Road Bike Vs Mountain Bike: Which Is Harder?
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Road Bike Vs Mountain Bike: Which Is Harder?

October 26, 2019


– There’s a little bit of friendly rivalry between ourselves and
our mates over at GMBN. Basically we realised that they are absolutely
amazing at riding bikes. So we have to make ourselves
feel a little bit better with the knowledge that
what we do is tougher. – Yeah, well roadies are just basically fitter, aren’t they? Can you imagine a mountain
biker winning something like the Tour de France for example. – There was Cadel Evans actually in 2011. (camera clicks) – Yeah, that is a good point. Well that’s an exception. But can you imagine if a road rider turned up at a mountain bike race, they’d absolutely smash it. – Peter Sagan, he just only finished 35th at the Olympic mountain
bike race last year. – He did puncture three times though, Si. Come on, give him a chance. – Yeah, he did, he punctured three times. We figured then that we’d
probably actually better try and put this one to the test. – But what a place to do it. Here in the beautiful Dolomites
in the Alta Badia region. We’ve got two rides planned, both of which are uploaded
to our Wahoo ELEMNT. We’re starting here on the
climb of the Passo Campolongo just outside Arabba having
had a nice cappuccino. – Yeah, naturally. – Now I’ve got a
35-kilometer route planned. It’s not too long. But it does take in
the climb of the Pordoi and also the Fedaia finishing
by the beautiful lake. – [Si] That’s right. Now I am doing less
than half that distance. However I’m going straight
over that mountain. Probably not to the top. It looks a little inhospitable up there. But I do of course gonna have a belter of descent on the other side. – [Matt] You can’t really
measure difficulty in kilometres. – [Si] No.
– [Matt] Maybe time. – [Si] Yeah.
– So it’s all gonna be about power and heartrate which we’re gonna measure on
our power2max powermeters and also our Wahoo TICKRs. What is harder? Off-road or whatever he
happens to be on right now or Tarmac? And while I’m at it, Si, you’re on a mountain bike wearing Lycra. What is all that about? – It’s allowed. I get special dispensation. – Are you sure? – Yeah. (brakes flick) (rock music) – Come on, Si, keep up! (rock music) – Now you might be wondering
what any of this has got to do with GCN other than
potential bragging rights. The fact is road and off-road are getting close together again. Admittedly most of the
stuff that the GMBN guys do is as far removed from Tarmac
as it’s possible to get. But don’t forget that many,
many modern road bikes are becoming increasingly
versatile with their disc brakes and clearance for big, wide tyres. Actually a lot of adventure bikes use just straight up mountain
bike wheels and tyres anyway to give proper off-road ability. We thought you would genuinely wanna know just how hard is riding off-road. Admittedly we’re putting this to the test on a 29er mountain bike. As we found out recently over
the cobbles of Paris-Roubaix that doesn’t make too much difference. Tell you what, I just feel like we’re making
some slow progress here. I better check actually
to see where Matt is. (funky techno music) – Now the funny thing about
saying which is harder will obviously depend on
how hard you actually try which on a road bike, at
least is where the beauty lies because you can go as easy or
as hard as you like. (pants) But don’t worry. I realise that road
rider’s honour is at stake so I am gonna go hard. (pants) (funky techno music) – [Si] Oh my days. This is one tough climb. Pretty much just standing on the bike. It’s got me at the limit. You can see that the ELEMNT is showing me that I gotta go up there
which looks even harder. Quite frankly you can see how
hard actually at a glance. (pants) Those lights on the side there are linked up to my power zones. Green is threshold. But this being off-road, I’m
quite often having to kick up and see yellow and even red. That is red at sea level of course. This isn’t at sea level. We’re at 2,409 metres. (pants) Ah. (exhales) Defeat. 100 metres from the summit. Stupid artificial snow cannons. – Well I’m nearly at the top of one climb with one climb to go. I can tell you that the
air is pretty thin up here especially to someone like me who’s pretty unaccustomed to the altitude. Just looking on here the
elevation so far 2,058 metres meaning I’ve got about another
160 metres of elevation gain to the top of the Pordoi. I’m nearly there. (funky techno music) (breathes heavily) Okay onto the second and
final climb of the day, the Passo Fedaia. Now I’ve not ridden this one before so I’m not too sure what to expect. But what I do know is that it’s about 7 1/2
kilometres in length, average gradient of 7% which is pretty tough
by anyone’s standards. I’m just gonna keep it in the blue, a nice controlled and steady effort, try to enjoy it as much
as I can. (exhales) Certainly looks beautiful. – (pants) Ah. Leaving aside toughness
for a minute. (pants) That is amazing. Can we see where we’re going? Oh yeah, oh yeah! That’s where we’re going. (triumphant music) (wheels crunch) – Finally at the top of the Passo Fedaia. Time for a coffee. (exhales) – Now I’ll admit at the start of today, I had pretty much assumed that given that we were doing
less than half the distance that I would probably
get to the finish first. But unfortunately I can
see from my live track that Matt is actually already there. On the positive side, though,
hopefully that’ll mean that he has actually got the round in. There is now gonna be a problem though with our whole experiment
because in a few metres I’m probably not gonna pedal again until I get to the finish line. Therefore we’re not
gonna get any power data. But I am still gonna be working hard because although I
don’t have many muscles, what I do have are gonna be
hanging on for dear life. Because riding off-road and
riding down bumpy descents really takes it out of you. I know this is very much mountain biking. You could definitely get
a groad bike down here. But the principal remains
the same even on gravel. That is that vibrations
really, really wear you out which is why riding off-road can definitely be tougher than riding on. The harder the trail, the harder you work. (pyschedelic music) – Si, your cappuccino is nearly cold. It’s just about but– – I had hoped that you’d get me one in. Thanks, mate. – Look, you do look a bit
worn actually, a bit worn out. – Yeah, that was quite hard. – Well let’s cut to the chase. – Yeah. – Let’s see what data you’ve got. – Alright. – I’m interested in what you got there. – Okay, so I’ve been out
for a little over two hours. My average power is just 152 watts which on paper for me
is not very much at all. But I feel like I’ve worked
an awful lot harder than that if I’m completely honest. As you say I look a bit tired. But it has to be said, I’ve
got a big grin on my face. That was good fun. – You look like you’ve had a good time. My stats are very similar to yours. Power is quite low. But when you drill down a bit further, I had two sustained blocks of climbing. Obviously both of the climbs there. I was nudging zones four and
five for about 30 minutes each. Then of course I got the descents as well. – What’s interesting actually is when you look at those graphs of your power data on climbs, it’s quite a smooth effort, isn’t it? Whereas when you contrast it
with what I was having to do, making loads of repeated
efforts well above thresholds. So even though my average
power isn’t that much at all, in order to maintain momentum on that really steep gravel track and dare I say through
a couple of snow drifts, I’m having to work really quite hard. But then I still don’t
think that that power is telling the whole story. It’s my upper body dare I say
that’s probably the most sore. There’s a lot of vibrations
to absorb on that. – Yeah but ultimately, Si, what is harder? I think in terms of kilometres, it has to be riding off-road. You got that additional rolling resistance so consequently you don’t
go quite as fast or as far. But in terms of how hard it is per hour, I’m gonna go back to my original point. I think it’s as hard as you wanna go. – I think you might be right actually. I do think it is as hard as you wanna go. However, I will say that riding off-road does work your body in a different way. – [Matt] I would like to agree with that. – I think perhaps maybe I
need to go to the gym, Matt. – Well we’ve had our say,
but what do you think? What’s harder? Off-road or road? – Yeah, get involved in the
comment section down below. Before getting truly stuck in there, do make sure you have subscribed to GCN. It’s very quick. Just click on the globe. And if you want some more
content, well why not see just how Matt managed
to show the GMBN boys just how to ride a mountain bike using all six months of
your pro-career experience. That one is just down there. – You didn’t have to tell them all that. Or you can click just down here for how to ride a road bike on gravel. – Yeah.
– That was an experience, wasn’t it? – Riding road, off-road. – Oh yeah. Don’t forget to like and share.

Only registered users can comment.

  1. As a rider of both, the key differences are these.
    1) MTB is interval training. You have to make repeated high intensity efforts just to get over the terrain. vs Road surface is linear and you can ease into a sustained effort and hold it at whatever power you like/can. MTB the terrain dictates the level of effort whereas road you dictate the level of effort.
    2) MTB the rough terrain wears out the other muscle groups; arms, neck vs road which mostly is left to the legs and lungs.
    3) MTB is high concentration as every metre has potential dangers and balance points vs Road where you can turn it into a rolling meditation.

    In this example Si did climb a fire trail and not a single track so that gave him a level of linear you would not usually get in MTB.

    I use road to give me a good base and MTB for the lungs and extending my fitness through the interval work.

  2. Good question. Given the absolute ridiculous state of the roads where I live, I can never quite tell if I should count my commute to work as "on road" or "off road" to be honest. Maybe a mix lol.

  3. When will you guys be realistic? Where are your bike locks? No one's going to just leave their bikes to get a coffee – your camera operator probably carried it for you!

  4. Mountain Biking I will soak through all my cloths in 20 Minutes. I can ride 60 miles on the road without ever breaking a sweat. Apples to Oranges… No comparison. May as well race Trail runners against road runners…

  5. I ride a mountain bike through the city. Our city has numerous pot holes, makes it more shock absorbing.

  6. If you are riding in order to improve your fitness then look at it this way. Road biking it is easier to achieve a steady elevated cardiovascular state over a longer period of time. Mountain biking involves more of an interval style of training, meaning higher “bursts” of energy for shorter duration of time. Of course the terrain available and individual effort does make a difference. I also think if you can’t afford one of each it’s a little easier to ride a mountain bike on the road than the other way around. Depends on what your goals are.

  7. i have a mountain bike with narrow on road tyres that I use for mostly on road riding. The mountain bike gear configuration is excellent for traffic and traffic signals and riding conditions generally in a crowded city also. It has front shockers so that helps a lot in making the ride a little comfier. Its just a great combination that works great, for longer rides as well I guess. I find it the ultimate hybrid combination. I ride about 18 km a day, and the most Ive ridden in a day is 39 km. Can anyone tell me how many km a day I should ride if I plan a long tour? For example is setting a 100km limit good, or whats the average most long distance rides set per day?

  8. I can't tell me why some people think that road biking is easy. It's one of the most hardest sport of all. Maybe they think that a gay looking outfit and a bit of pedaling on flat roads is all what it needs, but that's bullshit. I go for road biking and mountain biking and I have my joy and suffering in both. My biggest ride was in the mountains of spain over a distance of 233 km with a road bike, hard uphill climbs and it was a very hot day and all other than easy and boring. It was beautiful and very hard too.

  9. The question I keep asking myself is should I buy both? I plan on riding on trails (paved) but also offroad. Wondering whether a hybrid can do both jobs.

  10. I’m a cyclist mainly a mountain biker, being on the mountain bike has made me a way better Roadie. Mountain biking is harder I think, took me mates on a trail ride and only the faster roadie rider could keep up with me on the climb. Ps I could never drop him on my road bike even on a good day.

  11. I ride both and I feel like it is harder to master control over a road bike, but then again I road MBs for years before recently adding RB into my life.

  12. I love both channels, but I think these guys are more entertaining. I'm American, but i love dry humor…have to actually use your brain for it and you guys are making jokes left and right if you are able to catch it…LMAO all the time.

  13. Road bikes are less stable but way more energy efficient. Technique wise, the only particularly hard part is fast descents and also about consistency of power delivery. You have to have excellent balance for those. However, if you can build up a rhythm, it gets far easier.

    Whereas mountain biking is more about balance and technique. You have to have both to do well. It can get pretty hard. And that inconsistent power point is key. The inconsistency absolutely shreds the body and doesn’t allow a rhythm to build up.

    Transitioning from mountain to road was very hard for me as I just had nowhere close to enough power to climb (because the gearing is much higher on road bikes). I’ve only recently been able to climb anything over a 7-8% sustained gradient .

    Overall, I’d say mountain is very slightly harder if you have sufficiently powerful legs. Otherwise road is far more difficult till you get the strength

  14. This is really unfair because mtb can get really technical and it’s really hard to cycle uphill while bouncing over rocks while road bikes just glide across the tarmac with ease

  15. My old Hot Wheels cars used to roll far further on hardwood vs carpet with similar exerted effort….just saying.

  16. MTB is more HIIT (interval) training while road work is (more) static cardio. HIIT training is proven to build more endurance in a shorter amount of time and also to sustain a higher metabolism (fat burn) for up to 24 hours after a HIIT session. Hard to mountain bike every day but I have roadie friends who ride 20 miles most days. I enjoy both and my opinion is MTB is a KILLER workout. Btw, the video depicts cross country (xc) riding, not trail riding, which is way more intense.

  17. I’m a road biker but I’ve just tried out mountain biking, and it’s actually very easy, it’s slower so I get bored very easily. Road biking is much harder imo.

  18. I think you can‘t realy compare Road and Mountain. It will be hard to race kilometer after kilometer on a road bike but its just as hard to go down realy rough and steep Downhill trails. It‘s just that everyone should do wath‘s fun for him/her and for me thats definitly Downhill Mountainbikeing

  19. Mountain biking is definitely harder I used to ride road races and now I ride downhill races and trust me I am much more tired after a dh (downhill ) race then I was after a road race because in road you just used mainly your leg muscles but in mountain biking u have to use everything

  20. I would probably buy a mountain bike just because all the road at where I live are very trashy and feel like little rocks and similar stuff…Ya see u can still use a mountain bike on roads and using a road bike offroad is a nightmare

  21. Comparing a MTB to a road bike is silly. It's like comparing a wrench to a screwdriver. Just two different tools for different jobs. Ride whatever makes you enjoy the ride.

  22. Alan! Alan! Alan! Alan! Alan! Alan! Alan! Alan! Alan! Alan!….Alan!…..Alan!…………

    …….STEVE!!..Steve! Steve! Steve! Steve!..

  23. Mountain bike is much harder couldn't do 100 miles on a mountain bike I've got a rockhopper and had a Boardman cyclocross with road tyres and rockhopper much harder heavier bigger tyres but you can do more miles in a hour on road bike

  24. Plus my old neighbour had 3 road bikes pinarello included and never lost weight i was mountain biking the same time lost 3 stone in 3 months lol

  25. A serious MTB leg injury took me out of serious mountain biking. Now I do mostly road and… honestly… I desperately miss the thrill of mountain biking. I get the the fitness, stamina, discipline and elegance of road riding. But the full body workout, aggression, motor skills and quick thinking required to do MTB is hard to beat. For people like me, it's just way more fun. Still, I'm grateful to have road riding in my life.

  26. Road bikers are the Elves among riding folks, MTBers are the Dwarves, fitness bike riders, urban bikers etc. are the Men…they suck at riding, not sure where to put track sprinters (trolls maybe), but BMXers are the Hobbits…

  27. Wrongly addressed agenda, in my opinion.

    What you should ask is, "which one is more fun?"

    When you are having fun, everything is part of the fun. However, the answer would still come down to…. "it depends…"

  28. Anyone who's done both know mtb is way more difficult, and fitness is extremely similar on the highest levels of both xc and road. The difference is that most mountain bikers are near alcoholics and have no interest in fitness and mostly do it just for the fun of it.

  29. The fact that the road cyclist finished first, despite the longer distance, tells you something :p

    It is tough, yet rewarding work tho. As somebody who's done both – jogging is harder! lol (at least, it is of a lower reward.)

  30. Why is this a discussion question mark mountain biking is way more intense and more difficult uneven terrain nuances of dealing with the terrain reading the terrain lack of direct traction and on the list goes and that's only climbing

  31. The MountainBiking is harder because you need some muscles (arms and legs) and you have to support the terrain, the vibrations, and your ass need to be ''ShakeProof'' and in my opinion if you have a shitty saddle you fucked up!

  32. Oh Oh Oh… i know the answer. Both are hard in different ways.

    XC riding requires great handling skills and full out power demands for the many hills encountered. It can be very dirty or muddy at times with little chance to relax.

    Road cycling, requires the ability to grind away for long periods of time. Uphills are generally much longer.
    With that being said unless you live in a very hilly area, on the road you can take it easy if you like, were as on most XC trails you must go full on to make the steeps.

  33. I predominantly ride on roads because its a form of transport and you can go on mega adventures more easily. But whenever I hit trails on my mountain bike I can't help but feel that mountain biking is waaaaaay more fun. I also reckon BMX is the most fun of the lot but I've never had a go and am feeling a bit old for getting involved with it.

  34. off road is more harder , because
    you get more shocks and the instability of rhythm plays a negative impact on your cardiovascular system

  35. I think MTB is slightly harder because it has more energy loss, assume it takes the same amount of energy to move the same body the same distance. The bad roads and versatility call for a MTB, but to ride on the road, I’m afraid I won’t get the same rush from the MTB speed. The solution I think, is an electric mountain bike. You get the road bike speed and MTB comfort and if you keep at the upper registry, it’s pretty hard

  36. Mtn biking is harder than road biking hands down. The terrain changes by the foot on mountain biking and at time using all the gears you have. Road is for distances and mountain is for terrain. At the end of the day, it is up to the rider on their enjoyment. Thanks guys!!

  37. Off road full power harder than road yet it's a lot more dangerous. Off road bikes can be ridden on a road not as efficiently. Road bikes can be driven off road only to the first real rock or steep rocky climb unfortunately. If u think about only driving on the road by any means go for road bike, if you recon you might mix it up a bit at some point go for mountain bike or hybrid worse case scenario. It's not just an opinion – it's a fact

  38. I would say MTB is harder, because you need to master a wider variety of techniques and skills and bike control than one needs for road cycling. If you have been a master road cyclist and never been offroad, you are going to be terrible at MTB until you build up those skills.

  39. I Only have one mtb, and I use it for everything. Trails, roads and transporting. In my opinion mtb's are road bikes with suspension and grippy wheels.

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