In this article, we analyze road bike vs mountain bike speed and provide insights on why these differences are there and which bike you should go for depending on your needs
On a reasonably flat commute, you can average about 16km/h on a road bike. However, a road bike’s speed can go as high as 30km/h or even 35km/h for the professional cyclist or a person who is reasonably fit.
- Average Mountain Bike Speed
- Average Road Bike Speed
- How Fast Mountain Bikes Can Go
- How Fast Road Bikes Can Go
- Can a Mountain Bike Really Keep Up With a Road Bike?
- Why are road bikes faster than Mountain Bikes?
- Is a road bike better than a mountain bike?
- Road bike vs mountain bike for exercise
- Mountain bike vs road bike effort
- how to make a mountain bike faster on the road
- Mountain bike power vs road bike power experiment
- Why road biking is better than mountain biking
- Frequently Asked Questions
Average Mountain Bike Speed
The typical mountain bike can achieve a top speed of about 15 miles an hour. Since most mountain bikes are made for riding on rough terrain they are usually not designed for speed as compared to road bikes.
Still, the average speed of your mountain bike varies according to the type of bike, the experience level of the rider, and the terrain.
On average, most mountain bikers should expect to hit speeds of 15mph on flat terrain. Experienced riders riding specialized mountain bikes can usually top out at speeds of about 20mph on downhill sections.
Average speeds tend to be lower, particularly on uphill rides and riders will usually have to stop frequently on steep climbs.
Overall, mountain biking is an enjoyable way of exploring the outdoors and provides a great workout even though it is critical to ride at a pace that is safe and comfortable for you.
Of course, these speeds are just averages and the actual speeds that you can achieve will vary a lot depending on factors such as fitness levels, weather conditions, and terrain.
Still, mountain bikes tend to be slower as compared to road bikes. As such if you need to go fast, you are probably better off riding a road bike.
Average Road Bike Speed
The average road bike can attain speeds of between 20-30 mph. However, this will always vary depending on things such as weather conditions, the terrain, and your fitness levels.
For instance, if you are in excellent shape, you may be able to go and sustain higher speeds as compared to a less fit cyclist.
Similarly, if you are cycling in good weather conditions on flat terrain, you will be able to sustain higher average speeds as compared to riding in bad weather conditions on hilly terrain.
Ultimately the best way of determining your average road bike speed is to get out and ride your bike.
How Fast Mountain Bikes Can Go
A mountain bike can usually attain speeds of up to 20 mph on flat terrain. However, if you are an experienced rider, you can probably attain much higher speeds, particularly on downhill sections of the trail.
If you are a beginner mountain biker, you may not be able to attain or sustain the high speeds of experienced riders.
How Fast Road Bikes Can Go
Overall, a bike can attain speeds of up to 30 mph on flat terrain. If you are taller or heavier, you may be able to attain higher speeds while you may not reach the top speed if you are shorter or lighter.
Aero road bikes which are made for speed cycling are usually capable of attaining higher speeds as compared to your standard road bike.
Something else that could make you ride faster is when you ride your road bike on paved and flat roads as compared to riding on unpaved or hilly roads.
Lastly, the weather conditions in which you ride will also impact road bike speeds. You will not be reaching top speeds on windy days or when you have to ride in humid and hot weather as these elements tend to suck your energy.
Overall, you will be about 15-20% faster on the road bike with the same effort as compared to when you are riding a mountain bike with its knobby wide tires and flat handlebars.
Nonetheless, while the road bike is usually faster than the mountain bike, you can make a mountain bike faster by doing the following.
- Change out the wide knobby tires for thinner high-pressure tires. There are tires that run at between 75-90 lbs of pressure and are between 1.25″ and 1.5″ inches thick which will significantly reduce rolling resistance.
- Set the suspension on your mountain bike as stiff as it can be or you can lock it off. This will result in more of the effort from the pedals being transferred into the drive train rather than being lost to shock absorption.
- Get Clipless Pedals – Clipless pedals usually offer better speeds from the more efficient pedal strokes.
Can a Mountain Bike Really Keep Up With a Road Bike?
Mountain bikes are usually designed for off-road terrains such as rocky, gravel, and dirt tracks as compared to road bikes which are made for riding on smooth paved roads.
Moreover, mountain bikes tend to come with lower gears, suspension, and wider tires and are usually heavier making it difficult for them to keep up speeds with the sleek road bike.
Still if you are a skilled rider riding a mountain bike, it is still possible to keep up with a road bike while riding on paved surfaces, particularly if the road bike is not being ridden at its maximum speed.
It is also important to note that road bikes are not designed to be ridden on off road train given that they do not have the components necessary for riding on rough uneven surfaces.
Good average speed for MTB on road
A good average speed for a mountain bike riding on the road is about 15-20 mph. Riding a mountain bike offorad, you wil drop down to speeds of between 10-15 mph.
One of the main reasons for the huge difference in speed often has to do with the terrain on which you are riding the mountain bike.
On the road you will probably be riding the bike on a very smooth surface with few if any obstacles. Off-roading, you will be riding on uneven terrain with a lot more obstacles such as rocks and roots which will make achieving and maintaining a high speed much more difficult
Another factor which could hugely impact your speeds on the mountain bike is the type of mountain bike you are using. While most mountain bikes are designed to be ridden on tough terrain, some models are better suited to off-roading as compared to other.
If you intend to go fast on both off-road and on-road riding, you should probably get a dual suspension mountain bike. These usually come with robust suspension systems to help absorb the impact of obstacles and bumps thus making for a more comfortable ride.
Why are road bikes faster than Mountain Bikes?
There is all manner of bike types for every possible terrain you could think of. Trails and pavement tend to have very different characteristics which is why a very specialized bike is needed for these types of terrain.
The mountain bike otherwise known as MTB is a bike that was designed much later than the road bike and comes in different builds and styles designed for riding on rough terrain.
On the other hand, the road bike is made for pavement riding rather than off-roading or rough terrain. It is one of the earliest bikes to be made and is more than 100 years of history and most other bike types are descended from it.
Road bikes typically have higher gears than mountain bikes but they also have a higher high gear. As such even though the mountain bike provides more power, the road bike will usually have greater speed. This usually comes from the design of the rear cassette and the front derailleurs.
- Rear Cassette – The road bike usually has a smaller rear cassette as compared to the mountain bike. Only touring bikes have large cassettes. The road bike typically has more hub springing and individual gears to enable the bike to cope with greater forces. With several gear groups, the forces applied on the carrier are distributed more evenly.
- Front Derailleurs – Modern road bikes typically come with three chainrings as compared to the two on a mountain bike. Since the road bike comes with more chainrings, it can attain greater speed by shifting into heavier gear.
Road bikes are designed with thin high pressure and smooth tires which makes for greater acceleration given that there is not much friction between the road and the tire. Mountain bikes usually have heavy, wide, thick, soft, and knobby tires which decrease the speed of the bike as it is more susceptible to air and rolling resistance.
Road bikes are some of the lightest bikes you could ever buy with their tubular and thin components. This makes them very good at accelerating as they are not weighed down by their component.
Mountain bikes tend to have thick tubular frames and forks, thick tires, and wheels all of which increase the weight of the bike and slow down the bike.
The drop bars on a road bike call for a hunched forward aerodynamic position which reduces drag and wind resistance making the bike accelerate faster. This is as compared to the flat bar handlebars on a mountain bike that call for a rider to sit upward which increases resistance and slows down the rider.
Mountain bikes usually come with a suspension due to the fact that one will be riding in rough terrain. However, the suspension usually absorbs pedaling energy some of which is listed in the springs of the suspension. Road bikes do not have suspension systems and exchange more power and acceleration for bumpier rides.
Is a road bike better than a mountain bike?
A road bike is not better than a mountain bike given that it all depends on what you intend to do with the bike.
Road bikes tend to be easy to pedal on paved surfaces and are the fastest of all bikes out there. However, they are not well suited to less smooth surfaces such as trails or bike paths. Some people also find the leaned forward position uncomfortable to ride in or maintain over long distances or for a long time.
On the other hand mountain bikes are slower on paved surfaces and are harder to pedal given that they have beefier frames and tires and are less aerodynamic. However, they have an upright riding position and tend to be more comfortable.
They are also great if you are riding on a wide variety of surfaces such as trails and bike paths.
Road bike vs mountain bike for exercise
The workout goals and plans are what will determine which bike is best for you. If you intend to work out for cardio then a road bike that provides great efficiency is preferable. Since it does not take too much effort, you can perform sustained cardio exercises on a road bike without getting too tired fast.
Moreover, the lightweight frames and overall design of road bikes mean you can ride for long distances to develop endurance. This means that one can get an all-around inclusive workout on the road bike.
If you are looking to lose weight and get fit. the MTB may be your best bet. Their robust and sturdy frames hold much weight while the flat handlebars mean one can ride in a posture that strengthens core muscles.
Riding in a straight posture also builds muscles, particularly on the legs and this will make it easier to burn more fat and calories even over short distances. You will also need to expend more effort and energy given the weight of the bike and the fact that it is not as streamlined as the road bike.
Overall, road bikes are excellent if you need an overall body workout and cardio while mountain bikes are great for muscle-building and building endurance. The choice that will be made will usually depend on the fitness goals you have.
Mountain bike vs road bike effort
mountain bike vs road bike speed also depends on the effort needed. Using the model on Bike Calculator, 58 watts of power would be required on a mountain bike while 34 watts would be needed for pedaling 15mph.
That is approximately 60% more effort needed while riding a mountain bike. However, the gap lessens with increasing speed. By the time you are pedaling at 45mph the road bike would need 589 watts while the road bike would require 517 watts which is a difference of only 12% between the road and mountain bike.
However, it is important to note that while the road bike does need less power on flat surfaces, you also have to take into account other aspects. Some of these aspects include the obstacles on the trail, the aerodynamics and resistance, and the surface on which the bikes are ridden.
how to make a mountain bike faster on the road
A good average speed for a mountain bike on the road is about 15-20 mph but you can make some few upgrades to make the bike faster. Some of the upgrades include converting the mountain bike to a street bike which will make the mountain bike easier to pedal and allow the wheels of the bike t bike to spin faster.
Some of the things you can do include:
- Pumping Up the Tires
Pump up the tires of the mountain bike to the maximum recommended pressure. You can usually find this written on the side of the tires. This will make the bike faster and more efficient
- Raising the seat
A lower seat may be great for off-roading or for jumps but for riding on pavement you will need to raise the seat to ensure maximum extension of the leg at the bottom of each rotation of the pedals.
- Firm Up the Suspension
A bouncy mountain bike is more comfortable when riding on rough uneven terrain or rocky trails. However, since you are riding on the road, the suspension will only reduce your efficiency as you will be bouncing around and wasting energy.
- Cleaning the Bike
Dirt and grease usually build up on the bike over time and will gradually result in a loss of speed. Cleaning the bike regularly will allow moving parts to move freely which will make you faster on the road
- Use Thinner Tires
Mountain bike tires are thin and very knobby which is good for traction on rugged uneven surfaces but not very good on the road. To get better traction on the road find thinner less knobby tires more fitted to the road for increased speed
- Lubricate the chain
Keeping your chain well lubricated will keep it moving smoothly and transferring the power applied on the pedals more efficiently. Additionally a well lubricated chain will also last longer
- Reduce the Bike’s Weight
The lighter your bike is the faster you will be able to ride. You can reduce the weight of the mountain bike by replacing components such as tires, saddles and handlebars to lighter ones which will significantly reduce the weight and boost speeds
- Grease the Bearings
Well greased bearings especially on the pedals and the wheels will make pedaling and general riding easier which will make the bike faster.
- Service the Bike
Take the bike to the local bike shop or if you have the bike maintenance skills you can do it yourself. Servicing and tune-up ensures that every part is functioning as efficient as it would be which could significantly improve speeds
Mountain bike power vs road bike power experiment
To illustrate the difference in effort between the mountain and road bike Jason Hilimire used a PowerTap power meter on two 10-minute climbs. The graph below shows that there are more fluctuations in the power meter during the mountain bike climb.
On the mountain bike, Hilimire averaged 220 watts, and 246 watts on the road bike. However since rode the mountain bike off-road, there was much more effort that topped and surpassed the 300-watt mark while the road bike rarely hit 300 watts.
From the data set it is evident that more than 300 watts of effort that lasted between 5 and 25 seconds were needed for the mountain bike. When riding a mountain bike, these short bursts of effort are common.
Riding a mountain bike, one would need to have these bursts of effort and power due to the switchbacks, rocks, short steep climbs, ruts, and roots among many other obstacles. When riding a mountain bike one has to produce much effort to maintain speed and clear the highly challenging terrain.
On fairly technical terrain the wattage can go to zero and pedaling on a mountain bike can come to a stop and then immediately go from 0 to 300 as shown in the graph. It is these changes in wattage and short bursts of effort that make road biking very different from mountain bike racing.
Why road biking is better than mountain biking
Everyone has seen that group of serious-looking cyclists ride silently by hunched over skinny-wheeled bikes. Road race bikers love to wear elastic skin-tight garments and often joust with mountain bikers on who has the best world.
While cycling on whatever bike comes with a lot of benefits, there are several benefits to road biking that riding a mountain bike does not provide. Some of these include:
Not everyone lives near a mountain bike trail and this can make mountain biking almost impossible in the city. While you can always hop into the car or train to go find a trail that can become expensive or impractical.
However, paved roads are all over the place and you can get your riding fix almost anywhere you live with a road bike.
It is Great for Fitness
There is no better bike for getting great cardio than a road bike as they are fast and require less energy which means you can ride for an hour building endurance. Moreover, when road riding you can train specific aerobic systems for a great workout as opposed to mountain biking where riding for endurance is almost impossible due to the short bursts of energy and effort required.
Maintenance is Easier
Mountain biking is great for going off-road and hitting the trails in all manner of weather. However, all that mud and grit can be hard on the bike.
You will often have to maintain and clean the bike before storing it. With a road bike there is not much cleaning required and the bike does not take much of a beating which means you do not have to spend so much money maintaining the bike.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much faster are road bikes compared to mountain bikes
Road bikes are usually 10-30 percent faster than mountain bikes and about 15% faster on smooth paved roads since road bikes are made for riding on paved roads.
What is a good average speed on a mountain bike on the road?
Mountain bikers typically average 10mph on single-track riding. On uphill riding, the mountain bike will average 8mph and 12mph on downhill sections. Taking the two together the average speed is 17mph which can go up to 30mph when riding the bike downhill
Can a mountain bike be used as a road bike?
Mountain bikes are made to be ridden both off-road and on-road, unlike road bikes which are best ridden on pavement and will usually not be built strong enough to handle the rigors of riding on trails and tough terrain. Mountain bikes while slower and less aerodynamic can be ridden on the road just fine.