Road bikes vs mountain bikes: Understanding the differences

Road bike vs mountain bike
(Image credit: Courtesy)

Amongst the most popular types of bicycles, there is hardly a starker contrast than from road bike to mountain bike. Their frames look completely different, one has fat tyres while the other has skinny ones, the handlebars are vastly different shapes, and… is that suspension?

There are more differences between road bikes and mountain bikes than there are similarities, yet they are two of the most popular styles of bikes. Many riders crossover and ride both (not at the same time), and there are even professional riders who compete in explosive cross-country mountain biking and six-hour road races. In this article, we’re going to dive into the similarities between road bikes and mountain bikes, and why you might choose one over the other.

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Zach is a freelance writer, the head of ZNehr Coaching, and an elite-level rider in road, track, and e-racing. He writes about everything cycling-related, from buyer's guides to product reviews and feature articles to power analyses. After earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Exercise Science at Marian University-Indianapolis, Zach discovered a passion for writing that soon turned into a full-fledged career. In between articles, Zach spends his time working with endurance athletes of all abilities and ages at ZNehr Coaching. After entering the sport at age 17, Zach went on to have a wonderful road racing career that included winning the 2017 Collegiate National Time Trial Championships and a 9th place finish at the 2019 US Pro National Time Trial Championships. Nowadays, Zach spends most of his ride time indoors with NeXT eSport.