Is It Ok To Ride A Mountain Bike On The Road?

With every type of riding, there’s a bike for that. If you’re riding in the mountains and trails, there’s a mountain bike. When you’re cruising the boardwalks, there are cruisers. If you’re riding on the roads, there are road bikes. They tailor them to the terrains to optimize your ride and experience. 

We’ve explored whether mountain biking or road biking is better, and we’ve looked at varying mountain bikes and road bikes available at varying price points. But, have you ever wondered if you can use a road bike on the trails or a mountain bike on the road?

While it’s incredibly unsafe and impractical to ride a road bike on the trails, you can ride a mountain bike on the road. While they’re made specifically for varied terrain and trails, they’re designed with stability and maneuverability in mind. So, riding a mountain bike on the road is totally achievable and there are many circumstances in which people do this. 

Pros of Riding a Mountain Bike On The Road

Mountain Bike On The Road

While it may be unconventional to ride a mountain bike on the road, it can come with some perks! Here are some of the biggest pros of riding a mountain bike on the road…

More Comfortable

Because of the sleek and aerodynamic nature of road bikes, they are usually less comfortable. The tires are slim; the seat is usually small, and you aren’t the most at ease.

With a mountain bike, however, you’ve got bigger and wider tires and better suspension, which has more give when you run into slight bumps in the road and potholes. These kinds of inconveniences on a road bike would actually be pretty big and very uncomfortable to maneuver. But, with a mountain bike that is specifically designed to move through varying terrain, most of the ride will feel much more comfortable! 

More Stability 

Similar to the comfort factor, mountain bikes on the road can actually prove to be more stable. If you think about it, road bikes are designed to be fast, whereas mountain bikes are designed to be malleable. They thrive by biking through muddy trails filled with rocks, roots, and anything else in its way. While it will not be the fastest, you can trust that a mountain bike is going to be stable on the road.

So, if you’re weary of a road bike on the road because you don’t feel confident with its speed and small tires, riding a mountain bike could be an outstanding starting point for you. 

Easier to Maneuver

Not only are mountain bikes more stable, they’re also a lot easier to maneuver. Just think about it… If you’ve ever watched the Tour De France on TV, chances are that you’ve seen a collision between bikers. Of course, collisions and crashes happen with mountain bikes as well, but because road bikes are all about precision, if there is a slight variation in the road or something in the way, it’s incredibly hard to maneuver around a situation.

From potholes on the road to having to jump up into grass to avoid an obstruction in the road, a mountain bike is going to have an easier time maneuvering these situations without ending in a crash or collision.

More Affordable

Maybe you’re interested in finding out what style of biking you like better? Well, it may be more beneficial (and financially responsible) to purchase a mountain bike and try out both. 

Like I said at the beginning, you simply cannot ride a road bike anywhere but a road. However, you can ride mountain bikes on roads. So, if you’re wanting to determine the type of biking that works best for you, go with a mountain bike. It’s not only practical, but it’s also more affordable. Sounds like a win-win to me! 

Cons of Riding a Mountain Bike On The Road 

Mountain Bike On The Road

As with anything, there are also some cons of riding a mountain bike on the road including…

Slower 

Mountain bikes are definitely going to be slower on the road than a road bike. They’re simply not designed for roads, and their focus is stability over speed. If you’re wanting to go fast on the road, a mountain bike is definitely not the right move! 

Less Energy Efficient

Riding a mountain bike on the road is going to require a lot more energy from you. The wider surface area of the tires is going to create more friction, requiring you to work harder to go just as far on a road bike. This is definitely not the choice if you want to save your energy while riding. 

Not Designed for the Road

The biggest con about riding a mountain bike on the road is that it’s simply not designed to do it. While it is possible, you won’t be able to optimize your ride and enjoy your experience as much as you would with a road bike. 

Reasons For Riding a Mountain Bike On The Road?

Mountain Bike On The Road

In an ideal world, you would have a road bike for the road and a mountain bike for all things trails and terrain. But, sometimes, that just isn’t the case. There are going to be certain situations where you will want to, need to, or even have to ride a mountain bike on the road. Some of those reasons include…

Trying Something New

Like I mentioned above, road bikes are pretty expensive. If you want to get into road biking, but only have a mountain bike, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with using it to test the waters. 

Likewise, if you’re wanting to try something new by biking, a mountain bike might be a good first investment! It’s more affordable and you can try it on different terrains. That way, you can decide whether you prefer mountain biking to road biking and then invest in a road bike only if it piques your interest!

Cross Training

Similar to the first reason for riding a mountain bike on the road, this scenario also has to do with you not having a road bike. 

Let’s say that you already have a mountain bike and your favorite type of biking is through the trails. However, you also love to cross train and switch things up now and then. If you don’t bike on the road often enough to justify the investment in a road bike, simply using your mountain bike on the roads will do the trick!

Bad Road Conditions 

If it is rainy or the roads in your area are riddled with potholes and uneven surfaces, it might actually be safer to ride your mountain bike on the roads. As I discussed earlier, they make mountain bikes to be more stable in unstable environments, so riding on poor road conditions falls into this category.

Varied Terrain Commute

Another reason you might ride a mountain instead of a road bike is because your commute varies in terrain. Meaning it’s not just a smooth road the whole way. Maybe your commute includes some gravel roads or having to get on the shoulder at some points. If there’s any variation in terrain for your commute or ride, it may be best to err on the side of caution and ride your mountain bike! 

Special Occasion

The last reason for using a mountain bike on the road may simply be that you don’t have a road bike at hand. For example, you may be at the beach or on vacation where you rent a bike they have available. Or, maybe you are sharing your bikes with a friend and you volunteer to use your mountain bike to ensure that there is enough to use. 

While there are probably more reasons than the ones listed, it’s important to remember that manufacturers may not specifically design mountain bikes for the roads, but we can easily use them on this terrain. 

Tips For Riding a Mountain Bike On the Road

Mountain Bike On The Road

Adjust your Ride

Riding on trails differs from riding on the road. Because of this, you might need to make some adjustments to your bike. For example, you might have to adjust your seat or your handlebars to prepare for a smoother ride where you’re sitting more and standing less. 

Adjust your Body Position 

Like I said above, you’re going to be sitting a lot more on the road, especially if there aren’t many hills. This may require you to adjust your body positioning on the bike as well to be more comfortable. 

Be Aware

Because riding on a mountain bike is going to be slower than a road bike, it’s important to be aware of your surroundings. Of course you should watch for cars, but you should also keep an eye out for other road bikers since they will more than likely be going faster than you. 

Be Selective with your Route

Last, because you may be slower than you would be with a road bike, be selective about the route you’re taking. Try not to go on roads that are too busy with cars or other cyclists to ensure that you have a nice and safe ride. 

Buy a Set of Mountain Bike Road Tires

If you ride your mountain bike on the road frequently, consider purchasing an extra set of mountain bike road tires and rims. The knobby trail tires that came on your mountain bike cause a lot of resistance and will wear out quickly on asphalt.

By buying both tires and rims, you can quickly swap to your trail tires if you are hitting the trails. If you know you are going to be on the road, swap them out to your smooth tires.  

Conclusion

Mountain bikes are very versatile, and yes, you can ride them on the road. While you can ride a mountain bike on the road, the opposite is not true for road bikes. Riding a mountain bike on the road makes sense when the road conditions are bad, you want to cross-train, or if you don’t have a road bike. So, get out on the asphalt and get pedaling!   

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