Newbie Interested in Touring: Please Help!


New Member
Jul 14, 2011
Hello! At this point, I don't even have a bike, but I just did a 87 mile round trip ride this past weekend along the Erie Canal (there and back over two days) with some friends, and I had quite a good time. I started thinking, "Hmmm... I could see myself doing this more." So here I am!

A bit of background about me and my interests: Rock climbing for several years, new to hiking and backpacking, but enjoy them both, a photo student, and that's about it. What I enjoyed about my weekend trip was going a far distance on a bike. That is cool to me. I could see myself down the line biking down the coast of the US or something (either one!) and just making a big trip out of it.

To preface the next bit, as many are, I'm a college student on a budget. I'd like to spend under $350 if possible to start, just to make sure this is something I enjoy and want to continue doing!

Right now I am wondering what type of bike I should be looking for, whether it be a road bike, hybrid, or mountain bike. I know the common line of, "Depends on what you ride..." but I will explain a bit more. As I stated, I enjoy the long distance thing. That lends itself to touring and road riding mostly, and in turn a road or touring bike. The exception is, what about riding on smooth bike trails that aren't paved? The Erie Canal Trail is a great example. Almost entirely flat, with a dirt/gravel bike path. Here's a picture of what I'm talking about.

I am a complete newbie, so I have no idea whether a road bike would work on something like this or not. I've heard about Hybrids, which seem like a good mix, but I know that one bike can't do it all and be very good in any particular thing, but maybe it's good enough? I am pretty sure I don't want a mountain bike, because while I may do a bit "off-road" stuff, I don't intend on doing any of the serious mountain biking that goes on out there, at least right now.

So my question, first of all, is, if I'm looking at biking on roads and bike paths that are pretty easy, do I want a road bike or a hybrid?

Second question is, what should I be looking for in a bike to start? I know I could just get anything that happens to have some wheels, a pedal or two, those handle bar thingies, and maybe a seat, but I'd like something that would last me at least through my beginner days. I've read that it's better to get a bike with a decent frame and cheap components, since you can always upgrade the components later. Any recommendations that fits these criteria?

Finally, I'm also willing to purchase used in the beginning. If I were to go look at a used bike, what should I be looking for, or looking to avoid, in terms of the conditions of the bike? Dirty rusted chain? Paint scratches? I don't know! I'm sure certain things are easily serviceable, while others are a sign of something needing replacement. That also brings up another question. What are the "important" parts on a bike?

One last thing, if you have any great links for where to read up and learn the beginner stuff of cycling, I'd love to see them! Like I said, I'm about as greenhorn as you can get, but I'm excited and willing to learn.

Thanks so much for reading!



New Member
Jan 12, 2010
Hybrids and touring frames can have about the same geometry. I think a good inexpensive example is the GT Traffic 3.0. (Some people like the Kona Smoke as well.) But, for a touring bike, then it all depends on what you want. And this is mostly a matter of personal preference I think.

But, here is an example of some parts you could use for a you own build if you wanted to go that route:
Nashbar frame $99:
Nashbar forks $49:
Handspun rear wheel with Velocity Dyad rims, Deore LX hub, 36 hole $130:
Handspun front wheel (same) $118:
Here is a silver Deore LX V-brake trekking groupset for 227 euro ($324 US):;navigation=1;product=11929;page=1;menu=1000,2,16;mid=2;pgc=66:234
total here is $720 without shipping
then you just add seatpost, seatpost clamp, saddle, pedals, headset, handlebars, grips, headset spacers, chainstay protector, tires, tubes... has a touring forum with lots of information.