Halfway through my last tour, I realized something: I love my touring bike. I thought this was something I would never achieve. In fact, I had resigned myself to the fact that I would enjoy touring, but not necessarily my bicycle. But, it happened. I found a bicycle that I enjoy riding for days on end. I don’t get tired of riding this bicycle!
How can you make sure that you will love your touring bicycle? Here’s a few things that I considered when purchasing my latest bike.
Fit: My first touring bicycle was not designed for me. A quick look at me and the bike shop ordered what they thought was the right size. It was ok for short rides but 500 miles down the road I was experiencing real pain, on and off the bike. I was able to make some adjustments to it, which helped, but it never did fit me well. A professional can measure you to give you a starting point for a bicycle; this will typically give you a better starting point than someone glancing at you.
One big problem I faced was not riding the bike for several long days in a row to know if it fit well for touring. I should have practiced with a short multiple-day tour to ensure I had proper fit. Additionally riding a loaded bike is different than unloaded, and puts different stress on your body. You should practice with weight, and make the necessary adjustments before you even begin your tour. Even millimeters of adjustments can make big differences in your comfort. Try to get it right before you leave and mark the proper heights/angles on the bike.
Function: I was lucky enough to find a carbon fiber, lightweight, touring bicycle. This was everything that I wanted in a bicycle, both for touring and for riding around. Un-weighted, I can keep up with much faster riders. Weighted, I can go for long distances. Being both lightweight and able to carry gear was important to me. If you are looking to go to remote and distant places on the world you will be looking at 26” wheels with wide tires, steel-tubed, rugged bike. If you are looking to riding around on well paved roads you may find more enjoyment from a lighter weight touring bike. Get an idea for where you want to go.
Form: My bike is beautiful. To me, it looks pretty. This makes me happy. I like to look good while I’m riding, and my touring bike definitely helps me feel that way. So while this may be of less importance to some I feel that is important to me.
Bicycle manufacturers are producing more and more off the shelf touring bikes all the time. If possible, take a bunch out for a test ride. Find a shop that has a sample, and try it out for yourself. If they don’t carry the right size for you try to find a bike with similar geometry/dimensions. Take it for test ride before you order and get it set up the way you want it.
Here’s a few models that we’ve tried (or wish to try). There’s many many more out there:
- Raleigh Sojourn
- Surly Long Haul Trucker
- Kona Sutra
- Jamis Endura Sport Femme
- Co-motion Pangaea
Your perfect bike is out there, waiting for you. For now, just get out there and ride!