What To Look For In A Touring Bike?

Touring Bikes

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I currently live in South America, where there’s a beautiful blend of nature and city life. While bikepacking is more my speed, touring is an excellent way to see the different cultures! But what should you look for in your next touring bike? 

Touring bikes should be sturdy, with a steel frame and thick tires. These features prevent the bike from wearing down and breaking while you’re on your journey. It also allows the bike to be fixed by an expert if necessary. 

What kinds of bikes can you substitute for a touring bike? How should your bike be positioned? Keep reading, and you’ll get all your questions answered! 

What Makes A Touring Bike A Touring Bike?

One of the main defining attributes of a touring bike is its stocky frame. While most modern bikes focus on slimming down the size and weight of the frame, this isn’t the case for touring bikes.

Touring bikes are designed to endure extremely long distances over rough terrain and weather conditions. 

Touring bikes are commonly described as somewhat old-fashioned in appearance. While most modern bikes are designed to be as light and compact as possible, touring bikes are the opposite. 

Touring bikes aren’t designed for fast bike rides, momentary sprints, or other agility challenges.

Touring bikes are designed for long-distance endurance rides. This means it’s more important for these bikes to be sturdy and built to last than to maximize speed. 

These bikes are also meant to carry a lot of weight and luggage. 

This is one of the ways cycle tours differ from bikepacking. People who choose to go on a cycle tour plan to be on the road for months at a time. They’re usually traveling between countries and remain on paved roads. 

However, bikepacking usually lasts several weeks and takes the adventurer off-roading. This requires a thin, lightweight styled bike capable of handling rough terrain. 

The short answer to what makes a touring bike a touring bike is its frame, weight, and purpose!

Touring Bike

What Type of Bike Should You Get for Touring? 

Bikes that allow the rider to travel thousands of miles with very few issues are the best for touring.

These bikes must have sturdy tires capable of resisting damage from road debris or potholes. Finally, they must have sufficient design and space for carrying luggage sufficient for several months. 

One of the best ways to find the ideal bike for touring is to rule out the ones you should not get. There are several features that aren’t ideal for riders, including the following: 

  • Low handlebars 
  • Thin or hard seats 
  • Small frame
  • Made with lightweight metals 
  • Thin tires 

These features are ideal for road biking. Road bikes are designed for people who are trying to ride as fast as possible, and thus are very thin and light. This is great for local rides and races, but it’s a nightmare for anyone trying to travel long distances. 

The goal in touring is to have your bike last. Most estimates say that the average bike tourer travels between 40-60 miles daily. This means the bike must endure heavy wear to the whole body, especially the wheels. 

Although you should always bring spare tire tubes and wheel casings, having a heavy wheel is better. Of these many types of bike tires available, mountain and gravel bike tires are the best for touring. 

Thick tire treads are a no-no for most road bikers since they cause resistance. But when you’re riding in slippery or poorly paved conditions, these treads are a lifesaver. 

Which Bikes Are the Most Reliable for Cycle Touring?

Touring bikes are the best bike variety for cycle touring. However, there are ways to modify other bikes to be suitable for touring.

Mountain bikes are the sturdiest next to sports bikes and will require only a little modification to be suitable. 

Touring bikes are designed specifically for touring. They have slightly raised handlebars, allowing the rider to maintain proper posture.

They’re usually made from steel or titanium. Not only does this make them sturdier, but it also makes repairing them much easier

Most bike repair shops can repair a steel frame through welding. Although it is possible to weld aluminum, it’s incredibly difficult.

Therefore, it makes for a very difficult metal to repair when your bike frame cracks or rusts. 

Although you can modify some other varieties of bikes, touring bikes are the best bet. Their steel frames are the main reason they’re the best choice.

There isn’t any effective way to alter your other bike’s frame. 

Voile Straps for Bikepacking

Mountain Bike 

Mountain bikes are the best alternative bike for cycle touring. They’re sturdy, and their tires are thick and durable. 

The only part of the mountain bike you’ll need to adjust manually is the handlebars. However, some people don’t mind the low handlebars, in which case you won’t have to worry about it! 

Finally, most mountain bikes have a mixed-material frame base.

They’re sturdier than road bikes, but if you buy an aluminum-based frame, it might be hard to repair on the road.

Your best bet is to either buy a customized mountain bike or find a variety made from steel!

Sports Bike 

Sports bikes are an alternative to touring bikes. But they’re very different and won’t provide the same authentic experience you seek from a bike tour. 

This is a very personal choice, but there are many cycling enthusiasts who choose this as their transportation.

It’s personally not one I’d choose since I prefer riding my bike, but it’s a real option many choose!

Road Bike 

Road bikes are suitable for touring, but you might need to replace the handlebars, seats, and tires.

Fortunately, these parts aren’t super expensive and thus won’t be hard to replace. 

You’ll also have to be creative with how you choose to carry your supplies. The frame is smaller than a mountain and touring bike, but you can use extra baskets, bags, and use a backpack to help!

We went even deeper here with an article specific to touring bikes and road bikes; it’s gonna help you out.

Weight distribution is key for any trip, but we made it simple with our: Weight Distribution Guide

How Much Should You Spend on a Touring Bike? 

You can expect to spend at least $1,000.00 on your touring bike. You will not want to purchase a cheap touring bike since you’ll be very likely to spend a lot on repairs while traveling. The best models are between $1,2000-$3,000.00. 

Despite bike touring being one of the cheapest travel options, it can be costly upfront. If you’re hoping to cut costs on the road, I do not recommend trying to save money on your bike. For a good bike, you can expect to pay about $2000.00

You can decrease your expenses by: 

Touring Mountain Bike

Closing Thoughts

Touring bikes don’t have to be complicated as long as you know what you’re after. I hope this guide helped you narrow down your options and figure out what you’re after! 

Remember that storage, durability, and access to repairs are some of the main areas to focus on. You’ll want a bike that will get you where you want without wearing you out or hurting your back! 

Finally, if the price is a concern, you can try finding a used touring bike. Avoid used bikes that have severe rusting or holes in the frame. While this is fixable, it will take you a while!

Before you ride, print out our free PDF bikepacking checklist here.

Sources: 

Guide to Bike Tours for Seniors (How to find)

Bike Radar: What is a touring bike?

Cycling News: Road bike vs touring bike: understanding the differences

Bikepacking: what is bikepacking?

Cycling News: Best touring bikes 2022 for commuting, bikepacking or travelling by bike

REI: How to Choose Road Bikes

Bike Touring Pros: Bike Tour Planning: How Far Should You Plan To Cycle Each Day?

EVO: How to Choose Bike Tires – Mountain, Road & More

Cycloscope: What’s the Best Type of Bike For Touring and Adventure Cycling? 7 Best Bikes for Cycle Travel

Toms Bike Trip: Touring Bike FAQ #3: Steel Or Aluminium Frames? (Or Something Else?)

Universal Technical Institute: How to Weld Aluminum

Biking Universe: Are Mountain Bikes Suitable for Road Touring? Here’s Why

Wikipedia: Sport bike

Motor Cycle Tour: Touring On A Sports Bike: Why You Need To Try It!

Bike Scent: Are Road Bikes Good for Touring?

Dave’s Travel Pages: How to Cut Costs On A Bicycle Tour – Bicycle Touring Tips

Go Abroad: Choose Your Continent: Traveling in South America versus Europe

Cycling Weekly: Tips for buying a used bike and what to look for in a second hand bike

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