Bicycle for Touring
Keep it simple, and strong!
The very first thing to do is to make a couple of appointments with a couple of reputable bicycle builders or dealers and let them check your physical dimensions including weight height and so on, as well as letting them know of any medical conditions you are aware of. Also: intended use, the kind of support they will provide, and your mechanical experience
If you're planning a world tour or multi-year adventure, you're going to need something easy to repair, especially if you end up on the other side of the world from where you bought the bike. It will need to be strong and tough and any half decent bike shop will be able to fix it with the tools they have available and parts they can source easily.
- I recommend an Expedition specked bicycle at the very least if you're buying it off-shelf, because it's going to be put through all sorts of conditions and weathers, carry you and all your gear week in week out for years.
- If you are going to use a bike builder, then a steel frame built considering your height, weight, the weight of gear you will be carrying, and the conditions you will be riding in.
- Choose a dealer near you in your own country if you can, and ideally not a dealer that has franchises all over the place. I called into the KOGA dealer in La Rochelle, Ecovelo Bikes and I was treated worse than I had ever been treated by any retailer in my life. You need a dealer or manufacturer that has just the one dedicated shop, a personal sort of service, a place you can return the bike to easily. Just drop it off with the people who built it, then leave them to repair.
- Better still, support to help you get the bike back or at the very least help to get you into a bike shop near you and they cover the repair costs. You want a dealer that will take responsibility for anything that goes wrong with the bike that isn't obviously a fault of your own, and you want a dealer who will not insist you deal with the people who made the problem part. Read articles and get advice from people who have had great customer support, people who have been stranded far from home and been give real assistance, not just in selling you something.
- Standard V-Brakes or Rim Brakes that can be repaired, not hydraulic brakes or disc brakes. Although disc brakes are great at stopping you in all conditions and won't wear your rims out like other brakes, parts may be hard to get hold of. Ease of repair by you if you have to is the key.
- Wheels and tyres that can be easily sourced from pretty much anywhere in the world. A lot of people go for 26", but if you know the countries your going through, it would be worth you finding out if the tyres you might need can be bought there. Schwalbe tyres are the only way to go. I love my Schwalbe Marathon's, 3300 km's and not a single puncture.
- For a world tour, go with derailleur gears, not hubs or any other fancy hard to repair gearing. And give yourself plenty of range in the gearing so you can climb hills with all the gear you will be taking with you, you don't need super high gears, its not a race, but loads of granny gears will be the way to go.
- Standard flat pedals so you can cycle with anything you have on your feet. Be careful in the wet or cold as they can be slippy.
- Battery lights. Dynamo lights are good while they work but just too much money, especially when they break. And forget about the USB adaptors to dynamo. For the money you pay for that little luxury, you could buy a couple of good battery banks and charge them up when you get a chance. USB adaptors just don't give enough power to justify the price, I now use 2 battery banks and its much better.
- Mud guards, your going to need them, unless its all desert and the chance of rain or snow is zero.
- Ortlieb pannier bags. It might rain at some point or even snow, so go with the best waterproof roll-top bags you can afford. It rained for 9 days straight when I first set out, and not a drop of water in my bags with my Ortlieb. I did develop a small hole in the bottom of one through carelessness, but a tyre patch on the inside fixed that.
- 2 Stands. One front and one rear. I can't stress how much I love that idea, it has kept my bike stable with tons of weight in the front panniers. When I put just the rear stand down, the front wheel sways the back under the weight of the loaded front panniers, but not with the 2 stands. I wouldn't be without 2 stands now.
- I like my Brooks B17 saddle. Its not for everyone, so try a few out if you can before you set out. The Brooks has changed shape quite a bit since I set out, and at first it was like sitting on a house brick, but now its shaped into a sort of butt hammock.
I would also go with butterfly style handle bars for comfort, but that's just a little person choice because I get pins and needles easy and need to move my hands about.
I hope this helps. Seriously, if your planning a world tour, or a tour that will take you far away from home for a very long time, keep it simple and strong. For just a few weeks or a few months, you could try something fancy.
If you are planning on just the odd short tour of a few weeks or months, then going all fancy with hub gears and all the bells and whistles might not be so bad, as you will just cut your tour short and return like you were going to do anyway. It might not be so bad, and it might not disrupt your life either. But for a really long tour, keep it simple, but strong.