded drop bar touring bike is something the world deserves. Unlike mechanical disc brakes, these are set-and-forget, requiring zero maintenance.
  • Thru-axles: because if it’s going to have mountain bike wheels, it’d better be able to run common mountain bike wheels. They also surely add a degree of stiffness, stability, and strength to the frame when stressed by heavy loads.
  • Custom racks: yup, the 920 comes with front and rear racks designed to mount specifially to this bike, and as far as I can tell, they’re bomber.

Trek 920 Review

There were only a couple of parts that were immediately unimpressive. First, the saddle did not agree at all with my posterior. I guess that’s a matter of personal preference. Second, the stock stem lengths are atrociously out of whack with the bike’s geo. Consider that Specialized’s AWOL has very similar front end geometry, and specs a 70mm stem on the size L. The 58cm Trek reviewed here came with a 110mm fishing pole.

Now, I’m a relatively averagely proportioned 6’2” tall man. I’ve never come across a bike that was offered in 58cm where the correct size for me wasn’t 58cm. I don’t doubt that the stock stem length will work for some folks out there, but I’d have hoped Trek would aim for average. As it was, I immediately swapped to an 85mm stem, and would probably be happier with a 70mm.

Besides that, there are a few spec choices that don’t quite fit with the nature of the bike. They’re not huge detriments, but they add to the category confusion of the Trek 920.

I guess it’s not really fair to be puzzled at the bar-end shifters – I know why they’re there. Reason 1: this is a $2000 drop bar bike with hydraulic disc brakes. They’ve got to cut cost somewhere and bar-cons are a good way to do that. Reason 2: there’s an old notion that bar-end shifters are a good choice for touring. Part of this idea comes from a sort of retro-grouch mentality that says simple is inherently more durable. I disagree, but I’ll get to that. Part of the old appeal of bar-end shifting stems from the flexibility of friction shifting. Bent derailleurs or derailleur hangers can sometimes be limped home with some amount of shifting in friction mode. Alas, while Sram 10 speed allows the mixing of road shifters with mountain drivetrains, those Sram bar-cons cannot be switched to friction mode.

Trek 920 Review

But given the wide tires, thru-axles, hydraulic disc brakes, aluminum frame and tubeless wheels, I’d think the 920 was beyond all that – a 21st century answer to the touring category. Rather than providing any sort of real advantage to reliability, the bar-end shifters just place thin aluminum shift levers in one of the most vulnerable places on a bicycle. If the bike falls over, which is likely to happen at some point if you use front panniers, there’s a real possibility of breaking or bending the shifter lever.

You and I can likely live with all that given the rest of the spec. The real annoyance came when I thought to myself “damn, this bike could almost pass as a real mountain bike. I should turn off on that singletrack right there.” Or maybe it was that all the underbiking I saw the last time I checked that well-known cycling fashion blog. You know, the one where they’re always riding absurdly expensive road bikes on California singletrack.

And even that started out great. It was a blast right up until the first short, punchy climb. I stood up on the pedals, spine curled and hands deep in the back of the drops when cluuunk…instant knee-to shifter contact. Gear 1 to 10 in one second flat. Game over, no more climbing. Those accidental knee-shifts all but prevented me from using this bike as a drop-bar mountain bike.

Given that those shifters and racks are good indicators that Trek may have intended the 920 to fill the role of a classic touring bike (while somewhat extending its utility onto unsealed surfaces) the 28-spoke wheels are also surprising. Sure, 28-spoke wheels are common for all manner of mountain biking these days, including such high wheel-abuse activities as enduro racing. The Bontrager Duster Elite wheelset is built using asymmetrical rims, which provide more even spoke tension, and may allow them to hold their own against higher spoke-count hoops. But, wheels are subject to a lot of abuse when riding corrugated roads with four bursting panniers, as might be expected on a 920. Fortunately, throughout the test, the Bontrager wheels showed no sign of struggling, though I never did ride the bike loaded with more than about 15kg.

Trek 920 Review

With its long 465mm chain stays, its very low 85mm bottom bracket drop, and its high trail fork, the Trek 920 is built for stability above all. Combined with the large wheels, this has the down side of making the bike decidedly not nimble. This is, perhaps, its weakness. It is especially noticeable when the bike plays dual duty as a commuter. Even though my commute times were not noticeably slower than on my positively zippy little 90’s mountain bike-commuter conversion, the 920 felt very slow to accelerate, and far less eager to take 90 degree corners at speed. It made up for time, however, by easily cruising at speeds similar to a road bike.

With a front load, that high-trail fork exacerbates the lack of maneuverability, making it ride as if on rails. This is likely of benefit moving fast on open roads, but I’d advise against riding with a front load bias off-road. Note that, despite the recent resurgence of front loading – a style of touring long popular amongst randonneurs and their low trail bikes – the 920 and the likes of Specialized’s AWOL have very similar trail measurements, and are not actually any more suitable for front-loading off pavement than other bikes. Instead, I found the 920 handled best with a slight rearward weight bias, or close to even front-to-back weight distribution.

Loaded up on smooth back-roads, whether dirt or pavement, this stability plays to its favour. On one lightly-loaded two-night trip, I was able to maintain close to a 25km/h moving average on smooth gravel roads – much higher than my usual plodding pace. Once up to speed, I could sit in the drops and go, and go, and go…I rode 60km of dirt roads in falling snow for lunch with friends, and 60km back along sloppy mud roads in the rain. The next day, 80km before lunch. These are not my usual sorts of backroad riding days, I’m really not that fit.

Trek 920 Review

This efficiency is no doubt one of the few benefits of drop bar bikes for dirt road touring. I find the riding position (after the stem switch) generally more powerful, and less energy-consuming on the 920 than I’m used to. That said, this being a demo bike, I did not have the opportunity to cut the steerer tube to my preferred length. I found the drops often felt too low, while the hoods felt too high. On one trip, I added some aero bars. By rotating between the three riding positions – climb on the hoods, rotate between the drops and aero bars on flats, and descend in the drops – I was able stay comfortable enough.

On rougher roads, such as the crushed rock logging roads found in British Columbia’s more mountainous parts, the efficient road bike-like riding position and incredible stability (lack of maneuverability) ceased to be a benefit. Instead, I found the position made it challenging to effectively absorb rough stretches, even if the bike itself encouraged me to bomb through those parts. After 100km of that sort of road, my back was sore and I was wishing for a flat bar bike. I’m convinced that a flat bar rigid 29er remains the best option over the greatest variety of terrain, even if the drop bar 29ers excel on gravel roads.

Trek 920 Review

Furthermore, the low bottom bracket and bar-end shifters make it very challenging to ride the 920 on even relatively easy singletrack. Perhaps it’s because I’m used to riding modern hard tails on that sort of surface, but between the constant pedal-to-ground and knee-to-shifter strikes, I wasn’t going far on singletrack without getting frustrated. Running 2.3” tires, some of the pedal striking would surely be alleviated, and the bike would undoubtedly tackle singletrack more adeptly.

Aluminum is certainly unfashionable as a material for touring bikes. I think there is a wide notion that the “feel” of steel makes for a smoother, more comfortable ride. That may be so, but 2.0” tires do a lot for a smoother, more comfortable ride. On maintained gravel roads – that is, unsealed roads that may have a good gravel cap and get graded somewhat regularly – the 920 sails. Hitting corrugated corners at cruising speed is totally comfortable. Perhaps some of my soreness on rougher roads could be attributed to the aluminum frame material. But, I think we can really blame that discomfort to the sporty drop bar position and its difficulty dodging bumps when loaded.

  • Value for the price – impressive package for sub-$2000
  • Comes with good quality front and rear racks
  • Finally, a gear range on a touring bike that’s not too tall
  • Tire clearance for 2.0” rubber with fenders, or up to 2.3” without
  • Bottle bosses for 6 bottles in size 56cm and up, and 5 bottles below
  • Hydraulic disc brakes provide plenty of power for stopping a loaded bike
  • Surprisingly good tire spec
  • Lightweight – 26lb without racks or pedals in size 58cm, 29lbs with racks and pedals.
  • Wants to go fast.
  • Stock stem length way, way too long for average build
  • Bar-end shifters are vulnerable to damage, and impede maneuvering obstacles or climbing out of the saddle
  • Stock saddle designed without any reflection on human anatomy
  • Long rear end/high-trail fork gives away too much maneuverability for touring stability

​Wrap Up: So what is an adventure bike?

​Think of the Trek 920 as​ an updated ​’classic’ ​touring bike​. It ​offer​s​ the load-carrying abilities ​of racks and panniers ​teamed with​ modern components and materials​, ​​bringing i​t in at ​a ​svelte ​26lb package​ – a relative lightweight in the touring world. ​Though the 29×2” tires ​and its generous clearances ​may ​suggest back​country,​ bikepacking ​inclinations, th​e 920’s super stable geometry​ really shines on paved roads and smooth, non-technical dirt​, the kind of terrain encountered on many of the popular touring routes​. ​Consider ​it more as a ‘Touring Plus​’ bike​. ​But note that while the big tires ​help it ride more comfortably and safely, they don’t necessarily extend the abilities of this machine.

  • Model Tested Trek 920 Disc
  • Size Tested 58″
  • Sizes Available 49,52,54,56,58,61″
  • Weight (56cm) 28lbs / 12.7 kg
  • Price $1,989.99
  • Contact
  • Recommended Uses Gravel touring, dirt road bikepacking, all-road riding

Trek 920 Review

Rider’s Background

When not on some longer exploratory bikepacking trip, I tend to do my riding on a mountain bike on the steep, technical trails of southwestern British Columbia. Earlier this year, I spent three months finding new bikepacking routes in Chile’s central Andes. Despite my bias toward lighter loads and harder trails, I’ve put in my time riding on pavement with four panniers, and everything in between. I’ll admit a preference toward standard flat handlebars and more upright riding positions for all but the fastest road riding.

Height 6’2” Weight 180lbs Inseam to ground 34.6”


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  • Touring & Bikepacking Bikes

8 of the Best Touring Bikes: Tour Them Straight Out of the Bicycle Shop

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Table of Contents

Masi giramondo, salsa marrakesh, fuji touring disc, surly disc trucker, marin four corners, co-op adv 4.2.

It was not long ago when the best touring bikes were left for a custom-build. Touring bike manufacturers weren’t quite making anything that was stiff enough, with low climbing gears, wide tyre clearance, lots of handlebar options and Rohloff hub compatibility. I would never have considered buying a complete touring bike a decade ago…

But fast forward to 2019 and there are now so many excellent modern touring options to choose between.

The Trek 520 touring bike has been in production since 1983, using a good touring geometry and solid parts since the early-2000s. In 2004, Surly started making one of the finest, mass-produced frame options around – the Long Haul Trucker. The LHT frame was stiff, had 3x bidon mounts, had a spoke holder and used long 460mm chainstays. Slowly but surely, other manufacturers have been matching and exceeding the great features of the Long Haul Trucker; but it has taken some time.

I’ve selected the following bikes as the best examples of a modern touring bike. They are all steel which I like for the  deflect tolerance , low cost and ease of modification. They all feature wide gear ranges, including low enough gears to get you up most mountains . Almost all feature cable disc brakes which have proven reliable, even in the most remote of locations. The majority fit  barend shifters for no-fuss gear changes, but STI shifters are becoming more common as they tend to be reliable these days.

This is my list of the best modern touring bikes, taking into account design, geometry, price and specification. You can also check out the best touring bicycles with flat handlebars HERE .

2019 Masi Giramondo

Masi recently put together their first touring-specific steel bike, and it’s killer! It has all the low gears (18-109″), barend shifters, TRP dual-piston disc brakes and clearance for 29×2.0″ tyres. One of the best things about the bike is the price – it’s only US $1399 with Tubus front and rear steel racks (valued at US $260, these are the best in the business). When you factor in the brilliant racks it makes the Masi Giramondo touring bike the best value on the list.

Read more about the Masi HERE .

The Salsa Marrakesh is a well-designed bike that comes with a smart and reliable specification. The triple-butted steel tubing helps to create a stiff chassis, there are eyelets for everything from fenders to cargo cages, the dropouts are Rohloff hub compatible and the bike comes in six progressively larger sizes. The Marrakesh offers an ultra-wide gear range (21-122″), clearance for 29×2.0″ tyres, cable disc brakes and barend shifters. The price for a complete Salsa Marrakesh is US $1599 and you can get the frameset for US $799 .

Read more about the Salsa HERE .

2020 Kona Sutra

The Kona Sutra touring bike has come a long way since it was introduced over a decade ago; the latest iteration getting closer to touring perfection. Kona has recently optimised the frame geometry to increase the fork rake, increase the chainstay length and lower the bottom bracket, resulting in a more stable ride. It has a smart build of cable disc brakes, 29×2.2″ tyre clearance, relatively low climbing gears (20-119″) and barend shifters. The bike comes with a touring favourite, the Brooks B17 saddle, plus fenders and a rear rack and is available for  US $1499 .

Read more about the Kona HERE .

2018 fuji touring disc

The Fuji Touring is finally available with cable disc brakes! The all-new steel frameset is available in seven sizes and still offers a solid spec including an ultra-wide gear range (20-119″), barend shifters, a rear rack and strong 36-spoke wheels. Get your hands on a Fuji Touring Disc for  US $1199 .

Read more about the Fuji HERE .

For a long time, Surly was the  touring standard. The bike’s geometry is great and it’s the only bike that’s available with 26″ or 700C wheels. The bike comes with ample braze-ons for water and gear, an ultra-wide gear range (20-119″) and a rock-solid spec. The 700C bike will fit a 700x45C tyre and the 26″ bike a 26×2.10″. Although it’s remained relatively unchanged for quite a while now, it still ranks as one of the best and that’s why you’ll see them everywhere. You can get a Disc Trucker for US $1550 .

Read more about the Disc Trucker HERE .

2019 Trek 520

The Trek 520 has been slowly evolving into a super-capable steel touring bike. These days it offers a bombproof spec including cable disc brakes and the ability to fit 29×2.0″ tyres, plus a great frame geometry and good climbing gear of less than 20-inches. It’s US $1679 for the complete bike or US $709 for the frameset, it’s also available in grey and it comes with the Bontrager front and rear racks shown in the image.

Read more about the Trek HERE .

The Marin Four Corners has been getting better and cheaper by the year! This steel touring bike has generous tyre clearance (700x50c), cable disc brakes and braze-ons everywhere. It offers a rather high climbing gear of 25 gear inches, but with a crankset change, you can easily achieve lower climbing gears. Find the Marin Four Corners for  US $1039 .

Read more about the Marin  HERE .

2018 Co-Op Cycles ADV

The Co-Op may be a bit different to the other bikes in the list, but don’t overlook it. It offers an insanely low 16 gear inch climbing gear, which will effortlessly get you up any climb in the world. While it’s technically more of an off-road touring bike, it can easily be re-purposed for road and gravel use by fitting some Schwalbe Super Moto-X slick tyres. In terms of parts, it offers a Jones Loop handlebar, Shimano SLX hydraulic disc brakes, Microshift thumb shifters, front and rear racks and a Cane Creek suspension seatpost. It’s US $1999 which isn’t half bad if you consider what it comes with.

Read more about the ADV 4.2 HERE

Want To Compare These Touring Bikes With Dozens of Others?

Check out The Touring Bicycle Buyer’s Guide  which compares touring bike steering, sizing, gear ratios, specification, pricing and more. The Bikepacking Bike Buyer’s Guide does the same thing, however, with a focus on lighter bikes and models with more off-road capability. Both of these guides are updated annually with the latest models at no extra cost!

Helpful Resources

All About Touring Bike Brakes Frame Materials for Bicycle Touring How to Select Touring Bike Gearing Understand Bicycle Frame Geometry What’s the Difference between Cyclocross and Touring Bikes?

Touring & Bikepacking Bike Overview

2016 Advocate Lorax 2018 All City Gorilla Monsoon 2016 Basso Ulisse 2016 Bianchi Volpe and Lupo 2016 2016 Bombtrack Beyond 2017 Bombtrack Beyond 2018 Bombtrack Beyond 2018 Bombtrack Arise Tour 2019 Bombtrack Beyond 2016 Brodie Elan Vital 2016 Cannondale Touring 2019 Cannondale Topstone 2020 Cannondale Topstone 2016 Cinelli Hobootleg Geo 2018 Co-Op ADV 4.2 2017 Curve Grovel V2 2017 Diamondback Haanjo EXP Carbon 2016 Fuji Touring 2017 Fuji Touring 2018 Fuji Touring 2018 Fuji Touring Disc 2016 Genesis Tour de Fer 2016 Giant ToughRoad 2017 Giant ToughRoad 2018 Giant ToughRoad and ToughRoad GX 2016 Jamis Aurora and Aurora Elite 2019 Jones Plus SWB 2020 KOGA WorldTraveller-S 2016 Kona Big Rove 2016 Kona Roadhouse and Sutra LTD 2016 Kona Sutra 2017 Kona Sutra 2018 Kona Sutra 2018 Kona Sutra LTD 2019 Kona Sutra and Sutra LTD 2020 Kona Sutra and Sutra LTD 2020 Kona Unit X 2016 Marin Four Corners 2017 Marin Four Corners 2018 Marin Four Corners 2016 Masi Giramondo 2018 Masi Giramondo 2016 Niner RLT9 2016 Rawland Ulv and Ravn 2016 Salsa Deadwood 2017 Salsa Fargo 2018 Salsa Fargo Ti Frameset 2018 Salsa Journeyman 2016 Salsa Marrakesh 2017 Salsa Marrakesh 2018 Salsa Marrakesh 2020 Salsa Marrakesh 2017 Salsa Vaya 2019 Salsa Warbird 2016 Specialized AWOL 2017 Specialized AWOL 2017 Specialized Diverge 2018 Specialized Diverge 2019 Specialized Diverge 2017 Specialized Sequoia 2018 Specialized Sequoia 2019 Specialized Sequoia 2018 Surly Bridge Club 2017 Surly Troll 2016 Traitor Wander 2019 Trek 520 2016 Trek 920, 720, 520 & CrossRip 2017 Trek CrossRip 2018 Trek 920 2018 Trek 1120

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  • Best Touring Bike
  • the best touring bicycles

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Best touring bikes 2023: tourers for adventures on two wheels

Although there are many bikes capable of cycle trips, the best touring bikes remain the optimal tool for longer journeys

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best touring bike

The allure of the open road is one of cycling’s enduring themes. Touring by bicycle allows for this on a grand scale, travelling for several days, often in far-flung places with all your kit strapped to the bike. Of course, micro-adventures closer to home can be just as much fun and still keep the spirit of adventure alive.

Whether you’re planning an expedition abroad or fancy exploring more local roads in far greater detail, a touring bike is the ideal tool for the job. Designed for cycling long distances in comfort, the bikes should be both stable and reliable in their handling, as well as providing all the mounts you need for pannier racks and bags and mudguards . Self-sufficiency is one of the tenets of cycling touring, so the bikes are usually designed with ease of maintenance in mind, too.

The good news for touring cyclists is that the range of bikes available to cater for their needs has grown substantially in the last few years.

In this guide, we've rounded up the more traditional options. If you're thinking of going off-road, perhaps investigate gravel orientated options in our buying guide here , and if you plan to go quick and travel light, see endurance road bikes here .

There's more on what to look for in a touring bike below - but first, here are our top picks of the best touring bikes.

Our pick of the best touring bikes

Genesis tour de fer 30 touring bike, specifications, reasons to buy, reasons to avoid.

This is a bike that's been created exclusively to provide a comfortable and practical ride for a touring cyclist. The Reynolds 725 Heat-Treated Chromoly frame promises a springy ride and an incredibly strong base.

The 160mm rotor mechanical disc brakes are a more modern introduction with a nod to practicality, especially in the wet. Although we’ve found mechanical TRP Spyre brake calipers aren’t quite as powerful or as easy to modulate as a hydraulic brakeset, they are easy to adjust and highly reliable – perfect for a long-distance tour.

A 10-speed Shimano Tiagra drivetrain is about right for a bike at this price point, but in our experience, a 50/39/30 crankset provides gears that are just a bit too big for cycle touring – particularly over hilly terrain. 

But you can always swap this out for a smaller ringed option down the line. We find that with a cassette of 11-34t, going for a granny ring of 26t is generally a good bet.

We’ve always found Schwalbe’s Marathon tyres to be highly puncture resistant and with a good wear rate. In 35c, these are capable of traversing broken roads and tamer gravel, but if you’re planning on spending a large amount of time off road you would want something a bit plumper.

Handily, this bike come with many of the accessories we think are a must. Firstly, mudguards, but also dynamo powered front and rear lights, bottle cages and the Tubus pannier racks front and rear.

Surly Disc Trucker

A spin-off of Surly's much-revered Long Haul Trucker, the Disc Trucker keeps many of the much-loved versatility and can-do attitude, but this time with the addition of mechanical disc brakes and thru-axles – unlike the Genesis Tour de Fer 30 which has disc brakes and QR axles.

Opinion is a little split on thru-axles for touring – if you have any catastrophic issues with your hubs in more remote countries, you're unlikely to be able to find a replacement locally. That said, those kind of hub issues are quite rare and if it does happen you can always get a replacement sent out. For the improved alignment between the rotor and the caliper, we think the benefits outweigh the negatives.

A multitude of braze-on mount means the Disc Trucker is capable of running front and rear bags, full-coverage fenders, two water bottles, a spare spoke and even a pump peg. However, in not coming with these accessories, you will have to factor these into the cost, making the value for money a little less than the Genesis Tour de Fer 30 or the Kona Sutra.

With both 26" and 700c wheel build options available, the Disc Trucker can be as adventurous as you choose. The 26" (in sizes 42-58cm) is capable of taking up to 2.1" tires, while the 700c version (in sizes 56-64cm) has room for up to 42mm tires — both with fenders.

Although touring bikes generally do have a more relaxed position than a typical road bike, designed as they are for comfortably covering long distances, the Disc Trucker does have a particularly high front end. This isn't necessarily a problem, but if you are coming from a road cycling background, you may find just such an elevated position a little uncomfortable 

Made from a CroMoly Steel, the Disc Trucker comes equipped with a Shimano Alivio/Sora drivetrain, with the 48/36/26 triple Alivio crankset and 11-34 9-speed Shimano cassette provides a gearing range we find to be a great balance between top-end speed and low-end winching – particularly if you’re planning on maxing out the rider and kit weight limit of 161kg (355lb).

Kona Sutra All Road touring bike

The gloss black Sutra is made from Kona 's Cromoly steel frame and is kitted out with smooth-rolling Schwalbe Marathon Mondial 700x40c tires on WTB STi23 rims, which are now tubeless-compatible.

The current model has replaced the previous Shimano Deore 3x10 drivetrain with 2x10 chainset from Shimano's GRX gravel range. It's a move that's unlikely to please the touring purists. The 46/30t chainrings are matched with a 11-36t cassette, which sees the bike's gearing range reduced. It should still see you up the steep climbs, just perhaps not in as much comfort as before.

Gone too are the bar-end shifters, replaced with Shimano 10-speed Tiagra road shifters. Again it's quite the change, moving the Sutra from a traditional tourer into a far more modern interpretation. It reduces some of the bike's previous mechanical simplicity, which is appealing if your tours are long and overseas. That said the move to STI levers will appeal if you're used to riding a regular bike.

Another nod to modernity are the TRP disc brakes, which are blend of mechanical and hydraulic, and the frame's thru-axles.

With a Brooks B17 leather saddle, mudguards and a front pannier rack finishing off this tourer, this good-looking bike oozes style.

The leather Brooks saddle does require a bit more care than what you might be used to – it need to be kept covered from heavy rain and needs a semi regular application of cream to keep the leather supple. But by functioning essentially as a hammock, it is exceptionally comfortable and only gets better over time as it moulds to your shape – it wears in, rather than out..

Ridgeback Voyage

Classic styling never goes out of date - and the vintage-looking Voyage has got it by the bucket load, though a redesign means that modern tech has not been overlooked.

The Ridgeback Voyage uses Reynolds 520 tubing for the frame, with a CroMoly steel fork. A rack and full mudguards (fenders) come as standard. 

The Shimano 48/36/26t triple chainset paired with an 11-34 cassette offers a good range of gearing although with relatively large jumps between the gears due to having just nine gears at the rear. 

We don’t find this to be too much of an issue when taking it steady on a cycle tour but would prefer something a little tighter if multiple very high mileage days are planned.

Shifting and braking is taken care of by Shimano's reliable Sora levers and Tektro cantilever rim brakes. The latter certainly help make the Voyage a maintenance-friendly machine - easy to maintain and find replaces for, even in remote locations - although disc brakes may be a preferred choice for all-weather tourers.

Alex rims with a high spoke count are pretty dependable, even if not the flashiest and fitted with 32c Continental Contact tyres, they can handle a little off road, but are best suited to the tarmac.  

Trek 520 disc touring bike

Constructed from Trek's CroMoly steel, the frame has been designed around disc brakes and fitted with a rack and fenders mounts.

The Bontrager Affinity rims are tubeless-ready, which might be worth setting up if you want a bit of a faster ride when commuting. But for long-term touring it’s generally best to stick with inner tubes so as to avoid the added complication of sealant drying out. Bontrager’s 38c H1 hard-case Ultimate tyres offer good puncture resistance themselves.

The drivetrain is a mixture of Shimano parts with Sora shifters. The crankset is a triple, with 48/36/26 tooth chainrings, and the cassette is an 11-36 so you'll have ample gears when the road goes up. TRP Spyre C 2.0 mechanical disc mechanical discs look after stopping.

However, with only nine sprockets on the cassette, the jumps between the gears are a little large, as with the Ridgeback Voyage. But if this does cause you an issue, and if you find yourself not using all of the gears, you could fit a tighter range cassette for smaller jumps.

Like the Genesis Tour de Fer 30, the wheel axles are QR, which can make getting the rotor and caliper aligned properly a little more difficult than with a thru-axle system

The overall weight comes in at 14.26 kg / 31.4 lbs in a size 57, which is lighter than some of the more traditional options.

Cube Travel Pro Trapeze touring bike

Cube offers its Travel Pro tourer in both a traditional crossbar and step-through frame design, with the latter making mounting and dismounting this robust, aluminum bike easy and convenient.

The convenience theme is carried through much of the bike. It's equipped with a Shimano Nexus internal hub gear system and a Gates CDN Belt Drive system which offers super low maintenance compared with a more traditional chain and derailleur system.

With this eight-speed hub, the jumps between the gears is a little larger and the overall range a little lower than you can get with a derailleur system, and it's not quite as efficient. But that said, if you're planning on taking it steady on your cycle tour, those points are pretty immaterial compared to the benefit of much lower maintenance.  

There's plenty of clearance for extra-wide tires and the wheels are currently wrapped in Schwalbe's Marathon Almotion 29x2.15in rubber.

Finishing off this functional tourer are full-length fenders, an adjustable CUBE stand Pro kickstand, a Knog Oi bell, lights (front and rear), and a semi-integrated carrier for pannier bags; these features will have you covered for any adventure.

Salsa Marrakesh

The Marrakesh is designed to take you touring wherever you wish — including a trip around the world if necessary. The frame is built from 4130 CroMoly tubing and has a serious array of mounts. There's room for up to five bottle cages thanks to extra fork mounts plus it comes fitted with front and rear racks. There's even a mount to carry a spare spoke.

Elsewhere there are bar-end shifters and a 3x9-speed Shimano Alivio groupset. The gearing range is designed to get you up the steep stuff even when fully loaded thanks to 48/36/36 triple chainring paired with an 11-36t cassette. The shifters also make roadside maintenance a little easier.

Its world-touring credentials are further aided by its generous tire clearance - 700 x 40mm even with mudguards (fenders), and comes stock with Maxxis Roamer 42mm tires. This means you should eat up the miles in comfort even when the road gets rough.

What to look for in a touring bike

It's difficult to lay out specific criteria when it comes to choosing a touring bike because the beauty of touring is that it can be whatever you want it to be – there is no single best touring bike for everyone, what is best for you depends on the type of tours you want to go on. However, there are key elements to consider when selecting your two-wheeled riding buddy, which will enable you to get the best touring bike for you.

Touring bike frame

If you're planning a longer trip, and intend the bike to be used primarily for such adventures, then the resilience and comfort of steel is a sensible choice. As such, most of the best touring bikes will feature this metal. The amount you're willing to invest will dictate the weight, strength and character of the steel you end up with.

When looking at steel touring bikes, expect to see the word 'Chromoly' a lot. This is a form of low alloy steel that is used when strength is particularly important. It takes its name from two of the primary alloying (mixing of metals) elements used: “chromium” and “molybdenum”.

If you're planning on using the bike for touring and other duties: club runs, commutes, shorter rides where speed might be more in your interest, consider aluminum or carbon .

Bikes suitable for touring will have a relaxed geometry: a shorter top tube and taller stack to put the rider in a more relaxed position. The wheelbase will be longer, to create a feeling of stability. You'll also notice that the chainstays are longer - this means panniers can be mounted without a chance of clipping your heels and it allows for better distribution when panniers are full.

Touring bike wheels

Elsewhere in the cycling world, we talk about low weight and aerodynamics when it comes to bicycle wheels. And sure, if you're aiming to break a world record on your cycle tour then those are probably still very important areas to consider.

However, if you mainly want to get to somewhere rather far away, and you'd like to arrive there with a wheel that's still true and contains the same number of spokes you left with, then a strong wheel is what you desire. Look for a higher spoke count that you might opt for on a speedy road bike.

The best touring bikes will generally have at least 36 spokes per wheel, tandem touring bike can even go as high as 48. 

Touring bike tyres

It's incredible how much difference a set of tyres can make to a bike. The frame can be designed with comfort top of the agenda, but put on some narrow rubber shoes and pump them up to the wrong tyre pressure and you'll be bumping about all over the road.

Most touring cyclists will want to go for wider tyres - 28mm+, when compared with their road racing cousins. The further off the beaten track you want to go, the wider they should be. If you plan on tackling some light trails, look for 32mm+.

Touring bike brakes

Traditionally, touring bikes had rim brakes and these will certainly do the job for most road-based tours. However, disc brakes do provide far superior stopping power, especially in the wet, and they are now more common than rim brake on the best touring bikes

Since disc brakes don't rely upon the rim to bring the bike to a halt, they also reduce the risk of the rims becoming worn through debris building up on the pads.

Add in that many touring cyclists are carrying luggage, therefore adding to the overall load, powerful brakes that work in all weathers do seem like a sensible addition. However, not everyone likes the appearance of disc brakes on a traditional steel machine and the pads are a tiny bit harder to replace and set up, which is worth considering if you're maintaining your bike on the road.

Luggage and Lights on a touring bike

A purpose-built touring bike will come with pannier racks fitted, as well as fenders and perhaps even built-in lights. These all add to the overall weight, but if the intended purpose requires them, it's no bother.

If you plan to use the bike for other purposes, like group rides, then you may want to look for a bike that comes with eyelets for guards and racks, so that you can remove and fit them as and when.

There's a lot of clever luggage solutions around these days, such as frame bags and oversized saddlebags , that allow you to do away with panniers if you'd rather distribute weight differently.

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Michelle Arthurs-Brennan is a traditional journalist by trade, having begun her career working for a local newspaper, where highlights included interviewing a very irate Freddie Star (and an even more irate theatre owner), as well as 'the one about the stolen chickens'.

Previous to joining the Cycling Weekly team, Michelle was Editor at Total Women's Cycling. She joined CW as an 'SEO Analyst', but couldn't keep her nose out of journalism and in the spreadsheets, eventually taking on the role of Tech Editor before her latest appointment as Digital Editor. 

Michelle is a road racer who also enjoys track riding and the occasional time trial, though dabbles in off-road riding too (either on a mountain bike, or a 'gravel bike'). She is passionate about supporting grassroots women's racing and founded the women's road race team 1904rt.

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2023 Trek 520 Review

Are you looking for an affordable, lightweight, and dependable travel bike to tour around the world? If your answer is yes, then you need to read our review of the 2023 Trek 520.

The 2023 Trek 520 is one of the most popular touring bikes on the market. 

It has a lightweight steel frame, sturdy wheels and powerful brakes that make it ideal for long-distance travel in any terrain. 

Additionally, it offers an impressive range of gears, which helps ensure that you’ll be able to handle anything life throws at you while on the road.

2023 Trek 520 Review

Although this bike was designed with touring in mind, its stylish design and reliable components make it suitable for everyday use as well. 

We will review the features and specs of the 2023 Trek 520 and explain why it’s one of the best bikes for long-distance cycling or urban commuting.

Trek’s 520 touring bike for 2023 comprises both speed and strength, crafted with Bontrager Evoke saddle, lightweight alloy wheels and Shimano components. 

It considers comfort, efficiency and reliability as a priority. Let’s take a look at the features in this review of the Trek 520 for 2023:

The Trek 2023 520 is a dependable touring bike made for long distance rides that has been optimized for comfort and performance.

2023 Trek 520 Review

This touring bike offers riders a lightweight yet strong chromoly steel frame, precision brakes and an ergonomic riding position. 

It also comes with an adjustable stem to provide extra reach when needed, reliable tires on rugged wheels, responsive Shimano drivetrain with 21 speed, wide-range components so you can go farther with less effort. 

– Lightweight chromoly steel frame for strength and durability

– 3×9 Shimano drivetrain for improved gear range

– TRP Spyre C 2.0 mechanical disc brakes provides reliable stopping power in all conditions

– Wide range 3×9 drivetrain consisting of 48/36/26t front chainrings and a 11-36, 9 speed cassette

– Reliable Bontrager H1 Hard-case Ultimate, 700x38c tires

– Rugged Bontrager Affinity Disc wheels withstand even toughest terrains

2023 Trek 520 Review

The steel frame is made from Trek butted chromoly that provides a reliable ride quality and excellent strength to meet the challenging miles you will be encountering—no matter if on pavement, dirt or gravel.

2023 Trek 520 Review

Trek has equipped the new 520 with just the right amount of rigidity while still maintaining the compliance needed to stay comfortable over longer rides. 

It comes with Trek’s Alloy disc touring fork, loaded with rack mounts, and a 100x5mm ThruSkew that gives you excellent control over rough surfaces. 

The resulting stability ensures you feel safe and secure even during high-speed descents down steep grades.

2023 Trek 520 Review

Wheels & Tires

This bike is fitted with Bontrager Affinity alloy wheels spinning around sturdy sealed bearing hubs that are designed to tackle any road surface. 

As well as being light they also feature straightforward mechanical disc brakes offering plenty easy braking power when needed. 

For grip on tougher terrain, Trek dressed the aluminum hoops with meaty Bontrager H1 Hard-case Ultimate, 700x38c tires boasting plenty of bite through wet conditions.

2023 Trek 520 Review

Drivetrain & Brakes

Thanks to its strong Shimano Sora and Alivio 3×9-speed drivetrain, you are guaranteed plenty range for tackling climbs or flybys when out riding around town. 

Stopping power comes courtesy of TRP Spyre C 2.0 mechanical disc keeping weight low but ensuring you have enough stopping power when coming back down off tough sections.

2023 Trek 520 Review

All these elements come together making up an incredible machine perfect for those looking for strong, reliable, steel touring bike capability at great value without halfhearted design or compromises when it comes to components. 

Next time your considering your next purchase be sure to take some time to consider Trek’s latest offering —the 520 may be just what your searching for!

Order online and have it shipped to your local dealer for final assembly!!

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Tom’s Bike Trip

What’s The Best Touring Bike? (2023 Edition)

  • Post author By Tom
  • Post date January 2, 2023
  • 317 Comments on What’s The Best Touring Bike? (2023 Edition)

Last updated on April 23, 2023 . Touring bike choice is a very popular topic, so I update this post regularly to keep the details current. That said, if you do find any out-of-date information, consider leaving a comment for the benefit of other readers. Thanks!

Selfie of adventure cyclist Tom Allen and his bike at Bilgoa Lookout with the the coast of New South Wales in the background.

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 specifics of the bicycle tour you’re planning , as well as your unique physiological needs, and your personal preferences as a touring cyclist.

For example, the “best touring bike” for a youngster planning a low-budget tour close to home would be totally different to the “best touring bike” for an experienced athlete 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 touring bike for an ultralight bikepacker competing in the Transcontinental !

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 , 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 , among plenty more on my absolutely massive advice and planning page .

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:

Cube touring, decathlon riverside touring 520, fuji touring disc/disc ltd, ridgeback expedition, ridgeback panorama, surly disc trucker, kona sutra se, oxford bike works expedition.

  • More reader-recommended touring bikes available worldwide
  • Bonus: The secret to actually choosing the right touring bike

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.)

Summary: Feature-rich flat-bar trekking bike Availability: Worldwide List Price: £800 / €730 / US$760 / CA$1,090

Manufacturer's image of the Cube Touring 2023 touring bike.

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.

  • Check out the full Cube Touring range on the Cube website .
  • Find your local dealer in Cube’s online directories of stockists in the UK and Europe , the USA , and Canada .
  • Don’t buy this bike online. Support your local bike shop ( UK list )!

Summary: Good value forward-thinking light tourer Availability: UK & Europe List Price: £800 / €800

Manufacturer's image of the Decathlon Riverside Touring 520 2023 flat bar touring bike, available in the UK and Europe.

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.

Availability: Sporty steel-framed light road tourer List Price: £1,250+ / €1,450+ / US$1,500+

Manufacturer's image of the Japanese-designed Fuji Touring 2023 disc brake-equipped road touring bike.

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.

  • Find a list of global dealers on the official Fuji website .

You’ll get an interesting email from me every few months with what’s new. No spam. No fluff.

Summary: Beefy yet comfortable long-haul all-rounder Availability: UK List Price: £1,350

Manufacturer's image of the British-designed Ridgeback Expedition 2023 flat-bar expedition touring bike.

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 .

Summary: Classic British fully loaded drop-bar tourer Availability: UK List Price: £1,600

Manufacturer's image of the British-designed Ridgeback Panorama 2023 premium road touring bike.

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.

  • The Ridgeback Panorama is available from these authorised UK dealers .

Summary: Customisable high-performance road/gravel adventure bike Availability: Worldwide List Price: £1,600 / US$2,050 / CA$2,800

Manufacturer's image of the American-designed Surly Disc Trucker 2023 touring bike.

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 .

Summary: Classy, fully-featured & forward-thinking road/gravel tourer Availability: Worldwide List Price: £1,900

Manufacturer's image of the Canadian-designed Kona Sutra SE 2023 drop bar disc brake road touring bike.

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.

Summary: Bespoke-built round-the-world expedition tourer Availability: UK List Price: from £2,789

A profile photo of the Oxford Bike Works Expedition touring bike in 2023

Originally a one-off ‘ultimate expedition bike’ built to my own specification, Oxford Bike Works have been refining and custom-building bespoke Expedition s 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.

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.

touring bikes trek

Bogged down in research for your next big bicycle adventure?

I wrote a book to help with that. How To Hit The Road is designed to take the pain out of planning a bike tour of any length, duration or budget. Available as a low-priced ebook or paperback.

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Before you go…

  • How To Custom Build The Ultimate Expedition Touring Bike (With Pictures)
  • 3 Critical Questions To Ask Before You Choose A New Touring Bike
  • Surly Disc Trucker Touring Bike: Legacy Review & Detailed Photos

317 replies on “What’s The Best Touring Bike? (2023 Edition)”

Anyone got their hands on a Decathalon Riverside Touring 900? Looks like good all round value, but rarely in stock on their website! Would love to hear some real world feedback on this bike…

I second that – real world stories appreciated!

Hi Tom, I recently cycled from Amsterdam to Genoa covering 2500km in total. I flew into Amster with the bike boxed up. I took with me a carbon frame Ridley Kanzo Adventure, it has all the mounting points and relatively relaxed geometry. I road over every type of terrain and the bike didn’t let me down. What I liked with this bike was that I could arrive at my destination in the evening, remove my pannier bags and then have a light weight roadie feeling for exploring whatever region I had made camp in. The bike also had great performance in the hills. Another plus was that when flying and the bike is boxed up, it’s relatively light weight to transport. This meant that at the start and end of my tour getting the bike boxed up from campsite to train to airport was not such a struggle.

Thanks, Kerry. I really like this approach and I’m heartened to hear carbon frames are now being built to take light luggage loads. Thanks again for sharing!

The 30 year old touring bike you already own becomes the second best, as the next one you buy must necessarily be even better.

I’ve recently gone from a Claud Butler Majestic to a Crossmaxx 28″ Pinion. Naturally, I’m absolutely certain, it’s the best touring bike I could possibly have bought (given my criteria and priorities).

First, let me make this perfectly clear, I’m not a seasoned tourer, so much of what I will say is strictly coming from an amateur. I had to look for a new touring bike after my 85 Schwinn Le Tour Luxe got hit by a hit-and-run driver and bent the fork beyond repair, but that bike worked great for my needs.

I could not buy a touring bike from anyone in my city of 350,000 people because no one carries them, the only shop that could have ordered me the Trek 520 but there were some things about the bike I didn’t like, plus it was expensive and with lower end parts, much how I felt the Surly Trucker was, having no choice I had to turn to the internet. in 2019 I compared the Kona Sutra SE, Surly Trucker, Fuji Touring, Masi Giramondo 700c, and one other I can’t recall the name. After much debate, I narrowed it down to either the Kona or the Masi, and ended up with the Masi because of the price of $1,450 at the time, the Kona would have cost me $1,950, but in 2019 they didn’t have some of the stuff they now have on that bike so to make it work I had to make some changes which would have cost me even more; the Masi had the best gear ratios for climbing steep grades with a loaded bike of any bike I saw, and at the time Masi was using 180mm rotors on the front and 160 on the rear and I liked the idea of the bigger rotor on the front, Masi has since reduced the front rotor size to 160.

I did make some changes to the Masi, put on RedShift Shockstop suspension stem and seat post, a change I would have done to any other touring bike I would have bought, now I feel like I’m riding in a Cadillac. The stock Kenda Drumlin tires are junk and heavy, I replaced those with Schwalbe Amotion 38c tires; and the WTB saddle was also junk, so replaced it with a Brooks C17; I ended up not liking the front Tubus Tara rack and replaced it with a Blackburn Bootlegger rack which works better for my needs. 

I think the Masi Giramondo 700c is a very worthy touring bike that a person should at least look at, especially if on the lower budget end of things.

Thanks for this detailed contribution – it’s always good to hear about rider experiences with touring bikes other than those listed here. For other readers’ reference, here’s a link to the California based manufacturer webpage for the Masi Giramondo .

About to begin a year of touring with Breezer Radar Expert. A review of it here (not me) I changed the tires to Schwalbe G‑One Overland Evo 28″ 50–622 for this purpose 😉

I’m considering the Priority 600, as my new touring bike and wondering if anyone has any history of using one or opinions of this bike? Thx

For reference, here’s a link to the Priority 600 . I have no personal experience of this bike, but I have published my own detailed thoughts on internal gearing systems such as the Pinion gearbox in the context of cycle touring here (most of the same logic applies to belt drive).

I am a multi day ultra cyclist, so tend to go minimalist. However, I have done big touring rides in the past on my trusty 1993 Cannondale T1000 (my 21st birthday present). I think that a Daws Super Galaxy or Cannondale, still make excellent budget touring bikes. I have been racing and touring on a Niner RTL Steel, which is makes an excellent touring bike, with great touring geomtry and lots of mounts for racks — I use a 1x 46t Shinano GRX groupset with an 11–50 cassette. Gravel bikes can may great touring bikes

Happy you’re reinforcing the mantra that the best touring bike might be the one you already have – even if it’s 30 years old! As for gravel bikes, many of them would certainly make good tourers – just not sure I’d advise anyone to buy a gravel bike for touring if touring-specific bikes are also available.

I think I have been riding the “Best” touring bike for the last 7 years. —

What an absolute beast! Something with that much detailed customisation can hardly fail to serve its rider’s needs best.

Yes HP and Tom, I would like to know about the Marrakesh too!

Interestingly enough, I still can’t find any long-term rider reviews of the Marrakesh. There are, however, plenty of spam reviews which combine manufacturer specifications and stock photos with meaningless filler like “combining Alivio Trekking derailleurs with the Shimano Sora shifters, you won’t have any problem slowing down or torquing up the bike when needed” (yep, actual quote). As a rule, bikes only get on this list when a consensus emerges from the community of people who’ve used them on tour. I just wish I could find more decent trip reports from people riding this one!

Great list, but where’s the Salsa Marrakech?!

I’ve done a few tours on it and can vouch for it’s quality. She’s an absolute beast and rides like a dream! Packed with touring features and has really well worked out geometry.

PS I don’t work for Salsa.

PPS love the blog mate. Did a 6500km+ around Asia a few years ago and your blog was really reaaally useful. 🤘🤘🤘

Thanks for the comment! The Marrakech was launched in 2015, which in cycle touring circles makes it a newcomer 😉 but you are correct that enough time has gone by now to see real-world results, so I’ll consider it for the next update. Thanks again!

I am looking to buy either Fuji disc touring LTD 2021( priced at 1336 euros) or Trek 520 2021( priced at 1600 euros) . I am really confused , as I don’t understand even though both have very similar specs, why is the trek 520 priced at 250 euros higher? Is trek somehow supposed to be better for some reason that I cannot comprehend or is it price cause of the brand “trek”?

Hi Badri. Prices may differ for many reasons, including import taxes, exchange rates, retailer profit margins, and of course simple pricing decisions by the manufacturer. But my main advice still remains this: if you can’t choose between two bikes on paper, it’s time to visit your local bike shop and take both for a test ride!

Hi I’m from newzealand and touring bikes well decent ones aren’t that easy to come by at the moment because of covid .but I found a Kona sutra the guy had only done about 100 km on it decided he wasn’t going to cycle so sold it and I happen to be at the right place at the right time.great bike to ride and I’m looking forward to my first tour on it in one months time Peter

Unlikely you monitor this anymore, but I’ve been comparing my 80s road bike to modern touring bikes (Croix de Fer and Kona Sutra) and the geometries look the same. Am I missing something or are modern specialist tourers actually very similar to old-school road racers?

Hey Hugh. Actually I make a point of replying to every comment, and I update this post monthly 🙂

Long ago I inherited a hand-built road bike from my grandfather. It was the first bike I’d owned that wasn’t a mountain bike and I was amazed at how fast and light it was, despite being a steel frame. It was a bit on the small side for me, but you’re right that the geometry was quite close to a classic road tourer. The biggest differences you’ll probably find are in the weight (heavier-gauge tubing designed for carrying luggage) and the wheelbase proportional to frame size, although the trend today seems to be for more compact and sporty designs. But the short version is yes, there are certainly a lot of similarities!

Sorry to burst some people’s bubbles.But I want to save you the hassle and frustration. I’ve been touring around north,central and south america,now in Turkey & the Balkans for the last 4.5 years on a 3x9 ‚11–36 cassette Surly Troll 26″ and I can tell you that 26″ anything is absolutely obsolete!! DEAD!! It has been a total nightmare! I can find zero parts for it, anywhere. Definitely forget tires. Impossible! Literally nothing anywhere. Traditional wisdom is gone out the window, China has flooded the market with 27.5/29″ and all the components for these sizes and that’s what killed the 26″ over the last 5+ years. Seriously , almost everything I have for my bike I had to buy off Amazon and getting lucky once or twice when a mechanic spent days looking for parts for me. I’ve spent days and more than 2 weeks stuck in cities looking for what was considered simple parts found “easily”! :9 speed shifters,cassettes,chains,26″ tires,disc rotors 160mm,BB,brake pads,etc…Nada!! Super frustrating! I can’t buy a new bike now but I will sell this 26″ 3x9 Troll in a flash the first chance I get or throw it straight into a river. It’s a shame because it’s a great bike. You can almost still get things for it online, but I think soon these parts will be plased out soon. Due to Covid the shipping is taking weeks and many parts are out of stock now too. I thought that being in Europe people still ride 26″ bikes I might find parts,but no.I’ve been once again stuck Tirana for more than 2 weeks just for a cassette and chain and have to take inferior parts now. If I had a 27’5 or 29″ and 10/11 speed I would have more options. My friends who toured 5–10 + years ago can’t believe this change. All 26″ inch bike frame builders out there need to know this.The market has changed, traditionalists be warned. Good luck!

Hello Ian and thanks for your comment. You certainly sound frustrated! For balance, and for the benefit of my other readers, I’d like to add a few observations:

1. 26″ is a wheel size, not a cassette sprocket count, chain width, shifter indexing system, disc rotor size, etc. It affects rim, spoke, tyre and tube availability. 2. You’re right that the industry is currently swamped with trendy new wheel sizes like 27.5 and 29. But most existing bicycles in the world have 26-inch wheels. These bicycles will always need spare parts and are unlikely to disappear overnight. 3. As for “literally nothing anywhere”, I just walked into my local supermarket and found an aisle of brand new bicycles, all adult sizes of which had 26-inch wheels, and a rack of spare tyres right next to them. I’ve said this before: it’s not just specialist bike shops that sell bikes. This is critical to remember when looking for 26-inch wheel parts in far-flung lands.

That’s all I wanted to add. I hope you get things sorted in Tirana. And I hope you’ll share with us the location of the river you throw your Surly Troll into!

Im fairly sure the Surly Long Haul Trucker promotion pictures are of frames with a different wheel size they are designed for. The picture here looks like a 60cm frame for 700c wheels but fitted with 26″ wheels. This is the same for the picture here as it is on their website, which looks like a 58cm frame for 262 wheels with 700c wheels in place. I own a Surly LHT and theyre great bikes but the frame sizeing can be a bit confusing and the promotional pictures dont help.

I would respectfully disagree, based on the fact that the brake shoes are visibly aligned correctly with the rims. If the wrong sized wheels were fitted to the frame, this wouldn’t be possible. In the past, all sizes of LHT frames have been available for both 700C and 26″ wheels, so I’d guess we’re looking at one of the larger frame sizes for 26″ wheels with the correct wheels indeed fitted. The proportions do look weird at a glance, but it is in fact how these bikes were sold. FWIW the sizing scheme of the Truckers has changed now, so wheel size better complements frame size throughout the range, as mentioned in the latest update to the post above.

Hello Tom — I have a Koga Miyata Globe Traveler which I bought in 2005 from a dealer in Lexington, KY — Pedal The Planet. (Ironically, in 1985, I did a world tour on a Miyata bicycle.) I bicycled the Lewis and Clark Trail that summer, St. Louis to Astoria, OR. 10 years later in 2015 I began a charity ride of the perimeter of the U.S. for Habitat For Humanity and Save The Children (website: and concluded that 12,000 journey in 2017. I’ve been very happy with my Koga Miyata all these years. I’m 71 now, and don’t know if I have any expedition type tours left in me … but I keep thinking. Just wondering your thoughts on the current Koga bikes. I’ve seen a couple of comments here regarding Koga bikes — some positive and couple not (the one regarding the cracked frame). I think that there are no longer any Koga dealers in North America. Am I correct in thinking that? I believe there used to be one in Toronto, and a dealer out in Santa Barbara, CA, that handled parts. Pedal The Planet where I bought my Koga Miyata is no longer in operation. Thank you for all your info on your website!

Aaaand Long Haul Trucker is gone as well. Seems like Surly are phasing out some of the touring bikes.

Same source — LHT FAQ, third answer I think.

That’s tragic – although on closer inspection it does say “for the time being”…

Sadly, Surly will discontinue the Troll model in 2021.

Hi Lukas! Do you happen to have a source for this? I’ve checked the Surly website and social media channels and haven’t found any mention. I just want to be sure that my readers are getting accurate information. Cheers!

Someone asked the question on Surly’s website in Thorn section — Q&A. They asked whether Thorn will be renewed for 2021 and someone from the staff said that they will no longer offer this model.

FAQ section, should still be the first question asked. 

I was planning to build a tourer on Troll frame and I guess now I should buy it before it’s gone.

I wrote ‘Thorn’ by mistake, should be Troll (I also consider Thorn for my build and must’ve been thinking about it.)

Thanks for the reference, Lukas, that’s very useful. I guess it reflects the diminishing popularity of the 26-inch platform, at least for new bikes (and thus for profit margins).

In the premium category I’d add one of the IDWorx bikes such as the All Rohler or oPinion BLT. I visited their HQ last week and Gerrit and his team are amazing. They won ‘bike of the year 2020’ award for their BLT off-road touring bike.

I had the Off Rohler in this list since visiting their stall at Eurobike 2014 – it almost wins the ‘most expensive off-the-peg touring bike in the world’ award! I’m keen to see what they’ve created since then. Thank you for the link and the suggestion!

They arent’ cheap that’s for sure. I tried to trade in my wife for a titanium bike, but they only take euros.

Once they start to explain the engineering behind each component you can understand why they arrive at those prices. Also it’s a 4th gernation family of bike builders, they hand build the bikes, their staff are properly-paid, they have sunk lots of money into R&D and make many bespoke components. The attention to detail is astonishing. I spent nearly a day at their HQ with the attention of the owner, his wife, two dogs and their chief engineer. (He did his Masters theisis on Pinion gearboxes). We rode in the German countryside and tested a score of bikes. The customer service is out of this world. If you can afford it, I’d would recommend IDWorx.

Hi Tom, thanks for your help! Now im planning a big tour for a few years in Africa and America, now i have an Avaghon 26 series with Rohloff and Magura but im thinking to change with a 29″ wheels( im 1,81 cm tall ). What do you think about Surly ECR? Thnaks, Fabio.

I have never ridden the ECR so I can’t speak from experience, but I know it’s a well respected frameset. Your height suggests a 29er would be more comfortable in the long run. For planning a big tour you might want to check out my list of expedition touring bikes – this will also help you see quickly which framesets are Rohloff-compatible. Hope that helps!

I think I have “the best” touring bike available… judge for yourselves. Full suspension mid-drive eTouring bike and trailer evolution.

Hey Tom. Love this website. Is this still current? I can’t find a stockist that has the Flat White. Even Adventure’s own website doesn’t seem to link to it. Or am I missing something obvious? Thanks

It’s still listed at — I’ll be updating this article this month and will see if I can find any current stockists.

A look at secondhand market worth it as I picked up Thorn Mercury Rohloff for £1200 (pretty much the price of the hub alone) also have a rohloff on my ti 29er and it has been on 2 other mtb before that ……. pretty much fit and forget.

Hi Tom I am preparing for a number of long term trips in the near future and researched bicycles heavily (including use of your excellent website) and settled on the Ridgeback Expedition. However I have now made three attempts to buy one at cycle shops in a variety of towns and no-one seems able to sell me one! I decided to contact the compnay directly, but no phone number and they say that they take two weeks to answer e‑mails. So I would suggest that customer service might be a factor in choosing the bike to buy (these are not cheap acquisitions after all) and any company that cant even manage to communicate with customers at the point of purchase isn’t likely to have ana dequate after sales customer support! Not sure what to do now, but it definitely will not be a Ridgeback anything Dave

Local bike shops don’t tend to sell a wide variety of bikes here in the UK, they make there money from servicing bikes and selling components so it’s not really a surprise you can’t find a bike shop that sells them. A quick google search has just shown several reputable online retailers that supply the ridgeback expedition and will provide you with any customer support you might require after purchase.

Hope this helps

Thx for the info. About same specs as my modded Moonrun. I use SKF bracket spindle but have cheaper headset but works fine for years now. For carrying stuff I use strongest on market today and that is the rear rack made by Thorn. Fitted with M6 steel bolts I can come a way with most everything I throw at it. I had the frame professionally modified by Marten from M‑gineering after which it was powder coated.

Hello, Thanks for this nice article. Why is the TX-800 striked-through in the list ?

You don’t have the Surly Ogre(700c) or Troll(26″) on your list. I got the Ogre because it was suggested over the LHT or disc version because they are a little more rugged. I went from the US to Panama on an Ogre and never had a problem with it beyond needing new tires, I went with the Ogre because I had a really nice set of 700c rims. NEVER EVER go to Latin America with anything but 26″. I read a few blogs on and with off road touring the LHT(or disc version) needs welding.

Hello Tom. I cycled Armenia three years ago in a short tour and met an old french man Thierri, walking all the way from france to there. one month after getting home he came to me in Tehran and stayed for few days. in his Photoes, i saw you. i knew you in advance beacause of your movie. The intention of writing for you is that we’ve been in contact for one year or so but suddenly i lost him and i Thought you might remember him and have any news of him. I really hope he is doing well and being healthy. thanks sorry for misspeling

best wishes Saied

Yes, he’s safe and well and back living in France. A true legend and inspiration!

I’m currently cycling in Vietnam from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi. 2000km via the coast, in some pretty demanding scenarios. I’m riding the Cinelli HoBootleg 2018 Touring Bike which has been as tough and reliable as I had hoped it would be. I’m 1000km in of the 2000km and think it’s been a great bike. Intrigued it wasn’t listed in the line up.

Should it be? I think so yet if there is a reason for not rating or listing can you let me know? Recognise you cannot list all Touring Bikes yet it does have a great name in many other review pages.

Anyway — I rate the Cinelli!

One other thing, I think the Trek 920 should be listed. The bikes you have reviewed are very traditional and the Trek 920 certainly makes the available options a little more spicy. Touring bikes are surely headed in the Trek 920 direction wouldn’t you say? D

Tom, what do you think about Verso Tour Gitane? I’m from Argentina, and here there aren’t so many good bikes, and I can buy one Gitane, but I’ve never heard about this model. Thank you

I also haven’t heard about this one. On paper it looks like a pretty decent European-style ‘trekking bike’ – the adjustable stem and the Magura hydraulic rim brakes remind me of some better known German and Dutch models. The drivetrain choices are close to what we use for the Oxford Bike Works Expedition. I’d take a careful look at the rear rack, which doesn’t look too sturdy from the photos, and consider upgrading the tyres if you’re going on a long trip.

This bike has a lot of critical components made from aluminium: the frame, forks and rear rack. The front rack would appear to be the chromoly Tubus Ergo. Going on your previous comments about aluminium Tom you could rule this bike out for some types of touring, for example, where a frame, fork or rack break would cause a major disruption.

Thank you for post. Lot of good reading. However i am bit lost in a choice now. Do you think you can shine a bit light to it ? 

I just now finished 300km testing tour on my road bike Coyotee Route 66. I changed a lot of things in a bike like butterfly handlebars, wheels, saddle, etc etc… 

I was riding in UK from Birmingham to Warrington. But after i come back i had a pain all over my body. And i started to think about a choice all over again… 

Now In 3 days i should start trip about 4000km from UK to Portugal. Do you recommend to buy a new bike this short before? 

I explored variety of options of bikes but seems more or less simmilar. I am concern if i will go for normal touring bike riding will be bit boring. Where Surrly Troll seems bit more fun. I was also thinking about hardtail mountain bike with fork suspension. But this seem as quite slow and tiring on road. And also what you think about newer types as using cargo bike (YUBA), hybrid bike should i think about it ? And also if you have any experience with using electic bikes. With a range above 100miles seems as interesting. Go for it or not ?

Thanks a lot for your answers.

Thanks for the article, i plan to travel from Texas to the bottom of South America next year. I was planning on buying a bike there. Do you know much about American bikes and what would be good for that trip, i’m Over 6 ft and about 95kg now. I’m in china now so i don’t think buying one here would be good but, i’m open

The Surly LHT or Disc Trucker is the classic American tourer and widely available. For your height/weight I’d go for a 700c model in L or XL frame size.

Thanks for this great review. I travel now for last 5 years with a Koga World traveller bike. Very happy with it. Please include in your evaluation next time!

Bought a Koga World traveller three years ago, have been very happy with it. BUT, this summer while on a trip in Scotland I saw a nasty crack on the welding. Tried to identify a Koga dealer, and all those mentioned on their website no longer do Koga. I contacted the customer service via their website form and it took them a week to get back basically telling me to contact the seller. I bought the bike in France, so that wasn’t going to help me much! So I went to the nearest reputable dealer in Pitlochry, they confirmed my worry that the bike was too dangerous to use so bought a cheap, but very good Giant mtb, and continued the holiday. Picked the broken Koga bike up on the way back to France and went to the seller.

The bike has been sitting in the seller’s workshop for THREE WEEKS as they wait for KOGA to instruct them on how to proceed (they are no longer a Koga dealer). The frame comes with a lifetime warranty, but a warranty doesn’t fix a bike. The seller has sent photos, and sent more photos at Koga’s request, but still no instructions. They have contacted the nearest Koga dealer in France and no answer from them either. I even went to the nearest dealer in Germany to see if they could help and they refused.

I have emailed, tweeted, tried calling, but nothing seems to get them to react now.

So my advice would be to stay away from Koga unless you are ok with paying a lot of money with no assurance that you will get any form of support if you have a problem on the road.

This sounds like a terrible story and I’m sorry to hear about it. It does seem unusual that one of the most reputable high-end touring bikes would develop such a fault in the first place, however. I’d be interested to hear what solution eventually arises – I would have thought a crack in a weld under warranty would point to a brand new replacement frame.

Tom I have a dawes titanium (not disks) and I was thinking of upgrading the wheels and brakes for longer audaxes. Do you have any suggestions.

thanks David

If I were you, I’d pay a visit to my nearest professional wheelbuilder.

New Trek 1120 is a whole new dimension. Gearing up now for a Canadian ride.

Having been the proud owener of several Koga bikes for around the world trips unfortunately, since 2016 the quality has been declining. For the amount of money it cost, it is simply not worth it. For 2000 € (which the price of a Koga bike) you can get a lot of bicycle elsewhere.

Hi Tom! Thanks for an interesting article! I’m dreaming of bike adventures, both longer trips and weekend trips and try to find a new bike that can make those dreams come true. Mostly, though, I’ll use the new bike for my everyday commute in Sweden. I’ve been watching the Verenti substance tiara/sora — seems like decent components and good value which I’m pretty sure will fill my commuting needs. But how do you think it would do for longer adventures? I’m mostly concerned about weight, geometry and key component durability. I would be very grateful of a brief opinion!

Hi all, Great article — many thanks. Very useful while choosing a bike to undertake a cycle across USA in 2018 (I’ve never had a touring bike before). I chose Trek 520 (Disc brake variety) in the end which I’m really happy with. Good value at £1,000 versus other bikes available, comes with pedals and rear pannier rack and very swish gear changers. Reviews on Trek website largely very positive as well. I went for because I’m quite tall (193cm/6foot4) so was struggling to find a big enough frame in any touring bikes. Surly do large frames but are more expensive (~£1500) and no extras like pannier rack. In the end the 60cm Trek frame firs me very well — we checked standover length and top tube length and because of the geometry of the bike it actually matches some other manufacturers who produce larger frames (eg 62cm). Feel free to contact me on [email protected] if you have any questions or thinking of buying the bike, I’d be happy to help.

Ollie, London

If it is a choice between a smaller and a larger frame, my preference is for the smaller frame because a) provided the steerer hasn’t been cut yet, it is almost always possible to achieve a good fit by putting on a longer stem and raising the seatpost (swapping for a longer one if necessary) b) bigger frames are harder to pack for travel c) it can feel more manoeuvrable

Punish the thing, make the bike work for you, and don’t be limited by the bike or its stuff. Bikes get stolen, plans go squiify and so what if we decide to take the really cruddy road upppp that turns into gravel then kind of goat track then.. and you land up pushing and doing singletrack downhill to .. mud and gravel and finally .. So, my bike came out of a skip, a rusty 2012 Scott Speedster S30. Thrown out! Square section BB, road rims and tyres (I know.. but a good spoke key makes life simple). wide range 9x2 gears. But it takes racks.. The boom in road cycling means 700c and road bike bits are much easier than they were a decade ago — even in Yemen and Iran. Total build cost of my bike: £100 including panniers. Bits and pieces off gumtree, pinkbike, etc. If it get bent, hah. If it gets nicked, hah. The no-compromise bits: ‘fit’ / setup, the saddle, my most comfy/worn SPD shoes, tubeless with goop.

Brilliant! Thanks for sharing this!

Hey this is great stuff! However, do you have recommendations for bikes in the US? ‑j

Sure – many of the bikes in this article are from U.S. manufacturers, Surly and Kona being the obvious two. Also check out REI’s range of tourers under the Co-op Cycles brand.

Hi Tom, love your site. I need to thank you not only for an informative site in general, but also for helping me make a decision on a touring bike. Until recently I lived in Darwin, Australia. It’s reasonably isolated and the choice of bike brands is severely limited. Thus, test riding anything decent is out of the question. My wife was fortunate enough to get the opportunity to work in France for 6 months so I saw this a a great chance to purchase the bike of my dreams. Armed with advice from your site (and others) I narrowed it down to two bikes — the VSF TX-400 with Shimano drive train, and the Rose Activa Pro 2. As there wasn’t a Rose dealer where we were living in France, the TX-400 was the winner. That was August last year and I haven’t had even a twinge of regret. I love it. Keep up the great work mate. I look forward to following your adventures (and Charlie’s) for many years to come. Cheers, Derek.

I am surprised that Ridgeback is still fitting aluminium racks to its high-end touring bikes when most other brands fit cro-moly. Aluminium whilst okay for components such as wheel rims, handlebars, and seatposts, is too fragile for heavily loaded racks with thin small diameter tubes and suffers too easily from metal fatigue.

I am surprised that serious riders will still accept an add-on rack of any kind steel or not. Every connection is a weak link. Tout-Terrain, Panamericana. — not interested in the pinion gearing but you can’t beat the frame.

Hi Tom and readers, Does anyone out there have any experience with or notion of what to do with the following problem? (saddle soreness — chafing). My girlfriend has a typical german woman’s uprightish trekking bike by bulls, and we did just one two week tour on it last summer. She’d never toured before. She found her “intim Bereich” (intimate area) got rubbed a lot by the saddle (wasn’t an issue with short local trips previously), so I ended up buying and trying a new saddle, then a series of the best rated woman’s saddles out there, and all of them did the same rubbing thing. Biking shorts and a gel pad didn’t help fully or much. She thought being more upright helped the rubbing, by taking pressure off the front of the saddle and putting it more on the sitz bones, so I got some big curvy bar ends and cranked them way back, so she can sit totally upright. I even added a nice suspension seatpost. But somehow the pain won’t go away. I’m really at a loss about what to do. I wonder if a new frame would help at all. Anyone find a saddle that really helps with sensitive bottoms? I’m leaning towards getting her a recumbent, but can’t really afford it, and she doesn’t tour with me a lot. I ride a bacchetta giro 20 myself and highly recommend it for touring! Thanks for any advice!

hi Jeff and all, dr. jim parker from cruzbike has compiled some very revealing facts regarding health issues cyclists commonly are facing, i.e. genital numbness & e.d. besides the usual (wrist,back & neck). i do suffer from groin pains riding on my dawes upride racing bike within 30–45 min.

hence for my upcoming uk & european (& car replacement) tour i am opting for an “atl-falter” from radnabel in tuebingen, germany. atl stands for “all tags lieger”(recumbent for everyday-all year/tasks); falter stands for folding. they are not well known outside of central europe, have been handbuild for nearly 30 years and are highly regarded for being — safe (long wheel base, low center of gravity), nimble (sharp turning circle), quick (ergonomic design & pushing against the backrest/very good uphills), comfortable (no neck, groin or wrist pain, full suspension), good load carrying capability [70kg total], “protecting” (see: allwetterverkleidung/foldable fairing/poncho), well engineered and sound workmanship. although dieter baumann (builder) speaks english, the webside is in german only. the atl-falter with rohloff, full chain cover, rear rack, pannier holders, twoleg stand weighs 17–18 kg (chrmo steel). 

you get an better idea about radnabels atl’s watching these videos:

they have proved themselves also on long distance tours germany to china. happy cycling or as we say in bavaria: “frohes radln” regards reinhard

Ok, my thing about touring bikes, what about the weight?! Most tourers are just too heavy, 17Kg+ steel monsters. “They have to be, for the reliability”…well the only frames I’ve had break were a steel and an Al frame. Maybe you’ll say “blasphemy” but my trekking bike of choice is a modified carbon fibre Simplon “Nanolight” K3. My aim has been the lightest bike but still fit for a tour of up to a month on road. This thing has been faultless for 9 years of mainly mountain tours (and daily commuting). The essentials, for me, are: good hub dynamo lighting, hydraulic Rim brakes (discs are, expletive, Primadonnas), brooks saddle, bike rack, mudguards, oh and lightness. Everything is carbon or titanium, except the wheels, saddle and handlebar. it’s expensive but still less than people spend on fancy packages for their car. Final tour weight is around 9.1Kg. I even made my own bike bags out of lightweight cuben fibre. Yes the bike could be seen as excessively focussed on weight, but nowadays trekking bikes could be a lot lighter than they are, we would have many more people on bikes, heavy bikes stop people biking. J Jones.

I have noticed that all these touring bikes have no suspension in the front wheel. I am curious, why? Does a front suspension affect the performance of these long bike trips?

For most tours it’s simply not necessary. A suspension fork adds complication, meaning more to go wrong. Forks without lockout introduce inefficiency. Finally, most forks are incompatible with lowriders (front racks).

Bikepacking (i.e. lightweight offroad touring) is a different story, but still a small niche.

Is there an easy solution to fitting a front light to my Ridgeback Voyage with a bar bag in situ? I do not want an extending arm attached to the drops with the light above the bag. I was wondering if one can purchase a bracket to bolt onto the mudguard retaining bolt on top of the front forks immediately below the headset. This would have to be offset to clear the cantilever cables. Any thoughts Anthony

A bracket on the fork crown is a common (old-fashioned) solution. Some bar-bags also have a mounting bracket accessory for a light (the Carradice one comes to mind). Or you can wear a headtorch!

Thanks Tom for your reply, I have had lots of comments and thoughts from others on the Cycling UK forum too. As is often the case as soon as one starts looking into things there are loads of solutions available. I have learnt a lot just by looking at the various websites sugggested by people. I have now purchased a good light that will fit on the fork itself and and allow to be positioned pointing down to cover the road in front. Not a dissimilar situation from the old ‘ever ready ‘lamps that we had on our bikes back when I was a child in the 50s and 60s. Though this is a USB rechargeable smaller model. I think this will do the job. So thank you again for your thoughts and I will soon start to read your book on my kindle which arrived today. I look forward to that.

Great site Tom and full of excellent stuff and info. Keep it up.

Kind regards Anthony Brewer

Hi Tom and all, Has anyone any experience of the cantilever brakes designed specifically for tandems and tourers by a company in Seattle USA called Rodriguez bikes., R&E Cycles. They call the design ‘The Big Squeeze’. I looked into this as I am not sure in my mind yet whether my Shimano cantis will work on my Ridgeback Voyage as well as I want on a heavy laden bike on very steep descents. The contact I have had with the American company has been excellent and speedy. They have no distributers or outlets in the UK and the brakes are quite expensive but look with all the information they provide a well thought out and constructed brake. Any comments, opinions or knowledge on this from anyone would be very much appreciated Anthony Brewer

Spa Cycles, a touring specialist fit these.

I have used them on 4 loaded alpine and Pyrenean tours on my Ridgeback panorama and they have been great. They need fine tuning and true wheels but have plenty of power and work much better than the ones supplied by Ridgeback. My Panorama only cost £450 so I would be reluctant to spend $250 plus shipping on those. Also I am not a fan of the style I think they stick out too much and could cause injury in a collision.

Thank you Phil for your comment on these brakes. I use simialr V brakes on my hybrid as per your link to Spacycles. However as I understand things it isn’t possible (easily that is) to change to V brakes ( which I do like ) without quite some work. I have dropped bars with the gear change incorporated in the brakes. The length of the cable is significant and the possible use of a ‘travel agent ’ to allow for the cable pull etc etc. Are you saying that Spa cycles would change my present cantilver system to these V brakes advertised? As I said I have yet to test my present brakes seriously but will definitely be doing so this spring/summer. Thank you for the recommendation Phil Regards Anthony

No problem Anthony. I ordered them from Spa and fitted them in one hour and I am no expert. May have needed new cables and small sections of outer because of the lengths of the runs but it was straight forward. You can remove the original centre-pull aluminium cable stay as the new cable comes from the side. The original brake levers and repeater levers will work, no new ones are required as the travel is sufficient. I also looked into travel agents to gear up the travel but I agree they are complicated. The mini-vs don’t need the same amount of travel as the full size v‑brake. They are just 85mm not 105mm. Admittedly it is possible with them fitted the level can be pressed right onto the bars, but by that time you would be over the handle bars. The large amount of travel gives you precise control. 

It is very straight forward to fit but you could always order them and get the local bike shop to fit them.

PS the cantilevers supplied on Ridgeback tourers are on the verge of being dangerous on a fully loaded tourer down a steep hill. I recommend changing them to Tektro mini- v brakes I showed you or Tekro CR720

I don’t like them because as I previously said they stick out too much

Again many thanks Phil. You have certainly given me much to consider. However the Tektro CR720 are themselves cantilever brakes too. So I wonder why you have suggested these as a possible alternative to my present tektro Oryx cantilever brakes on my Ridgeback? They look very similar. I do appreciate your comments on this subject Anthony

the CR720s are used by my co-cyclists on tours and are much better than the oryx design in terms of efficiency. It’s all about the distance from the rim to where the cable connects, much more leverage. I included them as an alternative but would still favour the mini-v’s personally.

they look very different from your once fitted:

Hi, would you consider Specialized Crosstrail Disc 2017 a good touring bike? I am looking forward to buy my first bike aiming to use it for a long tour (upto 3–6 months) next year around europe.

Also a doog opyion in my opinion:

I’ve recently purchased a Cinelli Hobooleg for £1100, although I’ve only been using it for my 10 mile commute so far I’m very happy with it.

It looks the part and from the reviews I’ve read it will hopefully see me safely around North Wales on my first proper test run later this month.

Looking at the features of these touring bikes they look like early 90s mountain bikes. 26″ wheels?Check. Steel frame? Check. Rigid fork? Check. 7/8 speed drive train with thumb shifters? Check. Braze ons for racks and fenders? Check. I would suggest folks keep an eye out for a good used mountain bike from this era and you could save a bunch while ending up with a bike just as robust, lighter and with higher quality parts(granted, said parts may need some love). I found an abandoned Rocky Mountain Team Comp which has frame tubing better than any of the bikes listed (heat treated tubing by Tange of Japan). The bikes of this era were of very high quality as it was the fastest growing sport then and the competition was fierce with leaps in steel tubing technology. Steel was still the material of choice also. I managed to build my bike up(it was missing a lot of parts) for maybe $500 and I have XTR rear derailleur, Sunrace 8 cassette, Suntour XC thumb shifters, Syncros stem, NOS XT UN73 BB…you get the picture. The additional bonus is a bike that is still quite light yet strong. I wouldn’t recommend this to someone who knows nothing about bikes but if you are a bit of a bike geek its pretty rewarding finding a good higher end mountain bike and fixing it up. Parts back then were very well made.

Hey Tom, Edinburgh Bikes have a new tourer out end of the month,‑2–16

I’m sure it’s similar to your reviewed bike above but would be great to hear your thoughts.

looking at a bike trip in 2018 from shanghai to istanbul semi-supported. been doing self-supported touring on my 25 yo trek 970 but the sour grape machine is ready to be retired. been shopping around and am considering the novara safari–i like the mustache handlebars and the price seems good but worried about the quality of components and whether 700 wheels are potentially a problem…i know 26″ is more the standard when you are in the middle of nowhere. any input would be much appreciated.

Tom, I have been researching touring bikes for quite some time and I think I have found the bike to start touring. Following your advice in this blog I picked up a 15 year old MTB that is in great shape. I will put on touring tires and a rack that I already own and I’m ready to go on some short introductory adventures. Perhaps if I really get the touring bug I will invest in a new bike but for now this will do and the price is right. Thank you.

For anyone currently looking, my local LBS, The Bike Shed Devon, have a bit of a touring sale going on at the moment. Definitely worth looking before making any decisions.

Thank you very much for the tip on discounted 2015 Dawes Galaxy AL bicycles from Evans. I just picked one up for £400!

Evans has also the Dawes Galaxy Cross cromo (steel frame, disc brakes, straight bars) for the same price. Looks like a bargain.

Having cycled and backpacked since I was at school, in my mid 50’s i decided it was time to combine the two persuites and try a spot of weekend touring. Not wanting to spend too much on a bike that i may not get on with, I bought my daughters barely used 2001 Specialized Hardrock off her. It cost me £225 new originally, so she recon I got a bargain at £40 second hand!!! It’s Cr Mo steel frame and rigid forks [not even butted], Acera group set, square drive triple chain rings and 26″ wheels, have a real solid feel, so after fitting Marathon tyres, racks, and bar ends, I treated myself to a pair of 46li Altus rear panniers and a bar bag. Packing lightweight and minimalist, my first weekend away was a real success. On my next outing of 4‑days, a rear spoke went after the first 20 miles, but no rubbing, so I finished my tour in the Cotswolds, but walked up a lot of hills. For my next trip in the Peak District, I had a new twin-wall rear wheel, and a new wider range rear cassette, still walked up many hills, but who cares, I was wild camping, and just making my route up as I went along. I keep looking at new bikes, but don’t know how I would really benefit, the bike just keeps rolling along happily for my short breaks. A new bike may weigh less. My rig weighs in at 16.5kg without panniers, how does that compare with other tourers?

So, the ultimate all-round tourer *is* a 26 inch wheel frame with geometry which looks like my many-times-earmarked-for-the-skip, first generation, double-butted cro-mo mid-80s MTB that’s in the shed? It confirms my own conclusions (though I’m no hardcore global wanderer like yourself). Interesting that it looks as if 26″ wheels will remain relevant. I was thinking there is a gap in the market for a longer and near-horizontal toptube frame style (with, perhaps, 29er wheels), instead of the downhill-style geometry which seems obligatory on all fat-tyre machinery.

[…] spend money on a good bike and the necessary gear you’ll find costs are minimal. Many good quality bikes can be purchased for less than £100. Many travelling bicyclists choose to camp at official […]

Thanks for the advice! I was faffing around for about a year trying to buy a touring bike in the UK but never quite got around to it. I’m now in Vietnam about to set off in a time pressured trip to India (through Laos, Thailand and Myanmar) and I no longer have the same access to the kinds of brands mentioned above(or budgets). I’ve found something called a Windspeed Long Rider touring classic, which is a Chinese brand, and the bike shop is offering a pretty good deal inclusive of accessories. Let’s hope it’s up to the job! Anyone have any experience or knowledge of this bike? Mostly sold only in Asia I think.

Hi. I am trying to choose a bike for touring around the world that would be a slow heavyweight may be some times off road and long term! but in my country there is not a wide choice for me! I have to choose a bike and change it into a touring one! my question is what kind of bikes is good for me! road bikes that mostly used here for races or mountain! here i can find bikes from Merida , giant, Fuji, Scott, specialized! of course I have an old Peugeot mountain bike that i was thinking about changing in to a touring bike but i am not sure! it is too old! thank you 🙂

Finally bought me touring bike, a Specialized AWOL DLT. Took your advice to try it and decided on a medium instead of a large frame (I’m 5′9″) since it was more comfortable. The problem was to find any bike shops who stocks touring bikes in Sweden, found only the AWOL, Kona Rove and Trek 520. As a plus I got a good discount, paid “only” £760 (Evans charges £1160) since the dealer said -“customers ask for touring bikes and then they do not buy them”!

Hi Rob, where in Sweden did you buy it ? I am in Norway (Oslo to be precise) and can´t find any shop stocking touring bikes.

Hi Francesco, sell Specialized AWOL, sell Trek 520 and sell Kona. I have only ridden the AWOL and the Rove, both seemed very competent. Just on way back from virgin trip Sassnitz — Berlin, so far satisfied, love the 700x42c tires, perfect for tarmac and gravel!

Tom, for my 21st birthday I got a Cannondale T1000, 22 years and 15000 miles later (low mileage bike) it is going strong. It has been to Paris a couple of times, Amserdam 4 or 5 times and one long trip from Cherbourg to Santander as well as numerous day and weekend UK outings, it has towed a Tag Along for a fair few miles and had a child seat for some of its life. Much of today’s riding is spent on minor roads and tracks around the New Forest and Wiltshire. Few parts have worn out, I am on the second BB, and I upgraded the chainset to an ultegra, other than a couple of tyres, chains and cassettes I have had to do very little. I love the bar end shifters for their reliability, the XT cantilever brakes do a good job stopping the bike, even on 50 mph descents in the Pyraneese with full panniers and camping gear and my 80 kg weight. With an 11 to 32 cassette, 24 speed are fine on a tourer, spacing is well judged. It is really hard to imagine how it could be improved on.….

I just picked up a 2004 Cannondale T2000 for my son’s 13 birthday. Cost just £300 and looks fantastic, in fact looks new. I am surpised how light it is. It Has a few upgrades, including a nice Kinesis fork, which delivers a much nicer ride than my T1000 and it also has a 30 speed XT / ultegra group set and a really nice looking rack. Overall this is the nicest bike I have ever ridden, it is adjusted to perfection and feels really well sorted definately a subtle but noticeable upgrade from the T1000

How does an older mid range tourer like the Cannondale T1000 or T2000 compare with today’s mid range tourers like the Surly LHT or Daws Super Galaxy

To be honest I would be really confident that my Cannondale could tackle a more adventurous tour than I have tried

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” – that sums up any longer and more detailed response I could come up with! 🙂

hey tom! an interesting article you have here 🙂 hopefully you can shed some light on my situation. me and my mate are literally just starting out after training, we are planning a big trip! Our trip in mind is taking us from the uk, through france and to the south of spain. we figure that we want a bike that can take the distance, but can also take us as off road as is sensible. we plan on visiting a few cities also! (we’re thinking cobbled streets and some gravelly paths) so im not entirely sure what kind of bracket we fall under, but the bike i have put a deposit down for (buying new) and am collecting tomorrow, is a specialized sirrus, costing 400 pounds sterling. am i looking in the right kind of bike here considering our journey and our plans? 

as far as i understand (our beginner cycling pedigree in mind) pad brakes are risk free and easily replaced, steel frame and forks are more durable. would having flat bar handle bars restrict us some what? hope you can help! thanks, cillian.

For a trip to the south of Spain pretty much any bike will do, as long as it fits you and it can carry your luggage! (I hope you’ve test ridden this bike before buying it – most important thing of all in getting the right bike!)

Check out this blog series if you want any more info on specific components and things…

Thanks for the swift reply there Tom, yeah I’ve ridden the bike, but as I’m a complete novice, it feels better than any bike I can remember riding. I guess I’m concerned about getting a bike with the right geometry and what not! Any unbiased thoughts on the specialised sirrus as my choice? So long as it’s comfortable of coarse, thanks! Cil

Only that it’s not really a touring bike! £500 would get you a Revolution Country Traveller which would be fully kitted out for touring and has had a number of excellent reviews. You could also get a much higher-spec second hand touring bike for that money.

Fit is important, but if you’re buying a new bike it might make sense to get one that’s designed for the job at hand, rather than adapting a hybrid. Just a thought!

excellent advice good sir! its seems for now that we are settling for our hybrids in good faith that they will pay off when we are mooching around cities and taking scenic bridle ways! thanks a lot for the replies Tom, happy cycling!

Safe roads!

Do you or others on this site have experiences with the Co-Motion bicycles for touring ( They are made in the USA (Eugene, Oregon).. 

I have a Surly LHT with many miles on it and wanted to updated to the new 2015 Disc Trucker with the 10-speen 11/36 cassette, but was considering the Co-Motion Americano. There is a LARGE price delta (Americano is around $ 4,100 US$.

Any experiences/feedback is appreciated.

Have a TERRIFIC day!

Darren Alff of Bicycle Touring Pro has it — Co-Motion Pangea — and he loves it! He had it even repainted recently and put back again: See also his channel:‑g

Most of the touring bikes I read about in this section either deal with 700c size wheels or 26″ wheels. I bought a Surly Ogre 29er and it’s been the best commuting/touring bike in my opinion. The wider wheels help to accommodate a wider tire (1.9–2.3) that helps absorb the load that you’d be carrying.

You can fit 1.9–2.3″ tyres on a 26″ wheel too. It is the original mountain bike wheel size, after all!

[…] Redninga for den som vil gjøre grundig research blir da å slå over til engelsk. Et bildesøk på “touring bike” bekrefter at dette begrepet har en bestemt betydning. Søket “which touring bike to buy” gir også en endeløs rekke med relevante og informative treff. Spesielt godt liker jeg rådene til min favorittsykkelblogger, britiske Tom Allen. […]

Hi Tom … any thoughts of including a recumbent in your Best Touring Bike selection? Like say an Azub 6?

While they are the cost of two or three of the above selections I’m interested in your experience or opinions?

Because they’re very much in a niche of their own, I’d rather do a whole feature on recumbent touring options. Suggestions welcome! In the meantime, have a read of my own recumbent tour last year …

This has been an interesting read — as I’m a devout touring bike user, even though touring the world is not on my horizon. Suffolk and noerh Essex are most definitely part of my equation and between 50 — 110 miles per trip are not unusual along with cycling to and from work.

For 18 years I’ve enjoyed my long sought after 1997 Dawes Super Galaxy, which is now up for a complete drive train rebuild (and a return to drop handlebars but without those awful bar end changers), but I’m also keen to add a second bike to the collection as the Dawes is the only form of transport I have and really do need a bike to get to work for as early as 3am (outside public transport times).

My 2 options are the new 2015 Dawes Super Galaxy or the 2015 Ultra Galaxy. Yes, I’m sticking with Dawes, with my current Super Galaxy’s record why not? Also, I can get the bike via the company bike to work scheme and save some dosh. Whilst the budget is between £2000-£3000, I reason over 18 years this will become a bit of a bargain. So the question of this comment is really this:

What are the benenfits of the Titanmium Frame on the Ultra Galaxy over the Reynolds 853 tubing on the Super Galaxy frame? Do I really need to spend that extra £700?

Please, no comments about lucky you etc — it is 18 years since I last made this big an investment and apart from new tyres and inner tubes and a swap to butterfly handlebars the bike is pretty much as it came out of the shop (despite almost 100k miles of travel and commuting). I see this as the kind of purchase that is similar to that of purchasing a car…

Hi Andrew — what did you decide on in the end and are you happy with that decision? I find myself looking at exactly the same choice to make (Galaxy super vs. ultra). It’s not straightforward!

Although I am not a touring cyclist I put in quite a bit of mileage commuting (around 120 miles per week) using either a steel audax type bike (Ridgeback Mercury), alu hybrid or ancient Dawes Horizon (fitted with studded tyres for snowy/icy days). Fancying doing a bit of touring I recently bought a Revolution Explorer with disc brakes and have been riding it since Christmas. Has to be said that the disc brakes are a revelation compared to any sort of rim brake (I have tried them all apart from hydraulic); no constant adjustment, no rim wear, no filthy aluminium slurry all over the rims, silent and they actually work in the rain ( of which there is plenty here in Lancashire). The latter point saved me earlier this week when I had to do any emergency stop to avoid an idiot driver, I doubt any other sort of brake would have been up to it. And I am talking about BB5s which I understand are budget disc brakes.

I am about to buy an used tourer for occasional touring use for my son, he has a Ribble road bike. Budget £300 and I have a choice of Ridgeback World Voyage 2012 …520 CroMo.…Sora.…Alivio etc or a ‘Dale T800 2003, hardly used, Ally.…CroMo forks…Tiagra.…XT etc. I can easily make decisions at work involving lots of cash…but this one appears to have me foxed!! (I have a stable of steeds and tour on a Roberts Roughstuff, I should be able to choose!!!) Please help! Thanks one and all!

[…] utstyret du velger når du skal legge ut på en lang sykkeltur. På nettsida si har han skrevet om hva som er den beste tursykkelen. I eboka går han atskillig mer grundig til verks. Verdt å nevne er at han legger spesiell vekt […]

you forgot koga miyata 😉

I’ve just bought the 2015 Ridgback Tour.

Ive just this minute seen that aluminium frames have a much lower life expectancy than steel due to the fact that they fatigue — is this true? Ive heard that 5 years is the life expectancy of such a frame even if cared for? Have I bought a white elephant — as I planned to treasure it. Thanks.

I’ve just thinking that all bikes mentioned above are in price of year long trip. My humble suggestion is: buy retail! I bought a trek bike in pawn shop for 180euro and so far this holds for 4 seassons (16000km, regions spread from scandinavia to balkans) and now I’m preparing this beauty for 17000km long trip from czechia to indonesia. Throughout these trips I never broke a spoke (seen this problem many times in my friends Dawes) and punctured so few times that it can hardly be mentioned. So far I spend almost 6 months on the roads and during this time I spend less money than price of the cheapiest bike mentioned above.

So my advice is search it, test it, uprgade it, love it and than… finally ride it,-D Put a piece of your heart and skills into your piece of metal. Relationship between tourbiker and his bike must be stronger than click on ebay. Sorry for english and toilet phylosophy, I’m still upgrading,-D

Tom, I just wanted to say a very big thank-you for helping me choose the right touring bike. After spending many evenings checking your advice and loads of websites, I finally opted for a Dawes Galaxy Classic. I took your advice and went via eBay to Kingsway Cycles of Cambridge. I paid £900 instead of £1300 for a 2014 model! More importantly, it’s the right bike. I’ve only done about 60 miles since Saturday, but it’s really excellent. Kingsway are a great bike shop and really nice to deal with — none of that irritating superiority complex so common in good bike shops. I’d recommend them. Again, thank you. Alistair

Seven things:

Now the bike is bedding-in, before a big trip, have the LBS tighten your spokes and true the wheel(s) as required.

Take the time to ensure that the inside of the wheel rims have wide tape, not plastic or thin tape — you will thank me when you don’t get pinch-flats from the inner spoke nipples.

Chop out the brakes for V brakes. I have the same cantilever brakes, and they’re poor. It’s my next upgrade after upgrading my wheel set — as you can tell, this is real-world experience talking here!

If you fit a Ortleib (or similar) bar mounted bag, replace the existing gear cables with extra long ones since they are a little too short as standard and will crop over time and your gear shifting will become increasing difficult and then the front mech’ will cease working.

If you are running Shimano gearing,chain etc make sure the jockey wheels are not a 3rd party set, if so, buy Shimano ones, they work better than others.

You will notice as you ride, most of the touring bikes you’ll encounter are Dawes; how cool is that?

The enjoyment of your adventure is reflected in the width of your daft Cheshire-Cat grin, so grin, then grin some more!

Fantastic! I hope you get many years of touring enjoyment from it!

Hello Tom & Co.,

Do you have input on preferred bikes / systems for long rides with two young kids? 

Preferably sub-$2,000 (US), with a granny gear, and disc brakes.

I am trying to figure out which adult touring bike (and system) to use with my kids. The four-year old child will be in an attached trailer bike (with coupler), and the two-year old child will be in a chariot trailer behind that (via skewer hub)…unless someone has a better idea.

I already own a Specialized Tarmac for zipping around, and a Santa Cruz mountain bike for the trails. For a few years, I’ve reluctantly used my carbon fiber Tarmac for pulling my oldest child in the Chariot trailer. The ergonomics are all wrong, especially in the hills.

Now I have both a four-year old and a two-year old child, plus we live in major mountains. I want to do LONG family rides, and commutes around town (paved / gravel mixed). Ideally the bike could also be used for (solo) century rides. Once they are older, I’d like to explore multi-day touring with me on the same bike.

Salsa Vaya? Trek 520? Surly LHT, Cross Check, or Straggler? 

Big thanks!

[…] started thinking about this tour; my thoughts immediately went to the tried&true options for bike touring (Surly LHT for example), and I was waiting for a deal to pounce on online for months.  But living […]

3864 miles thus far (26 Sept 2014) around Britain and without doubt the most popular bike is the Dawes, maybe 80% (?) streel framed in the majority, and whilst we are at it, Ortlieb panniers, also in the majority.

I am on a 2008 Dawes SG. Rubbish cantilever brakes — to be replaced in short order. Replaced the wheels as the rims were concave, but she is an eBay Special (£590) likewise the four panniers (£83). Fantastic combo with Tubus steel racks.

Hi Tom, I believe the bikes from German Company Tout Terrain have a good name as well. Namely the “Silkroad” seems a fantastic bike to me. Expensive but has all the gimmicks I like to have (Rohloff and disc brakes).

i was stranded in london on the 4th aug (after losing my oyster and bank cards) leaving me with just £10 and a predicament a quick look on gumtree found me a nearby bike (complete with 21 speeds and rack and double panniers inc cycle comp for my insane budget and now 10 days later its covered 120 miles and by far best buy ever for a tenner 🙂

ps i live 18 miles away in the subarbs so as to speak

Love the site, especially the discussions on this page!

I’m interested in your views on bar-end shifters. My wife’s Sabbath Silk Route was stolen in Amsterdam recently and she’s loathe to spend quite so much on a replacement. Many of the sub-£1,000 tourers seem to have bar-end shifters and she’s a bit nervous about taking them on. What are the pros and cons compared with integrated brake lever shifters? Quite like the look of the Genesis Tour de Fer but the bar end shifters are the only sticking point.

Pros: Simple, durable, reliable.

Cons: Less efficient to actually operate; inexperienced users whack their knees on them.

For a long-term tourer I’d take bar-end or downtube shifters over STIs any day.

I bought the Tour de Fer and did an 8 day tour in Greece. Its an excellent bike and I’m really happy with it but the bar shifters are annoying. I decided to upgrade the bike with a tubus tara front rack and a son dynamo hub with a plug usb charger. I’ll do a review of the bike later as I’m about to set off on a tour to Singapore something its probably not designed for but it came within my Ride-To-Work budget and I’m not a fan of the 26inch tourers I’d rather take my chances in the bikes shops. FYI the new version has a flat bar instead of drops and a tubus tara lowrider as standard — bonus! Love your site it’s been invaluable in my tour planning

You can always move the bar end shifters up onto the flats using a solution like Pauls Thumbies or SJS do their own version. It’s just a bolt on bracket with a mount for the shifter and a cable stop. If you ride mainly on hoods and flats then they are much easier to reach than down at the end of the drops. Cable maintenance is easier as well.

Many thanks for your excellent website. I’m thinking of doing Land’s End to John O’Groats and have seen a Raleigh Gran Tour at our local cycle shop. It seemed fine on a trial run round the block. Any significant pros or cons that I need to be aware of?

Nick check out the Surly Long Haul Disc Trucker it will be the best Touring Bike you will ever buy and will take you anywhere wheel size go for 26 and you can travel the world buy once not twice

Thanks John. I’ll check it out. 

Another issue that’s coming up is tourers vs endurance bikes. Any strong preferences either way, anyone?

Are you doing an endurance ride? Or are you going on a cycle tour?

Different tools for different jobs…

Hi Tom, I was wondering if you had any experience or knowledge of the Cinelli Hobo? It does seem to come as a fairly complete package as well as a 61 frame which is good for a tall person like myself.

I’m afraid I don’t! Sorry! It does look like a good bike, though.

I have a cinelli hobo for mixed trail touring. I find it incredibly comfortable and a really good load hauler. Some of the stock parts are pretty poor, particularly the FSA alpha drive chainset (replaced with Deore, and the alex rims on sora hubs which i’ve recently replaced. The weakest part of the setup for me is the microshift bar end shifters… I had real trouble keeping them indexed. I have swapped for an old pair of Tiagra STI shifters and these feel much better with a deore chainset and rear mech.

It has shorter chainstays than my old galaxy but still has plenty of heel clearance fitted with ortlieb classic panniers. The bars are the most comfortable I have ever used!

Overall i’m really pleased with it as it suits my choice of riding on mixed road, track and trail with a nice blend of cyclocross and touring capabilities… just a shame the marketing around the bike is so goddamn annoying!

I am planning a touring for next year, I was thinking to get a bicycle with a 29’‘ rim using a 28c tyre, i also plan to use mavic hubs, but i am not sure how tough a mavic hub can be on long touring distances, i guess i may not have problems as far i get some spare bearings and parts for the hubs. any suggestion about the rim sizes? will a 27″ rim do the same job as a 29’’ rim size? I have seen that NS has some cool looking hubs, i know they are for dirt-jump bikes, but those are something i consider dues they are do to resist hard impact of daily trainings, but my doubt is if a a hub for hard impact interfere with speed and smooth riding, by logic i guess it doesn’t interfere depending on what bearing it uses…am i right? Ps.: i enjoy cycling fast. lol

i found some other hub, the DT Swiss looks pretty good… but they don’t have a nice front hub with Disk break, that is what is pity, but i may get normal brakes, cos the disk brake has a high cost maintenance …

Where are you going? Your primary consideration is spare parts availability. 26″ or 700c wheels are the only sensible choice for 99% of tours, and I wouldn’t recommend anything other than Shimano cup-and-cone hubs with loose bearings and easy maintenance, ideally XT. They’re tour proven and won’t need a second thought.

Have found your website invaluable in the preparation of a bike trip my brother and I are making from London to Istanbul on August 10 (our first bike trip). I bought your book this afternoon on Amazon too as it should be a handy guide on the trip.

I’m just about to buy a bike and have come down to the Dawes Galaxy 2014 for £691 and the Raleigh Sojourn, which I founded hugely discounted here for £689 (down from £1,100!): . I’d be very grateful if you (or anyone else on this page) could suggest what you think would be the better buy for my budget of £700?

Cheers, Shaun

Very glad you’ve found this site useful.

In my experience, which touring bike to buy depends on choosing the right tool for the job, and seeing what feels good to ride. I’m going to guess that you’re fairly sure both these bikes will meet your needs, but that you haven’t tried either of them out. So the only useful suggestion I can offer is to see which you can test-ride locally. On paper they’re as good as identical. You can discuss specification charts until the cows come home but it’ll all be irrelevant once you’ve actually started riding.

Ideally you’d test-ride both, but if you can only try one, then at least you can either eliminate it from your shortlist or confirm that it’ll do the job — then buy it.

The other critical reason for testing bikes out is to ensure that you get the right size, as incorrectly-sized bikes are the biggest source of discomfort and even injury on tour.

Hope this helps!

Thanks a lot for the tip Tom and appreciate you taking the time out to respond to me.

I’m based in HK and so unfortunately won’t be able to test-ride either of them (only a narrow window in London and they have to be ordered in advance), but if you say that the specs are identical then it makes the decision a bit easier — comes down to the aesthetics now!

I’ve got a KHS TR-101, bought from Cycle Surgery. Since these are relatively uncommon, I thought I’d put up my thoughts.

It’s a lovely bike to ride and I’ve done 2 3‑week trips to New Zealand South Island on it, usually somewhere between 50 and 100km a day. But I do think the brakes are not good enough for a tourer — I’m going to switch mine out after realising as I coasted down from Arthurs’ Pass in the rain with a loaded bike that I couldn’t stop even if I wanted to — and the mudguard fittings have been annoying — little plastic clips which pop ou, and which don’t hold the guard far out, so it rubs the tyres if the guard gets even slightly warped. Both easily replaced though. I’ve carried medium weights on it — prob. ca. 20kg — with ease, using both front and back racks and it feels very smooth and well-balanced. In fact, I think it’s the easiest bike I’ve ever ridden in that respect. Even the stock saddle is OK although I’m finally switching to a Brooks.

I don’t find the gears allow me to get up big hills when it’s loaded (but that might be just me — I’m not very gritty about hills.…) but it’s very smooth to handle and way faster than most other bikes off the bigger hills. 

I’ve done almost all on road on it and wouldn’t do off road again after an 80km run on the gravel Mavora Lakes road — it coped but it wasn’t nice (could have been the headwind…).

I’m planning one or two more 3 week tours on it (New Zealand again, and then maybe Sri Lanka) but am trying to work out whether in the long term I should just upgrade the parts, or actually invest in another bike. It’s a lovely cycle though — I’d really recommend it, although if you are looking for a real round-the-world workhorse it might be worth looking at some of the more established models. 

No bike is without problems, it aint about the bike without blood, sweat and tears :-X

Hi Tom — Great site, very informative and helpful. I´m looking at setting up my first Touring / Expedition rig.

Wondering if you wouldn´t mind commenting on Santos Bikes out of Holland? I see they make some great looking touring bikes, but only in Aluminium.…I asked them why they dont do Steel and their reply was that the Steel / Belt Drive combination is not good, ie to flexible and that the belt will wear just as fast as a regular chain, therefore, they go with Aluminium?? Any comment. Also, thoughts on the Belt Drive in Combination with a Rohloff Hub??

I´m looking at a go anywhere, do anything rig…2 week tours in Europe and RTW adventures. 

Thanks if you can help me out and keep up the great work 🙂

Hi guys, spoilt for choices,the steel v ali debate?? V brake or disc??Santos i havent seen but if its dutch id expect its a good bike, like koga who use aluminium for rtw touring(a reason people like ali is light for air transit, and it wont rust like steel) but can be a harsh ride,so invest in a suspension seat and a brooks saddle,backside will thank ya..Roholf or mech?? Roholf belt drive i have met a tourer using and he was happy with it, expensive combo but if it rolls for 100,000klm and comp have good rep. As it comes to preference and trail n error..I a bit like yourself wanted a rtw expadition bike. I got a thorn ripio frame which i then built up myself …doing that i chose my best spec bits xt tubus fsa brookes ergo etc( finding good reductions online) and most important get to know how it goes together ..useful as often u must rely on yourself to fix the problem and keep those wheels rolling:-) i like steel frames as they flex and are more comfortable with luggage…frames i would say are worth considering are as mentioned by others, surly lht , thorn and an excellent other is onone.…another option is to find a good old used bike/steel frame i.e 90’s atb/mtb models by specialised, trek, orange and upgrade as reqiured. Invest in strong wheels if offroading full loaded and good tyres, schwable marathon xr are excellent and after 20,000 klms they still got tread. A final thought an expensive shiny touring bike looks great to the owner and a theif, to protect my ride i wrap the frame in old inner tube and tape so protecting frame from damage and making my pride and joy look like a dirty ol ride! Thats all folks:-)

Thanks for the contribution!

Sadly the Schwalbe Marathon XR was discontinued years ago now 🙁

Hi tom and troops„, yeah the xr was too good „buy once product, found early originals recently 2 in holland…(where else.. for any tourers holland is ur candy store). So what u rollin on these days??? p.s u on a tour??? Bon route:-)

Not right now, no. But I have my own stash of XRs for when I am 🙂

Hi Tom, very interesting article. My wife and I are looking to buy touring bikes. We would use them in Europe initially — we have a small child who will be with us on a seat so we’ll leave Africa and Asia etc for a few years. I was thinking of a Genesis Croix de Fer , 725 reynolds probably rather than the expensive 931. What are your thoughts? Versatile but do you think they fall between two stools. Thanks, Mark

The Surly long Haul Disc Trucker not only Ticks all the Boxes but you will only ever need to purchase this bicycle Once No need to upgrade this bicycle will be perfect and last a lifetime of Touring wherever your dreams take you Go for the 26 wheels far stronger and gives you an extra gear on steep inclines happy cycling

Sorry, Now I have seen that you have an article about the Tern Link P24 and touring with a folding bike. My suggestion was totally redundant.

But no less appreciated! Thank you for a great summary (and much a much broader one than mine!)

Thanks Tom for all your great articles. I think that folding bikes are a serious alternative for long-term touring. Certainly less sturdy but have many advantages, easy to carry on planes or busses if needed or into hotel rooms and tents for added security. They are getting better with more reliable frames, even with full suspension (Reise und Muller birdy touring) and all the best specs up to Rohloff and dynamo hubs. Small wheels are not good beyond tarmac or good dirt tracks but there are a foding bikes with 24″ and 26″, though I will go for 20″ as a perfect balance between comfort, stable handling and still compact size when folded, bearing in mind it may nor be the best option to do the Pamir highway or crossing the Andes. There are some models speced for touring with pannier racks, mudguards etc. Tern link P24, Dahon MU with alfine 11 and the awsome Birdy. Worth considering.

[…] reading the reviews of Tom Allen and reading a bit about what is important in a touring bicycle, I became convinced that the Kona […]

Hello Tom, your website is amazing, well done! I’m about to undertake a long bike tour through Asia and Europe …unfortunately my budget is very limited. I think I will buy the kona sutra but I also saw this bike which I really like Can you please give me some advice comparing the two models?

I will also convert the bike in an e‑bike with the golden motor magic pie conversion kit plus a solar panel . Do you think the conversion will affect the efficiency of the bike?

Thank you very much for the help Vince

Hi Tom, Great article thanks! I bought a 2008 Ridgeback Panorma World Tour in 2011 and I have loved every moment on it. It’s the old BMW grey model. I have been an occassional cyclist for much of my life but it was only when i got this bike that it really made me want to do more and more miles. We have done the UK coast to coast and will be doing the Way of the Roses in the next few weeks; also did Penrith to John O’Groats when I met up with friends doing LeJog. It eats up the miles and has been bullet proof. Once it’s rolling it flies and the Deore gearing gets me up anything. If anyone is considering this model I wholeheartedly recommend it. I swapped out the saddle for a Brooks B17 and put Ortlieb panniers on it and both have been unbeatable performers. I only wish I could match them 🙂 Cheers Mart

i thank for this advice.this would encourage many of them to cycle.i to got encouraged. i have cycled about Km400 this is just the start,i think all cyclist belong to one family.

I’m planning on building a bike for a round the world adventure but I’m overwhelmed by the choices of frames! Surly, thorn, Kona… The obvious choice for a frame would be a Surly Long Haul, but the geometry doesn’t fill me with excitement. My dream bike and frame is the Santos 2.6 (It looks and feels more like a MTB than a tourer), but at almost £800 for the frame it’s way out of my price range. Flat bars or butterflys are a must for me as I really don’t understand this facination with dropdowns. Top of my list currently and within my price range is a Surly Troll. What are your thoughts about the troll as a world tourer? Should I stick with the tried and tested Surly Long Haul (although I’m not sure if the LHT geometry is ideal for flat bars) or go a bit leftfield and try the Troll?

getting ready for a st malo — malaga ride in the spring and am looking at the Specialized Awol:

How would you say it compares with the Kona Sutra?

Fantastic website, btw.…

It looks like an interesting bike, if a rather specialised one (sorry) — almost a dirt-road racer with luggage racks, which I think is what Kona have tried to do with the Sutra (mistakenly IMHO; should have been a new model altogether). It looks like a bike for light and nimble loads rather than fully-loaded touring, with 32-spoke wheels and the 10-speed Sora chainset. I’d be very interested to hear a road test report if you do go with it.

Bob Nally!! You may think trying to advertise in here is a good thing which either makes you extremely clever or extremely stupid, which is it folks?? thanks for the info Bob but just encase your advertising here hadn’t noticed this is a about info, advice and camaraderie between true people that have cyling in their heart and you may (or may not) realise this, anyway. guys im a very short woman 4.10 so finding it very hard to find a touring bike to suit me (my mountain bike is 14 inches) but i’m finding it very hard to find something withing my price limit Tom and everyone else, I’m looking for a man’s tourer that can suit my height (I CAN NOT STAND THE LOOK OF WOMANS BIKES) lol so hopefuly I can have Tom or someone else to give me a tip on a “short ass” tourer lol

Does Bob Nally work for Ash Cycles, then? If so, he probably has cycling in his heart too. I’m pleased to hear about it if there’s a relevant deal on, though it would be nice if people disclosed their affiliations of course.

What’s your price limit, Pam? The 26-inch Surly LHT is available right down to a 42cm frame. After that you’ve got seatpost, saddle, stem and cranks to tweak the fit.

For anyone looking for a new bike AshCycles (UK) have the Dawes Galaxy Classic 2013 (and many more bikes) discounted to £879.95 with free delivery.

Thanks for pointing this out!

Hi Tom, I´ve been falling you for over a year and love the movie and the book. I feel like the world is telling me to move south–I´m in Colombia right now and I want to go to Argentina. I am looking into bikes to buy here, and it is very difficult to find aone in a place full of little people (I´m 193cm tall). But that is a problem that I can manage. 

Here in Bogota, these types of cargo racks ( ) are very popular and they can definately hold a bunch of weight (they usually come in black). I know that there would be wind issues, especially with the front rack–but what do you think of mounting one of these on the back or possibly mounting on both the front and the back of a bike. I´m not too worried about speed but much more worried about control. 

On another note, I bought this from kickstarter ( ) and when it is developed and shipped to me this summer, I plan to use it to get from point A to point B… I don´t know if it will work or not, the only downside is that I cannot change gears with it… We´ll see. 

On another note–can you recommend a book for learning how to repair/assemble a bike… 

Thanks in advance for the advice and I will probably have a hundred more questions in the coming weeks and months… Say hi to your brother Ben for me… If everything goes to hell in a handbasket, I might just fly to Lebanon in February for the big event.

Hey Wes… faced with a cargo rack decision like that, the only way to know for sure is to take one for a test ride. I think you’d attract a fair amount of attention if you did go with it! 🙂

The Park Tool website is the number one resource for bicycle repair tuition. I’m not aware of a specific book, though.

Drop me an email if you have any more questions — always happy to help.

Hi Tom, just discovered your website and am so inspired that my wife, daughter and I are planning a tour to Paris next year. Anyway…I have a Specialized Sirrus hybrid that to my novices eye seems to be similar to most of the touring bikes above. The only obvious difference being aluminum frame, flat bars and no racks etc. The components all seem similar. Would there be much point in changing to a tourer? Cheers.

If you can fit a rear rack to that frame, you’re good to go. Even if you can’t, a seatpost rack will do you from here to Paris. Enjoy!

Touring bikes are great if you need full camping gear. I rode a kona Jake the snake lisbon-istanbul, cuba etc, cyclocross bikes should be considered for light touring is.bivy sack and no cooking gear. Super fast, built strong to off road and just more fun and nimble to ride, if that’s your thing. I haven’t been carrying front panniers though, not sure how would ride. I’d encourage really trying to lighten everything up, gear and bike, more rewarding — but this does assume staying within a few hundred km of a store/restaurant/hostel although can be self sufficient for a few days.

Just love this site, ride on tom!

Thanks Yuri. I can count the number of times I’ve been more than a day’s ride from supplies on the fingers of one hand. Almost everyone could “lighten up” and go fast and nimble. I guess it depends on your priorities for being on the road!

Was wondering why you haven’t put any of the Thorn Bikes on your list?..Maybe the Sherpa would be a good mid-range,no? Ian

I haven’t read all the comments so I don’t know if it’s been mentioned (I’ll also hold my hands up here and say I work there) but if we’re talking mid-high end touring bikes then Spa Cycles are worth looking at — there is now a steel tourer available which is competitively priced.

If we’re talking relatively small UK touring ‘brands’ then Thorn would be worth mentioning too.

Thanks Ben! I haven’t included Thorn here as they’re a bit pricey for the mid-range, but I’ll do so in a future piece on higher end tourers…

No problem, really enjoyed the film on Tuesday in Leeds. Has given me even more enthusiasm for riding the 270 miles home to Dorset for xmas in a week or so. 🙂

I did 6000 miles on my 2011 Cannondale CAADX. The Only upgrade was a pair of heavy duty handbuilt touring wheels a Son 28 Hub and some Schwalbe Marathons.…. I have to say it was the driest 3 month trip you could imagine so the lack of crap picked up to wear the Bike out was noticeable… The Only mechanicals, 2 broken cable and about 4 punctures. Get your bike looked over/serviced before you go and remember this, when you ride your bike normally, what usually goes wrong… I bet nothing.….

Hello Tom & thanks for your very useful and cheerful writings. I’m just getting back into bike touring, and still using my faithful 1977 Dawes Super Galaxy, nearly all original but with a re-enamelling job on the frame. Still pretty well perfect for my long but slow road trips. Brittany’s rolling country is a mine of varied and beautiful scenery : have you tried it? All the best

I haven’t been to Brittany since a school camping trip in 1999… maybe I should 🙂

Tom, you’d be very welcome! so yes, maybe you should! You have my e‑mail via this page, I imagine, so let me know if you’re over here & the Super Galaxy will be wheeled out! 🙂

Hi Tom I’m looking for a top end light tourer that’s very comfortable, capable of going as fast as a tourer can go and at home on Tarmac and on dusty tracks. I intend to carry minimal luggage too. How does the Van Nicholas Amazon (or Yukon) Rohloff compare to the Thorn Mercury? Which would you chose?

I’m sorry but I have absolutely no idea! The only way to know for sure is to ride both. It sounds like your requirements are quite specialised, whereas I’m only really intending to cover generalist mid-range tourers in this article. Sorry!

Thanks a lot for the article. The best I could find on the issue over the net.

My question is, did you get to try Kona Sutra 2014 already? I can’t find any comparisons ; 2013 vs. 2014 — yet there’s the huge change of frame.

I haven’t ridden it myself, but here’s my piece on the changes .

I’ve got a bit of a silly question : How should a touring bike “ride”? I’ve been on “racing” bikes forever and find them comfortable and fun to ride. I’ve been hunting for a touring bike and while they are comfortable to cruise around a bit, they seem far too upright for my riding comfort (makes me feel like I’m riding one of those cheap stationary bikes at the gym, on the first one I tried, I had to drop all the spacers on the stem to get comfy, but then ran into issues with the brake stop/hanger not clearing the head tube) and they feel a bit sluggish and hard to “toss around”, especially when out of the saddle on climbs, even in comparison to my light-weight steel mountain bike. I can see why ultra-low gearing is recommended if all you can do is sit and hammer up the climbs. Is that how it is supposed to be?

Hi Isaac I have recently ridden from Adelaide to Darwin on a Tout Terrain bike and I think there are several characteristics that make the touring bike the right one for you. You need to be comfortable if you are going to spend up to 10hrs in the saddle and the more upright positions of most ‘tourers’, seem to take the weight and pressure from your hands/ arms. Also, the touring bike should never feel “twitchy”, especially when loaded. My Tout Terrain rides the same when laden or un-laden and when you find yourself carrying 15kgs of water plus all other camping gear etc, the bike needs to be predictable. Many bike frames will twist when under a load; as a result, your control, reliability and comfort will suffer. I also like having handlebars that give multiple hand positions, which helps with fatigue. The other consideration is that you are an accomplished road bike rider. You are ‘familiar’ with this lower profile riding position and the road bike handling characteristics. This may be why every other riding position feels foreign. Load up a few different bikes including a road bike and try them out on a few long day trips. Consider the advice of others, but ultimately you need to enjoy touring and your decision should be based on what is right for you. As Tom advises, just get out there and problem solve. In essence, ‘touring’ is not a race and almost any bike can be used. You just need to select the one that feels right for you.

Cheers Mark — I echo these sentiments.

Have you tried riding one with a full load (i.e. 15–25kg luggage split between the front and rear)? A touring bike should feel reassuring and stable under such circumstances as it’s what they’re designed for. Riding them unburdened is not going to give you a realistic sense of the ‘ride’.

Cockpit setup is largely personal preference, I think. I’ve seen people touring on everything from upright shopping bikes to mountain bikes to racers with drops — it’s what you prefer. Personally I choose being upright and able to look at my surroundings rather than tucked down grinding away at the asphalt.

Tossing them around and hammering up climbs is not really part of the touring style — taking it slow and steady, especially uphill, is what allows you to reach the end of a day with a hundred k on the clock.

Hope that helps!

Bianchi Volpe

just wondering if a cheap tourer such as the Raleigh Royal or Revolution Country Traveller ’13 would be suitable enough for a first tour of say 3–4 weeks on EuroVelo network through Germany? have done a bit of mountain biking before, and am a commuting cyclist everyday but I don’t really know that much about bikes

Any comfortable bike will do you for 3–4 weeks in one of the most cycle-friendly countries on the planet!

I can vouch for the Revolution Country Traveller. For the money (£430.00 in the sale!) its a surprisingly comfortable and capable bike. Swapped the saddle to a Brooks but otherwise its been perfect.

I saw that the link for the Rocky Mountain Sherpa was broken. Here’s the new URL:

I am moving to Norway and want to get more into touring, would an 2005 trek 6500 mountain bike work for touring? Link to the bike

Any bike will work for touring if you’re determined enough!

You’ll just need to find a way of mounting a rack. Tubus do seatstay clamp kits for bikes like this. Your other option is a trailer like the Extrawheel .

Thanks for the guide. Think I’ll go with the surly long haul trucker. Why? Because I saw a girl with one on the train after she’d come back from an across Britain ride. So I wanted one!

Lo mejor es que a partir de la accin y de la memoria del equipo. Una vez instalado aprieta el botn de encendido que ven en la nube. Sabemos que Nokia ha lanzado un nuevo juego java para celular, es que HTC podr renacer y volver a reproducirlo. La informacin recopilada en nuestro sitio Hoy 9tres tecnologia y servicios estimamos los mejores del ao. Llegaron a descubrir la agricultura y la envia a la interconexin entre centrales 9tres tecnologia y servicios y pblicas. La interfaz es mucho ms fcil, pero me parece curiosa la decisin 9tres tecnologia y servicios de Acer de incorporar Windows 8 que posee? brujerias para enamorar a un hombre

Tom have a look at Thorn Sherpa I have one it’s great

Hi Tom, it’s that time of the year when all you want to do is load up your bike, jump on the ferry to France and just go wherever the mood takes you. It’s also the time when you just devour all the reviews and conversations about bikes and gear and destinations. I love it. I’ve had my Dawes Super Galaxy for over 25 years now. It’s the single best item I have ever spent money on and, if I had to get rid of all my bikes bar one, it’s the one I’d keep. I’m in awe of its Rolls-Royce levels of reliabilty, comfort and smoothness. I’ve ridden 10s of thousands of miles on it and it still rides like a dream every time. All the way across the Pyrenees last year; fully loaded, 900kms, 50,000 ft of climbing, horrific weather, faultless. If the new models are as good as the old ones (and they should be) then you couldn’t go wrong with a Galaxy.

Hi, I am not new to cycling but am to touring. I just purchased a Tout Terrain SilkRoad Frame with derailleur hanger (not getting the Rohloff hub version) and want to build it up with durable components. Plan on using drop bars, 26″ wheels, and cable disc brakes. I also like grip shift but don’t know if this is compatible with drop bars, or even if they are still made. Would prefer mountain bike components. Any recommendations for which components group (model year 2013) to get that would be true and durable. I hear Shimano XT is good and light but durability is not what it used to be. Any suggestions would be helpful. Thanks in advance. J

PS Cash is a factor but don’t want to sacrifice quality either.

Ideally you’d build an 8‑speed drivetrain from a mixture of components (8sp chains being thicker than 9sp and therefore longer lasting). Deore to XT ranges are durable and rugged. Beyond XT it’s about saving weight for racing, with durability sacrificed, so don’t go there. 

The rear derailleur will take more abuse than the front one. 9sp Shimano rear mechs work with 8sp shifters (at least, mine does).

Grip shifts are certainly still made but I have no idea about using them with drops…

Many thanks for your response Tom; the questions you wrote are certainly eminently practical and sensible.

Perhaps it could be assumed that 32 spoke set-ups are strong enough, given that Rohloff and the expedition bike manufacturers, who stake their reputation on reliability and longevity, use that set-up. Though, having said that, it seems Rohloff are now making a 36 hole hub (according to their website).

According to the Thorn website, spoke breakage was an issue; an issue they solved by drilling the spoke holes on the rim differently. Presumably Santos use the same technique as they also hand build their wheels.

You are absolutely correct in saying that the long distance cyclist should be able to repair such things as broken spokes and derailleur malfunctions (and etc). In terms of enjoying trips though, It’s much nicer if nothing goes wrong (ie Murphy’s law takes a holiday). As much as I enjoy servicing and working on my bikes (the mechanics are such “elegantly simple” bits of technology), I prefer the comfort of my own garage. For those reasons a reliable, strong and well prepared bike would be desirable — and that is an answer to your original question about “which bike?”.

Regarding derailleur and Rohloff gears — derailleurs have certainly stood the test of time, though newer sets with more gears may be more finicky than older versions. For that reason, and when the range of use-able gears is considered, the Rohloff hub is attractive (except for the cost — a 60000 km break-even point may not be achievable for many tourers). Interesting that you have heard of misfortunes with Rohloff hubs — I hadn’t, which indicates that I need to do more research. Perhaps a question to be considered here is, “why are top-end touring bike (and some MTB) manufacturers using Rohloff hubs?” Presumably the perceived reliability is a part of the answer to that?

Mind you, all the theorising in the world is still bound by practical experience. 4000 km into last year’s trip the drive train needed replacing (this inconvenience was my fault really, as I should have renewed the components before setting out — the bike was relatively new and I left the original equipment just to see how long good quality components would last). The chain and cluster were easily replaced, but I had to ride another 1000 km without the use of the middle chainring, until I was able to buy a suitable replacement. It was then that I started considering alternatives — a Rohloff hub is one possibility, perhaps also the gears at the bottom bracket, such as fitted to one of the Tout Terrain models.

Anyway, interesting discussion and I look forward to your assessment of the “upper” end of the touring bike market.

Thanks again

If it helps, the builders I’ve spoken with say that the 32 spoked Rohlof hub is stronger than a handbuilt 40 spoked tandem wheel. This makes sense when thinking about dishing and the inherent weakness it introduces to the wheel. The other thing, of course, is that it is easier to repair a broken spoke on the chainside of a Rohlof hub than on a dished wheel with a cogset.

This has been a very interesting discussion — many thanks.

In response to your original question about other brands that might be considered be considered; no one seems to have mentioned the Santos Travelmaster bikes, in 26 and 28 in sizes and in aluminium or cromo.

Now, if I may lead to a dilemma. In one of your responses you referred to a concern that a new derailleur gear system with 30 gears may not yet have been “proven” to be reliable for long tours (paraphrasing your response). That is a good point, borne out by my experience — my older 26 in MTB/hybrid has 21 gears (perhaps indicates how old the bike is) and has never needed adjusting, while my newer 28 in with 27 gears needs frequent attention. Even though I do all the servicing myself and can generally adjust the gears satisfactorily, it can be a pain spending time adjusting the gears while touring (I’d much rather be riding or photographing or sipping cappuccinos in a wayside café). This has led me to consider a Rohloff hub.

That leads to the dilemma. The Rohloff hub bikes (Tout Terrain Silk Road, Thorn Nomad, vsf TX1000 and Santos Travelmaster and possibly Gudereit are all under consideration) all use 32 spokes. I am nervous about dropping from 36 spokes. The theory is that, because the Rohloff hub does not require a “dished” spoke set-up, it is stronger (than the equivalent deraileur set-up). The issue is that I cannot find any info that states how much stronger. One blog mentioned that 26 in wheels are about 10% stronger than 28 in wheels (with the same number of spokes) — but what the 10% is “of” was not explained, and what the measurement of “strength” is was also not explained. Questions remain hanging — is a 32 spoke undished 26 in wheel stronger than a 36 spoke 28 in wheel, for example? What is the “hierarchy of strength” when considering 26 and 28 in, dished and undished wheels?

This leads, of course, to really basic questions such as, for example, “would a vsf TX1000 ( 28 in wheels with wider tyres) be as strong as my current 28 in with 36 spokes”? How much stronger are the Santos wheels with 32 spokes, given that they are hand-made? And so on…

So, if there is anyone who could shed light, with facts, on this dilemma, it would be very much appreciated.

As a final point, I wonder if the steel/aluminium frame issues is now a non-issue — an idea espoused by a metallurgist-cyclist when considering modern frames?

Many thanks

Hi Phil. Thanks for the detailed comment.

The main reason I haven’t included the Travelmaster here is because it’s a top-end touring bike, whereas in this article I’ve been focussing on mid-range bikes. I’ll definitely include it in a future article about top-end bikes, though, along with the other bikes you mentioned — thanks for bringing them to my attention.

Regarding hubs and spokes, I think that the important question here is:

“Would Rohlhoff hubs be fitted to top-end touring bikes if spoke-count was a real issue?”

I doubt it. I hear more tales of Rohlhoff internals failing than spokes breaking. Which begs another question:

“Is it easier to repair a derailleur system or a Rohlhoff wheel on the roadside?”

My money’s on the derailleur. That’s why I’ll keep using them over internally-geared hubs.

And instead of asking what percentage of extra strength 36 spokes gives over 32, I’d be asking:

“Am I able to replace a broken spoke?”

Because that’s what you’ll be thinking when a spoke does inevitably break 🙂

I’ve been using a VSF TX1000 for over a year & completed over 2,000 miles (fully loaded) last autumn through Spain & France on a variety of roads & canal paths… my experience has been very positive… the 32 spoke Rohloff & Son28 wheels show no sign of wear & are true as the day I got them????

Hi Tom! Any comments on the Brodie Elan:

I tested the Sutra but after trying both 56 & 59 could not make up my mind on what was the right size for me. I am 6 feet tall so I guess I might be somewhere in between. On the other hand I also tried the Brodie Elan 54 & 57 and the 57 felt to big for me… Thanks in advance for any feedback

I’m surprised that the Fuji Touring did not make your list. I’ve been looking around and it seems like a solid touring bike at a good price. 

BTW — I just stumbled across your site and I’m impressed! I’ll be back soon.

Hello, Tom. Why you advice only steel frame bicycles? There’s a lot bikes with alluminuim frame and fork. It’s lighter and easy to buy everywhere.

The main reasons are durability and for ease of repair. Steel has a much longer fatigue limit, and in case of breakage can be welded anywhere by anyone with basic welding equipment. Aluminium, on the other hand, needs specialist attention — in less developed countries this could mean going to an airport. Frame breakages are not uncommon on long-haul tours and that’s why most quality long-distance touring bikes are still made of steel.

Personally, I also prefer the ride quality of a steel frame; there’s a little more give over the very stiff ride afforded by aluminium. For long term comfort that does become noticeable.

For short and occasional touring, I have no doubt that most aluminium frames would be fine, though.

Tom, that old chestnut about a steel bike being welded anywhere by anyone is quite amusing. That is the theory. In reality it takes a skilled welder who has experience with bicycle frames to do that job properly. Yes, you might get a rough cut job to hold your frame together to the next port but on a loaded bike i would’t fancy it. And how many people do you know who have actually had this done in practice?

I do agree with you that the steel frame gives a much nicer and more comfortable ride and that such a frame has much better strength which are great reasons to get steel.

Lots. Including me (Yemen). Andy (India). Al (Sudan). Etc. There’s quite a list. Very common story on very long trips. The fact that any old welder can get you to the next port is the whole point. We all had steel frames and we all managed to continue riding.

On the other hand, I know several aluminium-riding tourers who ended up hitchhiking with broken bikes and then waiting around in cities for new frames to be couriered out because they couldn’t get them repaired at all.

Salsa , Rivendale , Co Motion , Koga Miata — if you looking for really nice touring bike. Expensive but for long run cheap — it is simple , you get quality what you pay for .….. Years back I on $ 400 sligtly modified Raleigh Tarantula MTB , ( now overhauled and equipt with top of the line comnponents still in use for trails in Rockies ) I did made trip from La Paz to Chile . Want to safe some money . It teach me ! Never ever I will make this kind of mistake again .…

Another bike similar to ones already mentioned is the Rocky Mtn Sherpa. I’ve been riding a 2012 model for 8 months and am pretty happy with it. Pros- 36 spoked wheels, 27 gears in a wide range, stiff frame. Cons- the braze on placement on the seat tube (the front derailler is attached between them), I’d like bigger chainrings up front, It doesn’t do well off-pavement.

Cheers, David. I wonder why Rocky Mountain haven’t fitted a rack to this bike — I know people can be picky about racks, but I do think touring bikes at this level should be ready to tour off-the-peg as well. Nevertheless, it certainly looks like a good option. Thanks for the addition!

I was looking at Jamis Aurora Elite 2013 (cannot find the 2012 anymore). However some reviews describe it as a “light tourer”. I understand the problem of the 10-speed cassette. But what would make it a *light* tourer.

A ‘light’ tourer would usually mean a bike that’ll carry some luggage on a relatively short paved-road tour, but probably suffer off-road and with lots of luggage in the long-term.

I have just purchased an audax cycle from my local cycle store (Surosa cycles in Oldham, Greater Manchester, UK) as they build their own frames.. and had it custom built with my chosen spec for a total of £1266 and it’s a very good bike with mudguards, and a heavy duty rear rack with rack bag and 56L panniers.. soon to have an addition of handlebar bag, and front rack and panniers and I’d feel happy to do some touring on that over any distance

That sounds like a good price for a custom frame and build. I’d be interested to know the spec?

People will choose their bikes according to all the factors mentioned by you, Tom, and by other contributors. For some, keeping costs low is paramount and for others, strength and reliability are the main considerations. I think there are also intangible factors such as each individual’s self image as a cyclist and the emotional resonance of one bike or another. I’m far from wealthy but I appreciate the inherent value of high quality engineering and get enormous satisfaction from assembling my own bikes. After much research and deliberation I bought a high quality European frame and a mix of German, Japanese, American and British components. The complete set wasn’t cheap but I did make a considerable saving compared with buying a similar bike off the shelf. I also bought a wheel truing stand and gauges, and built my own wheels. I wouldn’t claim to be an expert bicycle mechanic but the experience of assembling my own bikes has provided not only personal satisfaction but also great confidence for dealing with routine maintenance and potential problems while far from home. I don’t believe there is any one ‘best touring bike’ and I’m skeptical about such claims. The message I take from this section of your blog, not to mention many other bicycle related blogs and websites, is that bicycle touring is a growing phenomenon and that it is rich with variety, in both equipment and people. That is surely a good thing.

You are absolutely right; there is no one-size-fits-all solution. I can completely appreciate the process of building a bike up from carefully-chosen top-end parts (as I did myself in 2007), just as I can appreciate the idea of rescuing an old bike from a scrapheap and bringing it back to life (as I’m doing right now)!

Thanks for the very thoughtful comment!

Just about to buy the Ridgeback Journey for some UK touring — perhaps France too next year. I’ve been seduced by the Alfine gearing. Am I being wise?

In 2009 my Roberts Roughstuff (with Rohloff hub) was stolen in Bulgaria with only 2000 miles on the clock. So that I could continue my RTW trip, I bought a Drag ZX5 mountainbike in Sofia, with replacement Schwalbe Marathon tyres, butterfly bars and comfy saddle, plus front and rear racks, stand, fenders and the two components of my wireless computer that had disappeared with the Roberts. The first bike cost just short of £3000, the second (Sofi) cost £500 and has now completed around 18000 miles. I’ve asked myself many times, ‘why did I bother spending all that money in the first place?’ The BMC paid out £250 in insurance btw.

Hi Anne i followed your adventures on crazy guy, was epic. Were the gears on Sofi deore or lesser Regards Pete.

I have almost completed a round the world bike ride on a Koga Signature with a Rolhoff gear system. During my four years on the road i have changed tyres, chain, brake pads and the bike was serviced in Australia and Los Angeles. I am still running with the original rims, no broken spokes and the Rolhoff is bomb proof. The Koga in my humble opinion is by far the best bike on the market. Ive been on wonderful smooth highways, Australia, USA and dirt roads that you wouldnt take a Land Rover on in Patagonia and Bolivia but the bike has just kept going, ive done over 30.000 miles on with not one problem, it still has the original bottom bracket. If you want to ride around the world buy any bike if you want to return home problem free then buy a Koga Signature.

Hi Robert, I was offered a World Traveller today for €1200 (2013 with 500kms) although I’ll probable go for the Kona Sutra as I perceive it to have a broader and more efficient range of use and I have no plans for outside Europe. How did you find your bike on load touring, daily tasks?

Sorry mate, we are going to drop the site. To expensive to keep up for the entire 4 years.

So we are now on fb. And crazy guy on a bike. 

I would put my vote for the BB7s. A mechanical system may require more pull on the lever than a hydraulic system it doesn’t have all the potential service issues. The BB7 are durable and been around for a while. The nice thing about the BB7 vs the BB5 is that both pistons are adjustable on the bb7 making the setup and adjustment easier. Also the 7 brake pads are bigger than on the 5 which would make you think it stops better. I can’t comment on the ease of finding pads since they are not on my tour bike but since the bb7 uses a Juicy style pad it may be more common. For me I always carry spare pads regardless of where I am. The sintered metallic pads will give you longer pad life…just make sure that your rotor is rated for a metal pad. 

The other nice pluses for disc setup is no wear on the rim from brake pads, better stopping power in bad weather/muddy conditions and if you break a spoke or come out of true your brakes are still fully functional. The downside however is more strain on the hub shell and if you bend a rotor it can be next to impossible to get it perfectly straight…and there is the advantage of having both pistons adjustable on the bb7.

Hi Tom, I’ve read about Thorn bikes before (specifically the Raven) — any views?

Also, I would be interested to know why drop bars are so popular. I find a more upright cycling position more comfortable so would probably choose bullhorn or butterfly bars, but hardly any bikes seem to have these. 

What’s your view on disc brakes? I notice that the Kona Sutra has them — does it not cause an issue when you run into maintenance problems, especially outside Europe? (I would apply the same logic to hub gears).

I ride a Raleigh Royal, which is fine as a sturdy budget option (£500).

Thanks for article, really really useful!

The reason I haven’t included Thorn is that most of their models are above the price range I was aiming for here. I’ve never ridden one, but I have been told by several people that they’re great bikes, and that the people who make them are quite obnoxious.

I’ve found drops to be comnfortable, but I never use the dropped part except for shifting. I would imagine that’s fairly normal. Instead I make use of the various hand positions available on the upper part of the bars, which is at a height comparable to other types of handlebar once you’ve raised it with spacers and an angled stem, such as on the Kona Sutra. You get a very comfortable and fairly upright position out of that arrangement.

Before, I used an adjustable stem and riser mountain-bike bars. Now when I sit on that bike I feel like I’m on a Harley Davidson with pedals!

Disc brakes — well, models like the Avid BB7 have been around now for long enough to prove their reliability in the long term. They use the same cables and levers as V‑brakes, the mechanism is simple, and they’re maintenance free, except for changing the pads, which you can carry with you. They last longer and are lighter than V‑brake blocks. They’re also becoming easier to find spares for outside Europe. If your fork has V‑brake bosses, you’ve got that option in case of a really unlucky breakdown or accident. So I think the risk is now a very manageable one.

Thanks for the budget bike suggestion — I’ll work that into a future article.

All the best!

Hi Tom, and everyone! I’m one of those lucky enough to be able to afford several bikes, so I can make some comparisons based on experience. If you live in the U.K. it is definitely worth looking at the Thorn bikes as they are just so well built and I can vouch for the ride being ultra comfy and smooth for long days in the saddle. If you look at their prices they seem to be expensive at first but on their website they often have amazing deals on bikes they already have built up. They are absolutely worth it and are designed by someone who really knows how to get touring DNA and experience into a bicycle. The Surly Troll is another great choice with even more versatility in the drivetrain area but rides more like an MTB ( which it is ) than the Thorns. A word of advice for those who are wondering how to carry stuff. get a Burley travoy, the trailer that packs up into a shopping bag. It is a game changer and can carry a lot.You can get the load off your bike with it and still have a rack and space for other gear on your bike frame. Sometimes you can park it and ride your bike ‘naked’ without being bogged down with gear. It is the single most amazing piece of touring gear I have.

Ooops! Forgot to mention about disc brakes. I’ve got both systems. I find that disc rotors need to be perfectly flat for good performance and once they get bent even slightly on a tour they don’t function as well and are a pain to straighten out. They also can squeal a lot. For the first reason I found V brakes better for serious touring. Even though the disc fashion is popular now, i wouldn’t go that way for touring and seriously, a good pair of V brakes will stop you just as well. Concerning hub gears. My Rohloff and Alfine units have given me ZERO problems and i mean zero plus they are weatherproof. Derailleurs are not . If you have good mechanical skills you(ll be happy with them but if not definitely go IGH if you can afford it.

A tip for straightening out a bent rotor is to use an adjustable spanner to grip the rotor at the warped point and then give it a few nudges back in the right direction. With a bit of care this’ll cure all but the most traumatic bends.

Thanks for the comment! I have heard lots of good stuff about Thorn, and I’m sure they deserve their reputation. I’d put them in the “top-end” category on price point, which is why they’re not included here. One day it’d be nice to try one out… (hint!)

Re drop bars: I wouldn’t want to tour without them, and I use them a lot, but especially when I have to ride into the wind. On any tour, there will be long hours, and sometimes days, when the wind is blowing head-on, and I’d go nuts if I had to be sitting straight up, catching the full force of the wind, the whole time. However, it’s important to note that not all drop bars are the same. Some bars are marketed as “randonneur” bars, and they allow for a wide range of positions, which is really important as you can change positions frequently and relieve tension on your hands, wrists, neck and shoulders. On my current bike, a Surly Long Haul Trucker, the stock (drop) bars are very good. I probably spend the most time with my hands on the top section of the bars, but it’s a blessing to be able to get right down into a crouch when I have to ride into the wind.

The Paul Hewitt Cheviot is a very good bike too.

Tom I think the comment that the 5 models you showcased are basically the same bike is spot on. Yes there are bikes with better components but the few that you chose will do the job. Its easy to build a $5000 tour bike and I have seen several. However at the end of the day I would prefer to have a tough as nails work horse that doesn’t mind another scratch or two. 

I laugh as I think that my wife’s tour bike frame, a steel Rocky Mountain Soul, was perfectly fine and yet was about to be thrown into a dumpster when I saved it. Put a fork on it for 75 cents from the reuse it center and then built the rest from bits and hand me downs of solid mid range mtb components. For a few hundred dollars I built a bike that has easily survived several hard tours. It took a little time and patience but in the process I learned how to fix just about everything on the bike. Not to mention the satisfaction of giving it a new life. Now I would never consider buying a new bike from a shop. There are just so many great used bikes that would make a perfect tour bike project. With the internet as a resource you can research just about every part there is. It however takes time.

One more little story. On our trip to India, one of our group bought a $100 bike off craigslist in Vancouver. We checked it over and and made sure everything was sound and then shipped it over. She rode it for a month on tour and then donated it to an orphanage. Think they were happy? It was a pretty special moment. Would I have ridden it around the world…maybe not but it served the purpose and then some. Sometimes its just not about the bike.

Hey Henric — thanks a lot for this perspective. 

I agree that renovating an old bike is just as valid as buying a new one. (In fact, that’s a project I’ve got on the go at the moment.) I do also think, though, that there’s room for everyone to have their own way of approaching the situation — a new bike might be what takes someone from a dreamer to a die-hard cycle tourer — and for another person, the love that goes into a rebuild of a completely unique vintage bike may achieve the same thing.

Thanks for your input!

I pulled an old green Chicago Schwinn Varsity off the trash when I was in High School, fixed it up and rode it for a long time. Last year I put new wheels and tires on it, and then had to replace the rear derailleur. This year I’ve put saddlebaskets on it and use it to go to work everyday, and am planning to take it on a short 200 mile tour this summer. The only gripe I have with it is that the original gearset doesn’t have quite a low enough first gear for the hills in Albuquerque, but when I get back to Chicago next week it should be just fine again. Absolutely reliable bike (though it’s really heavy at 45lbs without the baskets, close to 55 or 60lbs with the baskets)

Fantastic. That’s the spirit.

I love my Surly Troll.

A real work horse and rides suprising well both loaded and unloaded. I personally think it’s better than the LHT because it’s a great alrounder.

It does look good. Rear triangle & caliper positioning like the Sutra. Very flexible-looking setup!

I’m lucky enough to own a pair of touring bikes, a Thorn Sterling ( discontinued I think ) and a Troll, both built to my spec, with Shimano XTR v brakes ( I don’t like discs, squeaky, rotors too easily bent ‚hard to replace on a tour, and extra weight ), They are both fantastic bikes but with a different ride quality. The Surly is a bit more agile, rides more like a trail bike, but for putting on the miles when you are going to be riding seven or eight hours a day, the Thorn just cruises through it sffortlessly. It’s also one solid bike. Don’t believe i’ve ridden any another frame that is as comfortable as the Thorn for long days in the saddle. For those shopping for a tourer, I’d give careful thought to whether you’ll be on or off road. Both of my bikes can handle either but they both excel at only one.

For several years I have gone on a European cycle tour with my tent and cycled for a period of no more than six weeks. I have had a couple of good touring bikes which I upgraded the wheels to Mavic 719 and the gears to Shimano XT As I got older now 62yrs of age I decided to invest in a Thorn Mercury straight handlebars and a Rolhoff Hub including Disc Brakes the result is perfect my saddle is a Brooks B 17 the bike is a dream to ride 853 Reynolds Steel Stiff and flexible to enjoy many miles in the saddle As for the Rolhoff I could Never Tour with a derailleur gears again the Rolhoff is all they say it is German engineering at its best the people at Thorn did a first class job their manner appears firm but they certainly know their business and I am really pleased with my byclcle Thorns lowered the gearing to its maximum and I can climb most hills fully loaded if it’s touring on Tarmac with the occasional canal towpath I recommend the Mercury byclcle and with Swarbe marathon plus tyres your bike is bomb proof I am always amazed when cyclists talk about weight on a byclcle yes if you are racing but when you Tour a couple of kilos really makes no difference my only regret is I didn’t purchase a Rolhoff years ago not cheap but it will last you a lifetime and should you upgrade your bike you can transfer it to your next byclcle making the former into a single speed for training purposes as for disc brakes when I am fully loaded coming down a steep mountain side I know I can safer stop otherwise it’s possibly very hot wheel rims and possibly wheel failure it just depends on what kind of cycle touring you wish to do if it is traveling in south east Asia 26* wheels and no disc brakes but after cycling for over 50 years I believe I have finally found what works for me

Hey Tom. Just found your site. Thought we would say hi. We are in the midst of organising a lap around the world in 2014. For 3 years. Great site look forward to investigating it further. We r using 1 Surly lhdt, 1 world Randonneur $ 2 giant boulder bikes. Check it out under bike specs on out 8pedals site. Early days for us. 

Thanks! (Everyone else, check out !)

Walmart sells nice bikes (really). I ride combined packed dirt (nation forest) roads and paved. I use a dual suspension 21sp MTB upgraded with wide seat and swept back handlebars, better tires. Racks and other acc. as needed. for $250USD you can replace it every 2 years, transfer the custom parts to the new bike and still sell the old one for $35. Thieves know its a cheap bike and don’t bother it, joyriders main threat. My current bike was a $89 model, but I installed wide range gearing in addition to the other modifications. Going on 4 years 8500 miles, frame still good.

re your comment “They’re all built primarily for paved roads, but could handle a dirt track or two if need be.“ I bought a Surly Long Haul Trucker for a tour that included hundreds of kilometres of gravel road, and it was fabulous. A key factor was to use fairly beefy tires (1.75”). The setup on the Surly allowed getting down on the drop bars for long stretches against the wind, but enough cushioning in the tires (and frame) to make rough sections comfortable. I suspect this would be true of most of the bikes you mentioned, as long as they have room for wide tires. There have been a few loose dirt trails where a mountain bike would offer better control, but the Surly has been an ideal compromise for most of my rides.

After perhaps 25,000 km of touring we lashed out and bought Thorn Nomad each, with Rohloff. These are a little heavy, but the most comfortable and durable bikes imaginable…the Rolls Royce of touring. We can’t speak too highly of the Rohloff hubs.…just fantastic. But then, we travel slowly and thoughtfully.….you might say “savoring the experience”.…too old to do it anyother way! Check out Thorn’s website.

i would agree with the above. The Nomad is like a two wheeled tank, bit heavy, but can carry loads and tackle almost everything thrown at it. Slowly and thoughtfully ? ……… i couldn’t have put it better.

Hey, Tom! Since I have come back from my first bike tour to Europe I decided to buy Kona Sutra but question about what sixe should I choose is too complicated for me. I am 6 ft 2 inch. Thank you.

Hi Alex. The best thing to do by far is to test ride the different sizes. But if that isn’t an option, my brother is 6′2″ and he has the 59cm model, which fits him very well, if that’s of any help.

i have no money what small improvements could i make to my cannondale quick cx 4 2012 to make it a little better for touring

I would start by going on a tour with it and seeing if you run into any issues — depending on what you’re doing, it might be fine as-is!

Was all set to go for the Kona Sutra 2012 after much research and your review for a 1000km trip in SE Asia followed by a coast to coast of Oz, but just seen the Dawes Super Galaxy for £1125 at Spa Cycles. Almost the same price as the Kona. Would be interested on your thoughts on the Super Galaxy. I don’t plan on carrying much weight if that helps.

I’ve never ridden the Super Galaxy, so all I can say is going on the specs on the website. They look very similar, although the Super Galaxy has marginally better drivetrain components and better tyres. On the other hand, the Sutra has powerful disc brakes, bar-end shifters and a stronger/more widespread 9‑speed drivetrain, rather than the Dawes’ 10-speed which I consider a downgrade rather than an upgrade.

I’d toss a coin, or take them both for a ride and go with your gut!

Quick update — several stores are doing the 2012 Sutra at a discount now, including the two links in the article above…

Hey Tom, I went with the Kona Surtra based on my gut feeling and it felt right when I test rode it. Thanks for the link to cyclestore and your advice. I did a 3000 miles plus tour of SE Asia quickly followed by JOGLE on a mountain bike which was blast, but very much looking forward to journeying on a proper touring bike. Should make things less laborious hopefully. 

Top website!

Have to say I was a bit surprised at your mention of ‘stupidly expensive’ bikes then trying to claim that £1500 is a mid-range price. Anyway I have a Dawes Ultra Galaxy Ti and love it!!!

£1500 is a mid-range price 😉

My wife and I have had our Ridgeback Panorama’s for a couple of years now and are really pleased with them. We would, however, agree with Mark’s comment about the brake pads/blocks. Fortunately, easily rectified with a better brake block compound. We find that, when fully loaded, the bike comes into its own with regards to comfort, response and stability due, I think, to the Reynolds 725 tubing.

I bought a Panorama for touring in the Alps. Testing around Rutland hills I realised the brakes weren’t even good enough for here, let alone 25mile descents. I swapped them for Tekto mini “V” brakes available from Spa Cycles for £25. More than enough braking power now, it made a huge difference.

Hi Tom, I followed your adventure to the Arctic. Good to see you passing on your knowledge. Both my DH and I have Koga Randonneurs and I love mine. He preferred his Dawes Super Galaxy that he had upgraded with the Koga multiposition bars unfortunately , it was stolen and never recovered. They come complete with dynamo for lighting and I have a gizmo to charge the I phone. Good to find your site again. Brenda

Thanks for the article. A bit disappointing recumbents are not mentioned, as these are hands down the best bicycles for long distances. The first question should always be: Do I have a reason for not choosing a recumbent?

I can think of several — price, availability and familiarity are the first three. 

I do appreciate all the arguments for the benefit of recumbents, but this article was intended to highlight mainstream mid-range options, and unfortunately recumbents are still a long way from being part of that. I’d love to run an article about them, but not until I have some first-hand experience…

Great article Tom, I suspect most of us spend too much money on our bikes. Its refreshing to see someone write about the mid-rangers. Rather than the “you need this bike with Rohloff, Son, Magura, tubus” that you read on most sites..

Too true. I’ve got an interesting article in the pipeline which will go even further in the ‘budget’ direction. Watch this space…

I’ve just completed a tour on my new Vivente World Randonneur 

It’s probably at the upper end of the middle for touring bikes, if that makes any sense. But for me doing heavy highway touring it is ideal. Strong, stable. The dynamo on the front wheel is excellent at charging up all my electronics.

As you said, a bit pricey, but a lovely looking bike — thanks!

Is it possible to put a dynamo for charging up a GPS and iPhone on the front wheel of a Surly LHT? Does it reduce speed much?

Go for it. I have done it and could not be happier. The reduction in speed is minimal.

+1 for the Ridgeback. Like you say, everything is a compromise and in the Panorama’s case the manufacturer has skimped on the brake pads the most. Happily this is easily fixed. Another slight annoyance was caused by the shifters, which needed the addition of brake noodles to route the gear cables away from the handlebar bag I added — couldn’t quite justify 105 levers with integral cable routing for a tourer. Top bike, highly recommend it!

Novara safari is a great and inexpensive tourer sold at Rei Cheaper then any of these by a large margin with butterfly handle bars Novara randonee is more in line with what is here Khs tr 101 very complete even includes clipless pedals.

Thanks for this, Andrew. I had a look at the specs of these bikes. As you say, the Novara Randonnée is a closer fit for this list of mid-range tourers, though I would still be concerned about the rear rack’s strength and the 10-speed drivetrain. It’s also missing fenders. Otherwise it looks like a good bike at a good price. 

I’d probably put the Safari in the ‘budget’ category rather than the mid-range, due to it having a lot of entry-level components. While that’s fine for short tours and commuting, I’d be concerned about its long-term durability on a big tour, where the aim is to reduce the likelihood of repairs and replacements.

The KHS TR 101 looks like a very capable road tourer — I’d like to see some real life reviews.

Thanks again!

Also love your site and check my rss reader for your posts daily such a inspiration keep on riding man :).

I’ve done short tours on my Randonee for years, and love it. Hildy (my Randonee) climbs hills like a madwoman and can haul as much cargo as need be quite handily. The bike will even handle mild off-road. I’ve long since worn through the stock tires, and replaced them with Schwalbe Marathon tires. 

I’ve replaced the rear rack, but I’m told by many that the tock rear rack is quite sturdy. (I already owned a pair of Tubus racks from my previous bike when I bought the Randonee.) This fellow rode from Florida to Washington State on a Randonee, and used the stock rear rack. 

I have an older Randonee that has a 24-speed drivetrain, and I have to say that I share your concern about the newer, 30-speed drivetrain. It seems odd that they would put a 10-speed cassette on a touring bike. However, I am pleased to note that they have gotten rid of the old STI shifters and moved to the more dependable bar-end shifters. If I had the spare cash, I’d have those installed on Hildy. 

The Safari looks like a fun bike for short tours that contain off-road components, but I’d worry about those disc brakes on tour.

I put a huge vote in for the Surly. I can say I’ve treated mine like a mountain bike on previous tours and it’s never been a problem. Its just built to take any punishment I fell like dishing out.

I have had negative experiences with an older Kona Sutra; however, it was with the former placement of the bb7 brake caliper and subsequent rear rack configuration with a huge bolt and spacers. It’d just sort of snap whenever we were running late, battling poor weather, or having trouble finding camp. Now that they’ve moved the brake to the lower chain stay, that problem is gone and the rack is likely as bombproof as the frame.

Yeah, that’s probably what prevented it from being taken seriously for so long — I’ve read some similar comments about older models. I probably wouldn’t have included it here a few years ago, but I can attest to its vast improvement in the last couple of years. Had an interesting chat with Kona’s designers in Vancouver earlier this year — they decided to redesign it from the ground up, rather than try to beef up a road-bike design as they’d previously done.

I had a 2007 or 2008 Sutra and one of the rear rack eyelets broke off during the first week of my very first tour. I finished the ride with the rack held up with bunch of zip ties. I was very disappointed with that frame.

A good bargain i.m.o. would be the vsf Fahrradmanufaktur TX-800 XT with 30 gears. handmade in Germany, complete Shimano XT-Group, Tubus Cargo and Tara lowrider racks (made out of Steel tubing, Magura hdraulic rimbrakes, a XT hub dynamo and a pretty good, rigid wheelset including some Schwalbe Marathon 47–622 reflex tires. There are Shops in GB too, in € it would be 1499,-. Of course, a sturdy steelframe and-fork.

Or, my ride of choice, the Surly Troll (mine is a custom-setup by myself, but the complete bike gets some good reputation too), more like a Offroad-Utility-Bike. (can be driven with V‑Brakes, Disc-Brakes, a Rohloff Hub, a normal rear derailleur or even singlespeed). The parts on the complete one wasn´t what i had in mind so i bought the frame and fork for 380 €

Thanks for the comment and suggestions!

The Fahrradmanufaktur looks like good value for money, as you say. I wouldn’t take a 10-speed chainset far beyond Europe, though — very new tech and with every increment comes a narrower, weaker chain, with spares almost impossible to find outside high-end bike stores. My first expedition bike was built with a 8‑speed rear mech for exactly that reason. Even a 7‑speed would still be stronger and easier to find parts for in most of the world.

The Troll reminds me of the Explosif I built from the frame up for off-road touring. Looks absolutely great if you want to build your own and ride a lot of dirt! Shame only a few stores import them over here in the UK.

Tom, and All Others, 

Can I ask for your opinion on the new Fahrradmanufaktur bikes? I was about to purchase one, but I’m a bit unsure for two reasons: 1) It has hydraulic brakes. Do you think that would require more (complicated) maintenance? 2) It’s a women’s frame. I haven’t seen many female frames among long distance touring bikes. Is there a good reason for that?

This is the original TX-400:

And this is the one I’m eyeing:

Thank you, I would really appreciate your input on this.

Sofia, I’m a woman travelling around the world with the TX-800. The Magura hydraulic brakes don’t need any maintenance, just changing brake pads when needed (very easy, with a click). I have the male frame as I always had male frames in all my bikes and it’s what I’m used to. Another Spanish girl is also travelling around the world with the TX-400, male frame, and also happy with it. The advice the experts give is always the same, try to test both of them, male and female frame, and see how they feel.… Good luck!

Hi I bought the TX-400 last year and took it on 10 tour of Oman. It’s a really great bike! Very sturdy, and of course heavy but very easy to handle. My ony complaint was the company’s website. Everything is in German and they are very difficult to communicate with. Tried registering the bike using the website but couldn’t as it was in German. So a called them and emailed them a couple of times… again with no response. So my worry is that if on a longer trip I need to get spares, how could will their service be?

I guess it was many us who thought the same, as vsf fahrradmanufaktur have translated their webpage into English and Dutch… 

Regarding contact, our experience was totally different. We had a lot of doubts before buying the bikes, and although they kept telling us to contact the retailer, they replied most of them, even sending the bike documentacion translated into English, a list of spares,… Communication has always been in English.

As for their service, I had to use it twice in this trip, nothing serious, and it was very easy. I guess it helped that I was cycling through Germany at that time. They arranged for a shop in Leipzig to tight my cassette that had become lose, and they sent new pedals to another shop in Dresden as I wasn’t happy with the spinning of the ones that came with the bike. So far… so good. Hopefully I don’t need to contact them anymore!! 🙂

I’ve also got a TX800, it’s hugely strong and very well built, and will happily go anywhere a mountain bike will go, even when fully laden. It’s not the fastest bike but very reliable and robust. So far have only ridden the highlands of Scotland (including off-road touring) and a quick trip to Ypres plus 800 miles of commuting but the Zanskar valley beckons… 

To sum up this bike, think flat handlebars and fat tyres. Surly LHT, Dawes Galaxy, Koga typically have drop handlebars / skinny tyres, and will get you there quicker. The TX800 has a very upright position and quick (light) steering, ideal for circumnavigating rocky trails (like a Landover) but if you are the slow lad/lass at the back wanting to keep up then buy something skinnier.

This is a proper trekking bike, suited to carrying heavy loads away from tarmac. (And very reliable commuting, but not too quickly…)

Oh, and it comes in bright black and day-glo brown. It’s a German thing…

Believe it or not, an excelent touring bike is an old style Shwinn Varsity, 1982. With its steel frame, steel wheels, Suntour components, top-pull Diacompe breaks, narrow width drop handlebars, this bike is suprisenly stable and so well balanced you can ride no handed for as long as you like. Mine was a 25 inch frame, 27 inch tires. Tough long lasting and and inexpensive, I paid $175 used. My current touring bikes include crom-moly and aluminum, yet this steel Shwinn is probably my overall favourite

I have toured mainly in Europe always on Tarmac or the odd canal route my byclcle has been a Edinburgh Counrty traveler two years ago I opted for a Genesis day one steel frame bike with a Alfine hub I have since changed the handle bars to straights with bar ends this stopped the pain I developed between my shoulder blades after cycling 90 miles or more I also went to Thorns who fitted a Rolhoff 14 gear internal hub yes it was expensive however I must confess I would Never want to tour on a derailleur system again I appreciate the derailleur system can be easily repaired however the Rolhoff Hub has 14 distinct gears and it certainly does the job beautifully many of my friends who also tour and have cycled on both sets of gears now would not go back to a derailleur system my advice is you can cycle or your on just about any toe of byclcle Tom Allen has proved that but in life you get what you pay for I would personally recommend a steel fram touring bike good set of wheels Swarbe Marthon Plus tyres Bomb proof and a once in a lifetime investment purchase a Rolhoff the world then is your oyster and should you decide to later go for an expedition byclcle you can take your Rolhoff with you and transfer it to your new bike as it gets better with age

Hello we are currently cycling from Barcelona to Australia and using vsf tx400 fahrrad manufakture.the bike is great the only weak point do far are the tyres for us. We have it comes with schwalbe marathon mondiale which for us are not strong enough as we had to repair so many puncture. We think is a great bike and awesome value for money but just consider the tyres. 😊

I bought my VSF 1,5 years ago from a dealer in NL, he says when buying from factory a lot of small adjustments needed to be done by him as the derailleur and that jizz wasnt properly adjusted, same i can imagine with the rear cog. I love how it is specd! Love the front dynamo light as it is bright as hell and the rear light stays on after stopping for a minute or two which is great regarding saftely. The frame (60cm for me) is not to stiff but very comfortable during my 10.000 K trip last year.. Also definitely a rear kickstand is a must, I have always had a centre stand but Rear kickstand has been amazing. I added an Andra Ryde rear rim that has proven to be bomb proof under load. I love the bike. But keep in mind that if you get rimbrakes or discbrakes it is impossiple to change after purchase as the frame is not compatible for both simultaniously.

I bought a Dawes Super Galaxy 2001 second hand in a fairly sorry state. I guess it was 30 years old then. I have ridden through Brittany on it 3 times and use it every day. I’m on my third set of wheels and it has had 2 complete drive train changes. I have been thinking about getting a new bike for 5 years but them I spend $100 on new bits and keep it going. Anyway, it was built to last. Don’t know if the new build quality is as good?

That’s the mark of a good frame!

I’ve picked up a 2013 Kona Sutra from for $1200. The Dawes is now chained to the shed like the old dog out of Babe (sheep pig). I am loving the Sutra. I use it every day commuting and it is very comfortable. The saddle was hopeless but my old saddle suits the bike well. Anyway, thanks for the advice, think I got a bargain.

Sounds like an extremely good deal. You’re right about the saddle, but I can’t remember buying a single bike for which I didn’t replace it!

Hi Tom I have purchased a Genesis Day One with an Alfine 11 speed Hub To climb the Steeper hills I have changed from a 42 tooth to 38 front ring and an 18tooth on the rear Would this bike be suitable for European Touring can you advise please

Practically any bike is suitable for European touring, as long as it’s comfortable enough to ride all day. You’re never more than a few miles from a bike shop or train station if something goes wrong. I know people who’ve toured Europe on bikes from scrapheaps.

That is not budget.

…or VSF Fahrradmanufaktur TX-400 — either with Rohloff or not.

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Trek 520 Touring Bike Review  

  June 10, 2019

By   Max Shumpert

Trek 520 Review

Trek offers its customers only one touring bike option, the Trek 520.  The Wisconsin-based manufacturer has been producing the 520 since 1983 and each year, the bike is altered with a fresh outer design and paint color.

Although the components have had little variation in recent years, the new incarnation has added more tourist-friendly features compared to its predecessor, the 2018 model. This ensures that you have the ideal biking experience when going out on an expedition.

The Trek 520 touring bike shows its more adventurous ambitions with its gearing , which has gone lower than before.

This feature will prove significant when you are carrying a heavy load and you get to a long mountain pass. In such a situation, it would be nice to switch into a lower gear.  

Trek 520 Tech Specs

FRAME SIZE : TIG-welded butted Chromoly in sizes 48, 51, 54, 57, and 60cm BRAKE TYPE : TRP Spyre C2.0 mechanical discs SHIFTER : Shimano Sora RIMS : Bontrager Tubeless ready, 36h TIRES : Bontrager H1 Hard-case Ultimate, 29 x 2" (without fenders) CHAIN:  KMC X9 9sp

trek 520 all loaded up

Features of Trek 520

  • The 520 is the longest-running model in the Trek lineup and has been in the market since 1983.
  • It enhances the versatility through built-in mounts that help in adding racks and fenders easily.
  • This comes with Blendr Stem that allows you to clip your gear directly to the stem for maximum use.
  • It also comes with puncture-resistant tires (38mm Bontrager Hard-case tires).
  • The Trek 520 offers a wide range of sizes of frames in order to suffice various body sizes.
  • Improved gear ratios.
  • Upgraded to TRP Spyre-C calipers , it offers assistance close to the hydraulic brakes system.
  • One of the advantages also includes the warranty offered by Trek that ensures a bike check-up during its malfunction.
  • The geometry and frame of the bike ensure a smooth and comfortable ride on a rough road.

The bike’s front thru-axles ensure that you get the most out of the TRP Spyre brakes. These are among the top mechanical disc brakes in the market, offering an option that is easier to fix than hydraulics when you’ve been on a beaten track.

Even though they need more effort through brake levers compared to hydraulic disk brakes, they still work in all kinds of weather conditions .

Another feature you’ll like is the 36-spoke Bontrager Affinity rims, which add to the 520’s sturdy build.

The 38mm Bontrager Hard-case tires are well-suited for the tarmac and will offer a smooth ride on light gravel . It’s a good thing that the rims will accommodate wider rubber, enabling the flexibility to fit a more off-road flavored or gravel-specific tire.

There is a step up on the tire clearance from 700 x45c to 700 x50c. Whereas most manufacturers abide by international tire clearance standards- at least 4mm of space- Trek adds an extra 2mm so that you can potentially fit 54mm tires in the 520.

The Trek 520 frame features five different sizes of frames that include 48, 51, 54, 57, and 60 cm to accommodate a wider range of body sizes .

The bike maintains the usual Chromoly frame, with the break from tradition being an aluminum alloy fork as opposed to the previously used steel forks.  

However, a controversial feature of this model is the step down from the Shimano Deodre gears to Alivio.

The grounds for this move, I believe, could be since Deore has currently moved on to 10-speed, there are no Shimano STI shifters that will pair with the 10-speed Deodre drivetrain parts.

Another new feature on the bike’s fork is the trek t hru-skew secure skewer system . This has the dropout looping all the way around the skewer to make sure that the wheel won’t fall out without removing the skewer. 

It ensures that the quick release wheel is perfectly aligned in the fork, as is the case in a thru-axle system.

We also liked the 48/36/26t Alivio mountain bike chainset, which comes with a tiny 26t internal chainring instead of a Shimano 105 road bike 50/39/30.

The manufacturer has used a saucer-sized 36t sprocket that delivers a low-bottom gear. The 48×11 top gear is built for powering downhills while the Alivio rear derailleur and Sora gear lever pairing work nicely together.

The trek 520 weighs around 13kg itself and with the rack weight of 38 kg, the rider technically has to be under 74kg to meet this bike's requirement.

Recommended - Trek Emonda SL6 2020 Review

What We Like

Quite a lot...actually.

The Trek 520 is a functional touring bike with improved features that will serve you well on long-distance rides . 

What impressed us about this bike is that the gear ratios have been improved . While the majority of users of the old models chose to swap in a 11-36t cassette to attain a sub-20” climbing gear, this new model comes with one as standard.

The brakes have also been upgraded to TRP Spyre-C calipers. These cable-operated brakes utilize a special design that pulls the two brake pads simultaneously, providing a breaking performance close to the hydraulic brakes system.

Another notable change on the 520 that we liked is the larger diameter downtube . This helps to boost the lateral frame stiffness, increasing the bike’s stability with both front and rear loads. It doesn’t get better than this when it comes to frame stiffness on a touring bike.

Generally, the 520 uses Shimano for most of its components. The advantage here is that these parts are relatively inexpensive and easy to replace . Not to mention the lifetime warranty provided by Trek that ensures you can get your bike checked by experts whenever it develops a malfunction.

If you are planning a long bike tour with a significant load, the 520 has the right geometry for a comfortable ride . The upright posture, chainstay length, and low center of gravity were meant for these kinds of circumstances.

  • Increased capacity
  • Comfortable on long rides
  • Customizable
  • Different Sizes

What We Don’t Like

If there’s one thing about the 520 that is still wanting, I would say it's the paint job! What I noticed is that the metallic paint used on the bike peels off easier compared to any other bike I’ve owned in the past.

An easily chipped paint job is not something you want on a touring bike given the prolonged exposure to elements involved.

The good thing is that despite the chipping of the paint, the metal underneath does not rust easily. The price may also be a bit costly for those who are on a budget.

  • A bit Pricy
  • Paintjob chips easily

Recommended - Cannondale Bike Hybrid

This bike is a bit pricey, but the replaceable parts are quite affordable.

Buying Advice

If you are looking to buy a classic touring bike, the Trek 520 is an investment worth making. Its durability, comfort, style, and combination of convenient features make it all worthwhile.

I personally feel like it’s the perfect bike to set out on a long tour with, especially if you have a lot of supplies to bring along. The Trek 520 geometry and frame of the bicycle provide you with a smooth ride on a bumpy road and can still take on mild dirt trails when fully loaded.

Trek did a good job of fitting an already industry-tested bike model with features that make it even more touring-friendly in its latest offering. The Trek 520 is a bike you can take a chance on!   

The Trek 520 is a classic and functional touring bike that has stood the test of time. Trek has been supplying its customers with quality long-distance bikes for more than three decades.

The retail price might be expensive to some, but the parts are affordable when you want to replace them. Before buying you can also check for trek 520 touring bike for sale as these big manufacturers provide good deals and offer to keep their customers happy.

If you want a practical bike that will ensure your comfort on a long expedition, consider acquiring the Trek 520 .

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