Mountain Biking vs. Road Biking: The Important Differences

An in-depth guide on the difference between mountain biking vs road biking Mountain Biking vs. Road Biking: The Important Differences

Many people favor mountain bikes. They may have always favored them and may always will. Some people love them so much that they have made careers out of them. They might be more than a bit biased when it comes to choosing a bike for their next ride.

They may not have anything against road biking. They may have tried it more than once and it just might not be their cup of tea. Still, millions of people love road biking, and so many in fact, that it is more popular than mountain biking. So, which one is better and why?

Here are a few of the reasons that people think make mountain biking better. Keep reading though, because there is more after these reasons.

10 Reasons Road Biking Isn’t as Good as Mountain Biking

This first one is rather obvious. There aren’t any cars to harsh your mellow. No more 4,000 pound, loud, steel beasts blowing by you a scant few inches away traveling at a rate of 70 mph.

Mountain biking is actually a healthier choice. If that sounds wrong, see the sentence right before the previous one. Not having to share your ride with a bunch of vehicles that are all emitting CO2 is quite a bit healthier for your lungs. This is especially true when you are in the mountains and surrounded by…

Trees. There isn’t anything else in the world that quite matches the feeling of flying down a mountain trail through a forest with the trees whooshing by. Also, getting into an accident with a tree can hurt an immeasurable amount less than getting into an accident with a car.

Peace and quiet. Trails for mountain bikes typically take you to places that are peaceful and remote. This allows for you to meditate, commune with nature, and just generally enjoy the outdoors. On road biking jaunts, you almost never get opportunities like that, unless you just so happen to live in an area that has a few paved roads that are rarely used. And that is something that just doesn’t seem to happen these days.

Fewer of the type A personalities. Mountain biking is one of those activities that just seems to attract people who are more laid back. When it comes to road biking, it seems like everyone is competitive. Like they can’t seem to stop the hustle and bustle and hurrying from one place to another that is inherent with city life. When you go out on the trails with your mountain biking friends, it seems to all be about good laughs and good times with your friends.

Riding styles are abundant. You can choose from lift – assisted, downhill, endure, freeride, all – mountain, and cross – country. It doesn’t matter who you are or what your riding style is like, there is a style of mountain bike that will suit your personality and your needs. Alternatively, with road riding, there is, um… just riding on the road.

Which one would you think better here – falling on dirt, or falling on pavement? Most people would probably rather fall on the dirt and the little bit of cushion it has that pavement just doesn’t.

The workout on a mountain bike is better than what you get with road biking. Riding on a road will improve your cardio fitness because you will be pedaling at a high intensity for long periods of time. However, the workout you get from mountain biking is much more dynamic. There will be quick bursts and then a period of sustained cardio. This tends to use many more groups of muscles.

Many people say that people who prefer mountain biking are more fun.

Finally, bib shorts. Road bikers might get upset at this reason, but mountain bikers will totally understand.

Now that’s out of the way, let’s break each type down a bit.

Road Biking

When it comes to biking, mountain biking seems to have a steeper learning curve. However, if you know how to ride a bike, you will be able to get on a regular road bike and say that you are a roadie. Additionally, you might be able to lessen your chances of crashing if you ride slowly. Going slow during road biking won’t hinder your safety like it does when you are mountain biking.

However, when you do crash while road biking, it tends to be pretty bad and it isn’t always your fault. You can’t totally assure your safety because you will be riding near other riders and on the road with vehicular traffic.

With road biking, you can take training rides with groups of other people. Sometimes, crashes happen in these too. For example, if you are behind other riders and they come to a sudden stop without warning the people riding behind them, there might not be ample time to brake. This can easily lead to running into a bike in front of you and flying off into traffic. If you are lucky in a situation such as this one, you might scrape by with only a bit of road rash. If you aren’t lucky, well, let’s just say that choosing between mountain and road biking will no longer be an issue.

Mountain Biking

This type of biking involves just the right amount of momentum and speed, coupled with skill if you want to do it safely. As your skill and confidence grows, you will begin to crash less. That being said, when you have the confidence to rocket down a rocky bank at 30 mph and you happen to crash – well, it isn’t a pretty sight.

You have to know what you are and aren’t ready for. A knowledge of local trails is always a good thing too. For example, if you aren’t too familiar with this type of biking yet, you might do okay on a buff single track. You won’t be ready for something that is muddy, rocky, rooty, and totally back country.

As excited as you can get for challenging rides, it is best to proceed with a bit of caution when you are still a novice.

At the same time, even pros can get hurt on bikes. For example, take a look at what happened to Dale Stetina. He was a professional cyclist. He went for a casual road ride one day and was involved in an accident and ended up in serious condition. All he did was swerve to get out of the way of a car that suddenly pulled out right in front of him. Again, he is a former pro, and in the blink of an eye, his future is now uncertain.

As to which activity is the safer one? It is up for debate. On the one hand, mountain biking is chock full of inherent risks, but it can be safe because you are the one who is in control. Other riders and cars don’t interfere with the ride. On the other hand, when you are riding on the road, there is less of a chance for you to crash due to the fact that you don’t need to worry about things like roots, rocks, and other obstacles, but you do have to worry about the people sharing the road with you and the errors that they will make.

Basically, it comes down to what feels right to you when you are in the mood to go for a ride. Regardless of where you are riding, you will still need to be aware of the risks that are involved. You won’t be able to fully control any potential accidents whether you are on the road or on a trail, but what you can control is your fear. You can also be just as prepared as you possibly can be.

Just how Dangerous is Mountain Biking?

A newspaper in Scotland recently reported that A&E doctors in that country are doing an investigation into a recent spike in injuries related to bikes.

Borders General Hospital, which is near a Glentress near Peebles downhill resort, reports that it is dealing with nearly a dozen casualties every weekend that are related to mountain biking. These injuries are ranging from spinal and head injuries to major fractures and serious lacerations. There was one patient, a 45 – year – old male, who actually broke his neck when in a crash, he flew over the handlebars of his bike while riding at Glentress.

 There has been a pattern similar to this at Belford Hospital, which is located near Fort William. Staff there have noticed that they are seeing more injuries related to mountain biking. Because of this, they have hired someone to conduct an audit of activities of this nature.

This article continues and says that people who want to promote safety have been saying that mountain bikers need to wear helmets at the least and they go further by saying that mountain bikers should also have to complete safety training before they are allowed to bike on dangerous terrain. However, it doesn’t mention who these people promoting safety are or even what, exactly, a helmet will do to keep you from breaking your back during a crash.

So, Which is More Dangerous?

Minor injuries are something that you will see quite a bit more of when you are cross country mountain biking. Scraping your legs, bruising your shoulder, going over your handlebars, brushing a tree, possibly even getting a wrist fracture if you are ever in a bad crash. All of these can be related to mountain biking. If your mountain biking includes free riding or downhill biking, you might get a few injuries that are more serious, like breaking your leg or your collar bone. On the other hand, you will also be more likely to be wearing a bit of exoskeleton body armor that can protect you from injuries of this nature.

However, most people will never go faster than 20 mph when they are off road and on the more technical trails. Also, most people don’t go out of their way to ride down the face of a cliff. With that in mind, what is the worst that might happen? Honestly, not too much.

When it comes to major injuries, they come into play with road biking. If you take a bad fall while you are on a road biking trip, you will more than likely be traveling at a minimum of 20 mph and may even be going faster than that. At those speeds and on pavement, the very least you will get is a nice case of road rash and you might even lose a big piece of skin. On the other hand, you might crash into a metal sign or lamp post, a wall, or even a car. There are cases of road biking accidents all the time where someone has died in an accident.

With facts like that, it seems as if road biking is the far more dangerous activity. Again, that doesn’t mean that mountain biking can’t also be dangerous. Either way, you have to make the decision as to which one you prefer – or which one you have more access to. You also have to be sure that anytime you get on a bike – whether road biking or mountain biking – you take the proper safety precautions and always let someone know where you will be going.


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