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The Outdoors Manual: Road Bike or Mountain Bike?

Updated: Feb 9, 2021

By Richard Luo



"Which bike should I get?"

This question has been asked countless times over the decades since the invention of the modern bike. Most commonly, it consists of people yearning to get back on the pedals after years of inactivity. If this applies to you, here's a guide to help you stop wasting time.

The Only Thing That Matters is Terrain.


In practice, road bikes are typically lightweight and have lighter frames while utilizing thinner tires that allow for greater speed and acceleration. In contrast, mountain bikes, especially ones sporting fat tires, can be seen as bulldozers plowing through even the thickest of thickets.

As the name suggests, mountain bikes are used for "mountain" trails. These include hiking trails, dirt tracks, and anything bumpy enough to shake you around your seat. On the other hand, the eponymous road bike would be used on roads or sidewalks. However, there is some leeway in between.

Road bikers aren't always secluded to flat, smooth planes. High quality road bikes would arguably fare better than mountain bikes on the trails similar to the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal - a dirt trail with a decent amount of rocks and twigs. Additionally, if a cyclist becomes extremely proficient, some even prefer to use road bikes on exhilarating, rocky hiking trails. However, this approach is extremely dangerous (and probably expensive) and wouldn't be recommended for nonprofessionals.

It is also important to note that some people actually prefer mountain bikes over road bikes even if they only ride on roads or sidewalks. This is because mountain bikes tend to be sturdier and last longer than a lightweight, breakable road bike. Also, some people choose to utilize a mountain bike in flat grades such as parking lots to attempt biking tricks including bunny hops, riding down flights of stairs, or even practicing wheelies.


Road bikes and mountain bikes both have their advantages and disadvantages. Even if you are still undecided, there is always an option to try both. Depending on the type of trail you like, the type of terrain you want to ride, and how daring you are, there is always a bike out there for you.

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