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Mountain Bikes vs. Road Bikes vs. Hybrid Bikes

When you're looking for a new bike, one of the most important things to consider is how you'll be using it. A bike that's effective for commuting may not be the best choice for tackling rugged mountain trails. Depending on your purpose, you may prefer a road bike, a mountain bike or a hybrid bike. Each type of bicycle has unique benefits and is geared toward a different type of ride.

Road Bike Mountain Bike Hybrid Bike

Ideal Terrain

Smooth pavementOff-road environmentPavement or off road

Weight

LightweightHeaviestModerate weight

Performance

Best for long distancesSuited to rugged terrainBest for casual rides

Handlebars

Drop or flat barsFlat barsFlat bars

Suspension

Typically noneFully rigid or hardtailSuspension forks or seatposts

Road Bikes

Advantages of road bikes

  • Lightweight Frame – Less weight allows for a faster ride.
  • Tall, Lightweight Wheels – High-pressure wheels are narrow and light to reduce friction with the road and improve climbing, acceleration and handling.
  • Handlebars – Drop handlebars create a forward-leaning position that enables better aerodynamics, while flat handlebars allow for a more comfortable upright position.
road bikes

Limitations of road bikes

  • No Suspension – There's nothing to cushion the blow of bumpy terrain.
  • Thin Tires – The thin tires of road bikes are best suited for paved surfaces and are not constructed to handle the rigors of off-road riding.
  • Discomfort – While it may be more aerodynamic, some find the forward-leaning position uncomfortable.
road bike comparison

Mountain Bikes

Advantages of mountain bikes

  • Sturdy Frame – The heavyweight frame is designed to withstand effects of rough terrain.
  • Suspension – Fully rigid bikes provide no suspension, while hardtail models have front-wheel fork suspension only. Full suspension options include both front and rear suspension. Each provides a different level of comfort to provide more control and reduce hand and arm fatigue.
  • Smaller Wheels – Thick, low-pressure tires are generally 26 inches to 29 inches with knobby treads to provide traction and control on uneven and rocky ground.
mountain bike

Limitations of mountain bikes

  • Knobby Wheels – Tread designed to create friction on rugged surfaces are less efficient on pavement.
  • Bike Weight – Added weight makes mountain bikes heavier and slower than road bikes and hybrid bikes.
  • Reduced Efficiency – Suspensions take away from the efficiency of pedal strokes.
mountain bike comparison

Hybrid Bikes

Advantages of hybrid bikes

  • Versatility – Combining features of road bikes and mountain bikes, hybrid bikes are well suited for a variety of terrains.
  • Comfort – Upright handlebars, cushioned seats and available suspension can offer more comfort for short, casual rides.
  • Efficient Wheels – Wheels and tires are light and suited to paved surfaces, allowing for more efficient pedaling.
hybrid bike

Limitations of hybrid bikes

  • Not Built for Extremes – Construction is not suited for tough mountain terrain or the fast speeds of road racing.
  • Less Aerodynamic – The upright position of hybrid bikes creates more drag when traveling at faster speeds.
hybrid bike comparison