I am about to invest in a touring bike (or traveller), although I have very little experience. To date, the only bike I have owned is the standard racing bike (nearly 16 years old). My question is this, how do you determine what size frame you should order. Each retailer has a different opinion, I am confused. My height is 186cm, the frames range from 54cm to 60cm. Please help.
Standover height is the height of the top tube off the ground. For touring you want 1 to 2 inches between the top tube and those particularly delicate parts of your body. Different manufacturers measure differently. You really need to a shop that carries a brand you are interested in and standover a few.
Best of luck
Actually, I'd disagree slightly with the prior post (just trying to make your life complicated!). 1" of stand-over leaway is enough in my opinion. Even fully loaded, you should be able to balance your bike just fine with only one foot down (with one on a pedal, you're a lot taller over the top tube than you'd be with both feet on the ground).
A bigger frame does a number of things for you: more room for stretching forward if you want it (you can get a shorter stem if you want to be more upright--that's what I did); more room for rear panniers without them hitting your heels; and the fact that the frame angles on a bigger frame are generally slightly more "laid-back" than a smaller one.
But, here's the real key in my opinion: a touring bike should track like...well, like a touring bike. It should be simple to ride with no hands and you should be able to move your body around without affecting the tracking at all.
I ride a 23" frame with plenty of seat post showing on my "racing" bike (and I've got a long stem too). On my touring bike, I really like my 25" frame even though the seat post is pretty much right down at the bottom of the rational range (and the shorter stem I mentioned above). Be sure to try a touring bike with a pair of panniers on a rear rack if you can (otherwise hold them up and do some measuring to make sure you've got heel clearance).
I've found my touring bike extremely comfortable to ride (I used to ride it 30 miles to work, car-pool home, car-pool in, ride home--the round trip just took more time than I had). The longer tubes seem to soak up the road shock. So, what worked for me was to get the biggest one I could fit.
Ride a lot of bikes. Choose one you can steer reliably with no hands and that has room for rear bags--and, if it comes down to it, ride the next size up just to be sure.
I'd go with a CROSS frame. They've 700c wheels like a road bike but Mountain H'Bar. They've got a longer wheelbase than a racer and will absorb more vibration from the road and will give you plenty of room for Panniers. I carry 2 bags on the front wheel, 2 bags on the rear, 1 on the handlebars and 1 on the saddle. I would also recommend low pressure tires. Probably 35 or 38mm and 75lbs. pressure. GET A BIKE THAT FITS YOU! It's not worth the inconvenience to go with an over-sized frame. Also, I'd recommend toe- clips and not clipless pedals. Too easy to have an accident trying to get your feet free. If you like that laid-out stretch of drop bars you could always add aero-bars and drop the H'Bar pack. There are many options open to you. You'll probably get a lot of diverse suggestions here. Pick the ones that make sence to you. Touring, like choosing a bike is a personal thing. Be true to your own ideas. Enjoy the road. It's fantastic out there!