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Want To Ride Faster or Longer? Tour Bike vs Road Bike

If you’ve decided to get a new rig for the road that offers a combination of both high-speed maneuverability and more suitable for heavy duties, you’re probably interested in getting either a touring bike or a road bike. At first blush, it is very difficult to differentiate a road bike from a touring bike as these models look very much alike especially design-wise. 

However, although there is some overlap, they are designed for different tasks and purposes. In this guide, we will explore the difference between the two and see what each is best suited for.

What Is a Tour Bike?

If you’re up for some adventure, pedaling for days through the countryside and small towns, giving rein to the call of the open road with everything you need packed on your frame, then look no further than a touring bike. Designed to go as far as your legs can carry you, touring bikes are stiff, practical, and extremely versatile. They are less about speed and more about traveling far and wide. Their load carrying ability is excellent; they are specifically designed to support racks and handlebar bags allowing you to load up with everything you need for your adventure. Here are the main features of a touring bike:

Relaxed geometry 

Because you will be spending a lot of time pedaling, touring bikes are designed to be comfortable on your body, offering you a more upright body position and enough room to move your hands freely. They maintain a relatively long wheelbase and chainstay, a large head tube, and a short top tube. Additionally, they feature heavily reinforced tubes, 36 spoke wheels, butterfly handlebars, and a triple crankset. All these features add to their stability and comfort while offering you more slack and a relaxed position to run for multiple days.

Heavyweight

A touring bike is not the lightest of bikes. It is one of their typical features that sets them apart from other bikes. They are probably the heaviest bikes of the bunch as their frames are built from heavy-duty steel for better stability and general feel of the bike. Another reason why steel is the preferred material for touring bikes is that it is strong enough to handle mounting racks and extra loads that touring bikes need to carry. 

Moreover, steel is less expensive than other materials (e.g., carbon fiber) and has the advantage of being easily weldable by you or any mechanic with a blowtorch. Ultimately, you want your frames to be as stiff as possible and carry all you kits for the journey. 

Wider Tires 

Most touring bikes have wider tires so they can support more weight at full pressure, without compressing too much. Increasing the load leads to an increased probability of getting a pinch flat. Wider tires reduce the risk of pinch flats and cushion the impact of road fluctuations, improving your handling and comfort.

Tour bike pros & cons

Here is a quick rundown of the pros and cons of a touring bike. 

Pros:

  • Touring bikes are all about comfort. The saddle is soft and cushy and handlebars have an optimal height to ensure comfort and efficiency on long rides. 
  • Touring bikes have an excellent hauling capability. They have mounting racks on the front and back on which you can attach up to four bags at a time.  
  • Touring bikes are for 365-day use. With a touring bike, you can go almost anywhere and you will experience a comfortable ride through cities, countries, and even continents. There will be no stopping you even in the worst of weather as mudguards will keep you free of muck in the rain. 
  • Touring Bikes are versatile. While not specifically designed for off-roading, they handle just fine poor road surfaces, dirty roads, and rocky terrain. Their wide tires offer better grip and traction and resist pinch flats.

Cons:

  • Touring bikes have poor maneuverability. Unlike road bikes, touring bikes are built for long rides on open roads, as such, they have limited maneuverability and don’t react to rider inputs as quickly. 
  • Touring bikes don’t go as fast. The high weight of a touring bike, especially when it’s fully loaded, doesn’t allow for a high-speed trip without exerting a huge amount of effort. Also, with the upright position, there is just too much wind resistance for you to reach high speeds.

What Is a Road Bike?

Road bikes are excellent, fast machines designed to be ridden primarily on the tarmac. Unlike touring bikes, they are light, have a short wheelbase, a low bottom bracket, drop handlebars, and multiple gears. These features allow the rider to have better acceleration and super responsive handling. Here are the main features of a road bike:

Skinny tires 

Road bikes feature narrow tires for minimal rolling resistance and can run at high pressures (70 to 120 psi). Skinny tires reduce the amount of friction allowing the rider to direct the energy towards moving forward at a higher speed. Skinny tires also have less bulk making them lighter and consequently faster.

Lightweight 

Road bikes are typically made from carbon fiber material which makes them extremely light and rigid for maximum pedaling efficiency and plush comfort. Carbon fiber is also unsusceptible to corrosion and can be easily customized into different beautiful shapes which explains the sleek look of a road bike.

Aerodynamic 

Designed to put the rider in a forward athletic position, road bikes reduce your frontal profile from the wind allowing you to reach higher speeds without exerting too much effort. The more aero you get the faster you go.

High gears 

The components of a road bike are all about reaching maximum speed. They offer a large span of gears for all kinds of profiles. Whether climbing steep hills or going downhill, with a road bike you will hardly feel the spinning of the pedals.

Road bike pros & cons

A Road bike has no pros and cons, only things that it was built for and things that it wasn’t built for. But for the sake of the argument, we will refer to “things that it wasn’t built for ” as cons. 

Pros

  • Road bikes are as fast as greased lightning. A road bike is made light and geared fast. Narrow tires, slim wheels, drop handlebars, high gears, and just about every single part of a road bike is built to give you high speed and cover great distances with minor effort.

Cons

  • Road bikes lack comfort. Overly engineered components, riding position, and its overall design make road bikes uncomfortable and not suited for someone planning to ride for hours at a time. 
  • Road bikes don’t carry loads. You better load a bag than load the bike. A road bike is not designed for carrying loads since its skinny tires and its lightweight construction would greatly affect the speed and traction and you would have a hard time taking corners or riding uphill. 
  • Road bikes are expensive. Its slick carbon fiber design, high-end components, and its super efficiency make road bikes hard on your wallet.

So, Should You Get a Tour Bike or a Road Bike?

Let’s take another look at certain features that make a substantial difference between a touring bike and a road bike.

Features Touring Bike Road Bike 
Weight Heavy Light 
Frame Material Steel Aluminum/Carbon 
Wheels Wide Narrow 
Gearing Low High 
Purpose Long rides Fast rides 
Price Affordable Expensive (depending on the model) 

So, what’s the bottom line? A touring bike or a road bike?  

Well, this is the dilemma most bikers face when deciding to purchase a new bike. Figuring out which type is best for you is a matter of purpose, preference, and what feels most comfortable for you. Both road bikes and touring bikes come with their own inherent benefits and disadvantages. The touring bike is more versatile and comfortable for long rides, the road bike, on the other hand, compromises comfort for speed. 

You should take into consideration their specific features and define your priorities based on what type of riding and terrain you’ll be riding in the most. Ultimately, whichever choice you make, select a bike that is suitable for your intended purpose.

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