Join Date: Aug 2006
Location: Central Coast, CA
Bikes: Surly LHT, Specialized Rockhopper, Nashbar Touring (old), Specialized Stumpjumper (older), Nishiki Tourer (model unknown)
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If you don't have a lot of money, look for an old rigid mountain bike. Put bar-ends on it (for more hand positions, for less hand discomfort) and road tires and you'll be good to go. Get something that was pretty nice when it was new, like a Rockhopper or Stumpjumper. Trek and Gary Fisher both sold nice rigids, but I'm not as familiar with them as I am with Specialized. I bought an old Rockhopper for my son. It needed a little work, but for a total of $300 (including shipping) he has a really nice ride that will last for a lot of years.
If you have the money and prefer drop handlebars, you can find touring bikes on Ebay - sometimes for not too much money. However, like someone else said, the word Touring in the listing doesn't mean it's a touring bike. That used to mean something else I guess. One tip-off that it's a touring bike is eyelets halfway down the fork for mounting a front rack. Having both a front and rear rack makes a lot of difference in handling and load-carrying ability. The old rigid mountain bikes won't have these eyelets, but you can still mount a front rack, either with P-brackets or by buying a rack like Old Man Mountain that's made to mount without them.