New Santos Travelmaster Touring Bikes!

Oh, we tried to resist. We attempted to tell ourselves we didn’t want or need new touring bikes but in the end the lure was too great. Today, we gave in to temptation and put in our order for new Santos Travelmaster touring bicycles.


Santos Travelmaster Test Ride

What are we getting? Here are some of the important changes from our previous bikes:

  • Aluminum frames. Yes, aluminum. We know that’s a bit of departure from our traditional bias towards steel but Santos assure us that there’s nothing to worry about. Only a small fraction of their customers choose to go with the Travelmaster in a steel version. As Robbert – the owner of Santos Bikes – said to Harry & Ivana: ‘They do not break! And if there is any problem, we will send a new one’. Okay then. We’re willing to give it a shot. Aluminum is also lighter, cheaper and there’s no issue with corrosion. Much though we love our old steel bikes, we did have a few minor issues with rust. Hopefully this is now a thing of the past.
  • Anodized. Our new bikes won’t have any paint. Instead, they’ll be anodized (in the same way as many bike parts are). That means no paint to be chipped off or scraped the next time we drop our bikes.
  • Magura_HS33white_2009setMagura Hydraulic Rim Brakes. Like the aluminum vs steel argument, we’ve traditionally favoured V-Brakes. Mostly, we weren’t familiar enough with hydraulic brakes to feel comfortable with them. Since then, we’ve done a bike repair workshop and learned that the maintenance isn’t that hard. We’ve read some good reviews of Magura brakes (see Tom’s thoughts on their disc brakes) and we feel these have been tested enough by other tourers that we can take a risk. Yes, the cables could conceivably crack in transport, but damage could happen to any part of the bike. If Lady Luck isn’t on our side, we can always put V-Brakes back on.

What are we sticking with? Derailleurs! There’s a lot of hype about Rohloff hubs at the moment. We can certainly appreciate the engineering behind them and they have their advantages but at the end of the day they’re expensive. The extra cost buys a lot of derailleurs, and we’ve had no big problems with our derailleurs on tour. We understand them. We can fix them. Any bike mechanic can fix them. If we have to, we can take the derailleur off entirely and ride single-speed for a while. We don’t even mind cleaning the gears and chains regularly.

How did we choose Santos? The condensed version of the thought process that led to us buying Santos Travelmasters goes like this…

Playing with the cameraFirst we looked at our $100 touring bikes. We bought them second hand and cycled over 5,000km on them. They’ve done very well for the price but now both racks are broken. The wheels are looking pretty fragile and the cassette isn’t exactly new either. We could easily pump $500 U.S. into these bikes. If we did, they’d be in much better shape but they still wouldn’t do some of the things we’d like. For example, there’s not enough clearance for really wide tires and the wheels are 700c. We prefer 26″ wheels for international touring.

Robin Mather Touring BikesOur thoughts then turned to our custom built Robin Mather steel touring bicycles. They took us around the globe and we love them BUT they’re in Canada. Getting them to our home in Holland without flying home to personally pick them up will cost money (quite a lot of it), hassle and time. These bikes also probably need a few hundred dollars of replacement parts and upgrades.

So, after our Denmark bike tour we started seriously thinking about new touring bikes. We’d seen Santos bikes before. At least half our Dutch bike touring friends seem to have a Santos bike, and then there are riders like Cass Gilbert, Steve Fabes, Dennis & Marijcke and James Bowthorpe. We could see the quality immediately and we liked it. More importantly, everyone we talked to was positive about their Santos bike and the customer service.

We went out to the factory in Sassenheim and had a look around, which (let’s be honest) only fuelled our bike lust. All those shiny bikes in one spot…. It’s very hard not to be tempted! Here are a couple pictures from our test ride and fitting.

Santos Travelmaster Test Ride

Getting Fitted For Our Santos Bikes

Marco Meijerink's Old Bike

We can’t wait to pick them up. Just a week or so to wait, and then we’ll have new bikes!!! Expect a full review in the new year, after our 3-week trip to Spain.


  1. woollypigs
    26th November 2010 at 11:09 pm #

    N+1 rules, now I’m jealous 🙂

    I have never heard about these bikes, they do looks like a good ride, hope you have many happy miles on them.

    Have a great trip to Spain, we are also thinking about a tour to Spain or Italy next year.

  2. James
    26th November 2010 at 11:58 pm #

    Aluminium? Hydraulic brakes? I think you’re trolling the purists. It’s like announcing: “We’ve ordered a couple of Harley Davidsons because bikes are so slow”.

    What are your plans for the handlebars and racks? The front rack on the orange rig looks like it might be a Tubus.

    I hope they work out well.

    • friedel
      27th November 2010 at 6:50 am #

      Ha, if it were April Fool’s day you might not believe us 🙂 I know it’s a big change from our old bikes and in some ways I will really miss the beauty of the steel (the smoothness of it). I still hope that eventually we can get our Robin Mather tourers over here as well. But I have no doubts about the ability of these Santos bikes to do the job and I’m really looking forward to the stopping power of the hydraulic rim brakes. Haven’t decided on racks yet. We’ll only get backs at first because we’re trying to go more lightly loaded on our trips. Handlebars won’t be totally straight. Mine will be more of a butterfly configuration. Pictures in 10 days or so!

  3. Doug W
    27th November 2010 at 1:03 am #

    Good luck with the new bikes. I have beaten on hydro disc brakes for years on some really rocky, gnarly trails and have never cracked a cable or had any problems with them. And you are right that the maintenance is rather minor under normal conditions. Buying new bikes is so much fun. Congrats!

    • friedel
      27th November 2010 at 8:08 am #

      Good to know Doug!

      Bike buying is a lot of fun. Addictive too!

  4. Blanche
    27th November 2010 at 11:25 am #

    Dus toch?!


  5. Alicia
    28th November 2010 at 3:30 pm #

    What color? So many pretty choices on the website! 🙂

    • friedel
      28th November 2010 at 9:47 pm #

      Anodized means they’ll be boring black, I’m afraid, but it also means we won’t have to worry about having to touch up the scratches and bumps that we always seem to incur while bike touring.

      • zarazek
        1st September 2012 at 1:29 pm #

        Boring black? I’d call it ‘classy black’ 🙂

  6. Two-Wheeled Explorer
    28th November 2010 at 8:17 pm #

    Wheels? 26″ or 700s? And what width?

    • friedel
      28th November 2010 at 9:48 pm #

      Definitely 26″ wheels. By width of wheels, I think you mean tires? We’ll go for something fairly chunky since we want to do some off-road riding. Maybe about 2.0″…

  7. Ann Wilson
    29th November 2010 at 1:57 pm #

    Hi Friedel/Andrew,

    As you know, my bike Sofi with aluminium frame and dérailleur gears replaced the steel frame bike that was stolen in Bulgaria. I rode Sofi more than 8,000 miles to the completion of my trip and she is ready now with new chain and cassette to tackle Europe and the Pacific Coast next year. The lighter frame made life much easier and I had no problems with the gears. I totally agree with you about Rohloff Hubs. They do have their advantages but not enough to justify the price. I am pleased to see you are going to use butterfly bars – I just love mine.


  8. ben
    5th December 2010 at 4:59 pm #

    A very wise choice. I’ve done about 11000km from London eastwards (smooth asphalt to ridiculously extreme Tajik roads) on Travelmaster (rohloff/carbon belt) and cannot believe how well the bike performs. Totally solid, a joy to ride. The perfect touring setup.

  9. Patrick Taylor
    7th December 2010 at 1:19 pm #

    Hi Friedel.

    I hope you are both well. The new bikes look great. Maybe it’s an English thing, but they’d have drop bars if it was me. More comfy than straights at least.

    Good luck on your tour to Spain. Next year we’ll be returning to Denmark and Holland so we might see you again some time.

    • friedel
      7th December 2010 at 8:23 pm #

      Never fancied the drop bars myself… but I know plenty of people who love them. I guess that’s the great thing about life in general, we’re all different and that’s what makes it interesting! By the way, I finally got ahold of Louise Sutherland’s book (there was an order mixup and it took a while). Hoping to read it soon, during these long winter nights.

  10. Doug W
    9th December 2010 at 11:01 pm #

    Speaking of new touring bikes, I finally built up my Fargo! Yay!

    Included parts/prices and build specs in case anyone is curious. Hope you don’t mind the link. Please delete if so, no hard feelings. 😉

  11. Harry & Ivana
    14th December 2010 at 12:01 pm #

    Good for you! Congrats, you will enjoy them (though you might miss the Rohloff once you hot dirt, snow, sand or anything sticky or wet 😉

    And so far Robbert was right, after 25,000km including the worst roads in Alaska in the beginning and Bolivia at the end, all we broke was one spoke (between the 2 of us).

    Enjoy, H&I

  12. Stephen Lord
    14th December 2010 at 12:20 pm #

    Lovely bikes — I think choosing a local bike is a good idea, but what luck to be in Holland when you’re doing the choosing!

    I had those Magura hydraulics for a few tours but took them off to go back to V-brakes. Maguras will stop anything…

    Enjoy Spain and is it Feliz Navidad!?,


  13. gerardo
    14th December 2010 at 5:47 pm #

    Congratalution nice bike but I would never choose Aluminum bike for touring neither magura brakes.
    Hier my next touring bike(hope to get it next year)
    Felcies fiestas!!!

  14. Steve Jones
    17th December 2010 at 9:56 am #

    Wow! New SANTOS bikes.. they should prove to be great!! Hope you have some great adventures with them.
    As far as the frame material goes, one of the biggest advantages of steel is the feel of the bike or ride quality during long days in the saddle. I’ve found I get fatigued much more on my alu. frames which is why I’ve been slowly changing over to steel. Lighter? Not much I think. Alu frames have to be built thicker than steel tubing for the same weight so I think the weight advantage is small. And the Rohloff being not much of an advantage? Wait until you get caught up in days of rain or in muddy conditions. There is NO doubt at all that the Rohloff is an advantage in those situations. Yes derailleurs are cheaper and a bit lighter but much easier to break and keep running smoothly. Yes, you can fix practically anything, but when you are really tired and cold and wet at the end of a days riding, that wouldn’t be something I’d much feel like doing. Especially when it can take an hour or so to get it running smoothly again. That’s my real world experience.
    Having said that….
    I’m sure that Santos will prep and set up your alu. bike just great, but as for me, on a long tour I’ll stick with the reliability of the Rohloff coupled with a steel frame and save my alu bikes with derailleurs for local rides.

    Can’t argue about the Rohloff being expensive. It IS!! but we’ve got the Alfine eleven now and since you don’t mind derailleurs you could couple that with a double or triple ring. Less than half the price of a Rohloff and lighter.

    Parts can be anodized in any number of colors other than black but it might be that Santos don’t offer that on a frame. Black might be a good choice. Much better than silver which reflects the sun and burns your legs when wearing shorts!!!

    All the best. Hope you LOVE your new bikes!
    Give us all some feedback from the road about how well they perform. I’ll be happy if you prove me wrong about the ride quality!!

    • friedel
      18th December 2010 at 7:00 am #

      Hi Steve,

      Yes, we’ll be interested to test out the aluminium frames as well. A year ago, I would have never gone for aluminium but my attitude is changing. I figure you can’t properly judge something unless you test it out (we’ve only had steel touring bikes up until this point) and many people do tour happily on alu frames, so we’ll try it and see. Rohloff vs derailleurs, surely that’s a whole other post! Aside from the price, I hate the idea of having to carry spare oil and cogs around on a longer trip, or that if it breaks I’d have to get a new one shipped out to me and the wheel rebuilt.

  15. Steve Jones
    25th December 2010 at 6:38 am #

    I do love that orange frame in the pictures!!! It’s great that Santos offer such a range of options on the colour because most bike companies don’t give you that.
    You don’t really buy a bike for the paint but if it’s expensive and you’ll be living with it for a long time, it’s nice to have a colour you don’t hate,
    Good to see Santos finally coming up with an English web site too.

  16. Darby Roach
    11th October 2012 at 4:26 am #

    I’m riding my old Trek 520 around the world and stayed with some Warm Showers hosts in Breda who had Santos bikes. They raved about them. I saw a couple more in the Czech Republic. They look like really nice rides!

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