Most of the touring bikes we looked at had steel frames, so the decision was made for us. Steel may be a little heavier, but it is very strong and absorbs shock – providing a smooth ride. Since you will probably be carrying a considerable load on your bike and will be on the bike for long periods of time – steel is the best choice for touring.
We both got disc brakes. Advantages of disc brakes – you don’t wear out your rims. Disadvantages of disc brakes – sometimes they are really annoying to tweak and the pads rub against the disc very slightly resulting in your bike becoming a high pitch musical instrument without an off button.
We went with 700mm wheels. The main consideration was to make sure we both get same size wheels so that we need to carry only one spare tire. Even though we had same size wheels we carried two spare inner tubes each, also partly because our tires were different width.
Good tires go a long way, literally! Our recommendation – Schwalbe Marathon Plus – 10,000km – one pinch and no flats. Unfortunately only one of us had those tires and from practical and tested experience, they win by a long run.
Go with what you like. Anya went with flat bar with extensions and was very happy with that. Maria went with drop-down bar and was very happy with that. So really, just go with your personal preference and do not listen to what other people think you need. Take this issue into your own hands – pun intended!
It is not about the number of gears you have, but mainly how easy it is to pedal on your lowest gear. Look for the smallest front chain ring to have more cogs than the biggest rear chain ring. Ratio of 30 or less in front to 32 or more at rear is great.
Although getting used to them might be a pain (unfortunately literally), they will make your life easier. First of all, you will likely to cycle longer, as the work is distributed over more muscles and you will tire less. And second, your foot will be fixed in the proper position and you will less likely have joint pain from inappropriate foot placement.
Well leaving the best for last – this one is a really sensitive subject! You just need one that fits. Maria went with a legendary leather Brooks and Anya just took her well tested and molded seat off her commuter road bike.