Cycling is one of the best low-impact exercises for people of all ages. It is also a cheap and eco-friendly mode of transportation. Not to mention, it’s a lot of fun! Before you start to cycle, however, you need to choose the right type of bike. Among others, road bikes and mountain bikes are two of the most popular choices.
For the uninitiated, the two bikes look essentially the same. However, they are designed to serve different purposes. This short guide about road bike vs mountain bike will give you a quick look at these differences.
A Quick Comparison of Road Bike vs Mountain Bike
Deciding what to choose is not as easy as picking the cheapest. You need to think about the reason why you are buying a bike, terrain conditions, and design preferences, among other things. If you are confused about mountain bike vs road bike, below is our attempt to make things easier to understand.
The two bikes have different sub-categories, each designed for specific trails. Some bikes are built for comfort while others are optimized for speed. There are bikes created for races while some are best for recreational use.
Types of Road Bikes
- Race Bikes: Made to be fast and light, this is designed for speed. Most of these bikes have carbon fiber frames, which will minimize their weight. It has a low frame for better aerodynamics.
- Gravel Bikes: One of the newest road bikes, gravel bikes are made for off-road terrains. It has a frame geometry designed to deliver the highest level of comfort even when you are on rough roads.
- Aero Bikes: If you want a bike that comes with great aerodynamic features, then you should go for aero road bikes. It has a carbon frame with geometry similar to a race bike, although, it weighs more than the latter.
- Sportive: Also called endurance bikes, they have a lightweight construction and upright geometry for your comfort. They are built for mass-participation long-rides, so you can expect to be comfortable even when cycling for a long time.
Types of Mountain Bikes
- Hardtail Bikes: If you want a mountain bike with only one suspension, then you cannot go wrong with hardtail mountain bikes. Compared to a full-suspension bike, it has fewer moving parts, making it lightweight and affordable.
- Cross-Country Bikes: Also called XC bikes, they can tackle different trails. They are designed for long-distance pedaling. It is designed similar to a road bike. However, it may not be as efficient when used for downhill rides.
- Enduro Bikes: These bikes have full-suspension, which will make it more efficient in absorbing shock. This can promote a high level of comfort, especially on rough trails. It is an expensive bike.
- Downhill Bikes: When you are always riding downhill, these bikes are perfect. Downhill mountain bikes are perfect for adrenaline junkies who dare to go fast as they conquer downhill trails.
In comparing road bike vs mountain bike, one of the most obvious differences to highlight is their purpose. They are designed for different terrains. So, before deciding what to buy, you should first think about where you will be using the bike most of the time.
Mountain bikes are not exclusively designed for the mountains. They are developed for rugged conditions and rough terrains. They will do well in trails with a lot of obstacles, as well as sharp turns. If you are an adventurous rider who isn’t afraid to confront tough landscapes, then a mountain bike is for you.
On the other hand, road bikes are meant for tamer terrain conditions. These bikes are built for flat and smooth surfaces. They are for paved and well-maintained roads, especially for urban rides. If you live in the city and you want a bike that you can use every day or you are participating in races, then road bikes will be great for you.
Deciding between road bike vs mountain bike also calls for the need to evaluate how they impact your speed. The design and components of the bike will dictate its speed, although, the latter will also depend on other factors like terrain conditions and pedaling techniques.
If speed is an important consideration, then you should go for a road bike. It has a lightweight frame and is designed to go fast when used on paved surfaces. In contrast, mountain bikes are often chunkier, and hence, this will add to its weight and will make it go slower, especially when you are riding on challenging terrains.
4. Wheels and Tires
The wheels and tires are important parts of any bike as they affect speed and safety, among other things. They should match the riding environment or the terrain where you will be using the bike.
MTB wheels are usually larger in terms of diameter. The wheel sizes are expressed as inches and you will have three main choices – 26, 27.5, and 29 inches. Meanwhile, for road bike wheels, most will have sizes starting at 700c. In most models, the wheel will be 27.5 or 29 inches.
The two are also significantly different in terms of their tire construction. Mountain bike tires are usually larger at 2.2 to 3 inches wide. They have knobby and aggressive treads for better traction, making them excellent on a dirt road. On the other hand, road bike tires are often 2-inch wide. They are skinny and smooth. Their tires are also ideal for wet roads. They are not built for off-road conditions.
Speaking of tires, the two will also have different valves. For most mountain bikes, they often have Schrader valves. It has a valve similar to what you will find in car tires. In road bikes, on the other hand, it is more common to find Presta valves. The latter has a tiny nut that opens and closes.
While there are different types of bike suspension, they are geared towards the same purpose. They will improve traction, control, and comfort, making it vital for a more enjoyable experience.
With a suspension, there is a part that will absorb shock, which means that it won’t be transferred to your body. It acts like a cushioning. Mountain bikes can have rear or full suspension. This is important when tackling rough terrains.
With road bikes, on the other hand, there is no suspension. This shouldn’t be a problem since these bikes are designed for use on flat surfaces.
As we talk about mountain bike vs road bike, another important part to mention is the handlebar. In the case of mountain bikes, you will find wide and flat handlebars. MTB handlebars allow hands only in one position. This is not a problem since you will be sitting upright, and hence, you won’t be putting too much pressure on your hands.
With road bikes, on the other hand, it is more common to find drop handlebars. With this design, you can experiment with more hand positions. You can position your hands on the hoods, drops, or bars. Regardless of the position, these handlebars have an aerodynamic advantage, which also explains its benefits when it comes to your speed. More so, they are narrower, making it easy to cycle on congested roads.
For road bike pedals, most people will prefer a clipless design. It has better security between the pedal and the shoe, which will also mean better efficiency and power in every stroke. Most of their pedals will also have cleats with a 3-hole design. These large cleats are usually made of plastic, allowing you to spread the application of force.
Meanwhile, in the case of mountain bike pedals, they are usually flat. This will let you wear shoes with recessed cleats. The cleat system is smaller, which will also allow you to pedal bigger. Some cyclists prefer clipless pedals. At the end of the day, this all boils down to personal preferences.
To add, your choice of pedal for your bike will depend on the shoes you will be wearing when cycling. Flat pedals will work even with regular shoes. With clipless pedals, you will need shoes with cleats.
Mountain bike saddles are more durable compared to what you will find in road bikes. They have a hard-wearing cover, which is meant to sustain crashes. Meanwhile, road bike saddles are narrower and lighter, which will help improve your speed.
The saddles of the two bikes will also differ in terms of their shape. In mountain bikes, the saddle will be flatter. The shape is optimized so that it will be easy to stand and sit. In road bikes, there is a more prominent curved design so that you will stay comfortable since you will be seated most of the time.
Regardless of the bike you will choose, a good braking system is important for your safety. Generally speaking, mountain bikes have more powerful brakes. Most MTB brakes are powerful enough so that you can quickly stop the bike even when on muddy and tough terrains. Disc brakes are popular choices for mountain bikes.
Road bikes usually do not have a braking system as powerful as those you will find in mountain bikes. You can opt for both disc brakes and the older style caliper brakes in road bikes. Find brakes that will be dependable even when you are on slippery and smooth surfaces.
Wrapping up our list of the mountain bike vs road bike differences is their weight. This is an important consideration as it affects the ease of use and comfort. Between the two, road bikes are usually lighter compared to mountain bikes. This is because they have fewer parts.
Because mountain bikes are heavier, using them will require more effort on your end, especially when you are climbing uphill. Being heavier is also the reason why it is common for mountain bikes to be slower than road bikes.
Q: Can a mountain bike be as fast as a road bike?
All things equal, a mountain bike cannot be as fast as a road bike. This is because mountain bikes are generally heavier and not designed for speed. However, if you do a couple of changes, such as a change from knobby to skinny tires and use lighter weight components, you can make a mountain bike faster.
Q: Is it bad to ride a mountain bike on the road?
No, it is not bad to ride a mountain bike on the road. While it is designed to tackle rough terrains, there’s no rule saying that you cannot use it on paved surfaces. Especially on roads with potholes and other obstacles, a mountain bike can be beneficial.
Q: Why are road bikes faster than MTB?
Road bikes are faster than MTBs because they are designed specifically for speed and efficiency. They are also lighter and have fewer components. To add, the geometry allows a riding position that is optimized to help you go faster compared to the geometry of a mountain bike.
Q: Which is harder road biking or mountain biking?
Mountain biking is harder than road biking. This is because of the terrain conditions. Mountain bike trails have tough terrains, steep climbs, and sharp turns. In contrast, road bikes are used on flat and smooth terrains.
Q: Is a mountain bike harder to ride?
Mountain bikes are harder to ride compared to road bikes. While it is designed to tackle even challenging terrains with ease, it is difficult to use because mountain trails are more difficult compared to road trails.
Q: Are road bikes good for hills?
Yes, road bikes are good for hills, provided that the hills have paved surfaces and good conditions. To do this, however, you need proper body positioning and pedaling techniques. A mental approach is also important to help you climb.
Globo Surf Overview
From their tires to handlebars, this short guide above road bike vs mountain bike talked about how the two are different. Pay attention to the things mentioned above to help you decide which one is a better option.
For urban rides on paved surfaces, road bikes are the best. On the other hand, for more challenging terrains, mountain bikes are better.