Touring & City Bicycles

Touring & City Bicycles
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Modern Touring Bikes

 

What to consider before buying a touring bike

The first thing that you must consider before buying a touring bike, is asking yourself how far and how often will I be using a touring bike? Secondly, you’ll need to ask how much am I willing to spend? Bicycles better equipped for more frequent and longer use will inevitably cost more money. 

  • Long distance tours - tours spanning many weeks or months, crossing all varieties of terrain with a lot of luggage.
  • Weekend to week long trips - leaving the city for a few days, taking all you may need to be self-sufficient for a short break.
  • Price - The price will usually reflect the quality of the bike - so study the market and find out how much you are willing to spend on the right bike before making your final decision.  

Once these points are considered then selecting a bicycle should be a lot easier. But a way to make sure you are getting the best bike for your money is by looking at the components that make up your bike. Using suitable parts and materials on your touring bike can optimise your riding experience. Here’s what to pay attention to before buying a modern touring bike:

 

1. Frame material

What is on offer

Touring bikes are usually made out of Steel, Carbon or Titanium. All come at different price points - so consider what kind of ride you’re going to be using the bike for before purchasing. 

 

Steel

Carbon

Titanium

Price

€400-€2500

€1200-€4000

€1000-€3500

Minimum Weight of frame

2.5kg

1kg

1.6kg

Repairable

Widely 

Extremely expensive or impossible 

Extremely expensive or impossible 

Best for

Longer rides

Short rides on paved roads

Medium length tours

Comparison of different frame materials for modern touring bikes

Steel will absorb most of the abrasions on the road surface, providing you with the most comfortable ride. However, the material of the frame alone will not improve or ruin your ride. By selecting a suitable material for the type of ride you will be doing and considering the components, all materials can perform very well for bike tours. 

***Note from the author: Whilst Aluminium is also used by manufacturers for touring bicycle frames - the material’s tendency to crack with catastrophic consequences has meant it has been omitted from the table above.

 

2. Saddle 

What is on offer 

There are two main materials that manufacturers of touring saddles tend to use: a synthetic material or leather. Below we will go through some of the advantages of good quality saddles made from both materials to help you decide.

 

Synthetic

Leather

Price

€30-€200

€60-€175

Weather

Easy to clean and waterproof

Not suitable for use in the rain

Weight

200-700g

400-800g

Best for

Shorter tours

Longer tours

Comparison of different materials of saddle for modern touring bikes

For longer rides one should look for a firm saddle as the rigidity of the saddle supports your sit bones which causes less pain over a longer period of time. For shorter distances, wider, softer saddles are appropriate and call also offer slight protection from road surfaces.

***Note from the author: many manufacturers try to save costs by fitting poor quality and cheap saddles to new touring bikes - so consider replacing the saddle before undertaking any serious journey!

 

3. Handlebars

What is on offer

Handlebars for touring bikes will be predominantly either flat bars, or drop bars. It is always advised to pick handlebars that you feel most comfortable with before setting off on longer rides. 

 

Drop Bars

Flat Bars

Price

€40-€90

€30-€75

Hand positions

Multiple 

Only one 

Body position

More aerodynamic and therefore faster

More upright and therefore more comfortable

Best for

Longer tours

Few days away

Comparison of different handlebars for modern touring bikes

***Note from the author: while drop handlebars are faster and offer more hand positions, you are forced into an aerodynamic body position when using them and this can cause discomfort over prolonged periods of time. Flat bars also offer more space around the cockpit for add-ons like lamps, phones and computers. Nevertheless, drop bars look way cooler!

 

4. Racks

What is on offer

Investing in pannier racks is heavily recommended as it takes weight off your body and puts it onto the bike which makes a huge difference on longer rides. 

 

Rear Racks

Front Racks

Price

€30-€90

€50-€200

Carrying capacity

At least 25kg

Up to 16kg

Best for

Needed for shorter trips 

Only needed for extended trips

Comparing benefits of front and rear racks for modern touring bikes

Racks mainly come in 3 materials: Aluminium, Steel or Titanium. Aluminium is cheapest and does a reasonable job. Steel is the strongest of these materials but can corrode over time and Titanium is the lightest but is the most expensive option of the three. 

***Note from the author: rear racks are essential for all types of touring, as they provide the possibility of using pannier bags which are a life-saver on your back. Front racks should only be considered for longer trips where extra space is required. The added weight at the front of the bike makes it harder to steer and should be avoided where possible.

 

5. Gears

What is on offer

Pre-built bicycles will come with between 1 and 3 chainrings at the front indicating how suitable they are for climbs and how much weight the bike can carry whilst still performing.

 

1x Chainring

2/3x Chainring

Number of gears

Typically provide 11 gears 

Anywhere from 18 to 30 gears 

Best for

Shorter tours and less mountainous terrain

Longer tours with varying altitudes

Comparison between 1x and 2/3x chainring for modern touring bikes

***Note from the author: having many gears on your bike will make touring much easier. However, the simplicity of maintenance involved with a 1x chainring can be very desirable. Consider how much weight you intend to carry and how steep your routes will be before jumping straight in for more chainrings and front derailleurs. The added rings add complexity in repairs and expense at the added componentry.

 

6. Brakes

What is on offer

There are two main options to choose from: Rim brakes which use brake pads slowing down the rim of the bike. Or Hydraulic brakes or Disc brakes which use a metal disc next to the hub and a mechanism next to this disc to slow down upon pulling the brake lever. 

 

Rim Brakes

Disc Brakes

Maintenance

Easier to maintain as mechanisms are visible

Involve more intricate parts so more complexed

Comparative price

Generally cheaper 

More expensive due to technology involved

Best for

Better for short tours

Better for longer tours

Comparison of rim and disc brakes for modern touring bikes

***Note from the author: while disc brakes have a stronger stopping power and are more reliable in all weather conditions, many people, including the author, prefer rim brakes. This is predominantly for their simplicity and ease to repair. More expensive touring bikes will typically come with disc brakes though, as their strength is appealing to manufacturers.

 

7. Wheels

What is on offer

Touring tyres will generally be suited to either devouring all types of terrain or specifically designed to roll over paved surfaces with ease. You should consider what types of routes you will be encountering before purchasing suitable tyres.

The longer your tour is and the more varied the surfaces you will be riding on, the wider and more textured your tyres should be. Thicker tyres will also prevent as many punctures. Make sure your frame has enough clearance (space in the area the wheel turns) to put wider tyres on your bike, if you need to do so. The wheels themselves should be made of either Aluminium or Carbon for the best performance whilst remaining lightweight and strong. 

 

8. Pedals

For longer rides, you should definitely consider installing Clipless pedals to minimise loss of power with each stroke and energy wastage. SPD pedals are best as the shoes that are compatible with them have integrated cleats in the sole, meaning you can walk more comfortably in them when not on the bike.