As someone who has spent years working in a bike shop, a common question I am asked is, am I able to use a mountain bike on the road? This is an excellent question, and the short answer is yes, but there are a few things you need to know before you do.
In this article, we will be telling you the good, the bad, and the ugly of using a mountain bike on the road.
Why do people use Mountain Bikes on the Road?
There are many reasons why people use a mountain bike on the road, and in my opinion, it’s an excellent idea and makes complete sense. There are some fantastic advantages to using your mountain bike on the road and some significant disadvantages.
In this next section, we’re going to talk about the pros and cons and then ways to modify your mountain bike to make it more roadworthy.
So just say you are planning on buying an entry-level bike for commuting. The cheapest geared road bike you will find will roughly be around $400-$500. Then you start looking at mountain bikes, and the most affordable you see is $200-$300. Typically mountain bikes at an entry-level are cheaper than road bikes.
The beauty of having a mountain bike that you use on the road is that you also have the option to go off-road. It means you have an excellent do it all bike, and you’re not tied down to just one cycling discipline.
There’s no doubt that mountain bikes are much more comfortable than road bikes. They have larger tires that roll much better on the road, the rider’s position is more upright, the suspension takes all the bumps out of the road, and generally, wider mountain bike handlebars are much more pleasant to use than road handlebars.
Mountain bikes are much more durable than road bikes. If you hit a pothole, you have nothing to worry about. You will more than likely just roll over it. Having a mountain bike on the road means that you will be fine no matter the road’s condition.
Mountain bikes are also much better at stopping faster than road bikes which is a big plus in a busy city.
Mountain bikes on the road are very slow. They are not made for smooth roads and are extremely laggy. You will find holding speed on the bike much harder and will have to put much more effort in. This is because of a few reasons, such as the weight of the bike, the aerodynamics, and the larger tires.
Mountain bikes naturally are relatively broad, which helps the user control the bike in technical sections off-road. Unfortunately, in certain situations on the road, this doesn’t help us. One is city traffic. Having wide handlebars makes weaving through standstill traffic very difficult.
Off-road bikes such as mountain bikes typically have knobbly tires, and the tarmac chews these up very quickly. When I use my mountain bike on the road, the rear tire starts to flatten off much quicker than on gravel or muddy trails.
I find myself switching the front to back tire to make them last longer, but still, it’s not ideal. Off-road tires are a softer compound compared to road tires.
How can we make our Mountain Bikes Better on the Road?
Making a Mountain bike better for the road is a great idea. Many cyclists take to the toolbox and start modifying their mountain bikes to better suit road riding. What is it you need to do?
Smaller, smoother, hardwearing tires will make your life much easier. You won’t be able to go as small as road bike tires as they more than likely won’t fit on your rims, but finding an in between will really help, and you will still have some decent off-road ability. They will make it much faster when it comes to road riding.
Many types of suspension now come with what they call a lockout. This is where it locks the suspension into one place, so it doesn’t work anymore. You’re going to want to have this on.
The energy and momentum you lose through suspension is crazy. Having it locked out will go a long way.
Some people even switch to rigid forks, but it’s a lot of hassle to do this.
Changing your handlebars is a very straightforward job, and if you ride in a city a lot, it might be something you will want to do. It will just make your riding in tight traffic so much easier. Remember though, the shorter you go, the harder it will be to control.
Can you ride your mountain bike on the road? Of course, you can, in fact, I highly recommend it and it has some great advantages. Even as a long term solution, it will be fine, but a road bike will always be much more efficient in the long run.
Robbie Ferri has spent years working in a bike shop, has worked with industry leading brands on product creation, has been a semi pro athlete, and is a fully qualified strength and conditioning coach. He has broken World Records, bikepacked all over the World and raced ultra distance at a top-level.