If you are planning to integrate biking into your exercise schedule, you are most likely to get confused over the type of bike to choose. With the availability of innumerable options and features, buying a bike is certainly not the quickest decision to make. Only after considering a good number of factors will you be able to make the right choice.

Knowing where you intend to ride your bike is essential as it will significantly influence your decision. While searching the web or bicycle shops, you are sure to stumble upon some prominent kinds. Road bikes and mountain bikes are doubtlessly two of the most popular types of bikes available in the market. You will probably have a hard time deciding between the two.

However, being aware of your requirements and expectations can save you a lot of time. Since I have used both, I can guide you about the features that distinguish them and their shortcomings, helping you pick the most appropriate one for yourself. But before we get to that, let’s understand more about these bikes.

Bikesolved.com is readers supported, you may find Amazon affiliated links on this page, that pays us commission for recommending products at no extra cost to you.

What are Road Bikes?

Road bikes are aerodynamic bikes meant for paved roads. Their frame geometry and components are designed for cycle tracks, city streets, and even uphill climbs. Unless you wish to take your bike off-road, a road bike will not disappoint you. These bikes will allow you to pick up higher speeds with their slimline tires and lightweight structure.

Key features

  • Equipped with narrow tires
  • Drop handlebars
  • Extended reach and a forward-leaning position
  • Runs on a high tire pressure
  • Compact and super light frame
  • Best for paved-surface riding

What are mountain bikes?

In contrast to road bikes, mountain bikes are fit for off-road cycling. Their flat handlebars and thick puncture-resistant tires help maintain a firm grip over dirt, concrete, rocks, and all sorts of rough surfaces.

Mountain bikes are equipped with prompt mechanical disc brakes that help you maintain balance and absorb shocks on bumpy surfaces. They perform well even in wet weather and possess exceptional stopping power.

Key features

  • Equipped with wide knobby tires
  • Flat handlebars
  • Short reach and an upright position
  • Runs on a low tire pressure
  • Heavy frame and firm grip over rough terrains
  • Best for off-road cycling

Road Bike vs Mountain Bike for Exercise

Type of terrain

The terrain type should be the first factor influencing your decision between a mountain bike and a road bike. It is crucial for you to be clear about the areas and terrains you intend to ride your bike. If you wish to go for off-road riding, especially on rocky, muddy, and bumpy terrains, a mountain bike will work the best for you. Its tough, puncture-resistant tires will efficiently retain a grip on rough terrain.

However, they will result in slow rides where you are prone to injuries due to rocky surfaces. On the other hand, if your trails are limited to city roads, paved surfaces, and mountain passes, a road bike’s slimline and slick tires will let you glide faster. If you plan to ride both on and off-road, you might consider hybrid bikes.

cyclist on rough terrain

Bike frame and tires

If your purchase intent involves exercising, narrow tires of road bikes will work better for paved roads than fat tires of mountain bikes. Road bikes also happen to have a super light frame in contrast to a heavy one in mountain bikes.

If you need to pick the best option for exercise and incorporate riding into your schedule for a great workout, you should consider the smooth tread and slick tires of road bikes coupled with a lightweight frame. These features are the most appropriate for road bikers exercising around residential areas.

If speed is what you are looking for, and concrete-based surfaces will not form a part of your journey, road biking should make up for a better option. However, a mountain bike will work great if you need to burn more calories by investing relatively less time.

This is because riding on rugged terrains with a heavy bike is an intense exercise that requires you to put in a lot of effort. But at the same time, if you are unfit, climbing with a heavy frame could be difficult. Prominent tread patterns on the tires of mountain bikes add up to their durability on rough terrain.

Due to the large tires in mountain bikes, they are able to run on low tire pressure. This allows better balance on bumpy surfaces. At the same time, road bikes run on high tire pressure due to their slimline tires.

Bike frame and tires

Cycling position

Among other things to consider, mountain bikes will give you an upright posture as they have a short reach. This will also result in better control of the handlebar as it will remain close to you while riding. This will help you build muscles and prevent back pain, as mountain bikers would not have a crouching position.

On the contrary, a road bike will allow you to ride in a streamlined posture due to its compact frame and design. This will give you a more extended reach and tube top as compared to mountain bike riding. But the forward-leaning posture may cause back problems in road bikers.

Cycling position

Derailleurs and chain

There are lesser chances of your bike’s chain coming off in the case of mountain bikes as they are mostly equipped with a single chainring at the front. Due to this, mountain bikes do not require an expensive derailleur either. Road bikes, on the other hand, offer a derailleur and two chainrings at the front.

Derailleurs and chain


Road bikes are equipped with drop handlebars. The brake and gear shift levers are found on the hoods of these curved sets of handlebars. The other two hand positions offered are the drops and tops. Drops are used to sprint and race, whereas tops are used to ride uphill or for casual road biking.

Mountain bikes offer just one riding position with their flat handlebars across your bike’s front. It is pretty easy to reach the brakes or shift the gears as their levers can be found at each of the ends of your handlebars. Flat bars in a mountain bike provide better leverage due to their structure. They also tend to be wider than drop bars.

Handlebars of an mtb vs road bike


We cannot truly judge the functionality of a bike without considering the efficiency of its brakes. Mountain bikes offer excellent stopping power with mechanical disc brakes. No matter how high your speed is, these brakes will immediately bring your bike to a halt as soon as you apply the brakes.

They work efficiently in all terrains and even when the surface is wet. However, most road bikes are outfitted with rim brakes which may be affordable, but they do not match the efficiency level of disc brakes.

They also happen to be lighter and less effective on wet roads. Luckily, manufacturers have started to notice this, and this has led to a lot of road bikes being equipped with mechanical disc brakes.

Brakes of mtb vs road bike

Pros of Using a Mountain Bike for Fitness

  • Provides a comfortable upright sitting position
  • Consists of a sturdy and durable frame
  • Works as an intense form of exercise because riding a mountain bike demands more effort.
  • Wide tires retain a firm grip over the surface.
  • Absorbs bumps and vibrations while riding.

Cons of Using a Mountain Bike for Fitness

  • Mountain bikes are slow due to their fat treaded tires.
  • You are prone to injuries as you may fall due to rocky and concrete-based terrains.
  • Its heavy frame is difficult to handle

Pros of Using a Road Bike for Fitness

  • You can integrate biking into your daily exercise routine, as road bikes work best for paved surfaces.
  • It comprises a lightweight frame that is easy to handle
  • You can ride at higher speeds because of narrow tires and a super light frame.
  • The forward-leaning position gives you more power.
  • Its agility allows longer rides.

Cons of Using a Road Bike for Fitness

  • Crouching posture can lead to back pain.
  • Narrow tires are not suitable for rough and rocky terrains.
  • Road bikes do not efficiently absorb shock and bumps on the road.

How much harder is it to ride a mountain bike than a road bike?

Riding mountain bikes can be challenging, considering the heavy frame they are equipped with. Their wide knobby tires only add up to this trouble. You require much more effort to pedal, leading to a slow riding experience.

Furthermore, moving heavy bikes in rugged terrains, especially when going uphill, can be really tough. This can also lead to injuries if you end up falling on bumpy pavements. Road bikes, on the other hand, consist of a lightweight frame and narrow tires that allow you to pedal effortlessly.

Additionally, they are used on city roads or other paved surfaces, making it easier for you to pick up higher speeds. However, leaning towards the front and maintaining this crouching posture for long hours can be just as hard for your back.

Should I Get A Mountain Bike Or Road Bike?

Being two of the most popular kinds of bikes, both mountain bikes and road bikes have unique characteristics. Choosing one over the other should totally be guided by your own requirements. You will be able to hit high speeds and climb uphill with the super light structure of a road bike.

The same may not be possible with the heavy frame and wide tires of a mountain bike as they tend to make your rides slower. But, we cannot overlook the fact that the heavy structure of a mountain bike compels you to lose more calories. In fact, riding off-road and balancing on bumpy and textured surfaces strengthens your upper and lower body.

This can turn out to be a great exercise as it will demand more effort and involve all your muscles. But it is evident that you won’t be able to go for longer rides. You can do so in the case of road bikes, as they will allow you to maintain high speeds with minimum effort. Both of these bikes can be incorporated into your exercise regime, provided you use them according to their limitations, especially on their respective terrains.

If you do not wish to invest long hours in biking, choosing a mountain bike will be the best resort, as you will burn more calories by putting in more effort in minimal time. On the contrary, if you wish to dedicate your time and slowly make biking a part of your routine, you can pick a road bike.

Mountain biking can build your muscles better, but its intensity can consume glycogen instead of fat. I would personally choose a road bike over a mountain bike as I believe in getting results through less intense exercises, which are effective in the long run.  


Do you burn more calories on a mountain bike or road bike?

You burn more calories on a mountain bike because off-road riding on rough terrains requires more energy and effort. Moreover, the heavy frame and wide treaded tires of a mountain bike make it difficult for you to pedal, especially while going uphill. This intense exercise allows you to burn calories. On the other hand, road bikes are suitable for you to burn fat as their lightweight frame allows you to take up longer rides.

Which is better for weight loss, mountain bike or road bike?

A road bike is better for losing weight instead of a mountain bike. Trying to ride a mountain bike with a heavy frame for more extended hours will be too harsh on your body. Propelling a fat tire bike on rugged terrains will demand more energy and calories. The intensity of this routine would not allow your body to keep up with the energy demands.

And if your body is not able to make use of fat for this purpose, it will resort to glycogen. Riding a lightweight road bike with slick tires will allow you to take up longer rides at high speed, therefore increasing the level of your activity. This will help you in losing weight.

Can I use my road bike as an exercise bike?

Yes, your road bike will make up for a great exercise bike with its slick tires and super light structure. Riding it for longer hours on city roads and paved surfaces will let you pick up higher speeds. This exercise will be a little less intense, but it will work much more efficiently in the long run, especially when it comes to losing fat.

Are mountain bikes good for working out?

Yes, riding a mountain bike can work as a great form of cardio workout as its intensity will help you build more muscles. Pedaling would require more effort on uneven terrains with a heavy bike. Your body will require more energy, and this would not just work as an exercise but as an intense full-body workout.

However, to make this happen, you must ride on rugged terrains. Road riding on clear roads and paved surfaces with a mountain bike will not differ from riding on a road bike. For a full-body workout, you must ride uphill or on bumpy trails. This will also help you in building leg muscles due to the effort needed to pedal.


  • Axel Woods

    Axel Woods is an experienced cyclist and content writer with a passion for the outdoors. He has been riding bikes for over 15 years, and has competed in numerous races and events throughout his career. In addition to his love for cycling, Axel is also a skilled and experienced writer, with a background in journalism and a knack for storytelling.

    View all posts