Mountain bike to road bike: Switching to the dark side..

by Robb Sutton
22 comments

We all know the joys of mountain biking.

Heading down the unbeaten tracks, no motor traffic for miles, no exhaust fumes to deal with, superb views and a lot of camaraderie. Wonderful – especially in the summer months! In the winter months the challenge just gets harder and a lot muddier but not any less fun.

Mountain bikes are generally heavy, durable with a strong suspension and wide studded tyres for added grip and friction. The straight handlebars are designed for total control. Marvellous machines – for mountains.

Not quite right

But when you hit the roads something just doesn’t feel quite right. The pedalling suddenly feels like extra effort. You are not taking advantage of the sheer speeds combined with comfort levels than only a road bike can bring.

A road bike is all about perfection, speed, the gentle hum of those slick tyres as you race along. You’ll soon find yourself wanting to join races or, heaven forbid, ride in groups.

The light, streamlined frame with components built to reduce weight in any way possible. Suspension and traction are done away with – dismissed as an impediment to speed.

The new riding position is bent right down over the top bar. The guts and strength needed for mountain biking are replaced with fitness and a propensity for pain.

To switch or not to switch? That is the question

So should you make the switch? The investment can be quite heavy. The lighter road bikes are expensive and if you are not sure you’ll get into it then you may hesitate. That’s not forgetting all the additional gear you’ll need. It’s not just the bike that needs to be streamlined, it’s also the cyclist. Tight fitting clothes, cycling shoes.

Most people will dabble with the dark side through commuting to work. Although this can be done on a mountain bike people will often eye a road bike purchase. The enjoyment of the challenge on the road can push people to take it further.

There is another option

Of course there is always a half-way alternative. A hybrid bike. Still capable of tackling some trails whilst not dragging you along on the road. These normally feature flat handlebars but thinner tires and a lighter frame. This remains my preferred bike for most rides but doesn’t quite achieve the same enjoyment as a road bike.

You could also opt for changing your mountain bike. Whilst you’ll never achieve a full road bike, especially with a heavy frame, you can make your mountain bike more suitable for the road. The first is to switch for a pair of thinner, slick and ideally puncture proof tires that help achieve better rollability. This will also probably mean however a new set of wheels will needed to fit the thinner tire width.

Additionally, clipless pedals that allow you to maximise the return on your pedalling effort can easily be installed to a mountain bike.

Have you made the switch? Or have you always enjoyed both road and mountain biking? Leave a comment below..

This post was written by Andreas. He blogs over at London Cyclist and covers everything from product reviews to cycling editorials. He has been a long time friend of Bike198 so check his site out when you get a chance.

22 comments

22 comments

CycloHun November 19, 2011 - 6:55 pm

I ride a rigid single speed Controltech offroad, for the pure simple nostalgic rush of it. On the road, I ride a converted Cannondale M400, with slicks and a cyclocross bar. I use Speedplay Frogs on both so I can use the same shoes.

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Ed --- the "newby" May 12, 2011 - 12:00 pm

I can’t believe I’m 58 years old and have taken up biking …… in a big way. I have a friend who introduced mountain
biking to me last November. We biked every weekend during the winter, 24 degrees, snow on the ground, never the
same trail twice. Recently vacationed in Moab, Utah. Could not believe what I was doing and where I was doing it.
Old fart on slick rock — what a blast !
With the advent of warm weather the gears have shifted now to road biking. My friend tells me that “I WILL” enjoy it
and be very good at it because I have kept myself in excellent shape. Last night I was pleased to average 17.5 miles
per hour on a 20 mile trek. Now I find myself signed up for a metric century with a 13 mile climb with 200 other bikers.
I’ve only been biking for 6 months (very little road miles) and am both scared and intimidated by what I’ve bitten off.
But the biggest reason I decided to respond here is this question: how long do I have to road bike before I actually
enjoy it ? I find mountain biking to be a lot of fun. Road biking is just a lot of pressure and a lot of work. Seems to be
all about speed and endurance —- not leisurely …… and not fun. At my age I’m not that into competing.

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wisky Lo March 26, 2011 - 11:57 am

I would choose mountain over road any day if I have a choice, but I dont since I dont live close to any mountain trail. All mountain trail are hours drive from here so what I did was I have a hardtail Trek set up for road on the week days and grab my Ibis mountain on the weekend. I like to get a real road bike soon tho. I would love to find out how face I’ll be if I was to be on a road bike. I always try to keep up with them road bike on my hardtail and they always compliment me for being fast for a hardtail. I just like to tell them how fast I would be if I was to be on their road bike. I rode my mountain at least every other weekend for at least 20+ miles I just like to find out how far I can ride on a road bike before I drain out.

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Akmal Hizam March 15, 2011 - 7:50 am

For commuting, I’m using a hardtail with 1.5″ slicks (Panaracer RiBMo) and v-brakes. I tried using a rigid fork, but just couldn’t stand the vibration on a certain sections of my route. I guess I’m used to having front suspension as I started with mountain biking.

I used to have a do-it-all hardtail, for commuting and weekend offroads. Now that I have a fullsusser, it’s imperative that I have a dedicated commuting bike. It just feel weird riding a 5″ rear travel on tarmac.

I have pondered upon getting a road bike (for the sexiness of the parts actually), but two things essentially put me off.
1. Tight fitting lycra
2. No more space at home to store another bike
😀

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J. Random Psycho March 14, 2011 - 6:41 pm

For commuting, I use either a DJ/street hardtail or a rigid street trials bike (which has 6 gears).
I quit road cycling many years ago — can’t stand the cars and am generally looking for maximum fun on 2 wheels.

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Larry March 14, 2011 - 3:07 pm

I have ridden a road bike for nearly 14 years. I really enjoy riding on oavement in rural settings once traffic has lessened. I started with mountain biking about 2 years ago. I like the serenity I can achieve with the mountain bike because it is geared for climbing rather than speed. If I attempted to access the same areas with a road bike I would have to push it. I therfore will remain a two bike person.

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Tloster March 14, 2011 - 9:22 am

Instead of road bike I use my old hardtail with 1.25 tires. Pump them up to 6 (quite hard) and off we go. By the way, it’s a good idea to have the biggest chain wheel with 48 cogs. Of course, its not a roady, but could be a pretty good replacement for those who are not ready to buy road bike. No probs if you ride 100-150 km, but of course it mostly depends on your fitness level. Another point is sitting position which is more open. But it is also possible to play with it by the means of saddle, stem and handlebar position and their size.

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Ted March 14, 2011 - 8:29 am

I too do both. Though I think of myself as a mountain biker, I have fun on the road bike as well-especially by doing fast group rides or the occasional road race. I live in Florida, and for me mountain biking is a fall through spring sport unless I can get our of the state and head north or west during summer. I have both mountain biking and roadie friends, but not very many that avidly pursue both-I think that’s a shame. Strangely, I find myself defending one group while I’m with the other. I think each camp would benefit by broadening their horizons a bit.

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Chuck Faulkner March 10, 2011 - 1:25 pm

The cross bike could be fun on gravel and hard pack roads. I am thinking it would be brutal on the single track. But, if you went that direction it would be Rule 5 all the way!

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Chris Lane March 10, 2011 - 10:26 am

Cyclocross bike?

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Justin Deeley March 9, 2011 - 9:20 pm

I too ride both. My mountain biking helps my road riding (strength, bike handling, braking control) and my road riding helps my mountain biking (spinning & pedalling in circles, aerobic fitness, endurance).

Unfortunately our local trails got smashed this year by rain (and are almost all closed) so I’ve started racing the road bike with a local masters club twice a week. I finally got out to do 180km of mountain biking over 3 days and carrying a 10kg backpack full of cameras (ouch). The difference to how I feel on the MTB is dramatic to say the least. Can’t wait for the Mont 24hr next month!

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Eric March 9, 2011 - 7:40 pm

I suppose I resemble that remark 😉
My approach has been to develop a split personality and ride both. I got a road bike in January but still think of myself as a mountain biker. I find that activity itself more fun while road is more exercise. Fun exercise though. And painful.
The comeradery is still the same though and plenty of people do both. This past Sunday’s sack up ride in the cold was well worth it. Here’s to more daylight hours to do more riding in!

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Andreas March 10, 2011 - 9:59 am

As a Hybrid cyclist I’m trying to get best of both worlds – I’ve actually been surprised with the sort of mountain biking I can do on my Marin but I’m sure if I was to step things up a few notches I’d need a mountain bike..

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Brent Petrencsik March 9, 2011 - 1:23 pm

I ride both. I initially started road biking to get into triathlons. I am a long time mountain biker, favor mountain biking and will always mountain bike. I like to ride road in the mornings before work with lights. I also find road riding to be more social. I think each activity complements each other. Road is more aerobic. Mountain biking is more anaerobic. Get the right equipment and see if your mountain biking buddies want to ride a century. I think I am in better shape because I get in road miles.

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Chuck Faulkner March 9, 2011 - 1:13 pm

Have not made a total switch. Still ride the hardtail MTB on single track for fun. Picked up a roadbike a couple years back and its a bunch of fun too. My son and I ride century rides, and also race a little. So let’s see I ride MTB when it is too cold for the road, and I like the road bike in the heat when it is too buggy in the woods. I am more likely to ride the road after a good rain, even though the pavement is slick, especially when the trail is really soggy and muddy. Short local MTB rides are generally undertaken more for fun when time is limited, but I’ll opt for a longish 20-30 mile road ride to get in a workout when I have a couple hrs to devote to riding. A couple of beers afterwards are still an important post ride activity for both disciplines. Have recently considered getting a cross bike to hammer the local rail trail (6 mi out, 6 mi back) for another short workout activity when time is crunched. Off course it goes without saying I would have to start racing cross then because I have the bike , but I’m not entirely sure I want to race when it is cold, wet, and miserable.

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Rica Mendes March 9, 2011 - 1:00 pm

I started with a hybrid. And I was miserable on the road, and it was ill-equipped for mountain. My next purchase was a MTB because I wanted to get into MTB racing, with my eye on a road bike. They really are two different animals. IMHO, a hybrid is fine for short distances on road or bike paths. But as soon as you add distance (10 miles or more) and hills, you need a road bike (or a flat-bar road bike, like the Trek FX series). As soon as you add anything technical, you need a MTB.

The hybrid may be a combination of the two styles, but NOT equipped to handle both terrains.

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Michael Yarros March 9, 2011 - 12:45 pm

I opted for the hybrid option. I have a Kona hard tail. I use 2 wheel sets, one for off, one for on road. I can change my bike between the 2 in less than 15mins. (wheels,bash guard,areo bars,etc). Many people think you need two bikes. I personally don’t want 2 bikes. I find my setup works great for me. Maybe in the future I’ll see things differently, but that is what I love about cycling to begin with, it’s an individual thing !

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Andreas March 10, 2011 - 9:58 am

Good on you for managing to avoid the two bike conundrum – I’m heading in the direction of two bikes and want t o avoid!

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Randal Nelson March 9, 2011 - 12:03 pm

I do both road and mountain. The road is not as fun as mountain biking. Sometimes it is just eaiser to jump on the road bike and ride off from the house. Also noticed that putting some miles on the road bike helps my mountain bike riding. If it were’nt for the cars on the road it would be better.

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Kevin March 9, 2011 - 10:55 am

I still ride a lot of trail (XC race season starts this weekend for us), but I’ve found a great compromise between road and trail – gravel! There are plenty of B- or zero- maintenance roads in KS, so it’s not hard to find something just as sketchy as a loose trail, or hardpack that rolls like pavement. Basically you just need a ‘cross or touring rig that can handle a bigger tire; guys use everything from cyclocross race rigs to ultralight 29ers to purpose built gravel machines. I’m a personal fan of Salsa’s Vaya – fast bike that can handle the occasional trail too.

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Daniel March 9, 2011 - 10:09 am

I have, opted for the modified MTB. I have a Rockhopper (hardtail) that I use for all things paved. Occasionally for logistical purposes I find myself cranking down the paved bike trail on the Tomac with less than desirable results. Ive found the black bike with extra wide bars, thus giving it a very aggressive appearance, accompanied by the constant loud grinding of the Nevgals on the pavement have a tendency to scare the hell out of other bike path users. I try to avoid this, honest.
My rockhopper has been a great second bike. Got a bit of a riser stem and I replaced the ties with pavement friendly Vittoria’s. I like these tires, they have a strip of that high vis material around the bead that is really undetectable in the day light but hit it with headlights at night and I can be seen from over a hundred yards away. Added Cat Eye head and tail lights also from REI and Im good to go. Ive probably got less than $500 wrapped up in this bike and find myself enjoying it quite often.

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SS March 9, 2011 - 9:29 am

I’ve tried to make the jump many times, but just can’t do it. I always end up with a new mountain bike or pricey component.

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