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The best touring bikes for commuting, bikepacking or travelling by bike

Best touring bikes
(Image credit: Surly)

Among the most versatile bikes around, touring bikes are do-everything machines that are suited to those starting out, commuters, recreational riders, as well as touring cyclists looking to travel by bike. Touring bikes often have a more relaxed geometry and plenty of practical add-ons, such as rack and mudguard mounts, which helps them work well as an everyday option.

As you might expect from the touring name, they're well built, durable bikes that are comfortable to ride over long distances or multiple days.

We've scoured the market to find the best touring bikes out there, with a range of options detailed below.

First of all, though, you might want to check out our 'how to choose' section which sums up what a touring bike is, what they do and the variations on offer. Skip to the bottom of the page for that.

Best touring bikes

genesis tour de fer 10

(Image credit: Genesis)

Genesis Tour De Fer 10

A touring ready road bike straight off the shop floor

Weight: 14.3kg | Gearing: 50-39-30 / 11-32

Rack, guards and bottle cages included
Strong dependable frame
Budget groupset
Maintenance-heavy brakes

The Tour De Fer is a great option in this category. It's a top all-round bike, featuring a solid steel frame, durable tyres, disc brakes and all the practicalities such as three bottle cages, a rear rack and mudguards.

Basically put, this is a bike ready for whatever you need to do straight away, whether it's commuting, leisure riding or touring. The bike offers an easy, calm ride, and is comfortable enough to get on and go right away.

35mm Schwalbe Marathon tyres come as standard, with their puncture-proof reputation. Shimano Sora is a budget groupset but is more than enough to get the job done with plenty of reliability.

trek 920

(Image credit: Trek)

Trek 920

The best touring bike for off road bikepacking

Weight: 12.89kg | Gearing: 42-28 / 11-36

Bombproof frame
Front and rear rack included
Comparatively lightweight
Aluminium fork not as comfortable as steel or carbon alternatives

Marketed as a go-anywhere adventure bike, this is another bike that still fits into the touring category with its thick tyres and drop handlebars. Its aluminium frame is lighter than a comparable steel model, while the drop bars offer multiple hand positions and road handling.

There are abundant mounts too, with mounts for mudguards as well as three water bottle spots and pannier mounts at the front and rear. The wheels are 29er mountain bike wheels fitted with Bontrager 29x2.00 mountain bike tyres, which make it a capable off-road bikepacking touring bike. Throw on some slick tyres and you've got yourself a road-ready touring machine. 

The SRAM groupset is also taken from the mountain bike world, with parts from the company's X5 and X7 range on the bike, while disc brakes come as standard. It's more suited to the dirt and rough stuff than the Genesis then, but can still handle itself on a road commute, too.

surly disk trucker

(Image credit: Surly)

Surly Disc Trucker

The purist's steel touring bike

Weight: 12.75kg | Gearing: 48-36-26 / 11-36

Wide gear range
Easy to maintain
Durable components
Relatively low spec

Another do-anything bike, the Disc Trucker features a sturdy and good-looking steel frame and fork. It is, however, more suited to road riding than exploring gravel and mud, though it's not to say that you can't tackle gravel tracks with it.

Mounts for three bottles, a pump, and mudguards add to the practicality, while the tyre clearance will let you get some meaty rubber in there. A mixture of Shimano Deore and Sora provides steady and reliable 10-speed shifting with a triple on the front, while there are bar-end shifters on the drop bars, too.

Avid BB7 mechanical discs take care of the braking and offer a solid experience, stronger than rims, of course. All in all, a practical and reliable ride.

giant toughroad slr1

(Image credit: Giant)

Giant Toughroad SLR 1

The flat bar gravelista that can carry your lunch

Weight: 11.56kg | Gearing: 44-32 / 11-42

Front and rear racks included
Durable Deore
Flat bars equal fewer hand positions

What do you get when you combine a mountain bike, a touring bike and a gravel bike? No, this isn't the start of one of your dad's jokes, you get the impressively capable Toughroad SLR 1. More suited to the offroad than any of the bikes we've looked at so far. Giant calls it a do-it-all bike capable of commuting, but make no mistake, it's built primarily for the dirt and gravel.

There's no suspension fork, but the giant 50mm tyres are a dead giveaway. An 11-42 MTB cassette on the back will also help with tackling the steep stuff. Panniers front and back and three bottle cage mounting points mean you can pile on whatever you need to take with you.

There are plenty of modern features on the bike, including thru-axles, hydraulic brakes, and tubeless tyres. A reliable Giant S-X2 wheelset and Shimano Deore groupset round off this bike.

kona sutra

(Image credit: Kona)

Kona Sutra

Retro chic in a simple, durable disguise

Weight: 13kg | Gearing: 48-38-26 / 11-36

The first thing to strike you about the Sutra is its retro features; the Brooks saddle and steel frame give a different look to many of the bikes we've looked at. Disc brakes and thru-axles remind you that this is a thoroughly modern bike, though.

It's another bike for touring and commuting on the road and on some gravel/dirt surfaces. Mudguards and a rear pannier rack are included, while there are other bosses for more additions if needed.

There are bar-end shifters, as well as a reliable Shimano Deore triple chainset, while a 36-tooth cog on the back will let you tackle the tough gradients and 40mm tyres get you through rougher ground. It's a classy-looking bike that can work well anywhere.

salsa marrakech

(Image credit: Salsa)

Salsa Marrakesh

The stylish, bulletproof entry into the world of cyclo-touring

Weight: 14kg | Gearing: 48-36-26 / 11-34

Durable wheels
Simple, yet stunning frame design
Weight

A great-looking steel frame is the first thing to catch the eye on this bike, while the fat 42mm tyres give a signal as to its intentions. It's as comfortable off-road as on, whether you're touring, commuting or just riding for fun.

Front and rear racks are included, though if you want to add mudguards, be warned that the wide tyres will need to go on a diet ­– down to a 40mm maximum.

It's a solid entry into the touring selection, even if it is a bit on the weighty side, however, though not so much that you'll be struggling under the weight. Components include a choice between the trusty Shimano Deore and Sora groupsets as well as Hayes disc brakes and Shimano Deore wheels.

specialized sequoia

(Image credit: Specialized)

Specialized Sequoia Expert

Steel meets gravel to create bikepacking deluxe

Weight: 10.9kg | Gearing: 38 / 10-42

Fantastic tyres
Low weight
Single chainring equals a lack of gear range

The Sequoia stands alone as the only bike with a single chainring. That means it's easier to maintain, but obviously you'll have less range to tackle the hills. The 42T cog at the back will help with that, though.

Specialized has aimed to combine a touring bike and road bike into one, and it works well off-road as well as on it. The 38mm Sawtooth tyres are brilliant, and thin seatstays help with off-road vibrations, though there are other bikes here that can tackle rougher surfaces.

The SRAM Force groupset is a reliable option, while the Specialized Cruzero wheels are heavy, yet very durable. There are bosses to add racks, mudguards and cages, although unlike the other bikes on our list, you'll have to purchase them separately. 

How to choose

Whether you're looking for a practical way to get to work, want that extra durability so your bike will stand the test of time, or want to travel to far-flung corners of the earth with nothing but a tent and a change of clothes, a touring bike a great addition to your stable of steeds. 

You can still get around quickly – whether you're hitting the roads, gravel paths or other rough terrain – but plenty of space for mudguards and racks, as well as a more relaxed position, make a touring a better all-round option than a road bike, a hybrid or a mountain bike. 

The relaxed geometry and more upright riding position are also handy for commuting, and the best touring bikes are often built with durable, easy-to-maintain components so they can be fixed when hundreds of miles away from a bike shop. This lends itself to fewer mechanicals and lower running costs.

What types of touring bike are there?

Touring bikes can range anywhere between predominantly road-going bikes with horizontal top tubes and 700c tyres, to rugged mountain bikes with knobbly mountain bike tyres

What the best touring bikes tend to share, however, is a durable design and the ability to carry luggage. Some opt for the bikepacking variety, which usually consists of frame bags and oversized saddle bags, whereas others opt for the traditional rack and pannier bag method of carrying luggage. 

As with any bike purchase, consider the riding you plan to do with the bike. For those looking to travel far-and-wide, a bike with more luggage carrying capacity will be preferred. For those who are looking to travel off-road, look for a bike that can handle the rough stuff. Live in the mountains? Look for a wide gear range. 

1. Geometry

Touring bike frames feature a relaxed geometry, with a taller head tube and shorter top tube for a comfortable and more upright riding position compared to a racing road bike.

2. Components

Gearing-wise, what you should pick really depends on what type of riding you'll be doing. If you're taking on hills regularly, then you'll want a cassette with larger sprockets on the back. Some touring bikes offer a triple chainset too, with easier gearing on offer compared to a double chainset. The addition of extra gear combinations into the mix will add an extra component to maintain, so for those on flatter terrain might prefer a single chainring at the front.

The majority of touring bikes offer standard external gear system – the chainset, chain and cassette we're all used to. Some do offer internal gearing though, with an enclosed rear gearbox which requires a lot less maintenance but will cost you more. Belt drives are also available – this is a multi-tooth belt instead of a chain, so no regular cleaning or lubrication is required. 

As with much of the cycling world, rim brakes and disc brakes are both available, with rim brakes found more often on lower-end bikes. Rim brakes feature two pads grabbing onto the wheel rims to stop the bike, while disc brakes grip onto a separate rotor on the wheels instead.

Disc brakes feature better braking performance and are better in the wet weather, though. Both adjustment and maintenance are far easier with rim brakes, however, with an Allen key and some new pads all you really need. Hydraulic disc brakes are generally maintenance-free in operation, however, if you snag your brake hose on a tree in the middle of the Atlas Mountains, there's little chance of repair unless you packed a bleed kit. 

Saddles are another important factor, being a main point of contact with your body. Padded saddles may look more comfortable but looks can be deceiving with thinner padding usually better for you once you've gotten used to it after a few rides. Saddles should support your sit bones, and additional padding can move the pressure elsewhere, making things more uncomfortable over time.