Forum home Road cycling forum Tours, routes, audaxes & organised rides Tour & expedition

Touring vs Road Bikes?

barrowmattbarrowmatt Posts: 104
edited October 2012 in Tour & expedition
I've been looking at getting a new bike for the road for a combination of day riding and possibly light touring.

What are the main differences between a touring category bike and a regular road bike. I've never had a tourer before but looking at them they don't appear to be particularly good value?


  • A road bike is built primarily for lightness and stiffness.
    A touring bike is built for comfort and stability.

    Modern road racing bikes will usually be built around an aluminium alloy or carbon fibre frame, and have lightweight wheels, often with a low spoke count and thin tyres.
    Touring bikes are usually built from steel, are substantially heavier and are able to carry large loads. They have thicker tyres with more grip and puncture protection. They usually have a much wider range of gears (almost always utilising a triple chainset, rather than the compact double found on most modern road bikes), and often feature wheels handbuilt for durability rather than low weight.

    A good compromise between these two very different bikes is known as an Audax bike, or "light tourer".
    Look at the Spa Cycles Audax, Genesis Equilibrium, and Enigma Ethos as a starting point.
  • Another major difference is chainstay length a tourer will have much longer chainstays to accommodate panniers and avoid heel slap.
  • andymillerandymiller Posts: 2,856
    It's very difficult to make hard-and-fast statements: obviously at one end of the spectrum there are thoroughbred race bikes and at the other bikes designed primarily as tourers - eg long wheelbase etc (the Surly Long Haul Trucker is an example). But full-on touring bikes are really quite unusual, there are a lot more bikes that lie somewhere between the two extremes: triples, pannier mounts but shorter wheelbases. The Planet-X Kaffenback is a good example of the multi-purpose bike, but other manufacturers have similar bikes. The manufacturers often muddle the issue by using the term 'cross' - which seems to have more to do with cross-training than cyclocross.

    My advice would be to ignore the marketing categories and simply consider whether the bike in question will do what you want: eg does it have mounts for panniers? does it have sufficient tyre clearance (which should also mean the chainstays are long enough).
  • DrumlinDrumlin Posts: 120
    andymiller wrote:
    The manufacturers often muddle the issue by using the term 'cross' - which seems to have more to do with cross-training than cyclocross.

    I have a Genesis Croix de Fer - marketed as a cross bike but with 32 mm road tyres, mudguards and a rear rack makes a great general purpose bike for day rides/commuting/light touring. But for heavier touring I'd want a triple.
    Would welcome company for Sat rides west/south of Edinburgh, up to 3 hrs, 16mph ish. Please PM me if interested/able to help.
  • priorypriory Posts: 743
    a tourer will carry the weight in a much more stable way than a lighter thing, but riding every day unladen you will begrudge it's extra weight. rather than spend loads on a single bike to do it all ,but nothing perfectly, I have always got a low/mid range version of each of a road/audax (like a giant defy for example or trek version) and a tourer (cheap one is raleigh royal or dawes horizon).
    It has been my experience that light bikes break and are expensive to maintain.
    I have said in another place that the traditional ctc club bike is the best choice for 80% of the miles I have done in my life. E.g. raleigh clubman etc..
    Raleigh Eclipse, , Dahon Jetstream XP, Raleigh Banana, Dawes super galaxy, Raleigh Clubman ... =slideshow
  • MichaelWMichaelW Posts: 2,226
    Touring bikes come in light, med and expedition styles.
    Lightweight (Audax) style often have long drop calipers for 28mm + mudguard clearance.
    Medium tourers are the classic English style eg Dawes Galaxy, good for most riding, commuting, shopping, weekend leisure rides, Euro tours and expeditions. They weight about the same as a modern midrange aluminium hybrid.
    Expedition touring bikes are heavier duty with more waterbottle mounts and geometry designed for heavy loads and rougher roads.

    Winter training bikes are a class of light tourer and the CX style (esp the useful disc-equipped ones) are med touring style.
    They cost more because they are made in small numbers and they come fully equipped with accessories.
    Many of the newer components that are good for racing are bad for touring and building a durable, reliable, fixable touring bike is not simple. Integration of the many extra components is not always a simple matter.
  • bahzobbahzob Posts: 2,195
    Unless carrying camping gear my preference is to use a road bike and keep luggage weight down, as I like the option to ride quickly if the opportunity presents especially up mountains.

    I use a Specialized Roubaix with a Carradice Nelson saddlebag, which has been fine for a 5 week 5000km tour.
    Martin S. Newbury RC
  • mercia_manmercia_man Posts: 1,388
    Sounds to me like barrowmatt would be best off with an audax/light touring bike - and I would echo indysmith's suggestions of three good possible bikes. They would all cope with fast day rides, sportives and audaxes, commuting, shopping and B&B touring. They'd also be fine for ultra-lightweight camping, although not really stiff enough for fully loaded camping with stove, food etc.

    Using a road bike and keeping weight down is also an option. But you do need to keep the weight down. The achilles heel of road bikes is that the wheels will not be strong enough for more than say a lightly loaded saddlebag. You don't want to suffer the hassle of broken spokes.
  • dakkardakkar Posts: 95
    to further blur the boundaries in the search for the holy grail: I bike that is light, strong, durable, reliable, do it all, there are carbon cross bikes. The type ridden by Mike Hall when he smashed the round the world, world record. Hr cycled 18000 miles with no real issues to the bike at all. True he was travelling very light without racks using seat packs and frame bags but he was unsupported. His one intention was to beat the world record, he was serious about the attempt so all his gear had to be up to the job.
  • bigjimbigjim Posts: 780
    achilles heel of road bikes is that the wheels will not be strong enough for more than say a lightly loaded saddlebag. You don't want to suffer the hassle of broken spokes.
    Surely that depends on the weight of the rider? I would imagine most road bikes would cope with a 16 stone rider. If you weigh 12 stone, that gives you a lot to play with. I toured last year on a roadbike with camping gear with no problems. The only concession to the extra weight was that I fitted a 28c tyre on the rear.
    Surely if spokes are a concern it is a matter of keeping a good strong rear wheel to install when you decide to tour if the frame will take it.
  • Touring bikes will have slower steering to add stability underload and have a longer wheel base, in particular longer chainstays to give heel clearance when using a rear rack and large panniers.
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