Bike finder: which packable tourer should I buy?

Our expert bike recommendations
Prof Clive Mingham from Oldham wants a full-sized collapsible bike suitable for light touring. He asked our Cycle magazine panel of experts for advice
Prof Clive Mingham

Packable tourer

For: Prof Clive Mingham, age 62, from Oldham

Bike needs: I want a full-sized collapsible bike suitable for light touring with panniers.

Must have: I’d prefer rim brakes, hub gearing, and a butterfly bar. Can I convert from disc to rim brakes? If not, can the hub gear include a brake to avoid a disc brake at the rear? Is it possible to use a trigger shifter for the hub gear, as I don’t think I can use a butterfly bar with a twistgrip shifter?

Must not have: Drop handlebar. Carbon. Wheels smaller than 26in.

Budget: £1,500

Liz Colebrook

Unfortunately, there isn’t anything on the market that ticks all your boxes. You say ‘collapsible’; might you consider a frame with S&S couplings? Although the model is no longer in production, SJS Cycles still have a few Thorn Nomad Mk2 Expedition framesets available (frame and fork £1,239).

The butted steel frame separates at the top tube and down tube for transportation using a unique collar system and spanner. It’s not a quick job (and you’ll need special cable separators) but this would give you all the benefits of a full size diamond frame without hinges or specialist luggage and mudguard solutions. You could then assemble this frameset with a butterfly bar, rim brakes and hub gearing. You’ll exceed your budget but would create your ideal bike for life. 

If you already own a steel-framed bicycle, contact Ben Cooper in Glasgow who offers an S&S retrofitting service, including respray (approx £675).

Bicycles with 26in wheels specifically designed to fold are rare and seldom feature a butterfly bar as it can be tricky to combine with the fold, but ternbicycles offer the Eclipse P20 (£1,500) at 12.22kg and Airnimal offer the Joey Endurance (£2,190) at 11.3kg. Both have a flat bar. You’d have to compromise on the brake and gear systems. You'd also need to get their luggage and mudguard systems as extras.

Dan Joyce

Like Liz, my first thought was a bike with S&S couplings. To stay close to your budget, you could buy a Spa Cycles Steel Tourer Flat Bar 8-speed (currently £895) and then have S&S couplings retrofitted by Kinetics. That’s £1,570 in total, plus any transportation costs. This Spa Tourer has 3×8 Shimano Altus derailleur gearing but it does have the full size (700C) wheels and rim brakes you want.

The alternative is a bike that’s designed from the outset to pack down. I suggest the Airnimal Joey Commute (from £1,950). You can ‘quick fold’ this to stash it in a car boot or maybe on a train, or you can fully fold it to pack it smaller – perhaps in its Traveller Case (£299 at time of writing).

While the standard Joey Commute comes with 24in (ISO 507) wheels, it can be ordered with 26in wheels (ISO 559) for the same price. If you choose 559, you’re limited to 32mm or narrower tyres, whereas the 507 wheel takes tyres up to 50mm. These are arguably better for touring, and the overall wheel

diameter (including tyre) is only about half an inch smaller.

If you buy the Joey direct from Airnimal it can be customised so you can have the butterfly bar you want. (The Alfine hub uses a trigger shifter.) You can also add a pannier rack, mudguards, etc. Joey forks are now disc only. “We might have an old or secondhand pair lying around [designed for V-brake] but there's no certainty,” Airnimal’s Richard Loke told me.

What bike should I buy?

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Our experts

Liz Colebrook has worked in the bike trade since 1986, but she discovered her true passion in 2014 when she got into framebuilding. She now runs Beaumont Bicycle in Shropshire, a company providing lightweight, bespoke bicycles. Liz is one of the most skilled bespoke bike builders in the UK, and works hard to encourage more women to get into the industry.

Liz is also a valued contributer to the Cycling UK website and Cycle magazine, writing articles to share her invaluable expertise on how different bicycles are put together and what this means for riders. Her training as an occupational therapist means she has a comprehensive understanding of how a bike fits a person.

Dan Joyce has been the editor of Cycling UK's magazine, Cycle, for over 20 years and has been a cycling journalist since 1991.