Can a Mountain Bike be Ridden on the Road?

Mountain bikes thrive on rocky, mountainous terrain with steep slopes and challenging inclines. If you need a bike to get you up a tall hill, a mountain bike will do the job perfectly.

But what if you want to take a bike ride on roads? Will a mountain bike be able to perform just as well?

Mountain bikes are quite versatile, so they will do just fine on the streets. In fact, you may have to ride on a few roads even just to get to a mountain bike trail.

Mountain bikes are sturdy and very reliable, so you won’t encounter any immediate issues riding on roads.

Still, issues can arise.

Let’s break down everything you need to know about riding a mountain bike in the city and streets.

Can a Mountain Bike Be Used in the City?

You can absolutely ride a mountain bike in the city! Riding any type of bike in the city is a great option.

Public transportation can be crowded and expensive and walking, albeit healthy, takes way too long. A bike lets you maneuver through traffic, park for free, carry your transportation if you have to, and get some exercise in!

Mountain bikes can move quickly enough to keep up with surrounding cars. They are also built to be agile, so steering is precise and safe on a mountain bike.

Are Mountain Bikes Good for City Riding?

Schwinn Bonafide Mens Mountain Bike
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Not all mountain bikes work well for city riding.

Mountain bikes with full suspension are great for when you’re riding in nature. Tree roots and rocky surfaces need more suspension so that you aren’t being thrown in and out of the air with every bump and small movement.

However, if you’re planning on riding on smoother surfaces (like streets), using a hardtail bike is ideal. A hardtail bike  has a firm back half, thus giving it its name. You don’t need much suspension when riding through the city, and hardtails are generally more affordable than full-suspension bikes.

Hardtail bikes are also great for beginners and can be used on and off-mountain bike trails. If you want an all-round bike that gets you to work during the week, and to the top of a mountain on the weekend, a hardtail bike is your best bet.

Mountain bikes are also great for city riding because they are more elevated than road bikes. That way, you can see everything going on around you without having to adjust yourself and risk losing your balance.

Is Riding a Mountain Bike on the Road Bad for the Tires?

mountain bikes are built for climbs and precision
Mountain bike tires are knobby and designed to sink into the earth and stabilize the rider.

A few times riding on a street with a mountain bike isn’t going to damage your tires. However, if you plan on using a mountain bike regularly on roads, you should look into changing the tires.

If you look at the tires on a traditional road bike, you’ll notice they’re a lot smoother. Road bike tires  are meant to go fast and speed through streets (safely, of course) without too much pedaling.

Mountain bikes, on the other hand, are built for climbs and precision more than speed.

You can go fast on a mountain bike, but you may need to pedal more to maintain your speed or acceleration. Changing the tires will enhance your riding experience. It will also make your mountain bike look more like a road bike.

Some people don’t mind changing the actual tires. If you’re familiar with tire changing, it should only take a few minutes. However, other riders like having a completely different set of wheels with road tires fitted onto them.

This means you don’t have to deal with sealants and make sure the bead is airtight every time you want to switch from one tire to another. You will need a place to store the extra tires, though, which may not be possible for all riders.

On the other hand, keeping the mountain bike tires will push you to pedal harder and for longer. You can become a stronger and more resilient rider by powering through with mountain bike tires.

A Side Note on Handlebars

Just like you’ll want to change your tires for comfort, you might also want to fit your handlebars with hand grips. This will make riding a lot smoother and help avoid wrist pain.

You might even like to have these when riding mountain bike trails or long-distance rides.

Do Mountain Bike Tires Wear Faster on the Road?

wear out mountain bike tires faster on the streets
Yes, you will wear out mountain bike tires faster on the streets.

Mountain bike tires are designed to have a lot of traction and to be used at lower air pressure. Generally, you’ll find softer terrain on trails, so the tires don’t need to be as firm.

The softer rubber on mountain bike tires means that they will wear out quickly on smooth, firm asphalt or concrete. This is another reason to invest in a pair of road tires to use in the city.

You don’t have to worry if you don’t ride on roads often, but you should keep this in mind if you find yourself cycling to work often or going for residential rides. Not changing the tires could mean you have to buy new ones much quicker than you originally anticipated.

Some riders argue that despite the tires running out quicker, it’s still cheaper than paying for a cab or gas. How precious are your mountain bike tires for you? How much did you invest in them?

If your budget requires you to make the tires last a very long time, you should avoid riding them on the road. However, most riders aren’t very concerned about this.

Is It Harder to Ride a Mountain Bike on the Road?

riding a mountain bike on the road is more challenging
You will have a more difficult time riding a mountain bike on the road than on a mountain bike trail.

Pedaling will be challenging. Get ready to get a good calf workout, because mountain bikes are heavy, and their tires are slow.

At the same time, riding a mountain bike on the road is quite comfortable. You’re cushioned by the thick, pillowy mountain bike tires instead of treading alone on stick-thin road tires.

There are also significantly fewer obstacles on a road. So, although there are cars, which you need to be very mindful of, riding on the road might be easier.

Mountain bikes can be anywhere from 12 to 15 percent slower than a traditional road bike. You should think about how that will impact your riding experience.

Do you need to go very fast to stay safe on certain roads? Or are you riding in areas where you can take your time and move at a slightly slower pace?

Remember, the wheels are the main reason mountain bikes are different from road bikes. Changing the tires will fix a lot of your problems.

Is It Illegal to Ride a Mountain Bike on the Pavement?

it is illegal to ride a mountain bike on the pavement
Riding your bike on the pavement (or sidewalk) is generally illegal. States and countries all have different limits to the size of wheels allowed to ride on the pavement.

For the most part, adult bikes are not allowed to be ridden where pedestrians walk. Whereas, a young child is allowed to pedal along on the pavement because the risk of them speeding into someone and seriously hurting them is significantly lower.

Sometimes it is safer to cycle on the pavement, especially if you’re not an experienced rider. Unfortunately, law enforcement may not always sympathize with this reason. You should be careful of where you cycle because you may get fined.

We recommend getting comfortable cycling on the road in quiet neighborhoods before jumping into a giant metropolitan intersection. That way, you’ll be more prepared with how to maneuver around cars and other cyclists in a busy environment.

In Conclusion

You can ride a mountain bike on a road — and lots of people do! Mountain bikes are comfortable, sturdy, and built to thrive in a variety of environments.

The main thing you need to keep in mind is the well-being of your tires.

They will wear out quicker on the road, so you need to decide if that’s going to be an issue for you. There are lots of affordable tire companies out there, so you should be able to get a new budget-friendly pair.

You should also be prepared to put more energy into pedaling on a mountain bike. Flat surfaces aren’t particularly challenging, but mountain bikes are made to climb, not pedal along residential roads.

Finally, please avoid riding on pavements. You could get in trouble, and it’s not worth paying a fine for a few lengths of riding on sidewalks.

We recommend trying out your mountain bike on the roads. Get a feel for it and decide if you need to invest in a pair of road tires.

What’s your experience with road cycling with a mountain bike? Would you say it’s more difficult?

We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Good luck!

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