If you’re looking into getting into touring bikes, it can get tough to do a grand search for all the touring bikes online to find the one that’s right for you. We’ve done the pedaling for you and located five of the best overall touring bikes that you can buy to hit the road as soon as possible. Our personal favorite is the Surly Disc Trucker, which we’ll tell you all about.
Our Picks for the Best Touring Bikes
The above links will take you to eBay, where you can check prices and see some similar bikes.
How to Pick the Best Touring Bike
What Features Make for A Good Touring Bike?
You’ll want a higher bottom bracket drop on your touring bike so that you can ride on roads that aren’t completely flat without draining too much of your stamina or harming your bike anymore. In the same vein, the seat tube angle of touring bikes tends to be steeper to offer more aerodynamics and speed at the cost of balance.
Triple cranksets are important for touring bikes because they offer you a huge variety of gears that you can shift through, making your riding at maximum efficiency at all times. The extra weight of a triple crankset does make the crankset a bit heavier, which is a tradeoff for touring bikes.
Triple cranksets are super compact, though, meaning that you may gain in aerodynamic efficiency what you are losing in effort expended on weight or extra shifting.
Touring bikes often have a shorter chainstay length for better transferring of pedal power to forward momentum. The shorter chainstay length comes at the price of climbing traction and comfort but gets offset by the triple crankset and skilled riding.
Touring bikes will have lower wheelbases that encourage a further-forward posture from the rider. This means that they’ll be more aerodynamic by default, and make use of the bike’s nimble characteristics more naturally. The same goes for the tube top length, which is longer on touring bikes.
Longer tube top length makes for a forward hunched position to be more natural and thus emphasizes continually high aerodynamics.
5 Bikes Compared
Let’s compare 5 of the bikes on the market to see how they shape up relative to the features which we just identified as being extra important for entry level road bikes.
Bottom Bracket Drop
The clear winner here is the Surly Disc Trucker, with a BB drop of 4.7cm. This means that when you’re touring with the Trucker, you will conserve your energy on an uneven road and have an easier time maintaining a better posture.
For some riders, this BB drop may be too far, though. Make sure that it’s a comfortable extra 3 cm to deal with over long distances before making a purchase.
Effective Top Tube Length
The tube top length is the most important measurement for a bike. For a real touring bike, there shouldn’t be much difference between tube top lengths, which is what we see here for the most part.
The short guy on the list is the Cinelli, which lags behinds the others by about two centimeters. This isn’t necessarily a fault of the bike, but rather a point of consideration for those of you who have slightly differently sized torsos and may find the shorter tube top length more comfortable for maintaining the aerodynamic posture over long tours.
The chainstay lengths don’t vary much among these models, with a tight distribution of lengths around 44cm. These chainstay lengths will ensure that your power gets transferred directly to your speed on the road, which is made possible by the cranksets that touring bikes typically have standard.
The outlier among these is clearly the Trek 920, which opts for a much longer wheelbase in the name of comfort while touring. The other bikes are more scrupulous with their wheelbases, meaning that they’ll have more agility and translate the rider’s skill a bit more easily at the expense of comfort.
Seat Tube Angle
All of these touring bikes have aggressive seat tube angles which force the rider to maintain a forward aerodynamic posture—and make it more comfortable. Touring bikes aren’t known for their comfort, and there isn’t a whole lot to choose from.
Depending on the exact dimensions of your torso, you may find that the Cinelli or the Trucker is more efficient or more comfortable, but otherwise, these offerings are largely the same as far as their touring ability goes.
Review of the Surly Disc Trucker
The Surly Disc Trucker is unique because of its disc braking, relatively comfortable saddle, 5 lb. weight, and understated yet attractive appearance. Skilled riders may scoff at the disc brakes on the Surly, but try them out, and you may learn to love them.
The Surly Disc Trucker uses a Surly 4130 CroMoly steel alloy frame.
The exact details of what makes up Surly’s characteristic name brand alloy frame are unclear, but the frame itself is hard to beat. The frame is light, strong, and can handle the stresses of touring without a problem, though other riders may give it the side eye due to its dark coloration that’s more reminiscent of a mountain bike.
The Surly Disc Trucker uses an Andel RSC6, 26/36/48t crankset in addition to a Shimano CS-HG50-10, 11–36t, 10-speed cassette. It also uses Microshift BS-M10 shifters and an Avid BB7, G2 160mm rotors front & rear brakeset. The bike also has a KMC x10 chain.
Surly has populated the groupset of this bike with highly expensive components, with the one potential exception being the Shimano cassette. The Shimano cassette is a mid-line model, which makes it the weak point of the groupset but not necessarily a part that you should expect to have failed.
The triple crankset is typical of touring bikes, and the high-quality shifters mean that you’ll be able to ride with maximum efficiency.
The Surly Disc Trucker uses a Continental Contact, 700c x 37mm wheelset.
These are powerfully built wheels that strike the proper balance between traction and ease of movement over the road. You won’t need to replace these wheels over the course of the bike’s lifetime, though you may be a bit shocked at their width.
The wheelset’s width does make it slightly less efficient than other options, but it also adds the durability and control you’ll need.
Given what we’ve told you, it’s clear that the Surly Disc Trucker is a competitive touring bike. The biggest stumbling block is the low BB drop, which could make it very uncomfortable for some riders or perfect for others, so it’s hard to weigh in definitively on whether it’s the right bike for your touring needs until you’ve mounted one yourself.
“It is a long-haul trucker, that’s for sure. And it has fat tires.”-BikerDude1953
“It’s versatile; it’s strong, it’s smooth. It’s a bike you can have for many, many years.” -Vivid Life
“It’s easy to take apart and go with an even lighter setup if that’s what you want, but why would you want that unless you’re crazy like me?”-Manual Pedal
Review of the Specialized AWOL
The Specialized AWOL is a touring bike for bikers who want to tour but have a tight budget to stick to. Overall, this might be a good first touring bike to buy, but experienced tourers will probably find its parts to be a bit unreliable and underneath their high standards.
The Specialized AWOL uses a heat treated custom-butted Premium Cr-Mo tubing and specialized, 3D forged alloy stem and handlebar frame.
The Specialized AWOL’s frame is of acceptable quality but isn’t about to win any awards for lightness or comfort. You can expect this frame to be heavy, durable, and difficult to modify.
The Specialized AWOL uses an FSA Omega, alloy, MegaExo BB, 50/39/30T, 130/74mm BCD spider crankset, Shimano Sora STI brake levers and shifters, a Shimano, 9-speed, 11-32t cassette, and a KMC X9EPT ECO PROTEQ, 9-speed reusable MissingLink chain.
This is a budget groupset through and through. Especially with the Shimano shifters and brake levers, you can expect this groupset to need maintenance and replacement. The chain is acceptable, but not optimal. The crankset itself is the wildcard of the groupset, as some experts swear by it and others claim that it’s prone to constant jamming.
The Specialized AWOL uses Specialized Fatboy, 60TPI, Flak Jacket protection, 700x45mm.
These are fat tires, as the name indicates. Also in the name, you can see that these tires are extremely durable, which is perfect for touring. Unfortunately, you’ll have a hard time taking advantage of the tires’ touring ability because of how inefficient the high surface area of the tires are.
These tires seem like they’d be more at home on a mountain bike than a touring bike.
The AWOL isn’t the optimal touring bike, but it’s a decent choice for a first touring bike. Veteran bikers will be frustrated by the AWOL’s groupset and heavyweight but may enjoy its ability to take abuse and maintain momentum as a result of its weight.
“You put a tiny bit of power on the pedal, and wow, it goes, it gives it a bit of gas—it’s not too bad.” -Durianrider Cycling Tips
“The combination of the brakes and rotors works really well together.”- Gijs Loning
“It comes with a lot of little extras that you immediately appreciate, like saddlebags, extra mounts, and extra hardware.”- Social Cyclist
Review of the Cinelli Hobootleg
The Cinelli Hobootleg is a prototypical touring bike that can also make detours onto gravel without a hitch. Most riders won’t be surprised to find that the Cinelli is hyper-reliable if a bit heavy. Surprisingly, the Cinelli has a lot of inexpensive components which don’t seem to hold back its performance in touring.
The Cinelli Hobootleg uses a Columbus Cr-Mo Steel 1-1/8 frame.
This frame is heavy and can take a lot of abuse. You may have a hard time trucking this touring bike around with one hand, as it weighs nearly 13 kgs—almost like a whale for a touring bike.
The Cinelli Hobootleg uses a Microshift BS-T09 Bar End - Index-Friction shifters, in addition to a Shimano CS-HG400 11/34T cassette. It also uses an FSA Alpha Drive Trekking 26/36/48T 170/175 mm crankset.
The Microshift shifters make up for the Shimano cassette, so there shouldn’t be any problem there. The Alpha Drive crankset is a hit or miss, depending on who you ask—in general, it should meet your touring needs, but it probably won’t be the perfectly efficient crankset for multifunctional use.
If you plan on taking your touring bike onto the gravel, this groupset won’t let you down, but on a city street, you could be doing better.
The Cinelli Hobootleg uses a Vittoria Randonneur Trail 700 x 38 mm wheelset.
This wheelset is one of the strongest features of the Cinelli, and it’s the defining trait of the bike. You’ll be able to keep on touring for decades using the same wheelset, provided that you don’t abuse them too much.
This is a relatively uncommon wheelset to encounter on bikes in the US, so you may have trouble finding exact replacements at arbitrary bike shops.
There are a few issues with the Cinelli, but it’s hard not to recommend it as a good mid-level touring bike. Users seem to love their Cinellis, and feats of durability like winning Guinness World Records prove that there’s more to this bike than the sum of its parts.
“Nearly all of the components can be replaced or repaired on the road, which is a huge boon to those of us who tend to abuse our bikes and break down while touring.” - Advanced Cycling Association
“When I was with my Hobootleg in Africa during the Tour d’Afrique 2013, I had a vision that I was going to climb this one dune with my bike, and I did it, and it was awesome. We did it.” - Lucas Brunelle
“Apart from the bike’s beautiful painting, it’s coated with a substance that prevents erosion from the dust that gets kicked up on the road. I like to ride the Atacama, so little features like that matter a lot to me.” - Revista Cletofilia
Review of the Trek 920 Disc Touring Bike
The Trek 920 Disc Touring Bike is the bike built for backpackers who also tour. This bike has a lot of points to add on cargo capacity and other extra features which you’re sure to appreciate under the right conditions.
The Trek 920 Disc Touring Bike uses an Alpha Platinum Aluminum, Boost148, Midstay Frame. It also has an E2 tapered head tube, internal derailleur & dropper post routing, PF92, Stranglehold dropouts, G2 Geometry, and proprietary rack mounts.
Let’s get one thing out of the way: this frame is 31 lbs. That doesn’t make it worse than any of the other frames on this list, but it is the heaviest by far.
The Trek 920 Disc Touring Bike uses a Race Face Aeffect, 30T Direct Mount Narrow Wide Crank, Shimano SLX M7000 11 speed shifters, a Shimano SLX M7000, 11-46, 11-speed cassette, and a Shimano HG-601 chain.
There are a few interesting design choices in this groupset, to be sure. The use of a Shimano chain is a bit of an oddity, although presumably, it’ll work in harmony with the Shimano shifters and cassette. The crankset itself should be highly reliable if a bit heavy for what it can do.
Most importantly, this bike doesn’t come standard with any particular pedal set, so you’ll have to purchase your own.
The Trek 920 Disc Touring Bike uses a Bontrager Chupacabra, Tubeless Ready, Inner Strength sidewalls, aramid bead, 29x3.00 wheelset.
This wheelset will be right at home in the wilderness, but a bit over-engineered for your typical touring course. You’ll also find that this wheelset is difficult to repair in the field, and extremely expensive to replace—but extremely functional in places that a touring bike doesn’t go.
In short, The Trek 920 Disc Touring Bike is a touring bike for those who want their touring bike to operate in extreme environments and are willing to pay the price for it. The Trek 920 Disc Touring Bike might be the right bike for people who like to go touring with lots of gear and don’t mind maintaining a slow pace.
“It is nice to be able to transition between dirt to pavement and dirt to pavement.” - Trek Bicycle
“It’s so good when you’re fully loaded up. Everything is mounted cleanly, easy to balance, and easy to take with you.” - KernowMan
“It’s the smoothest bike that I’ve ever ridden by far.” - Wild Outdoor Living
Review of the Masi Giramondo
The Masi Giramondo is a heavy handling beast of a bike with a few top-of-the-line features for a reasonable price. If you’ve got a strong arm, the Defy 5 might be the right entry level bike for you.
The Masi Giramondo uses a Masi double butted tig welded chromoly disc frame. It also has rack & fender mounts, five bottle mounting locations, extra spoke holder, integrated headtube & integrated seat clamp.
The frame of the Masi will give you a little bit of fatigue relief because of the flex points that it has, which can be nice if you’re making frequent transitions from road to gravel.
The Masi Giramondo has a Shimano Deore T611 crankset, 44/32/24t with sealed Shimano BB, and Shimano Deore 10spd front and rear derailleurs w/ Microshift barend shifters. It also has a Shimano 11-34t, 10-speed cassette and a KMC X10 chain.
The Masi Giramondo’s heavy reliance on Shimano’s midscale parts means that the groupset is where the bike’s price is being kept affordable. You shouldn’t have any problems with this groupset, so don’t expect to repair or replace any parts.
The Masi Giramondo uses Kenda Slant-Six 27.5 x 2.10 tires and ProMax DSK-300R disc brakes.
This wheelset is rather rare, but it’s typically quite reliable. As far as rideability goes, the disc brakes and wheels work together in perfect unison, allowing you to retain gradual control over the bike’s deceleration without too much skill.
The Masi Giramondo is a heavy but affordable bike which might be a good choice as an entry level touring bike. More experienced users will probably want to steer clear.
“This is a cool bike with good grips and slightly thicker tires—I’m a big fan of this machine.” - Full Cycle Ottawa
“You can pretty much use this bike for anything—the disc brakes just plain work better, they’re unreal.” -Philip Tintsman
“The only things I’ve had to change on the bicycle is the saddle. Everything else is more than adequate, and it’s not bad for the money.” - John Thomas