Tout Terrain Silkroad tourer review

Quality mile muncher

BikeRadar score4.5/5

Tout Terrain’s Silkroad has a distinct Middle European flavour about it. Forget drop bars and derailleurs – the Silkroad comes with flat bars and Rohloff’s expensive but superbly engineered 14-speed hub gear. And yes, the near £3,000 price tag is correct. 

Yes, it’s a lot of money but it’s worth it. Refined, stylish, well made, very European and virtually faultless – the only change we’d make is to fit some bar ends so you can vary your riding position.

  • Frame & fork: German build quality, Swiss know-how. Strong and impressively well thought out for expedition-level tours. Built to carry that load
  • Handling: Imperious and leisurely, pleasantly upright. Perfect handling for long, heavily-laden touring
  • Equipment: Top quality, well constructed. The Rohloff and Schmidt hubs are great, likewise the disc brakes; even the kickstand is a sensible option
  • Wheels: Like the rest of the bike – tough, strong and uncompromising for rigorous loaded touring

Tout terrain silkroad: tout terrain silkroad
Tout terrain silkroad: tout terrain silkroad

If you listen to Orson Welles in The Third Man, you might believe that Switzerland’s only contribution to world culture has been the cuckoo clock. This seems a bit unkind on the Alpine country, and doesn’t take into account, er, banking, Lindt chocolate, the Large Hadron Collider and this very distinctive touring bike. 

True, Tout Terrain is a German company and the bike is ‘WIG-welded’ in Freiburg, but the Silkroad is designed by former Swiss junior downhill champion Florian Wiesmann. He’s done a cracking job too. The bike’s European flavour is maintained throughout – a deliberate policy on Tout Terrain’s part. And as for that WIG-welding, well, wolfram is German for tungsten, so actually it’s the same as TIG-welding.

The main frame is Columbus Zona steel, with the integrated oversized rear rack made from stainless steel. The result of having a one-piece frame and rack is a more convincing feel than any rack and frame combo we’ve ever come across. No matter what loads we threw at this there was no flex, no creaking, nothing but an entirely confident load carrier. 

There are further examples of great design everywhere you look on this: the struts to strengthen the rear stays, cable routing for the Rohloff, internal cabling through the rear rack for the dynamo-powered LED, the dynamo and sleek front light combo… The designers have clearly done their stuff – no bling, no showing off, just good German engineering that’ll go on working long after you have.

 the rohloff and schmidt hubs are great, :  the rohloff and schmidt hubs are great,
the rohloff and schmidt hubs are great, : the rohloff and schmidt hubs are great,

The bike is designed to carry up to 160kg of rider and gear – so a cyclist weighing around 12 stone will also be able to carry over 80kg of kit. And while we put this bike through some pretty heavily loaded rides over a variety of surfaces – it coped, of course – it’s hard to imagine most cyclists being able to actually haul that amount of kit. Having said that, Tout Terrain’s website does show pictures of some extremely heavily laden bikes.

The Silkroad’s handling is impeccable, the riding position high and upright – the word ‘imperious’ springs to mind. Even unloaded its 35lb mass means it’s no cheetah, but that upright position is great for visibility and makes you feel like a king of the road.

But it’s when it’s loaded that this beast of burden really comes into its own. This is a bike for those long, heavy tours that you’ve had planned for years, maybe even tackling the ancient Asian trade route from which the bike takes its name. Camping gear, clothes, spares – you could carry all this and more without fear of the bike failing. Your legs might not make it, but we’ve no qualms recommending it. 

The wheels are as tough as the frame, and the Middleburn chainring and Rohloff hub provide just the sort of low gears required, shifting from a wall-climbing 19in up to 100in in regular 13.6 percent increments – a classic piece of engineering to complement a classic bike.

That Rohloff hub along with the front hub dynamo and other high-end kit push up the price, but you can get derailleur-equipped models from London’s Bikefix which start at £1,450, with Rohloff-equipped Silkroads available from £2,150. 

Its all in the name: its all in the name
Its all in the name: its all in the name

Simon has been cycling for as long as he can remember, and more seriously since his time at university in the Dark Ages (the 1980s). This has taken in time trialling, duathlon and triathlon and he has toured extensively in Asia and Australasia, including riding solo 2900km from Cairns to Melbourne. He now mainly rides as a long-distance commuter and leisure/fitness rider. He has been testing bikes and working for Cycling Plus in various capacities for nearly 20 years.
  • Age: 53
  • Height: 175cm / 5'9
  • Weight: 75kg /165lb
  • Waist: 33in
  • Discipline: Road, touring, commuting
  • Current Bikes: Rose SL3000, Hewitt steel tourer
  • Beer of Choice: Samuel Adams Boston Lager
  • Location: Bath, UK

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