The road bike vs mountain bike argument has been around for many years and while it is hard to say that one is better than the other, there are a few things you can look at when deciding. When you are a beginner, you might not know which bike or niche to choose and this can dissuade many people or force them into the wrong decision. If a mountain bike is what you need, the Diamondback Bicycles Release Full Suspension Mountain Bike is a great option.
As mentioned, there are a few things one can look at before making these decisions and we have set out to understand both versions of cycling to help you make the best decision. Instead of having to suffer through months of trial and error, you can use the following guide to ensure that you understand the basics and requirements of the road bike vs mountain bike decision.
We will look at each of these sections individually and look at certain aspects that beginners need to consider. Once we have looked at and explained each of these sections, the final part will give you some insight into which one could be best for you. Now, you can find the bike and cycling specialty you are most comfortable with.
Road Bike Vs Mountain Bike: What Is The Difference?
Before you can determine which one of these bike formats will be the best for you, you will have to understand the difference that each of them has. Since there are different aspects and requirements to each of these versions, having more information could make it clear and easier to determine which one is best for you.
The road bike is one of the most common bikes on the market today. It features a smaller wheelbase than the mountain bike and also has a lightweight. As you might have noted from the name, these bikes are designed for taking on tarmac surfaces and the thin wheels can rotate much faster to ensure you have more speeds. Here are some of the main features of the best road bike:
While you can find the budget road bikes for under $300, these bikes generally have a steel frame and the steel frame tends to be heavy. Fortunately, aircraft-grade aluminum is the perfect material for road bikes and it keeps the bike lightweight. While mountain bikes might also be made from aluminum, the size of the frames is much smaller as you would see when looking at the Vilano R2 Commuter Aluminum Road Bike.
One of the most prominent things that you will see when looking at a road bike for the first time is the size of the wheels. The wheels will not have to endure as much punishment as the mountain bikes due to being on the road all the time. These 700c tires are often the choice and can be found on almost every road bike much like the Schwinn Phocus 1400 and 1600 Drop Bar Road Bicycle demonstrates.
- Aluminum road frame with carbon fiber road fork provide lightweight strength; 700c wheels fit riders 64 to 74 inches tall
- 16-speed shifter / brake lever combination offers precise, smooth gear changes
One of the reasons for the smaller wheel size of the longer climbs. Compared to mountain bike trails, hills on roads can be much longer, and often the inclination will remain for prolonged periods. The tires need to be lightweight as you will want to keep the bike as light as possible. The Tour De France is the perfect example of these climbs.
The top road bikes have to fast and the faster they go, the better for the rider. When it comes to the aerodynamics of the bike, you will notice the drop handlebars. These handlebars can be found on almost every road bike and will allow the rider to get into a crouched position. The position is called the aerodynamic position. If you spend a day with a SAVADECK Carbon Road Bike, you could learn all about it.
- TORAY T800 Carbon Fiber Frame, Fork and Seat Post - It's a lightweight and stiff carbon road bike at 8.7kg (19.2lb), also designed to offer more compliance.
- SHIMANO 105 Group Set - SHIMANO 105 7000 2*11 Speeds with Shifter lever, Front derailleur, Rear derailleur and Freewheel - It enables you to start and operate your ride effectively, smooth shifting and durable.
More Gears With Each Drivetrain
Road bikes often need to endure longer races and these races can be very demanding. You don’t have to pedal at full speed for every inch and this means that having more gears can allow you to be more comfortable. Some of the high-end road bikes can often have up to 50-speeds or even more. The higher the speeds, the more power the bike will push out.
The brakes of the road bike and the mountain bike tend to be similar. Nowadays the disc brakes are taking over the world of road bikes as well. The hydraulic disc brake is the most effective and will give you instant stopping power. It is a small brake and does not wear out as fast as some of the others. It is slightly more reliable than the mechanical disc brakes.
While there might be a few minor differences between the road bike used for competition and the time trial bike, both of them will force you to decide in only a few milliseconds. Having gears that jam when you shift can be very frustrating and the micro shifters seem to be effective. Shimano is at the forefront of micro shift technology with the SAVADECK Carbon Road Bike T800 as an example.
The design of the road bike tends to be sleek and less sophisticated than some of the other bikes. The main aim of the sport is to go as fast as possible on the flat road. There are smaller curves and most of the components tend to be smaller. However, all of this is done by design to keep the weight of the bike as low as possible.
When it comes to picking favorites, the mountain bike is by far the most popular. On average, manufacturers sell more mountain bikes than road bikes and the top mountain bikes have a sense of versatility that makes them fun and easy to ride. Here are some of the main characteristics of the top mountain bikes on the market today:
Mountain Bike Frames
One of the key differences when comparing mountain bikes to road bikes is the frame. Mountain bikes have two different frames that you need to choose from and they can make a big difference to your performance. Here is a small breakdown of the different frames and how they could impact your riding experience:
- Full-Suspension Frame: The full suspension frame is durable and it features an additional shock at the rear of the bike. The extra suspension helps with shock absorption and makes the bike better for downhill races. The Diamondback Bicycles Release 3 Full Suspension Mountain Bike is a prime example.
- Hardtail Frame: The hardtail frame is similar to that of the road bike and it features a solid rear axle that will cause some extra bumps. These frames are stiff, which makes them ideal for climbing, as you would see when using the SAVADECK DECK300 Carbon Fiber Mountain Bike.
There is no better right or wrong frame type and it will all come down to what you are using it for. The hardtail bikes tend to be slightly more affordable than the full-suspension alternative. However, both of these bikes will get the job done.
The other common difference is in the tires. Since mountain bikes tend to take on more rugged terrains, the tires are larger. On average, the width of the tires can be anything from 1-inch to 4-inches if you are looking for the top fat-tire bikes. The Mongoose Impasse Men’s Mountain Bike is one of the top options for intermediate cyclists to consider.
- 18-Inch/Medium Aluminum suspension frame maximizes comfort & performance
- Element suspension fork smooths the bumps and increases control
For a mountain bike, you don’t need more than around 21-speeds to get everything done. You will be spending more time working the bike through the uneven terrain than you would spend changing the gears. One of the only reasons to shift gears is when the inclination of the terrain changes to make it more manageable for the rider.
Bike materials tend to be very similar for every aspect of the sport. The three main materials, which are steel, aluminum, and carbon fiber will still be your main choices. However, the size of the frames is slightly thicker and they are more rugged. You might even notice that the coating is more durable and the bikes tend to be resistant to the elements.
The last important aspect of the mountain bike is the brakes. Having durable brakes are important since a fall in these rugged environments can lead to serious injury. Since the bikes don’t travel at such intense speeds, the mechanical disc brakes are more than enough to get the job done. They are durable and will offer incredible stopping power. You can always look at the Schwinn High Timber Youth/Adult Mountain Bike with a steel frame, but powerful brakes.
- Lightweight 16-inch steel frame is the perfect bike for rides around your neighborhood or trails. The 24-inch wheel frame fit riders 5’5” to 6’0” inches tall
- Bicycle comes with an alloy crank that provides steady gear changes that cause less maintenance
Which Bike Is The Best For You?
Once you have a basic understanding of each bike type, it does not mean you can choose the one that looks the best. There are a few things you need to consider to ensure that you find one that will be great for you. The following aspects are vital and they are important to help you make the right decision when buying your next bike:
When looking at road bikes vs mountain bikes, the price is mostly related to the materials. However, the inner components can have a significant effect. Road bikes tend to be slightly more expensive than mountain bikes. The maintenance and upkeep of the mountain bike are higher than it is on the top road bikes.
Terrain You Want To Ride On
The road bike is not adapted for taking on the strenuous conditions that a mountain bike can endure. If you want to endure mud and small hills packed with gravel, the mountain bike might be the best option for your needs. While the mountain bike can ride comfortably on the road, it is hard to climb due to the additional weight and your speed will be limited.
In terms of versatility, the mountain bike is the best option. Kids can use the mountain bike from a very young age on different terrains. However, the road bike is better for professional purposes and should be used for competitions. If you want a bike that can be used by you and some of your friends for an urban expedition, the best mountain bike can work.
How Often You Cycle
The last aspect is that you would want to consider how often you are going to use the bike. If it is professionally, you can choose any of the bike types. However, hobbyists should consider a mountain bike due to its versatility. These bikes can be used on almost every terrain. However, there are hybrid bikes as well for all purposes.
The argument of the road bike vs mountain bike is not as complex as you might think. There are tons of different reasons to have one or even both of these bikes. It will all come down to the different reasons you have and which one of them you feel most comfortable with. The road bike is not as comfortable as the mountain bike, but much faster.
Robert Hall – a professional trainer with 6 years of experience.
I specialized in cardio cycling and indoor cycling
Have a NASM Certified Personal Trainer and holds a Bachelors Degree in Kinesiology from Michigan State University.