Despite the relatively low profile of cycle touring, prospective tourers are faced with a healthy dose of options when gearing up.
Depending on your budget, you can go cheap or shoot for the stars. Described here is a mid-priced (well, maybe upper-mid-priced) touring rig, combining products made by U.S. and Canadian companies.
Near the middle of the touring bike price range, the Trek 520 is an excellent choice for any serious tourer. Produced by America’s largest cycle manufacturer, the 520 carries with it a tried-and-true reputation for reliability on the road.
You’ll probably want to replace the stock rack, fenders, tires, and saddle with your own accessories, so make sure to factor these into the cost. Another issue is the 520’s road-bike gearing, which many tourers find too high; you might be able to persuade your local bike shop to swap cranksets for free before the purchase.
Bicycle Touring 101 has a good article on one tourer’s comprehensive upgrade of a stock 520.
Remember, there’s no need to purchase the latest model. Step back in time a few years and you’ll get essentially the same machine for hundreds of dollars less.
A good rack can go a long way towards ensuring a hassle-free a tour. You want something that’s able to bear the weight of your gear without flinching.
Regardless of the type of touring you’re doing, you need a rear rack. California-based Old Man Mountain’s Red Rock gets the job done with a load capacity of 60 lbs.
For those heading out on a long-term, self-supported tour, pair this with the AC Lowrider front rack.
The big debate when it comes to panniers—touring saddlebags—pits packing convenience against water resistance. For instance, top-loading panniers made by the ultra-popular Ortlieb are completely waterproof, but it can be difficult to get things in and out of their single compartments.
The bags featured here, made by Canadian manufacturer Arkel, strike a balance between the two extremes. The T-42 front-loading rear panniers feature multiple zippered pockets and are made from a water-resistant fabric. In heavy rain, though, you’ll need to stop and throw on the rain covers (purchased separately).
A good complement if you need front panniers are the T-28s.
To expand your packing space even more, consider the Tailrider, which straps down snugly along the top of the rear rack. It’s not huge, but you’ll appreciate the added room, and its rain cover is built in.
And no touring rig would be complete without a handlebar bag. For price and quality, you can’t beat the H-100 Alta from Lone Peak, a small company out of Utah whose top-notch customer service is reason enough for a purchase.
TheTouringStore.com is an excellent retailer for all Lone Peak products.
Be sure to check out Hal’s supporting articles – How to Choose A Touring Bicycle and 8 Steps for Successful Self-Supported Bicycle Tours.