Are you ready to embark on a thrilling adventure? Look no further than touring bikes – the ultimate companions for long distance bicycle touring. These marvels of engineering are designed to tackle the challenges of extended journeys, providing comfort, durability, and versatility. Whether you dream of traversing rugged terrains or exploring scenic routes, touring bikes are your ticket to unforgettable experiences on two wheels. So, fasten your helmet, secure your gear, and let’s set off on a journey of a lifetime with touring bikes!
Table of Contents
Choosing the Right Touring Bike
When it comes to embarking on a long-distance bike tour, choosing the right touring bike becomes crucial for a comfortable and successful journey. With so many options available, it can be overwhelming to find the perfect bike that suits your needs. That’s why we’ve put together this comprehensive guide to help you navigate through the different types of touring bikes, features to look for, components to consider, and accessories to enhance your experience on the road. So let’s dive in and explore the world of touring bikes!
Consider the Type of Touring You Will Do
The first thing to consider when selecting a touring bike is the type of touring you plan to do. Different types of touring bikes are designed to handle specific terrains and riding styles. Here are some common types of touring bikes:
Road Touring Bikes
Road touring bikes are perfect for riders who plan to stick to paved roads and cover long distances at a faster pace. These bikes are designed to offer efficiency and comfort on smooth surfaces. With a lightweight frame and narrow tires, road touring bikes provide excellent speed and agility. They usually feature drop handlebars, providing multiple hand positions for long hours in the saddle.
Off-Road Touring Bikes
If your adventure takes you off the beaten path, off-road touring bikes are your best bet. These bikes are built to tackle rough terrains, including gravel paths, dirt roads, and even trails. With wider tires and sturdy frames, off-road touring bikes offer stability and durability. They often feature flat handlebars, providing an upright riding position for better control and visibility on rugged terrain.
Expedition Touring Bikes
Expedition touring bikes are designed for riders embarking on long-term, self-supported adventures. These bikes are built to carry heavy loads and withstand rigorous conditions. They feature robust frames, reinforced components, and ample storage options such as front and rear racks. With a focus on durability and reliability, expedition touring bikes can handle the demands of long-distance journeys.
Utility Touring Bikes
Utility touring bikes cater to riders who prioritize practicality and versatility. These bikes are designed to handle a variety of terrains and offer convenient features for everyday use. Utility touring bikes often come equipped with fender mounts, integrated lights, and additional attachment points for racks and panniers. They strike a balance between comfort, durability, and functionality.
The frame material of your touring bike plays a significant role in its overall performance and ride quality. Here are some common frame materials used in touring bikes:
Steel: Steel frames are time-tested and renowned for their strength and durability. They offer excellent shock absorption, making them ideal for long-distance rides. Steel frames also have the advantage of being repairable in case of damage.
Aluminum: Aluminum frames are lighter than steel and offer a more responsive ride. They are less prone to rust, making them suitable for riders who plan to ride in wet conditions. However, aluminum frames may transmit more road vibrations compared to steel.
Titanium: Titanium frames strike a balance between strength, weight, and comfort. They are corrosion-resistant and provide a smooth ride quality. However, titanium frames can be relatively expensive.
Carbon Fiber: Carbon fiber frames are lightweight and offer excellent vibration dampening properties. They provide a more comfortable ride and are often found in high-end touring bikes. However, carbon fiber frames can be more prone to damage and may require special care.
Bike Size and Fit
Selecting the right size and fit for your touring bike is crucial for a comfortable ride and efficient power transfer. Improper bike fit can lead to discomfort, fatigue, and even injury during long-distance tours. Here are some key factors to consider for a proper bike fit:
Standover Height: Ensure that you have sufficient clearance when standing over the top tube of the bike. A general guideline is to have at least one or two inches of clearance between your inseam and the top tube.
Reach: The reach refers to the distance between the saddle and the handlebars. It should allow for a relaxed, slightly bent arm position when riding. You should be able to reach the brakes and shifters comfortably without straining your back or shoulders.
Stack: Stack refers to the vertical distance between the bottom bracket and the top of the head tube. It determines the height of the handlebars relative to the saddle. A higher stack provides a more upright riding position, which may be preferable for long-distance comfort.
Frame Size: Each manufacturer may have slightly different sizing specifications. Consider referring to the manufacturer’s sizing chart and consulting with a bike shop professional to determine the most suitable frame size for your body proportions.
Gearing and Drivetrain
The gearing and drivetrain of your touring bike contribute to its ability to handle different terrains and load capacities. Here are some aspects to consider:
Gear Range: A wide gear range is essential for long-distance touring, as it allows you to conquer steep climbs and maintain speed on flat sections. Look for a touring bike with a triple chainring or a wide-range cassette to have a good range of gearing options.
Crankset: Consider the crankset’s chainring sizes, as they can influence your bike’s gearing capabilities. Smaller chainrings offer easier climbing gears, while larger chainrings provide faster speeds on flat or downhill sections.
Derailleurs: Touring bikes often feature reliable and robust derailleurs to handle the demands of heavy loads and changing terrains. Look for reputable drivetrain components from manufacturers like Shimano, SRAM, or Campagnolo.
Chain Compatibility: Ensure that the chain is compatible with the drivetrain components. Different drivetrain manufacturers may have specific chain compatibility requirements. A durable and reliable chain is crucial for long-distance touring, as it undergoes a significant amount of stress under load.
Brakes and Tires
Brakes and tires play a crucial role in your safety and overall control on a touring bike. Here’s what to consider:
Brakes: Reliable braking performance is essential for long-distance touring, especially when carrying heavier loads. Rim brakes, such as caliper or cantilever brakes, are widely used on touring bikes. They offer good stopping power but may require more maintenance. Disc brakes, either mechanical or hydraulic, provide increased stopping power and perform better in wet conditions.
Tires: The tires you choose for your touring bike should be appropriate for the type of terrain you plan to ride on. Wider tires with more grip are ideal for off-road touring, while narrower tires are suited for road touring. Consider puncture resistance and tread patterns suitable for different conditions. Tires with smooth centers and textured edges strike a balance between speed and traction.
Features to Look for in a Touring Bike
Once you have determined the type of touring bike and considered the frame material, size, fit, gearing, brakes, and tires, it’s important to explore additional features that can enhance your touring experience. Here are some key features to look for in a touring bike:
The frame geometry of a touring bike affects its handling characteristics, stability, and comfort. Features such as a longer wheelbase and a slacker head tube angle contribute to a more stable and predictable ride. Look for a touring bike with a balanced geometry that offers a comfortable riding position for long hours in the saddle.
Touring bikes are designed to carry heavy loads, so it’s crucial to consider their load capacity. Look for bikes that offer sufficient attachment points for racks and panniers, both front and rear. Additionally, check the weight rating of the racks to ensure they can handle the gear you plan to carry.
The fork design of a touring bike can significantly impact its ride quality and load-carrying capabilities. Steel or carbon forks are known for their ability to absorb road vibrations and offer a smooth ride. Some touring bikes feature suspension forks to provide additional shock absorption when riding on rough terrain.
Touring bikes generally come with 26-inch, 27.5-inch, or 700c wheel sizes. Each wheel size has its advantages and considerations. 26-inch wheels are known for their strength and compatibility with off-road tires. 27.5-inch wheels offer a balance between agility and stability. 700c wheels provide better rolling efficiency on paved roads. Consider the terrain you’ll be riding on and the availability of tires in your preferred wheel size.
The tire clearance of a touring bike determines the maximum width of tires it can accommodate. Wider tires offer more comfort, traction, and stability, especially on rough terrains. Look for a touring bike with ample tire clearance to allow for wider tires, as this can enhance your off-road capabilities and overall ride experience.
This image is property of www.cyclingabout.com.
Components for Long-Distance Touring
In addition to the frame and features of a touring bike, the components you choose play a significant role in your long-distance touring experience. Here are some key components to consider:
Handlebars and Grips
Handlebars and grips are essential for maintaining a comfortable and ergonomic riding position. Drop handlebars are common on road touring bikes, offering multiple hand positions for long hours on the saddle. Flat handlebars provide an upright riding position and greater control, ideal for off-road and utility touring. Consider the type of touring you’ll be doing and choose handlebars that suit your preferences and comfort needs.
Saddle and Seatpost
Long hours in the saddle require a comfortable and supportive seat. Look for a saddle designed specifically for long-distance touring, with features like padding and pressure relief channels. A quality seatpost with shock absorption can also enhance your comfort on rough terrains.
Pedals and Footwear
Choosing the right pedals and footwear is crucial for efficient power transfer and comfort. Clipless pedals provide a secure connection between your shoes and the bike pedals, allowing for better pedaling efficiency. However, if you prefer not to use clipless pedals, platforms with grippy surfaces can provide stability and control. Ensure you have comfortable and durable footwear suitable for long rides.
Gearing and Drivetrain
We’ve already discussed the importance of gearing and drivetrain in the previous section. Ensure your chosen touring bike has reliable and robust components that can handle the demands of long-distance riding. Consider the gear range, crankset options, derailleur quality, and chain compatibility to meet your specific touring needs.
Brakes and Wheels
Brakes and wheels are critical components for your safety and overall enjoyment on a touring bike. Opt for reliable braking systems suitable for your planned touring activities. High-quality wheels with durable rims and reliable hubs can withstand the rigors of long-distance touring. Consider your weight, load capacity, and terrain to determine the wheel strength and spoke count required for your touring bike.
Accessories for Touring Bikes
To enhance your touring experience and make your long-distance bike tour more efficient and enjoyable, there are several accessories you should consider. Here are some essential accessories for touring bikes:
Racks and Panniers
Racks and panniers provide the necessary storage solutions for carrying gear on your touring bike. Look for racks that are compatible with your chosen touring bike and provide a sturdy attachment system. Panniers should offer ample storage capacity and be waterproof or resistant to protect your belongings from the elements.
Bike Bags and Backpacks
Additional storage options such as handlebar bags, frame bags, and saddlebags can offer extra space for essentials that you want to keep within easy reach. These bags provide convenient storage solutions without compromising the bike’s handling or stability. Backpacks can also be used for carrying smaller items or for short hikes during your bike tour.
Lights and Reflectors
When touring, it’s important to prioritize safety, especially during low-light conditions. Invest in reliable front and rear lights to increase your visibility to other road users. Reflectors on your bike and gear can also enhance your visibility during nighttime riding or in inclement weather.
Fenders and Mudguards
Fitting fenders or mudguards to your touring bike can prevent water, mud, and debris from splashing onto you and your gear. This can significantly enhance your comfort and keep your clothing, shoes, and equipment drier and cleaner during wet conditions.
Water Bottle Cages
Staying hydrated is crucial during long-distance biking. Make sure your touring bike has sufficient water bottle cage mounts to carry enough water for your journeys. Consider using insulated water bottles to keep your drinks cool for longer periods.
This image is property of hips.hearstapps.com.
Preparing for a Long-Distance Bike Tour
Now that you have the right bike and accessories, it’s time to prepare for your long-distance bike tour. Here are some important aspects to consider before setting off on your adventure:
Training and Fitness
Long-distance bike touring requires a certain level of physical fitness and endurance. Gradually build up your fitness level by incorporating regular rides into your training routine. Aim to increase your mileage gradually and replicate the conditions you expect to encounter during your tour. Strength training exercises can also help improve your stamina and prevent injuries.
Plan your route carefully, taking into account the distance you plan to cover each day, the availability of accommodations, and the terrain you’ll be riding on. Research potential road conditions, elevation changes, and places of interest along the way. Websites and apps like RideWithGPS, Komoot, or Strava can help you plan and navigate your route.
Packing and Organizing Gear
Pack your gear in a methodical and organized manner to maximize space and balance the weight distribution on your bike. Pack heavier items closer to the center of the bike and distribute the weight evenly between the front and rear panniers. Use dry bags or waterproof compression sacks to keep your gear dry and organized. Prioritize essential items, such as spare parts, tools, clothing layers, and camping equipment.
If you plan to camp during your tour, invest in lightweight and compact camping gear suitable for bike touring. Consider a lightweight tent or hammock, a warm sleeping bag, and a compact stove for cooking. Look for camping gear designed specifically for bike touring to optimize space and weight.
Safety and First Aid
Ensure you have a well-stocked first aid kit, including essentials such as bandages, antiseptic ointment, pain relievers, and any necessary prescription medications. Carry a basic bike repair kit with spare tubes, a multi-tool, tire levers, a pump, and chain lubricant. Familiarize yourself with basic bike repair and maintenance techniques to handle common mechanical issues that may arise during your tour.
Best Touring Bikes for Different Budgets
Touring bikes come in a range of prices to suit different budgets. Here are some recommendations for touring bikes based on different budget categories:
Budget Touring Bikes
For those on a tighter budget, consider bikes like the Surly Long Haul Trucker, Salsa Marrakesh, or Trek 520. These bikes offer reliable performance, durability, and adequate features for long-distance touring without costing a fortune.
Mid-Range Touring Bikes
In the mid-range price category, you can find touring bikes like the Kona Sutra, Co-op Cycles ADV 2.2, or Jamis Aurora. These bikes offer enhanced components, comfort, and versatility, making them suitable for riders seeking a more refined touring experience.
High-End Touring Bikes
If budget is not a constraint, high-end touring bikes provide top-of-the-line performance, premium components, and unmatched craftsmanship. Models like the Thorn Nomad Mk3, Rivendell Atlantis, or Santos Travelmaster offer exceptional comfort, load capacity, and long-lasting reliability.
Custom Touring Bikes
For those seeking a truly bespoke touring bike tailored to their specific needs and preferences, consider working with a reputable custom frame builder. Custom touring bikes allow you to choose every aspect, from frame materials and geometry to components and accessories, resulting in a one-of-a-kind touring machine.
This image is property of i0.wp.com.
Tips for Long-Distance Bicycle Touring
To make the most of your long-distance bicycle tour, here are some valuable tips to keep in mind:
Start with Shorter Trips
If you’re new to long-distance touring, it’s a good idea to start with shorter trips to build up your experience and confidence. Gradually increase your mileage and the duration of your tours as you become more comfortable with the physical and logistical challenges of bike touring.
Learn Basic Bike Maintenance
Familiarize yourself with basic bike maintenance tasks such as tire repairs, chain lubrication, brake adjustments, and gear indexing. Knowing how to perform these tasks can save you time and money on the road and ensure your bike is always in top shape for your tours.
Pack Light and Efficiently
It’s tempting to bring everything you think you might need on your bike tour, but remember that excess weight can slow you down and make your journey more challenging. Pack only the essentials and aim for a minimalist approach. Consider multi-purpose items and lightweight gear to maximize space and efficiency.
Listen to Your Body
Pay attention to how your body feels during your tour. Take regular breaks to stretch, hydrate, and refuel. If you feel any unusual pain or discomfort, stop and assess the issue before continuing. Listening to your body and taking care of yourself will ensure a more enjoyable and sustainable long-distance bike tour.
Connect with the Cycling Community
Both online and in-person, the cycling community can be an invaluable resource for advice, tips, and support. Join online forums, social media groups, or local cycling clubs to connect with fellow cyclists, share experiences, and gain insights into touring routes, equipment, and local knowledge.
Famous Long-Distance Bicycle Routes
If you’re looking for well-established long-distance bicycle routes, here are a few notable options to consider:
The Adventure Cycling Association Routes
The Adventure Cycling Association offers a vast network of well-documented and scenic routes throughout the United States. From the iconic Pacific Coast route to the challenging Great Divide Mountain Bike route, their routes cater to a variety of interests and skill levels.
The EuroVelo network consists of a series of long-distance cycling routes that span across Europe. These routes showcase the continent’s diverse landscapes, cultural landmarks, and cycling-friendly infrastructure. Whether it’s the adventurous EuroVelo 6 along the Danube River or the picturesque EuroVelo 1 along the Atlantic Coast, there’s something for every touring cyclist in Europe.
Great Divide Mountain Bike Route
The Great Divide Mountain Bike Route is a legendary off-road touring route that spans approximately 2,700 miles from Canada to Mexico along the Continental Divide. This challenging route takes cyclists through stunning landscapes, remote wilderness areas, and rugged mountain passes, offering a truly immersive and adventurous experience.
Pacific Coast Route
The Pacific Coast Route is a popular touring route that follows the scenic Pacific coastline of the United States from Vancouver, Canada, to the Mexican border. This iconic route takes cyclists through picturesque coastal towns, breathtaking vistas, and offers opportunities to explore diverse ecosystems, historic sites, and charming communities along the way.
The TransAmerica Trail is a historic and iconic cross-country route that stretches from the Atlantic coast in Virginia to the Pacific coast in Oregon. This route, designed specifically for bike touring, showcases the beauty and diversity of America’s landscapes, taking cyclists through charming small towns, national parks, and iconic landmarks.
This image is property of cdn.mos.cms.futurecdn.net.
Selecting the right touring bike is crucial for a comfortable and successful long-distance bike tour. Consider your riding style, terrain, and budget when choosing the bike that best suits your needs. Don’t forget to pay attention to frame material, size, fit, gearing, brakes, and tires when making your selection. Enhance your touring bike with features like suitable frame geometry, adequate load capacity, and reliable components. Don’t forget the essential accessories like racks, lights, and fenders to enhance your touring experience. With the right equipment and preparation, you can embark on incredible adventures and explore the world on two wheels. Happy touring!