Mountain Biking Vs Road Biking: What’s The Difference?

So you’ve finally decided it: you want to bike to work. Maybe it’s to lose weight or to cut down on fuel costs. Or maybe you just want to experience something new. Whatever your goals are, you will nonetheless be faced with a dilemma: mountain biking vs road biking?

Road Cycling

We all know mountain bikes are suitable for hilly and rocky areas. And we all know that a road bike is great for riding to work or school. So this comparison seems outright ridiculous, right?

Whereas, many people who own mountain bikes want to use them for commuting as well. But can you? And can you use a road bike off-road? And what about weight loss or touring?

These are the questions that most people don’t know the answer to. Well, I’m here to clear that confusion. Below is an in-depth look into the differences between mountain biking vs road biking and a great videos at the end by GMBN. Take a look!

Why Consider Cycling In The First Place

Before we begin the comparison, let us first see why so many people consider cycling over driving. I’ll start this by saying that it’s all about your preference. But if you want to upgrade up your daily routine, consider cycling for the following reasons:

It’s Great For Losing Weight

Cycling is a great way to lose weight and focus on your health. Just imagine how many pounds you could lose simply by cycling. And it’s not hard either. Anyone of any age and ability can cycle to their work or home.

Recent studies have shown that cycling and walking are linked to a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease. It is good news for heart patients and those who have diabetes.

It Reduces Your Carbon Footprint

Since you’re not using your car or the local transit to commute to work, you can reduce your carbon footprint significantly. Exhaust from motor vehicles harms the atmosphere and promotes air pollution.

Cycling Is Cheaper Than Driving

Cycling can do most things a car can do, but way cheaper. The initial price is low (as low as $500). You don’t have to pay for the fuel. And you don’t have to worry about insurance or taxation. You get to do whatever you want without the restrictions of your budget or the law.

Differences Between Mountain Biking Vs Road Biking

Now on to the main differences between mountain biking and road biking. Remember that I’m not only talking about the bikes here. Instead, my focus is also on the activity of cycling and how each activity differs from the other. Take a look at the differences between the two:

Is Mountain Biking harder than road cycling?

The first and foremost difference you will see is the track. Mountain bikes, as the name suggests, are made for mountainous areas, while road bikes are meant just for the road. Pretty simple right? Well, there’s a lot more here than you may initially think.

Mountain Biking

Being more specific, mountain bikes like the Diamondback Overdrive can traverse through rough, uneven terrain. And they are optimized for off-road performance. They can ride on dirt tracks, climb up and down hills, and run right over small rocks and pebbles.

Road bikes like the Schwinn Phocus 1600, on the other hand, are made for smoother, more consistent pavement. These bikes can withstand the pressure and heat of paved roads, but not overcome obstacles very well. It is for this reason that road bikes are preferred for commuting.

Moreover, you should keep in mind that roads normally have little to no elevation gain. However, you may come across instances where the road is too steep. In this case, most road bikes can hold out for a while. But if you have to pass that area every day, a mountain bike will do you better.

Frame Type and Material

Now on to the bikes themselves. When we talk about the frame of the bike, two materials are the primary ingredients: aluminum and steel.

Aluminum is the lighter but expensive of the two. This material makes the bike lightweight, allowing for optimal commuting. These frames are the second lightest and second stiffest frames (right behind carbon).

Steel, on the other hand, is cheaper and heavier. There are two primary steel frames used: Hi-tensile and Chromoly. Chromoly is of particular interest here, as it’s the stronger of the two and used to make luxury bikes.

While both mountain and road bikes can use any material, some are best used with them. For instance, mountain bikes, needing to be strong and sturdy, may use Chromoly. These bikes generally have heavier and more durable frames.

Road bikes, on the other hand, require easy and fast movement as well. Hence, aluminum is the preferred choice of frame for them. But aluminum is also good for mountain bikes, owing to its high tensile strength. The Diamondback Overdrive is the perfect example of this.

Tires and Tread

The tires of the two bikes are the next major feature that sets them aside. The tread of the tire will define the performance of the bike on certain types of terrains.

Mountain Biking Vs. Road Cycling

The tires on a mountain bike are thicker and sturdier. They have a bold tread, with two to three ribs down the middle. These tires can take on any type of terrain, be it smooth or steep. Overcoming obstacles is assisted by the immaculate suspension used in these bikes.

Road bikes still need to overcome obstacles, just not as much as mountain bikes. You’ll find the tire is less suited to rough terrains such as dirt paths and graveled trails.

But you will find some form of wet-road performance. The tires are excellent at beating snow, water, and mud. Look for tires that specifically offer wet-road performance.

Speed and Tire Movement

When you’re deciding between mountain biking and road biking, it is important to consider the speed options.

Mountain bikes lead the way here, with over 30 different speed gears. Not every bike will offer this amount. In fact, a mountain bike bought in a moderate budget will only offer up to 8 transmissions.

Road bikes also have a concept of speed transmission. But they rarely have more than 8 speeds. You won’t be requiring higher speeds since road bikes aren’t recommended for mountaineering.

Another thing that sets the two aside is the rolling speed of the tires. Conversely, road bikes’ tires can roll up to 11% faster as compared to mountain bikes. It is because MTB tires are thicker and heavier, and thus their rolling mass is bigger.

Cycling Power

If we’re talking about cycling, we should look at how much power or force is expended on different terrains.

Mountain bikes are the best for off-road cycling. But they require more energy to pedal through. When I tried out mountain bikes, I found that pedaling through grass is increasingly harder in them.

Depending on the type of terrain, you may end up expending up to 50% more energy on a mountain bike. Which is why it is highly crucial to consider if you want to get into recreational MTB or not.

In addition to that, road bikes are generally easier to operate since they have an “over the handlebar” posture. Pedaling these bikes is a breeze. And unless your commute calls for thicker tires, road cycles can help you save your energy for the day to come.

Initial Price

Now for the one thing, everyone’s been wondering: what about the price? It goes without saying that mountain bikes are costlier than road bikes.

A road bike like the Schwinn Phocus 1400, on average, can cost anywhere from $300 to $1000. If you’re on a budget, you can try for the lower $200-$300 cycles. The cost of these bikes depends on the number of features, the frame material, and any extra protection.

Mountain bikes on the other hand, can cost from $500 all the way up to $2000, and some even $3000 or more. Again, all of this is dependent on the type of frame used and the tire quality.

Mountain Bikes Vs Road Bikes Chart

Here are the differences between mountain biking vs. road cycling summarized:

FeaturesMountain BikesRoad Bikes
TrackDirt tracks, mountains and hilly areas, steep passes.Paved roads, cycling paths, some elevated roads, and wet roads.
FrameHeavy, made from steel or aluminum.Light, made from aluminum.
TiresBold tread with large knobs, thick and durable.Simpler tread with smaller knobs, thickness varies.
UsageRecreation, touring, sport, mountaineering.Recreation, touring, commuting, races and tournaments.
Price Range$500-$3000+$300-$1000

What Can I Use Each Bike For

Now for the real question: where can I use each type of bike? You’ll find that there is not much difference here, but there’s a lot to consider. So take a look at the type of goals you can achieve with each type of bike:

Does Mountain Biking Burn more Calories than Rad Biking?

Many people use bikes to lose weight. While mountain and road bikes may differ in other aspects, you can lose a decent amount of weight in both.

Cycling stimulates a whole bunch of muscles. It is a great way to tone up your leg and hip muscles.

Moreover, there is a slight difference here. Mountain bikes require more force to operate. So you will be expending more energy in your legs. So you can step up your pedaling and burn away your fat.

Road cycling is no less active in cutting down weight. In fact, a study shows that cycling is more intense physiologically than walking or running. Road cycling also stimulates the muscles in your legs, and the bikes are easier to pedal with.

Can you use a Mountain Bike for Road Biking?

The second major use of these bikes is commuting. Both types of bikes can be used for commuting every day to your work, home, or school.

In fact, cycling is a better way to commute than any other. Both road and mountain bikes are made to run up and down hills and to pedal over smooth terrains.

However, if the commute to your work consists of dirt tracks and rocky terrain, consider a mountain bike. Mountain bikes are also much better at climbing up and down steep hills. Most road bikes can withstand a decent degree of elevation as well.


Both the mountain bike and the road bike can be used for touring. But it all comes down to where you want to go. For exploring abandoned houses or tagging along the interstate, consider a road bike.

Mountain Biking Vs. Road Cycling

If you’re the daring type and want to tour off-road, a mountain bike will hold out for you. You’ll be surprised to see just how many beautiful sights await you at the top of the hills. Some mountain bikes become handy for touring, such as the Trek 520 Touring Bike.

Sports and Community

There’s an abundant community of competitive biking. And you don’t get to see a difference here between mountain biking vs road biking.

Furthermore, cross-country mountain bike races have become increasingly popular in recent years. It is here that people get to gather and showcase their mountaineering skills.

Road cycling has its share of the community. You’ll find weight loss programs and even rehabilitation support groups.

What’s Right For Me: Mountain Biking vs Road Biking?

So what should you go for? A mountain bike or a road bike? You’ll find that there’s no absolute answer to this. Only you can decide which bike you want to consider. But I do have a few suggestions.

Bicycle, Bike, Cyclist, Dawn, Dusk, Man, Outdoors

Firstly, if you want to get into recreational cycling, mountain biking is the best. The trails are longer, the view is better, and you’ll be more invested than road cycling.

The entire point of recreational biking is to have fun. A mountain bike can take you places far more remote and eye-catching than a road bike. It is also what makes mountain bikes best for touring areas.

But if you want to commute to work, I strongly suggest a road bike. Mountain bikes require more energy to pedal, so they’ll only exhaust you. And you can trust your commute to be paved smooth enough for road bikes.

Road bikes can work very efficiently, even on steep climbs. Mountain bikes will only take away from your budget and not add anything to your daily commute.

If the road to your commute is too rocky, you can still trust a road bike to have your back. These bikes do have a decent amount of waterproofing and suspension.


Mountain biking is, no doubt, a fun, and exciting activity. It gets your adrenaline rushing and your heart beating fast. If you want to get a different kind of experience, then there’s nowhere better than the mountains themselves!

But if you just want a decent ride to your work or school, consider the best road bikes. There are tons out there that cut down on fuel costs and keep you in top shape.

And that’s it for the mountain biking vs road biking comparison! So have you decided which type of bike you want to buy? If you have, feel free to let me know. I love hearing from you guys!

Below is a Pinterest friendly photo… so you can pin it to your Mountain Bike Board!