If you already own a bicycle (a road or mountain bicycle perhaps), but you are unsure as to whether or not that bicycle is capable of handling the demands of the specific type of bicycle touring you wish to conduct, please leave a comment below describing your situation.
In your comment, please tell me:
- What type of bicycle you currently have (Make, model, year and condition).
- What type of bicycle tour you are planning to conduct (There are 5 major types of bicycle tours. See this article for more information).
- Where in the world you are planning to go on your bicycle tour.
- How much gear you plan to carry on your travels.
- Whether or not you plan to camp or cook your own food while you are on tour.
- And what type of road conditions you will be covering on your bike tour (For example: paved roads, gravel fire roads, rocky single-track trails, etc.)
After leaving your comment below, I will reply at my earliest possible convenience with an opinion as to whether or not the bicycle you currently have can be used on your upcoming bicycle tour or whether you need to purchase a touring-specific bicycle that is better designed for the type of bicycle tour that you have in mind.
For additional assistance, please see: The Essential Guide To Touring Bicycles
224 thoughts on “Do You Really Need A Touring-Specific Bicycle?”
Ryan from PauseTheMoment.com here. Just wanted to send a quick Hello your way and congratulate you on your upcoming trip. Sounds EPIC! I, myself, am thinking of doing my first bicycle tour at some point this year. At least, I hope to. I have a few questions for you though…
Do I need an expensive bike? For example, a LHT or something similar? I just think it would be cooler to find something cheap $500 or less on Craigslist and make it happen. Are there any certain models you would recommend me keeping an eye out for on CL?
East Coast vs. West Coast? – Your thoughts? I live in Boston so it would obviously be easier for me to ride from here to lets say Key West, but I hear the Pacific Coast is quite an amazing ride scenery wise as well as for finding cheap places to camp, etc.
Tents – Have you checked out the REI Quarter Dome? Decent bike tour tent?
Trailer – Yak or Panniers?
If you want to save money by not purchasing a touring-specific bicycle, you can use almost any kind of bicycle in conjunction with a trailer that would be pulled behind your bicycle. That is probably the least expensive way of doing it, but not necessarily the best way. The problem with other types of bicycles (road and mountain bikes, for example) is that they aren’t designed for long hours in the saddle. Road bikes tend to make you lean way forward, which can hurt your back, neck and shoulders after long hours on the bike. And Mountain bikes, with their flat handlebars, don’t offer very many hand positions, which can cause a lot of pain in your fingers, hands and arms when you are touring for hours on end.
Touring bicycles, on the other hand, are designed for long hours in the saddle, and are generally a lot more comfortable for long bike rides. Plus, they are designed to be used in conjunction with racks and panniers (which are, in my opinion, the best way to carry your gear while touring).
If you can find a used touring bike like the Surly Long Haul Trucker or Fuji Touring or REI Novara Randonee, you might be able to grab it for $500 or less. If you are thinking you might do more than just one bike tour, then searching for one of these inexpensive touring bike models would certainly be worth the money.
I’ve cycled both the east and the west coast of the United States, and while the east coast certainly has some nice spots, the West coast totally blows the east away in my opinion. The scenery on the west coast is just so much more vast, and as you mentioned, there are a plethora of inexpensive camping options on the west coast. If you have the money to get over there, I would definitely tour the west before I did the east. Of course, for your first bicycle tour, you might want to just stay close to home and plan out a route through a local area that you are immensely interested in.
I have the REI quarter dome tent and I really like it. Packed up, it is a little big for just one person, but if you don’t mind carrying an extra couple pounds, then I think it is a great tent. If you want lightweight, try the MSR Hubba tent (this is the tent I am going to be taking with me to Europe this year). It doesn’t offer a lot of room for the storage of your gear inside the tent, but it perfect for just one person!
And about using a trailer or panniers, again, I would say this depends on the bike you are going to use. If you get a touring bicycle, you might as well get the racks and panniers to go with it. But if you end up using a different type of bicycle, I would probably oft for using a trailer like the BOB Yak.
If you have any other questions, let me know!
I do not have a bike at all yet
i am going to do a self supported tour/ expedition thing. And i am planning on cycling around the world. So i know i need a good bike and i am willing to spend a fair amount of money on a bike but i don’t no what make is best i have been told thorn is good but i don’t know what else.
I was wondering what sort of tent i should get because i have been looking at alot of websites and it is £200 plus for a 2 man tent am i going to have to spend that much on a tent or can i just get a £50 one from millets but i know that is going to use that alot because i do not want to spend a lot of money on hotels.
These to things i can see are going to be the killer on my pocket but what will be will be.
Tom, if you are planning an around the world adventure, you are probably going to want a bike that is similar to the ones listed on this page: http://bicycletouringpro.com/26-inch-touring-bikes-built-for-world-travel/
I too am planning a (segmented) round-the-world bicycle tour (I leave on May 3, 2012) and I am going to be riding a Co-Motion Pangea. I suggest you check it out!
As for your tent, I recommend you spend the money to get the best tent you can. When it comes to bicycle touring, I consider your bicycle, tent, shoes and (panniers or trailer) to be the four most important items you will carry with you. Being cheap in regards to any of these four items is fine, but not something that I recommend. Remember that when you are bicycle touring, your bicycle and your tent are your home. Make your home the best it can be and you will be a whole lot happier on your travels.
I have a 26 year old Peugeot 103 Carbolite who has carried me faithfully on daily tasks and numerous holidays in Ireland.
She has been a little unwell since a head on collision with a car a couple of years ago.
And I am a little older and stiffer too.
I got a presnt of a trailer a friend bought in a car boot sale last summer and had a few great trips with it. I think it is fine for Ireland, but not for the Camino.
I plan to travel to Bridgwater, pick up the bike and take a couple of weeks holiday in Devon/Cornwall. Then take a boat from either Plymouth or Portsmouth and do the Camino to Santiago de Compostella, (Camino Frances) travelling on to the Alhambra and then to the Shrine of Kali Sara at Saintes Maries de la Mer. I would like to ride on further as far as Istambul but I will need to see if that will be possible with other commitments.
I am considering a Thorn bicycle, possibly the Nomad. I liked the look of the Surley LHT but it is hard to import.
I know I want steel and 26″ wheels with plenty of granny gears and preferably drop handlebars.
I’m not sure about Rohloff gears?
I always wild camp and cook my own food as much as possible unless there is something interesting and not too expensive in the way of local produce.
I also like to gather food such as mussels.
I mainly live on:
lunch -soup & bread,
dinner -naan/chappati,rice/pasta/cous cous/yam/potato with vegetables and beans or maybe 1oz meat or chicken skin or offal or small amount of fish or fish head.
supper: hot chocolate and one square of chocolate.
I drink black tea or herbal tea throughout the day.
I think even though I will probably have to upgtate to the Thorn bike,I will always love the Peugeot best.!
Kalilileth, I think the Thorn might be your best option. They make some great bikes – bikes that would be perfect for the type of tours that you are planning.
I am asking your opinion about using my bike for touring…I own a 2009 Trek 7.3FX WSD in excellent condition. I plan to ride a few rides this year… One is BRAN (Bike Ride Across Nebraska), which is a supported tour ridden mostly on roads in June. I am also considering RAGBRAI,
The other ride I am planning is riding the Katy Trail in Missouri, a rails-to-trails self-supported ride, carrying ultralight weight camping gear (split with another rider) and food. We are planning this ride for August.
My bike does have a rack and panniers, though I am considering a trailer…I also have added handlebar extenders and a Terry Butterfly saddle.
I would greatly appreciate your opinion on how well my bike will do on these rides 🙂 Thank you in advance.
Laura, I think the Trek 7.3FX WSD you have will be great on the BRAN and RAGBRAI rides you are planning this year. As for the katy Trail, I have cycled this route myself and depending on the time of year and the weather, this trail can be a little troublesome. Most of the time, the bike have you have now will work just fine on the Katy Trail, but because if the Katy Trail is a sort of gravel/clay material, if it gets wet it can be sticky and difficult to get through. Fatter tires may help on the Katy Trail if you run into this type of bad weather when you are there, but otherwise, the bike you have now should be great.
As for using a trailer, yes, I would add one only if you want to carry more camping gear, etc. You can fit a small mount of gear on the rear rack (and panniers) of your bike, but for heavier gear, adding a trailer would be a good route to take.
Love your site and gets lots of information and motivation from it!
I was so glad to see this question about bikes because I am struggling coming up with the best solution at the most affordable price.
This summer, my 13 year old son and I are riding across America (The TRANSAM route).
I’ve been looking at the Trek 520 and Novara Safari. I can pretty much find the proper bike and fit for myself but the problem is my son. He is 4′ 10 and I’m having difficulties finding a traditional touring bike that works for him. Any suggestions??
Another difficult question Dan. Finding a touring bike that works well for children/teens can be tough. You will likely not be able to find what you are looking for and will instead either need to order a custom-built bicycle (expensive), use a tandem bicycle (on which you would ride in front and steer and your son would sit on the back and pedal), or you will have to have your son ride on a road or mountain bike model (in his size) that is altered in some way to be more suitable for touring. It sounds to me as though you would prefer the later option?
I would look into getting your son a comfortable hard-tail mountain bike that he can use for the tour. He can carry his gear with racks and panniers, or pull the gear he needs behind him in a bicycle trailer. Or you can carry some of his gear on your bike if he needs help in that regards.
If you get a mountain bicycle for him, here are a couple alterations I suggest you make to the bike:
1) Put bar ends on the handlebars, so he will have multiple positions in which to put his hands as he rides. Riding with only flat handlebars and not moving your hands around often can cause your hands to fall asleep as you ride, and can cause serious nerve damage if you ride like this for days/weeks on end.
2) Be sure that the mountain bike does not have any suspension. For the TransAm route, you don’t need suspension, and suspension will make your son less efficient as he pedals.
3) Finally, consider putting different tires on the bike. Mountain bikes are going to come with knobby tires that are great for off-road riding, but terrible for road riding. If you simply swap out the tires for something with little to no tread (no tread is better for road riding), he will be able to go faster and pedal the bike a whole lot easier.
Also, this website has some helpful information on touring with children that you might find helpful: https://familyonbikes.org/resources/bicycle_child.htm
I am planning on travelling across Canada in the summer of 2013 on a self-supported tour with one of my friends. (Which means a 7000 kilometers/three months trip.)
As I only own an old and cheap mountain bicycle – it has seen a lot of mileage – I was actually looking out to buy a Trek 520.
However, during the time left before my trip, I would like to take part into cycling clubs as well as touring in my neighbourhood. The existing cycling clubs near where I live usually offer three gatherings a week; they thus cycle for 50 to 100 km at an average speed of 20 to 35 kph (according to the group you chose to follow) three times a week.
I was then wondering if there is any touring bike that can offer me good possibilities for both of these activities… Or would you recommend that I really focus more on a good TOURING bike (such as the Trek 520) since my long trip is my main objective?
I was considering buying a Marinoni Turismo, that is more “sporty” and light than the Trek 520 and could therefore offer me better performances in a cycling club, but I am afraid to leave behind some precious elements of comfort and reliability (that the Trek offers) in favour of speed if I do so…
What would you recommend?
This is a difficult question to answer and I am afraid that the advice I am going to give you may not be the advice you want to hear. But here it is anyway:
When I was in college I had a touring bicycle I was using to tour the country during my summer breaks, but back in college I decided I wanted to join my school’s club cycling team (and they all rode racing bikes).
I used my touring bike for the first couple weeks or riding with the cycling team, but I was constantly getting dropped and I realized after a short period of time that I was going to need to purchase a road bike if I wanted to keep cycling with the club. And that’s exactly what I did… and that might be what you need to do as well.
If I were you, I would strip the Trek 520 of anything that makes it look like a touring bike (racks, fenders, etc) and try using the bike to keep up with your local cycling club. If you can keep up, then just keep using the Trek 520. But if you feel like the bike is preventing you from keeping up with the group during those first couple rides, I would seriously consider purchasing a separate road bike.
In regards to the Marinoni Turismo, this bike is still consider a “Road Touring” bicycle. It may be a little sportier than the Trek 520, but not much.
Inside The Essential Guide To Touring Bicycles I categorize all the touring bikes in the world into five major categories… and both the Trek 520 and the Marinoni Turismo are in the “Road Touring” category – which means that they are best used for loaded long-distance bicycle touring on paved roads.
One of the other 5 major categories of touring bikes is what I call “Sport Touring” and these types of bikes would be more in line with the type of cycling that you are thinking about with your local cycling club.
The downside to Sport Touring bicycles, however, is that by making them more for racing and speed, they lose a lot of their touring capabilities. Most sport touring bikes can carry a small amount of gear (usually with the assistance of a rear rack and 2 lightweight panniers), but can’t really take the weight that a fully-loaded road touring bike would be capable of handling.
What this means is that you have some choices:
– You can opt for two different bicycles – 1 for long-distance touring across Canada and 1 for cycling with your local bike club
– Getting a road touring bike for your trip across Canada, and then crossing your fingers that you can use that same bike for the occasional ride with your local cycle club
– Or Purchasing a Sport Touring bicycle (something like the https://www.patria.net/en/bicycles/sporttourer/ for example) that you would be able to use to keep up with your local bike club, and would also be able to use for carrying yourself and a small amount of gear across the country.
In the end, I think you have to decide how you want to use the bicycle the most in the FUTURE. Do you think you will do other bicycle tours (beyond the 3-month ride across Canada) with the bike in the future? If so, I would probably opt for the touring-specific bicycle. If, however, you think the bike ride across Canada will be a one-time thing, I would opt for a Sport Touring or regular road bike, that you can use on the tour with some light panniers or a trailer that you pull behind your bike, but that you could use a lot once you return home to ride with your local club.
Whew, I hope this helps. Like I said, it is difficult to say 100% what you should do in this situation, because it depends so much on you and how you plan to use in the bike in the future. But again, I hope this helps.
If you have any other questions or concerns, write me back and I will respond as best as I can.
I have a 7.5 fx trek I use for short tours. Just has back eyelets. Which is fine, but I can’t stand the straight handlebars. I’m looking for a touring bike, but don’t want to pay full price. Can u recommend a website? I’ve tried eBay, amazon and Craigslist. Thank u.
Odie, you can occasionally find touring bicycles for sale online, but for the most part, bicycle of any quality are not sold on the Internet. Instead, you have to contact either the companies that produce the bicycles directly, or get in touch with one of the dealers, who can either sell or order the bicycle for you. Because touring bicycles are already a rare breed in the bicycle world, finding a new or used one listed online will be extremely difficult (but not entirely impossible. I have seen them pop up on occasion, but then tend to sell quickly!).
I have not done extended tours as you have, but have gone on several cross-state and back tours. The longest was a two week roughly 800+ mile trek . I have a Specialized Sequoia with 700Cx28 tires, fully loaded rear panniers only, on that particular trip steering was a bit squirrely’ but manageable. This last trip was a little longer but this time I took a Bob Yak and I really loaded it down (not intentional). I also put my standard 700Cx25 tires back on, swapped out the back Sprocket for a lower Granny gear. The ride was much much smother. The biggest problem I had was was as I parked at a Restaurant little kids were coming up to look at the trailer and knocking it and my bike over.
I was thin king about buying a Dawes Ultra Galaxy but cannot find where to buy it in the United States. i had one dealer suggest the Surly Long Haul Trucker…
Could you possibly advise how to go about finding a Dawes distributor and do you have any opinion on the Dawes vs. the Surly ?
Eric, like so many touring bikes that are available, the Dawes Galaxy is not necessarily available everywhere in the world. The bikes are mainly sold in the UK and can be difficult to find in the US. See the dealer locator on this page: https://www.dawescycles.com/dealer_locator.aspx Note how there about a thousands dealers in the UK… and only a few dealers in other places around the world. My suggestion is that you contact one of the UK dealers (by phone or email) and find out if the would be willing to ship the bike to you in the States.
Also Eric, in regards to the Dawes vs. the Surly… it might come down to availability. Both are good bikes, but Dawes is in the UK and Surly is in the USA. So it might be easier and cheaper to get the Surly in your case, while UK readers would probably opt for the Dawes over the Surly. See this review of the Surly Long Haul Trucker: http://bicycletouringpro.com/surly-long-haul-trucker-touring-bicycle-review/
First of all, thanks for having this available! I have a 2006 Giant FCR1 (A hybrid) and am planning a self-sufficient round-trip tour from Big Bear Lake in Southern California to Yosemite and back. I am planning on bringing gear for cooking, camping and climbing (e.g. rope, gear, etc.) . We will be traveling by paved road. Can I get away with just replacing a few parts (if so, what?) or would it be smarter and cheaper to try and get an entire new bike. Looking to spend no more than $500. Any recommendations? Thank you so much!
Thank you for your response. Would you give your opinion on whether it is a good idea or not to go for the Rohloff gear system? Also, what locks would you recommend? And what tactics to you employ for securing a loaded bike when visiting towns where there are sights to bee seen? Is it always necessary to find a Couchsurfing host or hostel/campsite/bed and breakast/hotel – or have you found other places where a loaded bike can be left in safety whilst viewing local sites/monuments? It has been an issue for me whilst touring in bigger towns in Ireland and I am wondering what solutions you and others have found.
1. Rohloff hubs are great if you can afford them. They are expensive, so they are usually only seen on high-end bicycles. They are pretty darn reliable most of the time, but they tend to have a long breaking in period (of about 800-1000 miles).
2. I recommend any thick cable lock. I prefer keyed cable locks over the combination lock kind, because I have had a few of the combination kinds break apart on me (not what you want in a bicycle lock).
3. And in regards to locking up your bicycle when going inside a building or exploring some area off your bike, see this article. I have a rule for traveling with my bike that says I either don’t let the bicycle and/or out of my sight… or the bike has to be inside and in the security of another person (such as a hotel owner, supermarket, theater, etc.). I would never just leave my bicycle and all the things on it locked up outside a building for hours (or even minutes) on end. The bike has to either be within my view or locked up inside a building.
An afterthought…could me existing Peugeot be stripped down to the frame and rebuilt with new forks and granny gears? It has 27″x11/4″ – could it be refitted to take 26″?
My major reason for asking this is that it has a double crossbar sloping down rather than straight across, which makes getting on and off fully loaded very easy. I am not getting any younger and have doubts as to whether I will be able to manage a bike with a full crossbar in, say, 5 or 10 years time.
After 26 very happy years on the road with the Peugeot, my only problem these days is that I really could do with more granny gears and less of the speed ones.
Even after the crash 2 years ago, the bike shop said the frame was ok, and it is still easily carrying the sort of load I would expect to bring on my trip to mainland Europe. I also suspect that the quality 26 years ago exceeds that of many of todays bikes- except perhaps or Surley, Thorn and Dawes.
So even accounting for expensive good quality parts, and the fact that I would be willing to pay the same or a bit less than I would have to for a new bike, I ask if it would be possible to rebuild it, with better granny gearing being the top priority.
I really would love a positive answer, as this Peugeot is so comfortable to get on and off as well as to ride, that I would prefer this to any other bike I have seen.
Thank you or all your helpful advice. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on this.
You could do that Kalilileth, but it sounds like a lot of work. Would you be doing this work yourself? Or paying someone else to do it for you?
Cycled 1000km thrue california on a 400$ bike with cheapest shimano-parts.
You don’t need to spend thousands of dollars
Hi, Darren. This will be my first long distance trip by bike. I have a 2011 Specialized Tri-Cross. I plan on 2 -3 week trips so i can tweek my gear. Then in October i plan on a trip of around a 1000 mi. I’m not sure where yet. Do you think the tri-cross will work for a self-supported trip? Thanks for your web site and the books. BTW, i’ve canoed on long trips many times. Similar, yet different.
The 2011 Specialized TriCross is what I would consider a “Sport Touring” or “Light Touring” bicycle. It is made to go relatively fast, but is not made to carry that much gear. It does have the braze-ons needed to mount a rear rack, which is great, but this doesn’t mean it is best used for long-distance bicycle touring. It would be best for ultra-lite or lightweight bicycle touring (where you are traveling by bike, but staying in hotels/motels/hostels each night, rather than camping and carrying a tent, sleeping mag, sleeping mat, camp stove, etc. ). If you do plan to camp on these long bicycle tours that you have planned, you are going to want to make sure that the gear you are carrying with you is super light and relatively compact (as you will need to fit everything you need for your journey in two panniers that then attach to your rear rack).
You might also consider using a trailer, such as the Bob Yak, to carry everything you need for your journey behind your bicycle. This way, the weight of your gear is placed off of your body and off of the frame of your bicycle as well.
I was wondering what your thoughts were on the surly long haul trucker do you think it will make it
I am cycling round the world going through Europe then through the middle east some how not sure how though. And then i am going to go into India china Thailand Vietnam and Malaysia and then Australia and new Zealand then into the US then home.
Yes Tom, I think the Surly LHT is a great choice. If you are planning to spend a lot of time off-road, you will want the 26″ option. If you think you will be sticking largely to paved roads, the traditional 700c option is just fine! Even the 700c can handle a fair amount of off-road riding.
Hi Darren, really appreciate the site and all your hard work you put into it.
Although we’re not planning any around the world tours right now, my wife and I are looking to do some short tours in N Ca with our 2 cattle dogs, camping included. We already have a trailer for them and I’m trying to figure out the best all around bikes for pavement as well as dirt/gravel fire roads. I have a bad back so the road bike downward position is too rough long distance. I also plan to get another trailer to haul gear in (bob yak).
New high end bikes are unfortunatly out of the question, so I’ve thought about older mountain bikes with suspension that can be locked out, or no suspension. I know the tires need to be changed, I understand what you point out about the shorter chain stays and component differences. Chrome vs aluminum I’m still not sure?
I’m looking at bikes like the Cannondale M, F or H series, some with suspension and some with out. Older Specialized etc, they can be picked up pretty cheap on CL and components swapped out. Not loyal to any maker, just throwing out ideas. Any input is appreciated.
I have a 4 year old Scott CR-1 road bike. I wish to cycle across the USA, west to east, paved roads. I will carry the absolute minimum and plan to camp out. The bike is excellent condition. Thank you.
Lynn, The Scott CR-1 is a pure road bike. I’m guessing yours is carbon fiber as well? This isn’t really the type of bike you want to tour on. Not only will the bike be a little uncomfortable to ride for hours on end, day after day, but the bike is not equipped to hold any of the extra weight that touring demands. The only way I would recommend using this bike is if you pull everything you need for your trip behind you in a trailer. That way none of your gear is being carries on your back, body or bicycle.
My God Darren!
I’ve been a member of your site for almost a year and this is exactly what I’ve been wanting to know, but was not sure you would have the time to answer.
I have a 4 year old Canondale T2 touring bike, hardly used. Everything is stock except the pedals Shimano SPD pedals.
I am planning to do expedition touring from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego. I don’t have a timetable I’m thinking it will take 2 to 3 years to do what I want to achive.
I have been a documentary filmmaker for the last 30 years and now that I’m 58 I want to start chasing my dream of the last 20 years. I will be filming stories and communities as I ride hopefully ending with a blog and documentary series. So I will need to carry with me filming equipment and a 17″ laptop ewith external hard drive, probably a pelican bag and tripod aside from the other camping equipment. I will be staying in these communities throughout the trip so camping will not be full time, but will need to carry that equipment as well. The travel will include cities but mostly remote areas. I will try to take very little personal stuff.
Thanking for offering us such a great opportunity, love your work and commitment
I’m not particularly new to bicycle touring having made several long distance tours throughout Southeast Asia. However, those tours were all done on a modified hydroformed aluminum framed Merida MTB. On the advice of a friend I purchased a 2011 56cm Surly LHT frameset here in Thailand where I live.
In Dec 2011 I had a total knee replacement and couldn’t do any cycling. During the past 2 months I removed ALL the gear from my Merida MTB and installed it on the Surly LHT. I began riding the Surly about 3 weeks ago and was amazed at how easy and comfortable it was to ride in comparison to my modified Merida. I am still in the recovery mode but using the Surly on a daily basis for rides up to about 35 kms. This weekend I expect to double that distance assuming my new knee will cooperate..
Here’s a list of what I’m running on the Surly:
1. Shimano XT hubs, V-brakes, front & rear deraileurs, BB, Chainring, rear cassette. (all parts taken from my Merida MTB)
2. Crane Creek headset
3. Alexrims AC 19 with Schwalbe Marathon Extreme tires (from the Merida)
4. Brooks B-17 Special saddle (from the Merida)
5. Zefal Classic fenders front & rear
6. Massload CL 875F front rack
7. Unknown brand alloy rear rack
8. Shimano XTR chain
9. Paco Apex carbon fiber straight front bar
As best I can tell I don’t have any exotic hardware on this bike. I can only assume the Surly frame design and chromemoly tubing are responsible for the comfort factor I’m experiencing despite my recent knee surgery. I would highly recommend this bike to anyone seeking a touring bicycle.
I am looking forward to making a few short tours on the Surly before making a multi-month tour to Vietnam with some friends coming from Europe. .
I have a 2011 Trek 7.5 FX Hybrid bike and my brother and I are planning a self-contained tour from Jacksonville, Florida to Key West, Florida. He has a 1996 Jamis (not sure of the model but it cost in the $600 range if that helps any). Neither of us have ever toured before and we are both in our mid-sixtes. I purchased section 7 of the Adventure Cycling Ass. map. We plan to camp sometimes and stay in hotels every few days to rest up. We are planning our trip for Oct, 2012 so that the heat of summer will be past but it will still be warm.
Do you think this will be a sufficent bike for this ride? Also, I am considering the BOB Yak 28, my brother has already bought panniers and thinks I should get them as well. What is your thought on that. I am not a strong man and my main concern is my legs holding out. Otherwise I am in good health for my age.
The Trek 7.5 FX that you have will work perfectly for the type of bicycle tour that you have planned. If you can attach a rear rack and two panniers to your bicycle, you may not need the trailer. If you can fit everything you need for your tour in those two rear panniers and on your rear rack, you will be ready to go!
Pulling the Yak behind you is another good option. I prefer panniers over trailers (as it is a little more work to pull a trailer behind you), but if you are going to be carrying a lot of camping gear, etc, then the trailer might be the best way to go. If you are packing light, however, I would use a rear rack and a set of large rear panniers.
Following you up closely from Brazil! So proud of your job.
Please, I know you are a busy man and will take long to answer this comment. But please, give even a thumbs up or thumbs down for my round the world bike+equipament.
It will be full-self-supported world trip tour starting south america.
-Giant Innova 21″ Frame
-Rockshox Dart 2
-Shimano Deore Dinasys 30speed
-Old Man Mountain Front Rack
-Topeak Super Tourist DX Rear Rack
-Ortlieb Classic Front and Back Roller
-Brooks B17 Saddle
-Civia fenders, double leg kickstand
-Topeak Top Tube Dry Bag and Saddle Bag
-Shwalbe Marathon Plus Tour + Panaracer Folding Spare
-Topeak Mini Master Blaster DX Pump with Gauge
-2 oversized (50oz) bottle cage
-1 normal bottle cage
-Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2 Tent+footprint
-Big Agnes 15F sleeping bag syntethic
-Katadin Hiker pro filter
-Marmot Bivac sack
-MSR XGK 2 stove
-Exped Synmat 7.5 Inflatable Mattress
-Big Agnes Chairkit for Mattress
-Powerfilm 7w rollable solar panel
-11″ Computer (for editing)
-Lighert, with no rope. Only personal ( I need it =] )
-Things such: movement alarm, kryptonite ulock, tools, clothes, cameras, first aid and etc…
This looks like a great set up Pedro. The only thing I feel worth mentioning is that the bicycle you have selected is not intended for long-distance bicycle touring. That does not, however, mean you can’t use this bicycle for what you want to do. There are two things to note, however:
1) The frame of the bicycle is made of aluminum, which probably won’t make much of a difference on shorter rides. but on long-distance tours, you may begin to feel a bit more uncomfortable on this bike than you would if you were riding a steel touring bicycle for example. Aluminum frames are pretty rigid… while steel ones are much more flexible, which makes them more comfortable on long rides.
2) You may want to consider getting some bar-ends for your handlebars. The problem with using a mountain bike or any bicycle with flat handlebars on a long tour is that they don’t provide you with very many hand positions. And if you don’t constantly move your hands around when on a long tour, you may experience both pain and nerve damage in your hands, wrists and arms.
Forgot the Ortlieb Handlebar bag! Ultimate 5 Classic
Planning to take a tour of the Santa Fe Trail route in September. This is is a 20 day 1096 mile trek. It is a supported tour so gear on the bike is minimal. Roads are mostly paved with some areas rougher than others. I have 2 bikes. A 2 year old Rans Dynamic and a 5 year old Trek 7700 Hybrid. Both bikes are in good shape and I plan a tune up before departure. Also plan to buy some heavy duty tires. I haven’t really decided which bike to use and would value your opinion. Really want to tour but not ready to buy a touring specific bike at this point in time.
The Rans Dynamic is such a unique bike… and I don’t know very much about it. Of the two bikes you have, I would ride the 7700 Hybrid. The Rans might be more comfortable for short trips near your home, but on a longer tour, I think you will appreciate having the power than the 7700 would provide.
I have a 4 year old Canondale T2 touring bike, hardly used. Everything is stock except the pedals Shimano SPD pedals.
I am planning to do expedition touring from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego. I don’t have a timetable I’m thinking it will take 2 to 3 years to do what I want to achive.
I have been a documentary filmmaker for the last 30 years and now that I’m 58 I want to start chasing my dream of the last 20 years. I will be filming stories and communities as I ride hopefully ending with a blog and documentary series. So I will need to carry with me filming equipment and a 17? laptop ewith external hard drive, probably a pelican bag and tripod aside from the other camping equipment. I will be staying in these communities throughout the trip so camping will not be full time, but will need to carry that equipment as well. The travel will include cities but mostly remote areas. I will try to take very little personal stuff.
Thanking for offering us such a great opportunity, love your work and commitment
It sounds like you have an amazing adventure ahead of you.
The Cannondale T2 is a great touring bicycle and you should be just fine with it. However, for off-road riding it is not the ideal bicycle and you may struggle a bit in South America if you plan to do much off-road cycling. It is possible to stay largely on the paved roads in South America, but many of the roads are unpaved and the Cannondale may struggle in these areas. I would simply get the widest tires you can possibly get for the bike and then do your best while in South America to stay on paved roads as much as you can.
Thanks for all your info. i have a Raleigh Firefly mountain bike, bought thirteen years ago, but almost unused. I have fitted road tyres 26 X 1,75, racks and panniers and. butterfly bars.
What do you think of my cheap tourer please?
The bike that you described will work for short multi-day tours, but I wouldn’t want to use it on a long-distance ride. You didn’t mention where you hoped to ride the thing, how much gear you would be carrying, how long you plan to be on the road or any other details, so it is difficult for me to say much more.
I have a Bianchi Superleggera from the ’80s. It is in good condition, but I am in the process of stripping all the parts from the frame and cleaning surface rust from the frame and just overall getting rid of grime on the casette and derailluers. I am also looking to get new wheels for the bike because both the ones on there are out of true by this point.
I am planning on doing a solo self-supported tour down the Mississippi River Trail, starting in the Twin Cities. I am planning on carrying a fair amount of gear, including a sleeping bag, tent, stove, basic cooking utensils, dry foods, change of clothes, etc. I am hoping to cook most of my food, but chances are I will eat in plenty of local restaurants.
From what I understand the MRT is pretty much paved the whole way.
Art, it sounds like that bicycle of yours needs a lot of work. By the time you do all these repairs to the thing, you might be able to simply afford a new bicycle. Have you ever thought about that? It might be the fastest, easiest, and safest way to go?
If, however, you can totally overhaul your bike, as you have specified, then yes, you could use the bike for a tour down the Mississippi (especially if you haul your gear in a trailer, instead of loading it all up on your bicycle’s frame.)
I have a 14 yr old Giant Mountain Bike ATX840RG – 26in wheels – 21 speed refitted with a higher gear assembly-Shimano Hyperdrive- than the original.
I have been riding this bike to & from work – 20kms/day- since I bought it and would like to use it to do the Eurovelo 6 ride from Nantes to Budapest (2500kms)-planned to start late May 2012. My wife and I plan just a steady ride of approx 70 route kms/day. With sight seeing and excursions 70 kms will be the min each day. We plan at least one rest day per week. It will be a self supported ride -mainly on cycle paths and roads and we will not be camping- staying instead in hostels/hotels/B&Bs etc. My guess is that my wife & I will carry about 12kgs each in rear paniers.
We are now both retired so do not have strict time restraints- plan about 7 weeks.
I will of course have the bike in good condition and plan to use road tyres.
I believe the bike is strong enough to do the job and I am very comfortable with it.
What’s your opinion?
Also, my wife is considering buying a bike in the UK prior to commencing this ride.
She presently has a Giant Sedona SP-78N/80N-21 speed, which she finds a little slow. Although my bike is not quick I am a stronger rider and my wife would like to buy a suitable bike with more speed capability than what she has. Any recommendations?
I plan on using a Santa Cruz Superlight full suspension, Bob Yak trailer. CA coast rout SF to Santa Barbra and back, about 1,000 miles. Is this doable or would i be way ahead buying a touring bike with racks and panniers?
Bill, you probably would be better off using a road or touring bicycle for your bike tour down the Pacific Coast, but using the Santa Cruz bicycle with a trailer is a perfectly fine way to do it. You shouldn’t have any problems. If you can lock the suspension down, you’ll do even better. Have a great trip! That is a beautiful part of California.
My father has two older steel cromoly lugged Schwinn touring bicycles and I was wondering on your thoughts on the touring capacity of such bikes. One is a 1981 Schwinn super sport and the other is a Japanese made 1974? Voyager 2. Both are very well maintained with aftermarket shimano barend shifters and 700cx32 cyclocross tires. I am considering starting with simple 1-2 day tours involving camping ~ 20- 50 miles per day.
Aaron, I think I know the type of bicycle you are talking about. I picked up a similar bike at a garage sale a few years back for $5 USD.
With a little work, these types of bicycles can be used for short and light bicycle touring adventures. I would be nervous about using them for longer bicycle tours where larger amounts of weight are being carried. For the 1-2 day bike tours that you have planned, they will probably work just fine. Just make sure the bikes are in good working order before you leave home. A major breakdown out on the road is not fun!
So… This summer I’m doing a six week tour (“credit card”) of Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand. I plan to ride my Marin Muirwoods. I’m traveling pretty light–I expect to be carrying clothes, toiletries, and water (which is pretty heavy!). My no-name rear rack is supposedly good for 50 lbs, and the front rack for 25. The bike is stock everything, except the saddle.
I should be ok, right? Or, is it worth it to invest in kevlar tires, even though they’re harder to change out?
Frances, for a credit card tour with minimal gear, yes, your bike sounds fine. Go for it and have a blast!
Ivvesting in the kevlar tires is up to you. I don’t rely on Kevlar that much myself, but some people really like the stuff.
I have a 2011 Giant Defy 3. I plan on doing a Self-Supported Tour from the seattle area to Billings MT eventually, but in the meantime some long day trips to get myself in better shape. Is this bike adequate? Are there some upgrades that I could make that wouldn’t brake the bank. Maybe tires??? Can you tell me this bikes strengths and weaknesses?
Mike, the 2011 Giant Defy 3 is a road bike. It is not really meant to be used for touring, although it does look like you can mount a rear rack to the bike for some light day trips. I would recommend, that if you do use this bicycle for a ride from WA to MT, you look into getting a trailer for it that you pull behind you. You probably don’t want to weigh it down with a heavy set of panniers. Otherwise, I would leave the bike as it is and know that while it looks like a great road bike, it isn’t really made for loaded touring. Ultralite touring, yes! But not long and slow loaded bicycle touring.
I have an ’06 aluminum Trek 7700, completely stock, that I’d like to take on a 4-day trip in upstate NY. I’d fit it with a handlebar pack and rear panniers. I cant get a sense of it’s suitability for such a trip. The handle bar seems to be a sticking point–what if I replaced it with a Koga Multigrip?
Thanks in advance.
Thomas, for a short trip like that, the bike you have should work fine. What you are really doing on a short trip like that is “light touring.” Keep your weight down and yes, use a handlebar bag if you like. A handlebar bag is a good way to get a little bit of weight off the rear end of your bicycle. I would forget the Koga Multigrip and opt for the handlebar bag instead. On a longer tour, the Koga Multigrip might be a good idea. For for only a 4-day journey I think the investment would be a waste of money.
What type of bicycle you currently have (Make, model, year and condition).
Giant defy 5 2012 new.
What type of bicycle tour you are planning to conduct (There are 5 major types of bicycle tours. See this article for more information).
Self supported camping 500 miles
Where in the world you are planning to go on your bicycle tour.
East coast of USA.
How much gear you plan to carry on your travels.
Whether or not you plan to camp or cook your own food while you are on tour.
Will camp and cook my own food.
And what type of road conditions you will be covering on your bike tour (For example: paved roads, gravel fire roads, rocky single-track trails, etc.)
Rails to trails/paved and light dirt roads.
Danny, I think that this type of bicycle will work for what you are hoping to do. I would try and get your weight down as much as possible and maybe even consider pulling your gear in a trailer (instead of using a set of panniers). However, I think you could get everything you need for your trip to fit on the back of your bicycle in two large rear panniers. Do that and I think you will be just fine! Just try and get that weight down as much as you possibly can.
Hi, I today I arrived home from my first bicycle your and I must admit, I fell in love. I biked the GAP trail from Pittsburgh to Cumberland, MD then back to Pittsburgh. I’m now planning another adventure, perhaps a coast to.coast treck and am wondering if my current bike will be up to the task. The bike is an 09 felt z45. A carbon fiber race bike. I am using a topeak journey trailer to carry my gear. It seemed.to make this last journey just fine, but will it handle the abuse of touring for Weeks on end? Also, if his bike will workwhat changes would you recommend other than swapping the..cassette?
Ryan, you can indeed cycle across the country on your Felt z45. However, this type of bicycle is not meant to be used with racks and panniers. Putting that much weight on your bicycle would surely destroy it. The only way you might be able to use this type of bike for a self-supported tour across the country is to 1) either stay in hotels each night and carry a very small amount of clothing with you… or 2) to pull a lightweight trailer behind your bicycle.
Your carbon frame scares me a bit and I would be a little nervous (even with a trailer) using it for a loaded cross-country bicycle tour.
Just found your site today and see you’re still answering questions (although you’re on a big tour right now if I read right).
I have a Specialized Rock Hopper (no suspension) with a rear rack, but it’s getting a little long in the tooth. I am considering a KHS Aguila as the frame will fit me a bit better (the Specialized is a bit big).
I’ll be starting off slow with local overnight camping trips but plan by next year to undergo long tours through the lower 48 states, traveling North in the Summer and South in the winter and figuring out what to do with the middle states as I go. If all goes well, I’d like to do some international trips.
Thanks so much for this undertaking. Like one of your commenters above, I intend to carry my 2 DSLR bodies and a couple of lenses along with my 17″ laptop, a couple of small external drives, lights and an iPad. I’ll be doing people stories along the way as well.
I’m also using my iPhone as my bike computer, so I’ll have to either get a hub generator or some other way to keep it charged along the way. The other gear I’ll charge at restaurants and occasional hotels along the way.
Looking forward to your answer.
Carlos, if you are going to be doing that much touring, I think you should really get yourself a proper touring bicycle. The two bicycles you mention in your comments are mountain bikes – not bicycles made for long-distance riding. I think you would be much happier with a more traditional touring bicycle that would be more comfortable on long rides and is better designed for carrying the equipment you want to haul.
Hi, I have recently purchased a used 1996 GT Force bike, it is in wonderful condition and I have already put quite a few miles on it, not loaded with any gear though. It does have front and back eyelets for mounting racks and 36 spoke wheels however I am not certain if it is specifically designed for touring. I also believe it has a steel frame but I could be wrong. I am planning on traveling down the west coast, from Oregon to Mexico and am hoping to tent camp for most of the time. This would mean cooking my own food more often than not. I am not sure what the road conditions will be, I am guessing mostly paved roads. If you could let me know if this bike is suited for my tour that would be great. Thanks so much for your great site!
The GT Force that you have may work for the tour down the California coastline that you have planned. I cycled this route myself with a mountain bike. However, my mountain bike did not have suspension on it like the Force does. When it comes to touring, you usually don’t want to have suspension of any kind. If you can lock the suspension on your touring bicycle, then that might work. But even then you are going to have to figure out how to get racks on the bike (another small problem).
I think the best way for you to use this bicycle for your tour would be to use it while pulling a trailer behind you. And if you can change the tires out to make them more suited for road conditions, that would help a lot as well.
Hows it going? Excellent website here….
Im wondering if my 1984 Ross Mt Hood Hi-Tech Mountain Bike 23″ Bicycle would work we’ll on a trip from Tonopah, NV to Sonora,CA (Passing through Bishop,Mammoth Lakes,Yosemite then Sonora)….This would be my first small tour. I only plan on carrying a backpack with food, water, tent and some back up supplies and a camelback as well. I will be camping at least 3 of the nights. I would also like to know if you know of any good bike trails or alternate routes to Bishop in the tonopah area? Thanks for your time!
Ross, I’ve never cycled that exact route myself, although I have passed through some of the areas. It should be a great week-long trip. This is the only real route that I know of: https://goo.gl/maps/RA5n
Here are a couple tips:
1) Don’t carry anything on your back. After about 10 minutes of carrying a backpack you will regret it. Have you read this yet? it explains why: http://bicycletouringpro.com/the-bicycle-travelers-blueprint/ Use a set of panniers or a trailer instead!
2) Your Mountain bike will work for the trip, but it isn’t ideal. However, for a 1-week tour, you should start by using what you’ve got. So as long as your bike is in good riding condition, it should be fine! Consider putting some road friendly tires on the bicycle in order to make it roll better on the paved roads you will be traveling on.
3) Carry lots of water and a cell phone. That can be a super hot part of the world. Drink lots… and let me know how the tour goes!
Thanks a ton….. I had been getting a bit suspicious the more research I did. It’s good to hear it in the form of a direct response to my question.
Any recommendations regarding panniers and ways to keep the electronics dry? I’m guessing the biggest bags I can find for the rear in order to keep my sleeping bag dry and carry the photo gear, laptop, etc. Tent on the rack. Personal gear in front panniers and a handlebar bag (clothes changes, etc).
I recommend Ortlieb panniers to pretty much everyone. They are waterproof and super-high quality. They are also some of the more expensive bicycle panniers on the market. But they are worth the money in my opinion – especially if you are going on a long-distance bike tour or you plan to do multiple bike tours in the future.
Thanks for your answer…. Based on your input I did a lot more research and will probably have a Surly LHT built with a dynamo hub.
Awesome website, sir!
I’m currently working on a farm in Northern California, and am planning a tour via either the Southern Tier route/ Route 66 to make my way homeward east for Christmas/New Years.
I’m sporting a Miyata 1000 which I was lucky enough to come across at a used bike shop in Seattle a couple years ago for less than $200!!
My friend Axel is a world-touring vet (So. America and back, etc.), and he has expressed some doubt in the ability of this frame to make it cross country…however, after some research, and from personal experience riding it fairly hard since I’ve owned it, I think it should be able to handle it.
I’m planning on purchasing a trailer and traveling as lightly as possible (ain’t no credit card tourer if you get my drift)…I just want to know from a pro, such as yourself, is the Miyata 1000 frame up to the challenge?
Thanks boss and ride on!!!
Conor, yes, as long as the bicycle is in good working condition, you pull a trailer, and pack as light as possible, that bicycle should be able to make it across the country like you’ve planned. But you need to make sure the bike works well.
Pulling a trailer reduces a lot of the frame stress caused by loaded bicycle touring, so a trailer is definitely a good idea. Just pack light and only carry what you need. Be safe and have fun!
The bicycle you have is great for short bicycle touring adventures. I call it “light touring.” You will want to carry no more than two panniers on your rear rack and bring with you only the bare minimum (toiletries, spare clothes, bike tools, and camp gear). As long as you pack light, you should be okay for a short multi-day bicycle tour. It is when you go on longer bicycle touring expeditions with more weight that the need for a traditional touring bicycle becomes more important.
Rock on, Mr. Alff. I much appreciate the advice, senor!
Hey, I am in the infancy stage of planning a multi-month tour around Europe (Germany, Austria, Belgium). I have a 2011 Giant Defy 3 that took me across the US in the summer of 2011 (I would not even consider it a true tour as all my gear was SAG’d) and I was just wondering if I could outfit it for this trip or if I should look into getting a dedicated touring bike. I have also taken the Defy on the Katy Trail (with 700x 30 ‘cross tires, although there was some rubbing, again all my gear SAG’d).
I plan on staying in hostels and doing no camping on this trip, I also don’t plan to cook any of my meals. So all I am planning to take is the bare minimum of spare clothes and toiletries with some snacks. Everything should fit in rear panniers with plenty of space to spare. I also plan to stay on pavement or dedicated bike paths so no extreme road conditions (hopefully) for me.
I am thinking about putting bar end friction shifters on to lessen the amount of maintenance that I can’t do myself and I will run the largest tires I can (Judging by my experience on the Katy Trail with this bike, this will probably be 700×28). I can mount a light rear rack but I’m not sure I can fit both fenders and a rear rack on the back.
While I would prefer steel over aluminum, I am used to putting in very long miles on this bike. So my main question is, with some modifications will this bike be able to handle a light touring setup with just rear racks?
Thank you for your time, I know this was a long response.
Yes Emily, based on the type of tour you are planning to do in Europe, I think the Giant Defy 3 that you have now would work for your travels. Just keep that weight as light as possible and you should be fine. Have a great trip… and be sure to send me a postcard from the road!
In 2013 I’m planning to cycle from the Netherlands down to south-west France (about 1200 km). I currently own a mountain bike (Kona Cinder Cone, 2003) which has road tyres fitted on it (not the super thin ones though). In the 8 years that I’ve owned the bike, it’s really only had 2 years of extensive use, so it’s in pretty good condition.
I plan to stay at B&Bs along the way so will not be carrying any camping equipment, only a small amount of clothes, and then the food and water I need for each day. I used the bike to ride a 200 km ride a few years ago and had no problems with it, but for such a longer distance, would I be better off investing in a bike specifically made for touring? How much would my current bike slow me down? I would love to be able to do the journey on the Kona, but if it means I’m going 50% slower than on another bike, I would re-think my plans…. Any advice you can offer would be great! I aim to stick to roads, not much off-roading at all.
Sarah, the Kona bike you have now can work for the type of bicycle touring that you are planning to conduct – especially since you are not planning to camp. If you can put a rear rack on that bike (and maybe some more road-friendly tires), then you will have a great bicycle for what I call “light touring.”
Thanks so much for your response! I will look into getting a rear rack and more road-friendly tyres, and then start planning my trip! Really great website btw, a lot of invaluable info here!
I have a 2010 Giant Dash and my partner has a 2010 Giant Rapid (both in good condition). We’re looking into doing a self-supported tour, about 5-7days of approximately 60 km a day. We’ll be sticking to paved roads in Ontario.
I don’t know how much weight we’ll be carrying, but we will try to divide it evenly. We plan on carrying food that doesn’t need to be cooked, and eating out once every day or two.
If we like touring, then we’ll look into tour-specific bikes, but I’d like to try a trip or two on our existing bikes. I commute on my Dash (50km round trip) and carry a fair amount (clothes, lunch, computer and textbooks).
That’s a great way to get started in bicycle touring. Use the bike you have now for a short trip in or around your home and if you like the experience and want to do some longer bicycle tours, then consider getting yourself a more touring-specific bicycle.
As for the bicycle you’ve got, it will work for light touring. Just put a rear rack on there or pull a trailer behind you and pack as lightly as you possibly can. Let me know how the 5-7 day trip goes!
Surly Big Dummy
Given the amount of gear I’ll be carrying (cameras, lenses, lights, stands, etc) I was wondering if either of the bikes listed at the top will do. I’m leaning toward the Yuba since it seems to be more stable with larger loads. No frame flexion even with 200-300 lbs plus rider….
I look to be getting your touring book in the next few months. Way too many questions to ask that should be covered there.
That’s a tough one Carlos. You said something about wanting a bicycle frame that doesn’t have any flex in it, but that goes against what most people are looking for in a good touring bicycle. On a long-distance bicycle tour, you want a bike frame that flexes a bit because it makes your ride more comfortable after days and weeks on the road. If you have a rigid frame, you can become super uncomfortable on the bike after just a few hours. This is why stiff aluminum frames are not used on touring bike models, but steel is typically used instead. I cover all of this in the book in great detail.
As far as carrying camera gear, I too am cycling across Europe at the moment with a tripod, 3 cameras, a laptop computer, 2 external hard drives and a bunch of other camera accessories, so I don’t think you need as big of a bicycle as you seem to be leaning towards. The two bicycles you’ve picked out are really designed more for commuting than for touring.
Again, if you read my book you will see that knowing where you want to go with the bike is one of the most important things to know when looking to purchase a touring bicycle. Without knowing where you are planning to ride and what sort of conditions you are planning to ride in, it is difficult to give you a quality recommendation.
I am currently getting all the gear together that I need to go touring. This will be fully loaded and plan 3 weeks in France for my first major trip. I have owned an old GT Timberline a long time (i think the frame is approx 1993) and was planning on using this. It’s a cromo frame in good condition and have some Surly LHT forks in the post that I was going to use as the originals don’t work with a front rack. Basically the only original thing on the bike is the frame. All other components are good quality and work well – I ride this bike frequently at the moment.
My only concern is with the new forks and if they will work fine with my frame. The axle to crown measurement is virtually the same (15mm less on the Surly forks). I already have a rear rack fitted (Tubus Logo) and mudguards and no issues with heal clearance etc.
Do you think this set up will be fine? I toyed with the idea of buying a LHT frame and forks but am quite attached to my GT!
Jake, the description of your bike scares me a little. I used an old mountain bike that had been pieced together from various bicycles on my second long distance bicycle tour across the United States and I thought that because the bike worked well at home that it would work well on the road as well. But the truth is, the bike killed me and brought my bike tour to an early end.
It really is hard to give you advice over the Internet here without actually seeing your bike for myself. If I were you, I would try using the bike on a short 3-4 day test bike tour near your home. See how the bike performs close to home and if it does well, then it might just work for the longer trip you have planned. But if you discover that the bike is uncomfortable, heavy, hard to pedal or any of that during that 3-4 day test ride, you might consider getting a more proper bicycle.
I’m considering buying a used 2009 Kona Jake the Snake in great condition for around $800. I’m going to be mostly road riding, but once or twice a year I go out with my buddies for a 3-4 day self-supported tour. I’m worried about the aluminum fork.
My present bike is a 20 year old Trek road bike (don’t know the model, the decal has worn away), that is getting a bit creaky and I’m ready for a bike that takes fenders!!.
What is your advise on the Kona?
Thanks for your site. It’s great.
If you are planning just a 3-4 day bicycle tour, this is what I call “Light Touring” and you should be able to do that with almost any rack that can be fitted with a rear rack. You just need to make sure that your weight is as low as possible. You’ll want a rear rack, two rear panniers and maybe a handlebar bag.
A bit difficult for you to see the bike for yourself but here’s a picture https://s1165.photobucket.com/albums/q584/jakegil/?action=view¤t=44698eff.jpg#!oZZ2QQcurrentZZhttp%3A%2F%2Fs1165.photobucket.com%2Falbums%2Fq584%2Fjakegil%2F%3Faction%3Dview%26current%3D44698eff.jpg
Thanks for the advice, I will try a few mini tours first
What type of bicycle you currently have: Specialized Dolce 2011, new condition (bought at the start of May 2012)
What type of bicycle tour you are planning to conduct: self supported (would like to camp some in a few national parks, but mainly plan on staying with friends and family along the way to 1) catch up with then and 2) carry lighter since i have a road bike and am not sure of its capabiities)
Where in the world you are planning to go on your bicycle tour:
definites: olympia, seattle, portland oregon, san fransico, salt lake (?), vail, boulder
maybes: vancouver, mt rainier national park, corvallis oregon, crater lake national park, redwood national park, lassen volcanic national park, yosemite national park, death valley national park, los angelos (more than maybe), rocky mountain national park
How much gear you plan to carry on your travels:
as minimal as possible. wouldnt carry food…would just buy at the grocery store and then make at a friends house, work out/cycling gear, one or two casual outfits for visiting friends, sleeping bag (all definites), camping would be fun, but again, trying to cut down on stuff because i have a road bike
Whether or not you plan to camp or cook your own food while you are on tour:
some camping would be fun but not necessary. would cook food at friends/families houses or find cheap places to eat
And what type of road conditions you will be covering on your bike tour (For example: paved roads, gravel fire roads, rocky single-track trails, etc.)
I haven’t mapped out the route yet but i prefer paved roads or dirt roads, definitely not rocky or gravel
additional info: i have two back panniers for my roadbike, front and back lights, and clipless peddles
You listed a ton of different places. If you are planning to tour around for a few days in each of these places then yes, your bicycle will probably be fine for super light touring. If you are planning to cycle to all of those places back to back in one long line, then I would get a proper touring bicycle.
I am planning a tour from Anderson, SC to San Fransisco, California for this coming summer. I have a Trek 7.5 FX and i am a bit worried about it. I plan to camp a lot and bring a trailer rather then bags.
I have roughly three months to do this. How do you think the bike will hold up?
im currently riding a 2011 marin muirwoods 29er and slowly trying to convert it to more of a touring bike
upgrades i have currently made so far:
topeak rear rack
next week i will be hand building two wheels with:
alex adventure rims 36h
shimano deore m525a hubs
wheelsmith 2 m spokes
i plan on doing several supported tours about 50 miles away max. (i did a micro one and loved it!)
and eventually doing a trip from minneapolis to portland in a few years
all will be with my child in a trailer but i also will have panniers (currently wanting some custom swift industries) and will be camping mostly….
i was thinking of doing an upgrade to
my handle bars ….maybe a nitto randonneur bar or adding some ergon grips not sure
also wondering if i should add more weight on the front with front racks and panniers
let me know what you think
thanks for your time
Hello, I currently have a cannondale street and the back rim is starting to show cracking where
spokes insert. I have also had problems with the headshock once, right after I bought it 3 years ago …it would not lock the suspension and needed repair. One of the main reasons I chose this bike was because of the road bike gearing with upright seating, but the cable disc brakes are flimsy and I want to replace them too, if I replace wheels.
I like touring crushed limestone paths like the Eric Canal, C&O Canal etc. and
my question to you is would the Trek 7.6 be a good replacement for this purpose, instead of putting more money into my cannondale?
Eric, the Trek 7.6 isn’t really a touring bicycle. It is a hybrid bicycle. It probably would be good for riding on the crushed limestone trails you wish to ride (as long as the trails are dry), but this bicycle isn’t made to carry a lot of gear. If you do use it for touring purposes, I would suggest packing super light with just two small panniers on the rear rack… or pulling a trailer of some kind behind you.
I do use two small panniers (since I stay in hotels).
Are there any bikes that you would suggest for riding rough bike paths (some with lots of potholes)
for a 215lb rider?
As mentioned I would like the road bike gearing though…I normally cover about 100miles a day
hello have just bought a merida tfs 100 D 29er 2013 model and planning to do the north sea cycle route self supported and using a small y frame cargo trailer.
the roads are tarmac & gravel
l am thinking of changing the rear deraileur system with an alfine hub for easier maintenance
Hello, have recently bought a merida tfs 100 D 29er
Will be doing the north sea cycle route the roads are tarmac and gravel,
am using a small y frame carry freedom.trailer for my Self supported tour.
also thinking of replacing the elivio gears with an alfine hub.
I have a road bike (Cinelli Della Strada) and I had been using it for short touring (Credit card touring) as well, recently i brought it to chiang mai for 8 days touring. rear rack carry around 9 kg panniers.
tyre is 700x25cc, I’m quite sactisfied with this bike, its just that I need to change the gear set to touring gear, which currently i’m using road bike gear (Dura Ace).
my worry is the tyre, some country like combodia, might need a wider and better tyre.
I wouldn’t worry about changing the gears. That is a much larger job than you might think. It is costly and requires a fair amount of work. If I were you, I would simply put some wider tires on your bike and you’ll probably be fine. That’s probably all you need to do. Just keep your weight down and you will be fine. And if you encounter a really steep hill, don’t be afraid to get off your bike and walk. I do it all the time!
The wider my bike can put is 700x25c. At the same time I’m looking for Soma saga and Surly LHT, any comment on this two bike. Soma saga at my country not so popular compare to surly LHT. will it be easier to build a touring bike instead of convert the road bike to touring bike?
The answer to this question depends on where you live, where you want to go on your tour, how long you plan to be touring, how much gear you plan to carry, etc. Both the bikes you mentioned are good bikes, but they are designed for different things. So it depends on your answers to my questions above.
I have been following your website and I purchased your pdf book of the 2013 Touring Bicycles. I am writing to you for advice on which “type” of bike I should purchase for my needs. I haven’t rode a bike in about 10 years. I am looking for a nice bike to ride to work but to also use for long road rides after work or on weekends. I am not sure if I will be able to do much “touring” because at the moment I don’t have anyone to ride with. However, my main debate is whether I should buy a regular “road bike” (for example a Specialized Roubaix, Trek Madone, etc…), or maybe look towards something that is built for Road/Light touring. I do not have a bicycle right now and this would be my sole bicycle to own for a while. In reality, I don’t know how much “touring” I am going to be able to do (married with 3 young children……), but I would like to think that sometime in the near future I will be able to do small tours.
I really like the Co-Motion company and some of the bicycles that they produce. Your Co-Motion Pangea looks like a great bike and served you well in Europe. I was looking at the Co-Motion Americano, but I don’t know if I should consider that bike for long distance (speed) riding or concentrate on a regular road bike that isn’t built for touring. If you have any advice regarding this, it would be greatly appreciated.
I called Co-Motion today and after talking to one of their employees, I have decided against the Americano. I do not feel that I am going to have a chance right now to do a full on tour and thus I don’t need the “touring” capabilities of the Americano. What I am looking for is a steel bike like the Nor’Western that has the more relaxed riding position for longer rides and that doesn’t have the aggressive compact seating position like a full on racing type road bike.
I was wondering if you knew of any other brands I should look at for a steel road bike that has the geometry like the Co-Motion Nor’western that may be a bit cheaper in price. I want something with good components and good steel like the Norwestern. I have decided against lower quality steel (because of the weight) like in the Surly models. Do you have any other nice quality steel road bikes with the geometry of the Nor’Western that you would recommend? I would like to use it to commute to work and for long rides out in the country. I would like it to have the option of adding fenders and maybe a rear rack if possible.
Hope to hear from you soon,
I am 54 years old and am in good health. I run about 30 miles a week and I cycle 5 miles to work every day on my old trek mountain bike.
I have a cannondale R800 road bike that I used for racing triathlons. I stopped doing Triathlons about 8 years ago and do not intend to race again, but intend to use it for touring. It has an Aluminium frame, carbon forks, the gears and brakes are shimano 105, except I have recently changed the front crankset to Shimano Sora 46-34, because the original set was too hard for me on the hills on a long ride. The bike is about 18 years old.
I want to go on touring holidays in the UK and France and will be riding for 50-70 miles on weekends with CTC.
I intend to camp and plan to cook maybe half my meals on tour.
I will be on road, with maybe some traffic free rides , e.g. disused railway lines.
I like my bicycle a lot, but have been advised that it will be too harsh on a long ride. Not sure whether that was because of the Aluminium frame or the geometry.
I looked at a Ridgeback touring bicycle, but that is aluminium as well, so I assume aluminium should be OK.
the other problem is getting panniers on the bike, I tried a set that attach to the seat post, but it moves around too much. Is there a set of panniers that attatch to the seat stay?
I also have a specialized rockhopper mountain bike (10 years old) that I would use for off road cycling.
I currently have a 2008 Jamis Ventura Sport.
My trip would be 1000 miles from Washington state to Jasper Canada, all on paved roads and highways. It will be a self supported tour, mostly camping but also staying with a few friends along the way. I will be cooking, but plan on eating out in most towns I pass through. My gear is all ultralight from backpacking, but this is my first bike tour.
Thanks for all the help, and for a great site!
A friend and I are heading to the 1000 Islands/Gananoque area in June. We will be travelling from Peterborough, ON on a self-supported tour. I am in the market for a new road bike and would like to keep my cost low if possible. I have found this bike for sale and am wondering how solid you think it will be.
It is the right height for me.
I am just getting started touring though I ride a fair amount (100 miles a week). I am considering using my commuting bike for touring. It is fairly obscure make. It is an Airborne Corsair. If you are not familiar it is a very light weight titanium mountain bike frame made for XC racing with good all round geometry (not overly aggressive), it has Shimano XTR components though-out, Chris King hubs and headset and a well broken in Brooks saddle. It currently had 26 inch wheels fitted with fairly narrow slick tires. The frame does have mounting points for a rear rack and I am thinking of traveling pretty light. Just a set of Ortlieb rear panniers and maybe a very small handlebar bag for sunglasses and sunblock.
My first tour will be in a few weeks. I plan to cross Missouri on the Katy Trail (rails to trails gravel bike path). I plan on taking my time with relaxed 50-60 mile days. No camping. In the fall I am looking at a longer trip 400-600 miles, all on paved roads or gravel bike paths, again no camping.
Let me know what you thing of my plans.
Hi there, Darren! I’m looking to do a two-week tour from Austin to Denver later this summer. I have a KHS Urban Xpress. Would this do the job? I’ve taken this bike on a longer two-day ride (MS150) before and it worked out just fine. Obviously I wasn’t carrying gear, though. Thanks in advance for your help! ~Erin
I would need more information Erin. What roads will you be traveling on (dirt or paved?), where will you be sleeping (camping vs. hotels, etc). That kind of stuff determines whether the bike you have now will work or not. See previous comments for examples.
Centurion Lemans RS. It appears to be an 86 or 87 model. The bike has a Shimano Light Action rear derailleur. All original, Shimano Light Action derailleur, Biopace chain rings. Bike was in mint condition, just purchased it. It was never really ridden. No wear on anything really, except from me. And I just got it recently.
https://www.vehibase.com/centurion-lemans-rs/photo-1.htm That is the same exact one, though not a photo of my bike.
My trip would be all on paved roads, camping or staying with hosts from couchsurfing.com, the trip would be 8-10 days, around 370 miles in July in Florida. Very hot. Most time riding would be from 5 am to 10 or 11 am, then from sunset until whatever time at night, depending on the safety of the area and biking at night. Will have huge flashing lights on front and rear.
Will bring minimal food, will bring granola bars/power bars or other easy instant foods (I am familiar with backpacking light style food) 1 gallon of water, extra bottle in the holder. I will be attaching a rear rack for the panniers, but as this is summer and I will be wearing light clothing and packing light, weight will not be an issue.
I wanna start a tour around the world but I think I will have heavy equipments! I will carry mountaineering equipments for climbing mountains on my way and some music instruments to earn money with for my journey. so I want to know if you have any suggestions about bike I can buy! and I wanna know how much weight i can carry in such a long tour! I think with such heavy things I have to use trailer right?
I’ve got somewhere around a 2006-2008 Scott Sub20. I’m hoping to tour this summer from Seattle to Tijuana. I will be using front and rear panniers and hope to complete the trip in a few weeks. It seems like it will be mostly paved roads, not sure of the condition. Would my Scott hold up to this?
Bike? 2013 Cannondale Trail 7 Mountain Bike, pretty much in mint condition. I’ve only ridden it a dozen times or so.
Tour type? The Self-Supported Tour
Where? From Raleigh, North Carolina to Michigan, then west to Portland, then south to LA, then back east to Raleigh again.
Gear? Quite a bit. I intend to get a trailer for my bike. I’m not sure what one though, yet.
Camp & Cook? I intend to camp almost exclusively, and probably will be cooking my own food, but that’s not guaranteed just yet.
Road types? I’ll likely be sticking to paved roads, unless I have no other choice or something interesting catches my eye.
Hi there Darren,
I’m really a touring novice, having just made the decision to go bicycle touring a few months ago. And have since been saving up for a touring bike.
I’ve got several in mind, but really I’m on a $600 – $800 budget (CAD). So, I’ve found the Windsor Tourist via bikesdirect.com
But, as my father pointed out yesterday, and all the articles I’ve read online – one doesn’t NEED a six hundred dollar-plus (Surly LHT for example is a thousand bucks), bike to go touring one. One can tour on anything.
I do have a 2008 Raleigh Triumph mountain bike that I’ve semi-equipped to do short tours. But, the frame is heavy as hell and my first tour, which I did a couple of weeks ago – felt like torture in some parts – that’s partially because of the heaviness of the frame, and the fact that I was riding with a backpack and without road tyres.
However, I’ve since decided that rather than spend all this money doing up a bike that, at the end of the day, is far too heavy a frame to do long-haul touring on, I’m going to put my money towards a proper touring bicycle.
As for what type of touring I’ll be doing… It’ll be almost always road touring. Camping and cooking, probably most of the time – when needs must. But, I’ll try to find hostels/reps at WarmShowers.org, and other alike websites.
I’m hoping to do a series of short, multi-day tours – and then top it all off next summer with a cross-country-and-back tour of Canada.
I’m curious as to what your thoughts are on buying a “touring-specific” bike, and spending the thousands that some do spend on these touring machines…
Hi Jack… and thanks for your comment. Sorry for my slow response, but here’s what I have to say.
1) You are correct. You don’t necessarily need a touring-specific bicycle tour in order to conduct a bicycle tour. You can tour on practically any bicycle.
2) However, if you decide to conduct longer bicycle tours in the future (not just short multi-day tours near your home, etc) then you are probably going to want to invest in a proper touring bicycle. There are a number of really important benefits to using a proper touring bicycle (which I detail here) and after using both non-touring specific bicycles and touring-specific bikes over the past 13+ years, I can honestly tell you that touring on a proper bicycle makes a MAJOR, MAJOR difference to your comfort and the ease at which you travel on a long-distance bike tour.
3) But if money is an issue, then I think you are correct in trying to use the bicycle you have at the moment. Use that bike for a couple short tours and see how you do. If you discover that you enjoy bicycle touring and think that you might benefit from a more comfortable, more powerful, easier to pedal and better designed bicycle for your touring needs, then you can upgrade at that time. Start with what you have… and then work your way up from there. That’s how I did it… that’s how hundreds of people all around the world do it… and that’s how I recommend you do it as well.
Good luck… and please send me a picture of you on your first bike tour! I’d love to hear all about it.
I have a Specialized Tricross 2009 sport I am planning to tour around england with and use on roads and trials with panniers on the front and rear it has alloy frame and carbon forks, is this bike ok.
it has double wall alex rims stainless forks.
You need to read this: http://www.touringbicyclebook.com. The general rule is this: NO CARBON on a loaded touring bicycle.
I appreciate any advice you can offer. I am a reasonably fit 55 year old man considering doing a couple “stages” of a cross country USA tour that starts in the west this coming spring. It will be fully supported and on paved roads (I think almost exclusively) so the issue is the long (sometimes steep) western mountain climbs.
I am a recreational rider who has dome a handful of centuries but this will be my first tour. I have a Trek Madone 4.5 with the standard compact double crankshaft that came with the bike. The tour operator seems to strongly recommend a triple. Trading out the double for a triple on the Madone is not cost effective- probably over a $1000. However there appears to be the option of changing out the cassette for a more of a mountain bike gearing. I forget the specifics, but my understanding from my local bike shop is that it would get me reasonably close to the low end of the gearing that a triple crankshaft would offer. and the cost would be as lot less.
I’d like your opinion as to whether this makes sense- will the more mountain bike gearing give me a low enough gearing on my Madone 4.5 to climb the western mountain’s vis-a vis a triple?
I agree with your tour operator (By the way, what company are you doing this with?) and think that having that small chainring on your bicycle is going to make a big difference on your tour.
While you might be able to get away with only the two chain-rings that are currently on your bike, you will either have to be a super strongman (I know I’m not) or be okay with pushing your bicycle on foot up the steepest hills.
While proper touring bicycles (which the Madone is not) have gearing that is closer to that of a mountain bicycle, I’m not really sure what is involved with swapping out the chain-rings, etc. Would you have to buy a new front derailleur as well?
I think that if you can make that swap for a couple hundred bucks, it might be the best thing to do. But if you are going to do more tours like this in the future (or maybe conduct some other guided or self-supported bicycle tours), it might be worth it for you to simply invest in a proper bicycle with the three chain-rings that you need.
In the end, I think that’s a decision only you can make.
I am just getting started with touring. My current bike is a Specialized Tricross Sport 2011 still in decent condition, I took it on one week long light tour recently (6-7kg backpack attached on top of rack) and though it felt ok it didn’t feel super stable and I’m not sure it would last a long time.
I’m thinking of doing a long (12-18 month) solo tour in Asia though it won’t happen for at least another two years. Roads: bad, camping: yes, probably looking at carrying approx 20kg of load. I am looking at getting a budget to midrange touring bike like a Surly LHT / Kona Sutra / Trek 520 / Dawes Galaxy, preferably second-hand. My budget is tight though and I am not sure if the expense is justified. I know a decent touring bike should last many future tours. But
– can I adapt my current bike?
– can I get away with a GBP 200-400 mountain bike?
Have a 2006 specialized crossroads comp I picked up while living in the UK. It’s an upright hybrid and I’ve outfitted it with a rear rack, front fender, butterfly bars, etc. I am now back in the US and use it for day trips. Firstly, its really slow and i average say 12 mph or so and 15 jn an intense mode. This is with a light 10 lbs pannier bag but not heavily loaded. I fear this bike will be too slow for any enjoyable weekend touring where the goal is 45 to 60 miles per day. I have averaged up to 30 but really feel it is a workout on this bike
Hi, my name is Francesco and I am 23. I am planning a one week self supported tour. It would be my first tour but I have been a mountain biker for quite a few years now, so I’m not completely clueless about the basic bike knowledge but I am certainly not an expert about touring with it.
I have a 2013 Lombardo sestriere 400 . It’s a cheap front suspended, idraulic discbrake mtb ,solid but quite heavy. I am plannig to travel in Sicily, a mix of road and off road. I will be carrying a tent and the necessary for sleeping out but I will also have bed arrangement for a couple of nights.
My questions are:
1) What do I need to do to adapt my bike for this trip and how much approximately will it cost me?
2) What specific gear do you suggest me to bring for such trip.
3) I am really concerned about the tires, I need a good compromise between road and mild off-road
4) Do you think I’m going too big for a first-timer?
I have a 2012 Bianchi Volpe (LOVE the center-pull brakes) and am hoping to make a ride through southern Utah and across Iowa next summer, neither of which will last longer than a week. I’ve been using the Volpe for commuting and errands, and because of its comfort I’m using it on long training rides as well. Any thoughts if this will work?
First of all, congratulations for an excellent website. You provide much useful information.
I have a 2012 Salsa Mamasita that is in excellent condition. I’ve been using this bike for just over a year now. I use it for commuting, a few times on trails and a few times on overnight and short multi day bike trips. I like this bike a lot.
The type of touring that I have in mind is a self-supported multi day tour.
My initial plan for touring is to try to cover as much of the Philippines as I can (I am am Filipino living in the Philippines). However, my dream since I was in college is to bike across Europe sooner than later, hopefully. By the way, I’m 53 years old and reasonably fit.
I do not plan on bringing a whole lot of gear. I will stick with the basic necessities and will try to travel as reasonably light as I can. I am looking, at the onset, at a setup with two rear pannier bags and a small bag mounted on the handlebars. But I am also very much open to adding front panniers for much longer trips. Since I have a mountain bike, I am contemplating on frame bags by Revelate Designs as options.
I do not foresee myself camping or cooking my own food. I will try to stay in inns or motels as much as possible.
I would like to do touring on mostly paved roads although here in the Philippines, one would encounter patches of rough roads every now and then.
Lastly, ever since I have been reading about bike touring as you share it, a desire to have a dedicated touring bike has been developing in me. I have my sights on the Salsa Vaya. Ok, I know that this may be the ideal for me and maybe one these days it will come to fruition. But with what I have now, may I be able to go on the tour that I have described? Oh, just one more thing – I also have a Dahon iOS P8 folding bike. Can this be used to tour? Thanks very much for your response. More power to you Darren.
Stumbled upon your website in researching information for (hopefully!) my first self-supported bike touring trip this summer! The plan is to cycle from Vancouver to Quebec City (on pretty much all paved roads) in the span of 30-40 days starting at the end of May to beginning of July. Will need to be moving at a fairly quick pace as I have a somewhat limited timeline. I plan to pack ultralight (hoping to primarily make use of Warmshowers, Couchsurfing and hostels for lodging and cafes for food so tentatively not bringing camping and cooking gear) in order to maximize distance covered per day. I currently have a Trek Madone 3.1 purchased in 2011, which apparently has rack mounting capabilities. I fully understand that a carbon fiber racing bike is not at all designed for touring, but given that I don’t have the budget to purchase another bike and will not be carrying a full load, do you think it’s possible to use the Madone for my trip? I have used the Madone for many hours of road riding and triathlon racing over the past 2.5 years, and it is still in great condition. I am willing to spend money to purchase components and parts (just not another bike), so any recommendations (best puncture resistant tires, rack, etc.) are gladly welcome!
Thanks a lot for your help!
What you have planned is essentially a race, not a leisurely bicycle tour like most people like to do. You are going to have to race across Canada in order to cover that amount of distance is that amount of time. It is possible, but it is going to be a lot of cycling… and not much time for anything else.
Not camping is a good idea. I would be prepared to spend your money on lodging and food. That’s all you really need to complete a tour like this. Just pack light (clothes, toiletries, bike tools and food/water). That’s all you really need. Your objective is speed and distance, so you want to pack light. And because you are packing so light, your current bike should work just fine.
Be safe out there… and have fun!
Being able to post here is a blessing. I have been searching everywhere to see if my current bike will be ok for touring. Thank you!
My Bike: I currently have a 2011 Specialized Dolce Elite. I know that it does not have eyelets to support a rack. https://www.specialized.com/us/en/bikes/road/dolce/dolce-elite-compact
My Bike Tour: I am going to do a bike across Kansas tour. It is a 500 mile vehicle supported tour. So I will only be carrying my daily essentials with me. I do not have to carry food or food cooking gear. I am not completely sure on the road conditions. From what I have read I think that 90% of the roads are 90% paved and if not then well treated/smooth dirt roads.
This bike will be fine for your supported bicycle tour across Kansas. Because you are not going to be carrying any significant gear on your bike, you don’t have to worry about racks, your frame breaking under excess weight, etc. Your main concern is going to be comfort cycling 500 miles over the course of a few short days. Just make sure you have your handlebars, pedals and seat adjusted properly before the ride begins and you should be fine! Have fun.
Really generous of you to do this – what a lifesaver! I’m planning on spending about 2 – 3 months cycling the British coastline (without Ireland) this summer. It’s between 4000 and 5000 miles depending on how rigidly you’re sticking to the coast and hitting every tiny island and so on – I’m doing it for me, not for some competition so I’ll probably be a bit closer to 4k than 5k! Some relatively big climbs but lots of flats too.
I’m aiming to go as light as possible while still camping almost every night. I’ve got a 2kg tent and am looking for a sleeping bag at about a kilo to go with it, then with v minimal clothing and camping stuff i’m hoping to get away with a barbag and either big saddlebag (like a carradice longhorn) or light rear panniers mounted on a rack secured by a seatpost mount and P-clips or an axle mount (no eyelets). Does that sound sensible/possible?! I’d love an opinion!!
I’ve got a 2013 Felt F95 (https://www.feltbicycles.com/United%20Kingdom/2014/Bikes/Road/F-Series-Road-Bike/f95.aspx), would hate to have to sell it and can’t afford a replacement. I’ve considered buying a cheap 2nd hand MTB but would rather go light on a bike I love…
Thanks so much,
First of all, 4-5 thousand miles in just 2-3 months is a lot! You can do it, but it will be a LOT of cycling and not a lot of stopping along the way to enjoy the sights. If you are okay with that, continue. If not, you may want to cut out some of your distance in order to enjoy your experience a bit more.
Secondly, the bike you have now is a road racing bicycle. It is not a bike meant to carry weight of any kind. You could put a handlebar bag on it, and maybe a lightweight rack secured to the seatpost, but even then I think you are going to struggle getting your camping gear onto the bike.
The best way for you to travel on this bike would be to leave your camping gear at home and stay in hotels/hostels each night. Your bike just isn’t really made for carrying the type of gear you are going to need.
However, you might consider pulling a trailer behind your bike instead. This is going to slow you down some, but it will be healthier for your bicycle. http://bicycletouringpro.com/bob-ibex-bicycle-trailer-an-in-depth-review/
Overall, it is really up to you. You can try and load your road bike with touring gear, but it is a little risky. I don’t want your bike to snap in half or have your wheels break underneath you because you packed too much weight on the bike (I’ve seen this happen to people in the past! Eek!!!). But I don’t want to prevent you from making your bicycle touring dreams come true either.
If I were you I would look into pulling a lightweight trailer and then continuing to try and pack as minimally as you can. That’s what I could do if I were in your situation. Hope this helps.
I have just signed on for a supported cycle tour from Shanghai to Istanbul on the Silk Route. it is 12,000 kms over 16 weeks. The roads are 90% paved with some paved roads in poor condition, otherwise gravel.I will only be carrying my personnel gear for the day, probably a light pack and handlebar bag.no panniers or very light or possible rack.
My bike I have recenlty purchased is a Scott Scale 930, 29er.has front suspension which can be locked out. 2012 model and in new condition as was bought in June last year.Is this bike suitable for the trip being a carbon frame ? or should I look at steel ?I weigh 58 kgs and wont be carrying much gear. I have an old wrist injury so feel I do need front suspension and not a ridgid frame. Thanks, Caroline
I’m not really sure Caroline. My best advice would be to contact the company/organization you booked this tour through and to ask them this same question. I’ve never cycled that route before, so I don’t know what kind of bike you will ultimately need. They will have a much better understanding of what kind of bike is appropriate for the tour.
Carbon fiber is something I generally tell people to avoid when conducting a self-supported bicycle tour, but because you aren’t actually going to be carrying anything on your bike during the day (maybe just some food, water and a rain jacket?), you might be okay with what you have. But again, I’d ask the company! They will have a much better answer for you.
Hi Darren. Thanks for your reply. Yes, I will get in touch with the Company to see what they think and if they have had other riders on tour with this type of bike. This is a great site for a newbie and I am sure I am going to learn heaps from all your posts and other information.Cheers, Caroline
My friend and I are thinking about riding the Greater Allegheny Passage from Pittsburgh to the state line and back in the spring, a three day trip. I recently purchased a Marin Argenta A6 and was wondering if that would be a capably bike for the trip. I will be packing very light probably a sleeping bag, a change of cloths, repair tools, toiletries, and some first aid supplies on a beam rack.
Keep up the good work on your site its both informative and inspirational.
Thanks in advance
On a 3-day trip you can get away with almost any bike. Just put a rear rack on that Marin Argenta A6 and pack super light. You should be alright. Be safe and have fun!
I have a Univega. I bought it used on 2006 for $250. It’s sort of heavy for what I want and it’s in so-so condition. I just had a triple crankset put onto it to increase the number of lower gears, but then I took it into an educational bike co-op and they suggested the new rear wheel, tires and brakes I’d need would come to a little over $200. That’s when I started thinking of a new used bike specifically for this trip. I almost bought the Trek 400 they’d rebuilt and showed me ($290), but then someone came in next morning and snatched it up. They said they could build me a bike for $300 and I Might go that route, but I’ve also been looking online for prices on used road and touring bikes. I’m planning a self-supported ride from Seattle to Mexico in April. Instead of taking the coastal route, we’re planning to go east of the Cascades and through the deserts. We’ll camp and cook along the way. The point is to mostly get there without fossil fuels so we can hike the PCT back to Canada. If the bike is not something I care about, I’ll ditch it at the border. If I care about it, I’ll try to send it home. I plan to carry as little gear as possible and send what I’ll need for long walk back to Laguna. Mostly I’ll be on roads, but at the beginning we might take a railroad grade road that’s dirt and gravel for over 20 miles. Thank you for your website and for your contributions to educating cyclists.
That’s a tough one Mimi. Normally I would tell you to look into getting a used or discounted touring bicycle, because cycling from Seattle to Mexico is a long distance and you will surely benefit from having a bicycle that is built specifically for long-distance bicycle touring. But if you are thinking of just ditching the bike at the end of your tour, you might be okay with another type of bike that is cheaper. It’s just hard to say without seeing the bike you have now to see if it would be good enough to get you from Seattle to Mexico or not. If you have a decent bike that is comfortable to ride and is capable of carrying the gear you are going to need, you might be okay with using that for your tour. But if people are telling you to get a new tire, etc… then it sounds like the bike has some problems that could cause you even bigger problems once you hit the road.
I have a Scott Spark 20 (2010). It’s a full suspension mountain bike. Full carbon. It weights around 22 lbs. I’m planning a self-supported tour for 2 to 3 months in Mongolia. There are no road, we will be on the grass/rock for the whole trip.
I have a good cycling experience. I’ll be with a friend who has the same kind of bike but hardtail.
We’ll be carrying a lot of gear and food in a trailer.
The only problem I see with my bike is that I won’t be able to fit saddles on it because a have a mountain bike fork and suspension….
What do you think?
There are a couple problems with your bike Alexandre. First of all, carbon is a frame type generally avoided in the bicycle touring world because the extra weight usually carried on long-distance bike tours can easily break carbon frames. Not always, but it is quite common. But if you are going to pull everything in a trailer, instead of using racks and panniers, you might be okay. The other thing I would say is that your friend with the hardtail mountain bike is probably better suited for this trip than you are. I would recommend hard tail over full suspension. You’re bike will sap a lot of your energy up if the rear suspension can not at least be locked. I’m sure you could make your bike work, but I don’t think it is the best option. You’d be better off with a steel mtb with only front suspension I think. And consider getting additional grips for your handlebars so you can move your hands around while you ride. You don’t want to pinch a nerve in your hand and lose all the feeling in your fingers, hands or arms when you are in the middle of Mongolia. Did you read “The Essential Guide To Touring Bicycles“? Because I talk about all this in the book. I recommend you read it. It might cause you to rethink your choice of bike.
Not saddles but racks with panier…
Hi Darren; I have a 1997 Klein Pulse Comp MTB. This is an aluminium frame, light but strong – I think the bike weighs in at about 24lb. Things I have changed; Removed suspension fork for corrected Kona Project 2 steel rigid. Groupset is now 2012 10spd XT 42/32/24 with 11/28 cassette. Compact Deda drop bars with Dura Ace 10 spd bar end levers. Wheels are 32 db spokes, Mavic x317r/x517f rims on XT hubs. Tyres are either 1.5 Bontrager slicks or 1.9/2.1 front MTB race folding tyres.
I need to get racks and was thinking of Thule Tour/Sport racks as my frame has no braze ons. I live in the Zillertal Alps in Austria. My planned routes would be Austria/Italy/Slovenia/Germany. I would use road/off road routes. I would like to be lightly packed, overnight kit but no cooking requirements. Sleeping bag (outdoor if possible, with no need for a tent…) maybe a small compact and light tent. What do you think?
I think you’ve got it all figured out Martin. You’ve done a lot of work to this bike to make it tour-ready, but it sounds like for what you are planning, you will be fine. Have fun out there!
Hi Darren, thanks for the reply.
Interestingly, I have just seen the Fuji Touring – 700c wheel, with braze ons for racks and guards – 32mm tyres, 27 spd – low gear of 26 x 34 – for 500 pounds (uk price), this seems incredible value given your experience with these machines. I shall have a look at this and may well just buy it as it pretty much seems ready to go out of the box!!
I shall keep you posted.
I’m from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Touring in my country is not as popular compared to US but we do have some great views for touring up and down the peninsula . Currently I have a Merida TFS500D mountain bike and i’m planning to buy a new touring bike. The Marin Muirwood 29er 2014 edition is what i’m looking for right now, from my view it is a complete bike since i’m no fan of shallow drop handlebar. Hope to hear your views on my touring bike selection. Thanks!
The Merida TFS500D is a hardtail mountain bike… so it isn’t a touring bicycle at all, but you could use it for touring if you wanted to. Just mount a rear rack on the bike and go! It might be perfect for terrain you have there in Malaysia.
I live in the south of Italy. My sport of choice was running (usually around 40-55 miles each week, depending on time and weather), but now I pretty much destroyed my Achille’s tendon. The good thing is this made me re-discover cycling!
So now I’m thinking to take a 4/5 months self-supported bike tour ultra-light style: 2 panniers on the back, a small backpack and maybe a saddle bag on the central tube. I’m pretty specific on the amount of gear because is pretty much the same amount I carry when I hike (I plan to stealth camping all the way), plus some bike-specific tool. The itinerary would be for at least half of the road on dirty / white ancient country roads: via Francigena (Italy / France / Spain) then through the baltic countries up to North Cape, down to Istanbul, and finally Athens / Sparta and then Patrasso to catch the ferry back to Italy.
I will start hopefully a few months from now, to have the opportunity to get in a good bike-shape first (cycling definitely uses different muscles than running, even if it doesn’t look this way).
My bike is a (new) Montague Swissbike X50 foldable mountain bike. I read of a guy who took a coast-to-coast in the Usa on an older model of the same brand, so I hope it will survive the abuse.
Any thoughts or recommendations? Thanks in advance!
Luca, the main thing I would suggest is that you do not use a backpack like you are planning. While backpacks are normal in the hiking world, they are avoided in the bicycle touring world. Subscribe to my free bicycle touring email newsletter at: http://bicycletouringpro.com/freecourse/ and you will learn why. Good luck on your adventure. I hope you have a wonderful time.
Heading to Iceland to do the ring road AND I really want to do the Kjolur route. Self-supported, traveling alone. Bike is a Kona Dew Plus 2013 (alu frame) in excellent condition, 28″ Schwalbe Marathon Plus Tour tires, Tubus Ergo Lowrider front rack, Axiom Journey Uni-Fit MK3 Alu (!) rear rack, butterfly handlebar.
Do you think the Kjolur (or any inland route, for that matter) is doable with an alu rack and relatively no-name, and 28″ wheel set? Shining MT-20, 36 spokes. Rack is rated at 50kg but still, it’s aluminum. Setup is 4 panniers and a handlebar bag.
Load; I’ll try to keep it under 25kg but my tent and other camping stuff are rather heavy, and I need my laptop and camera as well, plus I carry a multi-fuel stove. Then some warm clothes for the highlands, unless you tell me in the next two days (before I depart) that it’s absolutely suicidal with this bike to go to the highlands.
All the camping gear is reliable stuff, but relatively heavy. My gut feeling is that I should go lighter… I’m considering taking the outer tent only to save weight, and cutting down on other non-essentials as well but I doubt it can be less than 22-23kg as the absolute minimum, plus the bike, plus me (I weigh 70kg).
I’d appreciate your opinion. I’m a bit concerned about that wheel set and the alu rear rack. Thanks.
Tires are 700x35c ^^
I’ve enjoyed reading the posts on here, and picked up a some good tips. I’d like to know your opinion on the REI 2014 Novara Big Buzz (https://www.rei.com/product/832566/novara-big-buzz-bike-2014) for a 500-mile 8-day tour of the Pacific Coast Highway.
Hi Antonio. The Novara Big Buzz isn’t a touring bicycle… but instead a bicycle built for quick commuting and around-town riding. For a short, 8-day bike tour where you pack super light and carry only minimal gear, this bike will work. But if you want to get into longer bike tours in the future, I’m not sure how far this bicycle will take you. Its aluminum frame won’t be very comfortable on long rides and the flat handlebars could give you some problems. See “The Essential Guide To Touring Bicycles” for more information on the dangers of using aluminum framed bicycles and flat handlebars for long-distance touring.
I own a Felt z100 2012 road bike in good condition. A friend and I are planning a self-supported bike tour from the Canadian border to the Mexican border traveling east of the Cascades (so it will be hilly!). We plan to carry everything we need for the (hopefully) two month journey, and buy food along the way. We intend to pack light of course in panniers. We certainly plan on camping and cooking our own food on the tour. We should be along paved roads the entire way (not sure what the roads into Yosemite or Joshua Tree look like). As a recent college grad, I’m looking for the cheapest option to make this trip happen on a budget! I’m willing to buy a proper touring bike but it would save a ton of money if it were possible to convert my Felt Z100 into one.
I’m looking to get into some bike touring later this year and I’m considering the Blue Ridge Parkway and Portland to San Francisco. I’m wondering if I might be able to use my cyclocross bike for these tours. My cyclocross bike is a 2015 Norco Threshold Carbon with disc brakes. My idea was to get a frame pack for the main triangle, a seat post rack for a larger bag, a handlebar bag, and finally a small bento box style bag for behind the stem. The bike is certainly strong and beefed up for the rigors of cyclocross. It has become my do all bike and I ride road, some mountain biking and through just about all conditions. Oh and I would carry my Osprey mountain bike backpack for hydration needs. It’s a smaller pack that can carry some gear, but mostly just for water in this case.
For both of these tours I would do a combination of camping and hotel stays, so I would think I could get by with the setup I described. I’d love to get your feedback on if you think this is a good idea or not. For the food part, I will cook food in campgrounds, but it would most likely be minimal and I would be sure to be close to grocery stores for replenishing supplies. And for your last question, the road surface would be paved the entire duration, but I could be tempted to do some light off roading to snap some good photos or to camp. It would most likely just be dirt roads and nothing major.
Let me know your thoughts.
Sounds like you have some wonderful bicycle touring plans.
In regard to your questions about your bicycle, I usually tell people to avoid riding with carbon anything on your bike. I’ve heard from too many people who have used carbon frames or forks on their bike tours, only to have the frame or fork break after just a day or two on the road – thereby ruining their bicycle tour. You can read more about what to look for in a good touring bicycle inside this book: http://www.touringbicyclebook.com
If you pack super light (with just a frame pack) and maybe just a rear rack with a very light amount of gear on the back, then yes, I think you can use the bike that you have. But you can’t be loaded down with 50+lbs of gear like you see me doing in my photos, etc. You will need a totally different type of bicycle for that.
So pack super light… kind of like you see my friend Kevin doing in these photos from our bike tour around Taiwan together. This is how you need to pack! http://bicycletouringpro.com/full-circle-taiwan-cycling-adventure/
Hi Darren, I have a Giant Avail 2012 road bike – I plant to do an extensive tour around the western US, coastal and Sierra Nevada mountains, probably some dirt roads. I plan to camp and carry my own food, may 40ish lbs of weight. I am willing to sell my bike to invest in a touring bike, any recommendations? Is it possible to take the avail on a trip like this?
How long do you think you’ll be on this bike tour?
The Avail is a road bike… made of aluminum… and not really made for touring. Does it have the capability of adding a rear rack? I’m not sure.
You might be able to use this bike on your tour if you decide to pull a trailer instead of using racks and a set of panniers. But otherwise, yes, you might want to look at getting a proper touring bicycle: http://www.touringbicyclebook.com
Reason why my Timberlin bicycle is not recommended for tire’s exceeding 26×1.625 ?
I’m sorry, but I don’t understand what you’re asking.
I’m interested in doing a tour through Croatia and Albania primarily, which may extend further depending on how things go!
I don’t have a bike yet, but am somewhat restricted by price and the fact that I have little access to large bicycle shops able to prepare touring bikes to spec. Therefore I’m considering buying a mountain bike firstly as they are much more readily available, and secondly as I want to ty it from the shops I have available and not buy one without trying it. My two main concerns with this are: will my feet hit the panniers on a mountain bike and if so can this be dealt with in some way, and will 29inch parts be available in the region I intend to travel should I have problems with the bike?
The two bikes I’m considering are:
Cannondale 29 Trail 1
CONOR 7200 29er
I’ll be on a self-supported bicycle tour, and I’ll be looking to camp and cook my own food, with some couchsurfing thrown in on occasion should I be after some luxury. As for kit, all bike gear/parts, camping gear, clothes, a stove. Little else in the way of luxuries.
As for terrain, I imagine a bit of everything, but mainly ‘good’ roads, but with every chance of unfavourable terrain I’m sure!
I should mention I’m a tall guy at 6’4″. I very much appreciate your input, and should you think the bikes I’ve selected aren’t suitable, any suggestions.
Actually, there are some good things about doing a bike tour on a mountain bike, but a lot of bad things – your feet hitting the panniers, your hands going numb because of the lack of hand positions on the handlebars, your back could hurt a lot from the more hunched over riding position, the fact that you’ll have to exert more energy to go the same distance as someone on a road/touring bike, etc. Have you read The Essential Guide To Touring Bicycles yet? Because that book explains all these issues you might run into if you decide to use a mountain bike for a long-distance tour like the one you are planning. I would think twice before using a mountain bike on such a tour. It can certainly be done, but it won’t be the best choice. It could be kinda painful over the long-run.
Hi Darren! BTW I absolutely love your touring video for beginners! It’s so inspiring! I dream of touring long distances by bike… The only thing that hinders me from doing this is that touring specific bikes are so expensive! I just can’t afford them right now.. and I would really love to do one major tour this summer… as you know Canadian winter is long and harsh and summer for us here is like paradise! I really don’t want to wait til next year… The cheapest one that I really want is CAD 995 (+13% tax) here in Ontario! I really want a Norco Cabot 2. The bike I have right now is a comfort hybrid — Norco Vermont 2013 which I bought on sale for CAD 400 (originally CAD 600). I would like to do a bike tour from Toronto to downtown Montréal (Central Station). I would probably have 2 bags on the back panier and a small tent or sleeping bag in the middle of the panier. What do you think about this bike? Do you think my bike handle this trip? Thank you so much!
Yeah, if you keep your weight light, then yes, you could do your trip on that bicycle. A touring-specific bike is not necessary all the time. Just if you carry lots of stuff, don’t want your bike to break, and you want to remain comfortable. Please see http://www.touringbicyclebook.com for more information.
I have a vintage ladies sun solo bike. I would like to do a bike tour for about three weeks through Zimbabwe and Zambia. Do you think the bike would be suitable?
Hi, I am thinking of doing either the East Coast Greenway or the Atlantic Coast route starting south going north. I currently have a Trek Series One 1.1 in great condition. I was wondering if this would fair well or if you recommend a touring bike. Obviously, if I could avoid buying a touring bike that would be optimal, but I realize that the bike I have now is a road bike. Also I would be traveling for quite some time solo so I would need to have a fair amount of gear and sleeping/cooking supplies. Most of the roads would be paved but there are a few occurrences on the ECG where there are non-paved routes. Also, if I did use my current bike, would a trailer be better than trying to outfit it with panniers? Thanks for all your help!
The Trek Series 1.1 is a road bike, so there are going to be two main issues: 1) The tires are thin and won’t do well on girt or gravel roads… and 2) you won’t be able to carry much weight on the bicycles, so you’ll probably need to tow your gear in a bicycle trailer.
Hi Darren, I have been strictly a road rider for a long time but have recently been “talked into” riding a section of the Great Divide next summer for 7 or days. This will not be a technical mountain bike trip but more of the gravel parts from what I understand. Besides a couple of road bikes I own a 15 year old ‘heavy’ that I really enjoy riding. It’s a steel 21 speed beast of a hybrid with 26″ wheels, flat bar, shimano group, and rigid front fork. I have ridden it over longer distances but never loaded it up for a tour. I am considering tweaking it up a bit and using it for this ride. Am I dreaming here? Should I consider something different? Thanks… Jim
It’s hard to say without seeing the bike myself, but it sounds both possible to use your existing bike… and possibly a bad idea. It just depends on the state/condition of the bike. Please see http://www.touringbicyclebook.com on some of the important issues (handlebars, gearing, frame design, etc) that make touring bicycles different and better than generic bicycle models for long-distance travel. The main thing I’m worried about with you is your bike breaking down – especially if you are riding in rough terrain… like you will encounter on the Great Divide Route. But since the trip is only 7 days long, you might be able to pull it off. It just depends on the condition of your bike… and the amount of pain you are willing to tolerate by not riding a touring-specific bicycle for such a long period of time (over bumpy, difficult terrain).
I am quickly getting excited just of the idea of bike touring. I haven’t really done anything like that before. I do have a Schwinn gtx3 (2014?) It is what Dicks calls the adult design but it’s more a mens’ design to be more specific.
Fork: SR Suntour M3020, alloy crown, Alloy lower, 70mm travel
Headset: 1 1/8″
Cranks: SR Suntour 3 piece alloy, 22-32-42
Front Derailleur: DNP Down Pull
Rear Derailleur: Shimano Altus
Cog Set: 7-speed
Shifter: Sram MRX Grip Shifters
Hub (F): Alloy
Hub (R): Alloy
Brakes: Alloy Linear Pull
Brake Levers: Alloy Levers
Stem: Alloy Quill
I was wondering about a fully self-supporting tour. Not too long, by your standards, I’m sure. Maybe less than 2,000 miles. The longest I’ve taken it at any one time is approximately 25 miles on a nicely graveled rail trail. I had about 30-40 lbs in the rear panniers and it seemed to hold up just fine then, but 25 miles and 2000 miles are two different stories, right? Just wondering about it’s feasibility.
2,000 miles is a long distance… and for those kinds of distances, you want to have a bicycle that is going to be comfortable over those long distances… and won’t break down on you, etc. Read: http://www.touringbicyclebook.com
My suggestion is that you conduct some short overnight bike tours near where you live… before you go off on your longer bike tour. Those short trips will tell you whether or not you need a better/different bike. Make sure you read the section about handlebars, gearing, frame design, etc inside The Essential Guide To Touring Bicycles, because that book explains why all these little things are so very important on a long-distance bike tour like the one you are planning.
Hello. I would really like to get into bike touring, but was wondering if it is okay to use my bike.
My bike has an
complete lower end shimano drivetrain
tektro v brakes
700c aluminum wheeset with ss spokes
flat handlebar with adjustable stem (considering on getting trekking bar)
I plan on touring on my own, I am guessing on mostly paved roads. Is the bike okay? What makes me feel a little iffy, is the aluminum frame.
Well, it depends on where you want to go, how much weight you plan to carry, and how long you plan to be on the road. So it’s difficult to say. It also depends on how good of shape your bicycle is in. Have you read The Essential Guide To Touring Bicycles yet? That might be the best place for you to start.
Hi, Would appreciate your advice. Planning on doing Southern Tier 58 day USA supported tour in 2017. I gather the terrain is paved roads and cycle paths. Gear is carried by support team. My current bike is a Trek Silque WSD. 50/34 crank. 11-32 cassette. It’s 3 months old. Is this suitable or should I be looking at a touring bike. Kind regards.
If all your gear is going to be carried by a support team, then it really doesn’t matter what type of bike you ride. The bike you have will be great! Have you ridden that bike a lot? Have you ridden it for long distances? It may be a little uncomfortable over the long run (to your neck, hands, etc), but because you won’t be carrying any actual weight on the bike, you don’t have to worry about your bicycle breaking, cracking, etc… like so many of the other people commenting on this page will have to worry about.
Hi Darren, I’m slowly planning a 1-2 week trip from San Diego to San Francisco along the coast on my bike. Currently I own a road bike (SE Royale 14S) and it’s about a year old. My goal is to do a hybrid between credit-card touring and self-supported touring but focusing on the latter since I won’t be gone for more than two weeks. I’m hoping to take at the very least two panniers but aiming for four just to be safe, also planning on taking camping and cooking supplies. Would it be viable on the current bike I have, if so could I possibly aim for longer distances in the future?
Thank you for all the information,
Have you considered pulling all your gear in a trailer behind your bicycle? That’s what a lot of people riding traditional road bikes do. When your bike is not designed to carry a heavy load (like yours is NOT), then trailers are usually better for the frame of your bicycle. That way you can pack all that camping gear, etc… and not have to worry about your bicycle frame breaking in half. Otherwise, you need to pack SUPER light. See for example, the photos of my friend Kevin’s bike during our bike tour in Taiwan. That’s how light you need pack if you want to use panniers.
Thank you for sharing your expertise! I am currently just a bike commuter but am very interested in doing some touring. I am not sure how long the distances will be … probably short at first but want something that will hold a good amount of gear and my 225 lbs. My local bike shop recommends a steel frame and has a KHS Urban Extreme for a great price. They concede that it’s primarily a road bike but think it would serve me as a touring bike too. What do you think?
Hi Darren, Greetings from Australia…thanks a million for offering your assistance, we are looking at spending time touring the bicycle routes in Europe and the U.K. During the summer months.
We are keen to purchase the Trek FX range with disk brakes, we will be camping a lot as well as using warmshowers.
Do you think the FX range will suit our needs and how much weight can we carry on the FX?
The Trek FX is really more of a city bike with lightweight trekking capabilities. You are going to want to pack super light and probably won’t want to cycle for super long periods of time with those flat handlebars, etc – which are not idea for touring. Otherwise, yes, you could use this bike for lightweight bicycle touring – as you might do in so many different parts of Europe, etc. Just pack light! That’s my main recommendation.
Hi I am a 54 years old male and am considering my first bike tour this winter (perhaps in south america). I own a mountian bike Giant Sedona dx with 36 inch wheels and a Hybrid Kona Dew with 700 35cc wheels. Both will need a bit of TLC before I go. And both would be carring panniers or hauling a trailer?
Which bike set up would be best to take to south america on my first trip? Or should I get a new bike and gear? Thanks for the info. Dale
1 I am having Firefox colorado MTB 2012
2 Self supported guided tour
4 10 kgs + 10 kgs = 20 kgs on the pannier
5 I will cook my own food
6 Tarmac roads only
I have a Trek FX 7.3 WSD and I am planning to cycle from St Malo in northern France to Seville in southern Spain. I plan to follow the Velodyssee route through France to the Spanish border at Hendaye, then on through Spain to Seville (route TBC).
I didn’t think my current bike would be suitable, but a few friends have suggested I shouldn’t be too hasty and that perhaps some upgrades it will be okay. It does seem a shame to buy a new bike if my current one might be suitable, but equally it would be interesting to hear what else you might recommend.
I haven’t decided whether I am going to camp / cook yet, but either way, I plan to travel relatively light. Some days I would ideally like to be covering 100km plus.
I would love to get your input. My wife and I are planning for an eventual Clockwise Lap of the US starting in Seattle. We would be self supported, camping out, cooking our own food, etc. We currently have basically brand new hybrid style road bikes, and I would love to know if they might cut it so I don’t have to buy $6K worth of matching Surly Trolls for this adventure. I also think it would be cool to “ride what ya got”, but I know I need to be realistic….
Mine is GT Traffic 2.0
Hers is Diamondback Insight
We would likely be on pavement with a few dirt roads thrown in. I am not not at all opposed to new wheels, Schwalbes, brooks saddles, some Jones Loop bars with a higher setting than stock for me, etc.
I am mostly concerned with:
1) can these aluminum bikes hold the weight on panniers without failure?
2) are we going to wish for death because of the ride quality?
3) are trailers a viable option for 50 pounds of gear, or more, each?
Thanks for any help you can provide!
1. Yes, the aluminum is not a problem. Your bike probably won’t break because of the weight. But aluminum bikes are generaly far less comfortable on long bike tours than steel bicycles. Which is why almost all touring bicycles are made from steel – not auminum.
2. You can tour on the bikes you have, but my biggest concern would be the flat handlebars. You need to be able to move your hands around (for all the reasons I describe inside The Essential Guide To Touring Bicycles). You don’t want to end up with pain or nerve damage because of those flat bars!
3. Yes, a trailer is a viable option. Perfectly viable! But try to pack less than 50 lbs of gear. I think you could get by with far less than that.
I have a racer/road bike from the late 80s, in perfect condition since the previous owner hardly used it. I would like to take it on tour around the Danish islands, probably 500km in total and 7-10 days depending on how many interesting things I find on the way. The tour will be completely self supported, so I will have a tent and cooking stuff plus at least 1 full days food at a time. I hope to be able to keep the weight to about 15-18kg (35lb). The roads will be paved nicely with the on gravel track, which the bike deals with fine when it’s not loaded.
A bit about the bike:
One set of eyelets on th back and one set on the front
Chainstay is 43cm
Wheel base is about 102cm
Wheels are 700C with 25mm tyres
Do you think this bike will be able to cope with the amount of gear I need? At least back panniers and probably front panniers too. Do you think a trailer would be an option if the panniers will be too much?
Thanks for your help!
Hello! I’d love your assistance. I ride a Trek 8.3 DS Hybrid. I currently don’t own anything yet that would make it useful as a touring bike yet, so I’ve got money to invest. I plan on doing shorter self guided rides through the Midwest and eventually building up to riding along the central stack of states (TX to ND). The roads would mainly be paved rural routes through Oklahoma, Kansas, and North Texas. I’ve got a good back and shoulders from Backpacking so I can carry a decent weight on my back, more worried about tipping than anything else at that point. Thanks!
My name is Matt, I am planning a small tour around the Danish Islands, I expect it to take 7-10 days (depending on how many interesting things I run into on the way) and will be over 500km. The roads will be nicely paved and with the odd gravel track to a camping spot. The Tour will be self supported and I think I will be able to pack pretty light, 15-18kg/35-40lb.
I just bought a second hand roadie/racer from the 80s. It’s a kildemoes Colibri Light (I highly doubt you’ll find it online). Here’s a bit about it:
It has drop bars
Chromoly frame and forks
700C Wheels with 25mm tyres, but 28mm might be an option
Chainstay is 43.5cm
wheelbase is 103cm
Has one set of eyelets on the front and one set on the back, presumably for fenders but look strong enough for racks.
Do you think this bike will be able to carry me (185lb/85kg) plus the weight of what i’m taking with me. I am open to using panniers if the bike could cope with it, or a trailer, which I suppose would be less stressful for the bike.
Thanks for any input you have!
Hi Darren, I don´t have a bike. I´m looking to rent either a mountain bike or a comfort touring bike for my trip to the Portuguese Way of St James from Lisbon to Santiago de Compostela – central route via Barcelos. I would avoid the stoney climbs and descends and I´ll do most of the route on asphalt and the typical Portuguese cobblestone streets, though with some dirt road and probably short stretches of medieval Roman roads. What I´m not sure, is whether a comfort touring bike is suitable for dirt road and the cobblestone streets. I won´t carry much, around 55kg including myself (I weigh less than 50kg). Thank you in advance for your advice.
I’m not sure exactly which type of bike would be best for you, because I have yet to do that route myself. I would guess, however, that the comfort touring bike would be your best bet. But I could be wrong. Maybe the best thing for you to do is contact one of the local tour companies in that area and ask them which type of bike would be best? They might even be the best people to rent the bike from? For example: contact this company and tell them that Darren Alff from Bicycle Touring Pro sent you – https://www.portugalnaturetrails.com/ <--- They should have all the information you need.
Loving your site from what I have seen so far btw!!
So I am in Myanmar at the moment. I cycled over 9 countries, 5,000k to get here on my Trek 7.1 FX 2012. I am now planning to cycle around South America at the beginning of November. I was planning on flying with my bike there but my partner, who has a very nice Surley Long Haul Trucker, is suggesting I buy the same bike as him as its stronger. This will eat into a lot of our cycle travel funds though and I am reluctant as I love my bike, I find it fits me well and I like how light and zippy it is. I do think I need to upgrade the gears but perhaps I may as well buy a whole other bike if doing that? And perhaps my partner is right and my bike is not strong enough?
I expect to carry around 25 kilos, sometimes more with food and water. Front and back panniers. Potentially traveling 8,000k plus on very mixed terrain.
What do you suggest? Would you recommend getting a whole new bike or changing mine a bit? Do you think the frame is sturdy enough to manage the rough terrain of SA? Mainly Chile, Argentina, Peru, Colombia.
Very looking forward to hearing from you.
Hey Darren,how are ya, My name is Chris and I’m a retired BMXer, looking to try out touring. I have a 2015 Giant Talon 5 MTB in new condition and I want to convert it to start on small tours. I plan to ride on mostly pavement and easy fire roads. I’m in SLC, Ut and plan to ride close to home and would like to build up to longer distances, Wendover, Cedar City, etc. I’ve been researching so far and you and your website seems to be the place to go, I’ve learned quite a bit so far. My frame has mounts for a rear rack and water bottles, I’m on a low budget so I want to convert this bike and give it a try before I really jump into it. As far as equipment and food, I’m still learning but I would probably start with short credit card tours and gain experience. Would love to hear what you think and where I could look more into the conversion. Thanks Coach!
That’s awesome that you are in SLC. I live in Park City, Utah… when I’m not traveling. I haven’t been home in almost 3 years now.
Anyway, about your bike, the bike you have now is obviously not a touring bike. But it is something you could use for shorter bike tours. You just need a rear rack and a set of two rear panniers. That’s all you need to get started!
See this video for an example of how you might pack for your tours: http://bicycletouringpro.com/lightweight-bike-touring-setup/
I’ve just cycled from Belgium to northern Spain on a cheap mountain bike (Merida Matts 10). I added racks and smooth tyres and it’s been fine. I don’t know how it compares to a touring bike because I have never ridden one.
Hi Darren I am planning on a west to east coast us trip , Will my 10 year old trek 1000 be able for a 4000 + miles trip ? The bike is in good condition , plenty of multi day spine , but assisted trips . Never had panniers , trailer .! Do I need to change my old friend ( the trek ).?
It might work. Yes. You need to be careful though (please read my previous comments on this or see “The Essential Guide To Touring Bicycles” for more information), because you risk doing damage to the nerves in your hands/wrist when you ride a mountain bike with flat handlebars over such a long distance.
Hi Darren; i am a 59 year old man and i purchased a womans 1.7 Fuji silhouette for touring ! It is aluminum frame with double butted welds ! 440 chainstay. Mounts for rear rack ; 9 speed cassette with cassette 11/32 with 3 chainrings 48/36/26. Dame as surly long haul trucker!! I purchased the toupeak rear rack and front clamp on front racks and panniers for front and back ! I am carrying 26 lbs of self support gear ! This hybrid rides as nice as my specialized roubaix carbon fiber ! I have giant 32 tires on it and the stock rims are double wall ! I have flat bars with the flanged grips! I so far have been making overnighter trips of stealth camping training for a long haul from Michigan to south Dakota ! I feel this bike is very sturdy so far and comfortable as i now have close to 900 milrs on it with no problems!! The handling is superb with the 4 bags with diversified load! I notice hybrid bikes dont get very nice reviews on many blog dites ! What is your opinion on my setup for touring? I also am waiting for some aero bars to add also.
Hey there …
I am planning a trip across europe starting in madrid , spain , ending in norway , a total of ~2500 km .
My bike is a giant tcr slr2 with compact lightwieght aluminium frame , will it be able to hold up with front and back racks with panniers .
Amazing you did this! Get a real community feeling after reading your blog for some months.
We’re going from Guadalajara Mexico to Cusco Peru on July 11 2017, we’re a couple and plan to go slow, traditional touring travel, about 6 months. Don’t know all the roads, but most in Mexico will be paved (80/20 pareto principle), also plan to get lost in nature some times!
Talked to locals and said some roads on South and Central America are not paved, but gravel and dirt.
Thing is, I’ve yet to find a decent touring (for that regard, expedition touring) in Mexico, which doesn’t cost a fortune (perspective 1 USD = 20 MXN, only have $20K MXN = $1K USD) so, I´ve been checking online and found a lot of decent aluminum touring bikes for that price (but got the fear of not getting sizing ok <- any ideas or tips on this really appreciated).
All of this has made me think about buying a 3-6 months used hybrid or mountain bike, (around the mark of $500 USD or $10K MXN) and then get it rough enough for touring with the other $500 USD left.
Been thinking about aluminum frame, (steel ones are more expensive, but maybe I'll give in to traditional steel), wheels 26×2.00 Schwalbe Marathon Plus MTB or the like, no suspension fork (unless the bike has it), flat handlebars with bar ends, maybe trekking handlebars; since we plan to camp, cook and do everything on our own, it's fair to distribute weight in both front and back racks, also V-Brakes or maybe Disc (only if the bike has it) and are looking forward to get some mid to high shimano gear, maybe Deore, LX, XT, since the tour is quite long.
Is there any bike that comes to your mind? Or any tip on buying touring bikes online or adapting second hand hybrid, crosscountry, mountain bikes? I'd really appreciate it a lot! Thanks 😀
I’m a 24 y/o in the beginnings of planning a getaway bike tour across Europe. I’ve still a lot of details to determine but I think your advice would help get me started in my planning. I have a cannonade CAAD10 road bike, shimano 105 drive train, Shimano RS11 wheel set. Just got a new chain but everything else is original from brand new purchase two years ago. I want to make this my touring bike for this trip and don’t really know where to start. What type of wheel set do I need and tires. I think this trip could be 6-10 weeks and I would travel light with some camping equipment. Not sure If I’ll need to cook along the way. I suspect I would stay on mostly paved roads, it will be my first time touring and I’ll be flying solo so I might as well stick to main trails and circuits. I think this trip will involve various ferry and train rides. So what kind of little things should a first time tourer be thinking about for a trip like this?
I currently have a cinelli zydeco cyclocross bike. I’m hoping to do a self supported tour for 3 months across Europe. I’m doing a mixture of working on farms and staying in accommodation. I would love to do a bit of camping, but I’m unsure whether I will have enough storage for this.
Would you suggest a cyclocross is suitable for touring (aluminium frame…)? The zydeco says it’s rear rack friendly but I’m unsure whether two rear panniers and one handlebar pack will be enough storage! Would it be better to get a trailer or investing in a touring bike?
Thanks for your insightful and informative blog posts and fantastic footage on your youtube channel. Take care, Rebecca
Thanks for all this exciting information.
I have a Trek Alpha 1.1, 2-3 years old, in very good condition, all parts are original.
I have a long backpacking experience, and planning to make a year-long (10000+ km) trip by bike (self-supported). I will carry all the camping equipment, but I think I can survive with around 20-25 kg load (except the bag and penniers). The weight limit of the bicycle including the rider and the cardo is stated to be 125 kg (I am just 65 kg 🙂
I will often ride on unpaved road, but not planning to cover mountainous, harsh terrain.
I would definitely change the tires to thicker ones and not sure about the wheels too.
I may consider using a trailer but I prefer not.
Another concern for me is the alloy frame, as it is mostly sugessted to use steel, but Trek guarantees it 🙂
What do you think? Should I definitely start looking for an other, proper touring bike or can I give it a try?
Thank you very much again.
I got a Marin ALP fairfax and i would like to cycle Cuba. I am concerned if the bike will will support the weight for 2 weeks cycling trip.
Many thanks in advance for your help
Hi Darren, thanks for all the great info! I have a Jamis Coda sport hybrid with a rear rack. I would mostly be interested in multi-day tours in the U.S. on pavement only for now. I would mostly do self-supported tours where I camp, cook food along the way etc. I think my main concern is whether the wheels are adequate to carry the weight (I think I could get by with 30-40 lbs of gear). Thanks for any advice!
I have a 2015 Trek FX 7.2 in excellent new condition. It has a steel fork & aluminum frame. 700×35 tires.
I have Planet Bike fenders, a really nice Bontrager rear rack, Ergon grips on a flat bar (tried a butterfly bar but didn’t like it).
I plan on doing, for now, short local in-state trips on roads on decent condition & want to ride to a campground & camp, so that I can practice.
I plan on adding the Arkel front rack & will get some really nice paniers, either Ortlieb or Arkel & upgrading the tires.
Thank you! Paul (San Marcos, TX)
I have a road and a hybrid neither quite suitable for 2 to 5 day touring in Canada. For now just thinking Ontario. Don’t like racks on the front just the rear as my saddle bags should be able to carry plenty for 2 to 5 days
Sounds silly but it is better if they come in red.
You input is appreciated
I have a Raleigh Detour is this possible to tour with in stock form?
Hey Darren!I recently purchased a Giant Roam 2 Disc hybrid and In the last month have really gotten into some longer rides with it. I would like to do some touring with it of some kind. I plan on adding some ergon grips to it as well, but had some questions.
1. Is this bike suitable for some touring? Since it’s probably still within the return policy time, should I consider attempting to exchange it for a more touring specific bike?
2. If it’s suitable and I keep it, what items should i consider adding to it to help this specific bike with touring?
Any help you can offer would be appreciative! Thank you!
Trek 1.1 Women’s 2010 excellent conditions light use.
regualr commuting, basket for a small dog, and 50-110 miles on the road and some trail
Currently living in DMV area.
maybe carry no more than 60 lbs in items for maybe a one-night camping trip.
It looks like its been almost a year since this Q&A has had a response from Darren. Busy touring??
I just figured there was enough information to answer your question either in this post or in “The Essential Guide To Touring Bicycles.” I don’t have the time to answer every person’s question about their specific bicycle. Sorry.
here’s Fabio from Italy.
– I have a Bianchi Spillo Onice (men) of the 2010 in good condition
– Self supported bicycle tour
– From southern to norther Italy (from Lecce to Ravenna or Venice maybe)
– I will carry only my photocamera, a gps, my mobile phone (cloths of course). My trip will be at the beginning of fall.
– I won’t camp and I won’t cook. I will sleep at friends or parents houses on the way (I have a lot!)
– Paved road
I am reading your “Bicycle Touring Blueprint”, it is a good reading for me, thank you!
Sounds great Fabio. You are on your way!
I am riding a Jamis Quest Sport (steel) 58cm. The wheels are Alex18 -26 spokes front and 32 rear. Run 700x 32 or 37 tires. Interested in self supported multi day tours. Usually pack hammock/tarp combo in addition to all the other accoutrements. Is this feasible?
I have a Fuji Sportif with Shimano 105,11s, alloy frame with mechanical disc brakes. I can run 32mm tires, but can only fit rear racks and a handlebar bag. It’s fast enough and I like the braking, but it is a little awkward with the weight distribution. I also have a Specialized Crossroads Sport which has 45mm tires, a more upright position and can fit front and rear panniers. It has a triple CR with 8s, flat barand V brakes, but it’s slow and heavy. Which would you think would be more suited to touring in the USA?
My Bianchi 1885 has a hydro alu minum frame and carbon fork. It is in great condition and rides, shifts, and brakes flawlessly.
Doesn’t have mounts for paniers or racks, wondering if I could do a long tour, 2-3 months on it and how a potential set up would look like adjusting for the lack of set ups.
You’d be looking at doing a very lightweight bike tour or a credit card style bike tour, as you shouldn’t be carrying too much weight on that bicycle. You might also consider towing a trailer instead of using traditional bicycle touring panniers or bikepacking bags. https://bicycletouringpro.com/different-types-names-for-bicycle-touring/
Many years have passed since you posted this, but maybe it’s still monitored. I decided a long time ago that I wanted to do the ride from Canada to Mexico down the coast. I’ve driven it many times, but riding it just seems like an awesome experience. With that said, I’ve never done a tour before. I love riding in general, but I do worry that this is an idea that sounds great, and I will get a couple days in and wonder what the hell I’ve done.
So.. with that said, in looking for a touring bike, one thing that is important is that I find a bike that I also enjoy just riding unloaded for shorter trips or more casual rides. Being somebody who likes a very nimble bike and tends to choose a bike that is one size smaller than everybody else thinks I should be riding, you can imagine that tour bikes feel like a bus to me. Also, I won’t deny… looks matter.
So the bike that has caught my eye over the past few years has been the Cinelli hobootleg touring bike. I like that not many people have it. I like the look. It “seems” more affordable. Right now I can get for $1650 cnd. However, from what I’ve read, it’s heavier than most of the other touring bikes. This does concern me a bit. Though I’m not sure if this should be something to focus on. Not long ago I came upon the Marinoni Turismo and really liked the look, like the fact that it’s made in Canada, and really like the shop that sells them. However, I am looking at more like 3K for that bike. And then I’d have to buy racks and fenders onto of that (the Cinelli comes with them). I’m wondering if it’s possible to tell how they are going to ride differently once loaded. I have tested both of them, but the Marinoni didn’t have racks or fenders on. So I’m not sure if that was a fair comparison. I could certainly feel the weight.
Just wondering if you have any feelings on the Cinelli as there isn’t a lot of personal reviews on it out there. And the build quality. Basically, I’m wondering if the cost difference is worth it. Especially for somebody who may only tour once. I don’t know that I’ll love it like I think I will. Give me one good rainy day and I may be packing it in.
Any thoughts on anything about these bikes. Or maybe even “woah woah… step away from the shinny object.”
I’m planning to ride the NC500 in Scotland in July and try to ride 100 miles per day to take advantage of long daylight hours.
The bike I have is a 2017 Gazelle Ultimate S8 with fitted rack, mudguards and Shimano Alfine 8 hub with Gates belt drive. I use the bike currently as a commuter bike and ride approx 150 miles per week. It’s covered to date 6000 miles. Would you recommend this bike for long distance touring with hilly terrain and possibly towing a Bob Yak trailer or should I consider something else.
Thanks for your post! Heard a bunch of good things about Windsor Tourist.
I have been riding my Kent Roadtech 700c bike (supermarket stuff, ~35 lbs weight) after replacing steel cranks and handlebars with aluminum ones. I did a 800 mi trip from upstate NY to Chicago, took 7 days, and was extremely angry with myself about my lack of speed (couldn’t get beyond ~11 mph).
I have this 4000+ mi road trip coming up, with mostly paved road riding. I want to be much faster than my Chicago trip. Will Windsor Tourist give me significant improvement? Or I need to go for some other bike? Maybe just stick with my Kent Roadtech? I am OK with used bikes. Don’t want to spend more than ~$500 overall.
Hi, thanks for all the great content and advice on the website and youtube channel.
I was wondering what your thoughts are on taking a Carrera Parva hybrid in great condition and with a few modifications (extra handle bar clip on’s, pannier racks and mudguards) on a 6 month tour around South America (Peru to Patagonia via Uruguay). It will be fully self supported and I’ll be packing minimally and lightweight including cooking gear, but with 4 panniers to spread the weight evenly to prevent pressure on the back wheel. Terrain will vary between paved roads and rougher tracks, and elevations are gonna soar. Of course I’d like to get a proper touring bike but am restricted by budget and the lack of second hand female bikes around. I think the Parva will be a solid alternative and may even be able to cope better with the rougher tracks due to the wider width of it’s tires. Also considering taking a second set of thinner tires for longer stretches on paved roads.
Thanks so much – Lily
I have a Jamis Coda Sport. I think it would tour nicely, as the frame has a lot of the characteristics of a touring frame. I would probably change out the bars for something with more positions, and maybe put on some beefier wheels. Other than that, I expect it would work nicely. I enjoy your emails and videos immensely!
i am 90 years old i have a50 year old puch racer, my arms get soar and i am thinking of ahybrid bike i ride about10 miles a day either around the neiberhood. or abike path. ifind the hybrid steering ratio to be combersome, but i may get used to a hybrid. thanks for your opinion don
I am planning to ride BC to Mexico in summer of 2022. I own several bikes but none are touring bikes.
I was planning to use my 2020 Trek Domane SL 5. I would use a saddle bag, handlebar bag and frame bag. Wondering if the carbon frame would hold for a journey like that. Basically do you NEED a touring bike, or can you make due with a carbon frame road bike.
A bike like that could work if you were doing a credit card style bike tour where you are carrying almost nothing with you and paying to sleep in hotels each night. But if you plan to camp or carry all your own gear, that is not the bike I would use for such a long bike tour. Please watch these videos: https://bicycletouringpro.com/touring-bicycles-buyers-guide/
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