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 both strong and compliant (as opposed to 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
- 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, I wouldn’t hesitate for a moment to use my commuter 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.