Monday, 13 January 2014

Best touring bikes... And the first rule of Bike Touring Club

There are a lot of bikes in the world. I love that. But it does sometimes mean that buying a bike is a little, well, daunting. Especially if you're planning to go touring on it.

So I'm starting Monday with my thoughts on great touring bikes... 

The Dawes Galaxy - 
This is a superb bike, and somewhat of legend in touring circles. The reputation precedes it, and the forums are ablaze with all the positive vibes which come out of having a Reynolds steel frame, top end Shimano components, and hardy racks and mudguards. 

It's a workhorse, and you can quite easily pick up second hand models on eBay and Gumtree. But because they are so well regarded, don't be surprised to be unable to pick up a cheap deal. Good quality models which have been well cared for keep their price.

The range starts at £499 for the flat bar tourer (new in 2014, and replacing the slightly curve ball Karakum), and carry through to the four figure mark. 

Top of the range Dawes Galaxy 

The Genesis Day One Alfine 8 - 
This bike is beautiful. And tricked out to the maximum. Again, the beautiful steel frame will absorb all of the bumps along the way, whilst the hub gears offer a real option for people who want low maintenance. And there are bar end gear shifters, which promote a more relaxed riding style - great when you are toddling off through the countryside, but also make it feel retro and cool. 

All this for sub £1000. It's a real contender if you are able to stretch that far. 

The beautiful Day One
The Jamis Aurora - 
The general consensus when it comes to the Aurora, is that this is a serious piece of kit for the price. Unfortunately it's only available at Evan's in the UK, and I prefer to support independent bike shops. But still, if you have to make that sacrifice, buy it at Evan's and then get it serviced by your local independent retailer of choice. 

Again, steel frame, pannier rack and slightly more upright geometry make it worthy of consideration. In fact the only think I've heard that's negative about this bike, ever, is that the mudguards swim above the tyres like they've just had an argument... change them, tweak them, take them off. Whatever. What's left is a lovely bit of kit, the 2014 model of which I will hopefully be test riding next month. *NEW BIKE ALERT* 
The 2014 Aurora

The bike in the shed - 
Us bike lot can get a bit obsessed with what bikes are out there, and what shiny bit of kit we can attach to them if given half a chance. Really all you actually need to go touring is a mechanically sound bike and a route.

This is a picture of my beloved Rufus, who I completed my first few tours on, most notably LEJOG in 2009. He's a £300 bike from Halford's, which was in the sale and cost £250 to ride away on. He was an aluminium frame and a flat bar. He managed two people's full unsupported kit and two weeks of food during LEJOG, and he held his own covering well over 5000 miles before some oik pinched him from the garage.
Somewhere in the English countryside...
But he's here to show that you can do amazing things on a simple and cheap bike. The main thing is to just get out there and ride. You can have all the kit in the world, but if you aren't riding then what's the point?

Even though this is 'One Girl, Two Wheels' you'll notice that I've not recommended any women's models. That's just down to me. I'm 175cm with an inside leg of 83cm, so most of the ladies frames I've tried just don't work for me.

So take my advice, get out there and try out as many bikes as possible. Talk to people, get their advice, and then settle on something you are happy with. Buying a comfortable bike can mean the difference between enjoying or enduring the miles that go by.

This, remember, is supposed to be fun. If you're not enjoying it, then you've failed the first rule of bike touring.


  1. I started out with a Carerra too. Lasted 2 good years of daily commuting before I upgraded to a handmade steel frame from Mercian in Derby. A pleasure to ride - steel is real!

  2. I really don't think you can fault a Halford's bike to get you out on your first few rides, but I agree, steel is the way forward!