RSS Feed How to Make your Touring Bicycle Faster

Modified Touring Bike As we get passed by some Lycra'd up roadie on a sleek 5kg racing machine, it can be hard for us cycle tourists not to feel a bit of envy and frustration. 'I would have caught him if it was not for my knobbly tires and ludicrously heavy Brooks' saddle', we tell ourselves.

We comfort ourselves with the fact that he is not carrying two spare inner tubes and a selection of spare t-shirts. We feel smug that we will soon be tucking into a delicious cheese and pickle sandwich, while he forces down another 'green apple' energy gel. Deep down, however, we really want to be able to go a bit faster as well.

Turbo charging your tourer

There are several things that you can do to improve your speed on a touring bike. While such improvements might not enable you to keep pace with Bradley Wiggins, they can turn your plodding tourer into a pretty pacy machine. Here are our top five adjustments to customize your tourer.

1) Re-invent the wheel

Well, not the whole wheel, but certainly look into changing your tyres. Most tourers come with touring tyres, which are a cross between mountain bike knobblies and razor thin road tyres.

If you only ride on roads, as opposed to a lot of riding on trails, you should have the narrowest tyres that will fit your wheel. Also, make sure that your tyres are fully slick; you just do not need all that extra grip for riding on paved surfaces.

2) Change the handlebars

One of the biggest reasons why road bikes go so much faster than touring bikes is the aero dynamic riding position that they encourage.

By replacing a flat handlebar with butterfly bars or even drop handlebars, you can give yourself the option to assume the aero-dynamic position on your tourer. For the most part you can sit upright and enjoy the view, but on those less enjoyable days with a strong headwind, you can get low down and power through with much less wind resistance.

3) Clipless Pedals Bike Needing Adjustments

Most tourers do not use clipless pedals, probably because very few touring bikes are supplied with them, and they do not feel the need to try them out. However, clipless pedals can make a big difference to your pedalling efficiency.

They enable you to use more power on the upstroke, allowing you to have a smooth 360 degree pedal action. Practice well before you set out on the road with them though, and get mentally prepared for a few embarrassing falls at traffic lights or, worse, when stopping for your pub lunch!

4) Tuck in the clothing

No, you don't have to wear a skin tight lycra cycling jersey, nor do you have to have the latest wind tunnel tested helmet. However, you will go significantly faster if you wear clothes that don't flap about in the wind.

A well fitting t-shirt will do the job fine; or, on a colder day, a cheap cycling rainjacket is perfect as long as it is in your size. If you want to wear lycra, go ahead by all means, it will be a faster ride; but, if you have a bit of a middle-age spread, don't be surprised if the girls give you an equally wide berth.

5) Watch the Weight

A touring bike, especially when loaded, is significantly heavier than a road bike; but that does not mean that you shouldn't look to reduce the weight by a kilogram or two where you can.

Do you really need to carry three litres of water with you, or could you take one bottle and fill it up on route? Is it necessary to be carrying a four man tent just for yourself? And why do you have ten bananas in your panniers? Do they not have shops in Mallorca?

Wouldn't it be easier to just buy a road bike?

You may well ask, wouldn't it be easier just to buy a road bike than make these adjustments? It is a good question, but there are important reasons why a touring bike is designed how it is.

Firstly, the stronger frame makes it much better than a road bike for carrying any kind of load. In addition to this, the more upright position makes it better for admiring your surroundings (we presume that you tour to see interesting things). Lastly, the drive train on a decent touring bike is often built to withstand getting bashed about more than one on a road bike, which is designed to perform at high speeds, while being as light as possible.

So, a touring bike has clear advantages to use for long distance trips where you are lugging your gear around with you. If, however, you wanted to know how to keep pace with some slicker looking machines, now you know how to.

Going on a cycling holiday

At Cycle Fiesta we have both road and touring bikes available for hire on our cycling holidays around Spain.

If you are interested in exploring Spain on guided or self-guided cycle tours, please have a look around our website for details of what we offer, or contact us if you would like any further information.