Best touring bikes 2023 for commuting, bikepacking or travelling by bike

A smiling woman rides a Salsa Marrakesh through a field
(Image credit: Salsa)

The best touring bikes are designed loaded up and to be reliable and comfortable to get you from A to B, even if B is in Mongolia. That means prioritising a robust frame over light weight, with steel being a popular material choice, although you'll find alloy framed or even titanium tourers too. The ride position is typically quite upright, as with the best endurance bikes.

There'll be mounting points for a rear rack, and often a front one too, letting you fit panniers to carry your luggage, rather than the more trendy bikepacking bags which just lash to your frame. Mudguards are also normal, making riding more comfortable in all weathers, while multiple bottle cages mean that you can keep hydrated even when you're far from a tap.

Component choices will favour durability over light weight too. Don't expect a 12-speed electronic groupset; you're much more likely to find eight speeds. Touring bikes are one of the few bike categories where you might find a triple chainset favoured over a double, to give you the range for riding up hills with a full load.

That robustness and reliability make touring bikes a desirable choice for other riders too. They're great for commuting and for recreational riders who want a bike that just works, without too much fettling.

Read on for our favourite touring bike options, and if you're not sure what to look for, you can skip to the bottom for our guide on how to choose the best touring bike for you.

Best touring bikes

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Genesis Tour de Fer 30

(Image credit: Genesis)

Genesis Tour De Fer 30

Best touring-ready bike straight off the shop floor

Specifications

Frame: Steel
Fork: Chromoly steel
Groupset: Shimano Tiagra
Gearing: 50-39-30 / 11-32
Wheels: Sun Ringle Rhyno Lite rims on Shimano hubs
Tyres: Schwalbe Marathon
Brakes: TRP Spyre mechanical disc
Size range: XS - L
Weight: 15.6kg / 34lb

Reasons to buy

+
Racks, guards, lights and bottle cages included
+
Strong dependable frame

Reasons to avoid

-
All that extra kit makes for a heavy build

The Genesis 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, front and rear racks, mudguards and dynamo-powered lights.

Simply 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. The Shimano Tiagra triple groupset gives you plenty of range including a sub-1:1 ratio to haul your loaded bike up the hills. You might need that range, with the extra features adding significantly to the bike's weight though.

Trek 520

(Image credit: Trek)

Trek 520

The best touring bike for the long haul

Specifications

Frame: Chromoly steel
Fork: Alloy
Groupset: Shimano Sora/Alivio
Gearing: 48-36-26 / 11-36
Wheels: Bontrager Affinity Disc tubeless ready rims on Shimano hubs
Tyres: Bontrager H1 Hard-case Ultimate, 38mm
Brakes: TRP Spyre mechanical disc
Size range: 48 - 63cm
Weight: 14.2kg / 31lb

Reasons to buy

+
Bombproof frame
+
Front and rear rack included

Reasons to avoid

-
Comparatively lightweight

Marketed as a bike for long haul travel, the Trek 520 is the longest-running bike in Trek's stable. 

Like the Genesis it comes with front and rear racks, although you'll have to add mudguards for all-weather use. Small updates include mechanical disc brakes with a thru-axle alloy fork, while the 9-speed Shimano Sora gearing provides massive range, albeit with quite large jumps across the 11-36 tooth cassette.

It's also nice to see tubeless-ready wheels specced (although not the tyres), so you can set up tubeless, which should up dependability on long rides. 

Surly Disc Trucker in Pea Lime Soup

(Image credit: Surly)

Surly Disc Trucker

Best touring bike for the purists

Specifications

Frame: Chromoly steel
Fork: Chromoly steel
Groupset: Shimano Alivio
Gearing: 48-36-26 / 11-34
Wheels: Alex Adventurer 2 rims on Novatec hubs
Tyres: Surly ExtraTerrestrial, 41mm
Brakes: TRP Spyre mechanical disc
Size range: 42 - 64cm
Weight: 12.8kg / 28lb

Reasons to buy

+
650b wheels on smaller frame sizes
+
Easy to maintain
+
Durable components

Reasons to avoid

-
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. The rise to the bars, paired with a long head tube gives a comfortable all-day ride position.

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. Surly quotes 2.1" tyre clearance on 650b wheels and the smaller frame sizes come specced with this wheel size for better toe clearance.

A Shimano Alivio MTB triple groupset with Sora road shifters provides steady and reliable 9-speed shifting, although it's quite  low spec. Like the Genesis and the Trek, the Disc Trucker relies on TRP Spyre mechanical disc brakes for reliable, low maintenance stopping power.

Giant Toughroad SLR 1 2022

(Image credit: Giant)

Giant Toughroad SLR 1

Best flat bar touring bike for multiday adventures

Specifications

Frame: ALUXX SLR-Grade Aluminium
Fork: Advanced grade composite carbon
Groupset: Shimano Deore
Gearing: 44-32 / 11-42
Wheels: Giant alloy
Tyres: Giant Sycamore S, 50mm
Brakes: Shimano BL-MT200 hydraulic disc
Size range: S - XL
Weight: Not specified

Reasons to buy

+
Front and rear racks included
+
Durable Shimano Deore components

Reasons to avoid

-
Flat bars equal fewer hand positions
-
Slightly overgeared for heavy load lugging

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, although there's not the absolute range of the triple chainsets on the bikes above. Pannier racks 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 wheelset and Shimano Deore groupset round off this bike. You might find the lack of variation in hand position with the flat bar configuration gets tiring on longer rides though.

Kona Sutra in Satin Black

(Image credit: Kona)

Kona Sutra

Best for simple, durable performance in a retro guise

Specifications

Frame: Chromoly steel
Fork: Chromoly steel
Groupset: Shimano GRX400/Tiagra
Gearing: 46-30 / 11-36
Wheels: WTB ST i23 TCS 2.0 rims on Formula hubs
Tyres: Schwalbe Marathon Mondial 40mm
Brakes: TRP HDC711C mechanical/hydraulic disc
Size range: 48 - 58cm
Weight: 13kg / 29lb

Reasons to buy

+
Front rack included
+
Looks great
+
Wide gear range

Reasons to avoid

-
Fiddly brake maintainence

The first thing to strike you about the Sutra is its retro features; the Brooks leather 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 front and rear pannier racks are included, while there are other bosses for more additions if needed.

The 10-speed Shimano GRX gravel groupset with Tiagra shifters give plenty of range, although not as much as a triple like that specified on the Trek, while the hybrid hydraulic/cable operated brakes should give a bit more stopping power than the TRP Spyre cable brakes specced elsewhere, but they are more of a faff to maintain. It's a classy-looking bike that can work well anywhere.

Salsa Marrakesh in Gold

(Image credit: Salsa)

Salsa Marrakesh

Best bulletproof entry into the world of cyclo-touring

Specifications

Frame: Chromoly steel
Fork: Chromoly steel
Groupset: Shimano Alivio
Gearing: 48-36-26 / 11-36
Wheels: WTB ST i19 TCS 2.0 rims on Shimano hubs
Tyres: Teravail Rampart 42 mm
Brakes: TRP Spyre mechanical disc
Size range: 50 - 59.5cm
Weight: Not specified

Reasons to buy

+
Durable wheels
+
Swappable geometry
+
Simple, yet stunning frame design
+
Tubeless ready

Reasons to avoid

-
Low spec groupset

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.

As with the bikes above, 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 Shimano Alivio groupset with Microshift shifters as well as TRP Spyre-C disc brakes and wheels and tyres ready to be set up tubeless.

Marin Four Corners - best touring bikes

(Image credit: Marin)

Marin Four Corners

Best for the worst roads and more

Specifications

Frame: Chromoly steel
Fork: Chromoly steel
Groupset: Shimano Sora
Gearing: 50-39-30 / 11-34
Wheels: Marin alloy
Tyres: WTB Resolute, 650B/700C 42mm
Brakes: TRP Spyre mechanical disc
Size range: XS - XL
Weight: 12.8kg / 28lb

Reasons to buy

+
Lots of clearance for 700c or 650b wheels
+
Mounts on fork blades for extra luggage

Reasons to avoid

-
High and short reach frame may not suit everyone

The Marin Four Corners is part tourer, part gravel bike. It's got the clearance for really wide tyres on 650b wheels (which is the wheel size specced on smaller sized frames), but you can also set it up for a more traditional touring configuration on 700c wheels.

The steel frame is bombproof while the long head tube gives an upright ride position so you've got plenty of visibility all around you. There are mounts for a rack, mudguards and to lash extra kit to the fork legs, so you can load up to head into the unknown. It's a bike more geared to gravel than road, unlike the more traditional tourers like the Kona and the Genesis.

How to choose the best touring bike for you

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. 

What's different about touring bike 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. In addition to this they feature a longer wheelbase, which keeps the bike stable even when loaded with heavy luggage. Since they're designed to be cycled over long distances, they're equally designed to stay comfortable for as long as possible.

If you're a geometry nerd you may notice the for trail is a little lower than you'd expect for a relaxed ride, but this is often done to counteract the slowing effect on the steering of a heavy front load to avoid the bike feeling like a barge when laden.

Which components should a touring bike have?

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 those on flatter terrain might prefer a single chainring at the front.

The majority of touring bikes offer standard external gear systems – 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 and rub more, making things more uncomfortable over time.

Paul has been on two wheels since he was in his teens and he's spent much of the time since writing about bikes and the associated tech. He's a road cyclist at heart but his adventurous curiosity means Paul has been riding gravel since well before it was cool, adapting his cyclo-cross bike to ride all-day off-road epics and putting road kit to the ultimate test along the way.