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Bikes have evolved tremendously over the years. Currently, you can find a two-wheeler uniquely designed for different uses on just about any kind of terrain.
As you guessed, road bikes and mountain bikes are poles apart, and their unique designs make them ideal for specific purposes and ill-fitted for others.
One is lighter and offers excellent speeds on paved surfaces while the other one is an off-roading champion built for unrivaled endurance.
When you carefully inspect the two bikes, you will notice some distinct differences in their handlebars, wheels, and frames.
We will go deep into the details in this road bike and mountain bike post to unveil various other variations that may not be apparent at first.
Let’s get rolling!
Road Bike vs Mountain Bike – Comparison of 2021
There are a few things about MTBs you may already know. First, they excel on snow, dirt, trails, and tracks, although their performance on streets and pavements is wanting.
Such bikes can, however, have their wheels upgraded for enhanced street performance.
Road bikes are, on the other hand, designed for speed and excellent performance on pavements and asphalt.
They perform below average on rough trails because of the lack of suspension as well as their sleek bodies that are not built for use on rugged terrain.
Dive in, and let’s compare other essential aspects of these two types of bicycles.
Road bikes, except for touring models have smaller rear cassettes compared to MTBs.
These cassettes often have individual gears, and the hub splines are deeper to hold up to greater forces.
The cassettes on mountain bikes have multiple gear groups that help to distribute the generated forces more evenly.
In this case, the hub splines are shorter, which helps keep the overall weight of the bike to the minimum.
Additionally, road bikes often have 3 chainrings that can shift into heavier gears for increased speed.
Typically, MTBs derailleurs only have 2 chainrings.
Wheels and Tires
The tire profiles on mountain bikes are so different from those on road bikes. Then again, the wheels of MTBs tend to have a larger diameter and are more robust and broader compared to those of roadies.
The designs of the wheels and tires of these two bikes ensure better traction for MTBs and less surface friction, more speed, and lower pedaling effort for road bikes.
Mountain bikes have flat and wide handlebars for better control. Roadies feature drop handlebars that allow you to change your hands and seating position during long rides.
The smaller width of the handlebars makes it easier to maneuver through tight spaces.
A decent number of road bikes do not have a suspension system. After all, they are meant for use on smooth surfaces.
Mountain bikes, on the other hand, feature strong and beefy forks that absorb shocks from hits that are quite common when cruising through off-road tracks.
Something else that makes road bikes different from MTBs is their braking systems. Compared to MTBs, the brakes on roadies have a shorter pull.
A good number of road bikes are fitted with rim brakes or alloy caliper brakes, while mountain bikes often have mechanical disc brakes or V-brakes.
Here’s the deal, the brakes on MTBs allow you to come to a gradual stop, not a dead stop.
This means you need to adjust your speed accordingly when you want to dodge an obstacle.
Generally, all types of road bikes perform better on paved roads. They can pick up high speeds, and their skinny tires ensure reduced rolling resistance.
Then again, they feature drop handlebars for an added aerodynamic advantage.
Compared to mountain bikes, the top-rated road bikes are not tough. They are more susceptible to damage when used on rough roads because they often have thinner bodies and smoother tires.
Here are the different types of road bikes.
Race Road Bikes
These bikes are more lightweight and are entirely stripped down of unnecessary components.
This makes them featherweight enough to deliver incredible speeds with minimal pedaling effort.
Gravel Road Bikes
The gravel bikes excel both on and off-road and tend to maintain steadier speeds during longer rides.
Endurance Road Bikes
They are specially designed for long-distance cycling trips, and hence their geometry offers better comfort levels. This is the type of bike most cyclists use during mass cycling contests
Touring Road Bikes
Unlike other types of road bikes, touring bicycles are not speed-oriented. Their design, however, offers optimal comfort levels to allow cyclists to travel for longer distances. These bikes are often fitted with more durable components.
Recommended Road Bikes to Buy
If you often use paved urban roads, then a road bike is the perfect two-wheeler for your needs.
Check out five models that are a cut above the rest.
Vilano Shadow 3.0 Bike
If you want a super good road bike that is easy on your wallet, there are good reasons to consider investing in the Vilano Shadow 3.0.
This is the most recent bike version from the SHADOW road bike line from Vilano.
It comes packed with all the bells and whistles from the brand to make it ideal for fitness, weekend rides, and daily commutes.
One of the best features is the Shimano front and rear derailleur that offers up to 14 speeds.
Just like other models from the Shadow line, this one too comes with the Shimano STI brake lever Integrated Shifters for precise and well-controlled braking.
The gearing and braking systems make the two-wheeler ideal for recreational riding as well as short and long-distance cycling adventures.
Unlike most road bikes, this one has a well-padded saddle designed for anatomic comfort. According to a decent number of users, the seat hardly gets stiff.
You can expect to get the best value for your money thanks to the durable 6061 aluminum frame.
It keeps the bike stable and lightweight enough to allow you to pick up high speeds on paved roads.
Smooth, sturdy, and thin wheels with 700c double-walled rims ensure smooth and steady rides, even on gravel.
Related Comparison: BMX Bike vs Mountain Bike
Schwinn Phocus 1400 and 1600 Drop Bar Road Bicycle
It is not worth it for road biking beginners to break the bank. From a professional perspective, I think it’s better to invest in a pocket-friendly bike and upgrade as you perfect your riding skills and confidence.
The Schwinn Phocus 1400 and 1600 are some of the best entry-level bikes in the current markets.
In case you are wondering, the Phocus 1400 is designed for men, while 1600 is a women-specific bike with a step-through design.
Both versions, however, have similar specs; it’s only that their geometry and sizing is a bit different.
These bikes come with a standard 6061 aluminum frameset setup, so don’t expect anything funky.
The cool part is that they feature a carbon fiber front fork that absorbs road vibrations and keeps the rides smoother and more comfortable.
With Shimano Clari’s levers, the shifting mechanism is fully integrated with the brakes, which offers better controls, especially for a beginner.
You can keep your hands on the brakes and shift without having to move them.
This product has 8 gears on the rear, and two fitted on the front (16-speed). It features a compact crankset, which often fails when taking climbs.
You have to really hit those pedals to maintain reliable cadence when going uphill.
Raleigh Bikes Cadent 3 SM/15
If you need a bike for fitness, weekend leisure rides, and urban commuting, we recommend buying Raleigh’s Cadent 3. For the price, is this two-wheeler worth it?
Well, it has a host of features, and one of the most appealing ones is the 6061 aluminum frame, which is heat-treated to keep the weight low and for maximum durability.
This form of treatment also reinforces the strength of the joints and increases the fatigue life of the frame.
There are four frame sizes to choose from, so you simply need to consider your height before purchase.
The Cadent 3 has a solid steel fork fitted to the frame that helps to minimize road vibration.
With the Shimano EZ fire 7-speed shifters that offer 21 gears, this bike can accommodate a whole array of riding styles—from biking on light trails to running errands around urban settings. Just shift to choose a gear ideal for the terrain.
Everything about this two-wheeler is excellent, and even the assembly process is super easy.
The package comes with the necessary assembly tools to make the setup process a breeze.
My only issue is that no instructions are included, although you can find helpful videos on Raleigh’s website.
Related Guide: All-Terrain Electric Bike Review
Schwinn Vantage Mens/Womens Bike
The overall quality of the Schwinn Vantage is unheard of at the price range. This is a well-made mid-level bike that ranks somewhere between an entry-level and high-performance two-wheeler.
Everything from the geometry, bar grips, saddle, and brake levers look perfect!
Unlike most models on our list, this one is designed for intermediate and advanced riders.
If you want to ride further and faster, then this is undoubtedly the bike to choose from.
Apart from having a frameset built for enhanced stability, this model also has an elastomer soft tail suspension that keeps the rides smooth over different surfaces, including gravel.
The suspension dampens vibrations and also absorbs bumps, giving you the confidence to ride beyond paved roads.
This two-wheeler comes complete with an 18-speed drivetrain and disc brakes for excellent stopping power.
The best part is that it also features Continental sport contact II 35C tires and reliable alloy rims.
Irrespective of the terrain you are exploring, these components allow you to ride with confidence.
Giordano Trieste Gravel Bike
Are you interested in a gravel road bike? Giordano Trieste is one of the best options you have.
Unlike regular road bikes, this model is designed to handle all roads, including back roads, single tracks, and paths with crushed cobblestones.
This model’s beauty is in its versatility. You can use the bike for commuting and even light touring.
Some of the features that enhance its ability to excel where other road bikes have failed include the Shimano 16 Speed drivetrain, mechanical disc brakes, and Chromoly suspension fork and frame.
Giordano did some heavy lifting to create an almost perfect two-wheeler. Well, it looks and feels like a roadie, although it is designed to handle mixed terrain without a problem.
This machine makes biking fun and aggressive, yet its price tag is easy on the wallet.
Like most roadies, this one too comes 90% assembled. The only things you need to set up are the handlebars, pedals, front wheels, and reflectors. We also recommend getting the brakes and gears tuned before use.
Mountain bikes are uniquely built to perform optimally on rugged off-road trails.
They can roll through snow, potholes, dirt, mud, and gravel without a problem, and their thick tires and durable wheels are designed to conquer it all.
For durability and rock-solid performance on different terrain, MTBs have sturdy frames made from aluminum, steel, titanium, or carbon fiber.
You can also expect quality models to have reliable brakes and excellent suspension systems for maximum shock absorption.
Just like road bikes, MTBs too come in a range of flavors.
Cross Country (XC) Mountain Bikes
These are the most prevalent type of MTBs. They are built for endurance and are hence perfect for long off-road cycling adventures.
Trail Mountain Bikes
If you are not a daredevil and you tend to stick to man-made off-road trails, then trail MTBs are ideal for you. Some models have one suspension, while others have full suspension systems.
The Enduro MTBs are high-end and tougher on the wallet. They feature full suspension systems and are designed for cycling on trails.
Downhill Mountain Bikes
Arguably, the downhill MTBs are the best choice for adventurers who want to traverse through rough terrain and even ride downhill at incredible speeds.
Although these bikes don’t excel when doing climbs, their performance downhill, on rough tracks, and through trails packed with challenging obstacles is unrivaled.
Recommended Mountain Bikes to Buy
The mountain bike is king if you want to hit the dirt and explore off-road routes.
Let’s have a look at 5 excellent MTB models that are built to excel on the roughest roads and perform somewhat okay on paved surfaces.
Huffy Hardtail Mountain Trail Bike
First on the list is a bike from a leading US-based bicycle manufacturer. The Huffy brand has been around since 1892, and it has progressively sought to satisfy its clients with well-researched bike trends that perform better than the competition.
As expected, the Huffy hardtail MTB offers unmatched endurance on rugged off-road trails.
This bike has a lightweight aluminum frame that delivers just the right rolling momentum to allow you to use less muscle while pedaling.
Thanks to the weight and stability of the frameset, riders can accelerate more efficiently and pick up high speeds on rough terrain.
The Shimano 21-speed drivetrain allows smooth shifting to ensure you maintain the best cadence, even when taking climbs and slopes.
You can also depend on the braking power of the alloy linear-pull brakes designed to bring the bike to a smooth, gradual stop.
It’s also worth mentioning that this is a bike built for comfort, and it features a premium quality saddle and knobby tires that provide excellent traction and cushioning, irrespective of the state of the terrain.
Better still, the front suspension works impressively to absorb shock and road vibrations.
Mongoose Dolomite Fat Tire Bike
Just one look at this two-wheeler, and you can tell it’s not your average mountain bike.
The fat tires instantly make you feel tempted to take the bike for a spin on snow or sand.
This bike is built to excel on all sorts of terrain, and its lightweight aluminum frame helps to keep the ride balanced and well-controlled.
You guessed right — this is a He-bike that is perfect for men that like taking on the toughest terrains when going on cycling expeditions.
The geometry and the 4″ tires make it easy and fun to roll over all manner of obstacles when traversing through mountainous terrain.
In terms of gear options, this model offers 7-speeds. It comes fitted with twist-style shifters that allow smooth shifting to make it more enjoyable to take on climbs and steep descents.
Something else that we noted was the chain design that reduces the risk of chain drops while also enabling you to pedal your bike more comfortably.
Don’t be fooled by the bulky appearance of this bike. Even though it’s not the lightest mountain bike in the market, it is of just the right weight for races and competitions.
It offers the advantage of being more robust so that it can accommodate riders of up to 350 lbs.
Related Comparison: Raleigh vs. Trek Bikes
Diamondback Bicycles Overdrive Hardtail Bike
Very few things in life are half as pleasurable as just taking your bike and riding through untamed mountain trails. If this is the kind of adventure you are after, then the Diamondback Overdrive is perfect for you.
This is a 27.5″, 24-Speeds model with a sturdy aluminum frame for unrivaled stability.
With 24 gear options, you have plenty of gearing to roll through all sorts of surfaces smoothly.
Additionally, this bike has a plush SR Suntour XCT 80mm suspension fork that keeps you comfortable when taking on paths with deeps and obstacles.
Thanks to the reliable Tektro Aries mechanical disc brakes, you don’t have to worry about your safety, even when riding at higher speeds.
When testing the bike, we noticed that the large Blanchard wheels promote smooth rolling, even on steep terrain.
These wheels are tubeless-compatible, so you can choose to throw out your tubes to enjoy the better comfort and grip of tubeless tires.
In case you have taken the time to check out other models from Diamondback’s Overdrive series, you may have noticed that this bike is the most affordable.
This, however, does not imply that it’s an inferior choice.
On the contrary, it just happens to be a durable entry-level hardtail MTB that is perfect for cross country.
Mongoose Malus Fat Tire Bike
The aesthetics of the Mongoose Malus are just as impressive as those of the Dolomite from the same brand.
This model is also fitted with humongous 4″ knobby tires that give it a host of both visual and functional perks.
Damn! Didn’t I look good on this bike? I’m a tiny guy, especially when compared to the typical male cyclist structure, and the tire design gave me a free masculine look.
These tires also keep the ride stable when rolling over tough terrain, and serve as perfect shock absorbers.
Additionally, the alloy rims don’t leave you with a wish list, irrespective of your weight.
They are designed to reduce the shakiness and enhance your balance when taking sharp corners.
Another excellent feature is the steel frame that also increases the overall weight capacity of the two-wheeler.
Because this is a machine suited for overweight cyclists, its saddle is well padded and even comes with a solid seat post.
On the other hand, the beach cruiser pedals allow swift pedaling, even when taking climbs.
With a 7-speed Shimano drive train and smooth-shifting gears, this bike can pick up high speeds.
That is why it is fitted with dual disc brakes that ensure quick, yet smooth braking.
Schwinn Traxion Mountain Bike
It’s hard to talk about the top-quality mountain bikes without mentioning Schwinn.
This brand boasts of a global reputation thanks to the unmatched quality of its products.
If you need a reliable MTB that offers professional-grade performance at an entry-level price point, look no further than the Schwinn Traxion.
Die-hard cycling fans have plenty of good things to say about this model. After all, it offers features commonly found in more expensive, high-end models.
While it may have a standard aluminum frame, it features Shimano EZ Fire shifter and offers 24-speeds to make it easy for you to cruise through different terrain.
One of the truly exceptional features is the crankset from Schwinn. It enhances the steadiness of the gearing system, yet it does not require too much maintenance.
In terms of the braking system, this bike has front and rear mechanical disc brakes that are easy to engage and super responsive.
Better still, the 29″ wheels and extra-wide double-wall alloy rims keep the rides comfortable, even on bumpy routes.
These alloy rims are firm and durable, yet lightweight. Thanks to the knobby tires, you can expect your rides on off-road trails to be just as smooth as biking on paved roads.
I’m sure you are eager to know which bike wins in the road bike or mountain bike discussion.
Well, both bikes are great but designed for different purposes. The road bike takes home the crown for its speed on paved roads, and it’s hard to deny that MTBs are the ultimate off-road champions.
Here’s my parting word; if you are a townie and hardly ever ride through dirt roads, choose a road bike. MTBs are, on the other hand, perfect for off-roading enthusiasts.