If you want to tour, but you’re not sure which type of bike is right for you, you’re not alone. Choosing the perfect bike for your trip can be an overwhelming task. There are so many options and variables to consider. Are you looking for a gravel bike, a mountain bike, a hybrid bike, a touring bike, a trekking bike, or a road touring bike?
Read on to understand the differences and make an informed decision on how to pick the right touring bicycle for you!
Table of Contents
How Do You Want to Tour?
Before you start looking at bikes, you’ll want to determine how you want to tour. Do you want to ride long distances? Are you interested in more challenging climbs? Do you want to experience different terrains? Do you want to ride through cities and towns? Or do you want to ride away from main roads on unpaved or gravel roads?
Whether you’re interested in gravel biking, mountain biking, or a hybrid bike, there are specific features to look for depending on what type of bike you’re interested in, and I have tried to break down the differences as clearly as possible below:
Touring bikes are characterized by their more upright riding position, wide rims, and drop, flat, riser or butteryfly handlebars. Usually, such touring bicycles come in men's and women's specific frames. They are most often equipped with wider tires suitable for paved and unpaved roads. Many touring bikes also feature front suspension for a more comfortable ride, and all touring bikes must include mounting points for racks to carry panniers and other accessories.
Although a typical touring bike weighs around 15 kg unloaded, they usually feature a wide range of gears to make cycling on hilly and flat terrain equally accessible. Touring bikes are designed to be versatile and durable, ideally using mid-range componenents which are easy to replace anywhere in the world, which makes them ideal for long-distance touring on mostly paved roads.
Trekking bikes are essentially touring bikes, with a more off road design - and largely a marketing designation. Just like touring bikes, they are designed to provide support for heavy loads, or for riders that want a bike that will be able to handle their camping gear or other supplies.
They have a sturdy frame and wide, mixed surface or off-road tires to handle both paved and unpaved surfaces. Trekking bikes also feature racks and front or rear suspension and usually also include mudguards.
Mountain bikes are designed to ride over a variety of terrain and tackle steeper hills and mountains, thanks to generously low gears. They feature wide rims, knobby tires, and suspension, which improve handling and maneuverability off road and increase the comfort of the off road ride. Mountain bikes are commonly equipped with suspension forks and additionally rear shocks for increased control and smooth riding on uneven surfaces.
Mountain bikes are typically heavier than road or hybrid bikes, but can easily be equipped with pannier racks make great touring bicycles, for comfortable use on all types of terrain from cobbled roads to forest trails, even when fully loaded. This makes them ideal for bike tours with over 50% unpaved roads.
Gravel bikes are specifically designed to ride on unpaved and gravel trails. They are essentially road bikes, with wider, off-road tires and wider handlebars, and a slightly reinforced frame. While gravel bikes are normally slightly heavier than road bikes, they provide a bike that’s perfectly suited for a long-distance ride or for touring on and off paved roads.
Gravel bikes have a wide, low stance for increased stability and the ability to tackle all types of terrain. They feature wider rims, knobby tires, and wide handlebars to reduce vibration and provide a comfortable ride when riding over rough trails. Gravel bikes are normally equipped with more rack and accessory mounting points than road bikes, making them the right choice for riders exploring smoother unpaved roads on their bike tour.
Road Touring Bikes
Road touring bikes, also known simply as “touring bikes”, are essentially road bikes that are configured for bike touring. They often come equipped with slightly wider wheel rims to accomodate wider tires that make long distance cycling more comfortable - and allow for riding on rougher roads if needed.
Road touring bikes feature lightweight, durable frames, and faster rolling tires. They feature drop handlebars, which provide a more sporty riding position, and should also feature heavier-duty disc brakes and derailleurs to handle the rigors of riding with additional cargo on paved roads.
Hybrid bikes are a combination of mountain, road, and gravel bikes. They have a hybrid frame and components, which combine the best qualities of different types of bikes to create the perfect, light touring bike. Hybrid bikes feature a rigid frame and ridgid fork, which aim to reduce weight. They also feature wider rims and mixed surface tires.
Hybrid bikes typically offer a more comfortable upright seated position for long-distance touring, and are ideally suited to paved roads and smoother terrain. We designate our hybrid bikes as "Light touring bikes", and they are popular for their lower weight and comfortable ride.
Choosing the Right Bike for You
To make an informed decision on which bike is best for you, you’ll need to consider where you want to ride and what style of bike touring suits you best. The best way to do this is to think about what type of touring you want to do and what type of bike you think will best suit your needs.
As you consider your options, keep in mind that not all bikes are made for every type of bicycle touring. For example, if you’re interested in riding through cities, you may prefer a road bike or a hybrid, light touring bike. If you’re looking for a bike that’s best for long-distance touring off the beaten track, however, you want to look at mountain or suspension touring bikes instead.
If you're still not sure what bike is best for you, don't worry, we are here to help, so just reach out below!