Road bikes are useful for many purposes. They’re great for daily commute due to their high speed, maneuverability, and low weight. However, when you need more power and traction, a regular commuter bike is perhaps not the best option.
At first glance, touring bikes are very similar to road bikes. However, they have some other features that make them more suitable for heavy duties. In addition, they allow you to enjoy a more pleasant trip and provide more stability while you ride.
In this article you’ll know the key differences between touring bike vs road bike so you can understand what is the best option in different circumstances.
Touring bike vs road bike – the key differences
Below, you’ll find a detailed explanation of the differences between these two types of bikes.
Road bikes have lightweight frames, so they can develop higher speed on the ride. To reduce weight, the frame is made with aluminum or carbon fiber. Their low weight makes them more unstable and unfit to support too much weight.
On the other hand, touring bikes have more robust frames to support higher loads. Their greater weight makes them more stable but slower than regular road bikes. Usually, the frame is made of steel, which is resistant to high impacts and doesn’t deform so easily.
A bike’s wheelbase is the distance between the axles of each wheel. Usually, the wheelbase on road bikes is shorter compared to touring bikes. Using shorter wheelbase helps you have more control over the bike, allowing you to change direction with narrow turns.
On touring bikes, the wheelbase is wider because the rear wheel is further away form the seat. This configuration makes them less responsive than road bikes.
Touring bikes have longer chain stays in contrast to road bikes. This feature allows having more clearance so you can move your legs freely without touching the rear pannier. It also moves away the panniers from the bottom bracket. That way, there’s a better load distribution between the two wheels.
Wheels & tires
Road bikes use smaller wheels to provide maximum responsiveness. This way you have a better control of the bike while you’re riding at high speeds. On the other hand, touring bikes use bigger wheels, which make them more stable and apt to withstand heavy loads.
Bikes with small wheels become unstable with a considerable weight gain. So, carrying too many stuff on a road bike at high speed is certainly a very bad idea.
Tires on road bikes are slimmer. This allows reducing the friction so the bike can move even faster. On the other hand, road bikes use wide rim tires, which provide greater friction for maximum stability and grip. In these cases, the width of the tires can vary between 32-45 mm.
Also, the tires use deep tread patterns, which make a touring bike as good as a gravel bike to ride on irregular terrain.
Road bikes aren’t fit to carry much stuff on. So, their storage capacity is quite limited. As said before, race bikes tend to lose their stability with a considerable weight gain.
Touring bikes have multiple attachment points to install racks and panniers. You can install additional packs and bottle holders on the frame if you want. However, you should balance the weight well, so your bike doesn’t become unstable.
Usually, touring bikes use low gears to carry high loads on slopes. Touring bikes also allow adapting double and triple chainsets. This way, the rider can vary the speed and torque in different road conditions.
Some touring bikes borrow some common components on a mountain and hybrid bike. For example, 11-36 wide bike cassettes and triple chainsets combining rings of 48, 44, 42, 38, 28, 24 and 22 teeth.
Only more experienced cyclists know how to choose what kind of ring to use on different types of terrain.
In the market, you can find road bikes with different brake types like cantilever brakes, disc brakes and side-pull brakes. However, not all types of brakes are suitable for touring bikes.
For example, side-pull brakes don’t provide enough space for the wider tires of a touring bike. Also, these brakes can’t be installed if there are mudguards above the wheels.
The frame geometry is slightly different between a road bike and a touring bike. As said before, the wheelbase on a touring bike is wider in contrast with a road bike. However, the length of the top tube is also different.
Usually, the top tube of a touring bike is shorter, allowing the rider to go on an upright position. This way, the rider can enjoy more the panorama, instead of focusing their view directly on the ground.
Also, touring bikes have wider seats than road bikes to provide maximum comfort. The wheel base is longer, providing more stability and control when carrying heavy loads. The center of gravity on touring bikes is also lower, because the bottom bracket is closer to the ground. This provides extra stability.
Usually, touring bikes come with mudguards, to provide extra protection against water and mud. Most road bikes don’t have mudguards because they’re specially designed to ride on concrete, asphalt and any other kind of flat and dry terrain.
Besides, a touring bike needs to be paired with the right type of pedals to help riders get the best control whereas you can get optimal experience with a road bike with a regular pedal.
Touring bikes vs road bikes: pros & cons
If you’re still unsure about what type of bike is best for you, here’s a detailed explanation of the pros and cons of touring and road bikes so you can make your own decision.
Resistant and lightweight
Quick and easy to maneuver
Allow you make quick turns at high speed
Unstable on uneven terrain
Can’t withstand high loads
Limited storage space
Can withstand high loads
Multiple attachment points
Higher storage space
Slower and heavier
As you can see, touring bikes and road bikes may seem similar, but they’re completely different. Certainly, touring bikes are better for a long outdoor adventure, while road bikes are better for short trips on flat ground and bike races.
Now that you know the main differences between touring bike vs road bike, it’s up to you to choose the most appropriate model according to your requirements.
Yes, you can use even the most affordable road bike for touring as long as you don’t carry too much load and keep a safe speed. Road bikes become unstable with excessive weight. It’s also not recommended to ride them on irregular terrain because the pattern of the tires isn’t deep enough.
2. What is the best bike for long-distance touring?
Obviously, for long-distance touring, you must choose a bike specially designed for this purpose. So, those common bikes for commuting aren’t suitable options to be considered for bikepacking setup.
3. Are road bikes harder to ride?
No. In fact, touring bikes are harder to ride than road bikes. Road bikes have a shorter wheelbase and smaller wheels, which provide greater maneuverability. You can make sudden changes of direction at high speeds without losing stability.
The model you choose should have large wheels, wide rim tires, enough storage space and a triple chainset with an appropriate selection of rings.