Your Dream Touring Bike


ABOUTCYLING have this great list on their site

I’ve completed an internet trawl to find some of the nicest, most aesthetically pleasing touring bikes getting about and I don’t think you’ll be disappointed with what’s coming up.

Somehow I’ve ended up with the majority of these bikes made in the USA, so either my taste is for North American builders, or perhaps North American builders are better exposed on the internet. I’m keen to get a more international splash of handmade bikes on this page, so please drop a comment with a bike that you think is just as worthy as these. It has to be pretty special, with nice paint and colour-matched parts – good driveside pictures are also essential.

Stats

Out of the 28 bikes on showcase, this is the characteristic breakdown:

  • Handlebars: Drop (20), Flat (8).
  • Brakes: Disc (14), Cantilever (10), Road (1), hydraulic rim (1), V-brake (2).
  • Mudguards: Metal (15), Plastic (6), None (6), Wooden (1).
  • Frame Material: Titanium (14), Steel (10), Stainless Steel (4).
  • Gears: Derailleur (17), Internally Geared Hub (9), Gearbox (2).
  • Shifters: STI (7), Barend (5), Gripshift (10), Downtube (2), Trigger (2), Stem (1), Retroshift (1).
  • Country of Origin: USA (19), Australia (3), Switzerland (3), The Netherlands (3).

Hilite

This Swiss company works with titanium to make unique touring bikes for purposes from light touring to expedition. We couldn’t pick one to show you, so we settled for three. Many of their bikes use Rohloff 14s hubs, Pinion 18s gearboxes and Gates Carbon Drive. Integrated racks and seatposts, and matching stems finish the Hilite look.

Van Nicholas

This Dutch builder has specialised in titanium over the years, putting together some mighty fine looking touring bikes. The Pioneer Rohloff 29er is unique compared to most touring bikes, in that it can squeeze in wide 700c tyres. Van Nicholas come with all the top end touring gear, including Gates Carbon Drive and Rohloff 14s hubs. Matching stems, handlebars and seatposts complete the look.

Breadwinner

Breadwinner of Portland (USA) are Ira Ryan and Tony Pereira. These two builders teamed up together “to get more beautiful bikes to more people who ride everyday”. Although I’m not a huge fan of the green, the matching stem and pump look superb, and make sure to check out the headtube badge in Breadwinner’s website – it’s a work of art. The only thing I don’t agree at all with is the use of Shimano Ultegra crankset and derailleurs, as they’re too modern-looking on such a classic bike. If it were mine, it’d be silver Campagnolo components instead.

Ti Cycles

Dave Levy of Ti Cycles has gone all out on this unique ride. In Dave’s Portland (USA) workshop, he has managed to create a titanium frame that looks nothing like the rest on the list, given the hyper extended top tube. The more impressive features include the custom ti racks with integrated mudguard struts, the u-lock holder and the Supernova dynamo light fittings. My only gripes are the use of yellow on the stem and the Shimano road crankset which seems a bit out of place here.

Horse Cycles

Light blue is pretty much my favourite colour, so it is no suprise that this stainless steel Horse by Thomas Callahan in New York (USA) makes the list. It seems a bit more randonneur than most on this list, but given it has custom front and rear racks we’ll consider it a tourer. The colour-matched ‘guards look incredible, as do the racks and fillet-brazed stem. My only gripe is that the crankset does not fit in… at all. A White Industries crankset in silver would make me much happier.

Ahearne

This stainless steel, fillet-brazed beauty is possibly the wackiest ride on this list, and is without doubt the most expensive. Somewhere between a work of art and a very capable tourer, it was built by Joseph Ahearne in Portland, taking six weeks to build, at 10-12 hours a day with no days off. The estimated value is $25,000 USD, which is presumedly made up in labour costs. Interesting features include the high polish finish which exposes immaculate fillet brazing, KVA stainless steel tubing which is much thicker than any other option, Ritchey breakaway parts, additional support tubing for the seatstay/toptube, custom steel racks with a built-in lock holder, a flask holder on the downtube, a super retro Shimano derailleur and a logo panel made of stainless which has been laser cut and left unpolished on the downtube. This Ahearne Flickr album is a must see to understand the level of detail and work that went into this amazing ride!

Chapman Cycles

Chapman cycles touring bike

This touring bike features stainless steel lugs, fenders and fork crown, which looks beautiful against the stealth finish. The fork has a built in dynamo connector, allowing the dynamo wire to run on the inside of the fork leg for a neat look. This wire powers both the lights and the USB plug found on the top of the stem. The Tubus rear rack has been stripped of it’s original paint, and chrome plated, matching the front rack perfectly. Even the saddle has a custom finish on it, the leather replaced and re-stitched to match the yellow cables. More photos on the Chapman website.

Firefly

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It’s my opinion that Firefly Bicycles of Boston (USA) make some of the nicest titanium and stainless steel bikes in the world. The upper bike is setup with Shimano electronic gearing which is normally only featured on road bikes, but has been fitted to work with MTB parts in this case. The lower two bikes have splits for Gates Carbon Drive which works seamlessly in combination with the Rohloff 14s hub – we certainly love our drivetrain. The Firefly lettering is sometimes buffed up to a glossy finish on the downtube and can be chemically coated with anything from gold to a rainbow effect. Other nice features include built-in rear racks, internal cabling, custom dynamo light mounts and stunning titanium stem and seatpost combos. James Medeiros and Tyler Evans of Firefly have nailed these modern touring bikes. More @ Firefly’s Flickr.

A-Train

Alex Cook of A-Train Bicycles in Minneapolis (USA) has whipped together an incredibly simple and elegant tourer. The material of choice: stainless steel. This frame uses stainless S&S couplers which bring the packed bike size right down to about half the regular length. The A-train custom racks blend right in to this bike.

Bilenky

I was trying to pick one titanium Bilenky tandem, but just couldn’t do it. These two titanium bikes are probably the nicest touring tandems I’ve ever laid my eyes on. The top tandem, which a bit more of a randonneur, has enough purple to be crazy, but somehow still pulls off a very elegant look (in my humble opinion). The below tandem is long-distance touring ready with a Rohloff hub and some schmick looking racks. The frame is without doubt the most impressive part however, as the curvy, retro style is still very functional and even breaks into three parts so that you can easily get it into an plane. These incredible tandems are manufacturered by Stephen Bilenky and family in Philadelphia (USA).

Independent Fabrication

Indy Fab of Newmarket (USA) have been around longer than most, and as a result, have mastered the frame-building trade. The finish on an Indy Fab is generally 10/10 and these look to be no exception. I also have no doubts that both would be sturdy enough to complete round-the-world trips. Here’s hoping they get ridden regularly! Via Indy Fab.

Hufnagel

Jordan Hufnagel has put together this georgeous classic tourer in bespoke bike central, Portland (USA). The paint-matched stem and racks are pure class and I especially love the wooden panels that are inserted into the racks. More images @ UrbanVelo.

Pereira

Tony Pereira, based in Portland (USA), has built this 650b bike up nice and classic. The high top tube, downtube shifters and birch finish give this bike a timeless look. A colour-matched stem, pump and Tubus cargo rack finish the build very well. I can’t help but think the bike would look much better with some brown leather Brooks bartape to match the saddle.

Baum

Darren Baum of Geelong (Australia) is a household name around custom bike enthusiasts. His frames are world class and are always dressed with incredible paint jobs. These two bikes have been put together for two cyclists who completed a charity ride across three continents, documented on the website The Long Road Tour. Check out the Baum Flickr for more.

Pilot

Pilot make their titanium bikes in the Netherlands; the finishing is top quality! On these bikes you’ll find Rohloff 14s hubs, Pinion 18s gearboxes and Gates Carbon Drivetrains. They’re certainly something to drool over.

Clockwork

This custom Clockwork randonneur was too good to keep off the list! Apart from the stunning looks, there are lots of nice design details to be found including a custom mount for downtube shifters located on the top tube. The matching painted rack and leather saddle complete the look.

Kumo

Keith Marshall from Canberra (Australia) is inspired by Japanese metalwork, but really, the Japanese should probably be inspired by him! This stainless steel beauty is again a bit more on the randonneur side of things, but damn, look at it! It features S&S couplers to break the frame down nice and small, internal cable routing for the dynamo lights and beautiful Llewellyn lugs (these lugs are best in the business btw). More @ Kumo Cycles.

Geekhouse

John from the Radavist takes photos of the nicest custom bikes in the world, but also has his fair share of sweet rides! I love the simplicity and colour of his Geekhouse, which is made by Marty Walsh and the team in Boston (USA). John has the colours and tones on this bike right down to the gold bidons – I love the custom racks too! The bike employs a double 50-32 crankset and an 11-36t cassette which gives ample low-end gearing for the type of riding John does. More @ The Radavist.

Vanilla Bikes

Sacha White of Vanilla Bicycles in Portland (USA) had so many pre-ordered frames to build that he no longer takes orders! That’s 5+ years worth, so I hope you’re not lusting for one too badly. This Vanilla is more of a randonneur than a tourer, but given it’s impeccable finish it was too hard to keep it off my list. I particularly love the lugs and the colour matched guards/pump. The stem is a work of art too, check it out on the Vanilla website.

Rivendell

Rivendell are very well known for their touring bikes but this Hunqapillar takes the cake. The diagatube is the most obvious feature on this bike, designed to stiffen the bike up by increasing the triangulation. Wooden guards, a lugged frame construction, retro racks and the Rohloff 14s hub give this bike a distinctive look.

Building a Beautiful Touring Bike

Follow these tips and you can have your very own gorgeous tourer. Remember, it doesn’t have to be custom-made to look incredible!

1. Keep your colours to a minimum. Two colours are enough (not including your black and silver components), three starts to look messy but can be pulled off.

2. Balance your silvers and blacks. Bikes typically look better with a mix of black and silver components. It’s hard to completely avoid black as it’s often found at the lever hood or on the tyres at a minimum. I really like it when silver hubs, silver mudguards and a silver crankset are used with all black components.

3. Match the colour of your seat and bartape/grips. This is the easiest way to make any bike look extra nice.

4. Use metal mudguards. Polished or hammered metal guards are all class. Who cares if they weigh more?

5. Paint your mudguards the same colour as your frame. Colour-matched guards are all class.

6. Paint your stem and racks the same colour as your frame. You’ll notice a number of the bikes featured in this article feature colour matched parts.

7. Use classic-styled cranks on classic-styled builds. There is nothing worse than a modern road crankset on a classic build (see the Horse above). White Industries, Middleburn and Campagnolo make some nice classic cranks.

Touring Bike Build #5: Handlebar bag and a rack bag (just in case)


I was pretty desperate for a rando type leather bag for the new touring build but I wasn’t convinced on the need for a front rack on the bike.

Thus began the search for just a Plane Jane handlebar bag but not one that was saggy like the one i had on my Yuba Mundo (name and shame it was an Altura Orkney) with a wire connection that scraped away at the the bar …. then i found this info on www.pathlesspedalled.com

What led me to the Arkel handlebar bag was primarily its aluminum quick release system. I despise the current “smash a wire” technology employed by every other handlebar bag maker. They are essentially single use and a pain to move from bike to bike. Arkel’s system seems more elegant (and weighs less than a mini front rack) but I could never find a good video of how they actually worked. So I made one.

 won’t go into too much detail (that’s what the vid is for!), but here’s the executive summary.

Pros:

Great mounting system
Roomy for a small bag

Cons:

Straight out of the 70s styling
No rain cover for $120
High position on the handlebar takes getting use to after rack bags

Their words not mine – it is v expensive in the UK – £100 but hey ho feeling flash baby.

and also bought a rack bag – an Ortlieb in yellow. So luggage is all sorted now ……

Touring Bike Build #4: The Frame Arrives and Dynamo Light time


out the box - and slip the handlebars on
out the box – and slip the handlebars on

The frame has arrived and 2 forks although think I might stay colour matched for the moment … Here it is in splendour (though nice Fuji Xpro1 and a 1.4 lens and some LightRoom tweaking)

hand cut lugs
hand cut lugs
named lugs
named lugs

mercian frame details-3mercian frame details-6

Nitto Rando bars
Nitto Rando bars
flayed bars
flayed bars

mercian frame details-4

and then bought a dynamo and light for the tourist setup – will piggyback the tail light off the back. Best thing is it generates full power at lowish speed and once you stop it has a stand light which stays on for 10 minutes – enough time to get a tent up ….

hub and revo light
hub and revo light

BLURB The Revo is an all new concept for Exposure Lights. For the first time Exposure Lights is doing away with batteries and embracing the latest in dynamo developments. New super-efficient dynamo hubs enable the Revo to be used both on and off road.

£199.95
Output: 
800 Lumens
Weight:
110g
Runtime:
Ride duration
Battery:
Dynamo Hub

 

Dream bike: surly Krampus (customised)


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This bike from the cycle monkey blog really talks to me ….

It’s not often that we’re asked to build the ideal bike for someone commuting in Siberia. We dreamed up this build for a customer of ours who is a British expatriate working in the snowy climate of central Russia. He intends to do a mix of snow, dirt, and paved riding in sub-freezing temperatures and wanted a dependable bike that could handle a range of conditions but still feel speedy. He ruled out a full fat bike and opted for the more versatile “29+” platform, a tire/rim designation that Surly invented to provide the float and traction of a fatbike, but the fast rollover of a 29er mountain bike. Once we agreed on the type of bike, we set to work planning out the build specifications.

Surly’s Krampus is the bike that brought the 29+ platform into the world, and is still one of the few bikes designed specifically to use 29×3 inch tires on 50 mm wide rims. The Krampus frame is optimized for speedy trail riding, but since its debut, it has also gained a reputation for being a comfortable off road touring bike. Our customer’s riding style is a perfect mix of these two disciplines: a stable, touring-style setup to deal with snowy or sloppy conditions and also a nimble-handling geometry that will roll fast and get him where he needs to go quickly. We sent this Krampus frame off to a framebuilder to get a belt drive splitter installed and also had the frame powdercoated black to fulfill our customer’s desire for a stealth-looking all-black bike.

Dream Bikes – Tourer Heaven


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The Co-Motion Americano Rohloff combines unmatched frame reliability with the amazing Rohloff Speed hub’s 14 internal gears, eliminating the need for derailleurs. Borrowing from our tandem experience, we include an eccentric bottom bracket to easily take up chain slack. We designed our own house-made dropout for superbly elegant and simple integration of the Rohloff hub system.

Self-locking eccentric bottom bracket for simple, clean chain adjustment
14-speed internally-geared hub means sleek, derailleur-free set up for unparalleled reliability
Dual disc brakes for excellent safety and control
Upgrade to the Classic Trim Package with a Brooks B17 saddle, and leather grips/bar tape plus a nickel-plated Co-Motion head-badge
Now available with Gates Carbon Drive option
Larger head tube with internal Chris King Inset headset

belt and rohloff

Dream Bike by the name of Bruno


The brand Bruno has its roots in Switzerland but is now very much a Japanese operation. Bruno bikes are styled perfectly & combined with great parts and good frames. They also ride like a dream!

The 700c City Tourer is suited for long rides, commutes & as a town bike. It is also perfectly suited for carrying loads. Front & rear racks can easily be mounted.

– Shimano group
Cork Tape
– Tan Tyres
– Easy to mount front & rear rack
– Shimano group
– Classic quill stem & bell

– 700c Wheels
– Cross brakes & road style levers
– 8 Speed
– Reynolds 520 tubing

Bruno Bike Website

Dream Bikes – Felch-tastic fixie – the Fixie Inc Peacemaker


•world’s first Gates Carbondrive fixed/free Flipflop belt drive bike
•newly developed JigSaw Coupler system
•fixed fitting now possible without special tools
•revised geometry
•revised SL stainless steel dropouts

  • £1149
Peacemaker

As a pioneer in this area FIXIE Inc. offer the Peacemaker exclusively with the Gates Carbon drive belt drive. A hugely extended lifespan with zero maintenance, lower weight and a quieter drivetrain – these numerous advantages give a city bike such as the Peacemaker an even higher performance.

'that' belt drive

Many new developments were required to realize this project: a new JigSaw fastening segment was developed in order to allow the belt to be inserted into the frame rear triangle without bending open the chainstay. With its special inner form the JigSaw can still withstand bending and torsion forces. The segment was consciously kept away from the main flow of forces – dropout-chainstay-bottom bracket, so as to not compromise these areas. In addition a new rear cog profile has been designed in conjunction with Gates Germany / Nicolai which allows fixed- and freewheel cogs and maintains an identical belt line in both modes. Using a new mounting standard, fitting a fixed rear cog no longer requires special tools. This increases the user-friendliness dramatically and reduces the risk of incorrect fitting. As the belt drive is wider than a chain the 135mm rear spacing is retained giving maximum rear wheel strength. The existing stainless steel dropouts have been re-engineered and thanks to new cut outs look even sleeker than before.

Now I am trying to think of things I don’t like about this bike – well nothing – there is nothing not to like, I like it as much as Gertrude ….

Portrait with Gertrude ... well maybe not

Others think it is nice to this from Road.cc

So what’s all the fuss about? ell Fixie Inc really believe that belt drive is the way forward for fixed gear riding – in 2008 they showed us their prototype fixed gear belt drive and the Peacemaker – their range topping belt drive bike – is the result.

Amongst the problems they’ve had to overcome to get to here was the matter of how you split the frame to get the belt out should you need to change it? Holger and Recep at Fixie Inc have come up with a neat way of splitting the frame without adding weight or compromising strength, by moving the splitting point further up the seat stay – where other manufacturers such as Trek on their District have chose to split the frame at the dropout. 

However if the belt drive performs as it should you really won’t need to be splitting that frame very often, the only reason apart from the belt wearing out – which it will of course… eventually;  or it breaking, which we haven’t heard of happening (James Bowthorpe rode his Santos using the same Gates Belt Drive around the world with no serious problems) is if you want to change the pulley to either raise or lower the gearing. As is, our Peacemaker is equipped with the equivalent of a 75in gear – good for fast riding in flat cities – possibly more of a challenge in not flat Bath. We’ll see.

As you’d expect from a bike designed by two engineers a lot of thought has gone in to the technical aspects of the Peacemaker’s drivetrain and, particularly that Kickflip hub, which the Fixie boys developed in association with Gates Germany. This they are confident is the world’s first flip flop hub for the Gates belt – and we haven’t heard anyone contradict them so we’re sure they are right. Like their solution to splitting the frame when it comes to switching from fixed to free or vice versa it is an elegantly simple procedure. To run the freewheel you simply undo the six bolts on the fixed cog side, extract the wheel, slip a spacer on the freewheel side, turn the wheel round, put it back on the bike and do the bolts up again. Simple and no need to split the frame either.

But the Peacemaker isn’t just about function – they place a lot of importance on form too at Fixie so there are lots of nice details to catch the eye, that pearlescent white paint job for a start – although it’s a bugger to photograph… especially on a phone (we’ll take some shots using an actual camera too). Aside from the nice paint those handlebars caught our eye; echoes of their car scratcher bars on those ends – and if you want to run the bike without a back brake a similar ‘end’ comes with the bike to fix to the brake bridge. We also liked the grooves machined in to the bars so that the brake lever bands recess into the bar rather than standing proud. Nice.