Can You Use a Mountain Bike on the Road? And How to Do It Properly

We cover everything you need to know about using a mountain bike on the road and explain how to do it right.
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Last updatedLast updated: May 20, 2022
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Using your mountain bike on the road might sound weird, but it’s pretty common. For many of us, mountain bikes are cheaper, stronger, and safer than road bikes with slick tires.

Many cyclists turn their mountain bikes into more racing bikes because it is their only bike. This makes it easier for them to make daily trips or even take a group ride on the road.

To make your MTB more suitable for use on paved roads, you need to stiffen the suspension and install smoother tires. You can also adapt the transmission by changing the gears.

So, Can You Actually Use a Mountain Bike on the Road?

Mountain bikes are designed to absorb the impact of the terrain: rocks, roots, bumps, holes, etc. Most MTBs today have an amazing off-road suspension system that is useless if you are riding on the road. A semi-rigid or full suspension mountain bike has very little efficiency on the road. Some of the force you put into your pedal stroke is absorbed by the suspension.

Can You Use a Mountain Bike on the Road? And How to Do It Properly

The road bike is an ideal bike for going on the road. However, the mountain bike is versatile and can be used both off and on the road, provided some adjustments are made.

Is It Hard to Ride an MTB on the Road?

In short, for those starting out, it might be easier to opt for an MTB on the road, especially if the choice is also weighted for varied use and not only on the road.

As we have already said at the beginning, the handlebar of the road bike can be gripped in 3 different ways which imply an aerodynamic position curved towards the front. This position can be uncomfortable for a beginner accustomed to a classic position like that of MTB. Some may need some time to adapt but nothing so important.

However, with the same effort with a road bike, you travel fewer miles with the MTB. A road bike is 10 to 30% faster than an MTB on the road. But an MTB may be easier to ride on due to the simple and classic handlebars. However, a road bike is easier to pedal on the road than an MTB.

What Speed Can You Reach?

First, the difference in speed between the MTB and the racing bike is a question to which there is no real answer. It depends on the settings of the bike. What is certain is that the road bike is much faster, after all, speed is one of its characteristics.

The speed depends on many factors, consider that on a mixed course, the average in a professional race is around 12.5–13.7 mph. Here, we are talking about when it’s ridden by professionals, trained people.

On the road, it should be a bit higher as it is a regular terrain. For an amateur, in our humble opinion, 8 to 10 mph should be a fairly normal average on the road, some could go up to around 15.5 to 18.5 mph.

Do You Do More Miles on a Road Bike or MTB?

With the same effort, more kilometers are covered with the road bike. It is difficult to hypothesize the relationship between one and the other, but it is not wrong to say that with the same effort with the mountain bike you would cover about half the kilometers compared to the road bike.

This is not the exact science of course but it should give you an idea of the difference in terms of distance traveled. Type of tires and settings can affect these data so take them as an indication, just to get an idea.

Can Riding an MTB on the Road Somehow Damage It?

An MTB is designed for rough terrain. It’s built to be tough and rugged Trusted Source Types of Bikes | Mountain Bike vs. Road Bike Use this handy guide to find the type of bike that best suits you and your riding, whether it’s a classic road bike, a new e-bike, or something in between. www.bicycling.com to withstand mountain terrain challenges. So, when you bring it down to the road, it’s logical to say it won’t develop a scratch. However, in reality, the tires – as they’re designed for use on the trails – may be more exposed to wear and tear when they’re used on asphalt or concrete.

What is the Difference Between Mountain and Road Bikes?

Can You Use a Mountain Bike on the Road? And How to Do It Properly

The road bike is more suited to the world of professionalism or for those who travel many kilometers. It is more suitable for enjoying a beautiful landscape. The road bikes, also called racing bikes Trusted Source Road bicycle - Wikipedia en.wikipedia.org , are driven in an aerodynamic position. By leaning forward, the handlebar can be gripped in 3 different ways. Meanwhile, the mountain bike is ridden in the classic position and is, therefore, easier for beginners.

From the purely external appearance, we can immediately notice some differences in the style. On the mountain bike, the tubes of the frame are perfect and have linear triangles with some bright corners. However, with the road bike, we can see evident bevels of corners that appear with a rounded shape.

As you well know with the MTB, there are suspensions or shock absorbers in the fork (in some models also at the rear), which help to cushion the shocks when traveling on rough terrain.

In road bikes, these features are completely absent. The fork is solid, usually made up of a single block. This is because the suspensions move the weight back and forth to cushion and require greater pedaling effort.

In a nutshell, to get more thrust and higher speed, the shock absorbers are completely raised and a more rigid set-up is sought instead.

In the MTB, we have a normal brake with a classic shape alongside the gear lever mounted on the handlebar, in the road bike, the brake is in a vertical position.

How to Do It Right

With the following tricks, you will find out how to make a mountain bike faster on the road. You’ll be able to have a bike that performs better on the road than a road bike:

Equip the bike with slick tires that are suitable for the road

Can You Use a Mountain Bike on the Road? And How to Do It Properly

When you use an MTB on the road, the first difficulty is performance. In the forest, on paths, or mountain bike trails, your tire must grip the ground. It is necessary and fundamental. This is why MTB tires have big studs. On the asphalt … the studs of your MTB tires become a handicap.

While riding on the road with MTB tires, you feel some resistance. You move less quickly, and you lose performance.

This is where we have a solution: a pair of slick tires like the Schwinn Replacement Bike Tire. This tread of “slick” tires is smoother than MTB’s original, spiked MTB tires. Their performance is therefore much more suitable for driving on asphalt.

Another solution: choose a smaller tire section. The narrower the tire, the more you limit contact with the ground, the more speed you gain. This solution is not as effective as slick tires.

In short, the smoother and narrower the tire, the better it will perform on the road!

Tip 1

When you ride on the road, inflate your tires more than during your usual outings in the forest or on mountain bike trails. Rely on the recommendations of your tire manufacturers, then adjust the pressure. Be careful never to exceed the maximum pressures indicated on the sidewall of your tires and those of your rims if they are made of carbon.

Tip 2

If you don’t alternate between road and mountain biking regularly, only change the tires. It is an economical solution.

Tip 3

If you do not want to constantly mount and remove your tires, the acquisition of a second pair of wheels is strongly recommended. It will take you less time and it is easier to do. A pair of spiked MTB tire wheels, a pair of slick tires, to choose from according to your outing!

Get Two Pairs of Wheels: One for the MTB, Another for the Road

To avoid constantly manipulating your tires, the solution is to equip yourself with a second pair of wheels for road trips.

In this case, make sure they are compatible with the rest of your equipment: choose wheels of the same size (26 “, 27.5”, 29 “) and with the same number of gears. The middle line is 27.5 inches, which you can find on the Royce Union RMT, an all-terrain mountain bike designed for use on off-road trails.

You can however choose smaller rims and therefore tires to match your road rims.

Don’t forget to also adapt the tubes to the rim of the tires chosen. And if you have disc brakes on your mountain bike, consider choosing a wheel model compatible with your braking system.

Another advantage: by choosing two pairs of different wheels, you can adapt the cassette to each of your practices. A cassette sufficiently stepped for off-road practice and a cassette with gaps of one or two teeth between each sprocket for the road. In this case, also think about the compatibility of your cassette with the rest of your transmission.

What Other Fittings to Make on Your MTB for the Road?

Are the tires and/or wheels ready? Here are our latest recommendations to get your MTB ready to roll on asphalt.

  1. The handlebars: To be better installed when you ride on the road, you can also equip your bike with a flat handlebar. Be careful, however, to properly adjust your position with the saddle. This change can cause lower back pain.
  2. The saddle of your MTB: In MTB, you will be less often in your saddle than on the road. Suddenly, the one on your MTB may seem less comfortable to you. Then choose a saddle adapted to your morphology:
  • the width of the saddle is linked to the width of your pelvis
  • your weight determines its strength and weight
  • the more sporty your practice on the road is, the more you can choose a dense and, therefore, hard saddle.
  1. The suspension: A final adjustment of your mountain bike consists of blocking the suspension of your fork so as not to “pump” unnecessarily on the road. Indeed, the front suspension is there to absorb shocks. On a road, it is no longer useful. So block it (either by a direct system on the top of the fork or on the handlebars with a fork locking system).

Final Thoughts

Riding mountain bike on roads and trails is quite different. If you ride your MTB in town or on country roads, we recommend that you change some equipment to optimize your trips.

Equipping your mountain bike for the road can be interesting and more economical than buying a bike for each practice. This allows you to extend your training, for example, by hitting the road in winter or commuting to work by bike. But this transformation cannot be improvised. Correctly analyze your needs before you start!

And you, what did you choose? Do you have a mountain bike and road bike or an MTB suitable for road and off-road?

References

1.
Types of Bikes | Mountain Bike vs. Road Bike
Use this handy guide to find the type of bike that best suits you and your riding, whether it’s a classic road bike, a new e-bike, or something in between.
2.
Road bicycle - Wikipedia
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