bike touring resources:: choosing the right touring bike

the most important choice you'll make
You’ve been training, saving and working hard towards achieving your dream of a long distance bike tour, now it’s time to get down to the serious business of equipping yourself with a bicycle.
A snapped frame or a busted rim is the last thing you want when you’re stranded on some high mountain pass, miles from civilization.
If you're planning a long tour--anything more than a few months--it's probably worth it to invest in a quality touring bike.  Touring bikes are specially designed to support the extra weight and stress of heavy baggage.  Mountain bikes are not.

hassles ahead? 

This is what one cyclist, Rick Gunn, wrote about his equipment:  

After three years cycling 25,000 miles through 33 countries, I had worn out approximately three bicycle frames, five rear rims, 15 sets of tires, three drive trains and  four seats.

A bit extreme, but not unusual.  You may hear tales of cyclists who set off through Asia on $100 Chinese built machines or a guy who’s been riding around on the same second-hand mountain bike for 25 years, but these cases are the exception.

One of adventurer Alastair Humphreys greatest regrets about his epic cycling tour was that he couldn’t afford a decent touring bicycle.  The account of his cycling journey is packed with tales of equipment failures and the resulting frustrations of trying to keep his bike zipping along.

what kind of riding will you be doing?
Adventure cyclists like the freedom of getting off road.  Even in parts of the world where there’s a good network of paved roads, you’ll want to escape to the backroads—that’s where the adventure is. 

Cycling in Europe, North America, Australia or the Middle East you can count on good tarmac roads so you can easily get away with purchasing a bike of lesser quality.  But if you decide to bike Africa, Central Asia, or even some parts of South America you’ll be stuck with rough roads—like it or not.

Rutted tracks, sandy surfaces and mud-covered roads are extremely tough on bikes.  If your bike’s not up to par, you’ll end up with a twisted frame, broken spokes, busted racks and cracked rims.  Not only are equipment failures a hassle, they are expensive if you've got to have spare parts shipped from Europe or the US. Things will break--that's a certainty--but the higher the quality, the fewer worries you'll have.
If you're planning a long tour and can afford it, a specially designed expedition bike is the best way to go.  These particularly robust touring bikes are purpose-built with adventure cyclists in mind. They are designed for carrying heavy loads over rough roads in remote parts of the world.


the best bikes for touring
Expedition bikes usually have the following features in common:

Our  Koga Miyata World Travellers haven’to let us down yet after more than three years of wear and tear and almost 70,000 kilometers. These bikes are made specifically for cycling expeditions such as ours and are tough enough to withstand off-road riding in Africa. All components are Shimano XT, they come with Brooks saddles plus they're already equipped with Tubus racks. But they are expensive at around $3,000. If you've got the money, it's probably best to invest it in a high quality bike.

The Thorn Raven  is popular with UK based cyclists who swear by them. The latest model is equipped with an internal hub gear by Rohloff.  This innovative system means minimal maintenance, reduced chain wear and a single gear changer, rather than the two you normally get.  Tempting, but keep in mind that if something goes wrong in some far-flung corner of the planet repairs may be impossible.

Many other bike manufacturers, including Surly and Cannondale, make excellent touring bikes.  Check out a few before you purchase.

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What are your experiences with touring bikes?  Any tips for purchasing the right touring bike for a cycling expedition?
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