Are you asking yourself what is the Best Bike for park riding or traveling long distances? In this post, we will compare road bike vs. touring bikes and try to answer all of your questions regarding bike types.
There’s nothing more convenient than to travel across the city streets and enjoy the sights and sounds on two wheels. But bikes come in all shapes and sizes; from new folding bikes and cruisers to MTBs, you have too many options, it might be overwhelming! If you’ve been searching for a new bike to use on the road for both day riding and light touring, chances are you are torn between a road bike and a touring bike.
From the general appearance, these two bike models are like two peas in a pod, and it might be difficult for the uninitiated to differentiate between them. Nevertheless, there are slight variations in their design that suits them for totally unique tasks. In this comparison post, we explore the differences between the two bike models.
In the end, we’ll try to determine which one is better suited for your riding purpose when it comes to road bikes vs touring bikes!
In a nutshell, road bikes are built to be light, stiff, and fast in a design that favors smooth road surfaces for either racing or day ride recreation. On the other hand, touring bikes are engineered around strength, stability, and comfort. They are designed to carry heavier loads, besides the rider, and for longer rides.
Also known as racing bikes, road bikes are primarily built for lightness and stiffness. They provide you with the fastest way to get around as you attend to your errands in town. On the downside, these bikes are not known for their comfort; rather, they focus on maximizing efficiency on the tarmac.
Typically, most road bikes come with aluminum frame material, which renders them lightweight and aerodynamic but can be unforgiving on rough off-road terrains. These bikes are mostly preferred for daily use and are best suited for entry-level cyclists and people looking to ride on short and fast commutes.
Touring bikes are designed for comfort and stability. They are the ideal option for long and multi-day adventures and as far as design is concerned, there isn’t much variation when compared to a road bike. However, these have a more relaxed geometry and a tougher frame to bear more weight and offer provisions for extra accessories.
They are also pretty bulky and heavier, which makes them shine on relatively rugged terrains. Steel is the most common frame material you’ll find on touring bikes, although some feature other options. Overall, these bikes are ideal for people hoping to join a biking group and those looking for something to take them beyond the end of the tarmac.
Differences Between Road Bikes and Touring Bikes
Let us now delve deeper into the differences between these two bike models by looking at the different features they come with:
Road bikes are generally constructed using aluminum or carbon to make them as lightweight as possible. Unlike touring bikes, they are not meant to hold any extra weight besides the rider, and maybe a water bottle. Although some road bikes come with mounting points where you can attach racks, they are not meant to carry heavy loads.
Conversely, touring bikes are built using rugged steel to enhance their durability in rougher conditions. As such, this makes them bulky and heavy. The benefit here is that you get better control at top speeds, as well as the provision to carry extra luggage for your adventure without compromising the stability of your ride.
Road bikes are designed for speed! To limit the rolling resistance, most come with small and narrow wheels and tires. At high pressure, the narrow tires are pretty smooth on the road and will effortlessly cut through air resistance, allowing you to attain greater speeds.
On the other hand, touring bikes are built to offer comfort and performance. Normally, they roll on wider and heavy-duty tires that can handle the punishment of the rough trails. The larger wheels are great for holding the huge loads that these bikes can carry, as well as enhance the comfort of the rider.
Generally, road bikes feature an aluminum or carbon frame; materials that are lightweight yet durable and resistant to corrosion. They facilitate your mobility on the road while making for nimble handling.
Touring bikes are mostly constructed using steel, which is more rugged and long-lasting than aluminum. The steel material also supports your weight for enhanced comfort and offers more stable handling.
Gearing is usually higher and narrower on road bikes. This allows the bike to be responsive and stay agile on changing sections of the road. Touring bikes, on the other hand, have a lower gearing ratio than road bikes. In some cases, mountain bike components are applied to the rear gearing to provide you with extra-low gearing. This comes in quite handy when going down a slope with a fully-loaded bike.
The overall geometry of road bikes is designed for an aerodynamic posture. This includes handlebars that slightly bend inwards to enable you to lean forward and downward. The result is an aerodynamic posture that reduces air resistance when faced with a headwind while allowing you to attain greater speeds with very little opposition.
Road bikes also have a shorter wheelbase, lower bottom bracket, as well as a steeper headtube angle. This design allows the bike to respond to rider inputs more quickly and lowers the center of gravity, which is essential on turns.
Touring bikes have a geometry that is designed for comfort. When it comes to handlebars, these bikes can either feature a drop bar, flat bar, or butterfly bar. These types of handlebars serve to provide you with different hand positions, different body posture, as well as different frame sizes for your ultimate comfort.
Touring bikes also maintain a low bottom bracket, although the wheelbase is longer and the head tube angle slacker than on a road bike. This results in enhanced stability of the ride, especially when the bike is fully loaded.
Touring bikes are typically fitted with linear-pull brakes. These are more ideal for offering exceptional stopping power that you’ll need when riding on wet and muddy surfaces. The only downside to linear-pull brakes is that they are relatively complex and can be a challenge to repair.
Meanwhile, road bikes mostly utilize disc brakes, which will stop the ride on a dime at high speeds.
Touring bikes tend to offer you greater provisions for accessories. They may come fitted with mounting racks or panniers that improve the bike’s carrying capacity when you want to bring along a water bottle, mini-pump, frame lock, and other accessories to use on the trail.
Elsewhere, road bikes come with limited provision to carry accessories. Some models may have mounting points although these are meant to merely carry a water bottle or two!
Can You Convert a Road Bike into a Touring Bike?
If you’re planning a one-time adventure, it may not be necessary to waste money on a new touring bike if you already own a road bike. It is possible to convert it into a functional touring bike, but it should be noted that features such as tires and size of the frame may not be easy to change.
In any case, this definition of “converting” simply refers to customizing the road bike to suit your preferences on a long trip. The major customization here will be to fit a full-size rack above the back wheel of the road bike. This will be crucial for holding your luggage and any other essential supplies that you may need, e.g. sunscreen, water, first aid kit, etc.
While you may have the alternative to carry all these supplies on a luggage backpack, this will greatly take away from your comfort during the ride. Not to mention the undue pressure that you probably don’t need on your back. The second important customization would be to replace the pedals with a double-size set.
Double-size pedals serve to make it more comfortable for your legs during pedaling and help to offer better control. At the end of the day, customization is something you should only consider as a temporary solution. If you are looking for something more permanent, we suggest getting a road bike that’s specially designed for touring or invest in a new touring bike.
Both road bikes and touring bikes offer you a great way to commute on two wheels. While they may look quite similar in appearance, these two bikes were designed for different purposes that you’d be wise to take into consideration if you’re thinking of buying a new bike.
Road bikes are a wonderful commuter vehicle if you want a lightweight and fast machine to get you from point B to point A. Touring bikes, on the other hand, will be more ideal if you want a more stable and comfortable commute on rougher trails with the option of carrying some luggage.