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I have been travelling on a trekking bike for some time now. When I bought it back in 2020, the salesman said that trekking bikes are the better touring bikes. Now a friend wants to buy a bike for touring and I realised that there are touring bikes like the Patria.

I don't understand what the advantages and disadvantages are compared to a Cube trekking bike, for example.

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    You should probably give an example or two of what you understand by "trekking bike". Terminology doesn't always travel well between countries or even manufacturers
    – Chris H
    Commented Mar 30 at 21:12
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    I agree. I would class the 'touring bike' you link to as a trekking bike; a touring bike to my mind would look like this: westbrookcycles.co.uk/…
    – quilkin
    Commented Mar 30 at 21:28
  • @quilkin I also assume that unless it's stated otherwise, tourers have drop bars. I've seen flat bar versions of some primarily drop bar models, so that might be what we've got here. But to my mind a trekking bike is a hybrid with the luggage carrying abilities of a tourer and at least as much tyre clearance
    – Chris H
    Commented Apr 1 at 9:47
  • @ChrisH there might be regional differences as well: I have the impression that in the English speaking countries, tourers have drop bars (and bar-end shifters) while in continental Europe, there's a preference for "flat-bar" (technically: flat-bar brake lever/shifters, and other handle bars grips/styles to have alternate positions)
    – Rеnаud
    Commented Apr 1 at 10:25
  • @Rеnаud quite possibly; I've also got the impression that trekking bikes are popular in German - but I don't know whose label that uses
    – Chris H
    Commented Apr 1 at 10:34

2 Answers 2

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There's no consensus on the difference between touring and trekking, and this word can be used to name two distinct categories of bikes, and depending on the country/manufacturer, one or the other can be used (the Canyon's equivalent to Cube's trekking bikes are called "Touring" for example — to take 2 German manufacturers).

Patria a good example of "long haul" touring/travel bike, they are simple but sturdy, and have "features" that are very useful for long haul touring: higher maximum admissible weight (160-180kg), mount for front racks, dynamo hubs, steel frames (sturdier, and repairing it doesn't require special equipment and skills — beyond what workshops doing welding regularly have), some have also mounts for spare spokes, and very good quality components. They may also feature components that may not appear fancy (quality mechanical disc brakes instead of hydraulic for example), but the point here is that mechanical disc brakes are serviceable on the roadside (or in remote area), while hydraulics are typically not. So basically, they are designed to be ridden with full panniers in remote areas.

Then you have "trekking bikes", like the Cube Kathmandu or ...Touring, that are more general purpose utility/commuter/leisure bikes. They are generally not rated for very high weight (120kg), have front suspension (very often an heavy coil one), are built in aluminium, very upright geometry. They very often entry-level or midrange components and hydraulic disc brakes. Note that it's typically not possible to mount front racks on suspension forks. So these bikes are designed for commuting with a light load, or groceries, or for a 1-2 hours ride.

So if your plan is to have a "travel" bike, you rather need to into the "long haul" style, and the starting point to differentiate them for the leisure bikes is the maximum admissible weight, the presence of front rack (mounts), the lack of front suspension.

That being said, any bike can be used for traveling — with minor adaptations (for example, for a "leisure trekking", probably stem, saddle, handle bar, tires), even if some are suited for that than other. If you travel for example in Europe on routes and you plan to sleep in hotels, the "leisure kind" (probably with bar-ends though) can be perfectly suited. If you intend to cross developing countries with 40kg of luggage, you might however appreciate a more sturdy bike with a steel frame. Features like suspension add weight and bring some additional failure points, so are not necessarily an advantage.

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  • I would not say that repairing steel is easy. But a halfway decent welder can probably do a good enough job to allow you to continue your journey.
    – Michael
    Commented Mar 31 at 9:01
  • @Michael Good point, answer reworded
    – Rеnаud
    Commented Apr 1 at 7:40
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I think the main advantage is price. "Trekking" bikes are a category of cheap hybrid bikes which are made more useful by adding pannier racks, mudguards, kickstand, reflectors, bell and lights. There are hybrid bikes that lack these all-important features too. Typically these when you buy a trekking bike, you expect to get an aluminum frame with straight-gauge tubing, not the lightestweight possible option but may be acceptable. The fork may be rigid or suspension fork, but you should prefer rigid as suspension forks weigh more and require maintenance and the really useful types of suspension forks that are used in MTBs cost a lot of money.

However, it's important to understand what "trekking" bikes lack. It's in my opinion the most important feature I expect to get on a bicycle inteded for riding on roads. It's a drop bar.

Because "trekking" bikes lack drop bar, it means you usually have few hand positions available although you can expand the number of positions by adding bar-ends. It also means none of the hand positions available are particularly comfortable for long-distance riding or aerodynamic.

Touring bikes, on the other hand, very often have drop bars even though you may find touring bikes that have flat bars too. Because of being more expensive, you can expect to get butted tubing, maybe hydroformed if it's aluminum. So the frame is much lighterweight. Touring bikes almost always have a rigid fork -- useful, because it saves on maintenance and weight.

If you expect to ride a lot in snow, then drop bar may not be ideal for you, but in this case I think you should have two bikes: a fatbike with studded tires and flat bars for snow, and a touring bike for the periods during which roads are snow-free. On paved or non-paved roads free of snow and slush, drop bar is superior to flat bar.

Alternatives for touring bikes may include gravel or cyclocross bikes or endurance road bikes -- but beware, cyclocross bikes intended for competitions may limit the tire size to very narrow and also may lack mounting points for mudguards, kickstands and pannier racks. The same is true for endurance road bikes too. Gravel bikes today are the main most useful alternative for touring bikes.

I refuse to buy a bike with flat bars -- unless it's intended to be a very cheap beater bike, a folding bike or a fatbike for winter.

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    This is nonsense, flat bars are the default off-road. Yes, gravel and cyclocross bikes can do a lot, but often the racers will use them because they have to in those specific disciplines. In any kind of MTB technical terrain they will use flat bar bikes if allowed. Flat bar bikes can be ridden in hard long distance supported or unsupported events for hundreds of miles just fine. Commented Apr 1 at 11:21
  • Not to mention that the touring bike the question explicitly wants a comparison to is a flat bar bike. Commented Apr 1 at 11:29
  • And where do I mention off-road? If you read the answer carefully, I specifically mention "riding on roads" and "on paved or non-paved roads free of snow and slush". (Of course this doesn't mean that I only ride my drop bar bikes on roads, I use them everywhere including forest paths.)
    – juhist
    Commented Apr 1 at 12:16

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