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Are Mountain Bikes Good for the Road?

Are Mountain Bikes Good for the Road
Written by James Jordan

Are mountain bikes good for the road?

Not really good but they can be used in the urban environment and you’ll have no trouble riding your MTB in the street occasionally.

However, it’s not the best type of bike for roads; nor is it the most efficient way of commuting. A road bike will work better for short distances while a touring bike will work best for long commutes.

Mountain bikes are usually a bit heavier than road bikes, which makes it harder for you to accelerate the speed and brake when necessary. If you don’t have any other options, you can ride the street on your MTB. But if possible, switching to a hardtail or a street bike is always better.

Is a Mountain Bike Good for Long-Distance Commuting?

Not really. Mountain bikes are specially designed for off-road use. The wider and heavier structure won’t give you 100% satisfaction on the road.

The urban cityscape is much different than a mountain trail. On the road, you might need to stop and accelerate your bike multiple times depending on the condition. That is especially hard with an MTB and you’ll lose your energy quicker.

If you want some hands-on experience, Watch this video:

Will MTBing in the Street Damage Your Bike?

Technically, no. Riding your MTB over a concrete/tar road won’t directly damage your bike. However, it will speed up the wear and tear process and  you’ll be changing those damaged parts more frequently.

Each type of terrain comes with its own advantages and disadvantages. On trails, you apply much harder force to make your way or to stop the bike. On the street, you need to use the brake more frequently.

The daily wear and tear are minor compared to the advantage you’ll be gaining though. If you use your MTB solely for street riding, you will have to deal with much weaker force and as a result, will last a long time. So, street MTBing won’t damage your bike that much.

Why Mountain Bikes Are Slow on the Road

Weight

These types of bikes have larger wheels on a bigger frame, which makes them a bit heavier than your typical road bikes. Harder to paddle, it’ll take time and effort to accelerate/stop the bike. In fact, some MTBs can weigh over 40 lbs.

Gear ratio

The gear ratio of your MTB isn’t optimized for street use. Unless you readjust the ratio, controlling and speeding on your bike will remain harder.

Tires

As mentioned earlier, these bikes have wider tires with low air pressure for additional grip so you can ride your bike smoothly no matter the condition of the trail. That added grip isn’t necessary for street use and can cause additional friction, slowing you down.

The suspension

Just like the tires, the suspensions are also optimized for off-road use. This makes it harder and less efficient to pedal on over the streets. As a result, your journey may become uncomfortable over the city roads.

Body position

The way you sit on your bike also makes a difference. You usually don’t have to deal with the drag force air can put on your body while you ride your MTB. On the road, the picture is different.

The shape and design of mountain bikes require you to sit in a more upright position, which increases the amount of air drag and slows your bike down.

Why MTBs are commonly seen on roads today?

Despite the disadvantages of MTBs for street use, the number of MTBs on the street is rising day by day. The main reason behind this is the rise of hybrid bikes. You now have better access to bike parts and can optimize your bike depending on your use.

With technological advancement, new and improved bike parts are being made and more people have access to them. The MTB you saw the other day might just look like an MTB, but may have components of a road bike instead.

Additionally, we are more concerned about climate change and their carbon footprints. As a result, many are switching to more eco-friendly options and the number of bicycles is rising in general.

Mountain bikes are also easier to balance and require less pedaling effort. More and more people are switching to MTBs to get the best of both worlds: on-road, and off-road.

What types of MTBs are best for the road?

If you want to use your mountain bike solely for street usage, a bike with wider tires and a strong grip will do great. The bike should also have internal cable routing to prevent wear and tear. Comfort is another thing to look for. Disk brakes work better than other brake systems.

Look for a bike that can provide you with comfort while riding. A great bike will have optimum frame geometry that can rescue air drag, and makes the journey much more comfortable.

What to do if you want to ride your MTB primarily on the road?

You won’t need major upgrades to make your MTB optimized for street use. Just a few tweaks here and there, and your mountain bike will fly over the city roads. Here are the things you need to optimize before you hit the road with your MTB:

  1. Adjust the seat and handlebar’s height
  2. Secure a comfortable position to ride on
  3. Replace the MTB tires with road tires
  4. Make your suspension a bit stiffer
  5. Increase the air pressure inside the tires

That’s about it. Your mountain bike should be ready now to hit the road.

Quick tips for taking your bike on the road

If you’re comparatively new to riding your MTB over the streets, these tips will help you regain control over your bike:

  • Always follow the traffic rules. You aren’t the only one using the streets
  • If you plan to use your MTB on the streets regularly, optimize the bike for better road performance
  • Ignore what other people think of you, or your ride
  • If your commute includes off-read shortcuts, you don’t need to modify your MTB
  • Maintain your bike regularly
  • Wear a helmet each time you ride
  • Don’t ride against the traffic, try to ride in a single file
  • Maintain a safe distance from other vehicles/pedestrians
  • Ride at a safe speed that gives you enough time to react if necessary
  • Keep away from other vehicles’ blind spot

About the author

James Jordan

As a kid I inherited the love for mountain bikes from my father who used to ride for weeks through the Colorado trail in the city of Denver. He had his gang, and I followed pretty much the same track.

Later on, my interest in biking grew more after joining the Enduro race back in 2013. My buddies and I also participated in the Downhill racing for the third consecutive year, and it’s been an amazing experience.

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