Gravel Bike vs Touring Bike – Which is Best for off-Road Experiences?

The cycling industry is filled with amazing bikes that seem to be getting better every year. Touring bikes look just like road bikes but they operate in a similar manner to gravel bikes, though not quite exactly. Which of the two has the best off-road experience?

I used to own a gravel bike a few years back. I took it almost everywhere with me but riding it on paved roads was not that much fun at all. With my gravel, the outback dusty, rocky and rugged roads seemed to call to me.

Unfortunately, I crashed it on one of our many escapades and I had to get a new one. Having been years off the bike market, I had gotten rusty and I was surprised to see all these similar looking bikes that all functioned best on different terrain.

That’s how I learnt of the new breed of bikes known as touring bikes and just by the name, I was sold. Though it doesn’t look much different from my old gravel bike, I think I am ready to ride on and off-road again in style.

What is the Difference between the Gravel Bike and Touring Bike?

Bike Type
Gravel Bike
Touring Bike
Comfort and Endurance
Stability and Endurance
Pannier, Mudguard, racks
Mudguard, Racks, Bottle Holder

Gravel Bike vs Touring Bike – How do they compare?


Geometry refers is what gives the bike its handleability and flexibility. It refers to the angles and lengths of its tubes. Changes made to the bike’s frame geometry can give it a significantly different riding experience.

Gravel bikes are made for long distance cycling and they prioritize on comfort and durability while constantly being ridden on gravel. These bikes feature lower bottom bracket, a slacker seat and head tube and longer chain stays.

Touring bikes focus is on stability and this informs its slack frame angles, long wheelbase and three chainrings. Handlebars are flexible drop bars that allow you to ride low against headwinds.

However, for better comfort over long rides, you may have to ride in an upright position to minimize the stress on your back shoulders and neck. To keep your luggage or the front mudguard safely out of the way as you pedal, touring bikes have a longer wheelbase.

While gravel bikes consider comfort, touring bikes prioritize on stability. Different geometry results in different performance of the bikes and it depends on the bike’s purpose or use.


Gravel Bike vs Touring Bike

Gravel bikes presently feature tires 37mm, 46mm and even 60mm wide which continues to set them apart from the racing bikes. These bikes have smaller wheels and coupled with the wide tires, they create a bigger surface of contact that is essential in maneuvering corners and steep climbs.

For touring bikes, tires could measure anywhere between 45 and 60 mm just like the gravel bikes. The wider tires guarantee greater traction on all roads and improve on comfort especially on rough terrain.

Tubeless-ready wheels have become popular for both touring and gravel bikes. This is because they are not prone to pinch punctures that come about when the tire bottoms out on the rim. This gives them the ability to ride at low pressures which guarantees a stronger ground grip and a comfortable ride.


Gravel bikes have a larger gearing range commonly featuring a 50/34 chain set together with an 11/32 cassette. This is not the only range available to gravel bikes but it’s the most popular one and I highly recommend it.

Facing diverse terrain that includes ascending and descending steep and sloppy areas, the wider gear range comes in handy. This wide range allows for them to spin up the big climbs without spinning out while descending or while riding on fast and flat plains.

Touring bikes feature two or three chainrings and based on your choice, you could have a chain set with 48/38/28 chainrings and wide cassettes in the range of 11-36.  You may also take the inner chainring row down to 22 teeth and 44 big ring teeth.

These bikes require the low gears because they are perfect for climbing slopes and give considerable speeds on flat or declined surfaces.


Gravel Bike vs Touring Bike

Disc brakes have advantage over others because they have strong and unfailing resistance especially in the wet regions or on very rough surfaces. Unlike the other brake types, these ones are unaffected by rim damage meaning they still work exceptionally well regardless of any conditions.

These brakes made possible the creation of gravel bikes which are prone to rim damage while riding over hard and coarse gravel.

Much recently the newer models of touring bikes featuredisc brakes which revolutionized the cycling industry. Previously, cantilever brakes were the only used brakes because they were specifically created for road bikes.

Both bikes operate on disc brake mechanism.


The gravel bikeshave both these features to keep you dry and enable you to carry some luggage. They also have capacity to hold two water bottles. Open and simple frames on the gravel bike allow the user to comfortably fit and attach their frame bags or pannier regardless of their shape or size.

Touring bikes are made for daily or long-distance rides with heavy luggage to carry. While before panniers were the main luggage carriage, this bike maximizes on carrying capacity by adding saddle bags, rack top bags and bar bags which can easily be mounted on the bike.

There are more luggage mounting alternatives for luggage on the touring bike as compared to the gravel bike.

Gravel Bike vs Touring Bike overview

Gravel Bike – Features that stand out

  • Geometry built for endurance with the taller head tube, slacker, short top tube and seat tube angles which support a comfortable and upright riding position. This type of frame was designed to lessen the exhaustion and any pains you may experience when riding long distance.
  • They come in a variety of wheel sizes for better capability on the off-road.
  • Tires can range anywhere from 37mm to 60mm. The wider the tire, the better your experience on the bike will be.
  • Availability of accessories such as the mudguard and pannier rack mounting nodes for luggage carrying.

Touring Bike – Features that stand out

  • Geometry built for balance and endurance with the drop bar handles, a higher bottom bracket and saddle keeping the rider highly positioned on his bike. This type of frame reduces neck and back exhaustion and any pains you may experience when riding long distance.
  • They come in a variety of wheel sizes for better capability on paved or muddy road.
  • Tires can range anywhere from 38mm to 60mm. The thinner the tire, the better your experience on the bike will be.
  • May have a bottle holder and added availability of accessories such as the mudguard and pannier rack mounting nodes for luggage carrying

Verdict: So, which is better, Gravel Bike or Touring Bike?

Though, in appearance, both bikes look the same, their performance and some features are unique to either bike and make a huge difference.

Touring Bike is the better pick because of its ability to carry luggage, the variety of terrain you can cover on it plus its accessories like the mudguard are perfect for everyday use as well as long drives out of town.