Touring bikes can be as varied as the terrain they cover. Here we look at light and fast bikes for racking up decent distances in speed and comfort. So why go light? Well, with prudent packing you can cover bigger distances with less effort, enjoy getting up the hills as much as going down them, and indulge in the thrills of road riding and touring at the same time.
Although there's nothing to stop you running your road steed with a saddlebag or seatpost-mounted rack (don't forget to replace your carbon post for an aluminium one if you go for the latter), our bikes this month offer several advantages. These include rack mounts for more on-bike luggage, clearances for wider and more comfortable tyres, eyelets for fitting mudguards, slightly longer wheelbases for stable handling and a more upright, long-distance riding position. Our criteria for lightweight touring is riding with a load of 5-10kg, spread over two rear panniers. Koga Miyata's Terra Cruiser, offers a hugely versatile frame and a list of ready to ride extras that's as long as your arm - all for £950.
Unlike many modern steel tourers, which favour oversized tubing for lateral stiffness, the Terra Cruiser's pipework is noticeably slender. Both the welding and the matt black finish are top class. Sliding dropouts open it up to single-speed and hub-geared use - they're even shaped to take a Rohloff 14 internal gear Speedhub, with all the necessary cable routing too. Rack and mudguard eyelets, disc mounts front and rear and simply huge clearances add to the list.
The frame is also designed to handle 26in wheels - so we fitted a pair, complete with 2in mountain bike tyres. However, this drops the bottom bracket a little and means losing the Magura hydraulic rim brakes, so we expect most people will keep to 700c - in which case it can take a chunky 40c touring tyre, even with mudguards. Up front, there's an aluminium fork - a matching steel one would have been better, more comfortable and reliable - with low rider mounts, mudguard mounts and a non-integrated headset.
The Koga Miyata's riding position is long. Our 54cm test model features an effective top-tube of 60cm - must be for all those tall Dutch folk. A longer steerer and a shorter stem, or the wrist-friendly sweep of riser bars would have put me in a better position. Handling is on the slow, stable side; the Terra Cruiser feels much more like a dedicated tourer and with its 31lb+ weight it takes more effort to kick up to speed, which is underlined by its wide and
low mountain bike gearing. Jettisoning some of the extras would help, as would a lighter set of wheels. Flat handlebars give good control and offer a solid, reassuring braking position, and the power of the Magura hydraulics is awesome. It's not as stiff laterally as some tourers of a similar weight, which is perhaps due to the narrow frame tubing, but it does offer a very compliant, comfortable ride and can handle plenty more than our test 10kg.
Koga Miyata have opted for SRAM's Gripshift with X7 front and rear mechs, offering solid, if a little clunky, shifting. Standard mountain bike gearing is mated to a wide 11-32t cassette for tackling steep terrain. Ritchey provide an oversized flat bar and a good looking seatpost, with a comfortable Fizik saddle.
Given the price, Magura's hydraulic rim brakes, popular with tourers in Germany and the Netherlands, are a real bonus. Koga have a reputation
for festooning their bikes with all the extras you can think of - and the Terra Cruiser is no exception. There are LED lights front and rear - we particularly like the mount of the front light, because it avoids any issues with a bar bag; there's a mini-pump, water bottle, an excellent Tubus rack, well-fitted mudguards, a saddlebag and even a kickstand. And a set of practical Shimano M324 dual-platform and SPD pedals are thrown in too - all for an impressive £950.
Branded as Koga Miyata's own, the 36-spoke, eyeleted rims feature a wear-line indicator and have proved perfectly sturdy throughout testing - as you'd expect, given the weight of the wheels. Under the rubber casing the Shimano hubs are ready to take splined disc rotors, so there's no need for a new wheelset. Conti's 37c Sport Contact tyres can be pumped up to a high pressure and roll pretty fast. They also feature a reflective sidewall.
Ridgeback Horizon £500
Specialized Tricross Spt Triple £700
Planet-X Kaffenback £750
Setavento SLR Touring £775
Ridgeback Horizon £500 Designed for fast and light tours it has a solid, double-butted alloy frame, carbon fork and reliable Sora drivetrain. There are rack eyelets and mudguard clearance too. Ridgeback www.ridgeback.co.uk
Specialized Tricross Sport Triple £700 A lightweight alu frame teamed up with carbon forks, carbon seatpost and a few Zertz vibration-damping inserts for a comfortable ride. Front and rear eyelets, big tyre clearances and LX mechs give a good gear range. Great value. Specialized 020 8391 3500 www.specialized.com
Planet-X Kaffenback £750 Flat bar, chromoly all-rounder with generous clearances, Shimano 105 10-speed and Shimano R500 hoops. Loads of build options, including custom wheels. Planet-X Bikes 01302 638056 www.planet-x-bikes.com
Setavento SLR Touring £775 A great value, fully custom touring frame, 38mm tyre clearances, canti brakes, rack/mudguard eyelets and a titanium frame coupling option for £250. Setavento www.setavento.com
All the mod cons at a great price, but a little heavy for fast touring