Table of Contents
- How Did I Select The Best Touring Bikes?
- Coronavirus Supply Chain Issues
- Best Touring Bikes: Long-Distance
- Best Touring Bikes: Trekking
- Best Touring Bikes: Light Touring / Gravel
- Best Touring Bikes: Off-Road
Today, we’re talking about the best touring bikes you can buy – with their price factored in. This is going to be a long article with a tonne of advice, so strap yourselves in.
We’ll start by discussing the most important aspects of a touring bike. We’ll then go through each touring bike category where I’ll be revealing my picks.
The cool thing is that even if you don’t like my picks, you can apply this knowledge to any touring bike you’re looking to buy – expensive, cheap, new or second hand.
To arrive at this shortlist, I’ve narrowed down the 270 different models that are featured in my 2022 Touring Bicycle Buyer’s Guide. This book goes into way more detail than I possibly can in this article, so if you’re interested – grab yourself a copy.
How Did I Select The Best Touring Bikes?
The first thing I did was calculate the low climbing gear of every bike in my book.
Low climbing gears are important for bicycle touring as they allow you to ride up hills at a sustainable effort with all of your luggage. When your climbing gear is too high, you’ll be working much harder than necessary, which results in more muscle fatigue, and frankly, makes hills much less enjoyable.
To compare the lowest climbing gear of different touring bikes, we’ll be using a unit of measurement called gear inches.
This is the diameter of the wheel, times the size of the front chainring and divided by the size of the rear cog. With this information, we can compare bikes with different wheel sizes, tyre widths and drivetrain setups.
I’m looking for 20 gear inches or less for paved roads, and less than 18 gear inches for dirt roads. But really, the lower – the better!
Don’t worry about the fact we’re using inches as the unit. These numbers aren’t ever converted, and they are relative too. For example, a bike with an 18-inch gear will climb 10% slower than a 20-inch gear, which means you’ll either find the same hill easier – or you can use this mechanical advantage to carry more goods.
I next assessed the frame geometry for each of these bikes. I’m looking for bikes that are long, upright and have the appropriate steering characteristics for the handlebar type.
More specifically, I’m looking for long chainstay and wheelbase lengths, a tall ‘stack’ height up front, and slower steering speeds (more trail) on the bikes that offer higher steering leverage (flat bar bikes).
I then narrowed things down further by determining the bike’s value for money.
As touring bikes have a pretty hard life, the price points I have chosen are where you get the most reliability and performance for your money. These bikes are almost always priced between US $1000 and $2500. If these prices are still too high for your budget, find an older version of these bikes second-hand and you’ll never be disappointed.
Frame stiffness is another important consideration for a touring bike.
The majority of touring bikes support a front and rear load, and your frame is the medium that needs to resist the twisting forces between these two points. A bike that is not stiff enough will feel unstable, and can more easily induce speed-wobbles.
When it comes to the handling, stability and general feel of a touring bike, we want our frames to be as stiff as possible without weighing a tonne. An appropriately stiff bike will use oversized frame tubes that make it feel very stable when it’s all loaded up.
Due to the heavy loads and uneven road surfaces, touring bikes really benefit from wide tyres.
Narrow tyres work well on smooth roads, but the reality is that there is very little speed penalty to using a wide slick, which you’ll find is more comfortable and will take you on more varied terrain.
The optimal tyre with fender clearance for most on-road touring bikes is around 50mm or 2.0″. This configuration allows you to fit narrower tyres on the smooth tarmac, but also switch to 2.2″ mountain bike tyres if you find yourself on dirt roads.
If you’re riding exclusively on dirt roads, you will find tyres wider than 2.2-inches to be the best option.
And lastly, I’ve prioritised bikes that have kickstand mounts.
It’s crazy how many touring bikes don’t have the option of fitting a kickstand. My kickstand is just 250 grams (9oz) and I use it dozens of times per day – that’s whenever I pack my bike, re-supply at the shops, take a photo or maintain my bike.
Coronavirus Supply Chain Issues
One last note, COVID has wreaked havoc on the bicycle supply chain, and there is also unprecedented demand for bikes. This means that you will likely have to wait a while for these bikes after ordering – some more than others.
Best Touring Bikes: Long-Distance
Long-distance touring bikes are optimised to carry heavy loads on a mix of road surfaces, however, they specialise in smoother surfaces. This is the kind of bike suitable for cycling around the world on primary or secondary roads.
2022 Masi Giramondo (US $1299)
My drop bar touring bike pick for 2022 is the Masi Giramondo. This bike stands out thanks to its price, which surprisingly went down recently.
The steel Giramondo offers a great climbing gear of 18 gear inches, which is 14% lower than the average bike in this category. You’ll find a generous 50mm tyre clearance, long chainstays, bombproof bar-end shifters, and excellent TRP mechanical disc brakes.
When you consider this bike comes with Tubus steel racks valued at US $250, it’s even more of a bargain.
If you haven’t heard of Tubus racks, these are the best in the business. I’ve never broken one, but in the unlikely event that you do, Tubus will send you a replacement, free of charge, anywhere in the world – for the first three years. They then go on to provide a 30-year guarantee.
2022 Co-Motion Deschutes (US $2645)
With popular mass-produced touring bikes like the Kona Sutra now cracking the $2000 mark, this makes the slightly more expensive, but USA-manufactured Co-Motion Deschutes a very appealing option.
The Deschutes features larger diameter tubes than almost every steel bike available, which results in one of the stiffest steel touring bikes. Even when it’s loaded to the brim, you can expect this bike to handle very well.
The quality of drivetrain parts is better than most bikes in this category too. It’s fitted with high-performing Shimano 105 shifters that are hooked up to an 11-speed mountain bike derailleur (via a shift-ratio converter). This allows the fitment of a larger cassette to yield the 20″ climbing gear.
Moving on to flat bar touring bikes, the Riverside Touring 900 made it onto this list thanks to its exceptional price point.
This tourer is fully decked out, ready to go. It has racks, fenders, pedal-power dynamo lights, an ever-popular Brooks B17 saddle, ultra-tough Schwalbe touring tyres and a full Shimano XT groupset, which is about as good as it gets.
You can even charge your electronics from the front dynamo wheel using a USB charger conveniently located in the steerer tube. Independent testing suggests the Cycle2Charge unit performs quite well at 20KPH too.
The Riverside frame offers long chainstays, the steering speed is suitable for a flat bar bike, and the climbing gear is under 20 gear inches.
2022 Cube Travel (€899)
Speaking of value, I still cannot get past the Cube Travel.
This bike is more capable than many touring bikes on a mix of surfaces, as it has 29×2.2″ tyre clearance with fenders. The climbing could be better (22 inches) but you can always improve that yourself by fitting a cassette with a 36 tooth cog.
The Cube Travel comes with lots of great features including a rear rack, kickstand, Shimano 27-speed groupset, hydraulic brakes and even a dynamo hub and light set.
The frame is available in five sizes, and there are an additional three step-through frames if you fancy something easier to get on and off.
2022 KOGA WorldTraveller (€2199)
If you are after a top-tier frameset without the top-tier price, I don’t think you can beat the KOGA WorldTraveller.
These frames are incredibly stiff laterally, which allows them to handle very heavy loads with grace. There is fully-guided internal cable routing inside the frame, super-smooth welds, a steering limiter to prevent your front wheel from turning too far, super long chainstays to maximise the ride stability, and an abrasion-resistant powder coat paint job.
The WorldTraveller comes with everything you need to set off around the world, including super-strong wheels, dynamo lights, Tubus racks, Schwalbe touring tyres, a Topeak pump and a low 20″ climbing gear.
You can choose between a step-through or a traditional frame, which are both available in five sizes. And if you wanted to do some off-road touring like me, you can buy some rims in the 27.5″ diameter and then fit some wide 2.6″ tyres.
Please note: I am sponsored to ride KOGA bikes. But I simply could not find a bike this good at this price point!
Best Touring Bikes: Trekking
Trekking bikes are long distance touring bikes built around a suspension fork. The fork adds comfort on rough dirt and cobblestone roads. The downsides are that it’s harder to fit a rack for front panniers (most people just use rear panniers) and the suspension fork requires regular maintenance.
2022 Rose Multisport 1 (€1249)
The Rose Multisport 1 is a great option at an exceptional price point.
It has a coil-sprung suspension fork up front, which works out a little heavier than an air fork, but is less likely to experience problems on a long trip. You can lock the fork for the smooth road sections to ensure you aren’t wasting your pedal power.
The 21″ climbing gear is decent for most touring applications and the frame geometry is both very upright and stable.
The Multisport uses a Shimano Deore 30-speed groupset, dynamo lights, rear rack, fenders, kickstand, lock, chain protector and suspension seatpost. It’s a killer deal.
Best Touring Bikes: Light Touring / Gravel
Light touring bikes are designed to be lighter and faster on smoother surfaces. They aren’t as bombproof as long-distance touring bikes, but will comfortably handle 10kg of luggage or so.
2022 Kona Libre AL (US $2099)
At a touch over 10kg, the Kona Libre AL sheds more than 4kg/9lb compared to a dedicated touring bike.
What really draws me to the Libre is the frame geometry. Most bikes in this category have evolved from a race bike lineage, which results in a long reach to the bars, and a substantial saddle-to-bar drop. This puts your body in a speedy ride position but tends to be less comfortable over long distances.
Touring is about enjoying the ride in comfort and discovering new places, so I think more bikes in this category would benefit from being as relaxed and upright as the Libre. An added benefit of a tall front end is that you put much less weight on your hands, so you’re unlikely to experience numb fingers after a long day. Plus, you have better access to the drop section of the drop bars, which means more powerful braking and much better bike control.
The Libre has excellent tyre clearance (50mm), good hydraulic brakes and all the mounts you’ll need – but there are two downsides to this bike.
The climbing gear is high, so you might need to swap in some new drivetrain parts. And the large seatpost diameter will likely provide inadequate comfort, so factor in a carbon seatpost or suspension seatpost. Check out my comprehensive articles on suspension seatposts and carbon flex seatposts.
2022 Focus Atlas 6.7 EQP (€1899)
If you’re after something fast, lightweight (12.7kg), and with dynamo lights, fenders and a rear rack – the Focus Atlas is looking very good.
This frame is the stiffest gravel bike ever tested by Tour Magazin, which is a good thing when it comes to a bike that’s loaded with luggage.
The bike comes with 37mm tyres as standard, however, will comfortably fit 47mm tyres if you were to remove the fenders.
While the 24″ gear is a touch high by touring standards, keep in mind that this bike is designed for tarmac roads and lighter loads. Should you feel like pushing the limits of the drivetrain, the Shimano GRX rear derailleur that comes with the bike is known to handle cassettes with much larger sprockets.
The Atlas also wins my heart because it comes with a kickstand, and there’s also a flat bar version of this bike if that’s what you prefer.
2022 Cube SL Road Pro FE (€1199)
My light-touring-bike-with-flat-bars pick is the Cube SL Road Pro FE.
Like the Focus, it’s been fitted with all the touring accessories you need to travel, right down to the dynamo lights. It also offers the same 24″ climbing gear and 47mm tyre clearance without fenders.
The reason I picked the Cube over the Focus is that value-for-money is next level on this bike – it’s €400 cheaper with similar quality components.
Best Touring Bikes: Off-Road
Off-road touring bikes are essentially mountain bikes with tougher wheels and provision for racks, fenders and extra water bottles. A key characteristic is the wide tyre clearance on offer.
2022 Brodie Mega Tour (CA $1625 / US $1300)
The Brodie Mega Tour caught my attention for a few reasons.
The first thing was the price. Brodie is a Canadian company, so when we convert to US dollars and we end up with $1300 – which is hyper-competitive in this segment.
The next thing I noticed was the choice of a 2X drivetrain. While almost every off-road touring bike has switched to a 1X drivetrain, Brodie opted for a front derailleur.
What’s the advantage? Well, you get smaller jumps between each gear change, which is especially handy on flat or rolling terrain where you can better fine-tune your speed in accordance with your pedalling cadence. It can be more efficient too. You can read more about 1X vs 2X drivetrains in my article HERE.
The Mega Tour has a low gear of 18″, generous 29 x 2.6″ tyre clearance, a sweptback handlebar, Shimano hydraulic brakes (with large 180mm rotors)… and there’s even a kickstand mount out back.
This is not only a recipe for a great off-roader, but it could easily be a long-distance touring bike with some slicks.
2022 Genesis Longitude (£1199 / US $1600)
In the ‘plus bike’ category with 3.0″ wide tyres, I’ve picked the Genesis Longitude.
It just so happens that this is another 2X bike, but I primarily picked it because it represents excellent value for money. The climbing gear is 18 gear inches, however, you can quite easily replace the front chainrings to achieve a 16″ should you need.
The frame is a bit taller than average and is decked out with mounts. It’s tough enough too – I know quite a few people who are currently or have previously cycled across continents with this bike.
If the idea of a 14-speed Rohloff hub piques your interest, the Longitude also has horizontal dropouts that make it an appropriate fit.
2022 Panorama Taiga EXP (CA $3199 / US $2500)
This new steel off-roader is a great buy!
The Panorama Taiga has a carbon fork to keep the weight down (11.8kg/26.0lb) but it will also accommodate a MTB suspension fork should you need it. The stats on this bike are great – there’s 29 x 2.6″ tyre clearance, a 20″ climbing gear, a 52cm wide handlebar and the ability to fit a Rohloff 14-speed gearbox hub and belt drivetrain.
To achieve the low climbing gear, a SRAM MTB 12-speed derailleur has been hooked up to an interesting Gevenalle indexed shifter. These shifters are not particularly elegant but having used one previously, they’re fast-shifting and extra durable.
As you can see, the Taiga’s frame geometry is super upright. This is so that you can comfortably use the drops for long periods of time, where you have the best access to the brakes. And when you use the hoods or bar tops, you will have less pressure on your hands than a less upright bike. The frame also features long chainstays to keep your front wheel planted on steep climbs.
The only thing to note is that the Taiga is using a lightweight 28 spoke wheelset that’s very light. If you weigh more than average or are carrying a heavy load, you will want to replace it with something much stronger.
2022 On-One Rocky Road (£1299 / US $1750)
Ok, I never expected a titanium bike to end up on a value-for-money bike list.
This is the On-One Rocky Road, which retails for £1300 but can sometimes be found for under £1000 (US $1350). That’s smack-bang in steel or aluminium bike price territory.
By using titanium, On-One can build a frame with the equivalent stiffness and strength of a steel frame, with an 850-gram (1.9lb) weight saving. But the modest weight reduction isn’t the reason I would buy a titanium bike – it’s the scratch and rust resistance that I like most. You can easily buff out any scratches on the frame so that it looks as good as new.
Interestingly, the head tube angle is quite steep compared to modern mountain bikes, which results in a quick steering feel and reduced wheel flop. Given your front luggage weight slows the steering back down again, this is not a bad thing at all.
The bike comes with a carbon fork, hydraulic disc brakes and a 1X drivetrain. As the SRAM SX derailleurs are not known for their durability, I’d recommend upgrading it to an NX or GX model if you’re cycling anywhere remote.
To round things out, the frame geometry is quite upright, the maximum tyre width is 29 x 2.6″ and the climbing gear is ideal at 17.5 gear inches.
That rounds out the best touring bikes for 2022, with price factored in!
It was super hard narrowing this list down to so few but can see all the other great models in my 2022 Touring Bicycle Buyer’s Guide. In this book, you’ll learn about all the important features of a touring bike and can then use the tools at the back of the book to compare over 270 different bikes. It’s updated yearly for free, so expect to get great value out of it.
Are There Any Other Good-Value Touring Bikes That Should’ve Made This List?