I would like to buy a touring bike soon, but in our country I cannot find any well known touring bike. I would like to buy a used one so I am going to visit some of the bicycles stores of our capital city. I am afraid I do not know how to recognize a touring bike.

What are the differences between a touring and a speed/road bike (e.g. eyelets on the folk)? Unfortunately I have not had enough experience to classify them based on the frame geometry but if you can tell me any tips I will thank you. :)

3 Answers 3


Any bike can be used for touring long distances. The main question is, what type of touring do you want to do?

If you want to do self-supported touring (you carry the luggage yourself on the bike vs. a car transports the stuff for the whole group), you need a bike that can take luggage. The other main feature I look for in a touring bike is comfort, because I spend a lot of time on the bike, 3-5 hours a day, day after day.

Most mountainbikes, citybikes, trekking bikes, comfort bikes can be retrofitted with racks/carriers to hold panniers. Usually the rear-carrier is easy to do, the front carrier might be tricky, but there are front carriers even for suspension forks (see Old Man Mountain front racks).

CHAINSTAY For me, the most important feature of a specifically long-distance touring bike is the frame geometry. And in frame geometry, for me in a touring bike, the most important is the chainstay. A long-distance touring bike has a minimum of 45 cm chainstay (vs. 40-41 cm), but touring specific manufactures do longer ones (Rose bikes: 46 cm, IDworx: 47.1 cm). This is to give space for rear panniers, and usually the same for all frame sizes. If your feet hit the rear panniers, you cannot go. I had this problem, and it really is a problem, and difficult to fix. After checking some bikes, you will be able to tell visually how long the chainstay is (big distance between rear wheels and seatpost). To be very precise, you can measure the actual chainstay (the horizontal distance).

Chainstay length

WHEELBASE Another helpful feature is a long wheelbase, which is size dependent, but usually 105 cm and up. This is helpful for the slower, in line motion of touring (vs. fast turning in a group of bikes in a competition).

The rest, you can upgrade, or live with. My wife and I, we tour a lot. She has a 7 speed (hub gear) city bike with a rubbish rear roller brake (not to confuse with a disk brake). I have a 8 speed (hub gear) city bike-mountain bike hybrid. We bought some panniers, and there we go. On steep hills, we get off and push the bikes. I did 3000 km in the last year, and we've just been in Slovenia on a few hundred KM tour, last year we've been at the Dolomiti in Italy. We complained a lot about the 7 and 8 gears, but it didn't stop us from touring.

Some myths that I think you should NOT consider:

  1. "Steel frame is easy to fix when broken". These days all frames are of good quality. If your frame is broken, you will order anyway a new frame, because a welded-repaired steel frame is no use at all. I have one bike with a steel frame, after an accident the frame got bent, and the bike doesn't really keep a straight line. It's not possible to get it back to the original condition.
  2. "Easy of repair" in general. If you tour in Europe, for a few days, you will always find a repair shop, and if you need special parts, you can always order by mail in 1-2 days. Bar end shifters are easy to repair, and this was a must 20-30 years ago, today is less of a concern. If your wheel is destroyed, or your tyre falls apart, you will order anyway a quality wheel/tyre, and not fiddle with a third world low quality tyre. If you look around the web, people do around the World tours with disc brakes, carbon drive, and other fancy stuff, and if they break down in the middle of Africa, they get the parts by mail order in 1-2 days, and continue.
  3. Kona Sutra, Surely LHT, Trek 520 are the best Many websites are written in English, and are maintained by US, UK tourers, and list brands from these countries. However, bike touring in The Netherlands, and in Germany is a much bigger thing then in any other country. They have lots of brands, even premium ones, only for touring. See for example IDWorx, Koga in the Netherlands, or Rose Bikes, Tout Terrain in Germany. They have a long list of different touring bikes. In Amsterdam there is a bike shop only for touring bikes (De Vakantiefietser). Only touring bikes!
  4. Some very special bike is needed. When I started, I talked and asked a lot about the bikes. The more I go on touring, the less I care about the bike, and focus on the trip.

By my experience, the most helpful thing about the bike on a bike tour are puncture proof tyres, because it saves a lot of time for relatively smaller investment. Schwalbe Marathon tyres are like that. Any bike you buy for touring, I recommend to change the tyres to Schwalbe Marathon (or any other Schwalbe that is puncture proof), this will save you a lot of time when on a trip. I suggest to buy the widest tyres your bike can take, for added comfort.

In summary: my recommendation is

  • to check for a 45 cm (or more) chainstay to fit panniers easily.
  • Schwalbe Marathon tyres to avoid punctures.
  • The rest, you can change, upgrade, make the bike comfortable for yourself within the your budget.

You want to read more on here:

Touring bike manufactures, grouped by country: Cycling About

What to look for in a touring bike frame: Cycling About

Schwalbe Marathon puncture proof tyre

  • 2
    This is also a great article about how to make a budget touring bike: cyclingabout.com/index.php/2013/09/…
    – olee22
    Commented Jun 25, 2014 at 12:09
  • Incidentally, the bike shop you link (where I bought my bike) bans carbon frames :-)
    – gerrit
    Commented Aug 10, 2021 at 15:32

The distinctions are often subtle:

  1. The touring bike will of course be slightly more heavily built (generally a steel frame).
  2. The touring bike will have a longer wheelbase. You will generally notice that the space between the seat tube and the rear wheel is fairly wide. (The longer wheelbase serves 3 purposes: More stable, smoother ride, better fender clearance, and better heel clearance for rear bags.)
  3. The wheels will be more heavily built (at least 32 spokes and maybe even 40 on the rear), with wider rims and tires -- at least 28, maybe 35-38.
  4. The touring bike will have eyelets on the front and rear dropouts to support racks and fenders. (This generally means two eyelets on each side of each axle. Plus there may be braze-ons about half way up the side of the fork for a "low rider" front rack.) And at least 2, perhaps 3 sets of bottle bosses.
  5. The touring bike will have a more "relaxed" geometry -- higher bar height, a little less "reach" (shorter top tube, etc), slightly more slope and "rake" to the fork.
  6. The touring bike will have a wider gear range and a lower low gear, and usually not as high a high gear.
  • 6
    Touring bikes will also often have Cantilever or V-Brakes, as most (all?) caliper brakes cannot work with fenders.
    – Kibbee
    Commented Jun 21, 2013 at 20:15
  • @Kibbee - Good point! Commented Jun 21, 2013 at 21:33
  • 1
    +1 to "better heel clearance for rear bags". Having longer chainstays for this reason is a key difference in touring frame design, and is important if you plan on taking larger panniers. Also, while you mention wider tires, it's important to note that a touring bike will have a wider fork and more width by the seatstay bridge to accommodate this. Many "speed" bikes will only accommodate tires up to 25mm or so, which impedes any conversion to a touring bike. Commented Sep 3, 2013 at 21:16
  • Some of the newer tourers are coming with disc brakes as well (Surly Disc Trucker, Jamis Aurora/Bossanova, Salsa Vaya, etc.). You also don't normally see spoke holders on non-touring bikes, and some have provisions for things like dynamos. Some also have mounts for a full sized pump (one that extends most of the top tube, not just a mini pump which goes under a water bottle cage). Also, note a lot of older road bikes which weren't intended for touring do have more tire clearance than their modern counterparts.
    – Batman
    Commented Nov 26, 2013 at 3:49
  • 1
    @gschenk - The spoke holders were probably the best way to hold spokes securely. I've seen them zip-tied to the chain stay, but they tend to work loose. I keep some tied to the frame of my pannier. (However, spoke failures seem to be rarer than they were at one time, so the utility of spoke holders is questionable.) Commented Jan 25, 2017 at 18:14

This is my short list for a touring bike:

  • Slow handling (slack headtube angle, long wheelbase)
  • Long chain-stays so paniers don't hit your feet when pedaling
  • Disc brakes - nothing else works as well in the rain
  • Mounts for racks and fenders on the front and rear fork
  • However if the pads of the disc brakes get dirty, which happens easily in rain, they stop working, too. The most foolproof is still Magura rim brakes.
    – olee22
    Commented Jan 27, 2017 at 20:52
  • @olee22 - I strongly disagree with your statement. I commute year round with a set of Avid BB7 mechanical disk brakes and they work no differently when wet or dry. Mountain biking in extreme conditions has made it a requirement that disc brakes perform very uniformly. Commented Jan 27, 2017 at 23:10
  • @olee22 - See also this question Commented Jan 27, 2017 at 23:17
  • Here's the question about dirty/contaminated disc pads: bicycles.stackexchange.com/questions/23751/…
    – olee22
    Commented Jan 29, 2017 at 9:54
  • @olee22 - That is a rare maintenance issue that may occur once over the course of the life of the bike not once whenever the pads get wet. Commented Jan 30, 2017 at 17:41

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