A touring bike is any bike that can take racks and panniers enabling it to carry luggage enough to support the rider on multi day trips. The bikes are either MTB based with flat handlebars and 26” wheels or the more traditional touring bike that is road bike based with 700c wheels and drop handlebars. Hybrids (check out our Hybrid Bikes guide) can also make excellent touring bikes, being a blend of both MTB and traditional road bike.
Traditional touring bikes have the appearance of a road bike with drop handlebars and large diameter (700c) wheels. They are, however, quite different – the riding position is more relaxed and upright with the emphasis on comfort over distance rather than all out speed. The frames are a lot stronger to cope with heavy luggage loads and will have attachment points for racks (front and rear), full-length mudguards and multiple bottle cages. The wheels use wider tyres (38c) and the gears are usually a lower range to cope with heavy loads on long hills. These bikes are still intended for paved surfaces.
Touring MTBs are gaining popularity because of the more upright riding position and the ability to go off-road which opens up a lot of possibilities for potential routes. Apart from the 26” wheels and flat handlebars they share many of the features of a traditional touring bike.
Not all touring bikes are heavy workhorses as described above. Audax/Sportive bikes or fast tourers are lighter and more performance orientated. Audax events are not races of speed but more of an endurance challenge similar to orienteering but on bikes. They take place over long distances so the bikes need to be lighter and will be designed to carry only a few items such as some food, spare clothing and a few repair tools.
Cycling holidays are very popular and using a touring bike is the perfect aid to explore the countryside and enjoy the outdoor experience whether you are out alone or with family and friends.
Prices for dedicated touring bikes range from around £750 to £2,600.
April 13, 2012 Bike Guides