The Chainlink

I'm in search of some advice on an entry level touring bike. I currently only have a single speed Pake Rum Runner but I want to start going on longer rides, possibly camping as well. My problem is I don't have the budget to drop $1,500 on a bike right now. I've been diligently searching craigslist to find something ideally around $600 or less. More or less in that range but does anyone have any recommendations on some good entry level touring bikes to be on the look out for. 

Additionally would using a steel road bike work as a makeshift touring bike? I know touring bikes are designed to hold more weight than a road bike and also to give more room for panniers and such. Just curious what other people may think about that option as well. 

Appreciate any insight!!

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I'll give you the advice given to me when I asked similar at 8 to 10 local bike shops- with that budget, hit up Working Bikes and find something used and rebuilt. I got a great CX bike for $250 last summer. It's 15 years old or so but it's in great shape and it's not like cycling technology has seen any enormous advances you'd be missing out on.

A further tip, their first day open of the week is Thursday, so go right then at opening time for the best selection.

That is a great point. I will definitely make a trip down there this upcoming Thursday. Thanks for the heads up!

You should be able to find a great touring bike with that budget. Many vintage steel road bikes work fine as touring bikes - but over the years I have bought and sold a few dozen 70's, 80's and 90's tourers, almost all of them for between $100-$400. Unless you're planning on hauling a ton of gear, anything that provides braze-ons for front and rear racks and fenders should do you fine as long as it fits well.

Working Bikes is a good tip, you could also check out Ciclo Urbano, the Recylery, Blackstone Bikes, Bikes N Roses, or other non-profits in town that sell rebuilt, used bikes. 

Finally, a quick search on Chicago Craigslist shows a few good bikes, depending on size - a few Trek 520's of different eras (one of the classic and easiest to find touring bikes), a Miyata or two, and a few others. What size bike are you riding? I might have one that needs a good home...

I'll make sure to visit those bike shops you mentioned. 

I currently ride a 56cm and I'm 5'10. 55cm, 56cm maybe even a 58cm would fit (but not entirely sure on that). I did find a beautiful 1984 Trek 520 earlier today as I was searching but it's a 21inch so I feel it may be too small for me. 

I've been keeping a lookout on Trek 520's because someone else had recommended I be on the lookout for those but are there any other older bikes that make a good touring bike you recommend I keep a lookout for? I don't know much about the older bikes. 

This one's a pretty good all-around bike - doesn't have front low-rider braze-ons but it does look like it has the right ones for a rear rack - I love these Bianchi frames:

Trek 520, Schwinn Voyageur or Passage, Miyata 610 or 615, Centurion Pro Tour, Jamis Aurora, Bridgestone T500 or T700 are some of the most common 80s/90s/00s production touring bikes. There's a new Jamis Aurora that might fit you on ebay here:

If you can't tell, I really like looking for touring bikes online - I'm trying to clear out space right now so thanks for an excuse to go poking around!

That Bianchi looks nice but looks like it would need some work done to that drivetrain. Does that price tag seem a little high to you? I searched similar volpes and saw complete ready to ride ones for around 450-500

That Jamis looks really nice too. I may keep trying to find something locally before opting to get something shipped out. 

I appreciate the help/advice Alex!

You're right: the pie plate has got to go!

Great response!

hiya samuel!

I have totally been where you're at and am also going to just give you the age-old-adage: you can tour on anything, and you really can. So! Just remember that. And given the trends in "bikepacking", etc etc, there are a lot of creative setups you can do on any bike.

That being said, I totally get you on the gears thing :D. My first tour was in the Driftless and it would have been dang miserable without gears in August. Unfortunately, my hard earned Long Haul Trucker was absconded with just prior to this trip and I ended up (via alumni/good egg discount) getting a previous-previous season Jamis Aurora for my tour. 

I've really really liked this bike! As opposed to my LHT, the bottom bracket wasn't SO low to the ground, and the LHT was a teeny frame with 26ers, where the Aurora runs 700s. Also it comes completely kitted out, so you don't have to worry about picking and choosing touring gear right away. I found the rear rack totally fine to my purposes and went five days, tent, sleepingbag, all of it, no front rack, and did fine. There are mounts for the front though, should you choose. Beware: highly loaded, the rack can get a little wobbly (thanks mountains!), but I've run a Blackburn on it for a while and its fine. (I think I saw you are a smidge taller than me but.... should you be in the market for a 50cm, I'd definitely be willing to get it to you when I'm cruising through town soon! haha). I'm used to/like/whatever with bar end shifters, but they can be annoying to some people--I also like having my granny gear because I'm not frakking George Hincapie, yaknow? and there are rollier places than Cook County. It's been a nice ride and even took me out on some gravel -- I think I'm clearing 38s in the front, sans fender? I'd keep an eye out, maybe see if some Jamis carriers have older models, because they're great. If I wasn't playing horse trader right now, I wouldn't be so quick to let mine go, but she's too young to be a farm bike yet. 

I'm gonna keep browsing craigslist listings in the area but I'll also start reaching out to local shops and seeing if they do have older models in stock. I'm sure a couple might, I have a few in mind that might. Thanks for the advice!

@Caiken beat me to it so I won't belabor the point other than to say that you can do a weekend camping trip on practically anything that you can afford. For abundant choices within your budget, I think early '90s 700c flat-bar hybrids work well - bikes like 700-series Treks. If you don't like flat bars, drops are an easy swap with barcons.

I've been browsing the past couple of days hoping to score something soon. 



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