Why Are Mountain Bikes Good for the Road? – The Ultimate Guide

Zoom in on the handlebars of a mountain bike riding a road

Yes, really without any problem. 

It is quite possible to use a mountain bike to ride on the road, enjoy the scenery and have fun. However, the sensations will not be the same as on a road bike, so you should not aim for the same performance.

In this article, I will talk about the road bike family and the mountain bike family. Each family has sub-categories that I won’t go into here, I advise you to discover the type of bike in this article.

How is a Mountain Bike Different Than a Road Bike?

Mountain bikes are designed for on and off-road riding, so riding in the mountains, over rocks, over obstacles, on all kinds of trails and paths, even doing some jumps on rough terrain.

The road bike is only designed for smooth roads and environment like asphalt, or even some dirt roads, if they are very dry and well packed (it is technically possible, but I absolutely do not recommend it). The road bike allows you to go very fast, to perform well while riding long distances.

Some crucial differences:

Unlike a road bike, a mountain bike has a suspension fork, which absorbs shocks, and can also have a rear suspension on the rear wheel (in this case the it is called a full suspension).

On an MTB, the wheel is wider than on a road bike and is studded, the wider tire allowing a better grip with the road in contact with the mountain bike tire

Zoom in on the back of a mountain bike riding on a dirt trail
Dust and mud ? Naaah

The mountain bike is much less spared by the elements than the road bike, so it is essential to equip it with a reliable braking system, disc brakes are essential, in case of rain water, mud puddles, you must be able to slow down and stop safely. The road bike, depending on your needs/experience, will be able to use disc brake or rim brake.

Finally, depending on the type of bike, the weight will vary, with a mountain bike being heavier, even more so if it has a rear suspension, which has a significant weight.

Is it Hard to Ride a Mountain Bike on the Road?

Honestly, no. 

So yes, between two riders using a mtb and a road bike, you will see a difference in performance. The road bike is faster.

The real question is: is it harder to ride a mountain bike on the road than a road bike?

The answer is certainly yes. But does that make it impossible?

The suspensions of the mountain bike cause a pumping effect for the rider. The energy provided by the rider will be partly lost in the suspensions which will thus “pump” to compensate the asperities of the road. This implies a greater effort for the rider to keep up with someone who would use a road bike. 

However, some MTB models allow you to block the suspensions (or at least significantly reduce their effect), which can be very practical.

The wider tire explains part of the performance gap, the wider wheel has a larger contact area between the tire and the road so more effort is required to counteract this greater grip and convert the mechanical energy of rotation into horizontal movement. Large knobby tires have their limits here

Why Take a Mountain Bike on the Road?

If the mountain bike makes us go slower, why would you use it?

“I already have a mountain bike”

First of all, if you already own a mountain bike and you don’t want to buy a new model especially for the road because you don’t need it, this is a first reason to use your mtb for the road, it would be a shame to deprive yourself of this experience.

A mtb will allow the rider to enjoy a ride, the scenery, and if he is not looking for speed performance, then that will be fine.

“For my first purchase, it is hard to choose between road and mountain”

If you are hesitating for your first bike, take the time to target your needs. If you only intend to ride on the road and never try anything else, then start with a road bike directly. But if deep down you want to ride on roads, rocks and trails, a mountain bike will be ideal.

When we see the price of our bikes today (count on 2000$ for a nice machine in a bike shop), it will be preferable to use a single regular bike, versatile, to ride both on the road and on muddy trails. The mountain bike really comes in handy. 

Last but not least, the current state of the roads sometimes leaves me perplexed. 

Riding a mountain bike allows me to swallow the damages that the road could present, the potholes and cracks. The knobby tires and suspensions will make the ride much more enjoyable on poorly maintained roads.

Without forgetting also that the MTB allows to alternate the types of roads, who is not tempted to take an unknown path on his way? The alternation between paved road and small steep path proposed by a mountain bike makes me dream. 

the mtb is good on every terrain.

Are Mountain Bikes Good for Long Distance?

Compared to a classic road bike, much less. 

The mountain bike in the long run remains less comfortable, obviously it depends on the types of mountain bike, but in general it is.

The flat handlebars of the mtb make us have a less natural position than a drop handlebar, which has 6 ways to hold the handlebars, which allows us to alternate its position and have a greater comfort.

Drop handlebars of a bicycle
Drop handlebars

However, if you’re not looking to go beyond 30 mile road rides, the mtb is more than enough. 

Are Mountain Bikes Good for Everyday Use?

In my opinion, yes.

In any case, it is the ideal first bike to have, it allows to touch everything, to discover what we like, we like less. 

They can be used as a city bike for urban riding! The rider can easily swallow the sidewalks without risk. 

Some would advise to choose a hybrid bike, but in my opinion a hybrid bike is not a good alternative. They are presented as a compromise between road and mountain, allowing the rider to ride in any environment, but unfortunately, to be excellent nowhere, I find them mediocre everywhere.

To Summarize

By now you know that mountain bikes can be used easily on the road. However, if you want performance, then a road bike is more suitable. Now, if you want to choose a particular type of bike, you need to learn about them, gravel bikes, electric bikes, city bike, cyclocross bikes, descent bikes… Many features are possible and the choice is wide.

Finally, if you are looking for a way to determine the ideal bike size for you, read this article.

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