Trekking Vs Touring Bikes: Similarities, Differences & How To Choose

There are a lot of labels for bikes these days. You’ll hear about gravel bikes, hybrid bikes, city bikes, commuter bikes, cruisers, mountain bikes, and more. More specific categories exist within these labels, like endurance road bikes or time trial bikes.

Trekking bikes have thinner tubes and often come with wider tires than touring bikes. They have lighter, trendier components sacrificing durability and ease of repair for weight and cost. Touring bikes have longer rear chainstay and wheelbase than trekking bikes.

Despite the cornucopia of vocabulary, bike manufacturers aren’t beholden to any universal standard. Instead, anything that they choose to call a hybrid bike can have the label slapped on it, regardless of the geometry or the components on the bike. This means that there’s a big range between bikes that are ostensibly within the same category, especially from different brands.

Let’s take a moment and examine two of these bike category labels: touring bikes and trekking bikes. In order to understand the differences, we’ll define both types of bikes, give some examples of each, and discuss which type of bike is ideal for which rider.

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What Is A Touring Bike?

Touring bikes are designed for riding across a country — literally. If you’re going on a ride of more than 100 miles, a touring bike is probably the right choice. You’ll see touring bike riders bike across massive deserts, whole continents, or even the whole world.

Touring bikes are heavy bikes built for strength and comfort. They tend to feature upright geometry and are designed for holding lots of cargo on racks and panniers. They usually come with kickstands so you can keep the bike upright, ensuring you don’t have to lean it on one of your bags. W

hile heavy, the frame on a touring bike can hold a lot of weight. Some riders load as much as 200 lbs of gear onto their bikes when they ride, and the bikes handle the load fine.

Touring bikes tend to have long wheelbases. You’ll usually see long chainstays, due to both the way it shifts the center of gravity of a loaded bike and the necessity of keeping panniers far enough back that your heels don’t kick them as you pedal. 

Traditional touring bikes feature slack head tubes and low bottom brackets. 

Modern offerings often experiment with this formula, as the advent of gravel bikes and the lengthening of mountain bikes has led many riders to experiment with these options for touring. 

Touring bike manufacturers will occasionally borrow geometry from these experiments and produce bikes that don’t fit the classic touring mold.

The components on a touring bike are chosen for durability, reliability, and ease of repair, meaning that you’ll often see hardware that’s fallen out of fashion in other categories of bikes. 

The advantage here is that you can perform field repairs on your bike with simple tools you can find at a hardware store anywhere in the world rather than needing a fancy specific contraption from Park Tool to have a chance of fixing things.

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Older, more traditional touring bikes had thinner tires that were much closer to road bike tires than mountain bike tires, but that’s starting to change. More and more riders have realized that wider tires are more comfortable to ride on. 

If you’re going to spend hours in the saddle for multiple days, having slightly underinflated wider tires will make your overall ride a lot more comfortable. This means that more modern touring bikes tend to have slightly wider tires than older offerings.

Touring bikes tend to be expensive. You can find a mid range touring bike, but it’s tough to find a durable bike that can carry 100 lbs of gear and an adult rider for much under $1000. 

Used touring bikes are incredibly easy to find, however, as the bikes themselves tend to last for decades. It’s not uncommon to find twenty or thirty-year-old touring bikes for sale that have more miles on them than some cars — and they still work great.

Most touring bikes feature gearing that favors easy riding over speed. This helps ensure that you have the endurance to climb hills at the end of a long day of riding with all of the gear you’re carrying in your bags. Y

ou’ll usually see 3x drivetrains, although there’s certainly some room for experimentation here as well. Many touring bike manufacturers sell the bikes as framesets, meaning you could theoretically set up a touring bike as a fixie if you wanted to.

Touring bikes never have suspension. There are two reasons for this. First, the suspension is an additional point of failure on the bike. It’s a massive pain to figure out how to fix your suspension fork halfway through your 200-mile ride. 

Second, touring bikes generally stick to fairly even roads. They do fine on dirt trails and gravel, but their intended use case is not riding down big rocky slopes or even popping down curbs. Even if you had suspension, you still wouldn’t want to go over bumps with all of your gear on the bike.

Modern touring bikes include the Trek 520, the Coop Cycles ADV 1.1, and the Fuji Touring.

What Is A Trekking Bike?

Touring bikes are well defined. The “trekking bike” label, on the other hand, seems to imply that a bike can carry cargo and not much else. You’ll see some lighter midrange trekking bikes from some manufacturers that are pretty much city commuters or hybrids with racks, while you’ll also hear people refer to high-end heavy touring bikes that are used for multi-week journeys as trekking bikes.

This means that it’s tough to pin down a single purpose that trekking bikes are designed for. Some are designed for bikepacking, with light frames, small rear racks, and thick tires and suspension for riding on forest trails. 

Others are designed for city commuting, with solid front forks and light frames that keep them nimble in traffic. A third category tries to serve as off-road capable touring bikes, complete with heavy frames, mountain bike tires, and front suspension forks.

The biggest differences between trekking and touring bikes have to do with weight, components, and geometry. 

Let’s start with weight first. Trekking bikes aren’t necessarily designed to hold a full 100 lbs of extra gear on the racks, so they can get away with thinner tubes and tubes made from aluminum. 

This means that you’ll often save a few pounds when you choose a trekking bike, even if you get one with suspension.

As you might imagine, the components of trekking bikes vary tremendously. The biggest difference here is that trekking bikes often have suspension forks. You’ll also see lighter, trendier components that sacrifice durability and ease of maintenance for savings in weight or cost. Again, you won’t find these features in every trekking bike. Instead, you’ll find a big range of options.

Just like with other parts, the tires on a trekking bike vary significantly. You will, however, tend to find that the thinnest tires are the sort that you’d find on a hybrid bike. It’s tough to find a trekking bike with full-on road-bike-style rims.

Trekking bikes aren’t necessarily optimized with racks in mind. Instead, racks are sometimes an afterthought. You’ll find bikes in the “trekking” category with short rear chainstays, short wheelbases, and no kickstand

This means you’ll get a much more nimble feeling ride that can weave in and out of traffic more easily, but you might find that the bike handles poorly with lots of gear in your bags and that it’s difficult to lean it on things without removing your bags.

Finally, they’re trekking bikes found with virtually every arrangement of handlebars you can think of, including flats, butterfly bars, and swept bars, touring bikes always come with drop handlebars.

In terms of similarities, both trekking and touring bikes favor more upright riding styles. Although touring bikes, at first sight are a bit deceiving because of the drop handlebars, they do have a quite relaxed geometry that is comfortable for long tours.

Finally, both bikes almost always come with rear racks and the option to mount panniers, front racks, and other accessories.

Examples of trekking bikes include the Cube Nature EXC Allroad, the Square Trekking 4.8 AL W, and the Peugeot T02.

Should I Buy A Touring Or Trekking Bike?

If you’re still on the fence about whether you should get a touring bike or a trekking bike, here are some things to consider.

How much cargo will I carry?

If you’re trying to carry more than about 50 lbs of stuff in bags or racks on your bike, you’ll want to look for either a touring bike or a trekking bike that resembles a touring bike. Look for a heavy frame, a long wheelbase, and a stand or a stand mount. If you’re not planning to carry much cargo, any trekking bike will do fine.

How far do I plan to travel per ride?

The longer each individual ride is, the more you should consider a touring bike over a trekking bike. While you can find trekking bikes that feature durable components that are easy to repair in the field, you’ll have to ensure that the actual bike you’re looking at has those components. Touring bikes, on the other hand, are almost universally set up for hassle-free long rides.

Where will I be riding?

The lack of front suspension means that touring bikes are best suited for roads. You can get away with dirt or poorly maintained asphalt, especially if you choose a bike with wider tires, but you probably shouldn’t go tearing down a mountain bike trail. A trekking bike, on the other hand, might be set up for handling bumps and jumps much more gracefully than your typical touring bike. Even beyond suspension, trekking bikes tend to be a lot lighter and easier to handle in odd situations.

What is my budget?

Trekking bikes are all over the place in terms of just about everything. This means that it’s much easier to find a lightweight trekking bike that fits into a smaller budget than it is to find a big, heavy touring bike at the same low price point. It’s not impossible to find inexpensive touring bikes, and they tend to last forever, but it’s definitely easier to find a cheap trekking bike than it is to find a good touring bike for cheap.

Similar Bikes, Murky Categories

The line between trekking bikes and touring bikes gets quite murky. Different manufacturers use the word “trekking” to refer to entirely different things. At best, the label refers to all-purpose bikes with racks, designed to carry a bit of cargo on both city streets and light trails. 

You’ll find a whole range of bikes within this category, however, ranging from heavy bikes with front suspension and full sets of rack mounts to light commuters with rigid forks. Touring bikes, on the other hand, are designed specifically with long-distance riding and cargo carrying in mind. 

This means that they’re quite similar to heavier trekking bikes from some manufacturers, especially those with rigid forks, but they’re very different from the light commuters or general-purpose trekkers you find. 

In other words, you can often find a trekking bike that’s similar to a specific touring bike, but it’s often impossible to find a touring bike that mimics the lightweight or the components found on a specific trekking bike.

Sam Benkoczy

Hi, I'm Sam. I own and maintain 6 e-bikes, 15 regular bikes (road bikes, folding bikes, hybrid bikes, city bikes among others). I learned about bikes from my local bike mechanic as well as from bike maintenance courses. I love being out there in the saddle, and using my bike as a practical means of transportation. You can also find me on my YouTube channel at Say hi to me at

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