Road Bike vs Mountain Bike for Exercise: Which One is Better?

Cycling is always a good choice if you’re looking for a great workout. However, what model is best for exercise; road bikes or mountain bikes? 

Ultimately, road bikes are best for cardio and endurance, while mountain bikes are best for burning calories and building muscle. 

The bike you choose will depend on your fitness goals; keep reading to find out the pros and cons of each.

Let’s get started.

Key Takeaways

  • Road bikes and mountain bikes are different in their design, weight, handlebars, and terrain suitability.
  • Road bikes are better for cardio and endurance, as they allow for higher speeds and more consistent heart rates on flat surfaces.
  • Mountain bikes are better for burning calories and building muscle, as they require more effort and engage the whole body on rough terrain.
  • Road bikes have the advantages of being lightweight, easy to ride, and efficient, but they can be uncomfortable and are limited to paved roads.
  • Mountain bikes have the advantages of being comfortable, versatile, and challenging, but they are heavy, hard to carry, and may require driving to off-road trails.

What Are the Main Differences Between Road Bikes and Mountain Bikes?

When looking at the road bike vs. mountain bike, the first thing to note would be the differences between the two. Read below to learn more about each bike. 

Road Bikes

The road bike is pretty self-explanatory, as this model is designed for use on paved roads. Riders will use road bikes for commuting, touring, fitness riding, and racing. 

This model typically has low, flat handlebars that curl toward the back of the bike. The low position of the handlebar encourages an aerodynamic position, increasing efficiency (the lower you duck down, the less wind-resistance).

The road bike is also more lightweight than the mountain bike, meaning you’ll reach greater speeds on flat surfaces.  

Ultimately, road bikes are best for paved roads and bike trails; you will need to avoid rough terrain with this model. 

Mountain Bikes

Your typical mountain bike is built for off-road riding and can withstand rough terrain. These models are typically heavier than your average road bike, as most models come with large, high-tread tires, durable wheels, and front or full suspension. 

While the handlebars are still relatively low on mountain bikes, they are higher than on road bikes which means you can ride with a more upright posture. 

Compared to road bikes, mountain bikes have sturdier frames and fat tires to handle bumpy trails. With the right bike, professional riders can easily tackle steep descents and grueling mountain paths. 

Comparing Road Bike vs Mountain Bike For Exercise

When it comes to the road bike vs. mountain bike for exercise, what model is best? Do road bikers have better fitness levels than mountain bikers? 

While each will offer a good workout, keep reading to find out how each bike will challenge you differently. 

By the end of this section, you should have a good idea of what model will best suit your fitness goals. 

For Burning Calories

If your main goal is losing weight, both road biking and mountain biking will be effective ways to burn fat.

While you will likely burn the same amount of calories on road and mountain bikes, you may burn more calories with a mountain bike.

This is because riding a mountain bike typically involves uneven ground, hills, and tough terrain; essentially, you need to put in more effort for this kind of ride. 

For each hour of riding, you will burn 480 to 710 calories road biking and 510 to 754 calories mountain biking, depending on your weight. 

When it comes to burning calories, mountain biking is the better workout. 

To Improve Cardio

A big part of fitness is cardio which refers to exercise that targets your heart. The goal of cardiovascular fitness is to increase your heart rate and keep it in the ideal range where you burn the most fat and calories. 

Cardio can also strengthen blood and heart vessels and lower cholesterol and blood pressure. 

While both bike models will improve your cardio, road bikes offer a better workout in this department. 

When it comes to road biking, you can reach higher speeds since you mostly ride on flat surfaces. Greater speed requires more effort, which then boosts your heart rate.

Furthermore, it is easier to maintain a high heart rate while road cycling since the terrain more or less stays the same. 

To Increase Endurance 

Endurance refers to how long you can exert yourself during a workout and the ability to recover.

When it comes to road vs. mountain bikes for cardiovascular and muscular endurance, which one wins? 

If you want to build endurance, road biking is the way to go. 

Ultimately, HIIT (high-intensity interval training) works the best for building endurance; to do this, you need to ride as hard as you can for 30 seconds. You can eventually build up to five minutes for each interval. 

It may be hard to ride at a consistent pace on off-road trails. Road bike routes are easier for HIIT exercises.

Check out this video for more information on how to start building endurance:

For Muscle Growth

If you want muscle building to be a part of your fitness regime, both bikes offer a good workout. 

When it comes to building leg muscles, both models will be effective. Road and mountain biking targets your glutes, calves, hamstrings, and quads. 

However, unlike road bikes, a mountain bike can offer a full-body workout. 

A mountain bike trail will have steep climbs, rough trails, and sharp turns. When you ride uphill, maneuver your bike on the twisty turns, and maintain your balance, you engage your core muscles and upper body. 

The effort needed to stay on the trail and maintain speed is much more than road biking, leading to higher muscle growth.

Road Bike Pros and Cons for Exercise

While the road bike can offer a great workout and help you lose weight, there are a few things that may affect your decision. 

Read the pros and cons of road bikes below to help you decide if this model is right for you. 

Road Bikes Are Lightweight

The main pro of road bikes is that they have light frames. While you may want to burn more calories, I’m sure you don’t want to achieve that goal simply by lugging a heavy bike around. 

The lack of extra parts like rear suspension contribute to the model’s light weight, so you can simply grab your bike and hop on anytime you want to exercise.

Road Bikes Are Easy to Ride

If you’re new to cycling, road bikes are a great option as they don’t require a high skill level to ride. 

All you have to do is hop on and ride in a relatively straight line. While you will most likely ride uphill at some point, the bike is built for efficiency; it will be easier than you think. 

The Riding Position Is Not Comfortable

One of the main cons of road bikes is that the riding position is uncomfortable, as you have to lean far forward and bend your elbows. 

While this position increases aerodynamics, it will not feel as natural as the upright posture of mountain bikes. (Make sure to try adjusting the seat height to increase comfort.)

There Are Limited Areas to Ride

If you want the ability to exercise in different areas and change up the scenery, this may be hard to do with a road bike. 

Unlike mountain bikes, these models can only ride on flat, paved surfaces. You won’t be able to take your bike on a mountain or forest trail. 

cruiser vs mountain bike

Mountain Bike Pros and Cons for Exercise 

Now let’s get into the pros and cons of mountain bikes. This section will help you further decide if a mountain bike is the best choice for you when it comes to exercising. 

You Can Ride Anywhere

When you have a mountain bike, you can ride anywhere. Roads, trails, gravel, you name it. 

If you want freedom when it comes to riding, mountain bikes are your best bet. You can exercise anywhere with this model. 

Mountain Bikes Are Comfortable to Ride

Another pro of this bike is that it is comfortable to ride. Your body will feel more relaxed as your back and elbows won’t be at an odd angle. 

Furthermore, the handlebars are not as low, making for a more natural riding position. 

You May Have to Travel to Access Off-road Trails

If you want the best fitness challenge with a mountain bike, you’ll need to find some off-road bike paths. 

For some people, such as those living in urban areas, this would mean driving to another location. If you want to work out every day, this could become bothersome. 

Mountain Bikes Have Heavier Frames

Finally, if you have a mountain bike, you’ll quickly notice how much heavier it is than other models like hybrid bikes or road bikes. You’ll have a chance to build muscle just by carrying the bike around!

While more weight equals a sturdier frame, this may not be what you’re looking for. 

A mountain bike is a lot harder to carry around than a road bike, not only because of its heavier frame but wider tires. 

This factor will make it more difficult to grab it and go if you plan to work out every day.


We hope you enjoyed this comparison article of road bikes vs. mountain bikes for exercise. 

Ultimately, both bikes are great for weight loss. However, a mountain bike will offer a full body workout for building muscle, and you may burn more calories. 

Since you can achieve greater speed on a road bike, this model is best for cardio and endurance. 

Be sure to leave a comment and tell us what bike you prefer!

2 thoughts on “Road Bike vs Mountain Bike for Exercise: Which One is Better?”

  1. I think I wooed like to get a mountain bike that way I could ride on trails and burn more fat and build more muscle .Plus can see more than just see more than just street view


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