Touring bikes withstand a lot of pressure and on crappy roads, take a lot of abuse. There are many options when it comes to frames but the most important considerations if you’re heading of the beaten track, is strength and repairability. That means weldability — steel.
Not so long ago, chromoly steel was the unsophisticated, bog-standard material that almost every bike was made of. Then aluminium worked it’s way down the bicycle ranks until almost every bike was made of that, and by the early 2000s steel had become virtually obsolete. Thankfully steel is coming back — with a reenergised reputation — and if you’re building a heavy duty touring bike, there is a good choice of quality steel mountain bike frames out there.
I chose a Surly 1×1 frame. To be sure, this is a dedicated single speed frame and isn’t the ideal solution for a touring setup with a gear hub (it doesn’t have braze-ons for mudguards or extra water carrying capacity) but there are workarounds for this. On the other hand, it’s more affordable than a dedicated European Rohloff-friendly frame, and satisfies the main criteria. In addition to being made of steel, it has rack braze-ons, horizontal dropouts (allowing the Rohloff hub to be mounted without a chain tensioner), and a shorter top tube than most MTB frames, giving a more upright (comfortable) riding position. I love the geometry of this frame as I’ve never had a stiff back, but I’d like to get those extra braze-ons welded on.