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Are Road Bikes Faster Than Mountain Bikes?

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The need for speed is often foremost in the minds and objectives of cyclists, thus the debate about whether road or mountain bikes rule this market niche seems never ending.

Weigh all of the factors, and folks insisting that road bikes rule tend to prove their point based on better aerodynamic positioning, superior peddle power, and lightweight construction.

Will the debate ever end? Not while both bike types have avid fans!

But if you in a hurry here is the quick answer!

Road bikes are faster on asphalt because they are designed to be fast and aerodynamic. On the other hand, mountain bikes are much more maneuverable and comfortable for difficult mountain terrain.


How much difference will I notice going from a mountain to a road bike?

The answer depends upon terrain as well as your physique, since “Bikes are only as fast as their rider[s],” say the Biking House crew. Assuming surfaces have been changed in addition to bike model, you could “expect to cycle over 2 miles further each hour,” on flat, smooth terrain if you trade your mountain bike for a road bike, says David Curran writing for the Condition and Nutrition website.

In addition to your ability to travel further faster if you opt for a road bike, you will also notice that the ride is more comfortable, even if it’s extremely long. Further, your riding experience can be dramatically altered as soon as you adjust to changes in handlebar positioning, styling, and design.

Thinner wheels and tires on road bikes are known for a smoother ride than the fat, heavy ones mounted on mountain bikes. Additionally, you will notice subtle differences related to the road bike’s groupset, especially when compared to a mountain bike groupset functioning.


Are road bikes harder to ride than mountain bikes?

Jeff Barber authored a fascinating study about the amount of effort it takes to pilot a mountain bike over a road bike, and his analysis is too important to synthesize his findings down to just a few sentences. Hence, we recommend reading the entire article here.

Barber’s tests lead him to this conclusion: “I found a 51-percent increase in the effort needed to ride a mountain bike on a grassy, leafy trail with obstacles, compared to a road bike on a paved surface.”

He asks the reader to remember that his assumptions are based on a test course featuring grades and turns similar to the ones a cyclist encounters on a typical road and that his results also factor in a mountain bike without a suspension system. “For bikes with suspension, there will be additional energy expended on the trail,” Barber explains in his article.

Related: What Makes Full Suspension MTB’s So Expensive?


Why are road bikes so uncomfortable?

One of the most often-cited reasons for road bike discomfort as expressed by people who have formerly ridden mountain bikes has to do with one’s body having to adjust to a long list of factors that range from handlebar positioning to tires and differentiated frames.

Add to these factors a new saddle that won’t feel at all familiar, especially if your relationships with mountain bikes go back a long way.

Related: Why Are Bike Seats So Uncomfortable?

You may wish to look upon your new road bike experience in the same way you approached meeting someone of the opposite sex: you’ll need to accommodate your body to the new ride because she won’t necessarily accommodate you.

Learn to assume a proper, neutral body position when you ride your new road bike (you did have an expert help you choose the right size, right?) that “starts with the head and goes all the way to your feet,” say Liv experts.

Importantly, keep tabs on your body’s alignment because it’s relatively easy to fall back on old habits associated with your mountain bike.

Here’s another tip from Liv: Discover the multiple places you can position your hands on your handlebar so you employ different muscle groups and alter your center of gravity, both of which result in a more comfortable ride.


Road v. mountain bike: Which is best for exercise and fitness goals?

Not every cyclist’s objective is setting a new personal time or distance best; some folks want to own road bikes to get the exercise they (or their doctors) have ordered, so it helps to know which bike style will do the best job of helping you get fit.

Road bikes, alternately, have no equal in terms of vigorous cardio boosts. Lighter frames don’t require as much effort, making them easier to handle and capable of delivering a more inclusive workout.

Going longer distances is another benefit riders derive from sticking to road bikes, and you can marvel at the way your thighs and calves look like a direct result of getting a full-body workout.

Are they perfect? Not exactly. Your body could develop aches and pains your mountain bike didn’t cause, but for a sexy body, you may not care.

Related: Negative Effects of Cycling


10 reasons your road bike will run rings around your mountain bike

Adam Marsal insists that road bikes are better than mountain bikes for a very logical set of reasons. If you are convinced of the merits of this type of bike over mountain bikes, you’re likely to agree with all of the points he makes in this fun article.

1. The 100km ride that sucks up an entire day on a mountain bike can be accomplished on a road bike “before lunch.”
2. You can perform like a champ without having to rely upon a slew of gears to shine.
3. If you use your road bike to hang wet clothing, the handlebars will hold many more cycling wardrobe items than a mountain bike handlebar accommodates.
4. You won’t suffer suspension power loss if you ride a road bike thanks to conservative frame design.
5. Practice long enough, and road bikes are capable of doing wheelies, too.
6. Road bikes are time savers. A rainy ride “won’t throw you into a half-day of brush & sponge slavery.”
7. Road bikes say aficionados, are works of art that deserve to be displayed on walls.
8. Mountain bike tires drive neat freaks crazy! Your road bike tires are neater and tidier.
9. Legendary road bike riders have been celebrated for 200 years. How many mountain bike riders can make that claim?
10. Can you drag your mountain bike up the stairs to your high rise? Don’t bother. We know the answer!

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About Alek Asaduryan

Alek Asaduryan is the founder of YesCycling and has been riding bikes and in the cycling industry since 1991. Since then, his mission is to make cycling more accessible to everyone. And each year, he continues to help more people to achieve that. When he's not out riding his beloved fitness bike, Alek reports on news, gear, guides, and all things cycling related.

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