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  CyclingSite > CO Collected Wisdom > What to Take > Bikes > Touring Bikes
    What about a touring bike?  
    What is a touring bike?

Touring bikes have more relaxed angles and a longer wheelbase than a road bike, thus providing more stability and less "twitchiness". They are built beefier too, to handle the additional load. Usually mountain hubs instead of road, etc. Beefier frames, too. My dearly departed Cannondale T700 <yes, it was stolen - I was heartbroken> had such a large diameter down tube that it was kinda funny! The gearing on a touring bike is usually more like a mountain bike - mine had a 22-32-42 triple in the front and a 12-28 8-speed in the rear. With a 22x28 gear, there wasn't anything I couldn't climb, even with 50 pounds of gear on my bike!

My personal opinion is that a touring bike is preferable to a hybrid. A touring bike will usually have drop bars, giving you a much wider range of hand positions that the typical straight bar on a hybrid. It's built to carry weight and generally has strong brakes, so if you ever DO decide you want to go self-supported instead of doing a supported tour like CO, you are READY TO GO! And when I wanted to ride hard & keep up with the boys? I had a set of road wheels with skinny tires - I would just swap them out and voila! Almost as good as the "real thing".

Susan Octcenas

If you are truly thinking of touring (by which I mean carrying your own gear), consider a true touring bike, as opposed to a hybrid.

A true touring bike has a longer wheel base which means greater stability under load. In addition, it’s geared down to enable you to muscle weight up a hill. My Cannondale T700 had 22-32-42 in the front, and 12-28 in the rear. (Whereas a typical road bike with a triple will have something like 30-42-50 in the front). Think about it - in its granniest granny gear (22 front/28 rear) for every revolution of your legs, your wheels turn LESS than once. Geez - you can climb a cliff face on a bike like that.

My Cannondale had traditional drop handle bars, but you could always switch those out to flat bars if your prefer them. Personally I prefer drop bars for the variety of hand positions available.

I had two sets of wheels for my Cannondale. One was a touring set with extra spokes that could handle 700x38 touring tires and the weight of traveling. The other was a set of lightweight wheels outfitted with skinny 700x23 road tires. I merely adjusted the brakes for the narrower rims, and off I went on what was now basically a road bike. To me, this was the best of both worlds, all on one bike.

Now, stronger cyclists would never be happy with this set-up, as around 40 mph downhill I essentially ran out of gears. But that was OK with me. I'm just a recreational cyclist (not breaking any speed records here), so even on my roadbike, I spend most of my time in my middle (42) chain ring. I rarely get into the big chain ring unless I'm going downhill and feel like being a speed demon!

Alas, my Cannondale was stolen three years ago. I still miss it - lots of great memories attached to it.

Susan Otcenas

Drop handlebars do not make a racer, and flat bars don't guarantee comfort or stability under load. Bar style is important to the individual, of course. If you lack flexibility, drops may or may not be for you. Drops add a number of position choices, and take away one, as you can't put your hands out wider than your shoulders on drops (unless you've got bars that are way too big).

Anyway, you have to look way past the shape of the bars to determine whether or not a given bike will do what you want it to. Susan's comments on geometry and gearing are right on the money. If you think you might do loaded touring AND you know you're not going to be doing any racing (real or wannabe) on the bike, think hard about a true tourer.

True tourers are not all that sexy, and they seem more intimidating than hybrids and MTBs to first-time buyers, but they are probably the right bike for more people than would want to admit it. Chances are that if you find one that fits, it will do everything you might want it do without any modification at all except for the addition of racks and panniers when you're ready for them.

Oh, yes... true tourers usually come with more "goody hangers" than you'll know what to do with at first. You'll often find an extra set of bottle cage bosses, heavy duty pannier bosses, spare-spoke holders... that sort of thing.

Just because I don't own one doesn't mean I don't admire them!

Scott Saulsbury

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  Page Last Updated: Jan. 20, 2003  
    CyclingSite > CO Collected Wisdom > What to Take > Bikes > Touring Bikes  

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