Touring bicycles sometimes seem have a somewhat old-fashioned air about them. Which is odd, as an awful lot of people ride actually ride touring bikes which are modern, light and have some fantastic design details such as a dynamo that recharges all of those modern contraptions such ipads, phones and GPS!
What is touring anyway?
To our mind you are touring if you are just going for a bicycle ride, enjoying the scenery and the countryside but not going fully off-road.
Bicycle touring ranges from light or day touring where you carry nothing more than a bottle of water and a puncture repair kit; holiday touring where you carry some luggage (a tent maybe and some food) to expedition touring where you carry all the stuff you need for 2,000 miles across the Andes.
Bicycle touring is about being comfortable on the bike. It doesn't mean you can't go fast but touring is about enjoying the journey and arriving happy, tired but not suffering any aches and pains.
If this sounds like your sort of riding then you should consider a touring bicycle. They can also be very suitable for commuting (depending on how far you have to go, and how fast)
What makes a bicycle a touring bicycle?
A touring bicycle will have a strong frame designed for a wide range of surfaces. It will have a comfortable geometry: less nimble than a racing bike but much more enjoyable on a long trip. It will have a wide range of gear ratios and will certainly feature three chainrings (including a "granny ring" which means you can ride uphill without having to get out of the saddle or getting off to push).
Wheels, hubs and other components will emphasise strength and reliability over weight. This doesn't mean that touring bikes are heavy but touring cyclists don't normally fret about an extra few grams here and there.
Touring bikes will have multi-position handle-bars. Most commonly a touring set up will use drop-handlebars though some people prefer the "butterfly bars" and there are some set-ups where butterfly bars are necessary.
What touring bicycles do we recommend?
We really like the Ridgeback World series of touring bicycles for quality, value and well thought through design. Prices start from £849 at the Bicycle Hub in the Park.
The Ridgeback World Voyage is a fantastic light tourer, with an steel frame and forks it is unusally nimble for a touring bike. It also has a slightly sportier transmission than an out and out tourer. The geometry is balanced and steady and it treats you gently up the hils and along towpaths.
For the following models over £1000 please contact our other shop Bicycles by Design in Jackfield, Ironbridge Gorge.
In our view the Ridgeback World Panorama is one of the best-value off-the-peg bicycles available today. The frame quality is very impressive, giving an amazing ride on a surprisingly light steel set-up. The transmission is top-notch robust and accurate and the whole bike has been designed by people who really understand what does make a bike suitable of confident trouble free and happy long distance touring.
If the Panorama isn't quite what you are looking for then, you may want to consider a Van Nicholas Amazon in light but very strong titanium. The basic specification is on a par with the Panorama, albeit that you will need to add racks, but one of the great benefits of titanium is that there is not paint to get scratched or damaged and titanium doesn't rust. You can also custom spec your bike (including using a Rohloff hub or Alfine hub) and the frame can be made to measure too.
A different option takes you to Tout Terrain, a range that has so much attention to detail and quality features, that you won't be surprised to find that it is designed in Germany. Choose from two models: the Silk Road which is robust 26" wheel travel bike (which can also accept a Rofloff hub) or the Grande Route which is a classic Randonneur bike suitable for Audax and touring.
And if you need to travel light and travel while cycle touring, Birdy offers you a full suspension, folding touring bike that has a carring case that also becomes a trailer to carry your kit. Airnimal also emphasis touring in their range and again these can be folded to help with travelling.
You can go the full custom route with a Landescape made to measure frame and full custom equipment spec. Contact us for further details or visit the Landescape web-site. Don't be put off that Landescape make tandems too as they've been making touring tandems and bikes for nearly 30 years.
or visit to the Bicycle Hub in the Park for more details on all of this.