Touring Bikes vs. Gravel Bikes: What’s the Difference?

Both touring bikes and gravel bikes are designed for adventure purposes. If you want an off-track road trip or a mountain tour, these bikes are the best to have around. Both bikes are durable and very capable on different surfaces. Additionally, they are designed to carry your baggage on your trip.

Although they have the same point of use, these bikes have several differences. After all, they will not be classified as different bikes if they are just the same. Below, we will know more about these resemblances and dissimilarities that touring and gravel bikes have.

Similarities of Touring and Gravel Bikes

Touring bikes and gravel bikes are both made to be vital for multi-terrain trips. They are designed to be sturdy enough on complex surfaces even when carrying many loads on their frames. Moreover, these bikes promote an upright sitting position to help you better pace your uphill and downhill rides.

Aside from the already mentioned properties that touring and gravel bikes have in common, they also use thick tires. Thick tires are best used for these bike types because they give you better surface traction. Also, these tires are less likely to pop because they have relatively low pressure in them. This makes them very resistant to debris, bumps, and other forms of road obstacles.

Another similarity that these bikes have is their use of disc brakes. Since touring and gravel bikes are more likely to be used on rugged trails, they both need a reliable braking system. Disc brakes provide the consistent and real-time stopping power they need. 

Differences of Touring and Gravel Bikes

One of the main differences between touring and gravel bikes is the material used for their framesets. Touring bike frames are normally made from steel material. This ensures that they are strong enough while on the road and carrying a lot of weight on the trip. 

On the other hand, gravel bike frames usually are made from materials like carbon fiber, aluminum, and titanium. This is to make the bike frame lightweight and durable at the same time. This helps gravel bikes to be faster, even on rugged terrains.

Touring and gravel bikes can be used on different roads when it comes to road coverage. For instance, touring bikes are mainly for tarmac and paved roads, while gravel bikes are designed to withstand a more diverse set of surfaces compared to touring bikes. They can be used on dirt roads, fire roads, mountainous paths, and a lot more.

Touring bikes have a higher gearing system range than gravel bikes. In fact, they often use a 3x drivetrain, while gravel bikes use 1x and 2x drivetrain systems. The number of gears in a bike determines the adaptability of bikes in conditions such as inclines and bumps. 

Lastly, touring bikes have more spokes than gravel bikes. Spokes are the wire rods connecting the center of the wheel to its outer edge. The more spokes that the bike has, the more it can handle heavier loads. Gravel bikes typically have 32 spokes. While touring bikes have 36 to 48 spokes depending on how heavy the bike’s cargo is.

What Makes a Gravel Bike?

Credits to: @xokvictor

Gravel bikes are also called adventure bikes. They are engineered to make sure that they can handle multiple terrains. A gravel bike can be identified with its key features. Some of these are the flared drop bars, fat tires, wide tire clearance, long wheelbase, low bottom bracket, and capability to mount multiple accessories. Although it is expected to be an all-terrain bike, it has a lightweight frame.

Gravel bikes are the product of mountain bikes and road bikes combined. Its design resembles a road bike that can do what mountain bikes can. It can perform well on paved roads and considerably on off-road tracks. The leading edge of gravel bikes against road and mountain bikes is its ability to carry you and your luggage as you ride even on uphill roads.

What Are Gravel Bikes Good for?

If you are thinking of a long weekend ride in nature, you can count on gravel bikes to give you a great riding experience. Gravel bikes are great companions if you are riding off-road. They have specialized components that can endure different external elements such as dirt, mud, and water. This makes them reliable to perform in different weathers.

Gravel bikes are also great for ascending roads. Since they are usually lightweight and robust and road-grip tires, they are ideal for this kind of trip. Besides, the gear system that gravel bikes have helped make sure you can adapt to surface changes, even when uphill. Lastly, the disc brakes will ensure that your descent will be more manageable and safe.

Gravel Bikes: The Pros

1. Designed for All Types of Roads

Gravel bikes are coined as the jack of all trades in the bicycle world. This is because they are versatile and capable regardless of the surface you will use them on. Cyclists consider gravel bikes as the wisest investment you will make if you really are into biking.

You can use gravel bikes even on long road rides. Since they are designed to be comfortable, you do not have to worry about being uneasy after traveling for a couple of hours. With an upright sitting position, gravel bikes will ensure that you will not be sore after your road trip.

2. Lightweight

Since gravel bikes use lightweight material for their frames, they are easier to carry around than bikes made of steel. Their light property makes them very manageable, primarily since they are seldom used for challenging terrains. 

The weight of your bike determines how energy-efficient it would be. The lighter the bike is, the more energy you can save when riding over rough trails. This further makes you more efficient on the road and less tired in the long run.

3. Has a Wide Tire Clearance

Gravel bikes have wide tire clearance, which implies that you can use a variety of tires on them. The recommended tire width for gravel bikes ranges from 38mm to 42mm. Although you can still use wider tires up to 45mm depending on your bike’s frame build. 

This capability of gravel bikes to change tires from narrow to thick ones makes them more versatile. You can have a customized riding experience with it. For example, if you want more traction on the road, you can choose a thicker tire with lower pressure. If you want to be faster and lighter on paved roads, you can change into thinner tires with more pressure in them.

Gravel Bikes: The Cons

1. Not the Fastest on Paved Roads

Because of the fat tires and low tire pressure that gravel bikes have, they are not the best on smoothly surfaced roads. Thick tires tend to be heavier, which means they slow you down more. Narrow tires with high pressure are best when taking paved roads. Low-pressure tires are best if surface grip is required. On paved surfaces, this is not much of a requirement at all. 

2. Frame is not Customizable 

The materials commonly used for gravel bike frames are carbon fiber, aluminum, and titanium. These materials are lightweight and durable. However, they are hard to work with. It requires a unique technology for these materials to be forged into frames. Working with them post-production can cause damage to the frame.

3. Expensive to Build

Gravel bikes make use of the latest technology for their components. This makes them a lot more expensive than other bike types. From its frame to its gears to the type of brakes it uses, gravel bikes will definitely cost a significant cut from your budget.

In addition to this, since gravel bikes have more advanced parts, the maintenance of their components can be pretty expensive. It can be costly to purchase one, but it is also expensive to maintain one.

What Makes a Touring Bike?

Touring bike is known for being a durable adventure-type bike that can carry all your needs for you. It is so strong that it can lift heavy baggage along with you. It is made from a solid steel material that meets its need of being robust enough for multi-day rides.

Aside from having steel as its mainframe material, touring bikes also have very durable components. This ensures that no matter how far your destination is, the bike will endure it. 

Touring bikes usually come with many accessories to help you have convenient and safe rides. One of its helpful accessories is the front hub dynamo, a small electric generator. Front hub dynamos are especially helpful when you use your touring bike lights during nighttime. 

What Are Touring Bikes Good for?

If you love to carry a lot in your travels, you should have a touring bike with you. They have attachment points for front and rear racks. Touring bikes are efficient and helpful, especially if you have a lot of stuff to carry with you. 

Likewise, you can carry camping essentials with you such as tents, clothes, spare wheels, and many more. This makes them marketable, especially for travelers who ride for long durations.

Since these bikes are also powerful, they can withstand off-road trails. They have a very relaxed geometry, making them suitable for long road rides. Best of all, they are not limited to being adventure-type bikes. You can use them on casual commutes and even for fitness purposes.

Touring Bikes: The Pros

1. Very Enduring to Abuse

Touring bikes are made from sturdy steel material. Steel is recommended by most cyclists for its low price but very promising strength. With their strong steel frame, touring bikes are very enduring to abuse. They can carry a lot of weight without compromising the quality of your riding experience.

2. Larger Gear Range

Touring bikes have an extensive gearing range. In fact, they use a 3x drivetrain system. This allows them to pace better even when carrying a lot of weight. Moreover, this gives you a better and more personalized riding experience. You can shift gears based on what makes you more comfortable on the road.

3. Component Replacements are Easy to Find

The components that make up touring bikes are usually not hard to find. Mainly because they are not made with specialized technology. Moreover, this is what makes them sellable. If parts are easier to find for future replacements, it makes you more confident that you will not have to wait for special shipments for your bike parts. 

Touring Bikes: The Cons

1. Not the Best in Speed

Touring bikes do not give out the best speed output. This is mainly because they are made with solid steel material and other components that are not specialized. Because of its heavy weight, it could take you more time to cover a distance than its lighter counterparts. This means that touring bikes are not the best to count on when it comes to speed. This is the compromise you must consider since they are competent in carrying weight compared to other bikes.

2. Heavier Compared to Other Bikes

Steel is a heavy bike material. This helps the touring bike be stiff enough to carry a lot of weight. For context, touring bikes can carry up to 50 kilograms of additional baggage. However, this also makes touring bikes heavier than modern bikes made with lighter material options. Their weight makes them relatively harder to manage, especially on steep tracks. Moreover, it can exhaust you faster if you are not conditioned to ride on a heavier bike.

3. Designed Mainly for Tarmac

Although advertised as an adventure type of bike, touring bikes do not cover multiple terrains compared to gravel bikes. In fact, they are designed to travel on the tarmac and paved roads. Though there are modifications that you can make to make touring bikes capable of going through more challenging terrains.