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Road Bikes Vs Mountain Bikes For Weight Loss – 9 Factors

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When it comes to cycling for weight loss, does it make much difference if you are riding a mountain bike or a road bike?

Riding a mountain bike over difficult terrain burns more calories than riding a road bike over a flat road. However, riding the two bikes over similar terrain is likely to burn a similar number of calories at a similar intensity.

There are nine important factors that dictate the difference in calorie burn between riding a mountain bike and a road bike.

I’ll take a look at all nine, and discuss how these factors affect weight loss, and which bike is right for you.

road bikes vs mountain bikes for weight loss

Does the Type of Bike Really Matter for Weight Loss?

Losing weight requires a calorie deficit, which is achieved when your body burns more calories than it consumes.

In other words, whether you’re riding a mountain or a road bike, you’ll still need to maintain a suitable diet with a healthy calorie deficit to lose weight properly.

However, the type of bikes you’re using can impact the intensity and longevity of your workout. This, in turn, affects how many calories you’re burning per session.

So, while you’re going to burn calories in both cases, choosing the right ride for your workout can greatly improve your performance and achieve better results.

Comparing Road Bikes vs Mountain Bikes for Weight Loss – 9 Factors

Now that you know why picking a bike for workouts is critical, here are some aspects that might have a remarkable influence on your choice between road and mountain bikes.

1. Terrain

The first thing you need to consider while choosing a bike is the terrain you’re going to use it on.

In both cases, you’re going to burn calories and engage your cardiovascular system while pedaling.

Road bikes are generally lightweight and optimized for speed since you’re using them on flat roads with little to no bumps.

On the other hand, if you’re planning to ditch speed for intensity and go off-roading with your bike, you might want to go for MTBs.

This comes down to various reasons like:

  • The wide tires provide better contact with the ground, which is essential for riding through hurdles and gravel.
  • They have multiple knobs to extend and retain traction on the road.
  • They’re equipped with a more powerful suspension system to keep you stable through bumpy rides and protect you from bouncing off the road.

2. Calories Burned

Ideally, both road bikes and mountain bikes will work your cardiovascular system and increase your heart rate to burn calories. However, they don’t burn calories at the same rate.

Here’s a simple table that shows you how many calories you burn while cycling at different body weights. (Based on a study by Harvard University)

Body WeightCalories Burned on a Road Bike (Per 30 minutes)Calories Burned on a Mountain Bike (Per 30 minutes)
125 lbs240255
155 lbs288306
185 lbs336357

As you can see, mountain bikes typically burn more calories at the same weight than road cycling at 12 to 13.9 mph speed.

However, according to the same study, road cycling at speeds higher than 14 mph burns more calories.

In other words, at a regular pace, mountain bikes involve more intense cycling and burn more calories.

3. Incline and Endurance

The angle at which you’re riding your bike also has a remarkable impact on your workout. Ideally, you burn more calories riding uphill than riding on flat terrain.

In fact, according to a study, bicycling uphill with a shorter cadence (flow of pedaling) puts more pressure on your lower body and core muscles.

According to a study on the physiology of mountain cycling, you work plenty of muscle groups while riding off-road, including the upper body and core muscles.

Road cycling, on the other hand, focuses heavily on lower body muscles only, which may develop muscle imbalance.

Mountain bikes are built with lower gears. This allows them to ride up steep terrains more efficiently.

You should keep in mind that mountain bikes are heavier, so they’re only more valuable if you ride through an incline range of more than 15% to 20%.

Yet, this shouldn’t be a problem if you’re riding to lose weight because the extra intensity makes up for shorter ride distances.

For more info on how to ‘climb like a pro’, here is a great Youtube video on the GCN channel:

4. Ride Distance

Speaking of ride distance, the longer your rides are, the more suitable a road bike would be for the task.

Riding through rough terrain may not be comfortable for everyone, even if it burns slightly more calories than flat roads.

In that case, cycling on flat terrain with a pedaling cadence that is easier to maintain would be a better fit for you.

The tricky part here is that you’ll need to ride for longer (or faster) to make up the difference, and that’s where road bikes come in handy!

Since they’re lightweight, road bikes are perfect for long-distance rides at moderate and high speeds.

5. Experience and Beginner Friendliness

As you could probably notice, road bikes are generally easier to use than mountain bikes.

For starters, road bikes are lighter in weight, which makes them easy to control and maneuver, even if you have a smaller build.

Additionally, road bike terrains are usually consistent and straight, which makes them easy to ride through.

On the other hand, off-road cycling trails will involve steeper climbs and sharper turns, providing a more challenging experience that needs a competent rider with decent experience and strength.

6. Maintenance

Mountain bikes have more parts than regular road bikes. More parts mean more maintenance and a larger chance for things to break down.

Also, if you ride through mud, dirt, and dust, you’ll need to maintain your bike after every session.

This includes cleaning the bike and lubricating its chains. This can get a bit tedious with time, especially since you have to do it right after the session when you’re already exhausted.

Leaving the bike muddy will allow the dirt to dry up and accumulate between moving parts like the drivetrain and suspensions. Unfortunately, this can severely damage them in the long run.

On the flip side, road bikes are more forgiving when it comes to cleaning. (unless you ride them through a particularly dusty road, of course)

7. Accessibility and Versatility

Both road bikes and mountain bikes are excellent methods to exercise, burn calories, and lose weight. However, they can differ dramatically when it comes to versatility.

As the name suggests, road bikes are built for comfort and speed on flat roads. This makes it a perfect choice if you want to take it for a spin or run errands around town.

The versatility of these bikes is a great factor to consider if you live in urban cities and don’t have easy regular access to mountain trails.

Of course, you won’t burn a lot of calories riding around town, but using the bike throughout the week for various purposes can surprisingly add up to your weight loss goals!

On the other hand, if you live in an area where it gets rainy and slippery all the time, mountain bikes would be a surprisingly good choice for you.

In other words, it takes a toll on you to ride a mountain bike through flat roads, but it takes a toll on your road bike to ride through bumpy terrain.”

8. Overall Costs (Initial and Ongoing)

Another thing to keep in mind while choosing between road and mountain bikes is your budget.

Ideally, both mountain bikes and road bikes are made of the same materials, such as aluminum carbon fiber, or galvanized steel.

However, MTBs require a higher level of intricate engineering and fortification to perform their job.

These extra parts and cumulative design all add up to the final costs, which explains why mountain bikes come at a higher price tag than road bikes.

Additionally, the ongoing costs of maintaining a mountain bike are usually slightly higher than road bikes, since it requires more maintenance.

Yet, mountain bikes typically live longer, so they can be a better long-term investment.

9. Excitement and Risk Balance

Lastly, both road bikes and mountain bikes could be fun in their own ways. For instance, mountain cycling is all about excitement and staying focused throughout the ride.

On the other hand, road cycling is more laid back, but you can still enjoy the scenery if you hit new roads. However, you might need to factor in road traffic rules.

Of course, the choice here all comes down to your personal preferences and how you prefer your workout experience to be.

Final Verdict

Both mountain bikes and road bikes have advantages and drawbacks for weight loss.

Ideally, road bikes are better for flat terrains and long-distance rides. They burn fewer calories but they’re versatile, more accessible, and allow you to ride for longer.

However, if you’re all about high-intensity exercise or you want to improve your overall stamina and endurance while losing weight, you might find mountain bikes a better choice for you.

In both cases, you’ll still need to implement a healthy and balanced diet plan around your workouts to replenish your energy and maintain a calorie deficit for weight loss.