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First touring bike choice

Old 03-25-19, 10:27 AM
  #1  
xBloBx
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First touring bike choice

Hi guys,

I am new to bicycle touring and I am in the process of buying my first ever touring bike. I used to ride mountain bikes, I have been into motorcycle for the past 10 years (adventure, enduro and trials) and loved moto-camping.

After some changes in my life last year, I met someone who's into bicycle touring more than motorcycle. We are planing a 3 or 4 week adventure in Europe this summer. We are going to carry our camping stuff and hit the Eurovelo. We are not sure of where we will be heading as of now but we know it will be paved roads for the first experience. I think that we won't stick to paved roads forever though and may soon or later hit gravel roads or end up in less civilized countries someday.

I've done some researches and shopping in local shops around town (I'm trying to buy local and some popular bikes aren't available here). So far I'm considering the following bikes:

Specialized AWOL expert (sells for $3500 CAD but I have a deal on a 2018 model for $2300 CAD).
Salsa Marrakesh (2018 model which comes with a Brooks saddle for $1900 CAD).
Bombtrack Arise Tour ($2575 CAD).

I've read reviews for the Specialized and the Salsa but found very little information about the Bombtrack.

I'd go with a full steel bike so I am not putting the new Trek 520 in my list because it now comes with an alloy fork. I am not sure how a deal breaker it is but I've read that full steel bikes are ideal.

I'd like your inputs for these models for a beginner's bike. I know I can get a better bike by buying a frameset and building a custom bike around it but I think I need to experience the sport first. A custom build is a headache for me at this moment because I have no experience at all! I kind of like the Specialized and Bombtrack because they are well equipped out of the shelf and they come with a dynamo installed (I like gadgets but heard that it's awesome and lot of riders are now upgrading their bike with them).

Is the gearing on the Specialized an issue?
Does a 32 spoke wheel enough or 36 is necessary?
Do bar end shifters a must have or a requirement?
Do I need a Brooks saddle?
Do all of these bikes allows for wider tires if needed?

Finally, does any of these bikes doesn't deserve it's place on this list?

Thanks guys for your input!

Last edited by xBloBx; 03-25-19 at 12:25 PM.
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Old 03-25-19, 10:46 AM
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If you live near an REI store I'd put this on your list:

https://www.rei.com/product/122462/c...es-adv-11-bike

That Bombtrack comes with $200 worth Tubus racks and $150 dynamo hub, so factor that into the price.
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Old 03-25-19, 12:34 PM
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Any of those will work well, although I'd drop down to a bit smaller tire size on all of them for a road tour. Pick the one that fits the best, or if they all fit well, pick the best deal.

That said I've always personally liked the Marrakesh.
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Old 03-25-19, 01:19 PM
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Easy to deal with getting through airports is the Bike Friday touring bikes .. 20" wheels

a 32 spoke 406 wheel set is what I have on mine ...
and a mix of folding and removable parts lets it fit in a suitcase,


and they supply that case with a trailer kit , to load your gear in there and tow the case behind you and or panniers..

a wide choice of component parts can be specified. for the build..





....
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Old 03-25-19, 04:44 PM
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If you are in Montreal, I recommend La Cordee Boutique on St Laurent, its a great store with a fairly good range of touring bikes.
Basically, for any of the really good touring bikes as is (stock touring bikes are perfectly good) like Surly LHT, Trek 520, Salsa Marrakesh, Kona Sutra, you're looking at about 1500-2000.
The big thing is that with true touring bikes, the gearing will be appropriate for carrying panniers, the bikes are tough and work well with panniers, including the wheelsets, and if you take care of your bike and decide you dont like touring, they are fairly easy to sell at a good price, so you won't loose much for a years use of bike lets say. Some one will always be happy to save lets say 4, 500 bucks on a 2000-2500 new bike purchase, especially if the bike is in good shape.

in the end, it comes down to how much you have to spend. You can use a cheaper bike, especially for a flat Eurovelo trip, but its always been the same, a good , made for touring bike will work best, be well made for this, and have great resale value.

sure, I can ride across Canada on KL250, or do track days on a crappy old sport bike, and still have fun, so there is no absolute black and white answer here.
(yes, an old motorcyclist)
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Old 03-25-19, 07:23 PM
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Look into the Kona Sutra. All steel with a Brooks B-17, rear rack and fenders for $1500 new. Got mine last year and love it.
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Old 03-25-19, 07:33 PM
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If I were in the market for a new touring bike, this would be the one:

https://www.mec.ca/en/product/5058-401/National-Bicycle

Reynolds 520 steel frame and fork, Deore touring groupset, TRP Spyre disc brakes, Brooks B17 saddle, bar end shifters. It even have two extra spokes mounted to the chainstay. Frame pump peg. 3 bottle mounts. I honestly could not spec out a touring bike any better. Whoever designed it has done some serious touring.

And the price? $1600.00. I paid $2600 for my Marinoni and I think I would prefer this National.
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Old 03-25-19, 07:59 PM
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Originally Posted by hhk25 View Post
If I were in the market for a new touring bike, this would be the one:

https://www.mec.ca/en/product/5058-401/National-Bicycle

Reynolds 520 steel frame and fork, Deore touring groupset, TRP Spyre disc brakes, Brooks B17 saddle, bar end shifters. It even have two extra spokes mounted to the chainstay. Frame pump peg. 3 bottle mounts. I honestly could not spec out a touring bike any better. Whoever designed it has done some serious touring.

And the price? $1600.00. I paid $2600 for my Marinoni and I think I would prefer this National.
They finally got the memo about putting a proper touring crank on it, I'm very surprised they didn't put a 12-34 or 11-36, saved a bit of coin I'm sure, but it's a nice bike though.
They had a 50/39/30 on it for the first years, tiagra 10 speed, and you couldn't change the 30.

The sutra is still a great option

Last edited by djb; 03-25-19 at 08:02 PM.
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Old 03-25-19, 08:57 PM
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Hmmm.... summer will come awfully quickly. Especially if you are starting from zero.

I'd say that if you haven't been riding much, hop on Craigslist/Kijiji, and find a basic steel vintage bike to try as a commuter. Start seeing what you like and don't like. Find a saddle that you like, handleabars you like, etc.

If you'll be mainly on roads, you don't need a super rough road bike.

I've carried loads on bikes with even less spokes, but I'd probably choose 36 rear, and either 32 or 36 front, but would also accept what comes.

Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
Easy to deal with getting through airports is the Bike Friday touring bikes .. 20" wheels....
Another option is to hunt for a coupled bike. S&S Couplers are the most popular.

Although the folders would be better for trains.

One could save some major hassles if one could find a good used one.

Oh, is the start and end spots the same? Any place to store your extra luggage?

Hmmm....
https://www.ebay.com/itm/Rodriguez-T...m/292947629557

https://www.ebay.com/itm/Waterford-1...s/123689472197

https://eugene.craigslist.org/bik/d/...832910172.html

Try to get one with a suitcase (easier to ship, and they aren't cheap).

Of course, going used, you may not get the fancy disc brakes, but should get some good trustworthy rim brakes.

Ideally, a coupled bike could save you several hundred in shipping, and might make up some of the difference in cost for a single trip. If you do this regularly, then over the years, it will return on the investment.
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Old 03-25-19, 09:01 PM
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I do like ogling bikes online, but nothing beats actually walking into a bike shop and looking at bikes, touching, test riding, talking to people, etc.

Especially if you don't have the time or ambition to do a lot of building, testing, and customizing yourself.
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Old 03-25-19, 11:34 PM
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Originally Posted by xBloBx View Post
Hi guys,

I am new to bicycle touring and I am in the process of buying my first ever touring bike. I used to ride mountain bikes, I have been into motorcycle for the past 10 years (adventure, enduro and trials) and loved moto-camping.

Finally, does any of these bikes doesn't deserve it's place on this list?

Thanks guys for your input!
These are some serious bikes. You mention beginner bikes, and these are proven solid performers. I do not think you would go wrong with any of these. At this point you need to try them and see which one fits you best.
A comfortable cheap bike will take you a lot further than an uncomfortable expensive bike.
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Old 03-26-19, 03:41 AM
  #12  
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Originally Posted by djb View Post
They finally got the memo about putting a proper touring crank on it, I'm very surprised they didn't put a 12-34 or 11-36, saved a bit of coin I'm sure, but it's a nice bike though.
They had a 50/39/30 on it for the first years, tiagra 10 speed, and you couldn't change the 30.

The sutra is still a great option
I should point out, the MEC National is 1600CAD. That's 1200USD. Insane deal IMO.
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Old 03-26-19, 07:07 AM
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Thanks guys for all these very informative replies! I live in Quebec City so I do have access to La Cordée and MEC and some smaller shops.

The Kona Sutra was an option but it is the same price as the Specialized AWOL expert 2018 and does not come with all the equipment.

I can't find a place that sells Marinoni nearby so I would not be able to test ride it before purchasing.

The MEC National looks like a solid option but my local MEC doesn't have it in stock, I will visit them and ask if they can transfer one... who knows?!

I'm gonna try to test ride the Specialized AWOL expert and the Salsa Marrakesh since they have them in demonstration. I'll look into the MEC National if they can have one.

Finally, I found a pretty decent deal on Kijiji for a Trek 520 disc 2017. It comes equipped with 4 Vaude waterproof panniers and racks, mud guards, bottle cages, etc. The guy says it has only 500km on it and it sells for CAD $2000, which is USD $1500.
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Old 03-26-19, 07:47 AM
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That Trek is way overpriced for a used bike and I think he's got his sizing wrong. 57cm is big for someone 5'10". La Cordee was selling the bike for $1399.99: https://www.lacordee.com/en/cycling/...8-touring-bike

Whatever bike you buy, make sure it fits you! That's the advantage of buying from a shop. They will fit you.
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Old 03-26-19, 08:00 AM
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Originally Posted by hhk25 View Post
That Trek is way overpriced for a used bike and I think he's got his sizing wrong. 57cm is big for someone 5'10". La Cordee was selling the bike for $1399.99: https://www.lacordee.com/en/cycling/...8-touring-bike

Whatever bike you buy, make sure it fits you! That's the advantage of buying from a shop. They will fit you.
I am about 5'10"+ and I generally ride M frames, and one of them is a 54cm--but I probably have longer legs than torso, so a 57 miiiiiight be ok, but stem changes can make a big difference.

As this guy says, going to different stores and getting actual test rides and or sitting on bikes in store re fit, is super important ESPECIALLY if you aren't a regular rider and really know what works for you.

I highly suggest riding lots of diff bikes at diff stores, and getting the "sizing opinion" quick "fit" from different stores, so you can get an idea of what works--this is the danger of buying used, if you don't have the experience. (also of course, mechanical issues you might miss, just like buying a used motorcycle if you arent an experienced rider)
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Old 03-26-19, 08:03 AM
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Originally Posted by hhk25 View Post
I should point out, the MEC National is 1600CAD. That's 1200USD. Insane deal IMO.
around here, this is the average price for a really good touring bike, most are in this price range more or less and has been for quite a while.
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Old 03-28-19, 06:50 PM
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Originally Posted by xBloBx View Post

Here are my answers to your questions.

Is the gearing on the Specialized an issue? Not familiar with this bike, so I'll let others help with this.
Does a 32 spoke wheel enough or 36 is necessary? 32 spoke wheels are fairly common. I have two touring bikes, one with 32 spoke wheels and one with 36 spokes. I've never had a problem with either, but I use the 32 spoke bike on shorter tours and the 36 on longer ones. I prefer the 36 spoke wheels in general.
Do bar end shifters a must have or a requirement? Not really. Many people tour without bar end shifters. I've toured with both bar ends and brifters. However, I have never had any problem with my bar end shifters, but my brifters have stopped functioning in the middle of a ride. Bar end shifters have a reputation as more durable and easier to fix if you do have a problem. That's my reason for using them.
Do I need a Brooks saddle? I've toured for nearly forty years and used a variety of saddles during that time and suffered through saddle soreness and other discomforts which detracted from my tour. About fifteen years ago I switched to a Brooks. Since making the switch, any issues I had with soreness and such have entirely evaporated. This was literally right out of the box. I didn't even experience any of the break-in discomfort many new Brooks users complain about. Brooks saddles aren't for everyone, but they sure worked for me and now I have them on all my bikes but one (the lightweight road bike. I use Brooks saddles with springs and while they're comfortable, they aren't light.)
Do all of these bikes allows for wider tires if needed? Once again, I'll let others address this. However, I tour almost exclusively on pavement and am quite pleased with 32's on my 2006 Trek 520 and my Bianchi Volpe.

Finally, does any of these bikes doesn't deserve it's place on this list?

Thanks guys for your input!
**
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Old 03-28-19, 07:22 PM
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i tour and I know people that do, unless your doing expedition type of touring don't spend a lot of money because touring bikes do take a beating and you dont want a nice paint job on an expensive one to get tore up. Of the choices you gave I like the Salsa, if you haven't already done so read about the rear dropout, it's extremely adaptable to whatever you want to do to the bike unlike any other dropout on the market. And that dropout that Salsa makes is forged which means it can take a major beating. that Salsa would be my number one choice and perhaps tied with the Masi Giramondo 27.5 or the 700c depending on the type of touring you want to do and depending if you don't need the fancy dropout. The Masi will even beat the other two you mentioned.

https://masibikes.com/collections/adventure
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Old 03-31-19, 01:08 PM
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I just brought home the salsa Marrakesh. It's a great ride. One small issue though - it doesn't take fenders easily from what I've been told. In the US the Kona Sutra and Marrakesh are the same price, but the Kona comes with fenders as well as a nicer rack. I went with the Marrakesh for two reasons: i was able to find one in my size to ride before buying and the 2019 Kona color is... not for me. 2018 was beautiful tho.
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Old 03-31-19, 01:59 PM
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Originally Posted by cobalt123 View Post
I just brought home the salsa Marrakesh. It's a great ride. One small issue though - it doesn't take fenders easily from what I've been told. In the US the Kona Sutra and Marrakesh are the same price, but the Kona comes with fenders as well as a nicer rack. I went with the Marrakesh for two reasons: i was able to find one in my size to ride before buying and the 2019 Kona color is... not for me. 2018 was beautiful tho.
I think you got the best touring bike for the money quite honestly, and it looks really nice; all you need to do is find fenders of some sort that will work, you may not, I'm not saying you won't because I don't know what's out there for that bike, but you may not be able to find full coverage fenders but they make a slew of various types of partial coverage that will protect your backside and most of the bike. But first exhaust all sources for full coverage then work your way down from there, you could try calling, or email, Salsa and ask them what they recommend.

Rack wise there is only one brand of rack I would recommend and that's Tubus (they have several models just fine the one that suits your needs and budget the best), but I think Salsa makes a rack just for that bike but if the Salsa is aluminum I prefer stainless steel because it holds up far better and it's stiffer which due to that stiffness actually stiffens up the rear triangle a tad, again another question to ask when you ask about fenders.

If you don't have Panniers already there are several good ones, including Ortlieb Back Roller Classic, Axiom Monsoon 45's or the Hydrocore 45+, Arkel Orca, and Vaude Aqua Deluxe. You won't go wrong with any of those, just pick the one that you like for your needs and budget. Handlebar bags it's difficult to beat the Topeak Tourguide DX and the Vaude Road 1 Bike are really the ones worth to consider, both have map holders; the Topeak isn't water proof however, but it comes with a rain fly which sort of makes it water proof, but I sprayed mine with Scotch Gard Outdoor Water Shield because this spray works best for nylon, I also sprayed the rain fly with it; but the Vaude is a smaller bag which is why I didn't get it but if you don't want a large handlebar bag this is a killer bag though expensive.

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Old 03-31-19, 03:25 PM
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Fellow motorcyclist and former mountain biker here...welcome! After years off of bicycles, I'm back, and just like you, thanks to a girl lol.

A big difference between motorcycles and bicycles is that fit is much more critical in bicycles. On a motorcycle, the bars can be an inch farther and lower than you are used to or the footpegs can be a smidge higher than your previous bike and unless you are at the limits of your ergonomic sweet spot you can usually handle the change. On a bicycle, especially one that you plan on pedaling on for hours a day, changes as small as 0.25" can have a big difference in comfort. If it's possible, sample all the bikes you are considering; you'll be amazed at how different seemingly similar bikes feel.

If you were comfortable on your mountain bike - particularly if you did big days on it, try to get the critical bike fit measures from that bike as a starting point to finding your touring bike. I'd start with seat tube tube length, effective top-tube length, and stem length (or effective top-tube + stem for effective reach to the bars). For a touring bike, you'll want less reach to the bars for a more upright all-day comfy riding position.

Sample some bikes locally and note the key measurements on the bikes that seem to fit best. And if you can't find the bike you want locally, remember those measurements are you widen your search.

My local bike shop closed recently, so I ended up shopping online, using the geometry of the most comfy bike I've owned as my baseline for comparison. I made a spreadsheet with critical dimensions and found a bike that had everything I wanted at a screaming bargain price (Cinelli Hobootleg with Tubus front/rear racks for $999) so I got it. Haven't done big days or trips with it yet but so far the fit feels great and the tires are wide enough to handle some gravel/dirt but perhaps not best for double/single track.
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Old 04-01-19, 11:34 AM
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Thanks guys for all your inputs!

I've been to my local MEC to see the National and to be honest, even though the bike looks good, it was a horrible experience. I didn't have the chance to chat with knowledgeable tech there. I tried going a second time to talk to a different salesperson and it was painful. The waiting time to get to talk to someone was absurdly long, they don't know their product. The mechanic at the two local stores I've visited were awesome and knew what they are talking about. In the end, I realize that having good service is very important when you are buying your first touring bike. I am able to do researches online and am very curious, I can do lot of things by myself and a bicycle is less complicated than a motorcycle but it is also very different.

Originally Posted by john m flores View Post
Fellow motorcyclist and former mountain biker here...welcome! After years off of bicycles, I'm back, and just like you, thanks to a girl lol.

A big difference between motorcycles and bicycles is that fit is much more critical in bicycles. On a motorcycle, the bars can be an inch farther and lower than you are used to or the footpegs can be a smidge higher than your previous bike and unless you are at the limits of your ergonomic sweet spot you can usually handle the change. On a bicycle, especially one that you plan on pedaling on for hours a day, changes as small as 0.25" can have a big difference in comfort. If it's possible, sample all the bikes you are considering; you'll be amazed at how different seemingly similar bikes feel.

If you were comfortable on your mountain bike - particularly if you did big days on it, try to get the critical bike fit measures from that bike as a starting point to finding your touring bike. I'd start with seat tube tube length, effective top-tube length, and stem length (or effective top-tube + stem for effective reach to the bars). For a touring bike, you'll want less reach to the bars for a more upright all-day comfy riding position.

Sample some bikes locally and note the key measurements on the bikes that seem to fit best. And if you can't find the bike you want locally, remember those measurements are you widen your search.

My local bike shop closed recently, so I ended up shopping online, using the geometry of the most comfy bike I've owned as my baseline for comparison. I made a spreadsheet with critical dimensions and found a bike that had everything I wanted at a screaming bargain price (Cinelli Hobootleg with Tubus front/rear racks for $999) so I got it. Haven't done big days or trips with it yet but so far the fit feels great and the tires are wide enough to handle some gravel/dirt but perhaps not best for double/single track.
I took your recommendations and looked at availability in local stores and so far I've narrowed my choices to:
  1. Salsa Marrakesh 2018 (looks to be the best option so far, I will test ride it next weekend)
  2. Specialized Awol Expert (not sure about Tiagra, front rack and few other things)
  3. Cinelli Hobootleg (not sure about geometry but definitely need to test ride it. It looks a bit agressive)
I'll keep you posted guys, thanks for your thoughts.
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Old 04-01-19, 02:10 PM
  #23  
greatscott
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Originally Posted by john m flores View Post
Fellow motorcyclist and former mountain biker here...welcome! After years off of bicycles, I'm back, and just like you, thanks to a girl lol.

A big difference between motorcycles and bicycles is that fit is much more critical in bicycles. On a motorcycle, the bars can be an inch farther and lower than you are used to or the footpegs can be a smidge higher than your previous bike and unless you are at the limits of your ergonomic sweet spot you can usually handle the change. On a bicycle, especially one that you plan on pedaling on for hours a day, changes as small as 0.25" can have a big difference in comfort. If it's possible, sample all the bikes you are considering; you'll be amazed at how different seemingly similar bikes feel.

If you were comfortable on your mountain bike - particularly if you did big days on it, try to get the critical bike fit measures from that bike as a starting point to finding your touring bike. I'd start with seat tube tube length, effective top-tube length, and stem length (or effective top-tube + stem for effective reach to the bars). For a touring bike, you'll want less reach to the bars for a more upright all-day comfy riding position.

Sample some bikes locally and note the key measurements on the bikes that seem to fit best. And if you can't find the bike you want locally, remember those measurements are you widen your search.

My local bike shop closed recently, so I ended up shopping online, using the geometry of the most comfy bike I've owned as my baseline for comparison. I made a spreadsheet with critical dimensions and found a bike that had everything I wanted at a screaming bargain price (Cinelli Hobootleg with Tubus front/rear racks for $999) so I got it. Haven't done big days or trips with it yet but so far the fit feels great and the tires are wide enough to handle some gravel/dirt but perhaps not best for double/single track.
That Cinelli is a nice bike, congrats on getting it and getting a good price. My only fault with it is that it didn't come with water bottle bosses on the fork, but for some people that's not necessary, I have a bit of OCD in making sure I carry enough water at all times, of course I live in California and go into New Mexico, Arizona and Nevada so the heat always concerns me about having enough water, plus a lot of things I cook use water, so along with 5 water bottles on the bike, I have an additional throwaway plastic one in the front handlebar bag. All my water bottles are stainless too otherwise my water will start to boil in plastic bottles, well ok probably not boil but far too hot to want to drink out of it.
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