Get on your bike and go
Thats the whole point of touring. Its the mantra you’ll be telling yourself time and again when you are out on a tour. It might when your are tired and facing a grueling climb to camp. When you its rainy or cold out and all you want to do is stay in your sleeping bag. And more likely than not its what you’ll have to tell yourself even before your step out your door. Adventures are meant to be exciting, unknown, and challenging.
Don’t know what to bring on a trip? Take a look at: A Basic Packing List.
You can use about any bike at your disposal to tour on. If it has two wheels and you can pedal––then it can take you places. Some limit the terrain you are able to travel on, but the real limit is how to carry your necessities and all the other stuff you are bound to bring with you. Go here to learn How to carry S#*T.
It’s a myth that you need a “touring” bike to tour on. Bikes come in all diffrent styles designed for different purposes. Its just really nice to have a bike designed to travel long distances, with lots of weight, for a really long time. You’ll have a much easier and enjoyable time.
The list will go from the most abundant and generic bikes to the most specific built
Old Road bikes
They are everywhere. You can pick them up for a dime. You may think they would be completely unsuitable for touring on, but take a look at these photos:
Just look at those shorts! Nerds. These cool cats traveled all the way across America for Bikecentennial way back in 76. They did this very likely before you were born and on bikes that you take for granted. Don’t complain about having the right touring gear ever again. They did it on your basic road bike of the 70’s “Sports Touring”. They attached a rear rack, threw some bags and panniers on the back and hung a handlebar bag in front. Do the same and you’ll be good for thousands of miles. Plus you get the benefit of 40+ years of technology improvements of waterproof gear and flat resistant tires. Downside is the gearing may be a bit high, making climbing a bit difficult, but with a few modifications you can start tackling those mountains.
Old Mountain bikes
No other bike is ripe to take touring. Sturdy, abundant, and cheap. They likely already have mounts for a rear rack and have all the gears you need to climb any mountains you come across. The “out dated” and abundant 26” wheels and tires are easy to find wherever you go. The extra air volume will be a dream compared to skinny road tires and will help you avoid flats and absorb the road vibrations. If you want a tough touring bike and are on a budget start here.
Modern road bikes
Modern road bikes used to be the worst touring vehicle you could choose. Modern road bikes are designed more after professional racing bikes so they removed everything great about the old Sports Touring road bikes of the past (except the weight). Most have lost the fender and rack mounts and are made out of this expensive plastic called carbon fiber. However the loss of racks, and therefore the ability to carry gear, has been fixed with the creation of bikepacks. Seatpost bags, framebags, and handlebar bags make modern road bikes more of a suitable touring rig. Do yourself a favor though and add the largest tire you can fit in the fork and frame. The extra air volume will help with weight, extra load, and flats. Just know you’ll have to pack small and light.
Modern mountain bikes
Full squish, half squish, no squish. Mountain bikes come in all different flavors. Going into the weeds on this topic would require a whole page. Basically depending on the terrain you plan to travel through should match your selection. You’ll likely use these rigs more so for bike packing (off road touring) then traditional road touring. Carrying stuff on these bikes is usually a DIY job.
A cousin of the mountain bike. More suited for off road touring then a regular modern mountain bike. Why? Fat tires and more likely hood of rack mounts. Don’t bother taking it road touring. Fat bikes are the Hummers of the cycling world. They looking awesome out in nature, but you’ll look like a compensating douche on the open road.
Probably one of the most popular type of bikes sold in the United States. Hybrids stemmed from mating a horse and a donkey––I mean road bike and cruiser bike. They are reminiscent of old mountain bikes, but far to fragile for proper off roading. Pluses are they can accept large tires, have rack mounts, and generally have a wide range of gears. One of their “pluses” and why so many choose this type of bike is it’s more upright riding position and straight handlebars (because people don’t like “the swoopy ones”). This is all fine and great for short periods of riding, which most people use these for. However after hours in the saddle and hours with your hands in the same place all day long, you’ll wish you had the handlebars that are “swoopy”.
Designed for racing in mud, the tire clearance and stopping power has made these bikes popular. While the geometry is not ideal for carrying a heavy load, cross-bikes still are one of the most adaptable bikes one can own. Since most people don’t race cross manufacturers add in the fender and rack mounts you are bound to want in the end. One of the best things about this bike are the brakes. Disc or good old canti. You’ll have confident stopping power when you are descending down a mountain with thirty extra pounds of gear. While road bikes with calipers may want to take it easy.
All-road, Adventure bikes, Gravel grinders. These are somehow not cross-bikes, but something undefinable in between a roadbike and a cross-bike. They are basically just any bike designed to fit fat tires with geometry closer to ughhh… Either way they are made for adventure. Trust the manufacturer and go have one.
Designed to carry heavy shit for long distances. That’s the basic definition. I’ve broken it out into three different types. Road, dirt, and world.
Your classic touring bike, at least to American standards. Designed with a bunch of features and geometry that makes traveling on pavement with a bunch of crap easier. Also built to not snap in half. These bikes started as steel cantilever bikes from the 60 and have progressed of the years. They can be made out of any material, but the classic features remain the same. Plenty of mounts for racks, water bottles, and fenders as well as a long wheel base for better control when carrying gear. These bikes were made for the open road and for rides like Bikecentennial.
The quintessential touring bike to nearly everyone in Europe and the rest of the world. A few things distinguish this bike from it’s red blooded American cousin. For one they generally use 26” wheels, common in nearly every corner of the planet. Two, generally has upright (trekking) bars. Three, can be externally geared, but often found with internal gearing. It may sort of look like a mountain bike under all the baggage, but don’t let that fool you. It is made to travel around the world and it has.
Fairly new in the world of bikes. Its a magical beast like a Griffin with all its mishmash of features. Tires edging near fat bikeness, dirt drops for multiple hand positions, and plenty of mounts for racks. I personally don’t own one, but just like a Griffin, I want one.
No. Just don’t. If thats the only bike you have then sorry you are S.O.L. in joining one of our group rides.
That said just because we don’t allow fixed/SS bikes on our rides no matter how cool/strong your are doesn’t mean its impossible to go on a rad ride on your fixie. You’ll just be more likely to hate and or hurt yourself. Here is proof it can be done though.