If you’re riding on paved surfaces for the majority of your journeys and not going near any dirt tracks a road bike can have quite a bit of a difference compared to a mountain bike.
Road Bikes will make you faster because of the skinner tires have less rolling resistance. With road bikes having an overall improvement in aerodynamics, speed, turning precision. But the bumps can be uncomfortable.
One of the best feelings I used to have when I first switched to a road bike was that the places that felt far away on a mountain bike felt a lot closer.
And I was nowhere near as tired. You really appreciate the amount of effort you had to put in to achieve the same distance to that of a road bike.
When comparing the speed of a road bike to a mountain bike there are 5 main benefits that spring to mind.
First off, thinner tires mean that the rolling resistance is a lot less than the standard 2-inch mountain tires meaning that you’ll be able to accelerate quicker.
The average width of a road bike tire is between 23 and 25mm. You can get thinner and you can also get wider ones. But the recommended width, especially for someone who hasn’t used a road bike too much, are between 23 and 25mm.
This works out at 0.98 inches which is just under half the width of a standard mountain bike tire.
You can now see how much of an impact the wider tires have on slower acceleration and overall speed.
A benefit I noticed straight away was the amount of effort I had to put in was far less than, the same journey with a mountain bike. This can be put down to the big reduction in the actual weight of the bike.
The average road bike weighs roughly 17.5 pounds. This compared to the standard mountain bike is around 12 pounds lighter with the average mountain bike being 30 pounds.
The huge reduction comes from thinner tires, no suspension and overall fewer components used.
With the primary aim of a road bike being able to be used on the roads. You need to keep up to pace with some of the traffic, therefore the bikes need be light and take aerodynamics far more seriously than that of a mountain bike where you’re expected to be travelling offroad at a lower average speed.
Road bikes tend to have more gears. Having more gears means that the speed you can achieve at the top end of the gears is greater.
Having more gears isn’t always a good thing though. If you are an amateur having a lot of gears to choose from makes it more complicated for the rider knowing which gear they should be in.
And for this reason, it means that people don’t use the gears on the road bike efficiently.
Gears cogs seem to be closer than of that you’d find on a mountain bike. This allows for quicker and smoother gear changes so you can change gears in small increments and still achieve a quick acceleration.
Road bikes do, however, tend to be harder to ride up steep hills. Whereas having a smaller number of gears on a mountain bike you’ll find steep hills easy to ascend. But road bikes tend to be better on flat surfaces.
Road bikes don’t have suspension and there’s a good reason for this. I’ve ridden my fair share of bikes with suspension and can comfortably say that when I switched to a road bike I found I was not only able to accelerate more quickly because there was no bobbing of the suspension.
But I found it much easier to brake and turning was so much better. I felt in control of the bike a lot more than the mountain bikes I used to ride.
Having no suspension does come with its disadvantages though. You’ll find that the slightest of bumps make it uncomfortable and you’ll need to dodge as many as you can.
Get used to dodging potholes and stones in the road and you’ll be fine.
Sometimes it’s unavoidable especially on busier roads where you can’t just swing around a pothole on the side of the road.
What are road bikes good for?
Road bikes are good if you’re planning on doing a lot of road training or commuting to a location where you’ll only be travelling on flat paved surfaces. Taking a road bike offroad would be a bad idea. You’d have very little traction and the handling would be very poor.
Road bikes are good for the following causes:
- Riding on paved surfaces
- Road training
- Commuting longer distances
Over the past few years, road bikes have come down in price a hell of a lot, and are a lot more affordable to the average consumer. A lot of people I know have changed from their mountain bikes to a road bike for commuting to work. And it’s worth mentioning that a lot of them have mentioned how much easier it is to get to the same destination using a road bike that it was using their old bike.
Should I switch to a road bike?
YES! If you’re planning on using the bike regularly then with the prices of road bikes coming down in recent years. Now is one of the best times to switch to a road bike. Cheaper parts have allowed for an increase in competition which has ultimately lowered prices whilst keeping quality high.
From a personal point of view, I can say that switching from a mountain bike to a road bike has definitely had a lot more benefits.
I’d recommend going down to your local bike shop and testing a few out.
The only downside, in my opinion, is the comfort that you’ll be used to on a mountain bike.
So ultimately it comes down to your willingness of removing any comfort that you enjoy with a mountain bike and completely removing all of that, for a faster bike that’ll get you to the further destinations much quicker and with much less effort.
NO! If you plan on using it for off road riding. You’d be best off sticking with a mountain bike or taking a look at the hybrid bike. A combination of both the road and mountain bike.
Are Hybrid bikes any good?
An alternative to the road bike if you’re still wanting the comfort and upright riding position of a mountain bike is a hybrid bike. A hybrid bike is a cross between the mountain bike and a road bike. It has the suspension and riding position that you’ll be used to in a mountain bike. But has the fast-rolling and thinner tires for quicker speeds of a road bike.
A hybrid bike is good for anyone who is looking to improve performance on the road but not lose any of the comfort features you get from a mountain bike.
I’d only recommend looking at a hybrid bike if your commuting distance isn’t too far. You’ll still notice quite a big difference between a hybrid bike and a road bike for long-distance travelling.
Hybrid bikes also have the benefit of being able to be used in off-road situations on light trails. You’d still not be able to use the bike on more difficult dirt trails purely down to the tires not being chunky and knobbly to maintain the grip on softer surfaces.
I think I want a road bike. What should I do next?
I’d so a bit more research by checking out this well-written guide on road bikes from bikeradar. They explain the different components you’ll find on a road bike. BUT I would recommend buying one from a local bike shop rather than online. Although more and more bikes are getting bought online. Your local bike shop will be able to give you more information on what bike would be best for you. AND they’ll also be able to assemble and set up the bike so everything is adjusted to your height correctly to avoid any unnecessary pains from the wrong height adjustments.
Not only this but you’ll be able to test the bikes before you purchase so you can get a feel for if a road bike is best for you. Or if you’d be better opting for a hybrid bike if the riding position of a road bike is more uncomfortable. I must say the first few times a rode a road bike, It wasn’t the most comfortable feeling but after a few rides, you and your body get used to it.
There are also several other good informational guides on the internet that I’d recommend having a look for. Searching ‘road bike guides’ or ‘road bikes guides for beginners’ bring up some good thoughts.
But like I’ve said unless you know quite a bit about bikes, you’ll be better off going to a bike shop to test and purchase one. As that way, you’ll be getting the correct size and setup from an experts opinion.