Tour bikes can represent a good option for cycling longer distances. You can get to enjoy the open road while traveling across the country at your own pace. However, many new touring cyclists can make the mistake of packing too much equipment which can make the experience much more difficult. Although it is true that all cyclists are different, there are some tips which can apply to most people looking into buying a touring bike.
The most important acquisition is, of course, the bike itself. But the selection process is not that straightforward as you might expect. The choice will depend on the surface you are traveling on and you may also find some design options for two cyclists.
Here are the top choices to consider when buying a touring bike:
Long distance bikes – as you may expect, these bikes represent the perfect balance between performance and comfort as they have to travel considerable distances. With comfortable seats and the ability to manage heavier loads, these bikes usually come with a robust construction.
Trekking bikes – inspired by the hybrid designs, these bikes offer an upright riding position and can be a good alternative for those who cycle to work.
Mountain bikes – many people are wondering if these bikes can be used for touring. The simple answer is they can, as long as they can carry the load. They might be a good option while traveling abroad where the 26” wheels are much more common. These bikes also represent a solid alternative for touring off-road.
The materials of a touring bike can influence its weight and durability. Although there are many options on the market, it seems that steel frames are most commonly used for touring bikes. Steel has been used with the first bikes and still represents one of the best methods of combining durability with cost control.
Aluminum frames are another popular option. They can help keep the total weight lower while providing the stability the bike needs to support the user. If you need a bike which can be used for the whole family, it might be worth considering a model which can handle heavier weights. The good news is that all of the major manufacturers state this in the product information but you`ll have to consider the bike will also need to carry your bags for long distances. This is why a sturdy frame is essential and it can represent a good stepping stone with your purchase.
The materials should also be considered with the frame size. Usually, smaller cyclists will need a lighter design. Every manufacturer has a height chart which can help you establish which size is best suited for your needs. Your height will determine the frame size which is more comfortable for you.
The technology came a long way in the past few years. You can expect better quality parts such as shifters or hubs. You will need to consider that you`ll eventually have to replace some of these parts and while the bike may not be covered by the warranty anymore, you`ll have to take that cost into consideration. This is especially true with touring bikes which cover more miles than regular alternatives.
But the good news is that if you look for quality bicycle parts, you can usually expect a longer life and a better warranty coverage. Another thing to consider both when buying a bike and replacing old parts like shifters is that you would benefit from the professional fit. This can work for fine-tuning but can also increase your safety and the durability of some bike parts. For example, you can improve your comfort by finding the right balance between the height of the handlebar and the height of the saddle. Most bikes also offer an angled option for the saddle and this is why using real-time fit can be the best solution. Most large bike stores can offer these options and you can enjoy a comfortable ride which is adjusted to your needs.
But you can also experience the latest technologies in the design of the bike which can use a combination of materials to offer a lighter and more durable experience. This is not only applicable to the frame but can also work for other parts. For example, hydraulic brakes always improve on the technology and materials since they are in a high friction zone which is vital for your safety.
One of the most important elements of a touring bike comes with the saddle. Since you will be spending more time on the bike covering longer distances, you want to ensure the saddle has good comfort and enough support to offer the best experience.
The good news is that you can change the saddle whenever you find a better alternative, but choosing a good standard bike with a quality saddle can be a good starting point. For more information on bike maintenance, you can read this post.
So what do you need to consider with a good saddle? A good starting point is to consider the cover materials. You can usually find touring bikes which offer either synthetic or leather materials for the cover design. Typically, leather is more expensive and you should look for smooth seams which need to be comfortable for longer cycling sessions.
The shell of the saddle represents the base of the seat. It supports the weight of the users and it can also absorb some shocks from the road. This is why you can find various materials for the shell design. They usually involve choosing between nylon and some carbon combinations. Premium models might offer a higher percentage of carbon in the shell design.
Accessories can be the soul of a touring bike. With touring models, you get to experience one of the widest ranges of accessories for any bike and this is because you`ll have to take some bags with you, which need to be secured to improve safety on the road.
Depending on your needs, you will have to consider other accessories as well. Mudguards become one of the necessary acquisitions to limit the dirt from the road that gets on the bike. Lights are also very important as you`ll be tackling busy roads. This is why choosing good front and back lights can become not only a design problem but also a safety issue which needs to be taken seriously. A bell may also be necessary when cycling through a city. Although most manufacturers don`t offer a bell with a touring bike, you may still be required to buy one separately for certain models.
Another important accessory for your touring needs comes with the bike racks. Since most models offer a single type of rack or no rack at all, you might need to consider the types of bags you need. This will determine the rack design which fits best for you. Eventually, you may even find out you need more racks to suit different bags.
Apart from these accessories and camping gear, you might need some other tools recommended for any cyclist. You can consider purchasing a small air pump. Although these pumps are not as fast as regular full-size options, they provide the space-saving option you need. Spare tubes and chain lube can also be part of your essential accessories list. Some ingenious tools such as a bike multitool are a must-have. Together with wrenches and screwdrivers, they complete the essentials list for any serious touring cyclist.
In most situations, these accessories don`t come with the bike. This is why you will need to purchase them separately. The good news is that there are plenty of options to choose from. You can either find these accessories in dedicated shops or online, but regardless of your option, you will need to consider a small budget towards these acquisitions as well.
In the end, you should also consider your total budget. Although you can always spend more to purchase a premium bike, you should consider that you will need to invest in a list of accessories. These accessories are purchased once, but they add up to any potential camping gear and specialized clothing and you want to plan ahead to limit potential overspending.
Because modern technologies have changed the way we cycle, you might benefit from using a dedicated cycling smartphone app. These apps can open a world of new routes to the beginner cyclist. But they can also connect you to your local cycling community which might be helpful in terms of advice or even equipment exchange. If you want to be connected to the latest news and travel bike touring ideas, you can also download blog apps where you can follow your favorite writers and their adventures on the road.
Buying a touring bike may prove to be one of the most exciting activities you perform as a cyclist. You will have to set a budget and choose between different manufacturers and their various models. Then, you will also need to make a list of accessories you need for your chosen model. Together with the right camping gear and the right clothing, you can be ready for your first real adventure. But in the end, you will have to remember that regardless of your choice there are some basic rules you have to follow.
These rules involve, of course, safety and comfort. The first priority for a cyclist is to stay safe. With so many accidents on the road, you want to ensure you get the best brakes and the most useful lights to be able to tackle any situation. You will then have to make sure your chosen bike and equipment is comfortable to use. Since you will be cycling for long distances you might need to consider a better saddle or a comfortable handlebar position four your needs. If you have these basics in place, you are better prepared for your first tour bike experience.
This article was contributed by John T Lyons
John T Lyons grew up riding the canyons of San Diego on his single speed Huffy. After a stint working for Shelby American in automotive and then in the Aerospace industry, JT started Moment Bicycles. He developed a “better way to buy a bike” using his engineering problem-solving skills. Learn more at https://momentbicycles.com