Though the name does give it away, a mountain bike can actually be the perfect choice for cycling on streets, roads and pavements as well. Not all surfaces in cities are the same, so a road bike or a hybrid bike may not cut it, though you can buy fantastic models of those types as well.
But bikes designed for mountain trails have a set of specific features that a road bike doesn’t have and a hybrid bike doesn’t completely have.
They may have larger, heavier frames, but most mountain bicycles are designed for on-road use and off-road use.
This means that they can handle pretty much any road surface or weather condition with ease, especially when compared to the potential risks of riding a road or hybrid bike in difficult conditions.
So, you can absolutely ride a bike designed for mountain biking on the road, but there are certain times when it is better to choose one over a road or hybrid model.
Are Mountain Bikes Suitable For Road Use?
As stated above, mountain bikes are definitely suitable for road use, though they are not necessary for every type of road. Road bikes and hybrid bikes are designed to be perfect for cycling in the city.
So if the road is smooth and easy enough you won’t need a mountain bicycle to tackle it.
You should reserve your mountain bike for uneven terrain, such as cobbled roads, roads with lots of holes, jagged pavements and trails that take you out of the general city roads.
Biking in the countryside will have similarly unpredictable cycling surfaces to biking on mountain trails, so you will be better prepared to face anything by riding a mountain bicycle on a country road.
Roads in cities aren’t perfect, but the majority will be smoothly tarmacked, which means that the extra durable mountain tires with their strong grips will not be necessary for those.
So, you should only break them out when a road or hybrid bike won’t cut it.
When You Should Ride MTB On The Road
You Travel On Rugged Terrain
Rugged terrain, as previously mentioned, includes any surface that will not ensure a smooth, easy ride.
You will expect potential holes, dips, gravel and bumps on a mountain trail, but these can also occur on city roads due to damage from vehicles and the weather.
So, a mountain bicycle will save you from damaging your bike and hurting yourself when riding on rugged streets, roads and pavements because it is designed for those conditions.
The tires on one of those bikes are built to grip, climb and persevere through all circumstances, so there is no risk of them popping or being otherwise damaged.
The frame will also endure harsh weather and debris that may chip away at a road bike or make it unstable to ride.
Using A Mountain Bike For Commuting
Though there are hybrid bikes called “commuter bikes”, a mountain bike is also a great choice. With so many uneven surfaces and so much traffic building up in the city, a mountain bicycle will make your commute easier.
You will be able to take alternative routes that take you off the main roads without worrying about uneven trails or pavements damaging your bike.
If you need to commute by bike no matter the weather conditions, choosing a mountain over a road or hybrid bike will make your journey steadier and prevent the wind or rain from swaying the bike or causing damage to it.
You’ll be able to get about everywhere by bike as planned.
The Roads Are Pitted
A pitted road surface is a type of uneven terrain, but these large craters in the road can do serious damage to bike tires. A road bike and a hybrid bike will typically have 700c wheels with lightweight tires to help them glide about, and a pitted road surface can do serious damage.
Not to mention, those bikes also have lightweight frames that can be rocked by harsh enough conditions.
So, a mountain bicycle is a much safer choice because the frame is heavy enough to stay stable and the tires, with their grips and climbing capabilities, will allow you to ride over pitted roads with ease.
You may judder a bit but you will not risk being thrown from your bike or having to sharply steer around road pits.
You Like Making Your Own Path
If you are doing your everyday commute or traveling for another event or commitment, you may want to take some different routes and get some different sights.
However, you are limited with a road bike because it cannot handle all types of terrain. So, a mountain bike will allow you to make your own path and try out lots of different routes.
You don’t need to plan ahead either because you can spontaneously decide to take different roads without worrying about what the condition might be like.
On a mountain bicycle, every road becomes your path and you are not limited by anything that could halt your journey or make it more difficult.
When Touring On Bike
Touring by bike means traveling about with all your luggage also on the bike.
Though many road and hybrid bicycles do have baskets and/or luggage racks, a mountain bicycles have larger frames and, so, more space to store your belongings.
Most of the rear bike racks on mountain models have enough space for you to hang bags too, allowing you to store even more.
And the heavier frames will support the additional weight of your luggage as well, so you don’t need to worry about overloading the bike.
As soon as you have everything secured onto it, practice riding it a short distance to check the weight is evenly distributed and then you’ll be ready to go.
Is It Hard To Ride A Mountain Bike On The Road?
It is not hard to ride a mountain bike on the road, but there are some factors to consider. One thing is the extra weight of the bike’s frame and wheels, both of which may see you cycling more slowly.
You may also have to cycle harder because of this, which could cause you to expend more energy.
However, a rider who has been cycling for a while will be able to handle that, so all you need is some prior experience of a mountain bicycle.
Due to its frame, a mountain bike is also less aerodynamic because it is built to be bulkier and withstand more conditions than a road bike.
This means that you won’t get the same gliding feeling as you would with a lightweight road bike, but that it doesn’t make the mountain model harder to ride.
It comes down to a matter of preference and the conditions of the roads on which you want to cycle. A mountain bicycle may be heavier and require more effort, but it is way more adaptable than a road bicycle.
What Mountain Bike Type Should I Pick For Road Use?
There are several different types of mountain bike. The hard-tail, which has suspension shocks on the front fork but not the rear, is a lighter model that won’t make you feel as weighted down on the road.
These models also have better handling, as well as being typically cheaper than other models.
You shouldn’t choose a full-suspension bike for use on the road because it will be heavier and you want to save as much energy as possible while cycling.
Another great type to pick is the trail bike because these are also quite lightweight for a mountain bicycle, and they have gained plenty of popularity as one of the best bikes to use on mountain trails, making them perfectly durable.
The cross-country (XC) bike is also a good option because it tackles difficult terrain efficiently and climbs hills with a wonderful ease.
One thing to consider is that an XC bike is one of the more costly options, but if you will be using it almost every day, you’ll more than get your money’s worth.
Pros And Cons Of Using MTB’s On The Road
Pro’s of Using Mountain Bike
- Greater durability against loose debris.
- Tackle any road surface.
- Try out different routes with no hesitancy.
- Designed with extra comfort features- cushioned saddle, handlebar grips, upright riding posture.
- Tires can withstand more.
- Wind and rain will not unsteady the rider.
- Has tire grip beyond the capabilities of a road bike.
- Not a lot more expensive than a road bike.
- Avoids the rider having to swerve to avoid holes or craters.
- More storage space.
- No need to check the weather ahead of time.
- More effort goes into cycling, which means more exercise.
Con’s of Using Mountain Bike
- Heavier frame and suspension means that cycling will be slower.
- Not as aerodynamic as a road bike.
- Rider will not be able to zip as efficiently around traffic.
- Slightly slower cycling means you have to plan for a slightly longer journey.
- Though it can store more items, they will add more weight to the frame.
- A commuter road bike is specifically designed for commuting, so will be a more likely first choice.
- No beginner cyclist should ride a mountain bike on roads until they gain experience, which takes time.
My Personal Experience Riding A MTB On Streets
The best advice for anyone considering riding a mountain bike on streets is to just go for it because everything you need to learn you’ll learn on the ride.
If you would rather start away from traffic to get your confidence up then take the bike to some quieter streets or off-road routes. Then, you can get used to riding a mountain bicycle on city and countryside terrain before you actually start doing it regularly.
Your experience does depend heavily on the type of bike that you choose, so try to avoid mountain models with full suspension or super heavy frames because they will slow down your process.
Of course, any mountain bicycle will have a heavier frame and bulkier wheels, but as mentioned earlier on, some are more so than others.
And it’s important not to panic if you do feel that you are cycling more slowly than you do on your road bike because you’ll soon feel right at home using a mountain bicycle on streets.
So, once you’ve identified exactly which mountain bike you’re going to choose, get straight out there on the road and cycle without any fears of hurting yourself or damaging your bike.
You’ll feel in complete control of a powerful bike like the mountain, especially if you have ridden road bikes and hybrids before. Once you get used to riding your mountain bicycle on-road as well as off-road you’ll be able to tackle all terrain, weather conditions and routes.