Choosing a Touring Bike to Cycle around the World

The choice of touring bikes looks bewildering and the price for such an item can range from a few hundred pounds up to several thousand pounds. However, there are some key requirements, in my opinion, that filter the choice down significantly when choosing a bike to use outside of Europe and North America; wheel size and frame material.

Choosing a Touring Bike to Cycle around the World

Outside of Europe and North America the rest of the world uses 26” wheels, which means the only tyres and inner tubes easily available in those territories are those suitable for use with 26” wheels. The parts of the world with the poorest road quality, and with it, the greatest risk of puncture use 26” wheels. Most “off the shelf” touring bikes sold in the UK are manufactured for use with 700cc wheels. I read of a cycle tourist whom literally had to choose their route based on where they could access 700cc tyres and tubes and decided then, the only option for me was 26” wheels. They are also smaller and stronger as a result.

The main frame materials to choose from are steel, aluminium and titanium, in keeping with my criteria of reliability, durability and value for money steel just scraps ahead of aluminium. Steel is less rigid than aluminium so absorbs the input from the road more comfortably, particularly when loaded up with kit, and if worse comes to the worst it’s easier to find somewhere that can weld steel back together. I discounted titanium on price; it does offer an excellent combination of strength, flexibility and is very light, simply too expensive to offer true value for money.

Once looking for a 26” wheeled, steel framed touring bicycle the field is dramatically reduced. I also wanted to choose the individual components to be fitted to the frame, which meant buying a frame and fork set and components separately. I looked at custom built frames and off the shelf frames from local frame builders in the UK but in the end chose a tried and tested frameset from Surly Bikes in North America. It simply offered the best value for money and consistently receives high praise from its’ many users worldwide.

Surely framesets are readily available in the UK and the best prices are mainly available from online retailers that operate without showrooms, making it difficult to test ride before buying. Luckily I found Spa Cycles based in Harrogate who specialise in touring bikes and accessories and were able to offer a comparable price with the added benefit of a test ride.

I can not speak highly enough of the help and assistance Andrew and Andy extended to me during the initial visit I made to discuss the specifications. I pretty much tore up the specification I had settled on before my visit in favour of the recommendations Andrew made based on his many years of experience working with touring bikes. What’s more the final specification actually worked out cheaper as I discovered some higher spec components simply are not as durable and reliable as their lower cost cousins. Priceless information you only really get from going to a bike shop and talking to experienced technicians and more importantly cyclists that use the kit day in day out.

Result:  Surely Long Haul Trucker

World cycle tour bike set up

Full specification list

 

Part

Description

Price

Frame and forks Surly Long Haul Trucker 54cm
Bike Components
Rear Mech SHIMANO LX Rear Mech
Front Mech SHIMANO LX Front Mech
Rear cassette 9 speed HG 50 Shimano deore (11-32)
Bottom bracket Stronglight JP400 plastic
Front chainset XD2 170mm with zircal rings 28, 38, 48
Chain KMC 9spd silver/grey (X9-93)
Pedals SHIMANO A530
Rear Wheel Exal LX17 36 hole LX hub 26″
Front Wheel Exal LX17 36 hole LX hub 26″
Inner tubes x 2 SCHWALBE Inner Tubes AV12 26″ x 1.75 (650×32-45)
Rear tyre Schwalbe marathon 1.5 x 26″
Front tyre Schwalbe marathon 1.5 x 26″
Rear mud guards SKS Bluemels Mudguards – Black 65mm
Front mud guards SKS Bluemels Mudguards – Black 65mm
Brakes Rear SHIMANO Deore LX V-Brakes T660/T670
Brakes front SHIMANO Deore LX V-Brakes T660/T670
Stem FSA OS-190 130mm
Handle bar ZOOM butterfly handlebar
Bar tape Spa Cycles bar foam
Gear levers SHIMANO Deore
Brake levers SHIMANO LX
Bottle cage 1 BLACKBURN Mountain bottle cage
Bottle cage 2 BLACKBURN Mountain bottle cage
Bottle cage 3 BLACKBURN Mountain bottle cage
Seat post FSA SL-280 Seatpost
Saddle Brookes
Total £980.00

Part

Description

Price

Bike accessories
Rear pannier rack Topeak £27.00
Front pannier rack Blackburn £20.00
Rear pannier bags Ortlieb roller classic 40l £83.00
Bar bag Ortlieb ultimate 5 plus 8.5l £61.00
Map holder Ortlieb mapcase for ultimate 5 £12.00
Front light SMART BL184 egg white £34.00
Rear light SMART Superflash 1/2 watt LED Rear Light £12.00
Pump TOPEAK Turbo Morph with gauge £31.50
Trip computer BLACKBURN Atom 4.0 wireless £28.00
Total £308.50

Part

Description

Price

Security
Cable lock Kryptonite 4ft cable £11
Bike padlock ABUS 70IB/45 AQUASAFE PADLOCK – NON CORROSIVE £12
Alarmed lock Kabros bicycle alarm lock XL202 £30
Total £53

Part

Description

Price

Spares
Inner tubes 2 schwable £7
Puncture repair kit £5
Brake Blocks £10
Brake Cable £5
Spokes 2 of each size 6 in total £0
Cable Ties £0
Nuts bolts pipe clips Spare asortment £0
Small bottle of oil £5
Gear cable £5
Allen Keys £10
Small Screw Driver £0
Pliers £0
Spoke Key £5
Total £52

Grand Total

£1,393

The first few rides have been great, I will write a full review after I have fitted the panniers and take it out fully loaded up.  I have been really impressed with handling and gearing and the butterfly bars offer a great range of hand positions making it easy to stay comfortable whatever speed I’m travelling at.

Feel free to contact me with any questions related to the bike, accessories and spares.  I have a more detailed spreadsheet I can send you with which also contains where I found the lowest prices for each component.

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