How much faster is a road bike than a MTB on the road?

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How much faster is a road bike than a MTB on the road?

Postby a900ss » Thu Mar 11, 2010 11:45 am


I’ve recently taken up cycling in an effort to get fit and lose weight. At the turn of the year, I weighed in at over 17 stone; I’m now over 2 stone lighter through diet and exercise.

I bought a mountain bike and currently just ride on the road whilst I am building my fitness up, the plans is to go off-road when I think I am ready. I know that my fitness is improving as when I first started riding, I rode 2 local circuits in 1 hr 20. I now ride 3 circuits in 1 hr 25 (each circuit is just under 6 miles).

I’m considering cycling to work to get extra mileage in and am considering buying a road bike for the commute. How much faster is a road bike versus a mountain bike for the same rider (10%, 20%, 50%???). I know average speeds will always vary by rider and terrain but surely the speed increase for any given rider should be relative.

Another option maybe to fit slicks to my MTB but then when I do go off road I will need to mess about changing tyres each time, so that puts me off slightly.

Thoughts most welcome.

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Postby CiB » Thu Mar 11, 2010 11:51 am

Loads faster, and more comfortable. Finger in air guesstimate is 15-20%.

Do it anyway even if it's only 3%. You'll be pleased at yourself when you do and wonder what took you so long. Save the wondering and buy a road bike tomorrow, or this afternoon.

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Postby Evil Laugh » Thu Mar 11, 2010 11:54 am

Hehe, I would guess at 20% too.

Why not go and try one out and see what you think.

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Postby ExeterSimon » Thu Mar 11, 2010 12:04 pm one.

I bought the Trek as nothing more than a training aid to my MTBing. And the result is a leaner, quicker, fitter and faster off-road rider.
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Postby Gypsum_Fantastic » Thu Mar 11, 2010 12:12 pm

How do and congrats on the weight loss

I have recently both added slicks to a MTB commuter and bought a road bike, everyones experiences will be different but mine are detailed below I hope they help.

When adding slicks (michelin country rocks £8 a pop at CRC) to my MTB I was able to trim a good 5 minutes off my 20 (ish) minute commute to work without really trying I was well chuffed with this.

When I bought my road bike my average speeds went from 12s and 13s up to around 16 mph the difference was amazing compared to my commuter. I also found that my average mph was higher on some of the longer distance rides I was doing 15-16 mph on a 50 mile route where as if I'd attempted the same route on my commuter the average would be way down.

Give both a whirl, you'll be going faster and further in no time

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Postby Stevo 666 » Thu Mar 11, 2010 12:31 pm

Apart from the bikes involved, how much faster will depend on quite a few factors like type of roads, length of commute, hilliness etc. Would dispute the point above about comfort - my full suss MTB with fat tyres is much more comfortable than my (hybrid) road bike with no suspension and relatively skinny tyres...

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Postby jimmurray » Thu Mar 11, 2010 13:10 pm

20 - 25% difference in moving average speed on my commute between hard tail MTB with knobblies and my racing bike.

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Postby daveydave43 » Thu Mar 11, 2010 13:17 pm

Consensus here, road bike will be faster.
Ok the point about comfort, i think was that a road bike is more comfortable over a longer distance as the weight is spread out over saddle and bar rather than just the saddle on the MTB.
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Postby blackhands » Thu Mar 11, 2010 13:38 pm

Why a road bike - if you are doing it for fitness/weight loss why not just buy another pair of MTB wheels with narrow slicks and pump them up hard. Also if you don't have them fit a set of bar-ends.

I used to do 15 miles each way every day into the City on a MTB with slicks and bar ends and had no trouble keeping up with roadies - and I was in my mid 50's.

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Postby blorg » Thu Mar 11, 2010 16:34 pm

Road bike will not only be faster but as daveydave says more comfortable over longer distances and will likely encourage you to do more on the road. Hand positions are more/better and the balance between bars and pedals is also better. I've done long road distance (100km) on my hardtail when it has been snowy/icy and my back and hands ended up pretty sore by the end of it.

To be honest the aerodynamic and comfort issues are the greater issue than the tyres; my cross bike with Racing Ralphs is a lot closer to my road bike than my MTB (same tyres.) The position on a MTB is just horrible from an aero point of view, doesn't matter one jot off road but certainly does on it.

Off road is great fun but far more spikey in terms of effort; it is probably easier to lose weight road cycling and indeed all serious mountain bikers get their base from training on road bikes.

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Postby pmd » Thu Mar 11, 2010 16:51 pm

take it from someone who knows... the aero benefits of a crouched riding position @ 15mph for 20mins are miniscule compared to the gains you would get from slick tires on a mountain bike in less rotational inertia and rolling resistance.

This isn't to say that the road bike isn't going to be faster. It defintely will, but it won't be because of the aero benefits of a different riding position (which equally apply on and off road... same air after all).

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Postby blorg » Thu Mar 11, 2010 17:08 pm

As you go faster the aero position will benefit you more than the tyres; with the position also comes comfort over distance. This is not to say that the tyres won't make a difference as they certainly will; I use a Tricross for commuting and it was much improved when I swapped out the knobblies for slicks. But position is at least as important even at moderate speeds (and more so as you go faster.)

Off road you need the position and handlebar width for the added manoeuvrability and speeds are lower so aero is not so critical. Air resistance increases by the square of velocity while rolling resistance is linear.

As you are not yet riding the bike offroad anyway though why not get a pair of slicks and pump them up to a good high pressure. It is a cheap fix, will transform the bike and you can revisit the question of whether to buy a road bike (answer: yes you should) when you start having to swap the tyres to go off road.

Also, lock out your fork if you can.
Last edited by blorg on Thu Mar 11, 2010 17:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby bice » Thu Mar 11, 2010 17:35 pm

You're in Gloucester so a road bike would probably be a great commuter. I still like using my flat bar (actually a 531 steel women's light tourer), with panniers etc and the ride position is better for London really. Also, I can leave it anywhere and it hasn't been nicked.

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Postby Stevo 666 » Thu Mar 11, 2010 21:16 pm

If your commute involves a fair bit of stop start then the aero benefits will not be that great. As said above, tyres will make a bigger difference.

PS: a road bike may be easier on your wrists over long distances but it certainly isn't easier on your ar$e - that's why MTB'ers (usually) don't need padded shorts or chamois cream :)

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Postby flyer » Thu Mar 11, 2010 21:30 pm

I was in your position a few years ago and bought my first bike for 20 years,

I lost 4 stone and all of it by riding a mountain bike, and after loosing the weight I bought a Road bike.

I would say I can do an average of 17mph on the road but only about 13-14mph on the Rockhopper.

The mountain bike will shed the pounds more, but you will enjoy the road bike for its speed and fast cadence.


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Postby acidstrato » Thu Mar 11, 2010 22:40 pm

dont see many pro road teams riding MTB do you

realistically it wont be alot quicker, but it will be quicker
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Postby kettrinboy » Fri Mar 12, 2010 08:16 am

yep agree with others about tyres, changing from knobblies to slicks will make the single biggest difference also MTB cassette ratios are very widely spaced ie 11-32 on my MTB ,so not ideal for the road as compared to 11-23 on my road bike, i can tell you exactly how much faster a road bike is as ive done the same 15 mile loop on both as an experiment ,MTB ave speed was 16.3 mph and road bike was 21.0 mph trying hard on both, road bike weight 16.5 lb and used the drops nearly all the way, MTB weight 27 lb and using knobblies which really drag on the road, so about 5mph difference on ave speed then

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Postby Dunedin397 » Fri Mar 12, 2010 16:09 pm

I've a flat 10 mile each way commute and at this time of year I'm using my slick tired mtb with bar ends, it takes about 34 minutes. On my other rigid mtb with tri-bars it takes about 31-21 minutes, but I have done it in 29:50. On my road bike, again with tri-bars, it takes about 28-29 minutes,

So the differences are position, tyres, weight and gearing.

My mtb has 2 sets of wheels, 1 set with slicks and the other with knobblies. As long as you swap regularly and renew the chain on a regular basis, you shouldn't have problems.


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Postby spikey135 » Fri Mar 12, 2010 19:28 pm

Pretty new my self to the change over from MTB to road, from my experience so far road bike will be a lot quicker, i believe this is more to do with the fact i have clip in pedals, something i would not have considered on the mtb off road.Oh and skinny tyres must pay a part. :)

Not sure how relevant if any, but that is my impression so far, i can not take the :) of my face with the added speed i can obtain on the road.

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Postby Radioactiveman » Fri Mar 12, 2010 19:44 pm

If you have the spare cash a road bike will be faster for sure but you will feel the rough roads more,even on carbon.

Second choice would be a spare set of wheels with narrow roadie type tyres

Third choice would be change the tyres as required but its a pain in the ars*, been there done it and bought a road bike instead.

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