It was not long ago when the best touring bikes were left for a custom-build. Manufacturers weren’t quite making anything that was super stiff, with enough low gears, wide tyre clearance, handlebar options and Rohloff hub compatibility. I would have never considered buying a complete bike a decade ago…
But fast forward to 2017 and there are now so many excellent modern touring options to choose from.
Trek have been putting together their 520 since 1983 and have used a decent touring geometry and specification since the early-2000s. In 2004, Surly started making one of the finest, mass-produced frame options around: the Long Haul Trucker. The LHT frame was stiff, had 3x bidon mounts, had a spoke holder and used long 460mm chainstays. Slowly but surely, other manufacturers have been matching and exceeding the great features of the Long Haul Trucker; but it has taken some time.
I’ve selected the following bikes as the best examples of a modern touring bike. They are all steel which I like for it’s deflect tolerance, low cost and ease of modification. They all feature wide gear ranges, including low enough gears to get you up most mountains. Many feature cable disc brakes which have proven reliable, even in the most remote of locations. The majority employ barend shifters for no-fuss gear changes.
Here’s my list of the best modern touring bikes, taking into account design, geometry, price and specification, and yes, I would happily tour them straight off the showroom floor of a bike shop.
Surly Disc Trucker
For a long time, Surly was the touring standard. The bike’s geometry is near perfect and it’s the only bike here that’s available with 26″ or 700c wheels. It comes with ample braze-ons, an ultra-wide gear range and a rock solid spec. The 700c bike will fit a 700x45c tyre and the 26″ a 26×2.1″. You can get a Disc Trucker for US $1449.
Read more about the Disc Trucker HERE.
The Specialized AWOL has been around a few years now, and is one of the better touring frames. The lowest gear isn’t particularly low (23 gear inches) but it’s improved in recent years. You could easily swap out the crankset to achieve some really small climbing gears if you needed. The AWOL range start at US $1199.
Read more about the Specialized HERE.
The Trek 520 has been slowly evolving into a super-capable steel touring bike. These days it offers a bombproof spec including cable disc brakes and barend shifters, plus great frame geometry and a really small, 22 inch gear. It’s US $1469 and it comes with a Bontrager rear rack.
Read more about the Trek HERE.
Every few seasons the steel Kona Sutra frame is updated. The bike has come a long way since it was introduced over a decade ago; the latest iteration getting closer to touring perfection. Kona have just increased the fork rake, increased the chainstay length and lowered the bottom bracket for 2017. The bike comes with a touring favourite, the Brooks B17 saddle, plus fenders and a rear rack. The smallest gear is 22 gear inches. It’s US $1499.
Read more about the Kona HERE.
Masi have put together their first touring-specific steel bike in a while, and it’s killer! It has all the low gears, barend shifters, cable disc brakes and clearance for 29×1.9 tyres. One of the best things about the bike is the price – it’s only US $1049. That probably makes it the best value touring bike on this list.
Read more about the Masi HERE.
Salsa have just released their first touring-specific bike. One of the coolest things about this bike is that they have two frame options: one optimised around flat handlebars and the other around drop handlebars. The Marrakesh has excellent tyre clearance 29×2.0, Rohloff hub compatible dropouts, an ultra wide gear range, cable disc brakes and friction shifters. The price for both Marrakesh models is US $1599.
Read more about the Salsa HERE.
Genesis Tour de Fer
Genesis have just updated their steel Tour de Fer to be a road-handlebar touring bike. It offers a small gear of 26 gear inches, but with a crankset change you can easily get it lower. It’s finished with cable disc brakes, 3x bidon cages, fenders and a rear rack. You can get it for around US $1200.
Read more about the Genesis HERE.
The Fuji Touring has got to be one of the most cost-effective touring bikes around. It’s the only one of the list without disc brakes, but it still has an ultra wide gear range, with a small gear of 21 gear inches. It features barend shifters, a rear rack and 36h wheels. Just US $749 will net you one.
Read more about the Fuji HERE.
Want To Compare These Touring Bikes With Dozens of Others?
Check out The Touring Bicycle Buyer’s Guide which compares touring bike steering, sizing, gear ratios, specification, pricing and more. This guide is updated annually with the latest models at no extra cost!
Touring Bikes Overview
Bianchi Volpe and Lupo
Bombtrack Beyond 2016
Bombtrack Beyond 2017
Brodie Elan Vital
Cinelli Hobootleg Geo
Curve Grovel V2
Diamondback Haanjo EXP Carbon
Genesis Tour de Fer
Giant ToughRoad 2016
Giant ToughRoad 2017
Jamis Aurora and Aurora Elite
Kona Big Rove
Kona Roadhouse and Sutra LTD
Kona Sutra 2016
Kona Sutra 2017
Marin Four Corners 2016
Marin Four Corners 2017
Rawland Ulv and Ravn
Salsa Marrakesh 2016
Salsa Marrakesh 2017
Salsa Vaya 2017
Specialized AWOL 2016
Specialized AWOL 2017
Specialized Diverge 2017
Specialized Sequoia 2017
Trek 920, 720, 520 & CrossRip 2016
Trek CrossRip 2017