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  1. #1
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    Best Touring Bikes

    Hey guys,
    I am new to the thread and just wondering what your opinions were on the best touring bikes? My wife and i are getting into touring and looking to make the investment into a nice rig. We are wanting to make a trip to Europe next year. We are looking for bikes that will be able to pack 50lbs or so of gear one. Wanting something that has good gears for climbing long hills and good components as well. Our price range is 1500 or so a piece. Thanks for the help!

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    1500 gets you a lot of good, but nowhere near "best" touring bikes, perfectly adequate, and also capable of what you want to do. And there are a million threads. Bikes in that price range are normally quite similar, or the dissimilar aspects are pointless, say one brand of no-name skewers vs another. So the frame is a big part of it, and the frame fit. I have bought a few bikes sight unseen and it turned out badly.

    Early on you need to figure out how you are getting there and exactly how you will ship your stuff, this will have a big impact on your choice.

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    So far i have been interested in the surly lht, trek 520 and the maxis aura elite. Just curious what u guys think and what kind of rigs you are riding?

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    *Jamis Aurora Elite*

  5. #5
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    Best?

    Bruce Gordon, Co Motion ,
    Bike Friday.. different niche..406 wheels to pack small and fly places.

    I got a BF pocket Llama this spring,

    a Koga Miyata WTR a few years back .. a used buy,

    another way to get an equivalent rig thru The NL koga.com , factory, now,
    is their customer preference menu based Signature program,
    then they paint your name on it before sending to a
    [non US,sorry , .. ] dealer to pick up.
    http://www.koga-signature.com/nl/?utm_source=koga.com
    Europe delivery Option, Fly to AMS and take a bus to the seller when you arrive,
    it's a simple process.. A fly and drive for Bikes, instead of Volvos.
    .. just bring your pannier stuffings..

    They make a big wheel Folding Tandem, too..

    .. and Peter White in NH, Tout Terrain importer .. Silk Road..
    German Builder offers a frame set which has the Stainless Steel rack part of the frame.
    and wiring runs built in for dynohub based lighting.
    Last edited by fietsbob; 03-15-12 at 10:03 AM.

  6. #6
    Senior Member scoatw's Avatar
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    Co-Motion Americano- I don't have it, I just want one.

  7. #7
    Senior Member irwin7638's Avatar
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    I had an LHT for a while,

    but upgraded the frame to a Rivendell HUNQAPILLAR.

    It was well worth the money.

    Marc
    Read Simply Cycle

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  8. #8
    Senior Member Doug64's Avatar
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    There are several bikes in that price range. Make a list, and ride as many of them as you can. There are also many threads on this forum that discuss the merits of various bikes. Do a search on the bikes you might be interested in.
    A short list: Long Haul Trucker, Trek 520, Cannondale T2, Windsor Tourist, Bianchi Volpe, REI Ranonee, Soma Saga if you want to build it up, .................................

    Depending where you are going in Europe, get something with low gearing right from the start. With 50 lbs of gear I would just see "how low I could go".

    My wife and I did a 3 month European tour last summer, including Switzerland, and the Pyrenees. Contrary to a lot of opinions on this forum, I was very happy with my low gearing. FWIW, I have a LHT (built from the frame up) and my wife was riding a custom built Co-Motion.
    Last edited by Doug64; 03-14-12 at 08:34 PM.

  9. #9
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by idaho237 View Post
    Hey guys,
    I am new to the thread and just wondering what your opinions were on the best touring bikes? My wife and i are getting into touring and looking to make the investment into a nice rig. We are wanting to make a trip to Europe next year. We are looking for bikes that will be able to pack 50lbs or so of gear one. Wanting something that has good gears for climbing long hills and good components as well. Our price range is 1500 or so a piece. Thanks for the help!


    So far i have been interested in the surly lht, trek 520 and the maxis aura elite. Just curious what u guys think and what kind of rigs you are riding?
    I don't think there's one, single "best" touring bicycle.

    And, as mentioned before, $1500 doesn't go too far, but you could probably get an adequate frame, and build it up with some decent components. You might even have a look at your local OP shops and tips to see if you can find steel frames that would work for you, and then build them up with the components you want.

    Also, as Doug mentions, make a list of all the bicycles that fall within your price range, have a look at them, talk to the shop about changing the gearing out for something lower (mtn bike gearing, most likely), and see what appeals to you.


    As for what I am using ... I toured Australia for 3 months, and Europe twice, plus a whole bunch of shorter tours, with a Marinoni Ciclo. That's a sport touring bicycle, but it handled 50 lbs of gear quite well. Marinoni doesn't make the Ciclo anymore, but it makes a Sportive which is similar, and it makes a touring bicycle.

    My Marinoni was stolen a couple years ago, so now Rowan is building us a pair of Thorn Club Tours. Thorn is a British bicycle from SJS Cycles. Since you are going to Europe, one option might be to consider waiting till you get there and picking up a pair of Thorns ... but I suspect that might be over your $1500 budget.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Chris Pringle's Avatar
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    At your budget and given your plans to tour internationally, the Surly LHT "Deluxe" is possibly one of the best deals out there. The deluxe version comes w/ S&S couplers which you might want to consider if you're flying over the pond. This will allow you to break apart the frame into two pieces and pack your bike in a bag/box at the max. 62 linear inches (max. allowed luggage size) without any additional fees. Airlines are now charging up to $200 each way to fly with a normal size bike internationally. The frameset alone is about $1,000 (double the cost of their frameset without S&S couplers), but you should recover most of the additional cost in your first trip to Europe.

    The above is an American-designed frame manufactured in Taiwan.
    Last edited by Chris Pringle; 03-14-12 at 09:58 PM.

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    There isn't a best, there's the one that fits and rides the way you like. For 50lbs I'd be inclined towards 26" wheeled LHT but also I'd look to cutting 15lbs off that 50lbs.

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    Of the Jamis models, the basic Aurora has lower gear which you will need in mountainous areas.
    The Elite model has 30/40/50 which I found too high. Disc brakes are a big improvement over cantilevers in almost every way except weight and the Elite model has them nicely integrated with the luggage.
    I used that integrated brake/gear levers (Tiagra) on my last rebuild but I would be tempted by a switch to older, less convenient bar end levers to help with:
    Levers with longer cable pull.
    Compatibility with MTB front mechs for easier shifting and spares support.
    Better integration of bar bag and cable route.

    LHT is probably the benchmark US tourer and I would use that for comparison in terms of price/features.
    Does your wife need/want a step-through frame or lowered or sloping top tube?

    50lbs is about my solo expedition load. 2 people should be able to travel lighter and anything you forget can be purchased.

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    Well, if you are willing to up the price by 50%, you could cruise on over to Seattle (I'm assuming you are in Idaho) and get a custom tandem built for around $4500-5000, with S&S couplers, at R+E Cycles. After many years of touring on a pair of half-bikes, my spouse and I got our first tandem in '88. It was simply a game-changer. We could travel farther, faster, equalize fatigue (and thus crankiness), chat more and generally enjoy the ride much more than we ever did on singles. Also, the people we meet just seem to treat us better when we are on our tandem. I guess it is just unusual enough to be an ice-breaker (we do female captain, large male stoker).

    Good luck finding bikes that work well for you.

  14. #14
    Senior Member skilsaw's Avatar
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    Cannondale t2 and t1 are no longer being made.

    As for the Koga Miyata World Traveller mentioned previously, Fly to Amsterdam, pick up a bike for yourself, and tell your other half there is no money left in the bike budget. She will have to hitch hike.

    Phone around if you live in a city with lots of bike shops and ask what they have in touring bikes. Then get out and test ride them. One will feel just right.

    50 lbs each on a bike is a pretty major load. Are you taking camping equipment? If you are staying in B&Bs and 3 star hotels, you should be able to get by with 30 lbs each. Take "quick dry" clothing that you can wash in the sink in the evening.

    Get your gear, bikes, racks, panniers soon, and try some test rides and overnight tours close to home. It is nice to have the wrinkles ironed out before you leave home.
    The one who has the most bikes wins.

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    The best touring bike is the one you're riding out on the open road, exploring new areas, and having the time of your life ;-)
    1965 Moulton Speed 4, 1974 Fuji 12 speed, 1987 DB Ascent EX, 2006 Dahon Speed TR, 2009 Salsa Fargo, 2011 Gravity 29.4, 2011 Salsa Casseroll, 2012 Surly Moonlander

  16. #16
    Senior Member Aushiker's Avatar
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    Best? No idea, but I think the Surly Long Haul Trucker is reasonable value for money, well it is my neighboured anyway



    Andrew

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    Salsa Vaya is the best touring bike for me because that is what I have.
    I could tour on my CoMotion Speedster tandem if I changed the rims to a rim made for tandem touring.
    There are alot of options and the only way to get everything you want is probably to build one. Buying a complete bike you can get some nice bikes for the money you are looking at but you will probably want to change something on it.

  18. #18
    Senior Member tarwheel's Avatar
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    The best bike is the one that fits you best. There are significant differences in geometry among various touring models in your price range. If you don't know what size fits you best, I would recommend having a fitting done at a bike shop. Surly LHTs are often recommended on this forum, but their fit is all wrong for me as their head tubes are too short and top tubes too long. That doesn't mean they are bad bikes, just not right for me. For my purposes, a Soma Saga or Salsa Vaya fits much better and thus would be a better choice. Rivendells are also recommended a lot, but they have wide ranges between sizes and you would be poorly fit if you fall between those sizes; they also have extremely long top tubes.

  19. #19
    Senior Member Chris Pringle's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheHen View Post
    Well, if you are willing to up the price by 50%, you could cruise on over to Seattle (I'm assuming you are in Idaho) and get a custom tandem built for around $4500-5000, with S&S couplers, at R+E Cycles.
    +1 on R+E Cycles (Rodriguez Bikes) should you decide to go custom on singles or tandem.

  20. #20
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    My LHT handles a good deal of weight (rider and gear) terrifically. If I am not mistaken, the 520 comes with a 26 tooth small ring. If you will be travelling in hilly Europe with that much weight, you will probably want something smaller. You might even want mountain bike gearing. I spent 7 weeks riding in southern Spain on a Cannondale T700. I was glad I had MTB gearing.

  21. #21
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    You are approaching this all wrong. There is significant personal preference to handlebar type (drop or non-drop bars) and whether or not you use racks/panniers or trailers. Depending on which of these options you decide on, the list of bikes to look at gets much shorter. Assuming that you will not be using trailers if you are flying to another continent to tour, that means that you only have to decide on drop bars or non-drop bars before you start looking for the bike that means your requirements.

  22. #22
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by idaho237 View Post
    So far i have been interested in the surly lht, trek 520 and the maxis aura elite. Just curious what u guys think and what kind of rigs you are riding?
    Of the three, the LHT is the best. It's well designed, comes in small wheel versions for shorter riders, and the component mix on the LHT Complete is okay. Since Surly is part of Quality Bicycle Products (QBP), you should be able to get one from any bike shop that has a QBP account.

    Quote Originally Posted by Machka View Post
    And, as mentioned before, $1500 doesn't go too far, but you could probably get an adequate frame, and build it up with some decent components.
    Gonna have to disagree. The LHT complete is around $1300 without racks and bags. It doesn't have a fancy mix of components but they are adequate to the job. I'll agree that there are far better touring bikes around but for the price, the LHT is the best of the lot.
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  23. #23
    1. e4 Nf6 Alekhine's Avatar
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    For overseas travel, I'd recommend a Bike Friday folder with the touring suitcase that trails behind it on its own wheels. I have done tours with one both in and out of my own country without a hitch. Just pack it up, fly to your destination, unpack and reassemble, and you can be ready to go riding straight from the destination airport in minutes. Least hassle, I think. S&S couplers on more conventional frames are also very smart, but the Fridays are still easier. I'm not sure I've packed quite 50 lbs on it, having never weighed my gear, but it was able to handle quite a lot more than one would think, including my rather recklessly riding it on rocky dirt paths completely loaded for camping (and without the suitcase) when I lived in California and did day tours through wine country to Annadel Park and Armstrong Redwoods Forest, etc. I also did 500 miles through Thailand without the suitcase and loaded up with tent, panniers, etc. No problems at all. It's really a wonderful ride too, very comfortable if you ask for the handlebars to be made a little taller than the saddle.

    That said, it is not my preferred tourer for tours straight off my doorstep, where my custom beats it in every possible way. S&S might be the Goldilocks option between these two things.
    Last edited by Alekhine; 03-15-12 at 08:32 AM.
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  24. #24
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    +1. hard to make a break down bike travel case smaller than the wheels..
    that go in it.

    And 406 sized tires to find spares in weird places are easier to get than a 700c-35..

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    Quote Originally Posted by scoatw View Post
    Co-Motion Americano- I don't have it, I just want one.
    +1. 'bout wet myself when I saw a pic of one.

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