Reviews of the Best Touring Bicycles

Reviews of the Best Touring Bicycles


When it comes to buying a touring bicycle, most local bike shops will have only one or two models on the floor, if any. It isn’t that they don’t want to sell a high-quality touring bicycle, it is more an issue of economics and what price range the average person comes in the store to buy.

If you go into a local bike store, the price of most bicycles will start around $300 and go to over $1,500 for higher-end racing bicycles and mountain bikes. Most of the bicycles you will see will be in the $500 to $600 range. Unfortunately, a new, high-quality touring bicycle will usually have a price tag of $1,000 or more. And many of the expedition bicycles that can handle almost any touring terrain will start at $2,000 and go up from there.

When considering a new touring bicycle, I use the following selection criteria:

The following models are just a short list of high-quality bicycles available. Many more models exist. If you would like us to add another model to this list, please email us.

UPDATE: We recently wrote two great articles summarizing the best men’s road bikes and the best women’s road bikes for 2012-2013. Take a look if you want more advice.

Medium to Long Range Touring Bicycles

Cannondale Synapse Alloy 7

This is a newer model of Cannondale touring bikes. While they don’t have the reputation of elite touring bikes, like the Tour I and Tour II had, they are still ideal for touring.

They use all Shimano 105 components (including the shifters… previous Cannondale touring bikes used STI shifters, which are difficult to fix) and are made entirely of aluminum. This means you have lightweight, high quality components on a bike that is lighter than paper (it weighs in at less than 20 pounds).

They come with 700c wheels and use a FSA Gossamer BB30, 50/34 front crankset.

Learn more about the Synapse Alloy 7.

Cannondale Tour I and II

Cannondale Touring II

Unfortunately, you cannot buy these bikes new anymore. But if you can find one used, both the Cannondale Tour I and Tour II are excellent around touring bicycles. The compact aluminum frame and cro-moly steel fork are well made and have the basic touring braze-ons: water bottle mounts, front and rear rack mounts, and clearance for fenders and wide touring tires.

The 700c wheels have 36 holes, 14 gauge spokes (adequate for loaded touring) and cantilever brakes for stopping. The shifters are STI, which I don’t prefer for touring. STI brake/shifters are harder to get repaired while on the road, but many cyclists use them with excellent results.

The Tour I uses a 50/39/30 front crankset and 11/34 rear cassette combination for light touring in rolling hills or medium loaded touring on flat terrain. The Tour II uses a 48/36/26 front crankset and 11/34 rear cassette combination that is better for loaded touring in long distance touring. Please read my page on gearing.

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Novara Strada

Novara Strada Bicycle From REIIt is sold through REI. At around $850, it is one of the best deals out there for the money. The aluminum frame and carbon fork are well made and  feature shaped seatstays and top tube for improved comfort and performance. The shifters and derailleurs offer high-end shifting performance and dependability.

The frame features eyelets for the fenders that allow you to outfit the bike for for wet-weather or commuting — which could come in handy on a tour. The handlebar is a standard drop bar.  Please read my page on touring handlebars.

The 50/34 crankset and lightweight frame (21 pounds) make it a good option for long road rides.

Learn more about the Novara Strada

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Novara Randonee

Novara Randonee

Novara Randonee is sold through REI. At around $1,050, it is a very good deal for a traditional touring bike. The Reynolds 520 chromoly frame and fork are well made and have the basic touring braze-ons: water bottle mounts, front and rear rack mounts, and clearance for fenders and wide touring tires. The quality of derailleurs and brakes is good, but not top of the line. They are reliable and easy to maintain and are good enough for most loaded touring.

The 700c wheels have 36 holes, 14 gauge spokes (adequate for loaded touring) and cantilever brakes, which is good for a touring bicycle. The handlebar is a drop style, which is great for all around touring. Please read my page on touring handlebars.

The 48/36/26 crankset and 11/28 rear cassette are perfect for light to medium loaded touring over pavement and packed dirt roads. For heavy loaded touring over good roads, an upgrade to a 11/34 cassette would be an easy improvement.

Learn more about the Novara Randonee

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Surly LHT

Surly LHT

The Surly LHT is a solid all around loaded, long-range bicycle. At around $1,100, it is a great deal and worth a serious look. The cro-moly frame and fork are well made and have the basic touring braze-ons: triple water bottle mounts, front and rear rack mounts, chainstay spoke holder, and clearance for fenders and wide expedition tires. The quality of derailleurs and brakes is good to excellent, better than what you would expect for the price.

The 26″ or 700c wheels (determined by frame size) have 36 holes, 14 gauge spokes (adequate for loaded touring) and cantilever brakes, which I prefer over V-brakes for touring bicycles. Also, the shifters are bar ends, which I also prefer for loaded touring. The 48/36/26 crankset and 11/34 rear cassette are perfect for loaded touring over pavement, good dirt roads, and some gravel. It is not a mountain bike though. It is an all out bicycle for loaded touring.

I am personally familiar with the Surly LHT. I used one that I built up from a frame. It had one on the most comfortable rides for a loaded touring bicycle. The reputation of the LHT has grown significantly in the past few years and many people seem to have the same favorable opinion that I have for the bicycle. So you should give the bicycle a test ride and see what you think.

Learn more about the Surly LHT

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Fuji Tour

Fuji Tour

The Fuji Tour has been around for quite a few years. At around $900, it is a quality touring bicycle at a fair price. The cro-moly steel frame is well made and has the basic touring braze-ons: double water bottle mounts, front and rear rack mounts, and spare spoke holder.

The 700c wheels have 36 holes, 14 gauge spokes (adequate for loaded touring) and cantilever brakes for stopping. The shifters are STI, which I do not prefer for touring. STI brake/shifters are harder to get repaired while on the road, but many cyclists use them with excellent results. The 50/36/30 front crankset and 11/34 rear cassette combination is better for light to medium touring in rolling hills to smaller mountains. I believe that most long distance cyclist would prefer lower gears than this crankset offers. Please read my page on gearing.

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Trek 520

Trek 520

The 520 has been in the Trek line almost from the beginning. At around $1,250, it is a high quality touring bicycle at a reasonable price. The cro-moly steel frame is well made and has the basic touring braze-ons: triple water bottle mounts, front and rear rack mounts, and clearance for fenders and wide touring tires.

The 700c wheels have 36 holes, 14 gauge spokes (adequate for loaded touring) and V-brakes for stopping. The shifters are bar ends style, which I prefer for touring. The 48/36/26 front crankset and 11/32 rear cassette combination is better for medium touring loads in rolling hills and mountains. Please read my page on gearing. One of my touring bicycles is a Trek 520. I love the bicycle. It is very comfortable for long rides with medium to heavy loads on good roads from flat to mountains.

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Koga-Miyata Traveler

Koga-Miyata Traveler

The Traveler frame is a completely hand built TIG-welded and triple-butted aluminum. It has all the necessary touring braze-on and attachment points. The bike comes with kickstand, lights, racks, rear bag, fenders, water bottles, and there own trekking handlebar.

The 700c wheels have 36 holes, 14 gauge spokes (adequate for loaded touring) and V-brakes. The components are Shimano Deore LX, which may not to the top of the line but close. The 48/36/26 crankset and 11/32 rear cassette are perfect for loaded touring over pavement, good dirt roads, and some gravel. The Traveler is not one of their expedition bikes, but it is an all out bicycle for heavy loaded touring.

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Bruce Gordon Rock N’ Roll Tour

Rock Tour

Bruce Gordon designs and manufactures excellent bicycles. They are top of the line and sell in the $3,000 bracket. Their frames are TIG welded at their California facility. The frames have triple water bottle mounts, fender mounts, and rack mounts.

You can order a 26″ or 700c wheel model. Each model has 36 holes, 14 gauge spokes (adequate for loaded touring). The standard derailleurs are Shimano Deore XT with cantilever brakes or V brakes. You can also get either drop or flat handlebars.Please read my page on touring handlebars.

You can order either a crankset for normal road touring or off-road riding with the 26″ wheel model. Either way, the Rock N’ Road Tour can handle a heavy load on long distance tours.

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Co Motion Americano Copilot

Co Motion Americano Copilot

The Co Motion Americano is a top of the line long distance touring bicycle. The price of around $3,300 reflects the quality and reliability of this model. The frame is made from exclusive custom-drawn heat-treated tandem tubing and the fork is cro-moly steel. The frame is stout enough to handle almost any terrain and load. You can also get the Americano with the BTC™ for breaking down the bicycle for traveling ($3,700).

The Americano uses a 700c dishless, symmetrically laced rear wheel (40 spokes) with a 145mm axle for strength. The bike uses V-brakes and Shimano XTR derailleurs and Dura Ace bar end shifters.

The 46/34/24 crankset and 11/34 rear cassette combination can handle about any terrain and load. This bicycle is definitely a long distance tourer.

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Long to Expedition Range Touring Bicycles

Koga-Miyata World Traveler

Koga-Miyata World Traveler

The frame is a completely hand built TIG-welded and triple-butted aluminium. It has all the necessary touring braze-on and attachment points. The bike comes with kickstand, lights, racks, rear bag, fenders, pump, and water bottles. The World Traveler uses their own trekking bar.

The 26″ wheels have 36 holes, 14 gauge spokes (adequate for heavy loaded touring) and V-brakes. The components are Shimano Deore XT, which are exceptional for expedition touring. The 44/32/22 crankset and 11/32 rear cassette are perfect for heavy loaded touring over good to poor pavement, dirt roads, and gravel. The World Traveller is a true expedition bike that is ready to go almost anywhere in the world.

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Thorn Raven

Thorn Raven

Thorn Cycles in England makes top of the line made from Reynolds 725 heat treated conical tubes. You can get the Raven either as a Rohloff hub or derailleur equipped bike.
Thorn also has an outstanding reputation for supporting their customers, at home and while they are on tour.

The Raven can be ordered with different component packages and different crankset and cassette drivetrains. You also get the Raven with the BTC™ (S&S coupling) for breaking down the bicycle for traveling. The 26″ wheels can have 32 to 48 holes rims, depending on your preference. Also, different handlebars can be order too. Basically, you build the bike the way you want it.

The Raven is a top of the line expedition bicycle that can go anywhere. People who own and tour with these bicycle speak highly of them and usually keep them for a tens of years.

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