The naked eye might catch only the superficial differences between a road bicycle and a mountain bicycle. And while there are some crossovers, the two are essentially designed to serve entirely different purposes. Here’s how they both stack up.
MOUNTAIN BIKES (MTB)
Try: Raleigh Talus 29 Carbon Elite ($3,000; raleighusa.com)
Bike Types: Cross country, all-day endurance, free-ride biking, downhill biking.
Uses: Made to handle terrain obstacles; typically for unpaved environments.
Terrain: Built for tough trails and roads that contain rocks, logs, branches, and even small boulders.
Tire Size: They vary in size and are thicker and more durable than those used on road bikes.
Frame Size: Frames often correlate with body proportions. A salesperson should be able to determine a rider’s proper size.
Handlebars: Come with flat or riser bars but what you choose has a lot to do with your bike and how you ride it.
Try: Jamis Xenith Endura Elite ($3,200; jamisbikes.com)
Bike Types: Touring, hybrid, utility, roadster, recumbent.
Uses: Designed to go fast on open roads, ideal for fitness enthusiasts and competitive riders.
Terrain: Best on paved roads to reach optimal speed and acceleration. Unlike MTB’s, they have no rear suspension.
Tire Size: Narrow tires meant for riding on smooth surfaces; however mountain bikes might be better for city streets, where the pavement is often uneven.
Frame Size: Lightweight and made of aluminum, carbon fiber, or titanium.
Handlebars: Typically dropped (or curled) to accommodate many speed settings, but there are flat-bar styles as well.