Touring Bikes Frames, Best Framesets, and
Bicycle Frame Geometry.
The bicycle frame is the most critical component of any cycle. A touring
bike frameset is the heart and soul of the machine. It determines the
bike's handling, feel, and comfort. Once a frame is purchased and
components assembled around it, the frame is difficult to change.
Touring bike frames can last for decades.
You will replace worn out parts and may
upgrade components on your bike. A frame will probably be used for
years unless you made a mistake in frame selection that had to be
replaced it. These mistakes include buying the wrong size or
the inappropriate type of frame for the intended use (road, mountain,
touring). In short, if you
buy wisely you have just added another member to your family but if you get
something you do not like it will have to be lived with or sold.
Frames with Bicycle Touring Specific Geometry
Many different types of frames have been retrofit for touring.
I have seen cyclocross, hybrid, triple ring road bikes, and lots of mountain
bikes carrying people in their travels. If you mostly use the bike for
something else and only occasionally tour then this may work well. The best
bicycle for travel is an actual
touring bike. Touring bicycles are designed from the ground up for the specific
purpose of traveling with loaded panniers. This is not to say that a touring bike could not be used for
other applications like commuting, dirt roads, and recreational
road riding. By nature touring bikes are multi use. Touring bicycle geometry has many unique details that make it best
for travel but the key features are described below.
- Long Wheelbase: Bicycles meant for loaded touring have a long wheelbase (the distance between
the two hubs). This is beneficial in many ways. This keeps the bike
steady for all day riding. It takes less effort to balance and hold the bike
up. A long wheelbase reduces the quick agility necessary for road
racing but is much better for long distance cruising. A long wheelbase
carves turns instead of being jittery. Sure, you can not turn as tight as
a road bike
but most public roads are not like a race course. A long wheelbase provides plenty
of room so heels to not hit rear panniers and toes and fenders do not collide.
Low center of gravity: Lowering the center of gravity by lowering the
(crank set) of a touring bike is essential to all day comfort. Lowering
the bike makes loads noticeably easier to control with less effort. Lower
cranks also means that pedals will be
closer to the road and even gentle turns can not be pedaled through.
Because road racers often pedal through turns road bikes do not have a bottom
bracket as low as a touring bike. Mountain bikes are designed to clear logs or rocks in the
trail. Mountain bikes need high clearance just like a 4x4 truck. For this reason they have the highest bottom
brackets of all
bikes. This is the exact opposite need of a touring bike which is low to the ground
for cruising. This is like the difference between a four wheel drive truck
and a luxury sedan. Both can be driven across USA but one is more
- Designed to carry heavy loads on racks: Touring bike frames must be strong. They will usually
weigh more than a road or mountain bike frame. Because of the extra weight
carried on racks touring bikes experience different forces and stress points
other bikes. Touring bikes are specifically designed to deal with these
forces just like a pick up truck is made to carry a load.
- Attachment points: Built in attachment points and
brazons for racks, fenders, extra water bottles,
pumps, lights, and more can be retrofit on some bikes. These adaptations are
usually much weaker than an eyelet designed specifically for attachment.
If you want to be sure you can mount all your stuff to your bike get a touring