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Are Road Bikes More Comfortable Than Mountain Bikes?

Road bikes and mountain bikes are completely different, sure both have two wheels and pedals but the riding experience is hardly comparable.

Mountain bikes are more comfortable than road bikes because of their suspension, wider wheels, and an a more upright riding position. MTB suspension absorbs bumps and the wider handle bar offers more stability. However, road bikes are more comfortable for longer distances because they are faster and require less pedaling to maintain speed.

That’s the general take, but comfort has a lot to do with the setup of a bike and the type of riding you do. Where mountain biking on a road for 50 miles becomes uncomfortable, a road bike does a better job.

What Makes A Bicycle Comfortable?

trek bike suspension

There are a couple of factors that make a bike comfortable to ride. The most important is that you go to your local bike shop and make sure the bike fits your height and body type. Picking the right frame is half the battle.

Keep in mind that neither a road bike or a MTB are made for comfort. If you want a comfortable ride for commuting, consider a regular bike instead. Road bikes are made for long distance riding on smooth roads, mountain bikes are made for riding gnarly surfaces.

1. Proper Riding Position

You just sit on the saddle and ride right? While this works for a while you can assume the wrong position. MTB’s require to slightly bend your arms and keep your wrists straight. Riding your wrists at a slight angle can cause irritation and discomfort.

I had this happen for a while and it took a long time to figure out what I was doing wrong. Slightly bending my arms and straight wrists on the handlebar made a huge difference though I had to first take a break for a while.

Regular bikes allow you to sit straight up, but MTB’s and road bikes (even more) are a different story. The more you have to lean over, the more uncomfortable a ride unless you can lean on a handlebar extension.

2. The Right Tire Pressure

Tire pressure is important for comfort, but it depends on the type of road. You have to find the right balance between bumpiness and speed. Hard tires will make you feel every bump in the road, and soft tires will take a lot of effort to stay up the speed. What’s most comfortable depends on your personal preference.

The tire pressure for a mountain bike ranges from 22psi (1.5 bar) to 35psi (2.4 bar). Road bike tire pressure ranges from 80psi (5.5 bar) to 130psi (9 bar). What right for you is something you have to experience yourself.

3. Suspension

Suspension is great for absorbing bumps in the road, especially for Mountain bikers that ride single track trails. It can also slow you down on flat and hard roads. Many MTB’s allow you to lockout the suspension, activate it on a trail and deactivate when you’re on a road. You won’t find many road bikes that come with suspension.

4. Handlebars

Depending on the type of riding you do, the right handlebar van make a huge difference in comfort. Where mountain bikes come with wide flat bars, road bikes offer a completely different type of handle bar. Road bikes allow you to change your hand placement more compared to mountain bikes.

5. Saddle

Even though saddle pain is unavoidable, picking the right saddle is important. The saddle is the largest contact point on a bike, if you ride longer distances you want a high-quality saddle. It all depends on the type of bike and how you ride.

6. Bike Size & Frame

Not everyone has the same measurements, even longer or shorter legs require you to pick different frame sizes. The most important factor when it comes to bike comfortably is the right bike size. This goes for every type of bike, including mountain bikes and road bikes.

There are tools available online that can get you into the right direction, but it’s always a gamble when purchasing a bike online. Just go to your local bike shop, even if it’s quite a drive. It will save you a lot of trouble in the long run.

MTB VS Road Bike Handlebars Comfort

Hand on mountain bike handlebar with gloves

We briefly touched this subject already but let’s dive a bit deeper into the differences between the handlebars. MTB’s come with straight wide handlebars which allows for more maneuverability. Mountain bikers need the extra responsiveness when riding single track or rough terrain.

The downside is that you can’t place your hands in different positions, unlike drop bars you usually see on road bikes.

Drop bars are great for longer rides. When you feel fatigue in you back, arms, shoulders, or hands, a drop bar allows you to adjust your position. This doesn’t mean your hand won’t get sore, but it makes a lot of difference compared to mountain bikes.

Even though I like riding long distances on my mountain bike because I just love the workout, a road bike would probably be much better if you want to go far and fast. A drop bar is just way more comfortable once you cross a certain distance..

MTB VS Road Bike Saddle Comfort

The comfort depends entirely on what you prefer and your budget. In general road bike saddles are a bit narrower, lightweight, and longer. They come with reduced padding to allow for a more efficient power transfer while pedaling. Some Road Bike saddles offer no cushioning and often have leather or cotton covers. These saddles require time to break in and will mold to your shape and weight.

Mountain bike saddles are pretty similar to road bikes given it’s a gel or foam cushioning saddle. Mountain bikes requires a saddle that supports a variety of positions. Sometime you stand up, sometimes you briefly sit down or just hang a bit over your saddle.

Saddle padding for your sit bones is recommended to absorb some of the impacts. REI has an excellent article about when to pick which saddle.

Road Bike VS MTB Road Comfort

A road bike isn’t made for off road riding. Because of the lack of suspense, narrow tires, and fragility, road bikes feel very uncomfortable outside of regular roads. For those who want a bit of both, consider a gravel bike (more speed) or a hybrid bike (though and fast). They allow you to ride both on the road and trail but won’t excel at any.

Mountain bikes are fine for just riding around town or shorter distances on any type of road, but they require a lot more input from the rider. MTB’s are heavier and have wider tires which results in more friction.

Mountain bikes are great for harsher terrains and great for single track, bumpy off road trails, or rocky areas.

MTB VS Road Bike Distance Comfort

Long distance riding is certainly possible on both a mountain bike and a road bike. Mountain bikes aren’t made for long distance riding though and it’s a serious workout. If you want to ride longer distances with more comfort, you should consider a road bike.

Trying to keep up with a road bike on a mountain bike may work for a few minutes, but you’ll soon see the road bike disappear in the distance. Even though mountain bikes offer more comfort in a regular riding position, they won’t feel comfy anymore after 30 miles.

Want to ride long distances with some comfort? Seriously consider a road bike.

Conclusion

Perhaps riding a MTB or road bike isn’t about comfort. I don’t feel much comfort when I ride my local trail on my mountain bike, not do I feel comfortable after riding 80 miles on a road bike. It’s more about the experience, workout, and thrill.

In general when it comes to mountain bikes are more comfortable than road bikes when it comes down to shorter distances and rough terrain. Their wider tires, shock absorption (suspension), and stronger build can handle all sorts of terrain.

Mountain bikes are less suitable for longer distances and if you want a bit of both, consider a gravel bike if you want speed or a hybrid bike that’s fast and tough. Even though they offer a bit of both, neither is a comfortable bike for simple short commutes. It also really depends on what you think is comfortable enough.