Touring Bike vs Gravel bike: What’s the Actual Difference?

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Gravel bikes have so many aspects that resemble those of touring bike. Therefore, it is not a wonder that most people fall in the middle, wondering which bike is better than the other. One thing is for sure though; no bike is better than the other. Each has its own purpose, which the other cannot fulfill as well.

That being said, let’s take the two bikes on a head to head comparison, bringing out both similarities and differences. When through, your confusion should be over.

The Main difference Between Gravel Bike Vs Touring Bike

Let’s dive into the main features of the two bikes;

1. Functions

As you read earlier, the two bikes are made for different functions. However, the two are almost interchangeable, especially when switching the function is only for a short while.

Let’s take an instance of having a road trip once a year, which is not even a guarantee. Then you can use your gravel bike. Say, on the contrary, you have a touring bike, but feel like visiting the gravel countryside occasionally. Your touring bike will still handle the conditions.

Nevertheless, let’s have a look at the specific functionality of each bike.

A gravel bike is a road bike in outlook, only they have longer wheels, allow a more upright posture and can handle any type o terrain.

On the other hand, a touring bike is built to survive several days of travel, hence strong construction. It has a design that allows you to carry your travelling bags, both at the front and at the back.

2. General Bike Outlook and Design

At a glance, touring bikes look big. Considering the wheelbase, it is quite large, they have extra mounting points and a carrier and the bike frame thicker. The frame design, though, could resemble that of a road bike. Those that are built for men have a higher frame compared to the women’s bikes.

A gravel bike could actually be confused for a road bike. This is because the general outlook is almost similar. The probable difference could be the longer wheels and tires, and probably a slightly sturdier outlook.

Compared to the touring bike though, the gravel bike is quite smaller and with a narrower frame.

3. Tires and wheels

Touring bikes use sturdier wheels, with toughened tires so as to handle the long rides. The sturdy wheels allow them to handle heavy weights, both the rider’s weight and his luggage.

In most cases, touring bikes will use tubeless tires. These are tires that will save you the risk of ever getting pinch punctures. Moreover, the tubeless tires maintain pressure longer, so you don’t have to pump them every so often. At least with the tubeless tires, you can wait till you get to your resting place.

Another reason why touring bike user will prefer tubeless tires is the fact that they rarely get punctures. You can use slime, so that even during the occurrence of a puncture, the slime will automatically seal it. The good part is that slime can accommodate up to several punctures.

Comparatively, the gravel bike wheels are tough, but compared to the touring bike, not as sturdy. The bike wheels are quite lightweight, so as to provide for speed even in the rough road conditions.

The wheels are mostly tubeless, since the conditions of the road are not that friendly. Also, they are tough, with a tread that prevents small stones from getting into the tire and causing subsequent damage.

4. Size

Generally, the touring bike is really heavy. This stems from the fact that it has to withstand a variation of road conditions, and still maintain stability. The frame and crank arm are quite heavy, not to mention the wheels. The frame, usually, is made of aluminum and its alloys for a sturdy and quality construction.

Moreover, the bike gets more weight from the extra accessories that it comes with. For instance, it has to come with a strong carrier for luggage, which you will need for the trip. Also, it has multiple points where you can mount your luggage comfortably.

On the contrary, the gravel bike has two motives; faster rolling capacity and traction in braking and cornering. Therefore, the bike is quite light in weight. The design and minimal accessories required further facilitate the lighter weight.

5. Cycling Shoes

If you are using Clipless pedals, then cleated cycling shoes are a necessity in either of the biking expeditions. However, the pedals are not common in touring bikes, given the discomfort you would get from having the shoes for days.

In touring bikes, you will rather have some lightweight pair of shoes that is quite comfortable. A change may be necessary at some point, when one shoe becomes uncomfortable. If you have been using closed cycling shoes, you may change into some sandals for comfort.

With the gravel bike, this will depend. For racers, Clipless pedals will be more efficient, hence the need for cleated shoes. In any case, the longest you will ride will still be hours. Also, you probably don’t intend to stop along the way.

6. Clipless Vs Flat Pedals

When using gravel bikes, you have the option to either use flat pedals or Clipless pedals. This largely depends on your biking goals. If you are biking for training and competition, then the Clipless pedals will be worth it.

However, if your bike is solely for commuting and adventure, you can use flat pedals, and probably some clipped pedals for longer distance.

With the touring bikes, most people will prefer the flat pedals. However, the rising number of Clipless pedals for touring bikes being popular is not negligible.

Nevertheless, it all boils down to individual preference and the biking they will take.

In a Nutshell;

All in all, each bike has a strong functionality for its own purpose. Though interchangeable, the specific bike is the best of what is meant for.

Now it is up to you to make a choice on your most preferred bike option. Remember that all the bikes have quality models. When you get some cheap quality, don’t assume that all bikes in the category are that bad.

Take your time to make an informed choice, and you will be grateful that you did.

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