Looks like a great commuter bike, especially for the money. My observation of this forum is mostly discussing the finer points of the dedicated or purpose built touring bikes. I think that many would agree that you can tour on almost anything. As you point out the bike has some desirable features. However the designers have compromised gearing and handlebars more for faster urban riding. I very much prefer multiple hand positions, having suffered with hand and wrist pains when bicycling on longer rides with upright handle bars.
Tell it like it is, Zebede. We're all a bunch of gear snobs here, and if you aren't rolling in to camp with Ortleib, Brooks, Tubus, Rivendell, Thorn, Bruce Gordon, Arkel and Surly watching your back you can just get the hell off this forum and go watch Travel Channel where people who do understand the need for selecting the proper equipment create their own reality.
Keep in mind that people are basically stupid and fearful, and especially for those in the gold star generations, in need of constant reassurance, and that such drag brake thinking even haunts the proud, the few who would actually ride a bike _for_ their vacation. As a mental exercise, let us suppose some male who is roaring to go on that big overnighter to the state park, you know, the one that's a whole hour away by car, but before he rolls up those Spiderman boxer shorts, he needs to be sure that his equipment, dude his veritable lifeline, can handle the road not traveled. For such a man, and believe me when I say I strain to use that word, it is an encouraging and necessary confirmation for the bike shop dude to tell him, in the most cloying and authoritative voice summonable, that his widgets are, in fact, purpose built for teh longgg haul.
But for anyone who isn't a complete ninny, and can still figure things out for him or herself, there are some great deals to be had. Rest assured that you are not the only one to have seen the touring potential of the KHS Urban Xpress. First one I ever saw was actually set up with drop bars and bar end shifters, all touring bikey and everything, and it's not the only one I've seen converted with drop bars like that. It is fundamentally a touring bike frame. Long chainstays, slack angles, fork brazeons, beefy construction. Check, check check, check. 36 spoke wheels are a real nice touch too. And as cheap as it is, you could make whatsoever gear changes you fancy, and still be in well under the price of a Randonee or LHT complete. Sure, some of the components won't be as nice, but those wear out anyway.
Or to look at it another way, compare the Urban Xpress with a Surly LHT frameset. Both have rugged frames made of double butted chromoly, with basically identical geometry, and they cost the same. The difference is that the KHS also comes with everything else hung on it, parts which may or may not be useful to you, but which are basically gratis in the scope of this comparison. Don't even kid yourself; that KHS frame is going to be every bit as durable as the Surly one, just at a lower profit margin.
Of course if I were going to tour on this bike, I would change a few things. Cheapest way to thoroughly tourify it would be to add bar ends for more hand positions, and swap the rear cassette for an 11-34 to get a lower bottom end. Cost; $50. Knowing you can think for yourself and figure out what things are made of independent of what they're called? Priceless.
Tell it like it is, Zebede. We're all a bunch of gear snobs here, and if you aren't rolling in to camp with Ortleib, Brooks, Tubus, Rivendell, Thorn, Bruce Gordon, Arkel and Surly watching your back you can just get the hell off this forum.... Priceless.