Derailleurs hangers are a relatively fragile part on a touring bike. Although it appears from the recent survey that damage occurs infrequently when it does occur it can really mess up your ability to shift rear gears successfully.
One advantage of bar end shifters is that you can easily switch from indexed to friction mode and manually change the gears that way making this problem something you can often live with until you reach a shop.
Another alternative is to install a derailleur protection device like the one shown here in the picture. They are commonly used by off road single track riders who crash more frequently while riding over technical terrain.
If you typically tour on the road then I suspect that the most likely cause of a bent hanger will be accidentally dropping your bike on it's side after leaning it against a tree or possibly having an extremely bad wipeout on the open road. Both occurrences are hopefully relatively rare for the average cyclist.
Installing this device is simple. Remove the current wheel nut that your quick release attaches to. Replace it with the device and presto you have a deraileur protection device.
The picture on this page shows the device with a bit of dirt on it. The dirt came from a hard, helmet smashing wipeout that occured while riding off road at high speed. Despite wearing helmets for a long time this represented the first time my head actually hit the ground. Thanks to the helmet and the protective device on the derailleur the bike and I both came out fine!
Although I do have this device installed on my off road bike I haven't installed one on the touring bike yet.
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