MTB vs Road Biking: Which is better?
I have been riding for many years and as a cyclist I have “morphed” from one cycling type, mountain biking (MTB) to road cycling very seamlessly, and I am not sure if that’s how all cyclist work, but I began by just choosing the type of bike I thought I would enjoy most, and in my case I began riding a mountain bike.
My first “real” bike (no insults intended, as I consider all bikes good if it is getting you rollin’), was a GT Aggressor 1.0 and I loved that bike. It was a hardtail with “cliking” lever shifters, which was totally new to me, and it cost me about $600 at my local bike shop. I laid it away for three months at $200 per month and when I rode it out of the bikeshop I had no idea what mountain biking was about so I asked the shop to put some slick tires on it and that bike was smooth rolling, and I was in love with that bike. I eventually changed the tires and put more aggressive tires on it, and used it to ride some local ATV trails by my house. I later bumped into people on the trail that had even “more'' awesome bikes making me consider my GT Aggressor’s, and thought that maybe I would consider buying a better machine. Needless to say my interactions with bike friends has not decreased my need to get more and better bikes, and this continues to this very day, therefore, with my own experience it would very difficult for me to come to a decision on which one to choose to start, not to mention the Gravel bike and E-bikes sensations that capture my interest.
So here are 5 considerations I would take into account when choosing which type of cycling, MTB vs. Road, I would choose if I never rode a bike as a sport and I wanted to choose. Of course, this list is not exhaustive, these are not written in stone tablets, and there are probably other suggestions (please mention those in the comments) and I think it will be w
1. Where are you going to ride? Off Road, Fire Roads, Trails, single track or Un-Paved Road
Consider where you live first. If there are vast open plains, or mountain and hill country, that you have access to where you can ride legally and freely. If these roads and trails are gravel and or dirt road, then to me this would be a clear indication that you should go for a gravel bike or a mountain bike. If you like more comfort you should probably look into a bike with full suspension, which there are many options in mountain bikes, and even in gravel there are bike companies that are designing bikes with rear suspension (check out this blog post by Contender Bicycles for more info on Gravel Bikes with suspension). I don’t ride a gravel bike, yet, but I have ridden with some riders while mountain biking, and they seem to handle these type of trails just fine. The only challenges for gravel bikes that I have seen with one of my buddies while riding was difficulty in riding in sandy, or soft dirt, and in chunky rock garden type trails, but that may vary from rider ability and tire size options. An MTB can handle both of these scenarios, for the most part, again depending on rider skill level and tire options. A cross country mountain bike, or even a hardtail MTB would be perfect in this terrain. If you are thinking that this is the type of riding you’re going to be doing then definitely a gravel bike or a mountain bike would be a good choice.
2. Do you see yourself riding on: Pavement, Asphalt, Cement, City Bike Lanes, Hard Pack Dirt Roads?
For paved road the option is pretty clear, the choice is a road bike. A gravel bike can do both of these better than a mountain bike, and from what I gather a gravel bike is a good option if you have a mixture of terrains from dirt to paved roads. In my experience, riding my mountain bikes on pavement is possible, but it’s definitely slower, and full suspension will make it even slower. If you are riding in a group and staying together is a consideration, a road bike may be the best tool for the job. Road bikes are generally fast rolling on hard surfaces and better for climbing hills making this the choice for those that plan on riding on country roads, city streets, or in bike lanes.
3. Are you riding solo or with a group of friends?
In my case, when I bought my first bike I was riding solo so I chose the bike that I visualized myself having the most fun on, but as I said I eventual found friends that used road bikes(as you will inevitably find as well, as if by osmosis), and my friends were influential in my future bike selection (as you can tell I have gravel bikes on my mind😊). I eventually also began to watch cycling events, like the Tour de France, cycling on TV and youtube which got my attention with road cycling as well, and therefore I eventually bought a road bike.
As you ride, choose what you see yourself riding and then go from there. You may discover that you do not like road riding, but some of your friends enjoy MTB and that that type of riding better suits you so you’ll morph from a road to an MTB rider, and there is nothing wrong with that. I enjoy both, and so do most cyclists, but there are others who find riding a certain way and that’s the only way they want to ride. All of this is to say, choose what you like and see where it goes. There is nothing wrong with doing one or more, and the only limitation is whether your spouse will allow you to purchase the bike and add it to your stable of bikes.
4. Do you have any physical/health concerns that need to be considered when you exercise?
I am not a medical doctor or a pro athlete to make recommendation based on health, but I have enough experience to say that sometimes one cycling type or another may be better suited for differing health and age groups. If you have back issues, you should be aware that mountain biking can have jostling movements up and down and side to side even with the full suspension. Even on fire roads or hard pack dirt there can be hard bumps. Road cycling, at times takes you on roads that can have many potholes and cracks that can be bumpy as well, but is definitely not as jostling as MTB. There are bike paths for both road and MTB that tend to be better maintained, but you must consider how much bumping you want to do on the bike. I ride both types of bikes, but I have friends that are in their 50s and 60’s that would never step foot on a road bike, because it’s just not their thing, and they find a way to mountain bike in a manner that is safe for their age and health. I also have roadie friends, in their 50’s and 60’s, that have absolutely no interest in riding MTB, but prefer the open road and mountain passes. Age shouldn’t be a limitation, but physical concerns like injuries must be taken into consideration and you probably should get a physical by a doctor before you for the green light before you make your choice .
5. What are your goals?
I use the word “goals” really loosely here, and there is no requirement to get out a pen and paper and start writing down what you intend to achieve, but if you just think about what would be amazing to see happen as a result of riding. Chances are though, if you are interested in MTB or road biking, even if you don’t realize it (like I didn’t), but you are interested in health, fitness, nutrition, positive mindset, time management, social networking, leadership, outdoors, map reading, goal setting, creating epic times, and soooooooooo much more. This is an amazing fact that this sport, as in other sports, you will see that fitness makes a big impact on your enjoyment, which improves your health, which improves your mood, which improve your weight, and the list just keeps going...it is truly amazing the awesome ripples that cycling can have in your life. Therefore, as you choose a bike, whether it be MTB or Road, you will begin to develop goals for distance, climbing, time spent riding, rides per week, and even how many calories you will burn.
For example, if we are thinking about setting a distance or total miles ridden per year goal, road biking will generally yield longer distances. There are many open roads that go for miles and miles with little or no climbing with amazing views of some amazing mountain ranges. If this is your goal, a road bike would be perfect. MTB rides are generally not as long in distance, but intense in climbing. From my experience, I can ride about 10 miles on a mountain bike and get 1000 to 2000 feet of climbing in about an hour. On a road bike you can go long distances surprisingly quickly, and although the climbing is just as tough, it is usually spread over long distances (usually; this is not a rule and I am sure on road rides you can climb as many feet just as quickly as an MTB and vice versa).
Maybe you will set a goal like me, and try to ride your bike 20 hours per week, which is a lot of time on the bike. I almost always fall short every week, and I tend to average 10 hours a week, but for me it is easier to do longer rides on a road bike for many reasons, such as access to water, food, and emergency services. Longer rides on MTB need to be planned more carefully, as sometimes water is not available, and the rides can take you to remote and rugged locations where food and emergency services would be a long way away. Again these are not rules, but they are considerations that I would think of if I were to choose between MTB v. Road bike, especially if you cannot have both.
The bottom line in the question of MTB vs. Road: which is better? For someone who is new to the sport, you must consider where you are going to ride, who you are going to ride with, are there any physical concerns, and what are your goals? I guarantee that no matter which bike you choose that you will enjoy the time you spend riding, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll want to try a new bike as soon as you have a chance.
Thank you for checking out the clikclik blog. Here I try to promote my passion for a sport I love, and I also love to connect people with cycling in many forms. Please check out the app I created called clikclik for a cool way to plan epic rides and feel free to invite me to one of your rides. Have a great time on the road or trail and as always “Let’s Ride!!”