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.
The 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.