When it comes to thrilling outdoor exploration on two wheels, two bikes stand out; touring and gravel bikes. But how does a touring bike vs gravel bike compare?
Touring bikes are best for long trips, especially where you have to carry some load and the terrain is not so rough. Gravel bikes, in contrast, are best for short tours where you don’t have to carry heavy loads, but the terrain is rough.
So, these two bikes differ in purpose, mainly because they have different build qualities and features.
I’ll discuss how they vary according to their outlook, geometry, frame, gears, among other specs. But first, let’s define these two bikes.
What’s a Gravel Bike?
A gravel bike is a bicycle built for rough roads, especially gravel surfaces. These bikes look like regular road bikes, only that they have a longer wheelbase and wider wheels for extra stability.
What’s a Touring Bike?
A touring bike is a bicycle built for long trips, especially one involving carrying heavy loads. Like gravel bikes, touring bikes look like road bikes, but they are more robust and have more mounts.
Touring Bike Vs Gravel Bike Comparison
Below is a table summary of the key differences between a gravel bike and a touring bike.
|Features||Touring Bike||Gravel Bike|
|Outlook||It looks like road bikes but slightly bigger||It looks like road bikes but with wider tires|
|Purpose||Long tours||Short tours|
|Capacity||Carry heavy loads||Do not carry heavy loads|
|Geometry||Endurance but comfortable geometry||Endurance geometry|
|Terrain||Smooth and less rough||Rougher|
|Frame||Heavier and bigger||Lighter and slightly smaller|
|Wheels and Tires||More robust wheels plus narrow tires||Less robust wheels plus slightly wider tires|
|Bike weight||Slightly heavier than gravel bike||Lighter than touring bike|
|Handlebars||Drop and flat bars||Drop and flat bars|
|Gears||24-27 gears||12-18 gears|
|Pedals||Flat||Flat and clipless|
|Suspension||Mostly rigid||Mostly rigid|
|Mounts||Lots of mounts||Fewer mounts|
|Cycling Shoes||Flat-shoe compatibility||Flat and clipped shoes|
|Terrains||Primarily paved road and less rugged off-roads||All surfaces but better on rough road|
Here’s how the two bikes differ:
1. Touring Bicycle Vs Gravel Bike Outlook
A gravel bike looks like a road bike but with wider wheels. They, however, have a longer wheelbase than road bikes, making them sturdier. On the other hand, Touring bikes also resemble road bikes, only that they have more mounting points, thicker frames, and longer wheelbases.
2. Gravel Vs Touring Bike Purpose
A gravel bike’s primary purpose is to take on rough surfaces, especially gravel surfaces, while taking short tours and adventures. But since these bikes are not as strong as touring bikes, they are not best for long tours.
Gravel bikes are also not best for carrying heavy stuff. The most you can bring with you on a gravel bike is probably your backpack.
If you want an option for long tours, the best option is a touring bike. Touring bikes are best for long-distance travel, especially when you want to haul some heavy stuff.
They are more robust in build than gravel bikes and allow you to carry loads on their front and rear sides.
3. Touring Bike Vs Gravel Geometry
Generally, a bike’s geometry is about maneuverability and flexibility, depending on the wheelbase, headtube, bottom bracket, and chainstays.
Gravel bikes usually have lower bottom brackets, longer chainstays, a slacker head tube and a smaller wheelbase. Touring bikes, in contrast, have a longer wheelbase, which makes them more stable. They, however, have a relaxed geometry.
A gravel bike’s geometry is designed for endurance, while a touring bike’s geometry is designed for endurance and balance. For that reason, touring bikes have a raised seat to offer you more leverage and save you from neck and back fatigue.
4. Gravel Bike Vs Touring Bike Terrain Suitability
A traditional touring bicycle is designed to take on pavements and tarmac roads. It’s only the modern touring bike that can comfortably take all kinds of terrains.
As for gravel bikes, they are more versatile. Though they are designed for rougher surfaces like gravel, they can comfortably take on pavements and tarmac roads.
5. Touring Bikes Vs Gravel Bikes Weight
A regular touring bike weighs 13-15Kgs (28.6-33.1 pounds), mainly owing to its steel frames. A standard gravel bike, on the other hand, weighs 9-13Kgs (19.8-28.6 pounds).
That clearly shows that gravel bikes are more lightweight than touring bikes.
6. Bike Size
Touring bikes are not just heavy, but they are also more prominent in stature. For one, they are bigger than road bikes and gravel bikes in frame size and feature extra accessories, making them bulkier.
Gravel bikes are almost the same size as road bikes, only that they have a slightly longer wheelbase and thicker tires.
7. Touring Bike Versus Gravel Bike Features
Here are the features that set the two bikes apart:
Touring bikes mostly come in steel frames, making them more robust, more fatigue-resistant, and more enduring. Steel also enjoys good shock-soaking properties, which are essential since these bikes don’t come with suspension.
Gravel bikes, in contrast, come in a variety of frame types. High-end gravel bikes feature carbon of titanium frames, thus lighter than others. Low-end gravel bikes, however, feature steel and aluminum frames.
b) Wheels and Tires
Touring bikes come with stronger wheels to endure longer rides. For one, they average a spoke count of about 36 spokes, which indicates wheel strength. That’s unlike gravel bikes, whose wheels average 32 spokes.
Touring bikes also have more robust rims to support the extra spokes. Perhaps the only difference is that gravel bikes have wider tires to offer them extra stability off-road.
Touring bikes mostly come with tubeless tires as they are likelier to be puncture-resistant. Some even employ a self-sealing system that allows them to seal themselves after a puncture.
Gravel bikes, in contrast, feature regular tires, apart from high-end options, which are more puncture resistant.
Both touring and gravel bikes come with flat-bars and drop-bars, but there are more drop-bars than flat-bar in both options. As a result, these bikes offer you the option of riding upright (flat bars) or aerodynamically (drop-bars).
Both bikes have a wide gear range to allow you to shift smoothly across varying terrains. The only difference is that touring bikes offer you more gears, making them more adaptive across varying terrains.
On average, touring bikes have 24-27 gears, while gravel bikes average 12-18 gears. Thus, you are likely to have a broader gear range with a touring bike than a gravel bike. That also means you can shift and go faster with a touring bike than a gravel bike.
Gravel bikes allow you to either go for flat or clipless pedals, depending on preference. If you want to train or compete, going for clipless makes sense but if you want to commute or go for adventures, go for flat pedals.
With touring bicycles, however, most cyclists find flat pedals more comfortable. So, there are more flat pedals than clipless.
Touring bikes generally lack suspension as it makes them heavier and often interferes with their ability to carry loads in their front. So, they rely on their steel frames.
Modern gravel bikes also come with rigid suspension, evening the score with touring bikes.
g) Dynamo Power
Touring bikes usually come with dynamo features that offer you extra power for illumination at night. As a result, they make it easy to continue cycling at night. This feature is usually absent on gravel bikes unless you fit it.
It’s common to find touring bikes with racks, mudguards, fenders, and other mounts convenient for travelers. Gravel bikes, however, lack such mounts.
Though you can mount a few attachments, you may not be able to carry as much load as you may want, thus less convenient for travelers.
8. Cycling Shoes Compatibility
Generally, it’s less comfortable riding a touring bike with clipped shoes than flat options. Touring bikes require you to wear comfortable shoes, preferably those with a flat sole.
Gravel bikes, in contrast, allow you to use both options, depending on the kind of cyclist you are. If you are a racer, then you can comfortably use clipped shoes. But if you only want to ride for fun, you can use flat bottom options.
Touring Vs Gravel Bike Pros And Cons
- Wide gear range
- Off-road conquering ability
- Compatible with all cycling shoe types
- More handlebars options
- Not ideal for paved road
- Not suitable for long travels
- More mounts
- Best for long trips
- Wider gear range
- More stable
- Upright geometry
- Slightly heavier
- Not suitable for rugged terrains
Are Gravel Bikes Good For Touring?
Gravel bikes are generally suitable for touring. It’s just that they are a better choice for short-distance tours and not long tours.
Essentially, that’s because gravel bikes are less robust. They are not as solid or enduring as touring bicycles, making them only best for short-distance rides.
So, how do you tell a good gravel bike for short-distance touring?
Well, it has to be adventure-ready. I’m talking about a gravel bike with a more lightweight frame, robust wheels, more speed, and user-friendly geometry. The bike should also come with powerful disc brakes and more compact handlebars.
That describes the following gravel bikes, which you can view on Amazon:
- Tommaso Siena Adventure Bike – Best gravel bike for dirt touring
- Savadeck Carbon Gravel Road Bike – Most lightweight gravel bike for short tours
Can You Ride a Touring Bike on Gravel?
While touring bikes are generally best for paved roads, it doesn’t mean that they cannot take gravel surfaces. So long as there are fewer obstacles and the touring bike has robust wheels, it can take on gravel surfaces.
That’s the case with the Mongoose Elroy Adventure Bike (View on Amazon).
This adventure touring bike enjoys powerful wheels, a robust frame, and reliable disc brakes that make it effective on gravel, just as much as it is on-road.
Touring Bike Vs Gravel Bike Closing Thought:
Now you know the things that set touring bikes apart from gravel bikes. While these two bikes are suitable for tours, you can only go for a long tour with a touring bike but on a short-distance tour with a gravel bike.
So, the overall choice depends on what you want to use the bike for.