Choosing a bicycle

We first bought Devinci Caribou bikes and later Surly Long Haul Truckers. The Devincis served us well for trips to Cuba and Spain where we stayed in bed and breakfasts and didn’t need camping gear.

We bought the Surlys when our plans grew to include self-supported journeys in the developing world; these bikes carry bigger loads easily, are more comfortable over long distances, and are easier to repair outside the developed world. They served us well on our 11 month ride from Bangkok to Paris in 2009, and are still going strong in 2014 at 50,000 km, albeit with new wheels. Based on our experience, we offer opinionated suggestions here for those who may be considering buying a bike for touring.

Consider purchasing second-hand and upgrading to meet your needs, but think carefully about your reliability requirements before considering this option. Remember that a breakdown will be much more serious on a remote tour than on a local commute. Here we discuss purchasing new, and on clearly communicating your requirements to bike shop personnel. Many bike store employees don’t have extended touring experience, so do research before you begin to shop; learn to read the specifications on manufacturers’ web sites; be informed and ready to communicate your needs.

If the bike store guy or gal is competent, he/she’ll start by trying to determine whether you want the wheeled equivalent of sandals, running shoes, or hiking boots. Start by telling him or her what kind of roads you’ll ride on, how far you’ll ride per day, how much gear you plan to carry.

Test ride bikes from shops. Try riding other people’s bikes if you can. Think about what you do/don’t like and why. Remember that a 30 minute ride in the city on an unloaded bike gives you some information, but it’s not the same as an extended ride on a fully loaded bike.

Browse the Fully Loaded Touring Gallery to see bikes that have been used for the kinds of tours you plan, and see which are available near you.

Look at REI’s article on How to Choose a Bicycle

Here are some  aspects we considered:

A Touring Bike
Frame Material & Suspension
Fenders or Mudguards
Racks, Panniers & Accessories

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