Are Mountain Bikes Good for the Road?

Christine H. Groce10 Apr 2022

Biking can be a great way to commute, have fun, or get in shape, but sometimes people are unsure where to ride. Bikes are essential for both city biking and mountain biking.** **Mountain biking is fantastic for hitting the trails, but it is not always the best on roads. Road bikes are closer to the ground and light enough to ride on the smooth street surface. But can you ride your mountain bike on the road?

How is a Mountain Bike Different From a Road Bike?

Mountain bikes are built for a different purpose than road bikes. They are designed to be ridden on rough terrain, steep hills, and obstacles like rocks and logs. Road bikes are designed for riding on the pavement in a straight line. Let us consider some of the differences between the two types of bikes:

Frame geometry

Mountain bikes are designed to take on rough terrain and steep inclines. They have a longer wheelbase, slacker head tube angle, and short chainstays. On the other hand, road bikes are designed for aerodynamics, typically with a shorter wheelbase and steeper head tube angles. Road bikes are designed for paved surfaces and riding in a straight line.

Gearing and brakes

Mountain bikes have lower gearing and more powerful brakes than road bikes. This is because mountain bike riders need to go up steep inclines and down steep descents with the bike. The brakes on a mountain bike are also more robust to stop the rider quickly when needed. On the other hand, road bike riders are not required to do either of these things and generally face a smoother ride.


Mountain bikes have a rear suspension that absorbs shock from bumps and rocks. The front fork on a mountain bike also has suspension, which helps to absorb shock and keep the rider more comfortable. Road bikes are stiffer and lighter than mountain bikes, which means they can't endure more intense vibrations from the road because there is less shock absorption. A mountain bike's suspension is usually much more forgiving than a road bike's.


A mountain bike's handlebars are different from a road bike's because they are made to absorb shock. They also have a wider grip, usually covered in rubber. On the other hand, road bikes have handlebars positioned lower to create a more aerodynamic profile. They have thin, unpadded handlebars, and their grips are usually metal or plastic.

Wheels and tires

Road bikes have thinner tires because they need to be faster, while mountain bikes have thicker tires to provide more traction on rough surfaces. Bikes with thin tires are easier to ride on smooth trails, while bikes with thicker tires can handle more challenging terrain. Some mountain bikes have suspension forks that allow the bike to absorb bumps in the terrain and prevent damage to the rider.

How are mountain bikes better than road bikes?

Better For Gravel Roads & Dirt Trails

A mountain bike is a better option for off-road cycling than a road bike. This is because it has wider tires, more suspension, and a more upright position, making it easier to maneuver on uneven terrain. Cyclists can go a little faster on a mountain bike than on a road bike when it gets too rough or bumpy.

More Durable Than Road Bikes on Pavement

Road bikes are not as durable as mountain bikes on the pavement. Their tires are thinner, and the bike frame is more fragile. Mountain bikes, on the other hand, have thicker tires and a more durable frame. Mountain bikes can handle pavement better because of their larger wheels and softer suspension.

Lower Maintenance Costs Compared to Road Bikes

In general, mountain bikes are cheaper and less expensive to maintain than road bikes. This is because the parts on a mountain bike are much more durable and require less maintenance than those on a road bike. The most expensive part of a mountain bike is the frame, which needs to be replaced every three years. The chain needs to be changed every year, and the tires can last from one to four years, depending on how often they are used. In contrast, it's not unusual for a road bike owner to spend $500-$1000 in annual maintenance costs just maintaining their bicycle.

Easier to Change Gears

Mountain bikes are made for rugged terrain, which means they have a lot of gears. On the other hand, road bikes are geared for smoother surfaces and thus have only one gear. The good thing about having more gears is that you can make it up hills that you would never be able to make up with a single-speed bike. The downside is that it's harder to change gears when you need to do so quickly. For example, if you're going uphill and need to shift down a gear to maintain your momentum, it will take longer than using a single-speed bike.

What can you change to ride your mountain bike primarily on the road?

You can change a few things on your mountain bike to make it suitable for riding primarily on the road. One of the most important things is the tire size. Mountain bike tires are typically wide and knobby, making them unsuitable for road riding. You can either buy new tires or swap out the existing ones for road-specific tires. Next, you should consider changing your gearing to make pedaling on flat surfaces easier. Mountain bikes typically have a very low gear ratio and require a lot of pedaling power to go up hills or over rough terrain, so they might not be best suited for roads with little elevation change. You can either adjust your existing gears or buy new gears with a higher gear ratio. Finally, if you're going to ride primarily on paved surfaces, you can either adjust your existing gears or buy new gears with a higher gear ratio.

So, are mountain bikes good on the road?

Mountain bikes are built for off-road use, so they are not as good on the road as other types of bikes. However, you can use them on the road in certain situations, such as when you need to ride through a rough or hilly area. Mountain bikes are harder to pedal and slower on the pavement. But they have a relaxing ride, an upright riding position, and can travel easily on various surfaces.

Christine H. Groce

Christine H. Groce

Christine formed a passion for cycling back when she still had training wheels as a kid. She wants to write about her adventures, along with tips and tricks for beginner cycling fans.

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