So, it'll be a little while before I've got either the cash for a new bike, or the time to head out on a serious tour. At the moment I can do some light touring on my 80s road bike, but it's not cut out for heavy loaded tours, and the 12 speeds aren't what you'd want batting for you on any mountain passes. But what the heck, no harm in planning ahead.
I know a fair number of people who have crossed the US on Long Haul Truckers, and they rave about them. Because it seems to be the most popular bike, I feel like I can't go wrong with it, but at the same time I have to keep wondering if there's something else out there that would make more sense. To that end, I put together a list of things I want from a touring bike, hoping to get some more ideas about some of the other bikes that are out there. Realistically, I'm probably not going much above the 1000-1500 range but for the purpose of suggestions, assume money is no object.
-Obviously, comfortable no matter how many hours of the day I spend in the saddle.
-Connected to that, a fairly upright position, so that I can easily look around me to admire the scenery. That's why I'm touring - I don't just want to hunch like on my road bike all the time.
-I want the capability to handle dirt roads and 4x4 trails comfortably. No immediate off-road touring plans, but I'd like to have the flexibility to do that without getting a whole different bike.
-I'm not sure if disc or rim brakes would be the way to go, but I lean toward disc for the functionality in wet and dirty conditions (see above about ability to head off road) and the stopping power on a heavy loaded bike. I don't know much about disc brakes, but assuming repairing them is something I can learn to do, I don't see that being a problem - unless they are prone to need replacements that I wouldn't be able to get in the middle of nowhere.
-I've done a fair bit of backpacking and lightness is a big thing for me, so my gear loadout is getting progressively lighter. I don't anticipate having to carry too much weight even on a full-on tour, so the capacity to lug a huge amount of stuff is not a high priority. Still, the bike needs to handle well under a fair-sized load for obvious reasons.
-No particular preference on shifters, but I do hate downtube shifters.
-I assume any serious touring bike can take a front rack, even though I don't anticipate needing to use one (although I don't know how the best way to load a bike is - does it make more sense to divide the weight between front and back?)
-Also obviously, a wide gear range with some very low granny gears, for obvious reasons.
-I don't exactly know what distinguishes low, medium or high end components from each other, but durability is one thing that definitely matters. And I'd rather pay more up front for a bike than end up having to replace or upgrade a lot of the components.
-At some point in life I know I want to tour outside North America, and again would like to be able to do that without having to pick up a different bike, so compatibility with 26" wheels is fairly important.
-Finally, I'm not super bike savvy and as of now, am not capable of building up a bike from a frame (much less figuring out which components to use) and while that's a remote possibility, I'm also not that big on DIY and would rather just buy a stock bike where I have to replace a few parts at most, and can trust that it's otherwise ready for a tour when I roll it out of the store. I don't have to buy new, although I do like the idea of being able to test ride the bike first and have it properly fitted to me before buying. I do know I'll use a Brooks saddle, probably a B17 which I know I like, and would be ready to swap out tires and maybe pedals, but other than that I'd prefer to buy a ready-to-tour bike than make changes to it or build it myself.
Anyway, I'm hoping this list can guide people to some suggestions accompanied by comments on those bikes and why they might work for me...also hope the thread can be helpful to other touring noobs who might be reading. Thanks!