Touring and mountain bikes can perform similar functions, but they are both better suited to specific kinds of rides. If you are looking for the best bike for any type of journey, a tourer is typically a better choice than MTB’s.
Both are durable and can withstand long rides, but touring bicycles are nimbler, despite being sturdy themselves, and definitely the best choice of all bicycle types for long-distance cycling.
The two are comparable because they are both strong, resistant, reliable bike models, but there are times when one is more appropriate than the other.
The touring bicycle is better for a diversity of routes because a mountain bicycle is not necessary for smooth, on-road cycling, for example.
But mountain bikes are also great for off-road cycling and probably the sturdiest model for rocky uneven terrain.
Touring bikes are more convenient and allow for faster riding, but experienced cyclists who want to try really challenging routes will enjoy the weight and resistance of a mountain bicycle.
Table of Contents
- What Is A Mountain Bike?
- What Is A Touring Bike?
- What Makes a Mountain Bike Different From a Touring Bike
- Touring Bike vs MTB: Which Is Easier To Ride, Maintain and Use?
- Final Words
What Is A Mountain Bike?
A mountain bike a type of bicycle designed specifically for off-road cycling. These bikes have heavier frames, wider tyres, and a suspension system to support the rider as the bike over bumpy and rocky surfaces.
As the name suggests, a mountain bicycle is your best option for tackling the hardest, most remote routes possible. Though the bike is heavy, which will slow down pedaling, it will help to keep you central on the book as you navigate unfamiliar areas.
Mountain bicycles are best suited to riders with more experience because beginners will find the best routes for these bikes to be too challenging.
Once you have mastered regular cycling, purchasing a mountain bicycle is the next best step because you will be able to explore further and cycle for exercise and as a hobby.
Advantages and Features
As previously mentioned, the three main characteristics of a mountain bicycle are the weight of the frame, the width of the tires, and the suspension system.
A heavier frame has the advantage of being better balanced, so you won’t need to be as quick to make movements as you would on a road bike, for example.
The thicker tires will offer a better grip for uphill, downhill, and uneven surfaces to keep the rider safe from injury and to protect the bike from damage.
A good suspension system will make riding more comfortable by absorbing any shocks. You’ll also find it easier to work through the bike’s gears.
Another fantastic feature on one of these bikes is the power of the brakes because they are designed to stop as quickly and safely as possible.
The frame of a mountain bicycle also needs to be durable, so they are typically made out of aluminum, which makes it harder for any dirt and debris to damage the paintwork.
Everything about mountain bicycles is thicker and heavier to strengthen the model and protect the cyclist.
What Is A Touring Bike?
A touring bike is designed for riding on pretty much any surface, on-road or off-road.
The saddle is elevated to allow for proper posture and maximum comfort, with the handlebars fixed in prime position for a strong grip and supportive pedaling.
Bicycle touring is the act of taking a day, or multiple days, to cycle around and explore new spaces. That requires comfort, endurance, agility, and power. All four are maximized on a touring bicycle.
The closest type of bike to the touring model is the road bike. Though a tour bike is heavier and sturdier, riding is not too different and you should feel that your posture is improved on the tourer saddle.
You’ll be able to choose whether you’d prefer on-road or off-road cycling with a touring bike because it can do both extremely well.
Advantages and Features
The handlebar-saddle distance is one of the best features of a tourer because having better posture will allow you to cycle for longer periods of time and will stop you suffering from back and shoulder pain.
The saddles of touring bicycles are also typically designed to have more padding and emphasize rider comfort. Because of those two features, touring bicycles are considered to be the best for long-distance cycling.
Touring bicycles typically tend to have a long wheelbase as well to avoid the pedals clashing with any luggage being carried on the back of the bike.
They are called touring bicycles because they are designed for riders to use while touring around different environments. As such, most models have enough space for you to carry luggage for a multi-day trip.
The wheels and frame are both sturdy to compensate for the weight that can be placed on the bike. You should even be able to mount several items on the fenders and in bottle cages on the frame.
What Makes a Mountain Bike Different From a Touring Bike
A mountain bike is very different from a touring bike in terms of purposes. Mountain bikes are specially made to be used on trails, at parks, and other unpaved surfaces.
Mountain biking as a hobby typically includes steep inclines and declines, rocky surfaces, dirt paths, etc. which can be more dangerous than other biking sports.
This is why mountain bikes are important for off-road biking, they have special tires, handlebars, etc. to make sure you are safe. Touring bikes are specifically designed for multi-day rides.
They are built to carry everything you need to be on the road for days at a time including a tent, food, clothes, and gear for various weather types including snow and rain. Touring bikes are not the same as road bikes.
Touring bikes are tougher and built for more aggressive, longer riding.
Mountain bikes have very specific handlebar types. Mountain bikes need handlebars that are in a more upright place so that the rider can have a better view of their terrain.
With a better view, the cyclist will have an easier time seeing obstacles that may cross their path, ultimately helping them to avoid many dangers such as large rocks in the path or steep drop-offs.
Touring bike handlebars are quite different, they are usually large and rounded in an almost circular shape, to provide multiple position options for the rider.
When biking for long periods, it is important to have a range of hand positions at your disposal to keep your hands, wrists, and arms comfortable on the drive and to help reduce the risk of carpal tunnel. It can also help with back pain.
Mountain bike wheels are surprisingly lightweight. The lighter design helps bikers build up speed and conserve energy on longer rides. It also helps the rider climb steep inclines at a fast pace.
Mountain bike wheels are also made to hold low air pressures that result in a type of “floatation” the allows for easier riding through rough terrain and weather such as snow, sand, and mud.
Most touring bike wheels have rims thicker pieces that are good for longer use and various weather and road conditions.
Touring bikes also have a higher rate of aluminum alloy (semi-molten aluminum used to make wheels). According to Cyclingabout.com, good touring rims usually contain about 550-800g of aluminum alloy.
Touring bikes have wheels that are meant to last longer and hold up well on multi-day rides, to prevent many stops or breaks.
The frame geometry of a bike consists of set angle, bottom bracket height, chainstay length, wheelbase, reach, top tube, head angle, front center, and down tube. These are the 9 basic parts of bike frame geometry.
For someone with an untrained eye, it might be difficult to see many differences between the frame geometry of a mountain bike v.s. The frame geometry of a touring bike.
For instance, a mountain bike needs more sensitive steering to avoid surprise obstacles like rocks and drop-offs without wrecking.
A touring bike will likely have a longer body to provide stability when carrying large amounts of supplies. Mountain bikes and touring bikes are both considered to have rather relaxed geometry compared to other, more aggressive bike styles, the touring bike being the more relaxed of the two.
The touring bike needs to have a relaxed geometry to provide better comfort for the rider. Riders need to be as relaxed as their bike.
Speed and Gearing
Gearing a bicycle is a good way to help maintain a comfortable pedaling speed while going at a faster pace. With gearing, one can, theoretically, pedal at a relaxed pace while going at a high speed.
According to Active.com, the best ratios for mountain bike gearing are 1×11 or 2×10. The first half of the ratio refers to the number of chainrings, while the second half refers to cogs on the cassette.
For a touring bike, a good lower gear could be 18” and a good higher gear could be 113”. Both touring and mountain bikes typically use a triple front crankset and 8-9 cogs. This gives the bike roughly 24-27 gearing.
Gearing isn’t just about speed, it’s also about stability and comfort, so keep that in mind when looking to gear your bike.
The purpose of bike suspension is to lighten the roughness of a particular terrain. Mountain bikes, typically need more suspension than touring bikes, as they experience a rougher ride on off-road terrain.
Most mountain bikes are fully equipped with suspension. If not, it’s recommended that you get it fully equipped.
Suspension is used on mountain bikes to help absorb some of the blow that comes with landing jumps, riding over rocky terrain, and driving through potential obstacles like holes in the ground.
Touring bicycles don’t have suspension because most touring happens on pavement and gravel, creating little to no reason to have suspension.
Having no suspension can also open up the opportunity to add more racks to the front of the bike.
Dropper posts or “droppers,” are posts that replace the seat post of a bike, allowing the rider to adjust the seat without getting off the bike.
Mountain Bikers who use dropper posts, use them so they can go from seated pedaling to a standing position for better navigation through uneven terrain. This maneuver is good for steep declines and jumps.
Most think touring bikes don’t need a dropper post, as touring bikes are almost always used on easy terrains such as pavement and gravel.
Droppers are meant to help adjust the center of gravity for better control on rough terrain and help get the seat out of the way when a cyclist needs to stand. A touring cyclist typically wouldn’t need that extra movement.
Brakes and Stability
It is important to have the right braking system for the type of bike you are using. The brakes need to be completely reliable based on location, terrain, and obstacles.
If you use the wrong brake, you could injure yourself, someone else, or damage your bike.
Most mountain bikes have “hydraulic disc brakes.” These brakes use a system of hoses and hydraulic fluid to activate the brakes.
When pulled, the brake handle releases the liquid which gets pushed through the hoses to the brake pads which activate to stop the wheels from spinning.
These types of brakes are very sensitive, allowing the rider to stop, change course, and slow with enough precision and speed to protect them from unforeseen obstacles.
Touring bikes use “cantilever brakes,” which are powerful brakes that are meant to stop heavyweight bikes such as touring bikes. Since touring bikes are typically loaded up with heavy cargo, they need brakes that can easily stop that kind of weight.
Most cantilever brakes have the power and durability to stop 400 lbs. Cantilever brakes can also fit onto wide tires.
Typically, a mountain bike doesn’t need much space for cargo. Most people who mountain bike prefer speed and agility over cargo, therefore, they don’t have much use for cargo racks.
However, if you find that you need a cargo rack for your mountain bike, small racks can be found online or in specific stores. Just be sure that you are finding the safe, compatible choice for your particular bike.
For bike touring, 25-50kg of cargo is typical for a bike.
Most Touring bikes come equipped with at least some cargo space. If you want extra space or need extra space, you can find it online or in certain stores as well.
It is important to account for the weight of the cargo, as the heavier your bike, the more dangerous the experience.
Fenders and Lights
Mountain biking is known for being a dirty sport. Between mud, dirt, rocks, etc. your bike doesn’t stand a chance at staying clean.
For this reason, a lot of mountain bikers put mudguards on their bikes’ fenders to prevent excess splatter. Mudguards can also keep you and your bike dry.
As far as lights go, rear lights aren’t of extreme importance to mountain bikers, as they don’t have to worry about traffic.
If you’re mountain biking at night with other people, then you may consider investing in some rear lights, to avoid crashing with another biker.
Headlights are crucial for mountain biking especially if you plan to bike when it’s dim or dark outside. Headlights help you to see enough terrain to avoid dangerous obstacles.
Mudguards and fenders are also a good way to keep clean and dry while touring as well. When biking for multiple days, you’re likely to experience a variety of weather and conditions.
Mudguards and fenders will take the brunt of the splatter from mud, water, etc. It is also extremely important to have lights and reflectors of all kinds when touring on a bike.
Taillights help alert other drivers to your presence, headlights help you see better, and reflectors help anyone else around you take notice of your presence.
The most common materials for almost any bike frame are carbon fiber, aluminum, steel, and titanium. A typical mountain bike is usually made of aluminum alloy, though some are known to be made of steel.
These tough, resilient metals help protect the bike from damage when being used on rough terrain among other ways. Most touring bike frames are made up of titanium.
Titanium is known to cost more but is also the more durable choice. Touring bikes have to be extremely durable to withstand days of travel in various conditions.
Touring Bike vs MTB: Which Is Easier To Ride, Maintain and Use?
In terms of all-round ease, the touring bicycle is simpler to get to grips with.
When riding a mountain bicycle, you need to put a lot of effort into pedaling and navigating, as well as working with the lower gears to tackle uphill stretches efficiently.
The touring bicycle is similar to the traditional road bicycle, but it is more resistant and has a better riding position to encourage good posture.
Being able to ride the bike more easily initially may also indicate that you’ll find the touring model to be much easier to use all the time.
However, both types have sturdy frames, so if you’re just used to riding a road bike, you might struggle a bit more at first. Maintaining a bike mostly comes down to where you ride it.
As an off-road only bike, the mountain bicycle may be more difficult to maintain because it is more likely to get dirty. If you choose to ride your touring bike on the road only, you won’t need to maintain the frame as much.
But both require similar levels of basic maintenance: checking brakes, adjusting the seat, inspecting the chain. One extra thing that you will need to maintain on a mountain bike is the suspension system because that is vital.
Choosing The Right Bike For Yourself
You should first choose a bike based on your abilities. If you are still fairly new to regular cycling, start with a touring bicycle because you’ll be able to ride it on easier, on-road routes.
If you are more confident, or if off-road cycling is your hobby, choose a mountain bicycle.
If you are only going to be cycling off-road, it makes sense to have the more durable bike, but if you plan to cycle within the city, the touring bike is more suitable.
Neither of these bikes are the fastest options on the market, but they are excellent for tackling more than just on-road terrain and will maximize your comfort while you do.
A lightweight bike like a road bike is the best option for quick, streamlined cycling, but mountain and touring bicycles are long-lasting models that will allow you to get plenty of exercise and see more of the world.
Ultimately, when choosing between the two, you should keep in mind where you want to cycle to prioritize your comfort.
If you want to try the most challenging routes then go for a mountain bike, but if you want to cycle more casually, or cycle longer distances, you are better suited to a touring bike.
Both have advantages and though the touring bicycle is more of an all-rounder, mountain bicycles are some of the most resistant and reliable on the market.