Mountain bikes were something of my dreams from childhood. So when I got my hands on one, there was no telling what I’d do. But in reality, MTBs aren’t all that glorious if you’re accustomed to road bikes. So, are mountain bikes harder to ride?
You bet they are. Anyone who knows their way around bikes knows that MTB owners pride themselves on the difficulty of riding MTBs compared to road bikes. To understand how road bikes compare, you have to take the distance covered with a mountain bike and multiply it by 2 or 3.
Yes, you could have covered double the distance with the same amount of effort if you used a road bike. But how much more difficult is it to ride mountain bikes? Let’s see if science can help us understand it more.
Mountain Bikes on Roads
When it comes to riding on paved roads, mountain bikes are clearly not in place. It wasn’t made to run on smooth surfaces. But does the road surface really matter? The answer is No.
If you ride on a smooth road with a road bike and a mountain bike, you will experience a difference in comfort even if the speed is the same. It all has to do with how the mountain bike is designed. The main two reasons are weight and height.
Mountain Bike Weight
You can’t deny that riding an MTB on the road is harder than riding a road bike. Road bikes feel a lot lighter than MTBs, and it makes the ride smoother, making you seem like you’re gliding on the road.
On average, mountain bikes weigh 30lbs, while road bikes do not usually weigh more than 18lbs. This is a significant weight difference that plays an important role in the riding experience.
It’s pretty self-explaining that a heavier bike will be harder to paddle than a lightweight bike. A friend of mine once said, when you’re going from a mountain bike to a road bike, it feels like going from driving a tractor to driving a Ferrari.
Mountain Bike Height
Indeed, road bikes weigh less than MTBs on average. However, this has more to do with the smaller frames of mountain bikes and less with their weight.
Since road bikes have a larger but thinner frame, it means you’ll also sit at a higher position which is more suitable for higher speeds.
This difference is huge if you consider the aerodynamics playing into it. Since road bikes put the riders in a higher position while maintaining a narrower profile, the aerodynamics is extremely suited to high-speed biking.
Tire Texture of Mountain Bikes
Tire resistance on roads is a crucial point. Mountain bikes are fitted with fat, squishy, and textured tires to handle the rough trails that include stones, twigs, and many other obstacles. On the other hand, city bikes and road bikes are fitted with tough tires with a smooth surface perfect for rolling on paved roads.
And it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the soft squishy tires of MTBs don’t match with paved roads. Rather, the tough and smooth tires of road bikes make the ride far lighter.
Mountain Bikes on Trails
Now, if we go back to the road surface meant for mountain bikes, does riding mountain a bike feel more comfortable? While it’s the perfect bike to ride on trails, it doesn’t take away the discomfort completely.
Mountain bikes are meant for tough rides. So, it’s not realistic to expect an “easy” ride on such a bike.
Less Acceleration on Mountain Bike
Mountain bikes usually have great suspensions fitted on to tackle the rough trail surfaces. And these suspensions have the opposite result on road bikes. Due to suspension forks, mountain bikes have reduced acceleration. This is a great disadvantage when riding on paved roads.
So, are mountain bikes harder to ride? The verdict is in. Mountain bikes are far from the ideal choice to ride on city roads and highways.
Now, we don’t want to give the wrong impression to beginner bikers. Just because they feel heavier and slower on paved roads, it doesn’t make them bad bikes. You just have to choose the right bike for the right ride.