10 Touring Bicycles That Are In It For The Long Haul

Does the following picture evoke an almost undescribable sense of longing?  Are you looking for a bike that'll carry a load and go the distance?  Do the phrases "Reynolds 725" or "bar-end shifter" mean anything to you?

Fully Loaded Koga MiyataCredit: Fully Loaded Touring Gallery

If you answered yes to any one of those questions, you might be in the market for a touring bike.

Touring bikes are often mistaken for road bikes by people who don't know any better, but there are fundamental design differences that set them apart.  While road bikes are typically ligher and more nimble in their steering, touring frames are longer, giving the rider more stability when carrying a heavy load.   

This lengthened geometry, coupled with the fact that most touring bikes have steel frames makes the bike slower to accelerate and steer, but also undeniably smoother and more durable.  Touring bikes are ideal for anyone looking to go on extended bike trips or "tours," or even for cyclo-commuters who need to carry a significant amount of gear to and from their workplace. 

Here are 10 of the most popular touring bikes on the 2011 market.  Most of the usual suspects are still alive and kicking, but two prominent lines (Canondale Touring and Novara Randonee) have been dropped from production.  Canondale 2010s may still be obtainable, but the Randonee is sold out and strictly unavailable save from second hand sellers. 

Without further ado, 2011's Touring Bike Market:

1. Surly Long Haul Trucker: MSRP $1099. Reigning champion of the market for value and ruggedness.  One of the longest wheelbases on the list, and extra points for proper tour gearing.  It's a tank, but one of these will take you across Siberia if you want it to.  Surly is quality, and they know what tourers need.

Surly Long Haul Trucker Touring Bike 2011Credit: Surly

2. Treck 520: MSRP $1429. Perrenial favorite, and probably the oldest line on the list (35 years strong).  More expensive, but higher end components justify cost.  Probably would have bought one if it were available when I was shopping--these do sell out.

Trek 520 Touring Bike 2011Credit: Trek

3. Jamis Aurora and Aurora Elite (Aurora Elite  pictured): MSRP $1100 and $1700.  Higher quality Reynolds 625 steel on the elite.  Elite was much lighter in 2009, addition of disc breaks added quite a bit of weight.  These both got more expensive, especially Elite, however it does come with a passable rack and fenders.  Ah, here we go--the lugged fork on both models is a very nice touch, and probably accounts for the price increase.

Jamis Aurora EliteCredit: Jamis Bicycles

4. Rocky Mountain Sherpa 30: MSRP unspecified, approx $1300. Rocky Mountain dropped the cheaper Sherpa 10 this year, and downgraded the Sherpa 30 as a bit of a compromise.  New Sherpa 30 uses Reynolds 725 steel, which still beats just about every other bike on this list, and the components are pretty nice.  I own last year's Sherpa 10, and these things are capable bikes. 

As an aside--in true RockyMountain fashion, these things will take some FAT tires.  I was trailriding on my Sherpa 10 occasionally this past fall.

Rocky Mountain Sherpa 30 Touring Bike 2011Credit: Rocky Mountain Bicycles

5. Kona Sutra: MSRP $1469. Not cheap, but this will get it done.  Can't argue with front AND rear racks and fenders.  Suitably long wheelbase should make for nice handling.  This is a pretty popular bike among serious touring cyclists.

Kona Sutra Touring Bike 2011Credit: Kona Bicycles

6. Raleigh Sojourn: MSRP:$1250. At first glance, price seems steep, but considering this thing is stock with disc breaks and a Brooks (Brooks!) saddle, it looks like a steal.  Closing in on 30 lbs. with this badboy.  This is a bike that's meant to be ridden with cargo.

Raleigh Sojourn Touring Bike 2011Credit: Raleigh Bikes

7. Fuji Touring: MSRP $1049. Similar to the Aurora without the lugged fork.  They threw in a rack.  I've seen this frame rebranded as the Windsor Tourist selling for $600 new on ebay.  Buy at $600 pass at $1050.

Fuji Touring Bike 2011Credit: Fuji Bicycles

8. KHS TR-101: MSRP $1099. Liear pull breaks and stock tail lights set it apart.  Very young line, introduced in 2009 but gaining traction.  Jury's out.

KHS TR-101 Offroad Touring 2011Credit: KHS Bicycles

9. Bianchi Volpe: MSRP $1099. Prettiest bike on the list, and probably the most agile.  Definitely a light tourer--perfect for day or weekend trips, but I'm not sure I'd choose it for a Trans-American.  Boy is it gorgeous though.

Bianchi Volpe Touring Bike 2011Credit: Bianchi Volpe Touring Bike 2011

10. Salsa Fargo: MSRP $1650. This bike is branded as an offroad tourer for obvious reasons.  Visiting the third world?  Yeah, take one of these, but maybe switch out those shifters for some bar-ends. 

Salsa Fargo Touring Bike 2011Credit: Salsa

Two vanity picks: Alright, you've reached the end of my list proper, but I wanna throw two wildcard picks out there for folks with a litle cash to burn.  These two will run you at least $2000, and probably more depending on how you spec out the components.  I included the Bruce Gordon bikes because they're easily among the most capable touring cycles out there.  I included the Rivendell because the lugged frame is a work of art.  

Bruce Gordon BLT and Rock'n'Road (BLT pictured): These bikes have it all. Enough said.

Bruce Gordon BLT Touring Bike 2011Credit: Bruce Gordon

Rivendell Atlantis:  Cough up three grand and it's yours, but look at the detail work on the frame.  Lovig the mustache handle bars and saddlebag also.  Rivendells strike me as country bikes, and this one definitely fits the bill with that stonewall as a backdrop.

Rivendell Atlantis Touring Bike 2011Credit: Rivendell Bike Works

Hope you enjoyed the article and learned something.  Touring can be an amazing thing to get into, and even if you're not interested in an epic cross-country ride, most of these bikes would make versatile, comfortable, and durable every day bicycles. 

Let me know in the comments if you have any questions, and definitely drop a note if this article helps you narrow down your search for the perfect ride!  I'd love to hear your story.

***All photo copyrights rest with each bike's respective manufacturer.***