I have a few years of experience riding mountain bikes but only recently I have ridden a friend’s road bike and I was surprised how different it feelth.
As a general rule, mountain bikes are more comfortable than road bikes because they are equipped with suspensions and the rider is in a more upright position when riding. A mountain bike is better at absorbing the bumps in the road and therefore delivers a smoother and more comfortable ride.
In this article, I will break down all the main factors that determine how comfortable a bike feels. I will compare mountain bikes to road bikes taking into consideration these factors to see which of the two is more comfortable. So keep reading!
The Main Factors That Influence the How Comfortable a Bike Is
To be able to determine which bike is more comfortable, first, we need to know which are the most important factors that have a big impact on the rider’s comfort level.
These factors are:
- Riding position: standing a long time in an uncomfortable position will highly decrease the level of comfort when riding.
- Bike suspension: the bike’s ability to absorb all the bumps in the road will make your rides smoother.
- Bike’s tire pressure: the more pressure you have the less rolling resistance you have with the road and the more speed you gain, but you will feel every small bump in the road.
- Handlebars: having the ability to change hand position during the ride helps to avoid hand slowness.
- Saddle: The biggest contact point between you and the bike is the saddle, the more comfortable it is the more enjoyable the ride is.
Mountain Bike Vs. Road Bike – Riding Position
Mountain bikes are designed to be ridden on trails filled with tree roots and rocks, and for this reason, the rider needs to have a more upright position so that he will have the maneuverability needed to ride without falling off the bike.
Road bikes are designed to achieve maximum speed on the pavement, where maneuverability is not a big concern, aerodynamics is the focus here. Therefore the rider needs to have a bent-over position to have the least wind resistance.
The most comfortable position on a bike is to stand up straight on the saddle like on a city bike, so the winner here is the mountain bike because it offered a more upright position (aerodynamics is not the main concern on a mountain bike).
The second most important factor when it comes to riding comfort is the bike’s ability to absorb the bumps on the road. Ow on a brand new road, this is not a big concern but we can’t configure every ride based on the quality of the road, oftentimes I was forced to ride older roads that were bumpy.
If your bike is equipped with suspensions the ride becomes more comfortable even on less-than-perfect roads.
There are two main types of mountain bikes:
- Hardtails – onley front suspension
- Full-suspension – front and rear suspension
When I ride my friend’s road bike I was shocked at how uncomfortable is to feel every bump of the road in your arms and in your lower back, I have a full-suspension mountain bike and when I ride it on the road it feels like I am floating.
My first bike was a hardtail and before now I never experienced riding a bike without a front suspension, I was amazed at how much of a difference in the comfort of your ride can a front suspension make.
Road bikes aren’t equipped with suspensions to save bike weight, if you try to accelerate on your bike or are climbing having a lighter bike is a night and day difference.
So I must give this one also to the mountain bike!
Bike’s Tire Pressure
As a general rule, the more pressure you have the less rolling resistance your bike has with the road and this will improve your speed but will have a negative effect on how comfortable your ride is.
A tire with lower pressure will act like a very small suspension because it will absorb a small portion of the impact with the uneven parts of the road.
A mountain bike will have less pressure because less pressure means more traction but also increases comfort.
The typical tire pressure range for a mountain bike is 22psi (1.5 bar) to 35psi (2.4 bar) and for a road bike is 80psi (5.5 bar) to 130psi (9 bar). Quite a big difference.
The higher pressure will give the road bike a big edge when it comes to speed but will work against it when it comes to comfort. With a road bike, you really have a good feel of the road, if you know what I mean.
This is another win for the mountain bike!
Mtb Handlebars Vs. Drop Bars
Mountain bike handlebars are designed to offer great maneuverability on rough terrain and on mountain trails, for this reason, they are straight and wide.
Drop bars are designed to give the rider the versatility in choosing different types of grips on longer rides to improve comfort and reduce the risk of ending up with sore hands after the ride is over.
When riding on the road you don’t need the extra maneuverability that MTB handlebars bring, so there is no point in making the drop bars wider.
I must admit that I enjoyed the different types of grips available on my friend’s road bike, it is nice to be able to change the grip when climbing or at higher speeds, this broth greater level of comfort than the straight and wide handlebars from my mountain bike.
This point, no doubt about it goes to the road bike.
When it comes to the saddle, both bikes have lots of options to choose and you can opt for a more comfortable saddle on both types of bikes.
Most road bikes come with a harder saddle to save weight but you can find a lot of more comfortable options on the market. Really most mountain bikes come wid uncomfortable saddles.
I don’t think that regarding the saddle we can decide on a winner here, so this is an easy tie.
Mountain Bikes Vs. Road Bikes on Unpaved Roads
Mountain bikes are designed to handle the harshest of terrains and road bikes are designed to have great performance on the road, so this is an unfair fight.
At the insistence of my friend, I took his road bike for a ride on an unpaved country road. He wanted me to see that road bikes are able to go off-road. What can I say, the whole experience was horrible because I was used to a full-suspension mountain bike.
This comparison has no sense, mountain bikes are king in off-rad conditions.
Mountain bikes are much more comfortable on unpaved roads because they are equipped with suspensions and this makes a night and day difference.
On mountain trails and on harsh terrain road bikes are unsafe and should not be ridden there, they are designed for the road.
In the end, we can say that mountain bikes are more comfortable than road bikes even if you ride them on the pavement, this is due to a more comfortable riding position, lower tire pressure, and the presence of suspensions.
Even if a road bike’s drop bars are more comfortable than a mountain bike’s handlebars, still mountain bikes will offer you a more comfortable ride, regardless of the terrain.
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I started mountain biking many years ago to improve my overall health state. After my first ride, I fell in love with the sport. Now I spend dozens of hours a week researching and training to compete in local XC and Enduro events.