The Essential Guide to Touring Bicycles
As someone who is interested in taking my first long bicycle tour, reading The Essential Guide to Touring Bicycles has been a great education. Written by Darren Alff, the man behind the Bicycle Touring Pro website, it is full of information that is helpful when looking to buy your first touring bike. Even if you don't plan to buy a specialty bike for touring, this book gives guidelines for choosing a bike that will best fit your needs as a casual tourist, or a serious bicycle traveler.
The book is laid out in two main sections. It starts out with an introduction of what bicycle touring is and the basics of what to look for in a bike. Then the author gives specific details about why a touring bike is special and different than other types of bikes. The majority of the book (over 200 pages) are recommendations for specific bikes and what makes them unique. The book is full of photos of each of the bikes along with detailed descriptions. The bikes are broken down into groups based on the type of touring that the bike is best used for.
Touring Bicycle Requirements
After the basics of bike touring and traveling are covered in the first few pages, the author goes into details about what one should look for in a touring bike. There are 30 pages of explanations on subjects such as: which type of brake is best, what metals are recommended for touring bikes and even a detailed description of why one size tire is preferable over another.
In this initial section of the book there is an explanation of racks, panniers and trailers. There is a glossary of terms included to help the reader understand the bike descriptions as well as general touring terms that the reader may come across when reading about bikes online. The author gives a list of suggestions on when and where to buy a touring bike. For example, is it best to buy the bike at home and fly it to the tour location? Or, should the tourist arrive on location and buy the bike at the start of the tour? There are various reasons why both are valid.
Specific Touring Bicycle Recommendations
Over 200 pages of the book are filled with specific bike models and descriptions. Each page has a large picture of the bike along with a general description of who the bike might be best suited for and what its special features are. Frame material, website and price information are included on each bike page.
All of the bikes are put into general categories. The categories include bikes for: Commuting, Sport Touring, Light Touring, Road Touring and Off-road Touring. Commuting bikes are recommended for day trips as well as general around town riding. Sport touring bikes are for short tours where any extra equipment will be carried by someone else. The bike is used only to transport the rider from A to B. Light touring is where the rider carries only daily necessities choosing to stay in hotels and buying prepared food instead of needing to carry a tent and cooking supplies. Road touring bikes are for the typical loaded down bike, where the rider carries all the equipment needed to live on the road. These bikes are designed primarily for paved road use, but can withstand some back country roads. For more heavy duty off-road use there are the specific off-road bikes.
Some bikes fall into more than one of the above categories. If a bike fits into another category than the main one it appears in, the description will specify the alternate touring category.
The Essential Guide to Touring Bicycles Review
All of the information found in the book can be found at his website. However, I think this book is worth the $12.95 price. What you are paying for is the convenience of having all of this information in one place. It would take hours (or days) to find this information among the large quantity of other topics he has about bike touring on the site. With his 2 month, no questions asked, money back guarantee, you can't go wrong with the book.
Along with this book is a free copy of his A Buyer's Guide To Bicycle Touring Panniers & Trailers. There is also a 40 minute movie that gives an overview of the book and goes into details about what equipment is needed for touring and how to pack your equipment on the bike. The video alone is worth the price of the book. And it is included free!
The book does not claim to be the absolute final word on touring bikes. However, Darren has been a bicycle traveler long enough to be an authority in the field. His recommendations on other subjects relating to bicycle touring have been helpful to me as I prepare to do my first long distance tour. As I write this, he is days away from flying to South America to start a 6 month bike tour. If you are looking for information on touring bikes, I think he is someone you can trust.