Let’s list some of the characteristics that define a good touring bicycle:
- It should be comfortable
- It should be reliable and tough
- It should be able to carry heavy loads
- It should have sufficiently wide range gearing
- It should have sufficient clearance for robust tires and fenders
- It should have numerous braze-ons for mounting racks, fenders, water bottles, and lights
- It should have long chainstays to prevent pedal-to-pannier conflicts
- It should be made from a frame material that is simultaneously tough and compliant (not fragile and rigid)
Perhaps I’ve left a thing or two off of the list, but any bike that meets the above criteria would make a nice touring bike. And guess what? That’s exactly the same list I’d compile for a good commuting/utility bike.
It’s wonderful that we’re seeing more-and-more commuter-specific bikes coming to the market. It’s an indication that bicycling for transportation is growing and that the bicycle industry has taken notice. Certainly, the more and better commuter/utility bikes we have available, the more likely it is that newcomers will give bike commuting a serious look.
There is also an entire range of bicycles labeled as “touring bikes” that are extremely well-appointed for commuting and utility bicycling. These bikes are the beneficiaries of a long lineage going back to the 1980’s and beyond. In some cases, they represent the most refined cargo hauling bikes on the market.
Following are just a few touring bikes that double quite well as commuting/utility bikes:
- Surly Long Haul Trucker
- Salsa Casseroll
- Rivendell Atlantis
- Rivendell Sam Hillborne
- Velo Orange Rando
- Soma Saga
- Raleigh Sojurn
- Co-Motion Americano
Of course, if touring bikes make good commuting/utility bikes, it follows that at least some commuting bikes function well as touring bikes. For example, the new Kingfield and Prospect commuting bikes from Civia should work very well for light touring.
The take away is that touring and commuting bikes are essentially cut from the same cloth. There’s a tremendous amount of crossover among these two categories and, in fact, some of the best commuting/utility bikes on the market don’t have the words “commute” or “cargo” in either their name or their description.