Feeling the call of the open road? Here are the bikes that'll take you there
  • Bikes for the long haul, touring bikes are stable when loaded up so you can pack gear for a weekend or more of independent back-roads riding.

  • Powerful brakes, upright riding position and tough wheels and frame make tourers good round-town bikes too.

  • Traditional British touring bikes and new-generation adventure bikes blur into each other; like many bike classifications, it's a spectrum not a bucket.

  • A touring bike will hold its own just fine on a Sunday club run too.

Load up and head for the hills. A touring bike gives you the freedom of self-contained travel under your own steam, carrying whatever you need, from a change of clothes to a full set of camping gear. It's a category that has become blurred in recent years as sportive bikes have met cyclocross bikes and birthed adventure bikes capable of filling the role of the classic touring bikes. Hearing the call of the open road? Let's look at your options.

The classic touring bike is beefed up old-style road bike, tweaking for load-carrying stability. These bikes feature cantilever brakes for stopping power, massive gear ranges with very low ratios, long wheelbases for stability, mounts for pannier racks and mudguards, a more upright riding position and steady handling.

Long Haul Trucking in Switzerland - CC-BY-NC 2.0 chrisbwah:Flickr

Long Haul Trucking in Switzerland - CC-BY-NC 2.0 chrisbwah:Flickr

If you're used to close-coupled road bikes the feature of a touring bike you might notice first is the big gap between rear wheel and seat tube. That's a function of the bike's long chainstays which do two things. They allow panniers to be mounted further back for heel clearance while at the same time putting the weight over the tyre contact point so the back end doesn't wag.

When it comes to frame materials, steel is still real for touring bikes. Cycle tourists like its springy resilience, and expedition riders heading for less civilised spots like the way it can be repaired by any village mechanic with a welding torch.

But there are now aluminium-framed touring bikes that take advantage of the rigidity that comes from the over-sized tubing necessary to build in aluminium. We're not aware of any dedicated touring bikes in carbon fibre, but trips like Mike Hall's 2012 round the world record show it's more than reliable enough. Strap a set of Thule Pack 'n' Pedal racks on a carbon cyclo-cross or adventure bike and you'd have a pretty damn good tourer. Just make sure it has long chainstays.

Cycling up the Serra da Leba road Angola - CC-BY-NC 2.0 jbdodane:Flickr

Standard road bike framess are short on add-on features; touring bikes can have lots. You'll find extras like a third set of water bottle bosses under the down tube; a peg for a full-length pump; fork bosses for a low-rider rack; fittings for dynamo wiring; and even a mount for spare spokes.

Where components on road bikes are chosen for low weight and aerodynamics, the vital criteria on touring bikes are strength and reliability. Wheels will have at least 32 spokes, often 36 or even more, and be built on wide, beefy rims. You'll find 32mm tyres to cope with the loads, and many modern touring bikes will take even wider rubber.

For other components, touring bikes often borrow from mountain bikes. Triple chainsets give 27 and 30 gears, though it's not the number that matters but the range. A 28/36 low gear is not unusual, and the latest super-wide mountain bike sprocket cassettes offer the possibility of even lower gears.

Cantilever brakes are traditional, but discs are becoming more and more common for all the same reasons they took over on mountain bikes: greater stopping power and all-weather reliability. An extra advantage of discs for long-distance tourers is that they don't wear the rims, and a minor ding leaves the brake still working and the wheel turning.

Touring Scotland - CC-BY-NC 2.0 Geraint Rowland:Flickr

Because the riding position is more upright than that of a race-style road bike, touring bikes tend to have wider, more supportive saddles. Cycletourists swear by Brooks leather saddles for their durability, comfort and ability to hold a saddle bag for extra luggage capacity.

Speaking of luggage, you'll need a rack to carry panniers, and the sturdier it is the better. The best racks are made from tubular steel or aluminium for light weight and rigidity; good rear racks have some sort of triangulated bracing to stop them from swaying from side to side.

Panniers carried on a low-rider front rack have far less effect on the bike's handling than bags at the top of the wheel. If you want to travel light, packing front panniers on a low-rider is an often-overlooked option. In the 1980s adventurer Nick Sanders rode round the world on a bike with just front panniers, albeit fairly large ones.

In the selection below we've homed in on bikes specifically billed as touring machines. But in reality you can tour on almost anything. Lots of riders like mountain bikes or hybrids for their more upright riding position. If you travel light you can strap enough gear to a road bike, sportive bike or cyclo-cross bike to get you from one hotel to another, or you can go with a BOB trailer or similar on any sort of bike, as long as you have the gears to tow it up hills.

Ridgeback Tour — £549.99

2019 Ridgeback Tour

They need to be robust and reliable, so touring bikes don't come cheap, but at this special offer price the Ridgeback Tour is very good value for money. Its aluminium frame has the obligatory rack and mudguard mounts, and there's even a pump peg on the left-hand seat stay so you can carry a proper pump without it getting in the way. With a triple chainset, rack, mudguards and cantilever brakes it's very much a classic traditional tourer.

Find a Ridgeback dealer

Dawes Galaxy — £650

2018 Dawes Galaxy.jpg

For decades Dawes was synonymous with touring bikes, especially its Galaxy and Super Galaxy models. This is the entry-level Dawes tourer and comes with wide-range gearing, mudguards and a rack and Schwalbe's almost puncture-proof Marathon tyres.

Find a Dawes dealer

Ridgeback Expedition — £745

2019 Ridgeback Expedition

Most touring bikes have 700C wheels, but for sheer robustness the original mountain bike 26-inch size is hard to beat. The smaller wheels are stronger and allow for fat tyres like the 47mm Schwalbe Marathon Reflexes fitted here.

The Reynolds 520 butted chromoly frame has fittings for a low-rider front rack, and a third bottle cage. There's even a pump peg behind the head tube.

In 2017, Ridgeback upgraded the brakes to disks and switched to a flat handlebar, making this very much a mountain bike-style tourer. Low-gear fans will be pleased to see a 36-tooth largest sprocket.

Find a Ridgeback dealer

Temple Cycles Adventure Tour — £995

Temple Cycles Adventure Tour

From Bristol builder Temple Cycles, the Adventure Tour recalls a bike category that was common back in the 70s and 80s, but has almost vanished, the 'fast tourer'. These were bikes with lightweight frames and caliper brakes, intended as all-round road bikes for the Sunday club ride, evening training, riding to work and the odd weekend away. Without the beef for mega loads and months-long expeditions, fast tourers were still sprightly when unladen, which helped make them versatile.

Temple Cycles Tom Wood says the Adventure Tour has 'fast tourer' roots, but "can also handle longer adventures. We've got quite a few customers currently summer touring across Europe, so it sits somewhere between the Dawes Galaxy and the Surly LHT on the list."

The Adventure Tour comes with an eclectic mix of components including a triple chainset and a mix of Shimano Sora and Deore components that allows a 26/36 low gear.

Surly Disc Trucker — £1,600

Surly Disc Trucker

This is the disc-braked version of Surly's beloved Long Haul Trucker, the bike that helped revive interest in touring bikes in the US. Surly didn't mess about in designing the Truckers as dedicated touring bike. For example, the Disc Trucker has the longest chainstays of any bike here designed for standard 700C tyres — only the Trek 920's are longer. That's a sign of a bike whose main job is to carry stuff stably, with speed less of a priority.

The double-butted chromoly frame is hung with an eminently sensible, reliable selection of parts including an old-school five-arm triple chainset, Tektro cantis and Shimano derailleurs.

You don't get racks and mudguards, but that means you can choose your own; the price is reasonable for a bike with this spec without them.

Read our review of the Surly Disc Trucker.

Pashley Pathfinder Trail — £1,495


Old meets new with a twist of hub gearing here. The frame is made in England from Reynolds 531 and 631 tubing, but rather than the cantilever brakes and derailleur gears you might expect from a UK-made traditional touring bike, you find a combination of TRP Spyre cable discs and Shimano's eight-speed Alfine hub gear.

Find a Pashley dealer

Cinelli Hobo Bootleg — £1,400

2019 Cinelli Hobootleg

Italy's not a country you associate with touring bikes, but riders who have Cinelli's Hobo Bootleg fast tourers, made from rust-proofed Columbus Cromor steel tubing swear by them.

The Hobo will take 40mm tyres with mudguards, though they're not supplied. You do get racks, including a low-rider up front and like many manufacturers Cinelli has gone with bar-end shifters for middle-of-nowhere reliability.

Limited sizes of the 2018 version are still available for a mere £1,000.

Find a Cinelli dealer

Thorn Club Tour Mk4 — from £1,528

Thorn Club Tour

The bike brand of Somerset touring and tandem specialist SJS Cycles, Thorn is a highly-regarded maker of semi-custom tourers. The frames aren't made-to-measure, but you have a vast range of options in every aspect of the spec.

The Club Tour Mk4 has a Reynolds 725 heat-teated chromoly steel frame that's available in two top tube lengths for each of its four sizes and three fork options. Thorn's brochure is well worth printing out and digesting if you're thinking of buying any sort of touring bike — there a wealth of wisdom and experience there.

The Club Tour will take tyres up to 40mm and is available with cantilevers or disc brakes.

Trek 920 — £1,300


Trek's first model was the steel-framed 520 touring bike, the descendant of which is still available. The 920 is as far from that style of bike as it's possible to get and still call it a touring bike.

This is a bike intended to take you anywhere it's feasible to ride a laden bike, with fat, knobby 2.0in 29er mountain bike tyres, a low-ratio double chainset, hydraulic disc brakes and SRAM mountain bike derailleurs with bar-end shifters.

You also get Bontrager tubular aluminium racks, but unlike almost every other bike here it doesn't come with mudguards. Trek obviously sees you taking off on muddy trails where guards might just clog up, but there's room for guards if you're sticking to dirt roads and less gloopy trails.

Find a Trek dealer

Dawes Ultra Galaxy — £1,400

2018 dawes ultra galaxy.jpg

The quintessential off-the-peg British touring bike has a top-class frame made from Reynolds 631 steel tubing and a well-thought-out spec.

Component highlights include puncture-resistant Schwalbe Marathon tyres, SKS chromoplastic mudguards and a transmission based around robust Shimano mountain bike components.

Read our review of the 2012 Dawes Super Galaxy
Find a Dawes dealer

Genesis Tour de Fer 30 — £1,800

2018 genesis tour de fer 30.jpg

The top model in Genesis's touring range — which starts with the £1.200 Tour de Fer 10 — this is a fully-equipped, thoroughly modern touring bike. The frame is made from heat-treated Reynolds 725 chromoly tubing, and it's fully detailed: rack and mudguard mounts, obviously, plus a third water bottle, carriers for spare spokes and even a pump peg behind the head tube.

Every one of those extra braze-ons comes equipped, and there's a Busch and Müller lighting set, powered by an SP PD-8 hub dynamo. It's a heck of a package.

Find a Genesis dealer

Stanforth Conway — from £2,945

Stanforth Conway

Simon Stanforth was inspired to start a company specialising in expedition touring bikes by Richard and Nicholas Crane's 1985 bicycle ascent of Kilimanjaro. Designed for "touring at pace", the Conway is Stanforth's collaboration with adventurer Sean Conway. This is the bike Conway rode to set a record for the fastest crossing of Europe: 3,980 miles from Cabo da Roca in Portugal to Ufa, Russia in 24 days, 18 hours and 39 minutes.

The Conway is fillet-brazed from Reynolds 853 tubing, uses a mixture of Shimano 105 and Ultegra in the transmission and TRP SPyre disc brakes, and a host of options are available to customise it to your needs. With the Tubus racks and SKS mudguards show above it's £2,990.

Orbit Velocity Tour tandem — £2,800


The great advantage of a tandem for touring is that two riders can travel together without any problems arising from one being faster or slower than the other. Based on the same frame as the Velocity Sport we tested in early 2018, the Velocity Tour gets a full suite of touring gear, including wide-range gearing (you simply cannot have too low a bottom gear on a tandem), top-quality Tubus racks and Brooks leather saddles.

Read our review of the Orbit Velocity Sport

About road.cc Buyer's Guides

The aim of road.cc buyer's guides is to give you the most, authoritative, objective and up-to-date buying advice. We continuously update and republish our guides, checking prices, availability and looking for the best deals.

Our guides include links to websites where you can buy the featured products. Like most sites we make a small amount of money if you buy something after clicking on one of those links. We want you to be happy with what you buy, so we only include a product in a if we think it's one of the best of its kind.

As far as possible that means recommending equipment that we have actually reviewed, but we also include products that are popular, highly-regarded benchmarks in their categories.

Here's some more information on how road.cc makes money.

You can also find further guides on our sister sites off.road.cc and ebiketips.

Road.cc buyer's guides are maintained and updated by John Stevenson. Email John with comments, corrections or queries.

Acknowledged by the Telegraph as a leading cycling journalist, John Stevenson has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.

He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.

Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc editor Tony Farelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.

John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.

He joined road.cc in 2013 and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.


BehindTheBikesheds [3322 posts] 2 years ago
1 like

The Roux etape 250 with cr-mo frame is a much better bet than the etape 150 (you reveiwed the same 250 4 years ago http://road.cc/content/review/82472-roux-etape-250-2013 ), currently just over £500 from Edinburgh cycles & Tredz and you can get topcashback also.

casualrider1990 [1 post] 1 year ago

Cotic Escapade, Marin 4 Corners, Pinnacle Dacite, Fuji Touring, Cinelli Gazzetta Della Strada, Tifosi Classico, Jamis Aurora

max.spicer [1 post] 1 year ago

I'd suggest that Spa Cycles Tourer should be on this list too. My wife has just bought one after looking at Ridgeback and the Long Haul Trucker and she's been very pleased with both the bike and the advice and service she got from Spa. The nice thing about this bike is that there are so many options for customising it - basically chose any component you want to change from  the base spec.

Review from Cycle Magazine here: http://www.spacycles.co.uk/info/SteelTourerCycle.pdf

Note, I have no affiliation with Spa Cycles whatsoever - just a happy customer.

oxford_guy [11 posts] 1 year ago
1 like

Am surprised that the Hewitt Cheviot and/or Hewitt Cheviot SE have not been mentioned. I've had my Cheviot SE for almost 10 years now, and have used it for many cycle tours, as well as daily commuting and long weekend rides. It's a joy to ride, I've had no problems with it (other than general maintenance, new cassettes, chains, tyres etc.) and the paint job still looks great.

Also worth nothing, that you get a proper bike fit (on an adjustable jig) when going there to order the bike, and having everything correctly sized for you makes a bike difference to long distance comfort.

You can also ask for changes to spec (such as adding a hub dynamo, which I did) when you order.



Road CC even gave it a very postive review 4 years ago: https://road.cc/content/review/121595-hewitt-cycles-cheviot-se-touring-bike

Like Max, I have no affiliation with the company, just a happy customer.

Jack Osbourne snr [780 posts] 1 year ago
1 like

I did a LOT of researching last year for a bike that I could do a solo, unsupported End-End on this May.

I'm not a fan of Shimano shifters, so in the end I went for a Genesis Tour de Fer frameset and built it up with a mainly Campag 10 speed groupset, SRAM X.0 rear mech and cable actuated hydraulic brakes. Including a set of handbuilt wheels and luggage, it cost me about £1700 to put together although some parts I had spare and others were eBay specials.

The Tour de Fer was second choice to a Surly Straggler in "Celeste", but I simply couldn't get one in my size. It wasn't an issue in the end though as the Genesis is a superb frameset for touring on... Comfortable, stable and stiff enough to really honk up hills carrying a full payload.

As mentioned above it has every mount and braze on you could think of... I used a rear rack and had panniers, a rackpack and and bar bag to carry most of my gear with spare spokes in the dedicated seatstay holder and a tool bottle in the 3rd position under the downtube. I could have mounted a front rack and panniers, but I wasn't camping so didn't need the extra room.

I did 1100 miles over two weeks (plus about the same in the 4 weeks before) on that bike and could have happily kept going.


If you want something off the peg, I would happily recommend the Tour de Fer as the equipment spec is great and its all hung on a fantastic frameset.

Marin92 [16 posts] 11 months ago
1 like

Thorn Raven?
Goes around the world as easily as going down the shops.

richiewormiling [90 posts] 11 months ago

Love the Thorn Sherpa.

Legs_Eleven_Wor... [707 posts] 9 months ago

I have some experience of the Dawes Kara-Kum and it's shit.  I see they've rebranded it as 'Galaxy' and moved the previous Galaxy up a notch in price to become 'Super Galaxy'.    

The old Dawes Galaxy was fab.  I knew a guy when I was in my early twenties who had one, left to him by his father, and it was scratched and worn, but still going strong.  Now, you pay for the name, and you get mass-produced shite. 

Greed like this is why I hate capitalsts.

Dawes Cycles [1 post] 8 months ago

Bit harsh Legs-Eleven, but I am sorry your experience with our Karakum wasn't a positive one.  It's a model that's been in our range for years, still is, it hasnt been rebranded as a Galaxy....separate models altogether, not the Galaxy shown on this article.  Overall we get very positive comments on the Karakum, hence it being in the range for so long, and if you do/did have a bad experience please do talk to your Dawes dealer as they'd do all they can to help, with our support.


Also, we produce fewer Touring bikes now than back in the day when your freinds father would have bought his, so i'm not sure what makes you think the current models are mass produced?

Morat [352 posts] 6 months ago

Can any village mechanic with a welding torch really repair modern steel like 853 let alone 953? I'm all for steel but I'm not convinced welding bike tubes is quite that simple.

mattsccm [438 posts] 6 months ago

You may  not get it beautifully repaired but it could be cobbled together to keep the bike going. Better than walking .

mattsccm [438 posts] 6 months ago

You may  not get it beautifully repaired but it could be cobbled together to keep the bike going. Better than walking .

Richbeck [40 posts] 3 weeks ago


BIGWATTS [19 posts] 3 weeks ago

For shifters, if you can find a pair of old Suntour Power downtube shifters, you're sorted.  No indexing problems, if stuff gets clogged up, no problem.  If you bash a mech, no problem, just move as much cable as is needed.  I've a pair that I commute on, and they've done 4 LEJOGs.

Dynamos (hubs) for touring.  Small investment (not much more than a good battery light) and limit you to one wheel to run the lights (unless you're rich) but they're actually worth it now with good LEDs and posh reflectors from B&M.  Not the pathetic dull glow/whine of the past!