Touring bicycles have a very long history. The earliest examples of people roaming Europe on their two-wheelers (then called "dandy horses") reach all the way back into the past to the first decades of the XIX century.
As you would expect, these rudimental vehicles were very clunky and, by all intents and purposes, considered a novelty aimed at the privileged.
Fast forward 200 years into the future and you will find a completely different situation.
Bike touring has established itself as the go-to eco-friendly way of exploring the world, and touring bikes have evolved into streamlined vehicles pushing the boundaries of the self-propelled drive.
Of course, finding best touring bikes is not by itself a guarantee of quality. Let’s which vehicle is worthy of your attention the most.
In a hurry? The test winner after 25 hours of research:
Salsa Marrakesh Alivio Bike
Why is it better?
Last Updated: March 05, 2021
By Max Shumpert: This article has been updated to reflect the most accurate information regarding folding bikes available for those who are interested in lightweight and portable bikes. The best 8 available have changed, and information has been added to assist individuals in finding the best folding bicycles currently available on the market. The FAQ has also been updated.
Salsa Marrakesh Alivio Bike
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Co-op Cycles ADV 1.1 Bike
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Best Touring bikes for men
The 520 is a steel touring bike made for the open road. It's the longest-running model in Trek's lineup, and it's built to carry you and your gear.
On the first glance, Trek 520 probably looks as by the numbers as it gets.
But, don't let this traditional design deceive you - this bike packs much more than meets the eye. Besides, this stretched out geometry hasn't become a touring staple for no reason – the way the bike handles the transfer of weight is truly excellent and the frame allows you to easily get into an optimal aerodynamic stance for optimal weight.
This whole situation is largely helped by the fact that you get to choose between five different frame sizes (48, 51, 54, 57 and 60 cm) so you can improve your riding experience even further.
But, as good as it is, the frame is not the main star of the show. The manufacturer has decided to grace the bike with a couple of very interesting features that do a great job justifying its admittedly hefty price.
Let us start with the pretty inventive gearing. This time you are allowed to go much lower than with the standard-issue touring bikes, which comes pretty handy if the road takes you to some sharper inclines and you are buried in baggage.
The whole setup is made even better by Shimano Dura-Ace bar-end shifters which are both very easy to maintain and easy to use for touring on the go.
The wheelset you get on 520 feels very durable, without coming off too stiff. Although primarily made for long treks, the tires are wide enough to provide a pleasant cushioning effect and neutralize a couple of bumps you may encounter on the road.
The rims are pretty sturdy and were made to accommodate the wider tires so this whole combination performs rather well.
Overall, we can say that the build of the bike is very strong without creating an excessive weight that would put too much pressure on the rider on the harder track sections.
Once we move to more specific mechanical elements, we can find a thru-skew secure skewer system featuring dropout looping system that makes sure the wheel won’t fall out before the skewer is removed. The 48/36/26t Alivio mountain bike chainset works as expected and loses very little torque along the way.
All these building blocks produce one incredibly satisfying riding experience that’s honestly very hard to emulate.
Trek 520 may be scarce when it comes to exciting gimmicks (all the deviations from the traditional formula the manufacturer is making are smart and serve some purpose), but it truly delivers in the field that’s the most important for long-distance riders – the performance.
Read more about our experiences with this rugged tourer in our in-depth review of the Trek 520.
Best touring bike for women
Vehicles that are designed to perform well on gravel are still a pretty novel corner of the bike world.
And yet with major roads becoming so jammed with traffic to the point of endangering the riders’ security and more and more people deciding to take their adventures off road, we have to ask why the manufactures waited before exploiting this simple fact.
Raleigh Tamland is an excellent piece of hardware that, with its strong build and added stability makes strong efforts in finally making the gravel bikes a thing.
So, let us start with the frame – Raleigh Tamland comes in two varieties - Tamland 1 and the Tamland 2. Both of the options feature the same basic frame that comes in a number of different sizes ranging from 52 to 60 cm which makes the bike an excellent choice for riders of different builds.
Either way, the choice of the materials is simply great – the frame is built from custom butted Chromoly steel which strikes a near-perfect balance between light weight and durability. The forks are just the same –this monocoque carbon featuring a tapered alloy steerer.
This solid construction produces an optimal off-road comfort and provides an excellent frame to hang smaller features on. And hang them the manufacturer did.
For instance, both of the break varieties (Tamland 2 uses an SRAM Rival drivetrain and Tamland 1 Shimano 105) do a good job bringing the vehicle to a halt even on unstable terrains. The main difference is that the hydraulic discs we can find on Timland offer lesser stopping power. They still perform well, though.
Another thing we would like to point out (at least in the case of Tamland 1) is the Shimano shifting system which is arguably one of the best you can currently find on the market.
Finally, if you want to get a good performance on terrains like gravel you need to have a good pair of tires. In both of the cases, Tamland addresses this issue with a lot of grace.
At first glance, 40mm-wide Donelly tires may look like an odd choice to put on this kind of vehicle because they simply appear too thin. But, once they stick to the ground (and we literally mean “stick” to the ground) you will see why the manufacturer went this route. The traction you get is truly extraordinary.
Overall, even though Tamland 1 puts on a slightly better performance, both of the bike varieties use their ergonomic frames and smart components to create the formula that provides truly great and crowd-pleasing performance on the terrain that is very hard to ride on – a hard formula to crack but we feel the manufacturer made a strong push in the right direction.
Read more about why we recommend this touring bike for women in our in-depth review of the Raleigh Tamland.
Best adventure off-road touring bike
1. Co-op Cycles ADV 1.1 Bike
Co-op Cycles ADV 1.1 Bike
You can tackle mountain passes with a full load on the Co-op Cycles ADV 1.1 road-touring bike. It has an ultra-low gear option, custom front and rear racks, and a smooth-riding chromoly steel frame.
Now, it’s time to take things in a completely new direction and go completely off-road.
Co-op Cycles ADV 1.1 Bike is a bike that fits this energizing narrative like a well-tailored glove. Just take a look at its name, it’s so edgy.
All this praise we are singing is laid upon a solid frame that comes in the form of a Chromoly steel frame which is incredible, it helps you pass the bike over unavoidable obstacles is truly a breeze, without ever compromising its quality.
Also, we like to point out that the seat is incredibly comfy to sit on, even if you encounter occasional bumps. Obviously, the manufacturer did its best to make the off-road tracks as pleasant as possible.
The other incredibly important feature the bikes of this type need to address flawlessly is the breaks. This time this important duty is handled by a pair of hydraulic disk brakes that virtually freeze your vehicle in place, even if you are racing downhill.
You have 700 x 38mm Schwalbe Marathon tires that offer pretty strong traction.
Much like the frame, the rims we can find on the wheels are pretty sturdy and look like they can take an incredible amount of punishment.
All in all, this is one very balanced and well-crafted vehicle that features very effortless maintenance and great overall stability on difficult terrain. Throw cool design and lightweight into the mix, and you may have an ultimate off-road bike here.
2. Tommaso Sentiero
- DURABLE & RELIABLE: Aluminum Compact Frame combined with an SST Steel Fork for Maximum Durability, backed up with our industry leading Lifetime...
- POWERFUL PEFORMANCE & SPEED: 3x8 Shimano Claris Groupset, featuring a 30/39/50T Claris crankset and 12x25T Claris cassette. Perfect for varying...
- RUGGED, ALL-TERRAIN CAPABILITIES: Tommaso TC-20D rims and offer the rugged durability of a 28 spoke rim that can handle all types of terrain and...
Unlike the previous bike we covered, Tommaso Sentiero is, for all intents and purposes, an entry-level bike. So, we’ll do our best to treat it as such and avoid direct comparison with other, more expensive units. Still, we all need to be aware of some constraints that come packed with an affordable price tag.
Plus, it's avaiable on Amazon, which makes it a quicker and easier purchasing option.
But, let us start with the positives. The first thing we want to point out that the bike features a pretty excellent geometry. The power and comfort are clashing in one beautiful package that has no problem maintaining stability on hilly terrains and taking some beating if you are landing from the minor heights.
Overall, the frame may not be amongst the top offerings of the market (more on that later), but it is still balanced enough to provide solid performance.
We are also extremely pleased with its Shimano Claris Tripe crankset coupled with a 12x25 cassette. This setup gives you all the variety you may need when climbing even the steepest terrains you can find once you get off the main roads.
The other thing that heavily leans on this topic are the shifters which are not only incredibly smooth but also pinpoint accurate. You will be able to easily adjust the brakes without the need to move your hands or take your eyes off the road.
The bike also features more than a couple of nice touches that are there to improve the overall comfort of the vehicle. Take for instance the optimized handlebars that are both ergonomic and efficient.
So, from a design standpoint, the bike summons a lot of goodwill. There is a visible effort on behalf of the engineers to squeeze every ounce of value from this affordable package.
But, much like with all other units of this type, it is clear that some compromises needed to be made. In this case, that would be the choice of aluminum as the material that will make the core of the bike’s frame.
On the more positive side, the frame is very tough and can withstand a lot of abuse. Unfortunately, it also makes the bike too heavy for harder terrains and riders who are not at the peak of their form.
Although a minor mention in the long list of praise we have written about the bike, it does have a strong influence on the overall impression and may even be a deal breaker for riders who are intent of talking tours in nature.
Best folding bike for touring
1. Brompton H6R Folding Bike
Brompton H6R Folding Bike
Built to thrive in the city, the Brompton H6R folding bike is well-suited to commuting and wandering in all seasons. Perfect for multimodal journeys, it folds to fit in car trunks, buses and trains.
Folding bikes are a curious beast. On the one hand, they are the ultimate portable vehicles for travelers who use the bikes only to close the short distance gap and then change the means of transport. On the other, there is only so much performance you can squeeze from the vehicle you can carry on your back.
So, comparing the best folding bikes to full-blown touring units wouldn’t be quite fair.
For that very reason, we are very glad to say that, in spite of its inherent limitations, Brompton H6R Folding Bike manages to find a pretty sweet spot between riding experience and portability.
The high tensile steel the whole thing is made of is durable but not too heavy and the classic M-type handlebar allows for a pleasant riding experience without forcing you to lean too heavily forward.
Throw into the equation a pair of small but very cushiony wheels upgraded with good-looking mudguards and you will get a pretty good picture of what this bike’s main mission is – getting you from point A to point B and making sure you feel comfortable in the process.
For instance, you get to choose between six different gears which are pretty awesome for a folding unit. It also allows you to easily make an easy job from some sharper inclines, which would, with this wheel size, be a very tall order.
So, there you have it – a neat and streamlined vehicle that’s great both for casual city commuting and for closing the short touring distances. Just don’t ever confuse it for a professional touring bike.
2. SCHWINN loop
- Lightweight step-through frame folds for easy storage; Folding frame with 20-inch wheels fit riders 56 to 74 inches tall
- 7-speed twist shifter provides smooth gear changes
- Front and rear linear pull brakes deliver secure stops
Schwinn Loop sets out to do the same thing – on a dime.
The aluminum frame is sufficiently sturdy and not overly heavy – it amounts to manageable 15 kilograms you can easily carry in the storage bag you get in the package.
The number of gears is pumped up to 7, which is quite amazing and twist shifters do a pretty good job at allowing you to play with different settings.
The tires and brakes are serviceable, but far from extraordinary. So, we can all agree that the core performance is pretty much intact, which is great news for money-conscious buyers.
Schwinn loop folds easily into a neat little package for easy storage and transport. You get a heavy nylon bag to store your bike in.
You can simply just fold your bike and bring it inside with you. This makes sure your bike never gets stolen!
Due to its 7 gear shifter, the bike can easily ride up the hills without an extra pull. You have the best-designed pant guard at the front and rear fenders.
This helps to keep the dirt off your clothes and prevent scratches as well. Overall, it is a great bike for commuting.
Best Cheap Touring Bike
1. SCHWINN DISCOVER
- Schwinn suspension fork, alloy crank, City rise adjustable stem with back sweep handlebar
- 21-speed SRAM grip shifter and rear derailleur mean that pedaling up a hill is easier; Alloy twist shifter compatible 4 finger brake levers
- Promax alloy linear pull brakes, gear carrier, Adjust the angle (rise) of the alloy Ahead stem
In the previous review, we have seen the effort Schwinn put in the entry-level folding bike market. The result was very capable in a somewhat undercooked piece of hardware. Now, we are moving to a full-scale league.
Well, even though this bike manages to retain a pretty lucrative price, this time, the results are much better.
Here we have one very well-balanced vehicle that is aimed at all the casual riders who don’t value cutting edge specs as much as enjoyable performance and effortless gear shift.
That doesn’t mean Schwinn Discover is without its teeth. All of the components are hung upon a rock-solid and rust-free aluminum alloy frame with a lifetime warranty. Not the lightest material on the market, but remember – this bike isn't pursuing prizes in any particular field.
The rest of the components follow in similar footsteps. The Promax alloy linear brakes are capable to stop the vehicle almost instantaneously which makes the bike very safe to ride.
The 21-speed SRAM gear shifter offers enough variety even for the most demanding riders and keeps shifting as effortless as possible.
The overall feel is that all these parts are carefully chosen to balance the vehicle's price without compromising its quality.
And then, there are the other small details like very pleasant padded saddle and adjustable handlebar that make the overall riding experience even more enjoyable.
To sum it all up, although this vehicle was obviously built for occasional joyrides rather than strenuous adventures on long distance roads it still manages to offer enough power and versatility to leave you pleasantly surprised even if you push it out of its comfort zone.
So, what’s up with the price? Some compromises needed to be made, right?
Well yes, but fortunately they are mostly superficial. For instance, assembling the vehicle is a true pain in the neck and the lack of comprehensive instructions isn’t making this job any easier. Furthermore, the bike comes equipped with cheap plastic fenders – a couple of harder crashes and they’re gone.
But, we would much rather live with cheap fenders and difficult assembly (which is anyway a one-time effort) than compromised core performance. And the good people from Schwinn were careful not to make any wrong steps in this field.
In the end, this bike could be best described as utilitarian. It lacks all the bells and whistles you can find on the more expensive touring models but lacks virtually nothing necessary for a pleasant countryside ride.
For more info, we took a closer look at the Schwinn Discover, make sure to read this review before making a buying decision.
Best Road Touring Bike
1. Salsa Marrakesh Alivio Bike
Salsa Marrakesh Alivio Bike
The Salsa Marrakesh is our no.1 touring bike for a reason. It was designed to take on long miles while carrying heavy loads. It offers uses riding confidence on steep climbs and scary descents.
Well, let’s start with the frame which makes the “skeleton” of the entire vehicle. This time we have a beautiful Marrakesh Alivio bike steel frame which was specially designed to carry heavy loads without appearing too heavy itself.
Overall, a perfect blend for long-distance treks.
This whole situation is largely helped by the fact that the frame features near-perfect geometry, even when the vehicle is stacked with a heavy load.
The braking system is handled by TRP Spyre-C mechanical disc brakes, which is, by all means, an excellent choice. The brakes give you great control over the vehicle even when you're racing down the steep slopes.
When it comes to the wheels, the impression continues to be rock-solid. Both of them are supported with very strong WTB rims and wrapped up in the very grippy Teravail Rampart tires.
27 Gear shifts are handled by tried and tested Shimano bar-end shifters which don’t require any further explanation. The brand is famous for its high-quality products.
What we are left in the end is the vehicle that makes some conscious divisive choices that may turn off a certain number of people, but still produce one unparalleled long-distance road experience.
Best Electric bike for long-distance touring
1. TREK POWERFLY 5
Trek Powerfly 5+
The Powerfly 5 is a powerful electric mountain bike that has been designed for both male and female bike enthusiasts looking for a little help on challenging trails.
Finally, we have to scratch one very unique corner of the touring bike market – the electric vehicles. Although they are far from being novel, electric bikes are still struggling with a couple of blemishes that are preventing the technology to be more widely used.
The first one is the price which still presents a huge obstacle for the average consumer. The second comes in the form of added weight that comes with the electronic components and the battery.
We are happy to say that Trek Powerfly 5 somehow manages to leverage these obstacles and turn them into assets.
Sure, the price is there, and the weight is as weighty as ever. But, for the money you are asked to pay, you at least get an incredibly steady Bosch Performance CX motor powered by a 500Wh battery.
This combination allows you to cover the distances up to 130 kilometers in eco mode, develop the speeds up to 33km/h (of course at the expense of the range) and easily climb some incredibly steep inclines.
All these things do an excellent job justifying the bike's price. Essentially, you are buying a vehicle that has no problem carrying heavy long and transforming into a pretty snappy electric motorcycle.
Of course, if you don’t want to really too heavily on the battery to carry your vehicle, you can always switch back to pedaling.
Here, things remain steady and reliable. The vehicle's frame is made of alpha platinum aluminum and does a great job of keeping everything together and infusing the bike with a healthy dose of stability. The battery slot is unobtrusive and doesn’t come at the expense of the overall geometry.
The low-lying design coupled with a well-placed handlebar makes sure that you’re able to maintain a straight posture while riding. So, everything works well in the design department.
When it comes to the brakes, this time the stakes are admittedly higher since you are going to produce a stronger momentum when running the bike with the motor turned on. Fortunately, Shimano MT200 disc brakes do a good job bringing the vehicle to an immediate halt even if you’re racing at the top speed.
Finally, let us talk about the wheels, which are arguably one of the vehicle’s rare detriments. Don’t get us wrong – they are very well built and the Bontrager XR3 tires offer great traction. They are, however, a bit too narrow, which comes at the expense of the overall stability and control.
As for the gear set, it’s serviceable but not exceptional. It serves its purpose rather well and allows you to traverse different terrains once the battery runs dry. The focus of this vehicle lies somewhere else anyway.
The bike is quite expensive, and we understand why you may want to dig a little deeper before making a buying decision, which is why we wrote an in-depth review on the Trek Powerfly 5+.
Some Helpful Tips when touring
Now that we’ve checked out some of the best touring bikes that are currently floating the market, let’s take some time to talk about the touring itself and see how you can leverage the strengths and drawbacks of your vehicle.
For a start, it would be a good idea to rely on the good old rule of thirds. Namely, you should divide your daily trek in three or more equal distances, and make sufficient brakes between them. This way, you will be able to save enough energy for the latter stages.
The second thing you should pay attention to is the wind. If you can catch a tailwind – great! If you, on the other hand, are clashing directly with the strong front wind, you should probably take a break until the wind calms down.
Finally, do your best to keep yourself energized. Long riding tours tend to be quite exhausting. Do your best then to supply yourself with enough water and nutritious snacks to keep your engine running.
Of course, the task of covering the great distances is made much easier if you are not equipped with appropriate touring accessories. Let’s take a quick look at some of the absolute essentials you shouldn’t leave your home without.
A bag to carry everything
This may be obvious to those who've been touring, but you need a bag. And it needs to be fairly big. Here is the one we recommend.
- Smart quick release/clip-on system - Just simply attach and detach bags within few seconds - no straps required! Easy and time saving!
- Hard base, reinforced, padded main body - A durable polypropylene base allows the bag to be set down on wet surfaces, protecting the cargo...
- Night riding safety - 360 Degree Reflective trim/ Taillight hanger design
Tools and spare parts
This one doesn’t require too much explanation. Barren roads can be a treacherous place. You should equip yourself with all the necessary tools that can help you deal with problems that may arise along the way.
Also always carry an extra inner tube or two, check out our bike tube review here.
More often than not, long roads may leave you without a place to sleep over. Buy yourself a compact camping gear and put an end to this issue once and for all. Make sure you read our biking camping guide for more info.
Sometimes, the entire days may pass without a decent restaurant on sight. And you can’t live off the snacks that entire time. So download some simple recipes and put them to good use with your new cooking gear.
You don’t want the rain to spoil your countryside experience. Bring some spare clothes so you can easily change along the way.
By useful items we consider all the small things that don’t pack too much weight but can prove to be incredibly useful in the case of emergency – things like power banks, a bike computer with GPS navigation, torches, etc.
The things you should know about bike touring
So, now that we’ve covered some basic things, it is important for you to understand a couple of things about the very nature of bike touring.
Touring is performed for the sake of pleasure, not racing. That entails a couple of things. First, keep your own pace. Pushing yourself too hard will just spoil the enjoyment.
Second, find yourself a good company. The best adventures are shared with friends. Besides, this way you will be able to help each other when things go awry (and they will).
Another thing you need to know before setting off on long journeys is that bike touring is not for sleepers. If you want to avoid the strong sun and make the most out of your day, you will need to wake up as early as 4:30 AM to make use of your available time.
Last but not least, what works for one person doesn't necessarily work for the other. The level of enjoyment you’ll be able to squeeze out once on the road will largely depend on your personal preferences and the type of the road you’re going to roam.
That brings us to the last chapter of today's topic.
How to choose the ideal Travel Companion
Although we’ve presented you with some of the best touring bikes money can currently buy, there is a strong chance neither one of them will suit your specific needs. Here are a couple of useful considerations you can make to find your ideal pick.
- Consider your budget – Investing too much money in the vehicle will make very little sense if you look at touring only as a pass-time activity.
- Destination – Different types of destinations will require a different type of vehicle. As a rule of thumb, longer journeys will require bikes with sufficient weight capacity.
- Paved or off-road – Paved roads require fast and steady vehicles. On the other hand, if the majority of your journey will occur offroad, you will need something with larger tires and a certain degree of shock absorption.
- Are you going to use public transport – If you plan on using public transport to close the distance gaps during your adventure, a smaller or even foldable bike should be your vehicle of choice.
TREK POWERFLY 5 is a great option when it comes to long-distance touring. We are happy to say that Trek Powerfly 5 somehow manages to leverage these obstacles.
Consider where you are about to ride. If you are looking for a simple paved ride then road touring bikes are the better option. If you will be venturing on gravel roads along your trip then an adventure touring bike will be a great option.
People are willing for these types of bikes. The bikes are a build-up to these price points and have been found as the most expensive road bikes.
They are no up to quite a fast pace due to weight, heavy-duty wheels and tires. These features hold down the accelerating.
We hope these few considerations and the picks we gave you will make your life if just a bit easier. Bike touring is probably one of the best things you can do during vacation. You will be able to explore the world from a completely fresh perspective and develop some serious stamina along the way. You should not, however, take the whole issue lightly.
Sloppy preparations and the poor vehicle will only get you into trouble. So do your homework and take some time to do the necessary groundwork.
But, once you’re finally done, you will develop a passion that will last a lifetime.
Salsa Marrakesh Alivio Bike
Why is it better?
Last update on 2021-04-13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API