Road biking or mountain biking? – speed, comfort and handling


Which is the right bike for you, the mountain bike or the road bike? Making a decision becomes complicated when you stand looking at the two types of bicycles.

But it all comes down to your preference and fitness needs. Further, it helps to consider where you plan to ride and what type of riding you want to do. Lastly, how important are your ride quality and your budget?

For a short answer, the main difference between the two is endurance and speed. For riding long distances at a high pace, the road bike comes to the rescue offering you speed and comfort.

For off-road cycling at long distances, the mountain bike offers you everything you need to get you over obstacles in the way and takes all the knocks to prevent your body from getting sore in the process.

We want to help you find a suitable bike made for your needs by looking a bit deeper into these types of bikes.

Dissimilarities in the Gears and Parts

The bicycles you can find with components made for different purposes and the type of bike you choose comes down to how you plan to ride. If you want to maintain a comfortable speed for long distances, road bikes are made for you.

If you are a thrill-seeker who wants to travel gravel roads, no cycle does it better than the mountain bike. To take it further, we want to help you by digging a bit deeper.

Purpose and Performance

Nothing rides better than the mountain bike on trails, dirt, snow, and tracks. However, the MTB does not perform that well on the pavement and streets. But do not let this stop you from using it on the street as you can swap the tires for a slicker profile to get the same performance as your road bikes.

The rolling resistance of the road bikes works better on roads made for speed and fast on asphalt. The bike cannot handle rough terrains well and leads to more wear and tear. You get an unpleasant experience as your body shakes without having the suspension mountain bikes have.

The road bikes offer you a light weight design depending on the model you buy. You will find sitting on the bikes different. You lean in a forward position to help with aerodynamics for transferring power to the paddles. Road bikes are lighter than mountain bikes. Now, we are not thinking of carbon mountain bikes made with high-end parts.

Bike Gearing

Here is where the main difference lies in the bike parts and gearing. With the mountain bikes, you get a suspension to help absorb the shocks on bumpy roads. The wheels are wider with knobby tires to increase grip riding with better rolling over dirt and rocks. The road bikes offer a slicker profile making the bike faster with its smooth-rolling tires. If you want to travel on and off-road, the cross-country bikes are designed for this purpose.

Rear Cassette

For mountain biking, you find the rear cassette bigger with a smaller one on the road bike except touring bikes. The cassette on the road bikes has more gears that are individual while the hubs deeper with more force. The mountain bikes come with multiple gear groups to distribute energy evenly. On the other hand, the spline is shorter to save weight.

Front Derailleurs

Comparing the two, the mountain bikes have two chainrings while the road bike has three. For this reason, you cannot swap out the crankset, as it will not fit either bike. As there are more chainrings, it can shift into a higher gear for speed for bike road cycling.

The Wheels

The wheels’ diameter is more robust and broader on the mountain bikes while the road bike comes with different tire profiles made for bike road cycling. With less surface on the road bicycle tire, you get less friction with more speed without too much effort.

The Handlebars

Here there is a complete difference in the design and the shape. The road bicycle has drop handlebars while the mountain bike has wider and flat handlebars allowing for ease of use on the brakes. Many cyclists say that for mountain biking, the flat bars work better for climbing. However, it does leave more strain on your wrists. With the drop design, you can squeeze through small gaps easier.

The Fork Design

The fork on the mountain bike offers you a beefier yet stronger design to deal with rough terrains. Furthermore, the bike has full suspension to help absorb shocks. In the road bicycle, you lack the function except for the cross country, providing you with full suspension.

The Pedals

Here we are not referring to stock pedals found on many bikes. Both the pedals of the bike have mechanisms locking the shoe in place. The main difference is the cleat size of how it attaches to the shoe sole. The mountain bike pedal has a smaller cleat making it faster to unlock.

When you think, it makes sense if you do fall while riding trails. The road bikes have larger cleats to increase the surface between the pedal and your shoe sole. You can find the MTB with flat pedals the same as the road bikes and depends on your needs.

The Breaks

It helps to have a shorter pull with the road bikes when cycling on the street—the bicycles equipped with cantilever, mechanical disc, and caliper brakes. The mountain bikes have mechanical disc brakes or V-brakes. It is more common to hit the brakes when mountain biking, but you do not want a dead stop too fast. For this reason, you adjust your speed when you do hit an obstacle to help accelerate the bikes.

Which one is for you?

Now that you have read through all the information, you may still feel overwhelmed in which bike to choose. We want to help make it easier for you with the advantages and disadvantages of each cycle here:

Mountain Bike Pros & Cons

  • The bike has a beefy frame with components made for abuse.
  • The frame has a unique geometry for traction on loose to steep climbs.
  • They are fitted with different sized wheels handling rocks and potholes.
  • The suspension offers you more control, and the frame/fork takes all the hits.
  • For traction and control, it has wide knobby tires.

The XC is a standard MTB made for cycling trails for longer while the trail mountain bike offers you the versatility to use it on tracks and trails. You can find the latter with a single or full suspension. The Enduro bike has a comfortable suspension for trails and expensive. Simultaneously, the downhill mountain bike makes riding rough terrains a breeze when traveling at high speeds downhills.

The main downside is the bike is heavier with less resistance on roads. Furthermore, the knobby tires have less effect on the road while the suspension can rob you of the pedal stroke’s efficiency. For use on road paths, you need more effort, as it is slower.

Check out my other post on whether you can ride a mountain bike on the road

Road Bike Pros & Cons

  • The bikes light and agile for speed with an over handlebar posture to transfer power.
  • You get more leg power with the riding position, and the components have a tight tolerance.
  • The wheels tall with thin tires to help reduce friction.

You get the lightweight race bikes that are aerodynamic in design, focusing on speed instead of comfort. On the other hand, you get a stiffer frame with thinner wheels and not made for steep terrains or touring.

Then you have the gravel bikes made for enjoying a ride off-road and trail to help maintain speed at longer distances. The frame has a more muscular design to handle rough terrains, and the fork offers a large clearance with knobby tires.

For long-distance and a stamina ride, the endurance bike is what you need and seen in cycling contests with a comfortable geometry design. The touring bike offers you comfort for riding long distances but is not made for speed.

Each road bike serves different purposes when you want to enjoy cycling, and it all depends on your needs.

The downside is it cannot handle the same punishment as the MTB while the gear range is high and hard for slow speed riding. Lastly, the riding position gets uncomfortable on your neck and wrists.

Now, you can see each one’s difference and hope it helps you make an informative decision when deciding which bike to buy. Here it all comes down to preference and how you plan to use your cycle.

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