Home Archives Bicycle Touring • 2 • Equipment

Bicycle Touring • 2 • Equipment

by mythic44


In many countries, the most commonly used vehicle for road transport is a utility bicycle. These have frames with relaxed geometry, protecting the rider from shocks of the road and easing steering at low speeds.

The chainrings may be better. Much simpler fixed wheel bikes are also available, and may be more suitable for commuters.

Many road bikes along with mountain bikes include mud-guards), baggage racks, baggage carriers and pannier bags, water bottles and bottle cages.

For basic maintenance and repairs, cyclists can choose to carry a pump (or a CO2 cartridge), a puncture repair kit, a spare inner tube, and tire levers. Cycling can be more efficient and comfortable with special shoes, gloves, and shorts. In wet weather, riding can be more tolerable with waterproof clothes, such as cape, jacket, trousers (pants) and overshoes.

Items legally required in some jurisdictions, or voluntarily adopted for safety reasons, include bicycle helmets, generator or battery operated lights, reflectors, and audible signalling devices such as a bell or horn. Extras include studded tires and a bicycle computer.

Cycling infrastructure – In areas in which cycling is popular and encouraged, cycle-parking facilities using bicycle stands, lockable mini-garages, and patrolled cycle parks are used in order to reduce theft. Local governments promote cycling by permitting bicycles to be carried on public transport or by providing external attachment devices on public transport vehicles.

Extensive bicycle path systems may be found in some cities. Such dedicated paths often have to be shared with in-line skaters, scooters, skateboarders, and pedestrians.

Bicycles are considered a sustainable mode of transport, especially suited for urban use and relatively shorter distances when used for transport (compared to recreation). Case studies and good practices (from European cities and some worldwide examples) that promote and stimulate this kind of functional cycling in cities can be found at Eltis, Europe’s portal for local transport.

Touring bicycle – touring bicycle is a bicycle designed or modified to handle bicycle touring. To make the bikes sufficiently robust, comfortable and capable of carrying heavy loads, special features may include a long wheelbase (for ride comfort and to avoid pedal-to-luggage conflicts), frame materials that favor flexibility over rigidity (for ride comfort), heavy duty wheels (for load capacity), and multiple mounting points (for luggage racks, fenders, and bottle cages).

Types of Bikes

Touring bicycle configurations are highly variable and may include road, sport/touring, trail, recumbent, or tandem configurations.

Touring bike – Cycle touring beyond the range of a day trip may need a bike capable of carrying heavy loads. Although many different bicycles can be used, specialist touring bikes are built to carry appropriate loads and to be ridden more comfortably over long distances. A typical bicycle would have a longer wheelbase for stability and heel clearance, frame fittings for front and rear pannier racks, additional water bottle mounts, frame fittings for front and rear mudguards/fenders, a broader range of gearing to cope with the increased weight, and touring tires which are wider and more puncture-resistant.

“Ultralight tourers” choose traditional road bicycles or “Audax bicycles” for speed and simplicity. However, these bikes are harder to ride on unmade roads, which may limit route options. For some, the advantages of a recumbent bicycle are particularly relevant to touring.

To lessen the weight carried on the bicycle, or increase luggage capacity, touring cyclists may use bicycle trailers.

For a “supported” rider, luggage carrying is not important and a wider range of bicycle types may be suitable depending on the terrain.

Road touring – Road touring bicycles have a frame geometry designed to provide a comfortable ride and stable, predictable handling when laden with baggage, provisions for the attachment of fenders and mounting points for carrier racks and panniers.

Modern road for the North American market were built with 27-inch (630 mm) wheels which have a slightly larger diameter.

Other touring bikes use 26-inch wheels for both off-road and on-road use. Advantages of the slightly smaller wheel include additional strength, worldwide tire availability, and lighter weight. Some touring bicycles, such as the Rivendell Atlantis and Surly Long Haul Trucker, offer frames designed for 26-inch (ISO 559) wheels or for 700C wheels, with the frame geometry optimal for the selected wheel size. Specially made touring tires for 26-inch wheels are now widely available, especially in developing countries, where 700C may be difficult to obtain. Hence, on the mass ride from Paris to the Beijing Olympics in 2008, the Fédération Française tourisme asked all riders to use 26-inch wheels.

Sport touring – The sport/touring bicycle is a very lightweight touring bike fitted with lighter wheels and narrower 25–28 mm (1 – 1.125-inch) tires. It may also be described as a road racing bike fitted with heavier tires and slightly more relaxed frame geometry (though still quicker than the average road touring bike). It is designed as a fast-handling, responsive and quick day touring machine. As such, it is intended to carry only the rider and very light loads, such as encountered in credit card touring, where riders typically carry little more than a pocketbook and credit cards to book overnight lodging at any handy motel, pension, or bed-and-breakfast while on a journey. Gearing is often a mix of closely spaced ratios for speed, combined with a few low gears for long climbs. Sport/touring bikes may sometimes have provisions for mounting slim fenders and a rear carrier or pannier rack, though in the interests of weight savings and quicker handling, most do not.

Expedition touring – There are numerous variants on the traditional road tourers are strongly built bicycles designed for carrying heavy loads over the roughest roads in remote and far-flung places. These range from simply stronger built mountain bikes, equipped with racks, panniers, mudguards and heavy-duty tires, to purpose-built bicycles built to cope with long-haul touring on tracks and unsealed roads in developing countries throughout Asia, Africa, and the other continents. Their frames are often made of steel as it is stronger, more flexible- therefore more comfortable over rough surfaces- and any breakages can technically be repaired virtually anywhere in the world.

A typical expedition touring bike would be made of relatively heavy duty steel tubing, with 26 inch wheels, and componentry chosen for robustness and ease of maintenance. The main design criteria for such a bike would be to allow all-day comfort on the bike, have good handling characteristics under heavy load, and be capable of running smoothly on good roads, but also on the roughest of tracks. Some bike wear. Most expedition bikes will have the same range of gears as a mountain bike and for durability some use the Rohloff Speedhub at the expense of its high cost.

Mixed terrain touring – Mixed Terrain Cycle-Touring bikes are a cross between mountain and road bikes. Also called all-rounders, 29er touring or monster cross, these bikes strive for a balance of efficiency and speed on and off road. cyclo-cross bikes for the purpose.

Folding/collapsible touring – There is an increasing number of specially designed and built or adapted folding bicycles used in bicycle touring. Most are built are full-sized bicycles which do not fold, but instead use Bicycle Torque Couplings to enable separating the frame into two parts for easier transport.

Specifications – Touring bicycles are usually equipped with luggage racks front and rear, designed to hold panniers or other forms of luggage. To carry heavy loads, to be field-repairable and for reliability, touring bicycles typically have steel (CroMo) frames and forks. They may also have durable hubs, double-wall rims, and wheels with at least 36, and sometimes as handlebararrangements available to touring cyclists, the choice of which is highly individual.

Touring bicycles may appear similar to road bicycles if they have drop handlebars. However, they greatly differ by typically having a much longer wheelbase and more stable steering geometry, with numerous attachments for luggage racks, fenders (mudguards), lights, high capacity water bottles, tools and spare parts. Chainstays must be long enough to accommodate panniers without them brushing the rider’s heels, and the entire structure must be stiff enough to safely handle long, fast descents with the machine fully loaded.

Touring bicycles may also be fitted with 26-inch (ISO 559) wheels in preference over 700C (ISO 622). This is because ISO 559 wheels are used on mountain bicycles and are more durable and often easier to source in remote locations than 700C wheels. World bicycle tourers Tim and Cindie Travis are notable advocates of ISO 559 wheels for touring bicycles.

Instead of panniers, some riders prefer a bicycle trailer. Trailers are easy to use and allow touring with bikes on which it is impossible to attach racks. However, double wheeled trailers decrease maneuverability and are not particularly suited for touring in mountainous regions or on rugged terrain. On the other hand, single wheel trailers are extremely maneuverable, with the trailer wheel tracking very closely with the rear wheel. These can easily be ridden on single track trails (about 40 cm width), over some very technical terrain. Trailers have an advantage over panniers on single track trails because the bike itself carries no extra weight, except some on the rear axle attachment (the trailer itself can be loaded with up to 70 kg). This allows the rider to shift weight as if without load and clear logs or rocks (trailers will typically follow over anything the bottom bracket clears).

Touring bicycles traditionally use wide-ratio derailleur gears, often with a very low gear, in some countries called a “granny gear”, for steep hills under load. Typically the gearing has a triple chainring similar to mountain bicycles, whereas most road bicycles have only two Internal-geared hubs have a couple of advantages over traditional derailleur gears, in that they can use stronger chains as generally a single sprocket and chainring combination will be used. Secondly the spread of gears can be made more evenly, that is to say there are many duplicated and unusable gears in a derailleur geared setup.

Touring bicycles usually have linear-pull brakes or cantilever brakes, instead of the caliper brakes used on racing bicycles. Caliper brakes are less suitable because, to fit around mudguards (fenders) and wide tires, they become large and may flex when trying to stop a heavy bike. Some newer touring bikes use disc brakes, because of their greater stopping power in wet and muddy conditions and also to avoid outer rim wear. However, they are more complicated, so repairing them in remote locations can be difficult; they also weigh more than a cantilever spokes, and require the front wheel to be dished, which reduces the durability of the wheels.

Thus, touring bikes trade speed for utility and ruggedness. This combination is popular with commuters and couriers as well.

Preferred bicycles – The preferred bike for mixed terrain travel in North America and Europe is called an “all-in-one” or “all-rounder”. They are a synthesis between road bikes and mountain bikes. Examples of bikes that are appropriate are:

  • Cyclocross bikes that are used for on and off road racing, and monster cross bikes that accommodate mountain bike sized tires and allow for single track riding.
  • Brevet or Randonneur bikes which originated in mixed long terrain rides. This breed of bike retains much of the speed and efficiency of a road bike on pavement, while maintaining the necessary features for dirt and gravel. These unusual bikes have light frames with 700c or 650B tires and drop handlebars.
  • Expedition touring bikes for travel in third world countries, in contrast, compromise some speed for heavy load carrying capacity and increased durability. This has come to mean an expensive sturdy steel framed bike with 26” mountain bike sized wheels, no suspension, and either drop or flat handlebars.
  • Adventure bikepacking – These bikes are often employed in cross-country mixed-terrain races.

Beyond these prototypes adventure and alpine tourists have adapted a broad range of bicycles. Because of the relative obscurity of touring over adverse terrain there is a large amount of experimentation and specialized home-made equipment.

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