You can go everywhere there are roads, as long as you have a bike built for cycle touring, and you can bring everything you need for the next few days, weeks, or months.
However, wide varieties of bicycles are suitable for traveling, and you may even have one in your garage that would do just fine. This post will help you evaluate your current bike or shop for a new one with a better understanding of the factors that matter on a long-distance cycling trip.
If you’re coming from the mindset of a road bike shopper who places a premium on speed and portability, you may need to adjust your perspective a bit. It would help if you made choices that reflect the fact that bike traveling is not a race but rather a marathon.
Types of Bikes for Bike Touring
If you look at what other people use for bike touring, you’ll see that there’s no one perfect bike. Most people own at least one type of bicycle. However, the most popular are road bikes, mountain bikes, electric trikes and hybrids.
However, there is a need for touring-specific bicycles, as these have distinct advantages: They are constructed to last, be comfortable, and be stable while transporting many goods over long distances. A bike designed specifically for touring may be a smart option if you intend to do a lot of touring.
A touring bike’s general appearance is similar to a regular road bike; both share a similar frame and typically have drop handlebars. There are some subtle distinctions, though, like the touring bike’s more upright riding position and stable geometry. Front and rear racks for carrying panniers are standard on many touring bikes.
Gravel bikes are specially constructed to tackle tougher surfaces. Many bikes have larger, knobbier tires for use on gravel and mud.
Some employ 650b wheels and tires similar to those seen on some mountain bikes for greater traction and bump absorption on difficult roads and trails. Many gravel bikes offer mounts for adding racks to tote gear in panniers.
Touring Bikes: The Essentials
When you’re carrying a large weight and traversing uneven terrain, the bike frame’s geometry, the materials used to manufacture it, and its components can make a world of difference in how the bike feels.
Those details are already worked into the frame of a touring bike. Still, knowing how these factors affect ride quality can be beneficial if you’re unsure if the road bike you have at home will do the trick. Let’s compare and contrast road bikes with touring bikes and see what separates them.
Frame Geometry for Touring Bikes
Bikes built for touring are built to carry a high load while maintaining comfort and stability. Wheelbases on touring bikes are often longer than those on road bikes so that riders can more comfortably accommodate rough terrain.
Steering is simplified, and stability is increased with a longer wheelbase. In addition, the chain stays on a touring bike tend to be longer. Bike manufacturers can provide additional room for rear panniers if they lengthen these.
Frame Materials for Touring Bikes
Chromoly steel, due to its strength and smooth ride quality, is the material of choice for most bike tourers. Steel can absorb road vibrations, making for a less jarring feel than some other materials. Steel is the material of choice for bike tourers because of its longevity, making it ideal for extended journeys in uninhabited areas. Steel is not easily broken, but if it occurs, welding can usually fix the problem.
Wheels for Touring Bikes
Consider the following while shopping for touring bike wheels:
Number of Pokes
With all that gear loaded onto a touring bike, the wheels must be as sturdy as possible. Therefore it’s important to consider the number of spokes. As a general rule, wheels with more spokes tend to be more durable, so opting for at least 32 spokes is a smart idea.
Wheels with 36 spokes are usually preferable if you carry a lot of weight and cycle on rough roads. Consider how often the spokes intersect with one another. There are lightweight racing wheels with no-cross spokes. Touring calls for spokes that cross each other twice or perhaps three times.
Think about the terrain you’ll be riding on and where you want to go when deciding on the correct wheel size for your touring bike. Standard road wheel size, 700c, is adequate for most tourers who adhere to largely paved conditions and won’t be venturing too far into the developing world.
However, if your long-distance vacation will take you over dirt and into remote international regions, smaller 650b or 26-inch wheels may be the best choice because the tires you can put on them generally provide better traction and bump absorption than those that fit on 700c wheels. 26-inch wheels have the advantage of having universal tire, tube, and spoke availability.