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Touring Bikes

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Thinking about long-distance riding or commuting more than 10 miles to work? Designed for comfort and reliability rather than speed, touring bikes are great for long distance riding.

The drop (ram’s horn) handlebars are designed to provide multiple hand positions, allowing you to change your position from sitting upright to slightly leaned-over to leaned-over (sitting in an upright position with even a slight headwind can be grueling, so you will want the option of the leaned-over position). Some of the more expensive bike manufacturers have a quick-change system that allows you to change from one style of handlebar to another in just minutes.

Most touring bikes have twenty-one speeds to allow you to bike up the steepest inclines and cantilever brakes that will allow you to stop when pedaling with a heavy load. The bike’s weight will come into the equation if you plan to be riding through mountainous terrain. A sleek and aerodynamic frame with lateral rigidity will increase your speed.

Tires on a tour bike are narrower than a mountain bike, but wider than a racing bike, and allow you to ride on paved or hard-packed dirt roads without much trouble, but they can't handle loose dirt or sand. As you map your trip, remember to plan your long-distance rides on paved roads.

Reliability and durability in a touring bike is a must, as are sealed bearings, fender mounts, and built-in rack mounts. Remember, you will be carrying a considerable amount of baggage with you on your bike (tent, camping equipment, clothing, food). If you choose a trailer rather than panniers for touring, you can overlook the lack of rack mounts.

For shifters, you want down tube or bar end shifters that can switch from index to friction shifting.

Some touring bikes come with aluminum frames, others with a steel alloy. The benefits of aluminum are the corrosion resistance and weight. If scratched, an aluminum frame won’t rust. The drawbacks of an aluminum frame are that they may be more prone to cracks and are stiff, which means that they won’t absorb shocks or flex as well as steel.

Most touring bikes come with low-quality pedals. Manufacturers assume that you will want to replace them with a high-quality, personally preferred pedal. And speaking of pedals, when you test-drive a touring bike, make sure that when you turn a hard corner at low speed, your foot doesn’t come

into contact with the front wheel. This is fairly common in some touring bikes and should be avoided as it is a startling and potentially dangerous design flaw. Other features that manufacturer’s seem to downgrade in quality in order to reach a lower price are front and rear derailleurs, the seat, and seat posts.

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