I am planning a touring trip, let's say around 10'000 km, across Asia more or less.

I have no intention at all to buy one of those several thousands - worth touring bikes.

Apparently, on a lot of websites, high-tensile is described as pure rubbish, without much more arguments (heavier..big deal...what else?). I have troubles finding a ChroMoLy steel frame, so here is my question:

Is it THAT silly to plan a trip with a high-tensile frame? (Brand:Giant Model:Chicago year: no idea, I guess mid 90's, not a single scratch on the frame, I am pretty sure the bike has been stored in a garage)

Any story to share on the topic?

thank you!

  • By the fact that you've posed the question in the first place, you're obviously aware that your strategy carries a certain risk. Whatever bike you buy, I would try and ride it as much as possible locally, before your "big" trip, in the hope that any problems will surface in a safe envirnoment
    – PeteH
    Mar 8, 2015 at 8:37
  • 1
    Keep in mind that if you have, say, a bike with an uncommon style of rear derailer, you can be stranded if the derailer dissassembles itself in the middle of Timbuktu. Pretty much any part can lead to problems. So it's best to concentrate on getting a bike with a reasonably common set of parts -- nothing exotic. Mar 8, 2015 at 19:33
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    @DanielRHicks if it disassembles in the middle of Timbuktu while he's cycling across Asia, something has already gone very wrong.
    – Holloway
    Mar 9, 2015 at 9:43
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    @Trengot - Yeah, clearly a defective GPS. Mar 9, 2015 at 12:42

3 Answers 3


Any steel, even hi-ten is less silly than alu for the trip you're planning and the age of your bike. The endurance strength of steel is much higher, and the material itself is not as bad as it's said to be. Also steel is easily and cheaply repairable, which is a serious advantage when you're going on a long tour with potentially few bike shops. But the problem with hi-ten frames is that these frames mostly exist in rreally cheap bikes, where the quality of manufacturing and quality control are quite poor. With a frame this old it means it could crack any time.

Comparing your frame to a new one, it would be much safer to buy a new one. Simply because it's new and the material and joints aren't fatigued (and the fatigue would be much quicker with you and racks full of luggage). But comparing a new cr-mo to a new hi-ten frame, there's not too much of a difference in terms of what they offer for touring bikes. Hi-ten steel has lower tensile strength, but higher ductility, so it's more prone to damage at extreme loads, but will bend rather than crack.
Well in the end it's all a matter of compromise and in case of this specific tour, it would be largely opinion-based, thus out of scope of this site.

  • 1
    Really hi-ten is lower tensile? Hi-ten come from high-tensile. You have it exactly backwards.
    – paparazzo
    Mar 7, 2015 at 21:32
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    If we look at it closely then every Cr-Mo alloy is hi-ten. (classic 4140 is referred to as typical high-tensile low alloy steel). So the name is largely a marketing trick and the real difference is in tensile strength being much higher in alloys called cr-mo (thus increasing endurance strength, I agree). But even treatment of a single alloy can as much as double its strength so it's really hard to argue without any defined materials in mind.
    – Slovakov
    Mar 7, 2015 at 21:42
  • Thanks Slovakov, that is the most detailed answer I have seen so far. But I end up on the same kind of problem: a new Cromoly frame (only the frame), of, say, the famous touring bike brand that starts with a S and ends with ly, is 500 dollars. so I end up having a complete bike for more than 1500 dollars. Too much for me. That's why I am interested in the second hand market... :(
    – Lucile
    Mar 7, 2015 at 22:21
  • Also, Slovakov, are you saying that on the second hand market, High ten are a way worse pick than Cromoly because it ages worse?
    – Lucile
    Mar 7, 2015 at 22:32
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    I can't say it would be a way worse pick, but definitely more uncertain one. Hi-ten will age more quickly if we compare two frames used in exactly the same way, but then again it's hard to know the full history of any second-hand bike, so you risk in any casse. On the other hand, on a 10 000km tour virtually any part can break, be it new or used, so I think you should be mentally prepared for this anyway. (I know it doesn't sound comforting...)
    – Slovakov
    Mar 7, 2015 at 23:04

Last year i went on touring trip with bicycle worth 50 eu which is $54 for around 6000 km across 12 countries. My bike load was 50 kg. I had 4 panniers, 2 on front and 2 on rear and i have to say that cost of bike is not important at all. I prefer to have a bike with less equipment because there is less likely to break and less chance to be stolen.


link: https://i.sstatic.net/05NeQ.jpg

My budget was 260 eu ~ $281.92 for two months.

  • That is damn interesting. May I ask how did you get that bike, and where? thanks a lot!
    – Lucile
    Mar 7, 2015 at 22:23
  • I went in shop for used bikes and by the first one i saw. I already went with this bike on several touring trips and i didn't had any problems with it so far. One day i'll cycle with this bike route 66 :D
    – ticket
    Mar 7, 2015 at 22:38
  • Sometimes I think I will do such a thing. I am tired of those 1000 $ + things I see on the internet. I mean, what are the differences with second hand old bikes? they last for 100'000 km instead of 20'00km ? if so, let me get a 100 $ one...!
    – Lucile
    Mar 7, 2015 at 22:42
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    The only thing i would spend money is saddle and handlebar. For the rest it's not worth spending. Save that money for the trip. Be adventurous, be spontaneous and plan as little as possible. For reference i have cycled Alps and Pyrenees with this bike and meet several good people who helped me with providing food, shelter and so on. I fell in love with that bike and i thought it was time to made him feel like one for a change and show him the world which it never saw it. If it's old does not mean it's useless.
    – ticket
    Mar 8, 2015 at 2:34
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    If a problem arises a steel frame can be repaired by a local with skills at the blowtorch.
    – Carel
    Mar 8, 2015 at 17:29

You can use just about any type of bike frame to go touring on, but there are pros and cons.

Incidentally, high tensile means the same thing as Cro-Moly. It used to be any touring bike was Cro-Moly, but now you can buy good ones for a low price made of aluminium too.

And for your purposes, the type of bike frame won't mean anything about how long the FRAME lasts. What will wear and break are the components: gears, brakes, rims etc etc. 10,000km might seem like a huge distance to you now, but to a serious road cyclist, they can do 1,000km in a week just training.

In general, the quality of components are matched to the overall quality and price of the bike. Unless you get an amazing deal on a 2nd hand bike, what quality of components do you expect on a $50 bike? But you CAN get good deals on 2nd hand bikes.

And remember the cost of the bike is only a part of the cost of all the other gear: - racks & panniers? - helmet, rain gear, shoes? - camping gear? - some tools?

One thing that a frame mean't for touring has is places to fasten racks and other stuff on. That's a big help.

And it's not the bike frame, but the whole package that you need to consider: - reliability - gear range (if you will do a to of climbing, or over bad roads, you want lower gears) - panniers and racks - budget - size and set-up: drop bars, flat bars, twitchy/road racing handling, or relaxed touring style

It's not really the frame, above a certain quality, the components are more important. If you buy something with poor components (almost always at a low price overall) then over the next year you will likely end up replacing stuff that wears or doesn't work right. And in the end spend more money, time and hassle.

Below a certain price range, it's had to adjust the components: brakes & gears especially. And they don't STAY adjusted.

Look at a bike mean't for touring with "entry-level" components on: say with ways to fasten racks to the rear frame and front forks. And say with a Shimano 105 or Tiagra group set. Check it out and find out what that tends to cost: both new and in good condition 2nd hand. Use that as a base case. Try riding one, see how easy it is to adjust things. Doesn't matter what the frame is from: anything with Shimano 105 and with touring mounts all be fine.

Then see if it's overkill, or if maybe it's not good enough for you.

Don't get focussed on the money now: rather decide what type of bike you can settle for, and try to get the lowest priced one an still get those things.

In general, below a certain price you don't get something that's going to suit a long trip: unreliable and heavy. Then above that price, to get a slight extra improvement in weight or quality you generally have to pay a LOT more.

But you are unlikely to get the bike for your 10,000km trip and then immediately start on your trip. Rather get something that seems right and do some small trips. As soon as you do your first one you will immediately see what works, or doesn't work, for YOU. And you will see what others are using and get ideas.

Some people are capable of ignoring things on a bike (some noise, something not working right etc etc) that would drive others crazy. How are you? Do you need it to work just right all the time? Or do you have a thick skin?

Some people can either fix things that break, or readily find others to help them. Others will get stuck with the most minor issues and spend days trying to get something fixed.

Google and find sights where people discuss these things. And buy a book about touring: there are dozens out there.

  • thanks for your answer! actually my concern is more about the frame itself, because I will remove pretty everything from it and replace them with the components I want (deore for the derailleur typically). For the extras stuff, I will not avoid good racks and decent paniers, and definitely go for a Brooks. So there will be the money I am willing to invest, not on the frame, hence my question. but thanks! (I specified 10'000 km because I think it's quite modest distance for touring :P )
    – Lucile
    Mar 8, 2015 at 18:36
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    If you're doing all that, why not just spend a hundred bucks on a frame and fork from someone like Nashbar? You'd probably get a better geometry as well.
    – Batman
    Mar 9, 2015 at 5:02
  • Well it's a great idea to think out of the box, and be open minded about your options. Rather spend time researching and planning, especially if money is tight. I suggest you look at a few different options: say A, B and C. A is, for example, a fully built/new touring bike. B is a 2nd hand one from Craig's List or eBay or something. C is stripping a frame and rebuilding it like you're saying. If you compare the costs (and effort) you get an idea about what works best for you. But I agree, you don't need a really fancy frame, but I would not try to economize on it too much either.
    – AlanJ
    Mar 9, 2015 at 19:38

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