What’s the Best Type of Bike For Touring and Adventure Cycling? 7 Best Bikes for Cycle Travel

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Last Updated on 24 April 2024 by Cycloscope

best bike for touring adventure

All the different types of adventure bicycles for travelling explained.
+ 6 cherry picked best bikes for touring, off road bikepacking ​and adventure cycle travel

Touring VS Gravel VS Plus VS MTB VS Recumbent VS Folding

What’s the best bike for touring?

Once upon a time what we had available for adventure cycling was road bikes and randonneur bikes, even military bikes where used by the pioneers of touring.

Then touring bikes came, and we thought it was over – that the question was answered.

What can beat a bike designed for touring? Touring bikes must be the best bikes for touring. But then touring changed, with the introduction (or maybe the re-invention) of the bikepacking setup and the desire to go more off-road.

And so also the bike geometries multiply, with gravel bikes, plus bikes, fat bikes, light tourers, hardtail MTB and hybrids coming out on the adventure cycling market.

Even recumbents and folding bikes can be great for traveling, we’ll go also through their pros and cons in this passionately curated article.

So again, what’s the best bike for touring in 2022? It all depends on how you want to tour, where you want to tour, when and how long you want to tour.

Let’s go through all the categories of travel bikes, our favourites for each category and some resources to explore more and really find the best bike for your tour.

6 types of adventure bikes for touring in a nutshell

  • 1. Touring bikes
    Our favourite touring bike: Stanforth Kibo
  • 2. Plus Bikes
    Our favourite Plus Bike: Bombtrack Beyond – 29er Touring Expedition Bicycle
  • 3. Gravel Bikes
    Our favourite Gravel Bike: Cannondale Topstone Alloy
  • 4. Fat Bikes
    Our favourite fat bike for touring Surly Pugsley
  • 5. Mountain Bikes
    Our favourite hardtail MTB for touring Salsa Timberjack
  • 6. Recumbent Bikes
    Our favourite recumbent bike for touring HP Velotechnik Street Machine GTe
  • 7. Folding Bikes
    Our favourite folding bike for touring Tern Verge X11

1. Touring bikes

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How we compile our gear guides: during the almost 10 years of cycloscope.net our team personally tested dozens of similar pieces of gear. For what we can't test personally, we involve other people in the cycling community to give their feedback and opinion about gear they have used. Our decade-long experience in bicycle touring enables us to find the key cons and pros of every product we mention.

cycling lesotho
Village road in Lesotho

Let’s start from the obvious. Touring bikes are meant for traveling long distance, they are sturdy and durable, comfortable and easy to handle when heavily loaded.

Although different brands and models of touring bikes can feature different designs and materials (steel, aluminum or even titanium), they have somehow similar characteristics, they are somehow a compromise.

Touring bikes handle pretty well a variety of terrains, without really excelling in any. They are heavy and sometimes a bit clumsy when ridden unloaded.

Characteristics of touring bikes

  • Long wheel base
  • long chainstay
  • upright position
  • perform best when heavy loaded

Touring bikes are the best bikes for long distance cycle touring expeditions

Learn everything about touring bikes
> 17 best touring bikes under 2,000$
> 11 best touring bikes under 1,000$

Our favourite touring bike:
Stanforth Kibo – (+/- $2,000)

stanforth kibo recensione

The Kibo is Stanforth’s touring tank, a 26″ wheeled expedition bikes designed to carry heavy loads, for long distances, on every kind of terrain loaded touring.

Like all Stanforth bikes, the Kibo can be customized to suit your needs, from gearing to handlebars, stem, brakes, and even geometry. Kibo frames are hand-made in England from air hardened Reynolds 631 steel. The frames are assembled with the highest degree of skills and care to maximize the strength.

The components are top-notch, carefully selected with expedition bike touring in mind. They include quality parts from Nitto, Velo Orange, Shimano, Paul Components, and Brooks.

Check our full review of the Stanforth Kibo for detailed info. 

A great expedition tourer completely customizable

max tire clearance26 x 2.4″
gearing Shimano Deore XT triple 44/32/22 + 9 speed 11-34
weight13.2 kg (size M)

2. Plus Bikes

Cinelli Hobootleg Geo 2019

Plus bikes are kind of a novelty. Their main characteristics are a sloped geometry and more importantly a huge tire clearance, not quite like a fat bike but up to 3″ or more.

Plus bikes also often feature simplified gearing and transmission, often 1×11 or 2×10. They are somehow rigid-fork steel mountain bikes with drop bars (although a few flat bar options are around).

Plus bikes are meant to be adventure bikes and are really catered towards the bikepacking fanbase.

They perform at their best with bikepacking bags but can also be loaded with lateral panniers and trunk bagstouring vs bikepacking style, you can do both on a plus bike.

Characteristics of Plus Bikes

.wide tire clearance
.mountain bike geometry
.reduced gearing

Plus bikes are real adventure bikes, the ideal choice when touring for an extended period of time on difficult mountain roads

Check also
> Ribble Adventure 725 Review

> Cinelli Hobootleg Geo

Our favourite Plus Bike:
Bombtrack Beyond – 29er Touring Expedition Bicycle (+/- $1,800)

bombrack beyond touring bike 2021

This expedition machine has been one of our favorite since it was introduced in 2016.

The Bombtrack Beyond features a single-speed chainring (30T) and a 12 speed 10-52T as the drive train of choice, a great set of gears capable of bringing you up the steepest and roughest hills.

The carbon fork reduces the weight but still offers triple fork cage mounts.

Although Bombtrack still offers different handlebar options, the Jones Loop Bar will be the standard now. They might seem a little weird, but they offer more hand positions, helping the shoulders and upper body stay relaxed for hours in the saddle.

Designed as a bikepackers dream, the Beyond features mounting options for front and rear racks as well as up to five water bottle cages.

The Bombtrack Beyond is just what I would use for extreme off-road bikepacking expeditions

max tire clearance29” x 2.1”
forkBOMBTRACK BPC full carbon, TA, 1.1/2” – 1.1/8”, triple cage mounts, internal hub dynamo cable routing
gearing1 x 30 T / 12-speed, 10 – 52 T
weight12.9 kg (size M)

> Compare all the versions of Bombtrack Beyond

3. Gravel Bikes

Gravel bikes are becoming the staple of ultralight bikepacking. They are an agile alternative to tourers and plus that can handle center weighted loads and a certain variety of non-extreme surfaces.

So, are gravel bikes good for touring?

We wrote a whole post about the topic, it’s called Gravel Bike Touring – The Why and the 6 best gravels for touring, check it out to know everything about gravel+travel.

Characteristics of Gravel Bikes

  • Road inspired
  • Disk brakes
  • eyelets and mounting points
  • Longer chainstay
  • Compact gearing

Gravel bikes are great for relatively short and fast-paced bikepacking trips

Check also
> 11 best gravel bikes under 1,000/1,500$

Our favourite Gravel Bike:
Cannondale Topstone Alloy – (+/- $1500)

Cannondale Topstone Alloy Tiagra Gravel Bike  2020
Cannondale Topstone Alloy Tiagra Gravel Bike 2020

The Cannondale Topstone is a highly versatile bicycle that sits firmly in the gravel category.

Since it’s designed to be the ultimate combination of road racing and cyclocross bicycles, it can be considered a mixed-surface tourer as well as a 4 seasons commute bike.

At any time, with only a few adjustments, you can set up your rig for a camping bike trip, or join the group of your roadie friends.

The big tire clearance allows plenty of room for tires up to 42mm wide for comfort grip and adventurous capability.

Although the front fork does not support any eyelets for cages on either side, it is a beautiful piece of carbon fiber, with a longer-than-usual rake (55mm) for stability and hidden full-fender mounts. It is a light and performing fork, rare on a bike at this price range.

With mounts for three water bottles plus mounts for top tube storage Topstone is ready to go long. Multiple bottle cage positions on the downtube mount let you configure for big frame bags.

Read our Cannondale Topstone Sora Full Review

max tire clearance700c x 45mm/1.77″
gearing46/30 x 11-34, 9-speed
weight10.3 kg (size M)

4. Fat Bikes

Fat bikes are exactly what they sound like, bikes with very fat tires – typically 3.8″ (97 mm) or even wider.

Fat bikes are meant to ride in all terrain conditions, including snow, ice, and thick sand. They are also quite heavy though, and replacement parts can be hard to source.

Characteristics of Fat Bikes

  • Fat tires/All terrain
  • Natural suspension
  • MTB geometry

Fat bikes are meant for unique expeditions – if planning to ride across deserts, snowed mountains, or artic latitudes in winter a fat bike is what you want, otherwise… look elsewhere

Our favourite fat bike for touring
Surly Pugsley – (+/- $1,900)

best fat bike for bikepacking

A bicycle specifically designed to handle sand and snow. Surly claims this bike the “ultimate expedition bike tailored for off-road touring and exploration”.

The mammoth tire clearance of 26″ x 4.8″ tires in the back (with drivetrain restrictions) and 26″ x 4.3″ tires in the fork allows you to play with pressure and ride in comfort on almost any surface imaginable.

The rims are (80mm) dual hole pattern, Tubeless Ready rims custom made by Surly. Paired with Surly Edna, 26×4.3, 60 TPI, Tubeless Ready Tires they are a semi-invincible couple

The longer chain stay guarantees heel clearance for panniers, although a proper rack should be used, such as the Surly Nice rack.

All the eyelets you might need are brazed-on the inside and outside of the frame. The forks is bikepacking cargo cages ready.

The Surly Moloko Bar offer a different variety of hand positions and space for electronics, which is what you want for extended bikepacking expeditions.

The gear is a 1X11 setup, with an 11/46 rear cog and a 30T chainring.

The Surly Pugsley is relatively affordable at 1,900 USD

max tire clearance 26″ x 4.8″ back / 26″ x 4.3″ front
gearing 1X11 11/46
weight15 kg (size M)

5. Mountain Bikes

Mountain bikes have a long history in bicycle touring. 80s and 90s rigid have been used for decades by budget bike travelers, and refurbishing an old mountain bike is still the way to go if you can’t afford a fancy bike.

That said, modern MTBs of course also have their use in bike touring, , of course suspensions make sense only if you stay off the tarmac a lot.

Hardtail MTB nowadays would prefer to be loaded in a bikepacking style vs a lateral panniers setup, but a proper MTB designed for multi’day adventures shouldn’t have no problems handling two small rear panniers.

Full Suspension MTBs are quite hard to load, but can still be used for extreme weekend bikepacking adventures. Frame bags for full suspension MTB are also manufactured.

Check our dedicated article about
> Mountain Bike Touring

Aluminum and steel Hardtail MTB can be used in many styles of touring, they perform great even on months-long expeditions, and if you really wanna get lost in the trails, what’s better than a mountain bike?

Full Suspension MTB are great for short bike camping trips in the wilderness and crazy overnighters

Our favourite hardtail MTB for touring
Salsa Timberjack – (+/- $1,700)

best mtb bike for touring

The Timberjack by Salsa is one of the most touring/bikepacking friendly harteil MTB on the market.

Well-versed in singletrack and trail exploration, this rig also blinks an eye to the bikepackers out there with its many braze-ons mounting points and sturdy construction with 32 holes rims.

The geometry is comfy for a trail monster as this: a long top tube and wheelbase, low bottom bracket, slack head tube angle, and steep seat tube angle.

A complete builds can be purchased for as low as $1,699.

max tire clearance700c x 45mm/1.77″
gearing46/30 x 11-34, 9-speed
weight10.3 kg (size M)

6. Recumbent Bikes

best recumbent for touring
pic @HP Velotechnik

Ah recumbent bikes… aren’t they so fantastic?

Recumbent bikes can be the fastest of all pedal powered vehicles, that’s why they’ve been banned by UCI.

Besides being fast AF, riding a recumbent bike gives you a great view of your surroundings, keeps your back relaxed and makes sore butts a silly memory.

Thanks to the semi-supine position, recumbent bikes and trikes can be ridden by people with lower back pain problems (always ask your therapist if you have an herniated disk or other serious injuries).

Going uphill though, recumbents don’t perform as brilliantly: with the rider/rig system’s center of gravity placed lower and backwards, pedaling a recumbent up a steep slope requires quite some more energy than on a regular bike.

An important thing to know is that riding a recumbent is a totally different skill than cycling on a normal bike.

Not just the balance – that can be achieved through trial and error pretty quickly, but should be mastered before going on a tour – but also the muscles groups involved in recumbent riding are different… and need proper training.

Recumbent are also harder to control off-road on uneven terrains, although their fan will always be ready to prove me wrong.

Touring trikes are a category apart, they are great for expeditions in extreme terrains when even fat bikes would struggle. I would absolutely avoid touring on a trike on regular road, because of the too low rider’s position and the wide space occupied on the road lane.

Our favourite touring trike is the Catrike Expedition

Characteristics of recumbent bikes

  • relaxed position: friendly for injuried and elderly people
  • great performance on flat or moderately hilly tarmac roads
  • poor performance in climbing and off-road
  • heavy and difficult to transport

Recumbents are fabulous travel bicycles for elderly and injuried people, but also for speed lovers

Our favourite recumbent bike for touring
HP Velotechnik Street Machine GTe – (+/- $2,500)

This beautiful pedal powered vehicle is a great blend of comfort and performance.

The full suspension gives a great control and road grip while also helping feel the luggage lighter. The Street Machine GTe doesn’t fear an adventure on gravel roads.

The combination of a very stiff rear frame triangle with the sophisticated positioning of the swing arm pivot point and the hydraulically damped rear shock prevents unpleasant pedal rebound and lets you accelerate powerfully, even on the mountain slopes.

The HP Velotechnik Street Machine GTe is also urprisingly lightweight at only 14.6 kg and can sustain a payload of 130 kg, just like aregular touring bike.

Of course the size makes it a bit difficult to handle in transports, with a wheelbase of 104 cm and an overall length of 170–195 cm (67–77″).

max tire clearance20″ front x 26″ back / max 2″
seat angle39–47°

7. Folding Bikes

Folding bikes make it easy to transport your rig when traveling – plane, taxi, train, buses… folding bikes can pack small and often be checked as regular luggage..

They also allow you to avoid boring or dangerous sections, since you can easily haul them onto a train or hitch a ride, saving your time to explore more interesting areas.

Folding bikes are also much more welcome in hotel rooms, where full size bikes are often banned or frowned upon, and even inside your camping tent if there’s a safety concern.

The main cons of folding bikes are their small wheels, innate fragility, and scarce parts availability.

Learn more about
> Folding bike touring & the 6 best foldable bikes for bikepacking

Folding bikes are the best travel bikes for those who want to cover large distances in a limited amount of time

Our favourite folding bike for touring
Tern Verge X11 – (+/- $2,500)

folding bike for touring

The Verge X11 is a very tantalizing folding bike. Super speedy, with a wide range of gears and a solid construction.

It comes with a large ratio cassette and SRAM Force 1x drivetrain. That means easy maintenance and gearing that will feel similar to a road bike.

With its 22″ wheels, it sets between a small-wheeled Bromtpon M6L and large-wheeled Airnimal Joey.

You also get Kinetix Pro X wheels, Schwalbe Durano tires, and a durable adjustable stem.

The Verge X11 is a bit pricey at about 2,499USD.

max tire clearance700c x 45mm/1.77″
gearing1×11 / SRAM X1 carbon 52T x 10-42T

Read Also
Cheap Bikes! The Best Budget Bicycles in All Categories

FAQs about Adventure Travel Bicycles for Touring

What is the best type of bike for touring?

It depends what sort of bike touring:

.Touring bikes are the best bikes for long distance cycle touring expeditions.
.Plus bikes are real adventure bikes, the ideal choice when touring for an extended period of time on difficult mountain roads.
.Gravel bikes are great for short and fast-paced bikepacking trips
.Fat bikes are meant for unique adventure cycling expeditions across deserts or snowed mountains
.Hardtail MTB can be used in many styles of touring, they perform great even on months-long expeditions
.Full Suspension MTB are great for short bike camping trips in the wilderness and crazy overnighters
.Recumbents are fabulous travel bicycles for elderly and injuried people, but also for speed lovers
.Folding bikes are the best travel bikes for those who want to cover large distances in a limited amount of time

What is an adventure bicycle?

An adventure bicycle is a bike designed to handle multiple day bike camping trips on off-road paths and trails.

What type of bike is best for long distance?

When we are talking about cross continent bike trips and long distance cycling adventures, the best choices are certainly Touring Bikes and some Plus Bikes.

Which bike is best for adventure?

If we talk about Adventures with a capital A, Fat bikes are the best to literally explore off the beaten path.

Can any bike be a touring bike?

Yes. Any bike can be used as a touring bike, of course with limitations. Be sure the frame and wheels are strong and the components are always in good conditions.

What is the difference between a gravel bike and an adventure bike?

Gravel bikes are good for day adventures, bike camping overnighters, and bikepacking. For longer adventures you should look at touring bikes, fat bikes, plus bikes, and some hardtail MTB.

Are road bikes good for touring?

Not really. Road bikes are only good for ultralight credit card touring or supported cycling holidays. If you want to travel get at least a gravel.

Are touring bikes slow?

Yes, they are less performative than other types of adventure bikes. Touring bikes are not meant for speed, but to be reliable on extended bike trips.

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