Touring Bikes vs Road Bikes: Which is the Right One for You?

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When it comes to purchasing a bike, you’ll have no shortage of options available. There are seemingly dozens of types, each designed for a slightly different purpose. On this page, we want to compare the two that you are most likely to come across; touring bikes and road bikes. By doing a comparison between touring bikes vs road bikes, we’re going to help you to decide which one is the best choice for you.

Touring Bikes vs Road Bikes: The Differences

In order to do a proper comparison between a tour bike vs road bike, we want to go through each of the differences.

However, before we get to that, we need to discuss what the purpose of each bike is.

1. The Purpose of Each Bike

So, what is a touring bike? Well, it’s a bike designed to travel long distances, often while somebody is carrying some rather heavy bags on their back. These bikes tend to function both on and off-road.

A road bike, on the other hand, is a bike designed to get you to where you need to be and fast. As the name suggests, these bikes tend to only work well on paved surfaces.

They tend to be used by commuters, although they may be good for longer bike rides on paved surfaces where you’re not carrying a backpack.

2. Construction Materials

Perhaps the most obvious difference when comparing touring bicycles vs road bicycles is the construction material.

Road bikes tend to be constructed from lightweight materials, perhaps aluminum or carbon fiber. This is because these bikes are designed to be fast and, if you want to be fast, then you need a lightweight bicycle.

Touring bikes, however, are often made of steel. They need to be heavier. This is because they are going to be put under a lot of pressure. After all, they have been designed for trips that may take days at a time.

All the while, they have to support a rider and their big heavy pack. Touring bikes are built to last many years.

3. Bike Frame Design

The bike frame of a road bike is designed to be compact. When you sit on a budget road bike, you’re essentially going to be ‘hunched over’.

The purpose of this is to increase the aerodynamics of the bike. Basically, it’s all about speed. It isn’t the most comfortable riding position in the world, but it’s going to help you to get to your destination a little bit quicker.

Touring bikes aren’t compact. The wheels are a bit further apart and this, essentially, creates a far longer bike.

When you’re sitting on a touring bike, the seating position feels natural, even if you’re wearing a big, bulky backpack. This means that you can easily cycle for hours and hours on end with a touring bike. 

Basically, when it comes to road bikes vs touring bikes here, if you want speed, then a road bike is where you need to be. If you want comfort, then the frame of a touring bike is perfect for you.

4. Gearing

The next topic for discussion is the gears on the bike.

Because they are built for speed, road bikes tend to trend toward higher gear ratios. This means that they may be a bit tougher to pedal, but a single turn of the pedals will propel you a further distance.

Touring bikes trend toward the lower side of things. In fact, you may often come across touring bikes that barely touch the higher gears.

This is because touring bikes are designed to be ridden at a fair more leisurely pace. The lower gear ratios also help to ensure that the touring bike is able to tackle whatever is thrown at it during the off-road segments.

Touring bikes will often have a lot more gears available than road bikes. This is because touring bikes tend to face a variety of situations, whereas road bikes tend to face nothing more than a paved surface and a hill here and there.

5. Wheels

This is another huge difference that you’ll see when comparing touring bikes vs road bikes.

Road bikes have small, thin wheels.

The idea is that by reducing the amount of the bike in contact with the road surface, the road bike is able to travel a whole lot faster. Of course, because the wheels and tires are quite thin, they barely have any grip, which means that they aren’t going to be good for off-roading.

Touring bikes have thick wheels, and these wheels have been loaded with thick tires. This serves a couple of purposes. Firstly, the thicker tires allow the bike to perform better off-road.

Secondly, the thicker, heavier-duty wheels are able to support a larger amount of weight. Again, this is good for those that are carrying heavy backpacks on their ride.

6. Braking System

Even the braking systems between the two will be different. Most road bikes tend to use disc brakes. This is because they have a huge amount of braking power.

Since many people will be braking heavily while on the roads, particularly during a downhill stretch, this reduces the amount of strain on the biker’s hand. These disc brakes also tend to work a little bit better when traveling at higher speeds.

Touring bikes use a system known as linear-pull brakes. While they don’t quite have the braking power on offer with disc brakes, these are much less likely to become clogged up with mud and water while out there on the trail.

This means that they can perform better in extreme situations. Situations that a road bike will never be in. Sadly, linear-pull brakes require a lot more maintenance than disc brakes.

Conclusion

When it comes to touring bikes vs road bikes, your bike choice will be dependent on what you’re planning to do with the bike.

If you’re planning on heading out on the trials, often for hours at a time, then a touring bike is the best option for you.

If you tend to favor the roads, and you only need a bike for your daily commute, then a road bike is your best option.

James Mattis

James is a passionate bicyclist who has done about every kind of biking there is. He loves the wind in his hair, the sun over his shoulder and maybe even the bugs in his teeth. No, just kidding about that last item. He isn’t crazy about road burns, either, but acknowledges that to have the good there is the occasional tumble. James feels that his bike is the place where he can unwind, leave troubles alongside the road, meet new people, go new places, and live the life of adventure that he loves. He is ready to share the ride with you.

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