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How to choose a touring bike: things to consider

March 30, 2017

Time has come for Apache Pine to help those who want to travel by bike and are looking for a proper touring bike to do so.

Indeed, all our handmade wooden watches, wood knives and products are made for all those who love the outdoors and intend to experience it to the fullest. Our goal is to allow you to do it in a unique way, helping you regardless your level, while respecting Planet Earth and helping others.

In the last few weeks we’ve found out about some tips for traveling by bike, and we’ve also found out how to improve your bike touring skills. So today we’ll set off on a quest for the best touring bikes, how to choose it and what’s important to consider when deciding which bike to buy for a bike travel. Indeed, even if you are the most experienced bike rider and if you have mastered all sorts of cycling skills to go on a bike tour, your current bike might not be the most suitable one for your intent.

So let’s see some tips on how to choose a touring bike.

First of all, let’s start by saying that there’s not one single best answer to “what’s the best touring bike on the market?”, as there are so many cyclists and so many preferences in regard to that, that it’s impossible to pick one and label it as “the best”. Indeed, it might turn out to be a disastrous choice for someone else. In fact, a bike tour doesn’t depend on your touring bike only, but on your bike touring gear, its weight and your bike touring skills.

Moreover, the price won’t make your bike necessarily better, nor it will prevent you from mechanical discomforts and bugs. You’re still going to get a flat tire and your chain will still get out of place. You will still have to pedal. You will still feel pain and fatigue after a tough day biking. Panniers and/or trailers are still going to weight. Sure, some devices, designs and materials can be a great hand, however don’t spend more than you can afford, driven by false myths. Actually, sometimes a more basic touring bike will turn out to suit you best, because easier to fix.

Indeed, in the history of biking, there have been so many cyclists who have covered incredibly long distances on bikes that really didn’t seem suitable for the endeavor at all.

bike touring gear

Things to consider when choosing a touring bike

Your budget

Set a budget and stick to it. As we said before, spending more won’t save you anything. Consider looking into used touring bikes as well: many passionate cyclists like to change bike quite often, selling old ones that look and work like they're new, and allow you to save a lot of money. Of course, it will be extremely hard to find something for less that $200, but the “good” thing is that a touring bike can cost up to $2000, which makes a “cheap” one reasonably good already.

Also, more than making your bike fancy, make it useful. If you must choose between that flaming red you love so much and a good, resistant rack, pick the second one: paint won’t help you carry stuff.

The duration of your trip

Of course, if you intend to buy a bike for a 10 days trip only, than maybe it would be best to look into renting, or go for a bike so cheap that it will cost you just a few dollars more. In general, if this is your first bike touring experience and you are not sure you are 100% passionate about it yet, then consider taking a shorter, lighter tour and use whichever bike you already have. You can make some changes to it, to make it more suitable for the intent, however, don’t spend too much money for it. Of course, the longer your travel will be, the more you’ll need to invest on your bike. The thing you will want to invest on the most are good quality wheels and a comfortable saddle. Then, one by one, comes all the rest of the gear.

The kind of terrain

Of course when we say “any bike will do” that still depends on the kind of terrain you are going to travel on. So probably, to be a bit more accurate, we should say that any mountain bike will do. Unless you are 100% sure that all the paths you are going to ride on are paved, than you must opt for a MB. At this point, we would suggest a mountain bike with suspensions, which will make it more comfortable to ride on dirt roads, softening bumps.

What will truly change according to the kind of terrain you are going to find are the tires: the more paved and even the trail, the skinnier tires can and should be, to help you struggle less and move faster. The wider the tire, the more friction against the terrain, the more effort when pedaling. If you don't know what to opt for, look for suggestions from bikers who've already rode down the path you intend to travel on. In some cases, you might even be able to opt for a racing bike...as far as you travel extremely light and opt for hotels and hostels instead of camping gear.

What other means of transportation you will be using

Going on a bike tour doesn’t necessarily mean you will be using just your bike to move around. You might need to take a plane, a train or a bus. To board a bike, if you’re not ready to deal with it properly, can be extremely stressful, expensive, even risky, as it can damage your gear. Of course, the bigger and longer you bike (like for example tandems), the more stressful it will be to carry it around on public transports. Opting for a smaller bike, like a standard one, can be the best solution. In some cases, you might even be able to opt for a folding bike, so that it will be even easier for you to carry it around. Of course, this kind of bikes are not the most commonly used for bike touring, but then again, it depends on the kind of tour and terrain you are off to. On the internet you can find a lot of tips on how to use a foldie during your tours. Once you opt for a bike, make sure to become familiar with the policy of the transport you are about to load it on. They might require you to pack it in a specific way, or to dismantle it, even if you think it’s not necessary.

Comfort

Of course, even if it’s meant to be an adventure and it obviously won’t be like being on a cruise, you don’t want it to get too uncomfortable, or it will become a suffer tour and not a pleasant experience. Sometimes, even the most comfortable looking bike can turn out to be incredibly uncomfortable if used for a few days in a row, or for bike touring. So before opting for any bike, try it for a few days and see how it feels like. You can borrow it from a friend, or rent it for a few days. How to understand if it’s not the bike for you? Any sort of pain in your body will tell you that you should opt for something else, as well as any other thing that you didn’t find comfortable. The right bike will make you think: "this is it!" and will make you feel happy and tired at the end of the day, instead of exhausted and aching.

The right asset

There are a few components that are vital when choosing a touring bike and that you should alway keep into consideration. The first one if the frame, of course, that should be appropriate for you size and that shouldn’t be too heavy. So mind the material, and pick a frame that is neither too soft or too hard. Also, when considering the size, think about yourself, but also the kind of tires you want to mount on it. Then there are the suspensions: as we said, better to have them. Last but not least, the saddle. Even if you are going to wear the best cycling pants on the market, opt for a comfortable, soft saddle. If you don’t want to chance the one you already have, there are some very efficient saddle covers with gel inserts to make it more comfortable and soft.