Anyone who has ever used mountain bicycles will agree with one thing: they’re the most versatile types of bikes that can be used on a good number of off-road terrains. Anything that can handle treacherous paths like muddy mountain bike trails will comfortably do well on any less challenging surfaces.
However, how good will it be riding on the road? Can you ride a mountain bike on the road?
Can you use it for your daily commute or your evening rides for leisure and recreational purposes?
These are some of the questions we’re going to answer here. We’re going to look at the reasons for and against using a mountain bike on the road, the differences between a mountain bike and a road bike, and mention a few adjustments that you may need to make that mountain bike suitable for riding on the road.
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4 Reasons Why People Use Mountain Bikes on Normal Roads
There are several reasons why someone would choose to use their mountain bike on normal roads. Some do it deliberately, while others do it because they’re new and don’t know much about bikes.
Regardless of the reasons, the bottom line is a mountain bike can work on conventional roads. The following are some of the most likely reasons why someone would switch to riding on the road using their mountain bike.
1. They Own Only One Bike
As a kid, most of us had only one bike. That’s also true now that we’ve all grown up.
Bikes are mad expensive and getting a good one will cost you several thousands of dollars. Nobody has that kind of budget to spend on three different types of bikes.
You may own a mountain bike, and getting another road bike for commuting could be beyond your affordability range. This will force you to use that mountain bike for different purposes to get by.
When compared to road bikes and other types of bikes, a mountain bike is much harder to deal with. They’re heavier and require more power when riding.
For this reason, they end up being great bicycles for exercising as you’re able to combine adventure and working out at the same time.
If you’re into fitness, then using an MTB on the road is a good idea as the more you ride, the fitter you become. MTBs promote a good riding position, too.
3. Rough Roads
Not all roads are smooth and even for riding. There’s a possibility you may be residing in an area that has very rough roads that normal road bikes struggle against.
In that case, you’ll need to turn to your mountain bike to navigate as they’re built specifically for riding in such kinds of trails.
A mountain bike has better shock absorbers, a stronger framework, and the needed durability for daily commutes without anything coming apart. You could even switch out the mountain bike tires for bigger ones for a better experience.
4. MTBs Can Commute
Versatility is one of the biggest strengths in riding a mountain bike; they’re the all-weather all-road bikes that can deal with almost any situation thrown at them.
You can always make some slight changes to your MTB to make it more suitable for riding, commuting, cutting down its weight, for instance, to make it a little faster and adding better brakes to help you navigate the busy urban roads better and in a safer way.
The modifications may cost you, but at the end of it, you’ll have made your own hybrid riding road bike.
The Different Types of Mountain Bikes
Mountain bicycles are easily identifiable from their rugged construction styles, flat handlebars, raised frames, and huge, slick tires. They have that right mountain biking riding position that’s meant to make things easier on the rider.
There are about five variants of mountain bicycles based on riding style, and knowing them would help you see the various factors that could help you in deciding to ride a mountain bike on the road.
Hardtail Mountain Bike
Hardtail mountain bikes are mountain bikes that have a front suspension but no rear one. They’re also lighter, less expensive, and are more durable.
They’re considered the workhorses of the mountain bike world as they can withstand just about anything imaginable, from bad trails to bad weather. They possess a good riding position as well.
Having this on the road will serve you very well.
XC Full-Suspension Mountain Bikes
These are the cross-country mountain bicycles and are built ready for race riding and boast a very good rolling resistance. They come with a full suspension to help riders deal with long rides across roads that many people would consider unpassable.
They’re the ultimate adventure mountain bikes, and anyone looking to get out of their comfort zone of using road bikes for daily commutes would find an XC bike very exhilarating to use.
When talking about the true mountain bike riding experience, the one designed for hill climbing and mountain ranges, then you’d be describing a trail bike.
All the other mountain bikes have branched from the trail bike. It’s a robust machine with a good rear suspension, chunkier road tires with good traction, and bigger rotors.
They do very well in backroads but can handle normal roads very well, and riders love them.
Enduro Mountain Bikes
The Enduro MTB is closer to the trail bike but it has a much bigger and burlier build because it’s designed for dealing with mountain descents. Enduro mountain bikes are hybrids between the XC and the trail bike; they offer the best of both worlds and can comfortably be used as a bike on the road.
Freeride Mountain Bikes
These are mountain bicycles that are well suited for stunts like high jumps and big drops. They can only be used by daredevils who are used to taking risks.
Of all mountain bikes, they’re the least suited for road use as their design and construction is entirely built for steep and gnarly off-road terrain. You could still ride this type of mountain bike on the road, but the experience won’t be that good.
Making Your Mountain Bike Suitable for the Road
There are things you can do to make any type of mountain bike much safer and suitable for daily commutes. Some of those adjustments you need to make to ride a mountain bike include the following.
Start by replacing the type of tires and switching them with lighter road tires that are more nimble for city life.
MTB tires and wheels aren’t suited for the urban roads because they’re heavy and have a lot of lag. You’ll be using twice the energy just to pedal, and unless you are aiming to exercise, this will be brutal for daily commuting.
Get lighter road bike tires.
Add fenders, also called mudguards, to protect your clothes from dirt being flung on them. You want to arrive looking clean and having rear and front fenders are necessary when you consider how messy it is for MTB knobby tires and wheels to pick water and mud on the way.
Add some racks, baskets, and panniers because you’ll need a place to carry some light luggage like grocery shopping on your way home. You could also use these storage spaces to carry your lunch, a spare set of clothes and office documents if need be.
Another thing you’ll need is bicycle lights for night rides in the event you find yourself stuck in the office after dark. All you’ll need is to add two, one in the front and another in the back, complete with reflective strips so that car drivers can have a clear view of you from afar.
To safely ride a mountain bike on the road, add bells or any other form of sound that would notify other road users of your presence. Mountain bikes never have any of these as they’re built for isolated bike trails.
To switch to an urban commute, you’ll need to accessorize with bells as a lack of them is a safety concern.
Is a Mountain Bike Good for City Riding?
So, what’s the verdict?
Can a mountain bike be repurposed to provide a means of movement for city road riding and commuting? Can you ride a mountain bike on the road?
The answer is a resounding yes.
As much as mountain bikes are designed for rough off-road terrain, they’re still bicycles and can move on any solid surface. You’ll need to contend with some unwanted drawbacks, but with time, you’ll get used to them, or even better, you can make adjustments to fully turn yours into a reliable road bike that’s much more fun to use.
The biggest advantage of this is that you still get to enjoy all the good qualities that make riding a mountain bike such a magnet for people all over the world. This is akin to killing two birds with one stone.
The Bottom Line
If you have the means, you can get a road bike for road rides and keep riding a mountain bike for those long weekend trips up the hills. However, if you can’t afford to do that, it’s perfectly okay to turn your MTB into a multi-functional all-road machine.
As a mountain biker, make sure you take time to look at any online blog, as well as ask your bike repair mechanic about the best ways to go about the adjustments. It helps to know exactly what you’re doing to avoid ending up wrecking your mountain biking experience.