Material, Geometry and Size. The frame is the integral part of a bike as it dictates comfort, riding style and adventuring capabilities. Check: clearances for wheel and tyre sizes; disc brake compatibility; geometry; chainstay lengths if loading panniers; the space within main triangle for frame bags; cage mounts on the frame and forks; cable routing method; and axle setup. Importantly, ride the right sized frame - head to your Local Bike Shop (LBS) to get a basic fitting sorted... // #steelisreal
2. CAGE MOUNTS
As many as possible. Look under the downtube for some. As a hack, you can always strap cages to the frame using clamps, or even cable ties if you’re not carrying heavy loads. Always carry cable ties. If using frame bags, go for side-swipe cages...
Road Shifters? MTB Shifters? Bar-End Shifters? Downtube Shifters? Each offers something different but largely depend on the style of bike, bars and the drivetrain; double-check compatibilities with manufacturers.
4 & 5. BAR SETUP UP-FRONT SPACE
Drop Bars? Drop Bars with flare? Flat Bars? Jones Bars? The width and profile affects riding style / comfort and up-front carrying capacity, whether handlebar bag, large rando bag, or bikepacking roll. Change the bar style, the bar width and stem length/angle to gain more space, although riding comfort should be paramount.
Material / Compatibility. Anything other than steel forks will make for a lighter adventure bike, but less versatile touring bike for loading up. Check for rack and cage mounts, mid-fork.
The majority of tourers will go with cantilever brakes - effective and super easy to maintain out on the road. However, with the increased stopping power of disc brakes, it’s hard to look passed this option nowadays, especially for off-road adventuring. Mechanical disc brakes are ideal for adventure cycling (eventhough hydraulic should be bombproof) as cables are a lot less faffy than bleeding brakes on the road. It’s always worth carrying spare pads. Wheelsets need to be disc-compatible, as does your bike frame.
It’s worth looking at dynamo hubs. These can be used to power USB charges or to directly power lights, or both. Never worry about charging lights again. Disclaimer: you often need to be riding more than 12kmph for these to charge effectively…
9. WHEEL & TYRE SIZE
One of the most confusing but important things to get right as it totally dictates how off-the-beaten track you can ride a touring bike; the bigger and wider the tyre, the more flexible you can be with a route. Anywhere between 33c (mm) and 42c is usually suitable, compared to 25c-28c for paved road riding. That said, you’ll need to work with the rim size (inner width/outer diameter) and frame clearances at the fork crown, chainstays, and brakes as they will affect the max sizes you can go to. Keeping the width of the rim consistent, there are essentially three diameter sizes (measured to their outer diameters), which are then given other names by then applying the typical tyre size on top:
622mm = 29” / 700c
584mm = 27.5” / 650b
559mm = 26”
So, if you're planning to head further off-the-beaten-track, check the clearances on your frame, and then the size of your existing rims to see if everything is compatible for an increase in tyre size. Also, check the treads are right for your riding. There is also the tubeless option – an airtight sealed rim instead that is more resistant to punctures and pinch-flats on a tube, which requires tubeless-compatible components…
Totally a matter of individual preference but it’s always good to just travel with one pair of shoes – go for 50/50 pedals (cleats one side, flat the other) for ultimate flexibility, or just ride flat pedals…
Touring fully loaded? Travelling off-the-beaten track? You’ll need to think about a lower gear ratio to maximise your time in the saddle – a poor range will limit you to flatter regions, paved surfaces, and lighter loads. This is a complex area and a matter of individual preference, but essentially look for as low as 24t (teeth) chain rings on the front and a rear cassette with anything up to 11-36t (or more if running a single ring, 1x, on the front). Check compatibility across everything if making changes; you might need different derailleurs to cater for different ranges, for example. Crank length is also a factor for comfort and gearing. Check your chain for wear and if carrying a spare / quick link double check you have the right speed chain (size - width). Have a look at our extended tools & spares list below...
Fenders are an individual preference. If you’re mainly paved-road touring in groups, or worried about protecting your bike parts, then they're a good idea. The issues come with frame clearance, riding mixed-terrain and transporting a bike. Not only will you find it tricky to fit fenders when running bigger tyres, but fenders are prone to blocking and they are just one extra thing to rattle / bend / rub. Quickly taking your bike apart or wheels off to chuck in the back of your mate’s hatchback becomes an issue too...
13. RACK MOUNTS
If looking to travel with racks, ensure there are mounts at seatstay and dropout level.
14. BACK-END CLEARANCE
If looking to fit bikepacking seat packs, saddle bags, or pile stuff on the rear rack then double check the seatpost and saddle area clearance…
Your best companion on the road. You cannot go wrong with a Brooks saddle, whether the traditional leather or the new Cambium range.
Before heading off on a trip, learn about the basic mechanics of your bike so you are able to fix minor problems on the road. For servicing and spares before setting off, support your LBS. Check our list of tools and spares on the master kit list…