Touring Bike vs. Road Bike – Differences and Similarities


  • Touring bikes are heavier and more robust than road bikes. They come with many mounting points for cargo.
  • Road bikes are a great way to get efficiently from A to B, with their lightweight and aerodynamic frames.
  • You can use your touring bike for casual riding or commuting, but you can’t use a road bike off-road.

Touring and road bikes look almost identical, but they are pretty different. Many buy a touring bike because they think it’s a road bike or vice versa. They might not get the most out of their purchase if they don’t pick the right bike for their needs. [1]

In this article, we’ll explain the similarities and differences between touring bikes and road bikes so that you can decide which bike is best for you.

TL;DR Answer

Touring bikes are heavier and more robust than road bikes. They have thicker tires for better handling in poor weather conditions. They have mounting points that allow them to carry more cargo on longer journeys without being too bulky or weighing down your pockets.

Road bikes, on the other hand, are meant for speed. They’re lightweight and agile.

Read more: 16 Best Road Bikes Under $1000

What are the purposes of touring and road bikes? 

Road bikes are a great way to get efficiently from A to B, with their lightweight, aerodynamic frames and thin tires. They’re designed for all sorts of tarmac, whether small cycle paths or North American trails! They’re one of the most aerodynamic bikes on earth, and their narrow tires mean you can reach speeds that other riders wouldn’t dream about.

In contrast, touring bikes are made for, you guessed it – touring. They are built for adventure, with sturdy frames to withstand challenging roads and all your accessories. They come with extra mounts so that you can bring water bottles or bags ( panniers ) along. Most touring bikes come with powerful disc brakes because additional weight needs more stopping power. 

Multi-day bike touring is also known as bikepacking. [2]

Read more: Best Bikepacking Bikes

Touring Bike vs. Road Bike – Differences and Similarities

Let’s find out the most significant differences between touring and road bikes in the different parts of the bicycle

Frame geometry

As we already mentioned, road bikes are made for speed and efficiency. Road bike frames put the rider in a more aerodynamic and aggressive position.

These days, most road bikes have steel, aluminum, or carbon fiber frames.

Carbon fiber is the material of choice for high-end road bikes. It’s very light, and you can ruin an entire frame by crashing it, but performance benefits make up for this risk – not one professional cycling team races on noncarbon frames! [3]

Steel or aluminum are common materials used in making touring bikes because they offer different benefits depending on which type you select – but ultimately, each has its pros & cons that might not work out perfectly with every person’s needs.

In terms of frame geometry, touring bikes have a longer wheelbase, longer chainstays, and a lower bottom bracket. They contribute to the bike’s comfort, stability, and overall ride quality. [4]

Gears and brakes

Both bike types are very similar when we talk about gears and drivetrain. Road bikes and touring bikes have 2x drivetrains, meaning they have two chainrings in the front.

Road bikes often use 50/34t, 52/36, or even larger chainrings to make it easier for them to pedal. These numbers refer to the number of teeth on the two front chainrings.

In the back, most road bikes come with 8 or 11-speed rear cassettes with cogs from 11t to 28t.

Touring bikes are much slower than road bikes, but they often have more gears for climbing because of their weight and bulkiness to carry around in daily life on the bike path or dirt roads. Riders opt for compact crankset sets that offer plenty between each gear so as not to have any trouble climbing even the steepest slopes.

You can even find touring bikes with 3x drivetrains ( 3 chainrings in the front ). On the other hand, you won’t find a road bike with three chainrings in the front – these are used on hybrid and mountain bikes.

Road bikes come with rim brakes or disc brakes.

Rim brakes usually have two pads that grip the wheel’s rim to slow it down or stop it. The pads are squeezed against the rim by the brake lever. When you pull on the brake lever, it pulls a cable that activates the brake pads.

Disc brakes are also often found on road bikes these days. There are two types of disc brakes – hydraulic and mechanical.

Disc brakes have a rotor attached to the wheel’s hub instead of traditional brake pads. When you squeeze on the brake lever, it pushes a piston inside a cylinder that forces hydraulic fluid through tiny holes, which activate the calipers and slow down or stop the rotation of the disc/rotor.

Modern touring bikes ship exclusively with high-quality hydraulic disc brakes because they are superior to rim brakes or mechanical disc brakes – in any weather conditions, when wet, for example. They need more stopping power because riders often load their touring bikes with a lot of weight.

Tires & Wheels

Here comes one of the most apparent differences between the two bikes. Road bikes have super-thin tires ( between 20mm and 25mm ). Most of the models come with 23mm tires.

The wheel size is 700c or smaller and is mainly designed to be ridden on smooth tarmac.

On the other hand, Touring bikes come with wider tires that absorb bumps much better. In most cases, they range from 32mm up to 45mm. They also come with a high spoke count of 36 per wheel. This is one of the reasons why touring bikes are an excellent choice for heavy riders.

Can you use a road bike for touring?

Yes, you can. The only problem is that the tires are usually too thin for biking on bumpy roads or dirt paths. You might get a flat tire every few miles, which isn’t great when you carry everything on your bike.

To avoid these problems, getting a dedicated touring bike is better than using road bikes for multi-day cycling trips.

Do touring bikes make good road bikes?

Yes, they do. The only difference is that they are designed to carry a lot of weight and come with wider tires that aren’t as thin as those found on road bikes. You can easily switch the tires from one bike to another if you use your touring bike as your road bike.