If you’re a cycling enthusiast, you know that the joy of exploring new places on two wheels is unmatched. However, long-distance rides can be challenging. Now, these challenges may include uncomfortable seats, unstable handling, or unreliable equipment.
This is where touring bikes come in specifically designed for extended rides, they offer comfort, stability, and durability, making them the perfect choice for riders who want to discover the world at their own pace.
And because these bikes are so good, therefore, I’ll cover the world of touring bikes in-depth through this article. We together will understand the different types of touring bikes available, their features and components, and what to look for when buying one.
We’ll also discuss some of the best touring bikes in the market for 2023. So, without further ado, let’s get started.
An Overview of the Versatile Bikes — Touring Bikes
Touring bikes are a type of bicycle that are specifically designed for long-distance cycling trips or tours.
These bicycles typically have a sturdy frame, wide tires, a comfortable riding position, and a range of gears suitable for climbing hills and carrying heavy loads.
Touring bikes may also feature additional features such as a luggage rack, fenders, and lights to make them more suitable for extended trips in varying weather and lighting conditions.
History of Touring Bikes — A Fascinating Journey
Touring bikes have a rich history dating back to the late 1800s when the safety bicycle, with two equal-sized wheels, chain drive, and pneumatic tires, became popular. Cyclists began using these bikes for long-distance touring, and manufacturers soon began designing bikes specifically for touring.
One of the earliest traditional touring bikes was the Royal Enfield, which was introduced in the late 1800s. This bike featured a sturdy steel frame, drop bars, and a Brooks leather saddle, all features that would become standard on touring bikes in the decades to come.
In the early 1900s, the French bicycle manufacturer Peugeot introduced a touring bike with drop bars, fenders, and a luggage rack. This bike was used by the French army during World War I, and after the war, touring bikes became more popular among civilians.
In the 1930s, the British manufacturer Raleigh introduced the Sports Tourist bike, which featured a three-speed hub gear, dynamo lighting, and a sturdy frame designed for long-distance touring.
The Sports Tourist became one of the most dedicated touring bikes of the time and set the standard for touring bikes that followed. Touring bikes continued to evolve throughout the 20th century, with new features such as cantilever brakes, lightweight materials, and more gearing options.
Today, the touring bike category is designed for comfort, durability, and the ability to carry heavy loads, making them ideal for long-distance touring, commuting, and adventure riding.
One of the most common uses of touring bikes is bike touring. Bike touring involves cycling long distances with camping gear or staying in hotels along the way.
Touring bikes are ideal for this type of activity because they can carry heavy loads, such as rear panniers or saddlebags, and have features like wider tires, mounts for racks and fenders, and a triple chainring to provide a wide range of gears.
These features make it easier to navigate different types of terrain and handle the weight of the gear.
Touring bikes are also commonly used for commuting. They provide a comfortable riding position, and stable handling, and often have mounts for racks and fenders, which can be useful for carrying work items like laptops or clothes.
Additionally, their durability and strength make them well-suited for daily use in all weather conditions.
Finally, touring bikes can be used for recreational cycling or fitness riding. They are designed to be comfortable and efficient, allowing riders to enjoy long, leisurely rides or challenging workouts without experiencing excessive fatigue or discomfort.
Essential Features that Make Touring Bikes Your Best Travel Companion
There are many components that go into making a bike tour bike. Some of the most important are discussed down below. So, let’s have a look at them:
1. Durable Components
Touring bikes are built to withstand the rigors of long-distance travel, so they typically feature durable components like high-quality wheels, tires, and drivetrain components. This includes components like hubs, bottom brackets, and shifters that are designed to last longer and require less maintenance.
2. Dynamo Power
Many touring bikes come equipped with a dynamo hub, which generates power for lights, charging devices, or running other electronics. This is a useful feature for touring cyclists who need to charge their phones or other devices while on the road but may not have access to electrical outlets.
3. Disc vs. Rim Brakes
Tour bikes can come with either disc or rim brakes. Disc brakes are typically more powerful and offer better-stopping power in wet conditions, while rim brakes are lighter and easier to maintain. Both are effective, but it’s important to choose the one that suits your needs and preferences.
4. Frame Material
A touring bike’s frame is typically made of steel or aluminum alloy. Steel touring bikes are a popular choice because they are strong, durable, and can absorb road vibrations, making for a more comfortable ride. Aluminum is also a popular choice because it is lightweight, corrosion-resistant, and relatively affordable.
Touring bike geometry is designed to be comfortable and efficient for long-distance travel. This includes a more upright riding position that reduces strain on the back and neck, a longer wheelbase for stability, and a longer top tube that allows for a more stretched-out riding position.
Touring bicycles typically come with a wide range of gears, often including a triple chainring and a wide-range cassette. This allows cyclists to tackle steep hills and carry heavy loads more easily, making long-distance travel more manageable.
Touring bikes often come with mudguards, which are fenders that attach to the frame and prevent mud and water from splashing onto the rider. This is an important feature for touring cyclists who may encounter wet or muddy conditions.
Must-Have Accessories for Touring Bike to Enhance Your Ride & Experience
One of the most common accessories for touring bikes is panniers, which are bags that attach to racks on the front or rear of the bike. These provide ample storage space for gear and supplies, making it easy for cyclists to pack everything they need for their journey.
2. Handlebar bags
Handlebar bags are also popular, as they allow cyclists to keep frequently accessed items like snacks and maps within easy reach.
Tents are an essential accessory for touring bikes, providing shelter and protection from the elements during overnight stops. Lightweight and compact tents designed specifically for cycle touring are available and can be easily packed into panniers or handlebar bags.
4. Cycling shoes
Cycling shoes with stiff soles and good ventilation are also popular accessories for touring bikes. They increase pedaling efficiency and reduce fatigue during long-distance rides, and provide good support for the feet, helping to prevent injuries.
Lights are another essential accessory for touring bikes, providing visibility in low-light conditions and helping to signal to other road users. Dynamo-powered lights are a popular choice, as they are powered by the bike’s movement and do not require batteries.
6. Water bottles
Water bottles and cages are also common accessories for touring bikes, allowing cyclists to stay hydrated while on the road. Many touring bikes tend to come with mounting points for water bottle cages, and some cyclists also carry extra water in hydration bladders or other storage containers.
7. Cycling computer
A cycling computer is another useful accessory for touring bikes, providing information like speed, distance, and time, and making it easier to track progress and plan routes. Some cycling computers also include GPS functionality, which can be useful for navigating unfamiliar areas.
Why Touring Bikes Are a Must-Have for Every Adventure-Seeker — Unleashing the Benefits
A good touring bike always offers several advantages over other types of bicycles, especially when it comes to long-distance cycling and touring. Here are some of the main advantages of having a touring bike:
Touring bikes are designed for comfort, with features like wider tires, relaxed geometry, and comfortable saddles that help to reduce fatigue and discomfort during long rides.
Touring bikes are built to last, with sturdy frames, durable components, and a range of features like racks and fenders that can withstand the rigors of long-distance touring.
Touring bikes come equipped with storage options like panniers, racks, and handlebar bags, making it easy to carry gear and supplies on long tours.
Touring bikes often come equipped with features like lights, reflectors, and disc brakes, which help to keep riders safe and visible on the road.
Touring bikes allow riders to be self-sufficient on long tours, carrying all the gear and supplies they need for their journey and exploring remote areas with ease.
Touring bikes can be used for a range of activities, from long-distance touring to daily commuting and weekend rides. They can handle a variety of terrains and are suitable for riders of all skill levels.
Challenges to Consider: The Drawbacks of Touring Bikes
While touring bikes offer many advantages for long-distance cycling and touring, there are also some disadvantages to consider. Here are a few potential drawbacks of having a touring bike:
Touring bikes can be expensive, with high-quality models costing several thousand dollars. This can be a barrier for riders who are on a budget or who are just starting out in the sport.
Touring bikes can handle differently than other types of bikes due to their weight, size, and geometry. This can take some getting used to and may require additional training and practice.
3. Limited Performance
Touring bikes are designed for endurance and comfort rather than speed and agility and may not be the best choice for riders who are looking to race or compete.
Touring bikes require regular maintenance and upkeep, especially if they are used for long-distance touring or off-road riding. This can be time-consuming and expensive, especially if you are not comfortable doing the work yourself.
Touring bikes are often heavier than other types of bikes due to their sturdy frames, durable components, and storage options. This can make them slower and more difficult to handle, especially on hills and rough terrain.
Flat Bar or Drop Bar? Which is the Better Choice for Your Touring Bike
When it comes to choosing between flat bars and drop bars for a touring bike, it ultimately depends on personal preference and the type of touring you plan on doing. Both types of handlebars have their pros and cons.
Flat bars offer a more upright riding position, which can be more comfortable for some riders, especially those who have back or neck problems. They also offer more control and stability on rough terrain, which can be beneficial if you plan on doing some off-road touring.
Flat bars are also generally wider than drop bars, which can provide better leverage for steering and control. On the other hand, drop bars offer multiple hand positions, which can help reduce fatigue and provide more options for changing your body position during a long ride.
They are also more aerodynamic than flat bars, which can help you ride faster and more efficiently on flat roads or when dealing with headwinds. Additionally, drop bars can be more versatile for attaching accessories, such as aero bars or additional brake levers.
Explore Your Options for Types of Touring Bikes
There are several types of touring bikes available on the market, each with its own unique features and capabilities. Here are some of the most common types of touring bikes:
1. Expedition Touring Bikes
Expedition touring bikes are designed for long-distance, self-supported tours and are built with heavy-duty frames, wide tires, and a range of features like front and rear racks, fenders, and disc brakes. They are best suited for long tours that involve carrying heavy loads and riding on a variety of terrains.
2. Folding Touring Bikes
Folding touring bikes are designed for travelers who want the convenience of a compact, portable bike that can be easily packed and transported. They are built with lightweight frames and foldable components, making them ideal for air travel or public transportation.
3. Off-Road Touring Bikes
Off-road touring bikes, also known as adventure touring bikes, are designed for off-road terrain and are built with wider tires, sturdy frames, and flat or upright handlebars. They are ideal for rugged terrain, dirt roads, and gravel paths.
4. Road Touring Bikes
Road touring bikes are designed for long-distance road cycling and are typically built with lightweight frames, narrow tires, and drop handlebars. They are best suited for smooth, paved roads and offer a fast and efficient riding experience.
5. Tandem Touring Bikes
Tandem touring bikes are designed for two riders and are built with sturdy frames and a range of features like racks and fenders. They are ideal for couples or friends who want to tour together and share the experience.
The type of touring bicycle that is best for you will depend on your personal preferences, the type of terrain you will be riding on, and the length and style of your tour. It’s important to choose a touring bike that is comfortable, durable, and suited to your individual needs and riding style.
Is a Touring Bike Right for You? Consider These Factors Before Making Your Decision
While touring bikes can be a great option for many cyclists, there are some groups of people who may not be well-suited to this type of bike. Here are a few examples:
1. Budget-Conscious Riders
Touring bikes can be expensive, with high-quality models costing several thousand dollars. For riders who are on a budget, a more affordable bike may be a better option.
2. Racing Cyclists
Touring bikes are not designed for speed and agility and may not be the best choice for racing cyclists who are looking to compete. For these riders, a lightweight road bike or a more specialized racing bike may be a better option.
3. Riders with Limited Storage Space
Touring bikes can be bulky and may require a lot of storage space, especially if you have multiple bikes. If you have limited storage space at home or in your car, a touring bike may not be practical.
4. Riders with Physical Limitations
Touring bikes can be heavy and difficult to handle, which may not be ideal for riders with physical limitations or injuries. In this case, a lighter bike or a more specialized bike designed for your specific needs may be a better choice.
5. Short-Distance Riders
If you primarily ride for short distances and don’t need to carry gear or supplies, a touring bike may be overkill. In this case, a lighter, more agile bike may be a better choice.
Understanding the Key Differences Between Mountain Bikes and Touring Bikes
Mountain biking and touring biking are two completely different types of cycling. Each one has its own unique set of requirements and characteristics, which is why they require different types of bikes.
In this section, we will discuss in detail the key differences between mountain bikes and touring bikes.
1. Frame Geometry
Mountain bikes and touring bikes have different frame geometries. Mountain bike frames are built to provide greater maneuverability and stability on technical terrain. The frames are shorter and more compact to allow for quick turns and hops.
Touring bike frames are longer and more relaxed to provide a comfortable riding position for long periods. The longer frame also provides greater stability at high speeds.
The gearing on a mountain bike is designed to provide the rider with the ability to climb steep hills and navigate technical terrain. Mountain bikes usually have a wider range of gears and lower gearing to make steep climbs easier.
Touring bikes have different types of gearing. They typically have a narrower range of gears but a higher top gear. This allows the rider to travel faster on flatter terrain while still having enough gears for climbs.
Touring bikes and mountain bikes have different types of handlebars. Mountain bikes typically have flat handlebars or riser handlebars. These handlebars provide a more aggressive riding position and greater control when navigating rough terrain.
Touring bikes, on the other hand, usually have drop handlebars. These handlebars offer multiple hand positions and a more comfortable riding position for long periods. The drop handlebars also allow the rider to adjust their position for headwinds, tailwinds, or climbs.
The biggest difference between a mountain bike and a touring bike is its purpose. Mountain bikes are specifically designed for off-road use. They are built to handle rugged terrain and obstacles like rocks, logs, and steep inclines. Mountain bikes are also great for technical riding, which requires a high level of skill and experience.
On the other hand, touring bikes are designed for long-distance travel on paved roads, dirt roads, and trails. They are built for comfort and stability, making them ideal for extended periods of riding. Touring bikes are also versatile and can handle a range of terrain, including gravel and packed dirt.
Another significant difference between mountain bikes and touring bikes is the suspension system. Mountain bikes have a suspension system to absorb the shock of rough terrain.
They are available in two different suspension types: full suspension and hardtail. Full-suspension mountain bikes have suspension systems on both the front and rear wheels, while hardtail mountain bikes only have a suspension system on the front wheel.
In contrast, touring bikes usually do not have a suspension system. Instead, they rely on wider tires and more relaxed frame geometry to provide a smooth ride. The lack of suspension means that touring bikes are less effective on rough terrain but more comfortable on smoother surfaces.
Tire size and tread patterns are other significant differences between mountain bikes and touring bikes. Mountain bike tires are typically wider with more aggressive tread patterns to provide traction on rough terrain. The wider tires also provide better stability and shock absorption.
Touring bike tires, on the other hand, are narrower with less aggressive tread patterns. The narrower tires provide less resistance, allowing the rider to travel further and faster with less effort. The tread pattern is optimized for grip on paved roads and hard-packed dirt.
7 Best Touring Bikes in 2023 to Explore the World
Looking for a touring bike to take on your next adventure? With so many options available on the market, it can be challenging to find the perfect one for your needs. To make things easier, I’ve made the top seven best touring bike lists for 2023.
Whether you’re planning a short weekend trip or a long-distance tour, these bikes are designed to handle any terrain and provide a comfortable ride for hours on end. So, let’s dive in and find your perfect touring bike for your next adventure.
This powerhouse is the perfect all-rounder straight off the showroom floor. Boasting a solid steel frame and sturdy disc brakes, you can rest assured that this bike is built to last.
With practical features like three bottle cages, front and rear racks, mudguards, and dynamo-powered lights, the Tour De Fer is the epitome of convenience.
Whether you’re commuting, leisure riding, or touring, this bike is ready to go right out of the gate. And with the comfortable ride it provides, you’ll be able to hop on and start exploring in no time.
Equipped with 35mm Schwalbe Marathon tires, known for their puncture-proof durability, and a Shimano Tiagra triple groupset that offers plenty of range for conquering hills, this bike is a true workhorse.
Admittedly, the extra features do add some weight, but when it comes to reliability and performance, the Tour De Fer 30 is unmatched.
Reasons to Buy
- Strong, dependable frame
- Guards, racks, lights, and bottle cages included
Reasons to Avoid
- It’s a heavy build with all that extra kit
2. Trek 520
Trek’s longest-running bike, the 520, comes with front and rear racks, making it the perfect companion for your next adventure. Although mudguards are not included, you can easily add them for all-weather use.
Recent updates include mechanical disc brakes with a thru-axle alloy fork, giving you extra control and stopping power. The 9-speed Shimano Sora gearing provides a massive range, so you can easily tackle hills and inclines. The only downside is the large jumps across the 11-36 tooth cassette, but that’s a small price to pay for such an impressive range.
And if that wasn’t enough, the Trek 520 also features tubeless-ready wheels, so you can easily set up tubeless and enjoy a more dependable ride on long journeys. So, if you’re ready to take on the road ahead and go the distance, the Trek 520 is the touring bike for you.
Reasons to Buy
- Bombproof frame
- Front and rear racks included
Reasons to Avoid
- Comparatively lightweight
The Surly Disc Trucker is the ultimate do-anything bike with a sleek and durable steel frame and fork. While it’s more suited for road riding, this bike can still handle gravel tracks with ease. The comfortable all-day ride position is thanks to the rise to the bars and a long head tube.
Practicality is a key feature of the Disc Trucker, with mounts for three bottles, a pump, and mudguards. You can even fit some meaty rubber in there, with Surly quoting 2.1″ tire clearance on 650b wheels. Smaller frame sizes are specced with this wheel size for better toe clearance.
The Shimano Alivio MTB triple groupset with Sora road shifters provides reliable 9-speed shifting, although it’s not the highest spec. Like the Genesis and Trek, the Disc Trucker relies on TRP Spyre mechanical disc brakes for reliable, low-maintenance stopping power.
Overall, the Surly Disc Trucker is a versatile and practical touring bike that can handle any adventure you throw at it. Its sturdy steel frame, comfortable ride position, and ample mounts make it a great option for long rides and exploring new terrain.
Reasons to Buy
- Easy to maintain
- Durable components
- Smaller frame sizes with 650b wheels
Reasons to Avoid
- Relatively low spec
Looking for a bike that can handle any terrain? Look no further than the Giant Toughroad SLR 1 – a hybrid of a mountain bike, a touring bike, and a gravel bike. Built primarily for off-road adventures, this do-it-all bike is capable of commuting as well.
The giant 50mm tires on this bike provide ample grip, and there’s no suspension fork, making it perfect for tackling dirt and gravel trails. The 11-42 MTB cassette on the back helps with steep climbs, although the range is not as wide as the triple chainsets on other bikes.
Practicality is a key feature of the Toughroad SLR 1, with pannier racks front and back and three bottle cage mounting points. Modern features such as thru-axles, hydraulic disc brakes, and tubeless tires ensure a reliable and comfortable ride. The Shimano Deore groupset and Giant wheelset round off this bike nicely.
One thing to keep in mind is that the flat bar configuration may get tiring on longer rides due to the lack of variation in hand position. But overall, the Giant Toughroad SLR 1 is a highly capable and versatile bike that can handle any adventure you throw at it.
Reasons to Buy
- Front and rear racks included
- Durable Shimano Deore components
Reasons to Avoid
- Overgeared for lugging heavy loads
- Hand positions are fewer with flat bars
5. Kona Sutra
The Kona Sutra exudes retro charm with its Brooks leather saddle and steel frame, but don’t be fooled; this bike is thoroughly modern. Designed for touring and commuting on the road and light gravel, it features mudguards, front and rear pannier racks, and bosses for additional add-ons.
The 10-speed Shimano GRX gravel groupset with Tiagra shifters provides a solid range, though not as extensive as some triple chainset-equipped bikes. The hybrid hydraulic/cable-operated brakes offer better-stopping power than other cable brakes but may require more maintenance.
Overall, the Sutra is a stylish and versatile bike that performs well in a variety of settings.
Reasons to Buy
- Looks great
- Wide gear range
- Front rack included
Reasons to Avoid
- Fiddly brake maintenance
The Salsa Marrakesh is a versatile bike that can handle a variety of terrains. The steel frame and fat 42mm tires give it a sturdy and comfortable ride, whether you’re touring, commuting, or just out for a leisurely ride. The bike comes with front and rear racks, making it easy to load up for a longer trip.
However, if you want to add mudguards, you’ll need to make sure the wide tires can accommodate them. The Shimano Alivio groupset with Microshift shifters and TRP Spyre-C disc brakes provide reliable shifting and stopping power.
The wheels and tires are also tubeless-ready, which is a nice feature for those looking for extra dependability on longer rides. While the bike may be a bit on the heavy side, it’s not so much that it will be a burden to ride. Overall, the Salsa Marrakesh is a solid choice for anyone looking for a touring bike that can handle a variety of terrains.
Reasons to Buy
- Tubeless ready
- Durable wheels
- Swappable geometry
- The frame design is simple yet stunning
Reasons to Avoid
- Low spec groupset
The Marin Four Corners is a versatile bike that can handle both touring and gravel riding. With its steel frame and ample clearance for wide tires on 650b wheels, it’s built to be strong and durable on rough terrain.
The long head tube also provides an upright ride position for good visibility.
This bike has plenty of mounts for a rack, mudguards, and extra gear on the fork legs, making it easy to load up for extended adventures. While it’s more suited to gravel than road riding, it can also be set up for more traditional touring on 700c wheels.
Reasons to Buy
- A lot of clearance for wheels up to 700c or 650b
- Extra luggage can be mounted on the fork blades
Reasons to Avoid
- It may not be suitable for everyone to have a high or short-reach frame
To Wrap Up — Touring Bikes
Touring bikes are a versatile and practical choice for those who enjoy long-distance riding and exploring new places. However, when selecting a touring bike at a bike shop, it’s essential to consider factors like frame material, tire clearance, gearing, and mounting options for racks and accessories.
Ultimately, choosing the right touring bike depends on your individual requirements, budget, and intended use. I hope that this guide has provided some useful information and helped you make a more informed decision when selecting your next touring bike.
If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them in the comment section below.
Long Distance Bikes — Frequently Asked Questions
Disc or Rim brakes for a touring bike?
If you’re planning to do a lot of off-road or wet-weather riding, disc brakes may be the better option. If you prioritize simplicity and ease of maintenance, rim brakes may be the way to go.
It’s important to test-ride different bikes with different braking systems to determine which one feels most comfortable and suitable for your needs.
Are Long Distance Touring Bikes Slow?
Touring bikes are not necessarily slow, but they are designed for efficiency and comfort over long distances rather than speed. Their geometry and components are optimized for endurance and stability rather than quick acceleration and top speed.
However, with the right setup and gearing, a touring bike can still be relatively fast on flat or rolling terrain.
Can Touring Bikes Be Used Off-Road?
Yes, touring bikes can be used off-road to some extent, but they are not designed for the same level of off-road riding as mountain bikes. If you plan to ride off-road frequently or tackle more challenging terrain, then a mountain bike is a better choice than a touring bike.
However, if you want a versatile bike that can handle a variety of road conditions and carry your gear on multi-day trips, then a touring bike is an excellent option.