A Road Bike is your classic large wheel, drop handlebar bike or Racer if you are a certain age. The wheels are a standard 27” known as 700c and although they may look skinny, are actually very strong and surprisingly not as uncomfortable as they seem. Gears range from one to over 30 depending on the amount of chainrings at the front and the number of sprockets on the rear hub. The main advantage of a road bike over a mountain bike is that it is much easier and more efficient to ride on the road thanks to the larger narrower wheels, specific frame geometry and higher gears. While a mountain bike may be more comfortable to ride, it is not as efficient, so if you are planning on doing more road riding than off road riding then a road bike will suit your needs better.
The term Road Bike covers any bike with a 700c wheel and there are several variations of Road Bikes which you will see categorised:
Singlespeed – a road bike with one gear, the simplest road bike with no gear levers or mechanisms to go wrong but at least they have brakes.
Track – singlespeed bikes used on velodromes, indoor cycling tracks, or enclosed tracks without any brakes
Time trial –specific frames which designed to make the rider more aero and slice through the wind better. Not as comfortable or as easy to control as a typical road bike but faster in the right hands.
Cyclocross – off-road road bikes with wider grippier tyres, lower gears and more space between frame and tyres to allow more mud clearance. Tend to have mountain bike style cantilever brakes although new models feature disc brakes.
A Mountain Bike is an off-road bike with fat tyres, straight handelbars and otherwise known as an ATB or MTB. Wheels tend to be smaller than road bikes, although there are new larger sizes which we will go into later, with much thicker tyres and can take a greater pounding off-road. Frames are smaller and geometry suited to off road riding, gearing is lower and flat wide handlebars give greater control. Suspension on front forks is the norm and some bikes have a suspension shock built into the frame as well. Brakes are usually disc; entry level bikes have cantilever brakes to save costs, which stop better than rim brakes and being away from the tyre are less prone to get clogged up with mud and trail debris.
Mountain bikes are more comfortable to ride than a road bike on the road but are not as efficient so if you are planning on doing more road riding then get a road bike.
There are two types of frames available for mountain bikes:
Hard tail – the frame is a traditional double triangle configuration without any suspension shock on the actual frame
Full suspension or full susser – the rear frame of the bike features a suspension shock which pivots and moves the back triangle up and down to absorb trail bumps.
The traditional wheel size for mountain bikes was 26” but in the last few years two new sizes have emerged 29” (known as 29er) and 27.5” (known as 650b). The larger wheels help the bike roll better but they aren’t as good on very technical trails. Taller riders tend to benefit more from the big wheels but the range of frames available means anyone can try the larger wheels as well as the standard 26”.