road bike vs mountain bike for exercise

Road Bike Vs Mountain Bike For Exercise: The Easy Definitive Guide for 2023

Road bike vs mountain bike for exercise

Overall a mountain bike will be better than a road bike for exercise. The reason for this is that a mountain bike tends to be great for developing endurance and muscle building as compared to a road bike which is excellent for providing good cardio and an all-around body workout. 

What type of bike you decide to go for will thus depend on the type of fitness goals you are hoping for. It is thus critical to take into account the benefits and risks of each bike when you embark on your exercise.

What Burns More Calories: The mountain bike or the road bike?

Overall, you will burn more calories when your ride the trails on your mountain bike than you would be cycling a road bike on pavement. The reason for this is that riding off-road is more demanding and needs the cyclist to work more muscles of the body as compared to riding on smooth paved roads. 

Road bikes tend to be optimized to go at high speeds with as little effort as possible. This makes it possible for one to ride for long distances without getting tired. This makes road bikes perfect for long-distance racing and tours such as the Tour de France. 

Riding a road bike one can maintain a lower pedaling cadence and heart rate below 70% which is usually perfect for burning fat.

Calories burned: road bike vs Mountain bike

Mountain biking in generalRoad biking in general
Bodyweight60min [kcal]60min [kcal]
70kg / 154.3lb624551
80kg / 176.3lb714630
90kg / 198.4lb803708
100kg / 220.4lb892787

The energy demand while riding a mountain bike is usually higher as you will typically have to activate more muscles navigating the difficult terrain. However on the road bike, one will likely be riding for longer periods of time even though the exertion is less intense.

If you lack the time to do hours of training, you are better off riding a mountain bike. On the other hand, you will be better off with a road bike if you are not constrained by time. Surprisingly, you will burn more fat with the road bike at lower intensities since you will ride for longer. 

Still, it is important to note that burning more calories does not always equal burning more fat. If you overtrain, your body could use glycogen to get calories rather than fat, especially when your heart rate exceeds 70% of your maximum threshold. 

Road cycling vs mountain biking

You will often hear mountain bikers and road bikers claiming that their discipline is better or tougher than the other. However, the fact is that the different types of riding put a different kind of stress on the body thus requiring different types of fitness. 

The nature of road cycling which is all about smooth and long stretches of undulating climbs and paved roads means that one needs to have the stamina to churn out mile after mile of steady state, sustained, and long effort.

Even though it is always better to have great core strength, you only need to look at the thin arms of professional cyclists to realize that road cycling is all about lower body strength. 

As for mountain biking, it all has to do with extreme gradients, rugged off-road terrain, and a greater focus on short bursts of power and bike handling. 

Mountain bikes have to undertake steep, short climbs over rocks and freewheel down hills while attacking some step gradients which means one needs to have excellent anaerobic fitness. 

The need to control the bike on loose surfaces and to jump over obstacles means that one needs to have better upper body strength and be prepared for an all-around-body workout. 

Pros and cons of using a mountain bike for fitness

When you have to decide if you should opt for the mountain bike for fitness, it is important to know all the pros and cons before making that decision. 

Good for building musclesIntense workout
can consume glycogen and not fat
Full-body workoutHarder on your hands
(sour hands)
Burns many calories
Tough bike
can be used all seasons
Suspensions offer
joint protection
Less stressful to ride in nature
More intense on sprints
and climbs (increased bike weight)

Mountain bikes certainly have a lot of advantages as compared to disadvantages. If a cyclist restrains from pushing too hard they can maintain lower heart rates and in doing so burn fat rather than glycogen. 

As such a mountain bike is great for fitness as it provides the versatility for riding on all manner of terrain in addition to providing a full body workout. 

Pros and cons of using a road bike for fitness

Just like a mountain bike the road bike also comes with several advantages and disadvantages which you need to take into account when making the decision to use it for fitness. 

Good for fat lossCan develop
muscle unbalance
Good for long ridesHarder to maintain if used
in rough weather
Build leg musclesCan be used only
on pavement
Long rides can
cause back pain
Road traffic

Road bikes are perfect for losing weight since a cyclist can ride really fast at lower intensities without losing breath which makes it effective for losing weight as it allows the body to burn fat. 

However, the biggest con with road bikes is that it only works the lower body and hence it is great for building leg muscles rather than building muscles all over the body. 

Another huge con of road bikes is that they are very light and in this design, they are not as tough which makes them pretty much unusable in tough terrain where road bikes are likely to break down.


The Verdict

Mountain biking is excellent for fitness since it provides a full-body workout and will help develop muscular endurance and stamina better. 

If you are riding the trails you will need a lot of energy and burn a ton of calories but since mountain biking can be very intense you will, for the most part, be burning glycogen as you will not have the time to convert fat into energy. 

Road bikes are better for fat loss as cyclists can maintain high speeds at moderate efforts. Since you can ride for longer periods, you have all the time to use fat for fuel. 

However, the downside is that you will not get stronger overall as road biking for the most part works the legs. As such, if you are only looking to lose weight then there is nothing better than a road bike. However, if you are looking for a full-body workout you are better off riding a mountain bike.

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