"A touring bike for $350?"
"Well, it's got a steel frame, no shocks, a granny gear, and 700C tires. Sure, you get more for the Detour 5.5, but it costs $300 more. If you're looking for solid yet inexpensive, then the 2.5 is a great buy. An extra $70 will get you a rear rack and fenders."
A sudden trip to California to take care of my elderly parents for six months led me after two months to remember this conversation and purchase the 2.5 Detour. I can say that I am satisfied with the results.
I have to be with my family every day, but once my brother (who had broken his leg) was able to cook breakfast for my parents, I began taking day rides in the morning, usually from around fifteen miles (we're six miles from town) to thirty miles.
The bike has handled very well--it climbs well, the components have held up, and I've found the bike comfortable. I've managed to put in about 300 miles a month, so I'm now probably close to a thousand miles on the bike.
If I had to change anything, I'd probably get a better seat. The stock seat squeaks a little and is somewhat wide--not restrictively bad, since I haven't been cycling over 3-4 hours, but a more upgrade seat would probably be my first choice.
The granny gear helps a great deal on the mountain roads here in northern California in the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas. I use a Bike Pro canvas folding bag that hooks onto the rear rack. This combo lets me shop and also carry around a few bike tools and spare tube.
Greenline Cycles, the local bike shop in Oroville, California, ordered the bike for me, and it arrived in a week. I received a free tune-up after three months. I'd feel pretty comfortable using this bike for touring, as long as I didn't weigh it down excessively. Using my Burley Travoy trailer, which would lessen the strain on the wheels, I think I could even do longer tours.
My point, though, is that this is a great bike for the money. For $350 plus another hundred for accessories, a chance to hit the road with a new bike is pretty wonderful.
Plus, it comes in blue.
Update, December 2019: Raleigh no longer produces the Detour 2.5. The closest equivalent is their Detour 2, which has an aluminum frame. Greenline Cycles in Oroville has closed. The Chico store is still open, although a phone call will verify.
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