Best Touring Bikes in 2023

Chalk it up to the call of the open road, but there’s nothing more romantic than the idea of a multiday bike tour—hopping onto a capable bicycle and pedaling for days through the countryside and small towns with everything you need strapped to your frame. Bicycle touring isn’t about moving fast—it’s about self-sufficient exploration, and it demands a bike that you can ride comfortably for hours while carrying a heavy load.

In an industry that thrives on specialization, the touring bike is designed to be a versatile machine that can be your everyday commuter as well as the bike that takes you from Portland to Patagonia. Touring bikes differ from “regular” road bikes in a few ways. Here’s what you need to look for.

See our top picks below, then scroll down for more in-depth reviews of these bikes and other great options, as well as helpful buying tips and advice.

The Best Touring Bikes

What to Consider

Classic, Adventure, and Expedition

Classic touring bikes are typically steel, have upright geometry, long chainstays, and often have fenders and a rear rack for panniers. They can look vintage even if they’re brand-new. The wheels of classic touring bikes are usually 700c and have a high spoke count (32- or 36-hole). Classic touring bikes used to have rim brakes, but mechanical disc brakes are starting to take over the category. Classic touring bikes can have either a flat or drop bar.

Adventure bikes are built to blur the lines between mountain bikes and road bikes. They love pavement, they love gravel, they love dirt, and that’s good because you might come across all of those surfaces during your tour. They typically have a drop bar, mechanical or hydraulic disc brakes, and a “dealer’s choice” of wheel sizes with clearance for a variety of tire sizes. And many adventure touring bikes are equipped to handle a dropper post.

Expedition touring bikes are exactly what they sound like: burly steeds crafted to handle big miles in remote territory. They’re almost always made of steel, with 26-inch wheels and rim brakes. All of this is designed to make them easy to work on and find spare parts for, even if you’re in a tiny town whose name you can’t pronounce.

This content is imported from poll. You may be able to find the same content in another format, or you may be able to find more information, at their web site.

Touring Bike Materials

Steel is the classic frame choice because it is strong and stiff and can be fixed by any mechanic with a blowtorch in a pinch. But you’ll find plenty of aluminum touring bikes on the market and an increasing number of carbon frames, although repairing a carbon frame in rural areas isn’t really an option. You can find titanium touring bikes that are expensive but tough and light, and the vibration damping can be a godsend on rough roads and dirt.

[Related: 7 Amazing Cycling Tours That Should Be on Your Bucket List]

Touring Bike Geometry

A handful of subtle differences within touring bike geometries set them apart from road bikes. Touring geometry is more upright, creating a riding position that’s more comfortable during long hours in the saddle. Different bike companies refer to this as their “endurance” or “adventure” geometry. This “endurance” geometry plays out in a handful of different ways.

The wheelbase and chainstay of a classic touring bike is typically longer to make room for rear racks and panniers, and the bottom bracket is typically lower to increase stability. The head tube is typically longer on a touring bike, essentially elevating the handlebar, and there’s more slack, helping to extend the wheelbase. Touring bikes also generally have a shorter top tube, or more importantly, a shorter “reach,” which is the distance from the center of the bottom bracket to the top of the head tube. This is designed to keep you more upright, making you reach less for the handlebar.

How We Evaluated

Finding the best touring bikes requires riding hundreds of miles while hauling a heavy load. Our list comprises touring bikes we’ve personally tested, with some picks based on market research and prior brand experience. We dug into each touring bike’s specs and reputation and looked into Bicycling archives to find the best of the best. These touring bikes are tough, weight-bearing, and can confidently take you cross-country.

Best Overall

Salsa Cutthroat GRX 810 Bike

Cutthroat GRX 810 Bike

Best Overall

Salsa Cutthroat GRX 810 Bike

  • Tons of cargo and pack-mounting options
  • Great absorption
  • 2.4-inch tires

Key Specs

Frame Carbon
Wheel Size 24 x 2.2 in.
Weight 24 lb., 3 oz.

The Salsa Cutthroat is an ideal match for the performance-focused gravel rider who commonly encounters gnarly terrain on their adventures. It’s nearly a hardtail mountain bike, with a rigid fork and drop bars. Outfitted with a full-carbon frame and fork, a Shimano GRX 1x groupset, and 29×2.2-inch Teravail Sparwood tires, five bottle mounts, and front- and rear-rack mounting points, this bike is ready to embark on your next adventure and deliver a performance-oriented ride for the duration of your journey.

Read Full Review

The Cannondale Topstone 4 is one smooth ride, thanks to a stiff aluminum frame. No, it doesn’t have suspension, but it doesn’t need it: Its bump-absorbing carbon fork is excellent for gravel and trails alike. No hydraulic disc brakes, unfortunately, but for its price, the Topstone 4 is a fantastic adventure bike with mounts to match.

Body-inclusive bike influencer Marley Blonsky, who rides a Cannondale Topstone 4 in size XS, loves this bike. “It’s an amazingly sturdy and versatile bike,” she says, “especially for the money. I’ve done everything from Unbound Gravel to bike camping to commuting on it—it has worked beautifully for everything!”

The Diverge E5 is one of the better do-anything, go-anywhere bikes today. A swap from its stock 38mm-wide tires to 30mm- or 32mm-wide tires can make it feel a sporty road bike, while switching to 700 x 47mm or 650b x 2.1-inch tires gives it some off-roading ability. For adventurers, it’s got frame and fender mounts, plus mechanical Tektro Mira flat-mount disc brakes that are, surprisingly (for its price), reliable and firm.

Our test editor Dan Chabanov loves the Diverge E5 and says it can be set up to do almost anything. “It’s not the perfect tool for any one task; it is capable of doing them all.”

Read Full Review

Best E-Bike

Bianchi Impulso GRX600 e-bike

Impulso GRX600 e-bike

Best E-Bike

Bianchi Impulso GRX600 e-bike

Key Specs

Frame Aluminum
Wheel Size 700c x 35mm

The Bianchi GRX600 is an e-bike outfitted to handle gravel and steep hills as much as pavement. It has rigid suspension, an aluminum frame, and, thankfully, hydraulic disc brakes for great stopping power. Kenda 700c x 35 tires help riders plow through the muck, plus a tire clearance of 38mm lends it some extra rubber when needed. It’s also got plenty of mounts for baggage. The downside? You’ll need an outlet to charge that bike once its battery runs out of juice.

“Touring with electric road bikes is an increasingly popular option for riders, and e-bike touring is very popular in Europe,” says Bicycling deputy editor Tara Seplavy. “E-bikes are a good option for hotel/B&B touring, or if you are camping and know that your destination has the electricity to recharge when you arrive.”

One of senior test editor Matt Phillips’ favorite bikes of 2022 and a gravel award-winner for the year, the Otso Waheela C is a versatile carbon ride with a lot of range. It has adjustable rear dropouts which adjust chainstay lengths to 420, 430, or 440mm, and has room for up to a whopping 54mm in either 700c or 650b. It’s also one of the only production bikes with suspension-correct geometry, terrific for extreme gravel riding. And yes: It still has plenty of mounts for carrying baggage.

“Perfect it is not—the bike is a little on the heavy side, and the ride is a bit firm with narrower tires,” says Phillips, “but the Waheela has a long front center for stability with the fast and lively feel of a high-performance bike.”

Read Full Review

Surly’s Long Haul Trucker has been a favorite of touring cyclists for decades. However, its Disc Trucker, initially introduced in 2012, has been redesigned, giving it the edge over its older cousin. Surly shortened the chainstay length for snappy acceleration and adopted a thru-axle for increased stiffness.

The Disc Trucker also has a decreased stand-over height and increased stack height, which gives the bike a more upright geometry for long days in the saddle. The Truckstop handlebar complements that all-day geometry, and a new fork accommodates pack mounts so you can carry some of your load on the front of your bike. The bike isn’t all new and glitzy; you still get the tried and true 3×9 drivetrain, so you have plenty of gears for the climb.

What if your bike were actually several bikes that transformed based on your shifting moods or terrain? That’s the concept behind Niner’s RLT9, a super customizable long hauler built for gravel, pavement, dirt…whatever floats your boat. The hand-welded Reynolds 853 steel frame anchors the build, but the RTL9 also features a PF30 bottom bracket that makes it easy to go from the stock 11-speed drivetrain to a single-speed setup. The clearance has room for tires up to 700 x 50c but also fits 650b wheels. You can even add a dropper post to get into the steeps.

Niner borrowed some tech from the mountain bike world, most notably the lower bottom bracket height and a slack headtube angle to boost all-day comfort, and the rig comes stock with Shimano GRX800 components, which are built to handle the dirt and grime of gravel. We also like the 26 different mounting points and the custom bags that Niner makes mount directly to the frame without needing straps or Velcro.

Read Full Review

Headshot of Graham Averill

Graham Averill is a freelance journalist who likes to write stories about travel and adventure and has more than 20 years of experience testing outdoor gear such as bikes, shoes, backpacks, tents, and apparel. He’s particularly fond of Hawaiian shirts that wick moisture. A perfect day for Graham would involve equal parts skiing, surfing, mountain biking, and napping. He writes for Outside, Adventure Journal, Men’s Journal, Beta and contributes expert reviews to Popular Mechanics, Bicycling, and Runner’s World.

Headshot of Kevin Cortez

Commerce Editor

Kevin Cortez is a Commerce Editor for Popular Mechanics, Bicycling, and Runner’s World. A culture and product journalist for over ten years, he’s an expert in men’s style, technology, gaming, coffee, e-bikes, hiking, gear, and all things outdoors. He was most recently the style editor for a leading product-recommendation site and previously covered music and podcasting at Mass Appeal, Genius, and The A.V. Club. His work can also be seen in WSJ, Leafly, Input, and Vulture. He enjoys reading graphic novels, birding, and taking long, meandering walks in his spare time.