Since a few years building travel bikes became my big passion. I´m not really a mechanic, but I maintain bikes since ever, build and ride travel bikes since 10 years and meet and host bike travellers frequently.

I saw people cycling the world on folding bikes, tandems and over-aged 6-gear bikes, on freeride fullys, carbon road bikes, laying bikes, with trailer, dogs and kids. It’s this diversity and individuality I admire that much. I love to see turning a bike from sport equipment into a true world conqueror.

In all this diversity I found my own style to build travel bikes. Which packing system is the best for you? Suspension or not? What type of tires to use and what equipment to carry? So many factors play a role while finding the best bike for your needs! By the time I got some experiences in travel bike building and developed my own style with some individual solutions. I like to keep things simple. It´s not necessarily about high-end components, but about finding a faithful partner for big adventures.

My experience tells me that it’s not necessary to get a high-end bike to travel, but you shouldn’t spare on the wrong ends. Following my idea you should get a solid all-round travel bike for a total price of 400 – 700 Euro.

 

For sale:

travel bikes
handmade panniers
handmade bottle holder

Travel MTB

A travel bike doesn’t need to be a super light high-end bike, but need to be reliable and comfortably. buy the bike half a size bigger (B) as you normally would do. A bigger frame provides more comfort on the long distance. This can also be personalized a bit through the handlebar stem.- geometry: the higher the handlebars are, the closer you come the classical touring geometry. Be careful that the head tube angles (C) not getting to sharp. Furthermore consider the space, your bags occupy behind your feet. If the chain stay (D) is too short you will always scratch the bags with your feets. – rack supports: modern mountainbikes often doesn’t have the perforation to mount a rack, two on the end of the chain stay (D, left side) and two behind the seat, on top of the wheel. They are not obligatory nessecary, but spare time and money to find an alternative solution.
dérailleur, chain and chain wheels are expendable parts .The weight let them suffer pretty much. If you invest a little more in that, you´re safe for a good while, specially if you don´t know about bike mechanics. On the other side it´s not necessary to get high end equipment as this parts might be lighter and more fragile. Many of the advantages are not perceptible under the heavy weight. I favourite the most classic option Shimano Deore: widespread, affordable and solid and competitively easy to find.
V-Breakes vs. disc breaks depends a lot on your destination and way to ride, even if most of the modern mountainbikes anyway are equipped with discbreaks and doesn’t support v-breaks anymore. If you plan touring western Europe I would go for disc breaks. They are simply STAND DER TECHNIK, and why to spare on the breaks?!? If you want to leave this region v-breaks are still an interesting option for classical bike touring. V-Breakes are cheaper and easier to repair and replace. In both categorys there are huge differences in price and performance of the breaks. If you decide for disc breaks a middle class model (hydraulic) should be enough. V-breaks should have high quality, but anyway they are quite cheap.
Steel is king. It’s more reliable and almost free of any maintainance work. The suspension got quite a simple job to do on a travelling bike. That spares money. A lock position is a must for longer distances on asphalt. The flow, and the weight doesn’t matter that much. What we need is a solid and not maintenance-intensive suspension.
The first decision of the wheels is already tooken by choosing the frame: the size. Classic touring bikes often comes with more or less wide 28” wheels. Mountainbikes with 26”, 27.5” or 29”. The bigger the size of the wheel the fast you are on long distances. Beside you got an advantage while passing obstacles in the way. The wheels not only got a hard job, they also got a huge impact on the rolling resistance. Specially the back hub suffers a lot under the weight. Go for double rims and quality hubs and take them under revision while touring. If you have still some budget left this is a good place to spend it. So far so good, we got a mountainbike now ready to get transformed. While AUSSTATTEN your bike keep the weight equilibration in mind. Both wheels should carry a part of the weight and your body weight is already mostly on the back wheel.
Saddles are a religious thing. The believers of the orthodox community of Brooks believes in the way of a thousand kilometres of pain to find redemption in a perfectly customized formed leather seat. Meanwhile the miss-believers try not to suffer to bad and hope there is a little piece of heaven somewhere out there between all these foam saddles. I got a leather saddle but never used it on a longer journey. Once you go off-road on a leather saddle you will think twice again.
The tires are an under-rated topic for beginners. They got impact on rolling resistance and stability and suffer a lot under the efforts of travelling. The permanent weight of the bags eats a middle-class mountainbike tire with in a few weeks. Meanwhile long life tires, as Schwalbe Marathon (approx. 30-40 Euro each one) can stand this for several thousand kilometre without a punch. Schwalbe provides with the Marathon series a plenty of different touring tires I can warmly recommend, even if there are other brands on the market as well. Be careful: Bikeshops very rarly got specific touring tired on stock, so it’s difficult to find them once you hit the road.
The back rack is the basic equipment of a travel bike. You can get a solid rack for about 30 Euro or cheaper. Be careful they verify a lot in weight.Check that specially the side walls are solid and ABSCHIRMEN a bigger space. Front racks normally only are mounted if you carry a lot of stuff, but also lighter equipped riders enjoy the better balance of the bike. The question of the front rack is a bit more complicated and has to be proofed very individual. Be careful that your rack and your suspension fits together.
Sparing on the bags meanwhile is like sparing on a tent: it makes you tired, angry and wet. Good bags are about 40-60 Euro each one, but that´s well spent money. Keep care on the weight distribution. In case of doubt I would always prefer more bags than less. It makes easier to stay organized and improves the equilibration on your bike.
handlebars also depend a lot on the way you want to travel. Trekking handlebars are an option for everybody who wants to do kilometers and is not looking for to much technical offroad parts. Trekking handlebars bring you to a riding position more upright, what makes travelling a bit more comoftable. At the same time the general form of the handlebars and the GREIFEN on top with the breaks on the lower part, you lose a bit of the control over the bike. A good alternative can be a normal mountainbike handlebars, with long handlebar ends.
See previous works

Bikepacking

The idea of bikepacking is to be lightweight and to be able to enjoy the rails as good as possible without the handycap of the luggage. The choice of the frame is strongly related to the terrain you want to do. The most common choice are crosscountry hardtail bikes. I, myself, prefer a full suspension. No compromises! Choose a frame with as many standard parts as possible. Brand-specific parts afterwards will be difficult to find. The more aggressive mountainbiking you want to do, the smaller you can choose the frame size. For long distance travelling I would suggest half a size bigger as your bike at home. Keep the mount of the back suspension in mind, to consider how to use the middle part of your frame for any luggage.
As on touring bikes the main weight is on the back wheel. To avoid the sedated response of a travel bike, you hae to bring your luggage and your bike in an aerodynamic line. The best solution are backpacking specific seat bags, which carry up to 15L. A cheaper solution, but with a more rugged handling, are seatpost racks. With an appropriate bag on top or at least two classical panniers.
Classic touring handlebar bags as ORLTLIEB ULTIMATE are quite inflexible. For bumpy mountainbike rides, this might cause some demages, but at least a big mass inside the bag. Also with time the bags will also suffer the terrain what they are not made for.. Ideal are longer but thinner handlebar bags along the handle bars as ORTLIEB HANDLEBAR-PACK. I used my Ortlieb ULTIMATE. During the rougher parts I supported the bag with an additional EXPANDER, and was mostly happy with this solution
Most bikebackers use the inner part of their frame for another bag. I decided to leave it open and use it to have a quick access to my locker, air pump and water. Nevertheless, the space you have here is quite narrow and receives all punches the bike suffers.
Bikepacking bikes shouldn’t be that heavy as touring mountainbikes, but they should go much more heavy trails. Therefore they suffer at least the same. Try to carry always a few extra spokes!
The rider, the luggage and the bike easily exceed a 100 kg. To enjoy the trails and riding save you need traction. 2,2” tires should be the minimum. I used Schwalb Hans Dampf, heavy mountainbike tires with 2,4” and stronger KASKADE. Indeed a perfect tire for my mountainbike tours. If you do that I would suggest to carry a second pair, super slim tires with you, if you also want touring for longer distances.
A good suspension makes the biggest difference between a travel mountainbike and a bikepacking bike. Suspensions on bikepacking bikes got a real hard job to do! You want to go mountainbiking and they have to support all the weight. Steal is surly the best option, because it’s less maintaining intensive and more reliable, but hard to find in a mid-class price ranch. If you have an air suspension keep it clean and control the air pressure frequently. A slow rebound makes the bike more comfortable to ride.
Go for a seat you feel comfortable with. Of course a harder seat offers you a better power transmission, but this is not a one days race, it’s a stage challenge. You have to enjoy riding for days and days and days…..
We are building a mountainbike. There is no limit now. Sparing weight here is competitively expensive, so that we don’t need to go for high end material. As this are expendable parts you might keep in mind replacement parts that exists in your destination. Shimano Deore 3×9 might look a bit old fashioned to some of you, but have you ever tried to find an 11-gear cassette in Bolivia or Albania?
Even if you want to travel light, you will always carry a lot of water with you. On a bikepacking bike this is a bigger challenge as on normal touring bikes. Many riders got bottles on the front suspension. To me that seems to challenging for the material and uncomfortable to handle in narrow or bumpy trails. I placed my water on the top tube instead, what also improved the weight balance over the entire bike.
 
See previous works

Touring

Currently for Sale

a solid beginners traveller bike

Size: M/L

very high handlebars give this mountainbike frame to a geometry some where between a classic touring bike and a mountainbike. Perfect way for everybody who is looking for a comofrtable bike and freedom of choise at the same time.

Details:
26″ wheels with double rims and Schwalbe Marathon tires, hydraulic Shimano disc breaks
3 x 8 Shimano Acera transmission (can be exchanged for a 3 x 9 Shimano Deore)
extra long handlebar ends, back light, bell, ergonomic grips, rear rack
100 mm steal front suspension

Basic Price: 300,-
extras:
– 2 x panniers (as on the picture) 60,-
– Ortlieb handlebar bag (second hand, as on the picture) 30,-
– upgrade transmission to Shimano Deore 3 x 9 60,-
– Sigma front light 25 LUX 25,-

Previous Jobs

Iron Lady

travel bike for my tourings through South-East Europe, South-West Europe and Morocco

The Iron lady combined mi through whole Europe. On our first trip with light baggage on the seatpost only. On the second tour fully equipped with front and back racks, aluminium fenders and Schwalbe Marathon tires.
In therms of transmission I always trusted in Shimano LX and was never disappointed with this! In her lifetime she overused 3 suspensions, 5 wheels, 4 chain wheels and a million of tires, but only one transmission kit!
She was a real Mountainbike Traveller. Together we went to Greece and Portugal, we crossed Albania, the Perenees, the Alps and the Atlas before she finally died in the streets of Marrakesh.

Kaschpa

my substitute bike for shorter travels in Portugal

For a while Kaschpa took place after Iron Ladys death. According to the circumstances he´s more a light tourer for smaller tours with only a few equipment.

Transmission is mix of Deore and Deore XT offers a solid performance for all touring needs. Discbreaks as only option of the frame limited his living environment mainly to the developed world, but offer a perfect break response even with luggage.

A solid back rack and a Ortlieb handlebar bag are enough to carry more than 20 kg. More than I need for small tours. Schwalbe Marathon Tour Plus make him a real road racer if necessary but a reliable bike on sandy and muddy trails.

Sol

sold for a tour from Portugal to Greece and finally ended up in South-East Asia

Sol was a budget bike to cross Europe from Portugal to Greece. Thanks to a few good deals and a lot of improvisation within two weeks we built up a Deore-equiped touring bike with Schwalbe Marthon tires, a solide rack and a handlbarbag for less then 350,-.

Unfortunaltely due to visa restrictions for her rider, Sol never reached Greece, but Istanbul instead. Meanwhile, after crossing wide parts of Europe and Asia, she was stolen in London! Dirty theefs! But her rider is fallen in love with bike travelling and still restless.
facebook.com/bicicletani

 

Tweety & Silvester

two bikes sold for a tour from Portugal to Amsterdam

Obviously they were the two parts of a couple. Built for two world travellers who wanted to experience their return to Europe on two wheels. Two super light travel mountainbikes to enjoy Europe mainly on road, but with the possibility to go offroad here and there.

Tweety had 26″ wheels with Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires. Shimano Deore V-Breaks and Shimano Deore gearing. Just the dérailleur was Shimano XT, a little upgrade.

Silvester came with Schwalbe Big Apple tires and Shimano Deore Disc breaks and a Shimano Deore and Shimano SLX mix for the gearing.

Equiped with my handmade panniers they were also the guinea pigs for my self-built bike-bags on the way from Portugal to the Netherlands.

 

Guerrera

bought as a mountainbike, with a travel setup the company for my travel throu South America

She was a bargain I never expected to ride myself. But after a few test rides I felt in love with this bike. A 120mm Full-Suspencion bike, almost rigid as a hardtail, but agil like a dirtbike. Basicly built on Standard Shimano parts she is the perfect company for a mountainbike adventure as everything is relatively easy to replace. After two years exploring Portugal we went together to South America for three month.

To make her fit to travel I equipped her with a Ortlieb Seatpack 15L and a small Orlieb handlebar bag. For better weight equilibration I constructed an additional bottleholder for up to 6L on the toptube of the frame. Rough singletrails, heavy loaded bikepacking were no problem at all and even marathon days with up to 200km per day made part of this tour.

All in all a fully convenient travel solution as long as you are light packed. Unfortunately I was a little overloaded and had to carry a medium size backpack. With a smarter solution to use the space inside the frame this could maybe resolved. For long distance tours next time I would carry an alternative, slimer tire with me.

Our story not ended yet!