Midrange Touring Bikes

Trek’s classic 520 model, Surly’s Long Haul Trucker and the TX-400 from VSF Fahhradmanufaktur are just a few of the touring bikes currently on the market that strike a good balance between quality and price.

Expect to pay $1,000-1,500 U.S. for bikes in this category: a significant investment but one that should give you many happy years of touring, and at a price tag that’s significantly cheaper than many high-end touring bikes.

DSCN1370The Surly Long Haul Trucker – a very popular mid-range touring bike. Photo by Slow Cyclist / Flickr

Bikes in this category should have:

  • A Long Wheelbase – This style of frame ensures that your heels have plenty of room to clear the panniers as you pedal.
  • Attachment Points – Places where things like water bottle cages can be screwed on to the bike frame. These are sometimes called ‘braze-ons’. All mid-range touring bikes should accommodate 2-3 water bottles plus mudguards and luggage racks.
  • Decent Components – The popular and robust Shimano LX and XT groupsets are often used.

Don’t expect much of a choice, however, when it comes to custom options like colours and wheel size. Other places where manufacturers often cut corners include:

  • Luggage Racks – Mid-range tourers are often fitted with racks that are fine for moderate loads but not heavy touring. Often, only a back rack is included and some don’t have racks at all. You have to buy them as an extra accessory.
  • Gearing – The gearing can be a bit to the high side, without a true ‘granny gear’ for serious hills.
  • Wheel Clearance – Check to see if there is enough space between the frame and the mudguards to fit extra wide tires. If not, dirt road touring could be challenging.
  • Wheels – The wheels will probably be machine built and not quite as strong as those built by hand.
  • Tires – The ones that come with the bike may be a bit thin for dirt road touring. You may want to replace them, depending on the trip you’re planning.
  • Saddles – They’re often not the most comfortable models.

On the whole, none of these things matter much if your goal is to take shorter tours, mostly on paved roads. If you’re planning a more adventurous trip, factor in the cost of upgraded racks, wheels and a better saddle. With a few changes, you can turn a midrange touring bike into a decent bicycle for longer expeditions and still come in well below the cost of a high-end expedition touring bicycle.

If you decide to make upgrades, try bargaining with your local bike shop. They might give you a discount on things like better quality tires and racks if you’re buying a bike at the same time.

Planning ahead also helps make your money go further. Try purchasing your bike in the autumn or winter, just as next year’s models are coming out. You might get a great deal on last year’s version.


  1. Tom Allen
    13th April 2010 at 8:17 am #

    Kona also do a mid range tourer called the Sutra: http://www.konaworld.com/sutra.cfm

    I haven’t ridden it but if the attention to detail is as high as their overall reputation suggests, it’s probably worth looking at.

    • friedel
      9th May 2010 at 10:09 am #

      I’ve added it to the list. Thanks Tom!

  2. Simon
    4th October 2010 at 11:02 pm #

    I have a Ridgeback Panorama which retails for around £1200.00 (UK) its well specced and very comfy on long days in the saddle

    • peter
      21st November 2010 at 6:55 pm #

      I completely agree with Simon, the Ridgeback Panorama is greatly underrated but it is a wonderful bike for touring, very comfortable, sturdy and in my view well specs.

  3. Al Rynn
    20th May 2011 at 12:28 am #

    Don’t forget the Mongoose Randonier LE which I’ve used in New Zealand (home) for cyclocross racing -The Rainbow Rage, mountain biking- the Heaphy track, the Gibb River Road (900 km in north western Australia) carrying 20l water and 10 days food, China and even won a short course time trial with it after breaking my carbon road bike! Its heavy (14kg)and quite hard riding unladen being alloy with a steel fork but in 3 years I’ve only replaced chain rings, chains (3), brake pads (3 sets) and its bullet proof. I paid about $NZ1100 for it and feel it rides better than a Long Haul Trucker which I’ve also used. Cheers,

  4. Ian
    26th June 2011 at 2:47 pm #

    Al, The Mongoose Randonneur is now the Vivente World Randonnneur one of which I own. I actually bought mine 2nd hand with very few kilometres on it and stripped it to a frame and fork and got it up to decent spec.The stripped off stuff was sold off at good money to help fund the spec I wanted for the bike.
    Vivente make them stock with STI’s and basically a road bike triple set up which is too tall for a tourer. I went, the flat bar SLX trigger shifer/front crankset route with an XT rear mech and 11-34 cassette, Phil Wood Touring hubs, 40 hole front/44 hole rear on Dyad rims. Nitto Randonee front rack {AWESOME RACK !}, Tubus Cosmo rear rack {Another SWESOME RACK!} and some rather nice, custom made, White Maple mudguards/fenders. I tried a Long Haul Trucker and was not overly impressed with it. Good marketing for a no more than reasonable bike in it’s off the shelf form in my eyes.
    The Vivente I have is also of the “compact” frame geometry which suits me a lot more that the square type frames. The Vivente is also heavy but then so am I lol, so makes no real odds to me. A REALLY comfortable ride though. Fully loaded or unloaded ! Not many people know about the Vivente as it is really only available here in Australia and New Zealnad. A REALLY good frame and fork but, like most tourers, an average “off the shelf” spec. I have nothing but good things to say about it. I think it is $1750.00 off the shelf with a “Ritchey Coupling” version available for bigger money and runs on 700c wheels. Always been a 700c rider as the ride is nicer in my opinion but each to their own I suppose.
    There is also not a huge range of tourers here in Australia with Treks and Cannondales asking CRAZY MONEY for thier products.
    I ? Am extremly happy with my ride.

  5. Jim D-L
    11th March 2012 at 7:24 pm #

    I have been looking for a touring bike with the idea of riding LE-GOG and touring Europe etc.

    I have seen the Dawes Kara-Kum which looks great with the butterfly bars, ideal for my back problems. It also comes with racks and is ready to tour on out of the box.

    Has anyone had experience of these bike Please?

    Thanks Jim

  6. david commander
    6th April 2012 at 8:32 am #

    working through the miasma of information out there around touring and would like to have any feedback available on the use, whether pro or con, of the Bullitt bikes in this regard. So far, though, nothing. Has anyone on tour even seen them being used as a tourer?
    Thanks, David

  7. Simon
    14th May 2012 at 3:42 pm #

    Jim .. i’ve just bought a secondhand KaraKum and after riding drop bar tourers im not sure i would go back to them after riding with butterfly bars, they are so comfortable with a lot of varied hand positions, the bike seems to be very well made and well specced although i have changed some of the standard stuff like wheels ~ seat etc etc

  8. Quang
    24th July 2014 at 12:25 pm #


    Do you know in the US, where can I buy the Kona Sutra or Surly LHT that the store delivers the bike to my home?

    Thank you.


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