The Differences Between Mountain Bikes and Road Bikes
Updated - May 20, 2020
It’s quite possible to think of a different type of bike for every possible terrain. Overtime with adequate demand a new type of bike has been designed to handle any type of ground. Pavements and dirt paths have very different surface attributes that demand specialised functionals on a purpose built bike. The road bike, designed for flat road or pavement surfaces has over a century of racing heritage behind each and every bicycle created today. While the mountain bikes were created much later when demand grew enough the mountain bike was born and now makes up a large share of the biking market.
A road bike is designed to be responsive and lightweight. It should glide on smooth surfaces and have a reduced level of resistance and therefore increase in speed. Racing bikes were perfected overtime in order to take seconds off of a riders track time. Road bikes usually position their riders in forward leaning positions to allow the rider to transfer power to the pedals easier and offer a more aerodynamic shape to the bike and rider combined.
A road bikes frame can be made of one of several different materials however the lightweight options such as carbon fiber or titanium are used at a professional level due to their benefits in terms of speed. Steel and aluminium are very commonly used in the commercial markets for some of the lower budget bikes available today.
Mountain bikes are designed to handle off road environments such as gravel, dirt and mountain paths. These bikes are built with strong frames and wheels to avoid damage from impacts while riding. They have thick tyres to lessen the blow and add additional support to the rider. The frames are built from a variety of materials including titanium, carbon fiber, aluminium and steel. They are built to last and can take far more physical conditions than an average road bike could.
One major difference between road bikes and mountain bikes is the addition of a suspension system. Mountain bikes have suspension systems added to help the bike absorb impacts from both wheels. The rider is in an upright position (compared to the forward leaning position of a road bike) in order to maintain balance and stability while the bike is dealing with uneven surfaces.
The more obvious difference between the two bike types are the wheels attributes. Mountain bike wheels hold larger tyres. These tyres are usually very chunky and have deep treads and raised lugs. A road bike uses a much narrower tyre with less tread. This little tread is enough to give enough grip to the tyres without causing excess drag or resistance.
Choosing The Right Bike For You
As you can see from above the two bike types are very different so depending on your requirements you should be able to see which style suits your needs. A mountain bike offers much more comfortable off-road use, however can be used on flat, smooth surfaces just the same. This makes mountain bikes quite a popular choice for those who need a bike for multiple purposes. It won’t be able to compete with a professional road bike however it will offer some defence against speed bumps and pot holes. Road bikes are perfect if you only ride on roads and sidewalks. They make covering long distances easier due to their light weight and low resistance, they also are easier to control at high speeds.
We have several lists containing different types of bikes, in different price brackets, once you know what sort of bike you want, consider your budget and buy the most expensive, well reviewed bike you can. A bike is an investment and you should get the best one you can afford as (hopefully) it will be with you for several years.