How Fast Can You Ride A Mountain Bike On The Road?

Do you only have a mountain bike, and you would like to use it for road riding? The fact that your bike is made for the trails shouldn’t hinder you from hitting the road with it. All the same, how fast can you ride a mountain bike on the road?

The typical speed of a mountain bike on the road is 17 mph (27 kph) on fairly flat roads for experienced riders. In addition, mountain bikes can reach top speeds of up to 30 mph (48 kph) when riding downhill.

Notably, different factors such as riding skills and wind resistance, rolling resistance, and gear ratio affect how fast you can ride a mountain bike on the road.

How fast can you ride a mountain bike on the road? - Cyclist with MTBs ready for a road race

Is It Ok To Ride A Mountain Bike On The Road?

If you only have a mountain bike, you could be wondering whether it is Ok to ride it on the road. Well, even though mountain bikes are best suited for trail riding, you hit the streets with them without much of a problem.

Actually, you may have to ride on the roads before getting to the trails in most cases.

Riding your mountain bike on the road will not cause any damage beyond the normal wear and tear.

Since the road is mostly less rugged than the trails, you won’t have brake so much. Also, your bike’s shocks will experience less abuse on the streets than when riding off-road.

In addition, the drain experiences less strain on the roads. Therefore, riding on the streets actually reduces the rate of wear and tear on various parts of your bike.

However, it is worth noting that mountain bike tires are not meant for the roads. Therefore, they will wear out at a faster rate than they would on the trails.

On the other hand, riding a mountain bike on the street could come with some benefits.

The roads in an ideal neighborhood should be smooth with no potholes or obstacles. Unfortunately, such settings are hard to come across. There are tall curbs, potholes, bumps, and rough edges on most city streets.

Your mountain bike would get over such obstacles smoothly. Therefore, it is ok to ride your bike on the road.

How Fast Can You Ride A Mountain Bike On The Road

When riding a mountain bike on the road, you may not reach the high speeds that are normal with road bikes. All the same, it is good to know how fast you can ride a mountain bike on the road.

Generally, a rider who trains rides regularly can comfortably attain speeds of up to 22 mph on a road bike. However, a mountain bike will achieve about 17 mph on the same ground.

All the same, beginners may find it hard to get past 15 mph. All the same, with regular training, they can get to 12-15 mph after a short period of training.

Therefore, once you get used to cycling on the road, you will attain relatively fast speeds of between 15 – 22 mph.

At the same time, you may need to make some slight modifications to your bike to maximize the bike’s efficiency. Please read on for more information on this.

Can A Mountain Bike Be As Fast As A Road Bike

Can A Mountain Bike Be As Fast As A Road Bike?

So far, we have indirectly answered this question. All the same, let’s face it head-on.

A mountain bike cannot be as fast as a road bike or the paved roads for various reasons. Some of these reasons include:

  • Mountain bikes have knobby tires
  • The shocks absorb a lot of force as you go over obstacles
  • Use of flat pedals
  • Different Gear ratios
  • The upright sitting position creates lots of air resistance

How To Make A Mountain Bike Faster On The Road

As we had earlier mentioned, several modifications can help make your MTB faster on the roads. Some of them include:

1. Swap The Knobby Tires For Slicks

One of the significant tweaks you can make on a mountain bike for road riding is replacing the knobby tires with slicks.

Mountain bike tires are designed for trail riding for shock absorbing and rolling over obstacles. Unfortunately, these tires’ off-road utility becomes a liability once you are on the road.

Wide tires with large treads inflated to low pressure will have high rolling resistance.

You can change to slick road tires such as the Continental Gatorskin Bike Tire to overcome this challengewhich has wear optimized treads and sidewall protection.

Actually, with 1.25” or 1.5” slick tires, you can use the existing pair of mountain bike rims if you can afford another set at the moment.

Once you have the new tires, inflate them near to max capacity. Mostly, you will find the maximum pressure indicated on the walls of the tires.

Notably, slick tires at high pressure reduce the rolling resistance you would otherwise experience with knobby mountain bike tires.

2. Lock Out The Suspension

The other tweak that would bring a remarkable difference in how fast you can ride a mountain bike on the road is locking out the suspension.

As the shocks travel, they lose a lot of force (momentum) required for propulsion. While this travel is necessary when riding on the trails, it becomes a disadvantage on the road.

Actually, stiffening the bike’s suspension reduces the dipping of the shocks as you pedal. As a result, it maximizes the pedal power for higher speed.

Therefore, to make a mountain bike faster on the roads, lockout the suspension or set them as rigid as possible.

3. Lower The Handlebars

The other challenge when riding a mountain bike is air resistance due to the upright riding position. Actually, an increase in speed will definitely lead to a rise in air resistance, thereby slowing you down.

Therefore, to reduce the amount of air resistance, you should lower the handlebars of your mountain bike. This will allow you to assume a more aerodynamic riding position.

On the other hand, you may also change to dirt drop bars that will allow you a assume crouched position that will greatly reduce air resistance.

Alternatively, you can install drop ends such as the Origin8 Drop Ends, (Link to Amazon) which helps turn flat mountain bike flat bars into aerodynamic drop bars. As a result, the bars will serve you on and off the road.

4. Go For Clipless Pedals

Another way you could make a mountain bike faster on the roads is by installing clipless pedals such as the SHIMANO SPD Pedal Clipless Pedals.(Link to Amazon)

Clipless pedals allow your shoes to clip in to provide a solid shoe-pedal connection, leading to better cycling power transfer.

Notably, with conventional pedals, you have to exert some force on the pedal in the recovery phase to maintain contact. As a result, your legs push against each other, causing a significant loss of energy.

However, with clipless pedals, you don’t worry about keeping contact with the pedals in the recovery phase.

All the same, you need some practice, especially on disengaging the pedals, especially if you ride in streets with traffic jams or you have to make sudden stops.

How Much Slower Is A Mountain Bike On The Road

How Much Slower Is A Mountain Bike On The Road?

On average, a mountain bike is 5 to 10 mph slower than a road bike on relatively flat ground. As earlier mentioned, the two bikes are manufactured for different riding styles, which makes them different.

For example, a road bike is light in weight, has slick tires, and utilizes drop bars. In addition, they have a big gear ratio.

On the other hand, a mountain bike is heavy, has knobby tires, flat handlebars, and a smaller gear ratio.

Consequently, a road bike is approximately 10% – 20% faster than a mountain bike on the road at the same effort.

However, with the proposed tweaks in place, a mountain bike will greatly improve its speed depending on how well the rider has trained for speed and endurance.

Can I Turn My Mountain Bike Into A Road Bike?

If the only bike you have is a mountain bike, you can give it some tweaks to make it better for the streets.

The bike won’t be a perfect road bike due to frame geometry, weight, and gear ratio.

However, if you lock out the shocks, install slick tires inflated to high pressure and modify the handlebars, your MTB should be much better on the road than before.

Also Read: Can you put BMX handlebars on a mountain bike?

Final Word

In case you had been wondering whether you can use a mountain bike on paved surfaces, yes you. How fast you can ride a mountain bike on the road depends on modifying it and riding experience or level.

For faster speeds on the road with a mountain bike, you will need to change to slick tires and set the suspension as rigid as possible.

You can also change the gear set to get a road-oriented gear ratio if you can afford it.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much slower is a mountain bike on the road?

When comparing bicycles, it’s common to find that road bicycles have a definitive speed advantage over mountain bikes, often being around 10 to 30% faster. On average, you could say a road bike performs about 15% faster when riding at the same power output on a smooth, paved surface. This hasn’t just been noticed by myself, but it’s a consistent observation shared among cycling enthusiasts and experts in the community.

There are several reasons for this disparity, none of which make one style of bike inherently better than the other. Firstly, a road bike encourages a riding posture more adapted to speed. Secondly, a road bike usually has lower rolling resistance, due to its narrower, smoother tyres. Thirdly, frame geometry plays a big part- road bikes usually have more aggressive (leaning forward) frames, which is more aerodynamic. Fourthly, road bikes usually are lighter than mountain bikes, which makes them easier to accelerate and maintain higher speeds.

Of course, it's always essential to match the bicycle to the conditions and your personal preferences. After all, the 'best' bike is the one that you enjoy riding the most.

Is it OK to ride a mountain bike on road?

You might wonder if using a mountain bike on the road is a good idea. Well, in my experience, that’s an absolute yes. Mountain bikes have a reputation for durability that even road conditions can’t shake. If you were to hit a pothole while maneuvering road traffic, a mountain bike takes it in stride, likely just rolling over it. I’ve had such experiences, and it’s clear that having a mountain bike on the road is a smart choice with regards to the unpredictable nature of road conditions. It might lack the speed and nimbleness of a road bike, but it offers a ruggedness that inspires confidence in the long run.

Is 30 mph fast on a mountain bike?

Regarding speed, 30 mph on a bike is indeed fast. I’ve felt the wind in my face at this speed, and it’s thrilling. Achieving this speed typically requires a helpful downhill slope on a road and would be hard to reach on a flat. From my experience in the hills with a decent downhill and pedaling like mad, I’ve gotten my mountain bike to the upper 20s mph. But sustaining 30 mph on a flat without the aid of gravity is a rare feat.

I've used Strava during my rides, and my max speed usually caps around 25 mph, both on my mountain bike or while on a commuter path. Anything beyond that and it feels like I'm trying to break a land speed record on two wheels!

Is 20 mph on a mountain bike fast?

When we start talking about achieving speeds of 20 mph on a mountain bike, that’s considered a fast clip indeed. I’ve always considered anything in the 20 mph range to be race speed. Not just for myself, but this theory holds true among the cycling community.

Typically, a pleasant ride with children cruises at about 5mph, while a casual stroll on a bridle path is about 10mph. A brisk club riding pace usually hits around 15mph, and 20mph generally falls into the race pace category. If you're pushing 25mph, that's a highly competitive race pace. 30mph and above is what you expect from the top level amateur and pro cyclists. It's always rewarding to test your limits and see what you can achieve!