One of the current debates about touring bikes is whether an aluminum or steel bike frame is a better choice. In the end, it comes down to personal choice. Aluminum is more rigid, which some people prefer. Steel flexes, which leads to a more comfortable ride for many.
There is, however, another consideration that needs to be looked at – the ease of repair should something happen to the bike. If you are riding an aluminum bike, you will need to get to a specialized facility in a large city if you need anything welded on your bike. There are people in every tiny village throughout the world who can weld steel.
Some people say this is all a moot point – when was the last time you had your bike welded anyway? The chances of something happening to your bike that would require welding are very small.
One argument is that you will not be able to find someone to properly weld a frame back together in any case. Should your frame completely break in two, you will need a new frame, so it makes no difference if you are riding a steel or aluminum bike.
Much more likely than the frame totally failing, however, is the likelihood that some small braze-on will break off. If that happens, you could be stranded with an aluminum bike, but will be able to get a steel bike repaired easily.
When I was loading my bike on a bus in India many years ago I broke a small braze-on that held my brake cable in place. Fortunately, I was able to get it welded back together in the small village I was in and we continued on our way. If my bike had been aluminum, I’m not sure where I would have had to go to get it repaired.
Which is better – a steel or aluminum bike frame? There is no easy answer. If you will be riding in areas where you have an easy out, it will make no difference whatsoever, so just ride whichever bike you feel more comfortable on. If your plans include riding around the world, consider a steel frame just in case you happen to break some small piece. In either case, if your entire frame should fail, plan on getting a new one sent out.
Here’s another post you might be interested in: What to look for in a touring bike