25 August, 2021

The Many Manners of Touring

 by Connor

    It seems like every year in this industry, someone comes out with another sub-category of cycling to differentiate their product or their experience from the others. Be it the advent of the "down-country" mountain bike (Short travel, slack geo), to the "all-road" bike (just a gravel bike?), everyone wants to name their slice of the pie. 

    Velo Orange has been making touring bikes since its inception. Granted we've offered different specs and styles over the years, but the moniker never really changed all that much - life's simpler that way. Our Pass Hunter may be our one exception to this, being what would widely be defined as an "all-road" bike, but it can still take front racks, fenders, bags, and 650Bx42mm tires. 

Kevin's Pass Hunter, sans Rando Rack

    However, in today's cycling world, even touring (perhaps the most general and least-finicky flavor of cycling) isn't safe from subdivision. There's Credit Card Touring, Sport Touring, Traditional Touring, Bike Packing, Nomadic Touring, and Randonneuring, just to name a few. So what gives? You're putting your stuff on your bike and staying someplace - is it not all the same? No. At least that's what Scott tells me, so let's dive in.

    While mountain bike categorization is generally based off of amount of suspension travel, geometry, and frame kinematics, the differences in touring bikes seem to be based more on how much stuff you carry, and less on where you're going. From what I can glean, here they are listed from lightest to heaviest load:

Credit Card Touring

Light, fast road touring bike. You maybe have a small handlebar bag with a change of clothes, you're staying at hotels/BnBs, and you're paying for everything (food, shelter, utilities) on a credit card, hence the name. In theory, you could step outside your door with your bike and credit card and go for a tour.

Sport Touring

Slightly more gear, perhaps this is a longer trip, a few more changes of clothes, and you'll be staying at multiple places. Still a lighter duty bike, designed less for load carrying, and more geared towards speed.


Photo courtesy of Morgan of Found in the Mountains

This is probably the "fastest" form of touring because you're dealing with a time limit. Similar to Sport Touring, but with more paperwork. See Scott's blog post here.

Traditional Touring

More tire clearance, maybe you're hitting slightly rougher roads, carrying your full load including your food and shelter. Think racks and two to four panniers.


Photo courtesy of Brad from RoadRunner Bags

You're fully loaded, going on and off road, running wider, knobby tires. You likely aren't running racks, hanging bags fore and aft, and you're camping in remote areas not necessarily set aside for camping. About as remote as it gets.


Perhaps a bit of a backlash from bikepacking luggage and its often times over-complex system of straps, pads, enormous saddle bags, more straps, lashes, plastic holders, and straps, basketpacking is a happy medium between the practicality of traditional touring bags and the out-of-the-way-of-obstacles afforded by bikepacking bags. Through, you do need a front rack and basket, so there are some hard mounting points to keep in mind for those seeking rougher terrain.

Nomadic Touring

You have sold all of your possessions and now indefinitely are touring, riding where you please, making home where you roam.

    So maybe it does have a little bit to do with where you're going. I feel like most "Bikepacking" bikes I see have more in common with modern long wheelbase hardtails than they do traditional touring bikes, and they're often pictured in remote, wild areas with no trace of civilization in sight. Despite this, they're still far removed in essence from mountain bikes. 

Scott and Melissa's setup during their Iceland tour

    I would challenge anyone to convince me that what we call the "modern touring bike" isn't just a gravel bike with bits and bobs bolted onto it. Endurance geometry compatible with flat or drop bars, wide tire clearance and a little room for fenders and/or bags? Sure sounds like a gravel bike to me. Recalling that gravel bikes were once your off-season cyclocross bikes with big tires squeezed in, and that the early 'cross bikes were cantilever tourers with knobby tires glued on. You see how things begin to seem a little muddled?

       Photo Credit: https://www.velonews.com/news/cyclocross/commentary-ive-been-racing-cyclocross-for-50-years/ 

Alan Hills riding his Peugeot UO-8 in an early-1970's cyclocross race. If you haven't read his 50-year saga in the 'cross scene, it's definitely a must-read for enthusiasts, and can be found here.

    I think that the modern tendency to categorize everything has its benefits - it allows people, concepts, and designs to stand apart and differentiate themselves from the crowd. Concerning bikes, however, does it not also create a whirlwind effect where there are too many categories to choose from? I recall my time as a bike mechanic and salesperson back when the gravel boom exploded. The average customer didn't know what to make of this new category. Was it a road bike, a 'cross bike, or a hybrid (or a combination of all three)?  The customer is sometimes lost in a sea of subdivisions and thus ultimately put off by the process of buying a bike.  

    This begs the question; does touring (and cycling as a whole) benefit from this kind of categorization? Or is it just another barrier to entry for folks interested in cycling and/or more specifically, touring? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

19 August, 2021

Do You Name Your Bike?

By Scott

Sometimes the objects we own become more than just things. Bikes aren't just tools or a device, but for a lot of us, a source of joy and pride. When my wife bought a Pass Hunter frame this spring, she named the bike Diana, after the Roman goddess of the hunt. 

It makes it easy when she has names for bikes. When we are getting ready for a ride, she can say that she is taking Diana or Mari (her other road bike) out and I know which to prep and ensure it is ready for the ride.

Back when I worked for GU in 2007/2008, I rode my touring/brevet/sportif/only bike to work most days. My boss there had a very nice Lightspeed road bike. He would refer to my bike as "the truck". With fenders, racks and lights on it, it was certainly more "truckish" then his svelte road bike. I went out for a staff lunch ride one day, and my bike certainly felt more of a truck than either of their two lightweight road bikes over the Berkeley hills.

I started calling it The Truck after that. Eventually I got a lighter road bike to ride and that bike became "The Jag" - lighter, smoother, and more reliable than the car.

(The "Jag" . Sorry for the non drive side photo, but I was 400 miles into a 750 mile ride)

So here's the question - do you name your bike and what sort of convention do you use?

Ps. If you're interested in the complete build list of Melissa's Pass Hunter, you can find it here: https://velo-orange.com/pages/pass-hunter-build-list-sportif-with-whisky-carbon-fork