The perfect touring bike has two wheels and a frame with lots of stuff bolted onto it. Yes, I’m being flippant, but it’s not far from the truth. There were six of us on the last tour with a brace of crossers, two tourers, a mountain bike and hybrid.
The machines ranged in age from a couple of months to several decades. Apart from my pannier falling off (my fault, entirely) they all performed their duties without fuss. Although, admittedly, they weren’t exactly being ridden in extreme conditions, the point is they did the job.
The mountain bike, an old Muddy Fox, was probably the heaviest. I’ve never quite understood the hangup with a bike’s weight when the rider weighs so much more. Perhaps I’m missing something? Not that the weight of any of the bikes mattered much as they were all loaded up with clothes and camping equipment.
In practice, there was very little difference between the bikes apart from their off-road capability. Again it wasn’t an issue as we spent the vast majority of the trip on tarmac. However, I know from experience that on anything but the smoothest of unmetalled tracks the tourers are out of their depth. On the other hand, the crossers and my hybrid can cope with most things. It’s the one reason I wouldn’t buy a full-on touring bike.
Talking of my bike, it’s a bit of a mongrel. Mountain bike wheels and gears coupled with a traditional steel touring frame. I built it from parts and it’s served me well. That it works so well is a complete accident. I bought the frame on a whim and then spent ages finding parts that would fit and gradually putting it all together. That was well over ten years ago and it looks its age. It rides well, though and I can’t imagine ever parting with it. Would I like a new bike? Not really. It would seem like a waste of money. I can’t think of anything a new bike would do that my bike can’t.
That doesn’t stop me wanting another bike to play with because I’m curious to find out how cost-effective it would be to buy a cheap bike and update the components. By cheap, I mean under £300. Under £200 is pushing it, but thanks to the winter sales a decent bike can be had for not much more. At this price point the frame is probably going to be the same as more expensive bikes in the same range. Components are where the savings are made.
I’ve been looking at hybrids and it’s possible to buy a serviceable bike for around £250. At the time of writing there’s a Schwinn Super Sport Hybrid 2 on Wiggle for £240. The components aren’t top-end but they’re serviceable and easy to replace. There’s a lifetime warranty on the frame, which comes with mounts for both front and rear carriers. My guess is that another £100 would make it into a pretty good budget touring bike.
But then I’m getting carried away. Need must come before want and I don’t need another bike no matter how cheap. I’ve just given myself a good talking to and the credit card is staying in my wallet. So, in summary, the perfect touring bike is the one you’ve already got.