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Touring Bike Vs Road Bike: 8 Key Differences with Pros & Cons

Touring Bike Vs Road Bike: 8 Key Differences with Pros & Cons
Written by James Jordan

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.

Construction/frames

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.

Wheelbase

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.

Chain stay

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.

Storage

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.

Gear range

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.

Brakes

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.

Geometry

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.

Road bikes

Pros

  • Resistant and lightweight
  • Quick and easy to maneuver
  • Allow you make quick turns at high speed

Cons

  • Unstable on uneven terrain
  • Can’t withstand high loads
  • Limited storage space

Touring bikes

Pros

  • Can withstand high loads
  • Multiple attachment points
  • Higher storage space
  • Resistant frames
  • Very stable

Cons

  • Slower and heavier
  • Limited maneuverability

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.

Bestseller No. 1
Garmin Edge Explore - Touchscreen Touring Bike Computer with Connected features, 010-02029-00
  • Easy-to-use GPS bike computer with high resolution, 3” Glove- and rain-friendly touchscreen that’s visible even in direct sunlight
  • Includes preloaded Garmin cycle map with turn-by-turn navigation and trendline popularity routing to find the on- and off-road routes most-traveled by cyclists
  • Built-in GPS tracks how far, how fast, how high and where you ride
  • Compatible with varia cycling Awareness devices, including smart bike lights and rearview Radar to detect cars and alert drivers
  • When paired with your compatible smartphone, you gain connected Features, including livetrack and grouptrack, smart notifications, rider-to-rider Messaging and built-in incident detection
Bestseller No. 2
ENEX Bike Rear Rack, Bicycle Rear Back Seat Luggage Rack Holder Carrier for Panniers Bags, Luggage, Cargo, 50kg Load, Aluminum Alloy Adjustable with Reflector for Cycling Camping Touring Sport
  • 【Rear Bike Rack Carrier】: Capacity (Load):50 KG/110lb. Seat Size: 35.5 x 14.2cm /14 x 5.6 in (L x W). Rack Size: 53 x 17cm/20.9 x 6.7 in (L x H). Applicable for most bicycles, Such as road bike, mountain bike, fat bike, etc. (Kids' bike and Trek Verve can not be used ) .
  • 【Aluminum Alloy Material】: Light weight but strong, ENEX rear bike rack carrier made of premium aluminum alloy. Corrosion-resistant, more durable, more light. With black paint, bicycle rear rack can protect the luggage cargo rack from rust and scratches. Load capacity up to 50 KG/110 lb, fit your most occasion need.
  • 【Simple Installation】: Our rear bike rack can be attached to the seat tube by simply fastening the screw. All part of the bike rack carrier for panniers are well organized in different part. Simply attach the part to the bike without asking for holes. Any one can install the bike rack without others help.
  • 【Safe Warning Reflector Light】: Both sides of the bike carrier racks with barriers, can protect the luggage bag from scratches from the wheels; removable reflector on the back of the rear bike rack can offer more security. Fit for Panniers Bags, Luggage, Cargo.
  • 【Package Included】:1 * Rack Body, 6 * Support Bar, 7 * Screws, 2 * Rubber Gasket, 2 * Form Gasket, 1 * Reflector, 1 * Install Instruction, 1 set *Installation tool ,1 * free Keychain (Gift) NOTE: Come with the installation tool if not received please contact us reissuell.

FAQ

1. Can you use a road bike for touring?

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.

About the author

James Jordan

As a kid I inherited the love for mountain bikes from my father who used to ride for weeks through the Colorado trail in the city of Denver. He had his gang, and I followed pretty much the same track.

Later on, my interest in biking grew more after joining the Enduro race back in 2013. My buddies and I also participated in the Downhill racing for the third consecutive year, and it’s been an amazing experience.

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