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Best touring bike 2023: Comfortable and capable tourers for long-haul adventures

Take your two-wheeled expeditions further with our pick of the finest touring bikes available to buy right now

The best touring bikes are designed to cover long distances with heavy loads. They’re built for tackling multi-day (or even multi-week… or month) adventures, where flat-out speed is less important than all-day comfort and the ability to carry overnight essentials such as a tent, a sleeping bag and portable stove. A proper tourer is the VW camper to a modern carbon-fibre racing bike’s Ferrari – solid, reliable and steady.

In essence, with a few tweaks and adjustments, any bike can be made capable of touring. However, purpose-built tourers have particular features that make them perfect for their intended use. These include multiple mounting points for fixing racks and panniers, plus a wide range of gearing, to make transporting heavy loads super easy; and a comfortable upright riding position.

In addition, touring bikes also tend to be designed for ease of maintenance. They’re commonly made from easy-to-repair steel rather than fancy carbon fibre. External cables are preferred over fiddly internal routing, too, which makes replacing broken cables hassle-free. Some models even feature belt-drive drivetrains, which require far less maintenance than a traditional metal chain.

So, if you’re thinking about setting out on your next big adventure on two wheels, our guide below features advice on the key features to consider when buying a touring bike, followed by a carefully chosen selection of the best touring bikes to buy in 2023.

The best touring bikes: At a glance

How to choose the best touring bike for you

What gearing should a touring bike have?

Most drop-bar bikes are built to go fast. This means that they tend to prioritise high gears for maintaining high speeds on flat or rolling terrain. Touring bikes often find themselves climbing steep hills with heavy loads, so the focus of gearing has to shift from all-out speed to ease of pedalling in all situations. For this reason, touring bikes often feature a very wide spread of gears.

Traditional touring bikes achieve this by using a 3x crankset with three different-sized chainrings. This adds weight, but it also allows for very low climbing gears, without sacrificing the high gears necessary to get up to a decent speed on level ground or descents.

If you’re a real touring purist, you’ll probably want to opt for bar-end shifters over modern “brifters”. This is partly because they’re easier to fix in the case of a mechanical failure and partly because, well, it’s traditional.

How wide should touring bike tyres be?

Tyre clearance is important to consider when shopping for a touring bike. Generally speaking, touring bikes are intended to be ridden on mostly paved surfaces, with the odd gravel section or bridleway thrown in here and there. This means they need tyres that are relatively fast rolling on smooth surfaces, but with sufficient volume and tread to protect them from punctures and to provide additional grip on rougher terrain. Plus, the wider a tyre, the more comfortable the ride – particularly when carrying lots of extra weight.

Tyres measuring 32mm and upwards are generally best for touring bikes. However, if you’re planning to spend large chunks of time off road, you’ll want to make sure your chosen bike is capable of handling even wider. Some adventure touring bikes go as far as to leave clearance for actual mountain bike tyres.

READ NEXT: The best gravel bikes to buy

Do I need mounts on my touring bike?

The short answer is, yes. If you’re planning to embark on multi-day trips, you’ll want a bike that’s capable of carrying a load, and the most efficient way to do so is by mounting racks and panniers on the frame.

Sure, there are all sorts of “bikepacking” bags available that strap straight onto the frame using velcro and buckles, but properly mounted luggage will always be more secure and less prone to swinging around while you’re riding.

READ NEXT: The best hybrid bikes to buy

Are disc brakes necessary on a touring bike?

Disc brakes offer superior modulation and stopping power when compared to standard rim brakes. They also perform better in poor weather conditions. The downside is that a hydraulic caliper and hose system is trickier to maintain, making it less appealing to those who are likely to be out in the wilderness for days on end with no access to mechanical support.

Rim brakes are far easier to maintain, with parts that are simpler to replace in the event a problem occurs. Or, you could opt for the best of both worlds and choose a bike with mechanical disc brakes, which are more effective in wet weather, with all the ease of maintenance that comes with a classic rim brake.

READ NEXT: The best adventure bikes to buy

The best touring bikes you can buy in 2023

1. Genesis Tour De Fer 30: Best all-round touring bike

Price when reviewed: £2,199 | Check price at Edinburgh Bicycle Cooperative

From British bike brand Genesis, this feature-packed steel workhorse is one of the best stock touring bikes available right out of the shop. It’s a classic tourer built around a Reynolds 725 frame, fitted with a full set of cargo racks and full-length mudguards. It also comes complete with three bottle cages and a handful of spare spokes to keep you up and running on even the longest of adventures.

Shifting is taken care of by a Shimano Tiagra 3x 10-speed setup, with Spyre cable-actuated disc brakes and a Shimano dynamo hub to keep the road illuminated at night without the need to charge up or carry spare batteries. And the whole thing rolls on a set of cushy large-volume Schwalbe Marathon tyres to make the journey as comfortable as possible, whatever the terrain.

Key specsFrame material: Steel; Groupset: Shimano Tiagra; Brakes: Mechanical disc; Tyre clearance: 38mm max

Check price at Edinburgh Bicycle Cooperative

2. Ridgeback Voyage: Best value touring bike

Price when reviewed: £1,350 | Check price at Freewheel

Classic tourer looks and performance for less than a grand and a half? In this financial climate, that isn’t a deal to be sniffed at, and this stripped-back budget offering from Ridgeback is exactly that. It’s the sort of bike you can load up and ride hard without worrying about scuffing fancy paintwork or damaging expensive components – which, if you ask us, is exactly what a tourer should be.

The frame is made from Reynolds 520 steel tubing, which is strong, cheap and easy to repair in the event of any damage. It has a mixed-series Shimano drivetrain with a 3x crankset and an 11-34 cassette, which will make light work of carrying heavy loads over long distances, even when there are hills involved. If you’re thinking of jacking it all in, buying the cheapest (but still highly capable) touring bike you can find and spending whatever’s left on your travels, then this excellent little machine will be right up your street.

Key specsFrame material: Steel; Groupset: Shimano Sora mix; Brakes: Mechanical disc; Tyre clearance: 35mm max

Check price at Freewheel

3. Kona Sutra: Best mid-range touring bike

Price when reviewed: £2,099 | Check price at Kona

The Kona Sutra has long been one of the go-to options for cyclists looking for a hardy touring bike that can chew up and spit out anything the open road throws its way. It’s built to take a hammering and all accompanying componentry has been spec’d accordingly, including the Tubus Tara Big Apple front rack and genuine Brooks saddle, which are both included right out of the box.

The Sutra is built from the brand’s own chromoly steel tubing, which has been put together for a relaxed and comfortable riding position. It has mechanical disc brakes and externally routed cables to ensure maintenance is fuss-free – and, although it only has two chainrings, the 11-36 cassette offers plenty of low gears for spinning up those steep, leg-sapping climbs.

Key specsFrame material: Steel; Groupset: Shimano Deore/GRX mix; Brakes: Mechanical disc; Tyre clearance: 40mm max

Check price at Kona

4. Surly Disc Trucker: Best no-frills touring bike

Price when reviewed: £2,400 | Check price at Triton Cycles

American bike brand Surly is known for its tough-as-nails adventure bikes that are purpose-built to take a pounding in the most demanding of settings. This tank of a tourer is no exception, boasting a sturdy steel frame, beefy 41mm tyres, plus plenty of options for mounting cargo racks, panniers, bottle cages and mudguards.

The drivetrain is decidedly unglamorous, comprising a mixture of Shimano Sora and Alivio components. But it’s utilitarian, hardwearing and features a 3x crankset to make the uphills as pain-free as possible. Braking is taken care of by a set of Spyre mechanical disc brakes for all-weather performance and easy maintenance, and there’s routing through the fork for a dynamo hub if you decide to run one at a later stage.

Key specsFrame material: Steel; Groupset: Shimano Sora/Alivio mix; Brakes: Mechanical disc; Tyre clearance: 45mm max

Check price at Triton Cycles

5. Stanforth Skyelander: Best UK-made touring bike

Price when reviewed: £2,900 | Check price at Stanforth Cycles

Touring purists could do a lot worse than this beautiful British-made adventure machine from Stanforth. It’s as traditional as they come, with its comfortable upright position, lugged Reynolds steel frame, sturdy Brooks saddle and bar tape, and practical 3x gearing configuration. It’s the sort of bike that would be perfect for tackling anything from a classic British tour such as Land’s End to John O’Groats, to a round-the-world trip.

The best part is that the build is fully customisable. The price includes custom sizing of the frame to tailor the fit to your exact measurements, which you can either provide yourself or visit the showroom for a professional bike fit at no additional cost. There are also various upgrade options available, such as switching the frame from a Reynolds 631 to a Reynolds 853. The mechanics of the bike are designed for easy maintenance on the go, with cable-operated V brakes, bar-end shifters, and externally routed cables to keep things nice and simple.

Key specsFrame material: Steel; Groupset: Shimano XT/Deore mix; Brakes: Rim; Tyre clearance: 35mm max, but can be built to accommodate larger on request

Check price at Stanforth Cycles

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