Mountain Bike vs Road Bike: Choose the Right One

From this guide, you will learn what the difference between a road and a mountain bike is and how to choose the right type of bike for you.
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Last updatedLast updated: July 21, 2022
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Cycling is increasingly becoming a thing as it is less harmful to the environment, and a great way to exercise. For city commutes, it helps save on time and money. If you hate to sit in traffic, you can conveniently bike to work. Technological advancements have made biking more efficient, comfortable and affordable. It is the perfect time to own a bike.

There are multiple types of bikes on the market that choosing one can be daunting. There are biking enthusiasts that have invested in different bikes for different styles of cycling. As a hobbyist or recreationalist, this might be expensive for you. As a casual cyclist, which bike should you get? This is where the Mountain bike vs. road bike debate comes in. In his article we will help you establish whether you should get a mountain bike or a road bike depending on your needs. 

Road bikes

Essentially, a road bike is any bike that is meant to spend its entire existence on the road. Road bikes are designed for the traditional road cycling experience which typically involves high speeds on smooth surfaces, and a premium placed on high stiffness, low weight, and vertical compliance.

A road bike is not the most versatile bike as it lacks details like a rack and fender mounts in its design. It mainly has traditional features like round tubes and a few up-to-date performance oriented features like aerodynamic tube shaping for cutting through the wind easily and a seatpost, bar, and stem for weight, stiffness, and aesthetics. Most road bikes also feature disc brakes, which was a rare design feature in the past.

Styles

There are different styles of road bikes including: ultralight, endurance, all-road and aero. 

Aero

Mountain Bike vs Road Bike: Choose the Right One
These have a wing-shaped frame, tubes, and wheels. They are meant for racing and time trialing. Their design prioritizes speed over rider’s comfort as they are built with aggressive rider positions. On the bright side, aero bikes reduce drag to the bare minimum.

Endurance

Mountain Bike vs Road Bike: Choose the Right One
These are a top favorite for most riders. They are built for speed and premium comfort. They have a more upright rider position, wider gearing ranges and tires, and vibration-absorbing technologies in their frame.

Ultralight

Mountain Bike vs Road Bike: Choose the Right One
These are made with the lightest materials to reduce weight. They are meant for long climbs. Since they are remarkably lightweight, they can be used for other riding styles.

All road

Mountain Bike vs Road Bike: Choose the Right One
These aren’t very old in the market. They are a new style inspired by the idea of gravel bike and pure road bikes. They are also commonly known as road-plus or pavement-plus because they combine the geometry of a more tradition bike with the clearance of moderately bigger tires.

Touring

Mountain Bike vs Road Bike: Choose the Right One
These are lightweight roadsters designed for ultra-comfort and large carrying capacity. They feature long wheelbases and stable steering for confident handling. You can place a rack on the accessory mounts for carrying your gear for long-distance rides.

Brands have also gone to the extents of designing women-specific models which have slightly different features that suit the woman’s anatomy. Some models even have women-specific geometry. 

The Eurobike 21 remains the most popular road bike because of its unique 21-speed transmission system. The system, if used correctly, enables the bike to cope with complex road conditions and weather like dirt roads and top winds. It is also built to last with durable high-carbon steel.

Who/what are they best for?

A road bike is the best option you can get if you are staying on pavement. Its high efficiency makes it perfect for racing and a wide range of recreational rides. According to experts Trusted Source BBC Sport - Cycling - Road bike guide All you need to know about a professional’s road bike with our clickable guide news.bbc.co.uk , since road-bikes are not well-suited for off-the-road use, their dropped sitting position can be a tad hard to maintain comfortably when riding long distances. 

Distinctive features

With advancement in technology, road bikes are designed with a couple of distinctive features that make them more comfortable and efficient. They include:

Disc brakes

Disc brakes are the latest trend in the road-bike industry. They not only make braking safe and reliable, but also give an allowance for increasing tire clearance. In fact, most race-oriented bikes launch as disc-brake-only platforms nowadays. Endurance-style road bikes without disc brakes are increasingly becoming a rarity.

The benefits of disc brakes include; better performance in adverse conditions, and less brake heat-induced tire, tube and rim issues. 

Wider clearance

The introduction of disc brakes has allowed manufacturers to increase tire clearance. Disc-brake road bikes are now able to fit tires that measure up to 35mm in width from the traditional 28mm. Wider tires offer better rolling efficiency, traction, and increased comfort. They are also much safer as they allow the rider to roll into pot holes and over gravel patches instead of darting around them like smaller tires would.

Frame materials

Road bikes are made with carbon fiber composite which is remarkably robust, stiff, lightweight, and tunable. There are also bikes made of materials with intrinsic qualities like bamboo, titanium, hardwood, magnesium, steel and titanium. Any of the materials can be weak or strong, and can ride well or harshly. Carbon fiber stands out from the rest of the materials because it is tunable. It allows engineers to micro-tune the frame of the bike with specific attributes.

Pros and cons

Here are some of the advantages of road bikes:

  • Their components are very easy to maintain.
  • They are designed for speed as they are exceptionally light and easy to maneuver.
  • They have light frames and thin tires that reduce friction.
  • They offer a riding position that is ideal for maximizing leg speed and power.
  • Multiple options with different price points.

And their downsides:

  • Less durable than mountain bikes.
  • Can be difficult to ride slowly because of the high fear range.
  • Road bikes cannot be used on unpaved terrain.
  • Can strain the rider’s wrists and neck.

Mountain bikes

Basically, mountain bikes are rugged machines with flat handlebars and very wide knobby tires that can tread narrow dirt trails. 

Mountain bikes feature flat handlebars for control, hydraulic disc-brakes for handling steep ascents and descents, and exceptionally wide tires of 2 inches or more. The tires have knobby tread for traction. 

The wheels of a mountain bike can either be 27.5 inches or 29 inches. The traditional 26 inches is rare nowadays. Just like road bikes, there are women-specific models which have features tailored to the anatomy of a woman, like smaller hand grips, narrower handlebars, and shorter crankarms. Most of them also have lighter suspension tuning for smaller riders.

Styles 

Mountain bikes come in different styles including: full-suspension trail, full-suspension cross-country, full-suspension endure, and hardtail.

Trail full-suspension

Mountain Bike vs Road Bike: Choose the Right One
These offer a mid-travel suspension of about 120 to 150mm designed to balances descending abilities and climbing efficiency. They feature large tires and brake rotors for great stopping power. Some models offer the conventional 29-inch wide wheels while others offer the plus-size rubber. Trail bikes are the most popular mountain bikes because they can handle almost everything, from casual cross-country trails to rowdy downhills. 

Hardtail

Mountain Bike vs Road Bike: Choose the Right One
These live up to their name with their suspension forks on a rigid frame. They are the most affordable style of mountain bikes, though there are high-end versions meant for racing.

XC full-suspension

Mountain Bike vs Road Bike: Choose the Right One
These feature a shorter-travel rear suspension of about 110mm or less. They are designed to prioritize low bike weight and efficiency under power, especially on ascents. The bikes are mainly designed for racing on cross country and marathon courses that need sharp handling and efficient suspension. They feature head-tube angles near 70 degrees and 29-inch wheels.

Enduro

Mountain Bike vs Road Bike: Choose the Right One
These bikes offer up to 160mm or more of wheel travel. They are designed for maximum control during descents on steep technical terrains. They have aggressive tire treads and powerful brakes. You can also use them at bike parks or anytime you are going really fast. They feature head angles ranging from 62 to 66 degrees. Their reaches are also longer to keep the rider’s weight farther behind the front-wheel.

Downhill

Mountain Bike vs Road Bike: Choose the Right One
These are designed for downhill races. They can also be used in bike parks. They feature ultra-long wheel bases, long-travel suspension of about 200 mm or more and dual crown forks that require slow handling to help the bike rip downhill in a straight line. They hit massive jumps better than any other bikes.

According to most reviews, the Vilano blackjack 3.0 is one of the best mountain bikes worth investing in. it is a top preference for many riders because of its front and rear disc brakes provide plenty of stopping power in all conditions. Its 80mm suspension fork and lightweight construction makes it easier to cruise over obstacles.

Who/what are they best for?

Mountain bikes are highly versatile. You can use a mountain bike for different cycling styles depending on the type you get. They offer a cushy ride and an upright riding position on a wide variety of surfaces. If you intend to use a mountain bike for a technical trail, consider getting one with a greater rear suspension.

Distinctive features

Longer front center and wheelbase– ‘Longer’ is the new norm for mountain bikes. Manufacturers are making reaches much longer and the head tube angles are more slackened. The increased length helps in centering the rider between the wheels better. It also makes the bike feel smoother, stable and more secure in steep terrain. 

Steeper seat tubes– This is one of the most recent mountain bike innovations. Some models comes with seat tubes as steep as 76 degrees. This allows riders to be in a more favorable seated position for climbing. The steep seat tubes have also allowed manufacturers to decrease chain stay length, fit bigger wheels and tires into the frames as well as increase travel.

Pros and cons

The advantages of owning a mountain bike include:

  • The bikes are built with exceptionally durable frames that can hold up well to regular abuse.
  • They offer a lot of traction, which makes climbing really easy.
  • They are much more comfortable to ride.
  • Their wheels can handle potholes and rocks.
  • Much more comfortable to ride.

The disadvantages of mountain bikes include:

  • They have better rolling resistance.
  • They can’t move as fast as road bikes.
  • They have a much heavier build than road bikes.
  • They require much more effort to ride on paved terrain.
  • Their suspension stealing pedal stroke power make them more efficient.

How to choose the right type of the bike for you?

There are a couple of things you must consider when making a choice between a road bike and a mountain bike. The considerations are like:

Your cycling style and need for a bike

Do you plan to take casual rides within the estate when you need to catch a fresh breath of air once in a while or are you considering cross-country cycling on technical terrains. Establishing your need for a bike before getting one will help you get the right type.

If you plan to stick to pavements and flat roads, then you might not need a mountain bike. If you are a daily commuter looking to beat traffic and save on gas, then a road bike is your prime choice.
 

You can get a more versatile mountain bike if you feel you need a bike for exploration, exercise and commuting. Keep in mind that mountain bikes are not optimized for road use. You can use them but you will have to put in the extra effort. They are the ultimate option for an explorer looking to ride cross-country, trails, open spaces or any terrain of their choice.

Maintenance

Road bikes are much easier to maintain the mountain bikes. Constant bike maintenance is crucial to its longevity. Besides cleaning and proper storage, you have to go to the gas station and put air in the tires as well as get an occasional tune up. You also have to know when to change the tires. With road bikes, all this is easier as you barely ride on rough terrain with obstacles that may tear the tires or wear them out easily. Also, cleaning road bikes is much easier compared to cleaning mountain bikes as they don’t collect dirt and grit.

Here are some great tips and hacks on how to easily clean a mountain bike.

Cost

Road bikes are the more affordable option. You can find great road bikes at very affordable price points. There are high-end options with premium price tags but they offer easier handling, nicer tires and a lightweight build. If you need a bike for leisure rides or commuting to work, you wouldn’t need to dent your wallet.

FAQ

Can a mountain bike be used as a road bike?

Most mountain bikes are designed for rough trails. They are not optimized for road use but you can use them on the road if you like. The only issue is, you’ll be using more energy to move as fast as a road bike. You should consider your primary needs for a bike before purchasing one.

There are a few things you can do to safely ride a mountain mike on the road and they include: focusing on your shifting skills, analyzing your body position, picking the right line, and getting a bike with a comfortable saddle.

Are road bikes easier to ride uphill? 

According to experts, road bikes are the best type of bikes to take on uphill rides. This is because they have a higher gear selection, remarkably lightweight construction and thinner tires that create less friction. This is also why they are better performers in terms of speed on a flat road when compared to mountain bikes. If the uphill has no obstacles, then a road bike is the better alternative.

Final thoughts

The road bikes vs. mountain bikes debate has been hot for a long while. It is more rampant now that there is a bicycle boom Trusted Source The great bicycle boom of 2020 Throughout lockdown, rusty bikes were dusted off in garages around the world and sales of new bikes surged. The question is now: can it last? www.bbc.com once again. From our article, it is evident that there are advantages and disadvantages to both styles of cycling. The type of bike you choose should be determined by your needs or interests and where you will be riding it. If you are into exploration in the woods, and other technical terrains, then you should definitely go for a rugged mountain bike.

If you are looking for a bike to ride at the park, within your neighborhood or use to commute to work, then a road bike should be your prime choice. Both the bikes are designed for different purposes and neither is optimized for the others purpose.

References

1.
BBC Sport - Cycling - Road bike guide
All you need to know about a professional’s road bike with our clickable guide
2.
The great bicycle boom of 2020
Throughout lockdown, rusty bikes were dusted off in garages around the world and sales of new bikes surged. The question is now: can it last?
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