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Buyer's guide: touring bikes

Joseph Delves
15 Nov 2018

Four great bikes to get you into the liberating joys of bicycle touring

This feature originally appeared in issue 48 of BikesEtc magazine

Given enough time everything becomes fashionable again. Once the preserve of fuddy-duddies, bicycle touring is enjoying a renaissance among the young and trendy.

Of course, this means the requisite gear has been spruced up to tempt youngsters to part with some of the money they should be saving for a flat deposit or frittering on avocados.

Bikes and luggage have got lighter, more versatile and, whisper it… cooler. 

Fundamentally, though, cycle touring doesn’t care if it’s now cool. To those in the know, it always was.

Escaping your cares by bicycle in search of lakes, mountains, forests and country pubs doesn’t need slick marketing to appeal.

And if the thought of hipster hordes wobbling around on brand-new touring bikes is too much – don’t worry, the countryside is big enough for you to avoid them.

Here we’ve rounded up four bikes to help you get started. It’s bliss out there…

 

The bikes

All-City Space Horse

Quick road centuries, gravel racing, commuting, and of course loaded touring. Even if you own a different bike for everything, it’s still necessary to have one that can do it all.

That bike is the Space Horse. At least, so All-City reckons.

Its geometry mixes road and randonneur, with a relatively short rear end and a lower-than-average bottom bracket for agile handling when riding unburdened, and increased stability when its saddlebags are full.

Click here to read the All-City Space Horse review

Bombtrack Beyond XPD

Aimed at riders looking to go long-distance trekking far from the beaten track, Bombtrack’s Beyond XPD comes fully equipped.

With its loading capacity taken care of by expedition-grade Tubus racks, it then adds alloy fenders, a Shutter Precision dynamo hub and Supernova lights to round off a wishlist build.

Based around a steel frame with through-axle fixings and internal dynamo wiring, it promises to be equal parts wild and practical.

Click here to read the Bombtrack Beyond XPD review

Brick Lanes Bikes Hitchhiker

Spawned from the popular East-London bike shop, the Hitchhiker is one of Brick Lane Bikes’ own designs.

Available as frameset-only, its workshop team put us together this custom build representing how they’d personally choose to spec up the bike.

Knockout gorgeous, it features plenty of classic touring gear, including a Brooks leather saddle, tan-wall Panaracer Pasela tyres, and hammered aluminium mudguards. But will it be a case of style over substance?

Click here to read the Brick Lanes Bikes Hitchhiker review

Sonder Camino TI Rival

‘Quick, light and definitely not afraid to leave the asphalt’ is how Sonder describe the Camino.

Like a cyclocross bike but with a more relaxed riding position and extended wheelbase, it’s designed for fast, comfortable all-day riding.

Dirt roads, gravel racing, Land’s End to John O’Groats on bridleways and tracks, or just commuting, the Camino is up for most things.

It’s also cheap for a titanium bike, with its frame material and carbon fork both keeping weight low.

A new brand for us, will Sonder score a hit with its first swing?

Click here to read the Sonder Camino TI Rival review

 

The winner: Brick Lanes Bikes Hitchhiker

With the touring fraternity splitting into ever more branches, each of our four bikes represents a slightly different speciality, and choosing your favourite might simply come down to what sort of adventures you have planned.

A modern take on the classic expedition sledge the Bombtrack comes fully equipped with top-quality kit.

Ensuring you’ll be kept dry, safe, and able to carry everything you need, it’s adventure ready. With a wide bar and upright position, it’s a cruiser rather than a sprinter and focused on practicality, yet is lively enough to be engaging.

With one foot in the adventure-biking camp, the All-City is nippier and equally suited to carrying bikepacking bags or traditional panniers.

Aggressive geometry and properly zippy wheels mean it’s fun for blasting about off-road and renders up a speedy performance when fitted with skinnier tyres.

The wildest of the bunch, the Sonder is super-capable off-road while its stable geometry makes for steady going on the tarmac.

So smooth in its forward progress, it’s perhaps a little too much bike for general commuting, but is fantastic when the weekend rolls around.

The most traditional looking on test, the Brick Lane Bikes Hitchhiker takes a decent steel frame and throws all kinds of goodness at it – we loved the lightweight wheels and hydraulic disc brakes.

Set up for the road, it could also turn its hand to trails with a few tweaks.

It’s a top-value package, too. Fast to get going and happy to hold onto its speed, it’s as easy to ride as it is to look at and our winner this month.

It might be too much for some riders – if you’re a fan of easy-listening, it won’t be music to your ears, but if thrash metal is your thing, then this is one hunk of metal that begs to be thrashed.

The Genesis Equilibrium is a similarly easy-going prospect to the Condor, and will cope with century rides at whatever pace you choose.

Its level of spec isn’t quite up to the Condor’s, though, and we’d gladly pay the extra £250 for the Acciaio’s Potenza groupset and Campag Zonda wheels.

Specialized’s Sequoia (fun fact: the second-hardest bike name in this test to consistently type correctly) is a different proposition to the other three.

Its frame lacks the springiness we associate with steel, and the carbon fork makes for a rigid front end, but this at least is masked by the bike’s mahoosive tyres.

However, it is both stable and fast, and amiably crushes trails and rolls over rough roads, capably adding a new dimension to your road riding.