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The best touring bikes 2021

25 Mar 2021
Verdict:

A breakdown of 2021’s best touring bikes along with what to consider before you buy

Rolling down country lanes with your camping gear stuffed in a pair of traditional panniers, or heading into the wild laden with ultralight bikepacking kit, a touring bike makes the perfect vehicle for escaping modern life.

Tough and happy to transport heavy loads, they’re also great for commuting on when you’re forced to return to civilisation.

Previously touring bikes all sprang from remarkably similar moulds. Now the variety of designs, price-points and components can be bewildering. Luckily if you’re in the market for a new one we're here to help.

The first step is to decide what you want to do with it. Will you be sticking to the tarmac or venturing off-road? Do you demand speed or would you rather prioritise stability? How much stuff will you be carrying and how do you want to carry it?

The second step is deciding how much money you’re willing to spend. Some bikes come fully equipped with racks and mudguards, while some arrive in the nude, so it’s important to figure this into your budget too.

Once you’ve decided what you want from your bike and how much you can spend comes the fun bit.

Below Cyclist has chosen some of the best touring bikes on the market, from £1,000 to over £2,000. Each of them is worth considering if you’re looking to bag yourself the best touring bike in 2021.

The best touring bikes of 2021

Genesis Tour de Fer 30

Equipped and ready for adventure, as a complete package, the Genesis Tour de Fer 30 is unbeatable value. Stacked with quality extras, both the front and back Tubus racks and the hub dynamo powered Busch and Muller lights are wish-list stuff.

Hung off a reliable and ultra-comfy disc-equipped Reynolds 725 steel frame, the complete bike rolls on tough 36 spoke wheels.

Happy to be laden down, the 700x35c Schwalbe Marathon tyres are as indestructible as you’ll find while stopping them flinging spray at the rider are full-length mudguards.

Buy now from Freewheel for £2,100

Cube Travel

An upright tourer, or a practical commuter? The Cube Travel easily fulfils both briefs. All your key markers of touring ability are present and correct; including puncture-resistant Schwalbe Marathon tyres, a wide-range Shimano Deore drivetrain and hydraulic brakes, plus a finishing-kit that includes mudguards, rack, kickstand and dynamo lights.

With an aluminium frame, it’s light compared to many steel bikes, while the broad tyres and ride position ensure it remains comfy for the long haul. With integrated cables, the whole package also looks pleasingly neat, with plenty of space up-front for a bar bag.

Condor Heritage Disc

Touring bikes are uniquely suited to being custom built. Allowing you to tailor the bike to your quirks and the needs of your expedition schedule, Condor’s steel touring frame makes a great starting point.

Made of steel and with a Tange fork, it’s classic looking, yet a lightweight construction and disc fittings mean it’s also up to date. Geometry is stable but not sluggish, while modern touches like the down tube bottle cage mounts and sloping top tube keep it user-friendly.

Expect to spend upwards of £1,698 to kit it out exactly as you like.

Buy now for £900 (frame only) from Condor

Giant Toughroad SLR 1

Stretching the definition of what constitutes a touring bike, the Giant Toughroad will transport you and your gear over everything from tarmac, through gravel, and onto the trails beyond.

Sporting mountain bike style tyres, the Giant is suited to rough going, but with 700c wheels it's also able to accept slimmer models, meaning it’s easily adaptable to more sedate use.

In either guise, its flat handlebar will put you in a comfy position where you’ll be ready to respond to obstacles on the road or trail, while the D-Fuse seatpost evens out bumps before they impact your bottom.

With an aluminium frame and carbon fork, it's light, while the included racks mean it’s a set of panniers away from being ready to roll.

Ridgeback Voyage

A Reynolds 520 steel tube set at an entry-level price. Both the Ridgeback Voyage's build kit and frame come from the classic school of touring bike design. With 32c Continental Contact tyres and mudguards it’s most at home on tarmac, or well-graded tracks.

Despite being heavier than aluminium the steel frame should last a lifetime while adding strength and comfort. Not quite as tough, the Shimano Acera derailleur is a bit cheeky given the price. Better are the robust 32 spoke wheels which should be well suited to long distances or use on the daily commute.

Buy now from Freewheel for £1,200

Trek 520

The 520 touring bike has been in Trek’s line-up for aeons. This latest version marries a steel frame to an alloy disc touring fork with a ThruSkew captive quick-release skewer.

Using a mix of Shimano Sora and Alivio parts, its nine-speed cassette and triple chainset provide a wide range of 27 durable gears. Ideal for loaded touring in hilly countries.

With 38c wide tyres, it’s ready to roll across a range of paved surfaces, from tarmac to hardpack. Supplied with both front and rear racks, you’ll be left to purchase your own mudguards. Regardless the Trek is a great value package.

Buy now from Trek for £1,450

Bombtrack Beyond 1

A radical and very modern touring bike, the Bombtrack Beyond 1 is ready to venture far from the beaten track. Mountain bike width tyres, massively broad gearing and great flared handlebars mean it excels when the going gets rough.

With a low slung frame, it’s easy to chuck around. This is paired with a high front end to reduce stress on arms and back when spending hours in the saddle.

With mudguard, rack and three bottle mounts, it’ll take traditional panniers or bikepacking bags. There are even fixings to directly attach a snack box to the top tube.

Tout Terrain Silk Road

From deep in the wilderness comes Tout Terrain. This dedicated touring manufacturer from Germany creates all kinds of fabulous bikes. Its popular Silkroad model blends indestructible 26-inch wheels with an equally robust Deddachi steel frame which includes a built-in rear rack.

Able to be run with a Rohloff hub and Gates Carbon belt drive for minimal maintenance, disc brakes mean it’ll keep rolling even if the wheels get bent out of shape.

Fully customisable, it comes in four stock colours, plus a whole pallet of custom RAL options.

Buy now for £2,840 from Bikefix

Kona Sutra

Sticking out the end of the handlebar, the shifters on the Sutra are likely to baffle anyone under the age of 30. Decidedly low-tech, they make space between the brake levers for a bar bag, are low maintenance, and easy to operate wearing gloves.

Cheap too, the use of bar-end shifters frees up budget that’s allocated towards the high-spec Deore groupset, light steel frame and mechanical disc brakes.

Supplied with a rack and mudguards, the rest of the finishing kit is quality too. From the 40c Schwalbe Marathon Mondial tyres and WTB rims to the wide flared bars and gorgeous Brooks leather saddle.

Stanforth Conway

The trad looks of the Reynolds 853 steel Stanforth Conway belie its speedy nature. Made for pace over distance, it’ll accommodate panniers, but is happier being loaded more minimally than some packhorse-style tourers.

Built to a stock geometry in the UK, it’s got bosses for racks at both ends along with mudguards. Paired with plentiful tyre clearance, it’s a versatile machine, yet retains an emphasis on fast riding.

Coming as standard with a Shimano 105 50/34t double chainset and wide Ultegra 11-34t cassette, its gearing and finishing kit can be adapted as needed when ordering.

Created in collaboration with the eponymous adventurer Sean Conway, he used it to claim the record for cycling across Europe. You can read about his exploits here

Buy now from Stanforth from £2,995

Thorn Sherpa

Perfectly accessorised with a map holder and sandals, the Thorn Sherpa is a practical tourer’s moderately saucy dream. With 26-inch wheels, it’s strong, manoeuvrable and easily serviced in even the most far-flung spots.

Available in 10 sizes mixing different top tube and seat tube lengths it’s possible to get a comfortable fit regardless of your proportions. Fully customisable, it may look dorky, but the Sherpa has been well proven all across the globe. A touring classic.

Buy now from Thorn Bikes

Surly Disc Trucker

Recently redesigned, this disc brake-equipped version of the popular Surly Long Haul Trucker improves stopping, lowers maintenance and boosts rider confidence when transporting heavy loads.

The no-nonsense steel frame uses only the most common and durable fitting standards, meaning the parts bolted to it are both long-lasting and easy to replace if you find yourself somewhere remote. There’s even a holster to carry spare spokes built into the frame.

Ultra-adaptable it’s available with 700c or 26” wheels, and can be converted to use Rohloff hub gearing.

Buy now from Spa Cycles for £1,300

Read our guides to the best road bikes, best panniers and best bikepacking destinations in the UK and Europe