You are going to be cycling for long distances for you choice of of Touring bicycles is one of the most important decision you need to make. I often get the question, how it is different than a road bike.
Touring bicycles may include the following features:
- A range of gears, usually from 24 to 30, for cycling on different types of terrain including up hills carrying your luggage
- Heavier frame made of steel to carry the extra weight from your luggage and perhaps ride over the occasional rough road or cobblestones
- Touring bicycles usually have 27 inch (700c) wheels like a road bike, but they are normally fitted with fatter tires, 28 to 35 millimeter (1.1 to 1.4 inches) and sometimes with stronger spokes. This increased tire width gives the touring bicycle increased shock absorbency and makes them more suitable for rougher surfaces and the heavier loads. Touring bicycles are heavier than road bikes
- Touring bicycles offer a more relaxed geometry for the longer days of bicycle touring in the saddle
- Racks to carry your bike bags (panniers) on the rear and sometimes the front
- Fenders to keep water from flying up from your touring bicycle in the rain
- Minimum of two water bottle holders, much like road bicycles
- Saddles are more of a personal issue with some cyclists preferring one with gel and others a harder saddle. Some people like the saddles with a slit down the middle which creates less pressure on you when riding. Also saddles are different for men and women.
- Local laws may require your touring bicycle be equipped with a bell or horn and reflectors
- A bicycle computer to measure your distances is also a great option
Are Touring Bicycles Necessary?
Do you require a touring bicycle for long distance cycling? In a word, no, it really depends on the your style of bicycle touring.
In one word, no. If you are spending a week at a villa in Tuscany and taking day trips any bicycle capable of carrying your lunch and traveling up the hills will do. While if you are cycling across Canada or the United States loaded with camping gear and proper touring bicycle is desired.
Personally I use a road bike adapted for touring with wider tires, stronger spokes, a pannier rack. I have often taken it on two and three week bicycle tours on European paved bicycle route while staying in hotels or bed and breakfasts a road bike or hybrid with racks, water bottle cages with no issues.
If your cycle vacation require you carrying camping gear using both front and rear panniers you should have a touring bicycle.
Also if you do use a road bike ensure that you use 700 x 28 tires and have a rear pannier rack. Fenders are nice but not a necessity. You will be fine on the road.
Other options gaining popularity for long distance cycling include tandems, recumbent touring bikes and even some models of folding bikes.
Follow these tips about touring bicycles and have a great journey.