Can A Mountain Bike Keep Up With A Road Bike?

Whether you want your favorite mountain bike to have the speed of a road bike or you’re worried about lagging behind in the road cycling adventure next week, your primary concern would be how to bring the speed of the mountain bike on a par with a road bike. In-depth research has enabled us to discover a viable solution to the problem which we’re going to share with you in this post.

A mountain bike can keep up with a road bike after making some simple adjustments:

  • Switch your knobby tires with high pressure slicks to reduce the rolling resistance.
  • Lock out your suspension to minimize the loss of momentum through shock absorption.
  • Shifting to clip-less pedals will dramatically increase the stroke efficiency.
  • Lower your handlebars to reduce the air resistance which is a big factor at higher speeds.
  • Be prepared and fit enough for a little extra effort to propel the heavy machine.

The modification is not as laborious as it looks. We’ll elaborate on it all to show how smooth the process is. Keep reading, as we break down the adjustments and the cautions to help make your mountain bike as swift as the road bike.

Choose Slick Tires in Place of the Knobbies 

The most effective tweak is to replace your knobby tires with high pressure slicks. Mountain bikes are manufactured for rough hilly terrain and knobby tires provide the necessary resistance and durability. However, their utility off-road turns into a liability on-road. Knobby tires increase the rolling resistance whereas the slicks are lighter in weight, roll quicker and dramatically increase the speed for the same effort.

You can easily find slick tires that fit with your bike rims. It will work much better if you prefer 1.25”-1.5” slicks. It depends whether you afford it or not, you can have a spare set of wheels or you can put the slick tires on the existing rims. If you’re not hindered by a short budget, it is advisable to purchase a set of spare wheels. This would enable you to have the best of both worlds, simultaneously having speed along with the climbing ability whenever you want. In case, you alternate between roads and trails with the same tires, 2” slicks will give you the perfect freedom of mobility and endurance. 

You must pump your tires near to the maximum capacity. You must see the maximum PSI before inflating them too much. The higher the pressure, the lesser will be the rolling resistance and you’ll find your mountain bike running much faster than before. 

You must look for tougher tires within your budget to avoid the constant worry of puncturing tubes. It is even better to purchase puncture-resistant tubes. Switching to slicks would bring an immediate improvement in speed on road.

And don’t worry, if you are obsessed with the gears or you are ready to go the extra mile to gain more speed, we’ll share with you how to use the spare set of wheels to even better advantage later in the post.

Lock-Out the Suspension

The next important modification to improve the speed is to lock out your suspension or make it as stiff as possible. This will reduce the loss of momentum in shock absorption and enhance the power of your pedal strokes. 

The structural flexibility of a mountain bike is conducive off- road but it is unnecessary on-road as it tends to lose momentum. Locking out or stiffening the suspension reduces the bobbing while you pedal. This considerably boosts the pedal power and hence increases the speed. 

If you plan to spend more time on roads than on trails, switching to a new fix suspension fork can be a better solution to maximize your watts.

Go for Clipless Pedals

You can further boost your mountain bike speed by opting for ‘clipless’ pedals. Clipless pedals are pedals with a locking mechanism and a cleat attachable to your shoes. Your shoes clip into the pedals and provide you with a very solid connection to your bike. This solid connection results in better power transfer and hence increases the speed. 

In conventional pedals, you have to consistently remain in contact with the pedal and you put some sort of force to keep your foot intact. The other leg exerts downward force on the pedal and you have to apply a little pressure on the other pedal while even pulling up.  Practically speaking, your legs are working against each other. Thus the very leg of the rider causes a considerable loss of energy that can be utilized by clipless pedals to increase the speed.

In clipless pedals, you don’t have to worry about keeping the contact. So your sole focus is on exerting the force on the pedals to propel the bike forward. It saves valuable energy and not only increases the stamina of the rider but also maximizes the effort to enhance the speed of the bike. 

Another major benefit of clipless pedals is that while you put downward force on one pedal, you can pull up the other pedal attached to your shoe. This practically doubles the amount of power used to propel the bike forward.

However beware to use clipless pedals after some serious amount of practice as a new user will find it difficult to dis-engage in case of any contingency, especially if you are road-biking in areas where you often have to stop on signals or you might have to find your way through a traffic jam. 

Lower the Handlebars

You can lower the handlebars to reduce the air resistance which becomes a major factor at a higher speed. The upright position that serves the mountain climbs were tackling the air resistance is the least of your concerns. However, it becomes a considerable factor on-road. Lowering the handlebars will position you much better aerodynamically. The crouched position minimizes the air resistance and hence maximizes the force used to speed-up the bike. The lower the resistance, the greater will be the speed.

You can also opt for a drop bar altogether. You must be aware that if you choose dirt drop bars, you’ll need to change both the shifters and brake levers as the original ones won’t work with this. So it is important to plan ahead according to the budget. There are some other alternatives in the market that would be compatible with your brake levers and shifters but they are not exactly the drop bars as in the real thing.

You must necessarily adapt to this position if you’ve always been a mountain biker. The shift from a convenient upright position to a crouched one can be uncomfortable for many. The lowered body position puts a considerable strain on the hands and the neck and it also results in more saddle pressure. The accumulative effect can be way too inconvenient to focus on gaining more speed.

Comfort is the Key Anyway

While aerodynamics has a lot to do with speed, the value of comfort cannot be undermined. The last thing you want while maintaining a decent speed is a sore back, neck and hands that would slow you down ultimately. You should position yourself according to your body-type.

On the contrary, if you are more comfortable in other that crouched position, you’ll definitely be able to put more power to the pedals and gain a consistent higher speed.

Get Ready to Exert a Little Extra Effort

Last but not the least, biker is as important factor in speeding-up as is the bike itself. After all these tweaks, the road bike will still be lighter and potentially faster. The heavier weight of a mountain bike is an asset off-road as it provides durability, safety and endurance but it turns into a liability on-road. Brighter chances are that you love the looks of your mountain bike but you want it to be multi-purpose or not to let you down on the road. So be prepared to exert that little extra effort to keep up your heavy favorite bike with the road bikes.

Now when your bike has been modified to give a tough time to the road bikes, your weight and fitness is the next most important factor in determining the speed of your bike. So if you really want your favorite bike to be as speedy as the road bikes, stay fit and in good shape dude☺ 

Willing to Go the Extra Mile – Try This

You can utilize the biggest advantage of having a spare set of wheels by using a different cassette. This will improve the gearing, making it more suitable for road-biking. Mountain bikes gears aid the steep climbs and trail rides but you need to spin quickly and gain more RPMs on-road. This tweak will considerably increase your speed potential.

You can also try shifting to a larger chainring and it is quite viable now as most of the mountain bikes come with a single chainring now. The larger chainring will make your cadence work more efficient and result in more RPMs, hence boosting your speed to the next level.

If you have a wide handlebar on your mountain bike, you can replace it with a narrower one. A narrow handlebar will reduce your frontal area and hence minimize the air resistance even if you are riding in an upright position. A handlebar with 50-60 cm width works the best on-road.

The negligible adjustments like lowering your head, tucking your elbows, wearing cycling clothes, and aero helmets can help you gain some extra miles per hour.

Be the Fast Road Commuter

So what are you waiting for? Try these modifications on your favorite mountain bike and no road biker will ever cross you. Boost your speed and enjoy the road ride!

Recent Posts