I would like to convert a bike to a tourer and I have access to a load of frames.

I've seen people saying that mountain bikes convert well to tourers and haven't heard much on road bikes. This is confusing because road bike geometry looks waaaay closer to touring bikes.

My gut instinct is to convert a road bike since the geometry looks closer. What is better to convert?

Edit: My route is the west cost of the USA from Vancouver to San Diego. I am going to be fully loaded, a.k.a. fully self sufficient but I am investing in lighter gear.

  • If you have access to a load of frames then why not just use a touring frame?
    – paparazzo
    Commented Mar 8, 2016 at 8:23
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    One question is "How loaded do you plan to get?" I mean, not drunk, but how much of a load? A true road bike is lightly built and not designed to carry the weight of a fully-loaded tourer. Beyond that, there are subtle but important differences between road and touring bikes -- wheelbase, the ability to fit fenders, etc. (Of course a mountain bike likely has a lousy geometry for touring as well, and you don't want any sort of suspension when racking up miles on decent roads.) Commented Mar 8, 2016 at 13:39
  • Some road frames won't accommodate wider tires preferred for touring.
    – mattnz
    Commented Mar 8, 2016 at 22:37
  • Why do you exclude the possibility of purchasing a used touring bike? Commented Mar 13, 2016 at 20:47
  • For the same reason that I prefer to do a cycle tour rather than fly in a plane!
    – HJo
    Commented Mar 21, 2016 at 22:42

2 Answers 2


Old steel hybrids work pretty well for converting to a touring application. Like others have said the ideal build depends on how much your going to carry and the distances you plan on going. Obviously comfort is a big factor as well. Fenders are necessary if you plan on doing any distance at all really.

With that said yes, I would lean toward a road style over MTB but I would stick more with an "urban" geometry rather than a full out road bike. I have a fondness for old steel frames for these conversions as they take a beating and come with a bit of nostalgia.

As for components, like others have said fenders, good tires with puncture protection, a comfy saddle, rear rack or panniers.. it all depends on how deep you want to dive into it. I would recommend starting small, do a day trek or an out and back weekend and see what's sore afterwards, that will gauge your bike as well as your commitment to it and let you know where you stand before you go emptying your wallet.

  • I'm doing a big tour, probably 1000km+, fully self-sufficient with light gear.
    – HJo
    Commented Mar 8, 2016 at 23:47
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    Good for you! I mean that, that's awesome. Route will also come into play, if your staying on paved roads 99% then you know what tires to get. Also it will help to know when and where you plan on stopping i.e bike shops or food stops along the route. Also before you set off on your journey I would set your bike up with all the cargo and gear you plan on taking a week or month before and take it out. Its better to sort any little issues out when you can return home. That helps with things you may not think of like your heel rubbing a pannier or something.
    – Nate W
    Commented Mar 9, 2016 at 15:34
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    A good saddle is also a must, but if you go with a Brooks or similar saddle that is new, do your best to break it in before the 600+ mile tour, your bum will thank you ; )
    – Nate W
    Commented Mar 9, 2016 at 15:37
  • On the topic of brooks saddles - do you know any cheaper alternatives? I feel like a brooks saddle is the type of thing where it's expensive because of the name.
    – HJo
    Commented Mar 21, 2016 at 22:43
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    It is and it isn't, Brooks are tried and true and are made from the top quality materials you can find. There are other options however. I have heard good thing about Origin8's version seen here: amazon.com/Origin8-Classique-Sport-Leather-Saddle/dp/B00RNFVDA6 Although its not a whole lot cheaper. I've heard mixed things about Velo Orange. But 99% of the people you ask will say a Brooks is worth the extra 15-20 dollars because of their materials and longevity. Although I am not the resident pro when it comes to Brooks style seats.
    – Nate W
    Commented Mar 21, 2016 at 23:18

@Frisbee's remark is right. But still, you choice will depend on what do you want in your tours. If you prefer long distance tours with many kilometers on tarmac and not great requirements in dirt terrain, find a nice frame from a city bike and get an 60-80mm front suspension, as light as possible, a nice set of V-brakes, comfortable saddle (whaterver you think is comfortable for long distances) and the gearset of your choice. Now, if you want to take it a bit more offroad, get a 29" and create a lightweight setup. Make sure you get a set of trekking tires, which will let you roll fairly good on both tarmac and dirt. Anything more than 100mm suspension will be excessive. Summing up, if you don't set a touring frame, your options are close but never exactly what you are looking for. I would go for a 29" mtb with an 11-gear rear cassette. Better rides in dirt and ALMOST as good in tarmac.

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    I'm surprised you mentioned suspension. From what I have seen touring bikes come without suspension as standard.
    – HJo
    Commented Mar 8, 2016 at 23:55
  • 1
    I know, but being a gravity rider always makes me want some suspension, whatever the case. It is optional in this category, but it gives you an awesome and comfortable setup in many cases. Commented Mar 9, 2016 at 10:29
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    A little suspension doesn't hurt, I would stay under 100mm like he said as well. Also lock out would be helpful as for most of your journey you could have it locked to rigid. Then if the going gets bumpy you have it as an option.
    – Nate W
    Commented Mar 9, 2016 at 15:36

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