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Saturday, September 21, 2013

Bike Touring Special: Choosing a Bike | adventure journal

adventure journal bike touring special
The first thing to know about bicycle touring, or riding for days at a time across a landscape, is that you can do it on virtually any bike. Whatever claptrap contraption you have in the garage will probably work. Consider the guy I know who bought a Huffy in Japan and pedaled it through Kamchatka and then from Alaska to Mexico. I’m sure as hell not recommending that—the average Huffy is only designed to last the average homeless person six or so weeks of light pedaling—but the point is that if my friend can ride an absolute pile of crap bicycle for months at a time through wild and foreign lands then anyone can grab that old mountain bike or 10-speed and head for the sunset.
But let’s say you want something designed specifically for multi-day adventure. Something tough and reliable that will get you to the beyond and back (unlike my friend, whose bike eventually disintegrated somewhere south of Tijuana). Though they’ve long existed on the outskirts of the race-obsessed bike industry, there are plenty of bikes like this with robust frames designed to carry weight, low gearing for extended climbs, and an overall build made to perform over long distances and difficult terrain. They’re called touring bikes.
Touring Bikes
adventure journal bike touring special rivendell atlantisThe classic touring bike has a steel frame, superstrong wheels, drop bars, a triple chainring, a low bottom bracket for stability when loaded, long chainstays for heel/pannier clearance, plenty of space for wide tires, and gobs of eyelets for waterbottles, racks, and fenders. This is still the perfect bicycle for loaded touring on paved and smooth dirt surfaces. A few current bikes in this mold are the Co-Motion AmericanoBruce Gordon Rock N’ Road Tour,Rivendell Atlantis (above), and the Surly Long Haul Trucker. Those first three bikes, all legends in the touring world, are handmade in the U.S. and will cost $3,000 and up, while the Long Haul Trucker has become one of the most popular touring bikes by mimicking their design in a $1,300 made-in-Taiwan package.
Maybe you don’t want a traditional tourer, though. One of the best things about modern bicycle touring is how it’s grown to encompass wildly different styles of riding, from Jeep roads to singletrack to remote coastlines. The classic touring bike is a phenomenal all-arounder—tourer, commuter, randonnee rig, and perfectly acceptable as a beefy road bike and even a throwback off-road bike. But if you want something for singletrack, credit-card, or around-the-world touring, there are better-performing options. So before you buy that “touring” bike, consider what kind of riding you want to do. Here’s a rundown...


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