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Touring Bicycle

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When it comes to buying a touring bicycle, most local bike shops will have only one or two models on the floor, if any. It isn’t that they don’t want to sell a high-quality touring bicycle, it is more an issue of economics and what price range the average person comes in the store to buy.


Touring Bicycle Reviews: These Bikes Bring Adventure

Medium/Long Range Bicycles

Fuji    Trek    Novara Strada    Novara Randonee    Surly

Koga-Miyata    Bruce Gordon    Co Motion    Cannondale

Long/Expedition Range Bicycles

Koga-Miyata    Thorn


If you go into a local bike store, the price of most bicycles will start around $300 and go to over $1,500 for higher-end racing bicycles and mountain bikes. Most of the bicycles you will see will be in the $500 to $600 range. Unfortunately, a new, high-quality touring bicycle will usually have a price tag of $1,000 or more. And many of the expedition bicycles that can handle almost any touring terrain will start at $2,000 and go up from there.

When considering a new touring bicycle, I use the following selection criteria:

The following models are just a short list of high-quality bicycles available. Many more models exist. If you would like us to add another model to this list, please email us.

UPDATE: We recently wrote two great articles summarizing the best men’s road bikes and the best women’s road bikes for 2012-2013. Take a look if you want more advice.

Medium to Long Range Touring Bicycles

Cannondale Synapse Alloy 7

This is a newer model of Cannondale touring bikes. While they don’t have the reputation of elite touring bikes, like the Tour I and Tour II had, they are still ideal for touring.

They use all Shimano 105 components (including the shifters… previous Cannondale touring bikes used STI shifters, which are difficult to fix) and are made entirely of aluminum. This means you have lightweight, high quality components on a bike that is lighter than paper (it weighs in at less than 20 pounds).

They come with 700c wheels and use a FSA Gossamer BB30, 50/34 front crankset.

Learn more about the Synapse Alloy 7.

Cannondale Tour I and II

Unfortunately, you cannot buy these bikes new anymore. But if you can find one used, both the Cannondale Tour I and Tour II are excellent around touring bicycles. The compact aluminum frame and cro-moly steel fork are well made and have the basic touring braze-ons: water bottle mounts, front and rear rack mounts, and clearance for fenders and wide touring tires.

The 700c wheels have 36 holes, 14 gauge spokes (adequate for loaded touring) and cantilever brakes for stopping. The shifters are STI, which I don’t prefer for touring. STI brake/shifters are harder to get repaired while on the road, but many cyclists use them with excellent results.

The Tour I uses a 50/39/30 front crankset and 11/34 rear cassette combination for light touring in rolling hills or medium loaded touring on flat terrain. The Tour II uses a 48/36/26 front crankset and 11/34 rear cassette combination that is better for loaded touring in long distance touring. Please read my page on gearing.

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Novara Strada

Novara Strada Bicycle From REIIt is sold through REI. At around $850, it is one of the best deals out there for the money. The aluminum frame and carbon fork are well made and  feature shaped seatstays and top tube for improved comfort and performance. The shifters and derailleurs offer high-end shifting performance and dependability.

The frame features eyelets for the fenders that allow you to outfit the bike for for wet-weather or commuting — which could come in handy on a tour. The handlebar is a standard drop bar.  Please read my page on touring handlebars.

The 50/34 crankset and lightweight frame (21 pounds) make it a good option for long road rides.

Learn more about the Novara Strada

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Novara Randonee

Novara Randonee is sold through REI. At around $1,050, it is a very good deal for a traditional touring bike. The Reynolds 520 chromoly frame and fork are well made and have the basic touring braze-ons: water bottle mounts, front and rear rack mounts, and clearance for fenders and wide touring tires. The quality of derailleurs and brakes is good, but not top of the line. They are reliable and easy to maintain and are good enough for most loaded touring.

The 700c wheels have 36 holes, 14 gauge spokes (adequate for loaded touring) and cantilever brakes, which is good for a touring bicycle. The handlebar is a drop style, which is great for all around touring. Please read my page on touring handlebars.

The 48/36/26 crankset and 11/28 rear cassette are perfect for light to medium loaded touring over pavement and packed dirt roads. For heavy loaded touring over good roads, an upgrade to a 11/34 cassette would be an easy improvement.

Learn more about the Novara Randonee

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Surly LHT

The Surly LHT is a solid all around loaded, long-range bicycle. At around $1,100, it is a great deal and worth a serious look. The cro-moly frame and fork are well made and have the basic touring braze-ons: triple water bottle mounts, front and rear rack mounts, chainstay spoke holder, and clearance for fenders and wide expedition tires. The quality of derailleurs and brakes is good to excellent, better than what you would expect for the price.

The 26″ or 700c wheels (determined by frame size) have 36 holes, 14 gauge spokes (adequate for loaded touring) and cantilever brakes, which I prefer over V-brakes for touring bicycles. Also, the shifters are bar ends, which I also prefer for loaded touring. The 48/36/26 crankset and 11/34 rear cassette are perfect for loaded touring over pavement, good dirt roads, and some gravel. It is not a mountain bike though. It is an all out bicycle for loaded touring.

I am personally familiar with the Surly LHT. I used one that I built up from a frame. It had one on the most comfortable rides for a loaded touring bicycle. The reputation of the LHT has grown significantly in the past few years and many people seem to have the same favorable opinion that I have for the bicycle. So you should give the bicycle a test ride and see what you think.

Learn more about the Surly LHT


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Fuji Tour

Fuji Tour

The Fuji Tour has been around for quite a few years. At around $900, it is a quality touring bicycle at a fair price. The cro-moly steel frame is well made and has the basic touring braze-ons: double water bottle mounts, front and rear rack mounts, and spare spoke holder.

The 700c wheels have 36 holes, 14 gauge spokes (adequate for loaded touring) and cantilever brakes for stopping. The shifters are STI, which I do not prefer for touring. STI brake/shifters are harder to get repaired while on the road, but many cyclists use them with excellent results. The 50/36/30 front crankset and 11/34 rear cassette combination is better for light to medium touring in rolling hills to smaller mountains. I believe that most long distance cyclist would prefer lower gears than this crankset offers. Please read my page on gearing.

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Trek 520

The 520 has been in the Trek line almost from the beginning. At around $1,250, it is a high quality touring bicycle at a reasonable price. The cro-moly steel frame is well made and has the basic touring braze-ons: triple water bottle mounts, front and rear rack mounts, and clearance for fenders and wide touring tires.

The 700c wheels have 36 holes, 14 gauge spokes (adequate for loaded touring) and V-brakes for stopping. The shifters are bar ends style, which I prefer for touring. The 48/36/26 front crankset and 11/32 rear cassette combination is better for medium touring loads in rolling hills and mountains. Please read my page on gearing. One of my touring bicycles is a Trek 520. I love the bicycle. It is very comfortable for long rides with medium to heavy loads on good roads from flat to mountains.

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Koga-Miyata Traveler

Koga-Miyata Traveler

The Traveler frame is a completely hand built TIG-welded and triple-butted aluminum. It has all the necessary touring braze-on and attachment points. The bike comes with kickstand, lights, racks, rear bag, fenders, water bottles, and there own trekking handlebar.

The 700c wheels have 36 holes, 14 gauge spokes (adequate for loaded touring) and V-brakes. The components are Shimano Deore LX, which may not to the top of the line but close. The 48/36/26 crankset and 11/32 rear cassette are perfect for loaded touring over pavement, good dirt roads, and some gravel. The Traveler is not one of their expedition bikes, but it is an all out bicycle for heavy loaded touring.

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Bruce Gordon Rock N’ Roll Tour

Bruce Gordon designs and manufactures excellent bicycles. They are top of the line and sell in the $3,000 bracket. Their frames are TIG welded at their California facility. The frames have triple water bottle mounts, fender mounts, and rack mounts.

You can order a 26″ or 700c wheel model. Each model has 36 holes, 14 gauge spokes (adequate for loaded touring). The standard derailleurs are Shimano Deore XT with cantilever brakes or V brakes. You can also get either drop or flat handlebars.Please read my page on touring handlebars.

You can order either a crankset for normal road touring or off-road riding with the 26″ wheel model. Either way, the Rock N’ Road Tour can handle a heavy load on long distance tours.

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Co Motion Americano Copilot

Co Motion Americano Copilot

The Co Motion Americano is a top of the line long distance touring bicycle. The price of around $3,300 reflects the quality and reliability of this model. The frame is made from exclusive custom-drawn heat-treated tandem tubing and the fork is cro-moly steel. The frame is stout enough to handle almost any terrain and load. You can also get the Americano with the BTC™ for breaking down the bicycle for traveling ($3,700).

The Americano uses a 700c dishless, symmetrically laced rear wheel (40 spokes) with a 145mm axle for strength. The bike uses V-brakes and Shimano XTR derailleurs and Dura Ace bar end shifters.

The 46/34/24 crankset and 11/34 rear cassette combination can handle about any terrain and load. This bicycle is definitely a long distance tourer.

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Long to Expedition Range Touring Bicycles

Koga-Miyata World Traveler

Koga-Miyata World Traveler

The frame is a completely hand built TIG-welded and triple-butted aluminium. It has all the necessary touring braze-on and attachment points. The bike comes with kickstand, lights, racks, rear bag, fenders, pump, and water bottles. The World Traveler uses their own trekking bar.

The 26″ wheels have 36 holes, 14 gauge spokes (adequate for heavy loaded touring) and V-brakes. The components are Shimano Deore XT, which are exceptional for expedition touring. The 44/32/22 crankset and 11/32 rear cassette are perfect for heavy loaded touring over good to poor pavement, dirt roads, and gravel. The World Traveller is a true expedition bike that is ready to go almost anywhere in the world.

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Thorn Raven

Thorn Raven

Thorn Cycles in England makes top of the line made from Reynolds 725 heat treated conical tubes. You can get the Raven either as a Rohloff hub or derailleur equipped bike.
Thorn also has an outstanding reputation for supporting their customers, at home and while they are on tour.

The Raven can be ordered with different component packages and different crankset and cassette drivetrains. You also get the Raven with the BTC™ (S&S coupling) for breaking down the bicycle for traveling. The 26″ wheels can have 32 to 48 holes rims, depending on your preference. Also, different handlebars can be order too. Basically, you build the bike the way you want it.

The Raven is a top of the line expedition bicycle that can go anywhere. People who own and tour with these bicycle speak highly of them and usually keep them for a tens of years.

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About John Stultz

John Stultz is the owner of Bear Paw Tents. He's been bicycle touring for over 30 years and is excited for sharing his insight on cycling. He considers himself an ultralight backpacker and ultralight bicycle tourer. John is the original founder of Bicycle-Touring-Guide.com. He started the website to share his passion for touring and to help people plan for their own bicycle tour.

Comments

  1. Curious why there is no mention of the Ti touring bikes from Seven and VanNicholas, also the Jamis and Raleigh bikes

  2. Carmel Henry says:

    We are a 55 yr old couple invited to join friends on a 4-6 wk bike ride in sept on the eurovelo 6 route near Paris. we are reasonably fit but this is our first venture into touring. We have bought many accessories but are very unsure of which bike to get, and even if we should buy in Europe as opposed to NZ. We will be camping but lightweight as its still warm weather and pacing ourselves slowly. My husband is also considering folding touring bikes but I am not too keen on these, I quite like the touring bikes that look more like mountain bikes with maybe butterfly bars. We have very little knowledge of bicycle technology. Can anyone recommend touring bikes around the $1000 – $1500 mark that might be suitable and where they might be bought from in NZ. Many thanks Carmel

    • Hi Carmel,

      Hmm… Not sure what New Zealand’s bike market is like. Are none of the options we recommended available in New Zealand?

  3. s taylor says:

    The comment that a good touring bike will, do some 10,000 miles sems strange to me.
    My Raleigh Record Ace is over thirty years old and has done over 25,000 miles on the original Campagnolo hubs. (40 and 36 spokes). The Campag de-ralier is still going as are the Gran sport peddles. The key is to strip down clean,and re -grease components at least twice a year dependant upon milage and conditions.
    Yes new rims, chain and SA gear rings have been replaced as required. Look after your bike and it will look after you!

  4. Hi there!
    When I am 19 years old I want to drive from San Francisco to Los Angeles by bicycle.
    I want to do it alone because my friends around me do not have enough money to afford it.
    Now I am driving 20 km, 3 days a week.

    When I am going to bicycle to Los Angels I want to drive 5 hours every single day.
    I think after 10 days I will compleet this journey. Do you have any tips for me to make this possible and safely? What kind of bike do have to choose? How mutch luggage can take with me? And how money do I need for this?

    I appreciate your advise and help,

    Bas, The Netherlands, march 2013

    • Hi Bas,

      A lot there to digest :-) Have you ever done a bike tour before?

      A great option is the Novara Randonee. It’s a budget touring bike that functions flawlessly. In terms of money, it depends on how you want to live. Do you plan to cook all your own food, eat out or a combination? What about lodging? Will you be camping? Staying in hotels? Hostels?

      A good rule of thumb is anywhere from $50-100 USD per day.

      • Thank you for responsing me!
        I’ve never done a bike tour before but I think I have enough power to do this.
        Well I am working for the money right now but I was thinking about $3000-4000 to spend. So if you saying its $50-100 eatch day, I can go around 20 days on tour.

        I was thinking about a combination of couchsurfing and hostels. Because I want to meet people in the US and take a look in the ‘normal’ american life. So it would be a travel day – something to do – travel day ect. So if I going to couchsurfing I can eat with them and by a hostel I will buy some food for my self.

        Do you also know what kind of way should I not take because of fuss, unsafety or desertedness?

        Again thank you for helping me!

        • Hi Bas,

          That sounds about right :-) I’d recommend calling the toursim offices of the areas you plan to tour. That will help give you a better idea of planning.

        • Hi Bas, an other thing you can do, is become a member of cyclists groups on couchsurfing. Ask your questions there, they are always very willing to answer you with all kind of knowledge. Many a time even people that have done exactly that trip before.And keep on asking, until you have all the answers!
          At the same time you can ask for people, living along the route, whether they have a sleeping place for you.
          Good luck and have a nice ride.
          Hans from Denmark.

  5. richard cooper says:

    You should feel that your frame will last for ever. Unlike steel, both titanium and aluminum have no metallurgical fatigue limit. It means that one day, it will break. The methods of making fatigue resistant aircraft are used on bicycles.
    I used to love a traditional touring frame made from Reynolds 531 or Mangalloy 2000 steel. They were very comfortable bikes to pedal and the slight springiness seemed be a miracle at times. However, I hated carrying loads because of the very slight flex. When I bought a Koga Miyata Randonneur, I realized this was a vast improvement. The tapered tubes, massive forks and stays made this thing really stiff and strong. I use tandem wheels with 40 spokes and 38mm tires. I would thoroughly recommend racing handlebars because you can change your hand position to relieve discomfort. Flat bars on a tourer are a mistake. My Koga originally came with a distinctive touring bar, which is probably even better than drops.

  6. richard cooper says:

    Meant to say “The methods of making fatigue resistant aircraft are NOT used on bicycles.”

  7. The suggestion (on this site) that touring bikes are best loaded 60% front and 40% rear is quite unconventional. A proper touring bike will have rear spokes, rim and tyres suited to carrying loads. And lots of people go on tours with no front racks and bags. Also, telling people their front wheels will lift off the ground if they don’t hold it down with luggage strikes me as being quite misleading. I think you should reverse your load distribution to be 60% rear but make the point that rear bags only does work fine.

    • Thanks for your suggestions, Noel. Definitely good to experiment and figure out what works best for you.

  8. Hello,
    I been contemplating in moving to a touring bike and the Cannondale Synapse 5 is in my list.
    For years I’ve ride a specialized mountain bike but then stop when moved to the city, gain a few doughnuts hehe

    My question is, will the Cannondale be a good bike for me to grow on? meaning handle my 240lbs weight and next year I set in my head I want to ride from Milwaukee, WI to McAllen, TX.
    Last summer I started getting back into biking but mountain bike not so much fun anymore.. :)

    Thank you for any advice
    Noe

    • Hi Noe,

      Yes, it definitely is! The Cannondale Synapse 5 is perfect for almost every need. Yours will work for it!

  9. Robbie Klein says:

    A quick note about the NOVARA SAFARI. I rode one about 3000 ks across Europe last summer and was very dissapointed with its performance. The peddles slowly dissintigrated along the ride; by the time I rode into Copehagen, I was peddling on just the peddle axle! The toe clips were loooong gone. Both wheels came out of true quickly, easily, and often. The tires stretched and went our of round almost emmediately. The bar tape fell off the FIRST day. Bright spots were the SRAM grip-shifters, and the fact that REI took the bike back (tireless) without a fight. Its price should be a red flag.

    • Wow! Thank you for sharing that, Robbie. At what point was the bike falling apart on you? Do you think that it still isn’t worth it, even with the cheaper price?

      REI produces the Novara Safari and most REI brand gear is very well done. It’s cheaper because they have an instant distribution channel and they don’t have the middleman (ie GoLite gear is more expensive in REI or Backcountry than on GoLite.com)

  10. Good info ..o.k. I am going to try a old bmx steel bike 26 inch wheels and it will be over loaded. Right now the bike is 38 pounds empty. Looking to replace the gearing with very low gearing when I get to a real town or city . I live on the border with Mexico and there is nothing here. One question what would be a practical weight for bike and gear over all?? Yes I am taking my shortwave radio and tablet. And I don’t like dryers up food. Heavy ceramic pot. Expresso coffee maker . No I don’t like trailers. I don’t want to RUFF it. I like the good life. I will sacrifice speed and camp like a baby. Expresso anyone.

    • Hahaha I’d suggest riding around and trying out a few different weights. Do 15 miles at 15 pound intervals and see what you are most comfortable with. It varies so much for each individual.

  11. The Jamis aurora elite is definately worth a serious look. I rode mine cross country with out a single issue, the bike looks good as new. I don’t understand why bar end shifters are popular on tourning bikes. My old Univega gran tourismo had down tube shifters and I was so much happier not to have to move my hands to shift on the Jamis, especially climbing hills or on gravel.

  12. Geoffrey Downing says:

    Hi there.

    I had a Viking Windsor as my first touring bike and was very impressed with it. It had a very similar spec to the Dawes Vantage. After 2 years of solid commutting and a couple long hauls (for me anyway) the frame snapped and I was gutted for a while.

    I managed to get a Dawes Audax and I didnt like it, so decided that I would create a tourer. I found a steel frame the perfect frame due to the fact if they crack, they can be patched up. It’s a Planet X Kaffenback and I love it.

    I was wondering if there are any good panniers out there (around 40 litres) that don’t have the metal hook on the bottom to secure the load.

    Have a pair of Altura Arran 36 at the moment but are quickly wearing out.

  13. Could someone explain why end cap shifters are a good thing. When I ride, I find it absolutely necessary to keep my hands near the brake handles at all times. I ride in Iowa where the roads are rolling hills, so I am always going up or down a hill and I am always shifting gears. I’ve never tried to count how many times I shift, but it has to be at least 100 times on a 50 mile ride. I don’t want to reach down to these end cap shifters that often.

    Not only that, when I come to a stop, I need to use the brakes, steer, and down shift both front and rear all at the same time. How am I supposed to do that with these end cap shifters.

    Am I the only person that thinks that having the shift levers integrated with the brake handles one of the best bicycle design ideas ever. Its functional, convenient, and safe.

    Why are they doing this?

    • barend shifters are good for a few reasons.

      1. it is a more reliable shifter

      2. most have the ability to be converted to friction (vs. index) which can much more readily be made to work with a bent derailleur, bent derailleur hanger, gunked up/kinked/binding shift cable than index shifting.

      3. if your cassette/shifter dies or goes kaput on the road you are not limited to that number of gears. With a 10 cog cassette and index the shifter, wheel, chain… are all required to be compatible. If your back wheel explodes and you want to buy a used rusty huffy wheel for 10$ to limp you to the next town… With shifters that are friction or can be switched to friction those are options.

      On a tour bikes can break. In a major city there is an abundance of well supplied bike shops. Small towns are lucky to have a poorly stocked bike shop. I went from Brice Cyn (this bike shop was an international shipping container renting bikes. They had MINIMAL parts for repairs) to Moab (with many well stocked shops) without a bike shop. Friction shifters allow you to take a pile of parts and make them work like a bike. I would also recommend 26/559 wheels, low profile rims (vs deep section aero), shraeder valve tubes, square taper bottom bracket, no more than 8 gears in back as they use a thicker chain and are easier to find parts for plus more durable.

      BTW there are many styles of touring and if it works for you/them it ain’t wrong. Start with what you already have and do some overnight trips. The bike is certainly important on a bike tour but the rest of your gear makes easily as big an impact on your speed, efficiency and enjoyment of your trip.

  14. Ride Yer Bike says:

    Just so folks know Surly makes the LHT with Disc brakes and they call it the Disc Trucker. It is a great touring bike. If your tourer doesn’t have disc brakes you are truly missing out. Plus their rear Nice Rack is awesome (heavier than most but good ole’ repairable steel). I recently did a 118 mile tour on a quite muddy C & O canal and it performed great with no problems. I am planning a 600 mile jaunt soon and I am sure Ole’ Discy will be great.

    I see a lot of Surly’s out there especially “Truckers”. In fact I was riding on some roads near where I live and had slow leak and my pump was busted and a guy on an LHT stopped and helped but before he stopped another LHT rolled by all within 5 minutes. I haven’t really seen any really bad reviews of them.

    I recently saw this wooden touring bike and got excited but wanted to hear if anyone has ever ridden one or even ridden one of Renovo’s bikes?
    http://www.renovobikes.com/touringbike/
    I mean nothing is more repairable anywhere in the world than wood. Plus they have used it for almost everything and it has shown it’s durability and strength. However riding on it for miles is another thing and I wonder if it is as good as steel comfort wise?

    • Interesting! I’m sure it is as comfortable… The comfort would be more dependent on the shocks and seats. Thanks for the note!

      • As a bike designer, frame builder and long time tourer, to my knowledge there are no touring bikes with shocks and most tourers use the Brooks B17 saddle which is tough to break in, but in the long haul very comfortable. Comfort on any bike is dependent primarily on the frame material with aluminum being the harshest ride, coupled with being the most fragile of frame building materials; easily dented which is a stress riser waiting to crack, and having a relatively short fatigue life. It’s also practicably unrepairable due to the difficulty of welding thin sections.
        For loaded touring, another important consideration is frame stiffness. A descent on a loaded, limber frame can be a terrifying experience after the first death wobble which is a function of inadequate frame stiffness.
        A GOOD touring bike design is complex, not just a road bike with added braze-ons.

  15. Peter Tan says:

    In the East (Japan and Taiwan), the most popular touring bike is the Giant Great Journey, which comes in various versions. See
    http://www.giant.co.jp/giant13/bike_datail.php?p_id=00000086
    and
    http://www.giant-bicycles.com/en-IN/bikes/lifestyle/3250/34824/
    I have the one with back panniers and have done a modest 1,200 km including a 600-km tour in Japan on it – no problems at all! I bought it in Taiwan for US$600.
    This guy is doing a Round Japan tour on his Great Journey:

    http://nextstageaaj.blog.fc2.com/

    Cheers,
    Peter

  16. Rickonabike says:

    First tour was 5000 miles, Yorktown, VA–SF, CA–Portland in 2011 on an 81 Fuji World Tour. Ended up replacing both (32 spoke) wheels at around 3000 miles. Had made up my mind on either a Long Haul Trucker or a Raleigh Sojurn for my planned 2012 tour, 9000 miles all over the US. My favorite bike shop in Portland had neither in stock, but he suggested I look at the Kona Sutra. Price was in the same range and it came with 36 spoke rims, fenders, disc brakes, front and rear racks and all the necessary dropouts. Despite being heavy, it was a great choice. In 2012, I only toured locally, racking up 3000+ miles all over Oregon on the KONA. I learned that for shorter tours, I would have preferred a lighter bike. My girlfriend and I have an extensive tour planned for 2015, 7500 miles. Going to order a custom KOGA–nearly $6K, but that’s completely custom and ready from fenders to racks, panniers, discs, 40 spoke wheels, Brooks saddle, Ortliebs, front generator hub, front and rear lights, Rolhoff 14, pump, bottle cages, butterfly bars–the works. For local touring, I’ll keep an eye out for something lighter. The KONA SUTRA is a fine alternative to the LHT and similar touring bikes and a good way to save a couple hundred bucks, but as with the Sojurn and the LHT, it’s a pig–a bit too heavy for light touring.

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