Forum home Road cycling forum Tours, routes, audaxes & organised rides Tour & expedition

What's the best touring bike for the money?

ricktabor1ricktabor1 Posts: 272
edited August 2010 in Tour & expedition
Hi everyone,

I've been looking at touring bikes recently. I've done a couple of short tours over the past two years and i'm looking at doing a bit of a tour, incorporating the C2C Hadrians wall route into it, this year.

I was wondering if there is a general concensus on the best touring bike. I like the Kona Sutra but the Cannondale Touring Classic / Tessoro Classic is nice too, then there's the Dawes Galaxy option......mmm too many nice bikes not enough money!

What does everyone think?
Got to get up to get down

Posts

  • ride_wheneverride_whenever Posts: 13,279
    Discount the dawes unless you really like it, really overpriced now it is £1400.

    I'd consider a custom option.
  • huuregeilhuuregeil Posts: 780
    Indeed, a custom build (either off a custom or stock frame) is definitely the way to go with tourers, because there are so many subtle aspects you can control (gearing, racks, brake type, shifter type, wheel size, to name but a few), that it's hard to find an off the bike complete bike ticking all the boxes. As a baseline, a decent off-the-peg steel frame (~£400), handbuilt wheels (£200), and components to suit should give you a very capable machine for slightly over a grand. Upgrade the frame and select components, and £2000 will get you a very fine bike.

    I'd start by working out exactly what you're looking for by considering broad questions: how long are you going to be on the road for; how much luggage; will the bike be used for other purposes?
  • ricktabor1ricktabor1 Posts: 272
    Custom build sounds good. I'd definately consider that.

    Any recommendations on a decent stock frame?

    I'd prefer aluminium. I know it's not great when you need a weld and you don't know how to say 'MIG welding' in the native tongue! I like the weight aspect. Could be persuaded otherwise if I knew of a light weight steel frame though.
    Got to get up to get down
  • ralexralex Posts: 85
    On a tourer I'd say forget any slight weight advantages you may get from an aluminium frame, because when you have your luggage on board a few hundred grams difference in frame weight is irrelevant. I'd recommend steel, not just for any repairability issues but for the exta comfort level also.
    Your main initial decision should be on wheel size, 700c or 26"?
  • huuregeilhuuregeil Posts: 780
    +1 ralex

    Weight, in the raw bike sense is a non issue with tourers - steel is absolutely the way to go. The only time weight rears its head is as a result of frame stiffness: put too much luggage on a frame that's not stiff enough (i.e. not heavy enough, but that's a non issue as ralex says, a few hundred grams is literally nothing in the grand scheme of things!), and you'll have an unpleasant ride. Conversely, an un- or lightly- loaded expedition tourer (i.e. a heavy bike) will not be particularly sprightly and may feel too stiff. Getting the right frame for your intended usage is the key. Again, you've really got to ask yourself, exactly what are you going to do with the bike, where are you going with it, what will you be carrying?

    In terms of off-the-peg frame ideas: Hewitt, Bob Jackson, Mercian, Ellis Briggs, Thorn to name a few. If you're looking at a full custom frame (which, if you've got the cash, you should, because fit is really important!), you could also include Roberts, Dave Yates in that list, but there are others too.
  • ricktabor1ricktabor1 Posts: 272
    Cheers guys - very informative thanks.

    I've seen some of the Thorn frames and I've looked at Mercian bikes in the past. I've never really checked any of the other listed out. Looks like I've got some serious net surfing to do.
    Got to get up to get down
  • Gar__brRGar__brR Posts: 1
    I’ve had my Dawes Galaxy for 14 years now, everything apart from the tyres and seat is original and still working fine. Its been everywhere with me, toured Europe, entered 500 mile charity events, I ride it down bumpy canal paths, across commons, push it over mountains (including Snowdon) and often take shortcuts across tracks far too rugged for most vehicles. I’ve just got back from Landsend and was doing between 50 to 70 miles a day that included some mean hills, carrying a tent, sleeping mat, sleeping bag, two drinks bottles, tinned fruit, wet weather gear, tools, spare tubes, and a rucksack with additional clothing, maps and bits and bobs.
    The seat it came with was bog standard but I guess that’s because it’s the first thing people change as it’s a very personal thing, but for me its been an incredible machine.
    Good luck and I hope you find the right bike for you.
  • BobScarleBobScarle Posts: 282
    I have a Thorn Audax 853, fabulous bike. Not made anymore but supceeded by the Audax Mk3 which has had very good reviews. Lovely frame, spec it to your requirements and budget.
  • alfabluealfablue Posts: 8,497
    I have a Condor Heritage, they do a good fitting service, and they have lots of frame sizes, if you want they will custom build the frame for +£100, and do any paint job you want for +£50. There is a very good chance an off the shelf frame will fit though and unless you have unusual dimensions, custom may be unnecessary.

    Every item in the build can be specified to your choice. I got one with a Tiagra/Deore setup with Campag Linear Pull brakes.
  • MichaelWMichaelW Posts: 2,226
    Think about how much tyre clearance you need and your min gear ratio.

    Typical English club-touring bikes come with room for 32mm , maybe 35mm tyres. This is fine for most European riding and I've taken my 32mm down some MTB trails fully loaded. US-style or expedition tourers have more generous clearance, useful if you plan to head further afield.
    A lot of off the shelf tourer come with road triple chainsets which may be too high for loaded touring.
  • MichaelWMichaelW Posts: 2,226
    Think about how much tyre clearance you need and your min gear ratio.

    Typical English club-touring bikes come with room for 32mm , maybe 35mm tyres. This is fine for most European riding and I've taken my 32mm down some MTB trails fully loaded. US-style or expedition tourers have more generous clearance, useful if you plan to head further afield.
    A lot of off the shelf tourer come with road triple chainsets which may be too high for loaded touring.
  • andymillerandymiller Posts: 2,856
    edited July 2010
    What michaelw said. Forget 'best' and think tyre clearance, frame material, and gearing.

    I've always bought frames and done my own custom builds. But a pre-built bike can offer a very good deal as opposed to buying components singly - so do your sums before you decide. You can always sell bits that you don't want on eBay (unused bits fetch very good prices).
  • tebbittebbit Posts: 604
    I've had my Hewitt for five years now, no complaints before that I had a Galaxy again a fine bike, I agree with earlier comments about the new Galaxy being over priced.
  • harpoharpo Posts: 173
    custom build.

    I have just bought a Condor Heritage frame and built it up myself. I found that for about the same money you can pick the exact spec you want and get a much better bike than getting some good components and making concessions in other areas of an off the peg built bike. i.e. handbuilt wheels (very impressed by the ones I got), really good tubus rack and the odd deal like the ultegra 9 speed/triple shifters for new with cables etc for £110!!!
  • bigjimbigjim Posts: 780
    Why would you need to spend so much money to do "a bit of a tour"? I'm not convinced about touring bikes. They are built heavy so you can attach heavy bags to carry your heavy items. It's all weight! years ago people [including me] quite happily toured on their everyday lightweight bike.
    I assume a 10Kilo racing bike is quite capable of carrying a 16/17 stone rider long distances. If you are say 14 stone, that gives 12kilo of luggage allowance. A lot! You can buy a good almost new modern bike for £400 off e-bay. Stick a bigger rear tyre on if needed and a wider range cassette, plus a rack=£50ish. If you want a stronger rear wheel? Ok. Another £50 tops. Away you go.
  • blorgblorg Posts: 1,169
    #1 rule with touring is that everyone is different and has different priorities and different bikes that may suit them. Every tour is different and cycling on tarmac in Europe is different than cycling on a dirt road in Africa. What works for someone else may not be optimal for you.

    I disagree with the "weight doesn't matter" approach and frankly there is nothing wrong with aluminium for a tourer. Every extra 500g hurts and I take a lot of care in only packing the minimum I need. Others may not be so concerned with weight and load up. My lightest tour was the Raid Pyrénéen and I got my racer and luggage in at around 11kg (7.5+3.5.) That is the weight of my touring bike unloaded. I am glad I did it this way; an extra 4-5kg would have hurt up the mountains.

    This is absolutely not to rule out steel, great material for the application and often not actually that much of a weight penalty (most is actually in the fork), but nothing wrong with aluminium either and indeed it may be a better choice for you if you are concerned about weight which is a perfectly valid concern.

    With large tyres you are not going to notice any supposed harshness out of the frame material. I notice frames on 700x23c racing tyres. Not on 700x28c or larger. I have toured on a steel city bike (long time ago), aluminium hybrids, drop bar aluminium (absolutely fine) and currently, titanium (a Van Nicholas Amazon.)

    Also agree with bigjim, unless you are really getting into it you can tour on anything. I know a bunch of guys who cycled to China on aluminium Trek hybrids. They were fine. I have done short tours (800km around Ireland, the Raid Pyrénéen) on my racer with a saddlebag. It is titanium but I'd be as happy using carbon and know at least one Thorn owner who uses his carbon bike for light touring up mountains.

    I also don't think custom built is particularly necessary; my own tourer was the VN frame+the group off a road bike which I crashed. I did change the wheels and add mudguards and the rack. Custom gives you the choice to specify whatever you need but as Andy says you can often save money with a package and the likes of the Cannondale spec seem all round very sensible, you would have to look at it and ask yourself what if anything on that bike needs changing. Looking at it myself I think I would prefer wide-profile cantis and if that is a suspension seatpost I would dump it for a rigid one. But again that is all personal preference. The only big issue with that bike is whether the road triple gearing with 30-27 minimum is sufficient for your needs. It is for me, just about, but may not be for others; I have certainly had moments going uphill on a long loaded tour when I would have preferred MTB gearing.
  • dilemnadilemna Posts: 2,277
    +1 to the above post.

    There is no best touring bike. What is good for one rider is an absolute no no for another. You have to do your research making sure the bike meets the needs for which you require it. A touring bike suitable for travelling the flat and mountains of mainland Europe maybe not be suitable for taking you and your belongings the length of the Andes or through the Amazon in South America or through the depths of Africa.
    Life is like a roll of toilet paper; long and useful, but always ends at the wrong moment. Anon.
    Think how stupid the average person is.......
    half of them are even more stupid than you first thought.
  • dazza3512dazza3512 Posts: 58
    just to let you know i bought a dawes karakum last year,grt bike at around £620,have done some long trips both fully loaded and bareback and have had no probs with it,the butterfly bars are brilliant, gears are smooth as silk,and it can stop on a sixpence.
    just leaving on wed morning to do the northumberland round 220 miles fully loaded, can,t wait


    dawes karakum, does exactly what it says on the tin.

    regards
    He travels fastest who travels alone
  • infopeteinfopete Posts: 878
    If you intend to tour regularly go for a titanium frame, no paint to worry about and nothing to rust when you leave it out in the rain. My Omega Axis just needs a wipe over to make it look as new.

    I'd take care with your wheels though, I got my back wheel built at hewitts, Campag record hub on open 4CD, it's just done it's third tour and it's still perfect.
    Oh and please remember to click on my blog:

    http://americanbicyclegroup.wordpress.com

    The more clicks I get the higher it creeps up the google radar :)
  • Jakes DadJakes Dad Posts: 369
    I've got a Ridgeback Panorama and i love it but if i were to buy another touring bike then i would buy a Surly Long Haul Trucker frame and build it up to my own spec

    There are some great off the peg tourers available but as has already been said, if you build up your own there is no compromises on anything

    Simon
    "It never gets easier, you just go faster"
  • jc4labjc4lab Posts: 1,055
    You can ride just about anything if your hearts in it.inc .a simple conquer anything in your path mountain bike with maybe slick road tyres etc.for that extra road speed.Met one guy who claims he goes all over the world with his Pennyfarthing..Its a real lady puller apparently..Every day you see more and more fixed wheelnuts etc..Was surprised recently when a famous name Manchester bike shop suggested to me a cyclocross bike for long distance touring more than a Tradtional grannygeared tourer....
    jc
  • RonLRonL Posts: 90
    Amount to spend rules everything but sometimes it's worth pushing the envelope to get that bit extra which in the long term pays off -- especially in bike terms !
    I have been riding a Thorn XTC since 2004, several thousand miles and can't fault it, superbly smooth and comfortable . Thorn even replaced the stem for a 10 mm shorter one 18 months after I bought it -- excellent customer attention and advice.
    That said two friends ride a Ridgeback Voyager and an Edinburgh Revolution County, again they have both accompanied me on many rides, had these bike for some time and they are also very good bikes at a lesser price. If it's a touring bike you want then get one specific to your requirements and budget. With a decent frame you can always upgrade everything else as the original parts wear out.
    Pedaling spans generations.
  • ricktabor1 wrote:
    Hi everyone,

    I've been looking at touring bikes recently. I've done a couple of short tours over the past two years and i'm looking at doing a bit of a tour, incorporating the C2C Hadrians wall route into it, this year.

    I was wondering if there is a general concensus on the best touring bike. I like the Kona Sutra but the Cannondale Touring Classic / Tessoro Classic is nice too, then there's the Dawes Galaxy option......mmm too many nice bikes not enough money!

    What does everyone think?

    I've just done C2C and back - Reivers and HCW - on a bog standard Giant Defy road bike. I really don't see the point of buying a tourer unless you are planning some really heavy stuff, e.g. North Sea Route. My bike can handle most things other than nasty off-road, and was just as well behaved fully-loaded with panniers as it is on a Sunday sportive. If you're planning a C2C, you don't need a tourer.
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