Best Touring Bikes

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

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


Bottom bracket drop = the vertical distance between the wheelbase and the bottom bracket. 

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


Effective top tube length = the level distance from the seat to the stem. 

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.

Chainstay Length


Chainstay length = the level distance from the bottom bracket to the rear wheel. 

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.

Wheelbase Length


Wheelbase length = the level distance from the front to rear wheels.

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


Seat tube angle = the angle between the seat tube and the wheelbase

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

Stack (588mm)
Reach (389.3mm)
Price

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. 

  • Frame
  • Groupset
  • Wheelset

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.

Pros

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    The Surly Disc Trucker’s groupset is hard to beat, and densely packs in a set of high quality components that can handle nearly any touring environment.
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    The Surly Disc Trucker’s frame is very light, very durable, and very aesthetically pleasant.
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    The Surly Disc Trucker has a more comfortable saddle than other touring bikes out of the box, so you probably won’t need to spend any extra money replacing it as you might with some of the other bikes on this list.

Cons

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    The Surly Disc Trucker’s extreme BB drop may make it uncomfortable for many riders who can’t properly arch their torso to compensate for the extra distance.
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    The Surly Disc Trucker uses disc brakes, which add weight, causing many bikers to dislike them despite their effectiveness in fine-tuned speed control.
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    The Surly Disc Trucker’s cassette detracts from the high quality of the rest of the groupset. 

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.

Expert Opinions

“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

Stack (617mm)
Reach (392mm)
Price

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. 

  • Frame
  • Groupset
  • Wheelset

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. 

Pros

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    The Specialized AWOL is a great first touring bike because it’s relatively inexpensive and should be comfortable for the average rider.
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    The Specialized AWOL is easy to modify on your own, which may be necessary to install upgraded parts.
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    The Specialized AWOL comes with a nearly indestructible set of tires, which you could use in a context other than touring if necessary. 

Cons

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    The Specialized AWOL is heavy, and doesn’t offer efficient transfer of user power to forward momentum.
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    The Specialized AWOL’s groupset is of low quality and will need replacements or repairs.
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    The Specialized AWOL reliance on low-quality groupset components means that you’ll have a hard time cruising at maximum efficiency while touring. 

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.

Expert Opinions

“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

Stack (572mm)
Reach (362mm)
Price

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. 

  • Frame
  • Groupset
  • Wheelset

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. 

Pros

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    The Cinelli Hobootleg has the potential to be a bargain touring bike, given that it contains both expensive and inexpensive components and tends to fluctuate in price frequently.
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    The Cinelli Hobootleg comes in a variety of friendly and attention-grabbing colors that you wouldn’t usually find on a touring bike.
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    The Cinelli Hobootleg is one of the few bikes that can claim to have broken the Guinness World Record for crossing the world by bicycle, providing a testament to its durability. 

Cons

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    The Cinelli Hobootleg is a mishmash of great parts like the wheelbase and mediocre parts like the Shimano cassette, so it’s tough to predict what will break and when. 
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    The Cinelli Hobootleg buying a brand new Cinelli is likely overpaying for it, given the quality of the groupset. 
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    The Cinelli Hobootleg’s handlebars may be a bit over-responsive for novice bikers.

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.

Expert Opinions

“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

Stack (583mm)
Reach (392mm)
Price

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.

  • Frame
  • Groupset
  • Wheelset

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. 

Pros

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    The Trek 920 Disc Touring Bike is built to perform and handle like a mountain bike rather than a touring bike, which means that it’s ultra-reliable for touring.
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    The Trek 920 Disc Touring Bike can accommodate a lot of additional cargo and a wide variety of rider body shapes.
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    The Trek 920 Disc Touring Bike can easily handle rough terrain without fear of malfunction.

Cons

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    The Trek 920 Disc Touring Bike is inefficient for touring or city riding due to its heaviness, crankset, and wheelset.
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    The Trek 920 Disc Touring Bike is extremely expensive, especially for a bike that won’t be efficient in normal touring conditions.
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    The Trek 920 Disc Touring Bike may be hard to handle for newer riders due to its combination of bulk and crankset. 

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.

Expert Opinions

“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

Stack (610mm)
Reach (394mm)
Price

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.

  • Frame
  • Groupset
  • Wheelset

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. 

Pros

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    The Masi Giramondo should offer a very comfortable ride when it comes to braking and gear shifting.
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    The Masi Giramondo’s frame has a few fatigue-relieving features, which most of the other bikes we’ve discussed in this article don’t have.
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    The Masi Giramondo’s price is quite affordable, and aside from a few of the items in the crankset, is a great value at the sticker price.

Cons

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    The Masi Giramondo’s reliance on Shimano shifters means that shifting won’t always feel smooth and may require some futzing.
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    The Masi Giramondo’s disc brakes are great at braking, but add a lot of weight as well as a lot of width to the bike.
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    The Masi Giramondo will delight new tour bikers but has a few issues which will likely frustrate more experienced bikers. 

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.

Expert Opinions

“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

1 thought on “Best Touring Bikes”

  1. The geometry numbers on the Surly LHT are mixed from different frame sizes. It seems like the author was using the “58cm frame” based on the descriptions, but a bunch of the numbers (ST angle and BB drop, at least) are from the “46 cm frame” with 26 inch wheels. That’s why the BB drop paragraph is so confusing.

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