"OutdoorBarren is supported by its readers. Please assume all links are affiliate links. If you purchase something from one of our links we make a small commission from Amazon."

Do Mountain Bike Tires Slow You Down?

do mountain bike tires slow you down

Mountain bikes were designed for off-road cycling and can travel much easier on a variety of surfaces than a road bike ever could.

A lot of riders love how comfortable mountain bikes are, especially since they’re always riding in an upright position. However, unlike those speedy road bikes, mountain bikes are usually slower.

Do mountain bike tires slow a rider down? Yes, mountain bike tires are likely to cause a person to ride slower than the tires used on road bikes. This is because they are thicker so more of the tire’s surface comes in contact with the ground. Thicker tires are slower, but they offer more protection against the bumps and divots to keep the rider comfortable.

Why Are Mountain Bike Tires Slower Than Road Tires?

Mountain bikes were designed to be taken off-road, so they don’t need to be as fast. It’s more important for their tires to be functional than speedy. These thick tires are much heavier than road tires, so that alone will weigh the bike down causing you to ride slower. 

When compared to a road bike, mountain bikes have more rolling resistance. The wider tires contact more of the ground’s surface which causes more friction. This makes it more difficult for the rider to gain speed. The bike is heavier in general, so it does take more energy and effort for the rider to pedal. Riders have to work a lot harder to reach the speed of a road bike.

Since mountain bike tires are designed to go off-road, they’re prepared to hit sharp edges. In order to make sure the tires don’t get damaged during these adventures riders will lower the psi. A lower psi does cause the bike to slow down, but it prevents the tires from getting punctured. 

Sharp edges aren’t the only obstacle that presents itself in off-road biking. Those tires need to be prepared for all of the rocks and roots they’re likely to hit during an off-road adventure.

Since these issues are unavoidable when you go off the road the mountain bike will have suspension in the front and back tires, which causes the rider not to travel as far with each stroke. 

How Much Slower Is A Mountain Bike On The Road?

If you are riding a mountain bike on the road then you are likely to go 15 to 20 % slower than you would on a road bike. That is if the rider is putting in the same amount of effort when pedaling. Most riders notice a change of 2 or 3 mph when they switch to riding with mountain bike tires.

One of the main reasons mountain bikes are so slow on the road is because they have knobs. When you’re riding a bike off-road on the trails grip is incredibly important for your safety. That is why all mountain bike tires have knobs on them. This is great on the trails, but it can massively slow a person down when they’re on the road.

If you want to increase your speed on the road with your mountain bike, then we recommend using hybrid mountain bike tires like these. Kendra city slick mountain tires are designed for increased speed and low rolling resistance to allow for a faster mountain biking experience.

These knobs absorb the rider’s pedal-power when they’re traveling on the road. If they want to keep up with their friends on road bikes they’ll have to work twice as hard.

Another reason mountain bikes are much slower on the road is that the newer models are made with a 1X11 gear system. This gear system is fantastic and a lot lighter for riders when they are on the trails. It’s made switching gears while off-road biking so much easier than past models. However, this gear system isn’t designed for the road.

As great as they are, 11-speed bikes weren’t designed to travel on the road. Although they make riding the trails better, they simply can’t hold speed on the road. The gears on these bikes aren’t high enough to keep up with road bike tires.

What Is A Good Average Speed On A Mountain Bike?

Mountain bikes were made for adventure, not racing. These bikes can go up, down, and all around. When taking mountain bikes on the trails the average speed for singletrack riding is roughly 10 mph (16 kph). When riders are going uphill, they are likely to travel at 8 mph (13 kph). Going downhill, they should ride at 12 mph (19 kph). 

The positions that riders are in plays a part in their average speed too. Mountain bikes were designed so the rider can sit comfortably in an upright position. This is necessary for them to remain balanced and stable as they hit the trails. The aerodynamics of this riding position causes more wind resistance, making it more difficult for the rider to gain speed.

Even professional mountain bike riders don’t aim for speed. In 2015 studies were done that put professional riders from Switzerland to the test. The average speed for a pro cross-country mountain biker is 9 mph. This test was even performed on a more challenging terrain with steeper inclines and tighter turns. 

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

Mountain bikes were designed to travel on a variety of surfaces without any troubles. It is okay to ride a mountain bike on the road, but you will need to give yourself an adequate amount of time to get somewhere. Since mountain bikes are heavier, they are often harder to pedal when taken on the pavement. 

The thicker tires are also a lot slower on the pavement. Road bikes were designed with thinner tires that can easily pick up speed and momentum on the pavement. It takes the rider a lot more effort to reach a good average speed on the pavement. 

However, if you don’t mind going for a leisurely bike ride mountain bikes are perfectly fine on the road. We wouldn’t recommend going to and from work or school on a mountain bike because you likely won’t get there in time. Mountain bike tires weren’t designed to gain speed.

Since the mountain bike is such a cushy ride, many riders don’t mind taking it out on the road just for fun. Even on the road, riders can remain in that upright position they find so comfortable. Just don’t expect to keep up with the speedy riders.

Final Thoughts

Mountain bike tires weren’t made for racing. They were designed to make off-road biking safe and less challenging, so it can be enjoyable for everyone. Since these tires are designed differently than road bike tires, they do slow bikers down. The thicker tires allow for more surface contact. While this makes for a safer ride, it is also slower.

Even though these tires are slower, many riders notice that they offer more protection. The suspension in mountain bikes keeps their bodies comfortable so they don’t feel every bump and turn along the way. Long rides have become a lot more comfortable for them once they switched to mountain bike tires.

As long as the rider isn’t in a rush, they can get anywhere they need because mountain bike tires are also safe on the road. Some riders actually prefer mountain bikes for riding in areas where the roads aren’t well maintained. They no longer feel every pothole and the traction on these tires are great for harsh weather conditions, such as snow and rain.

Outdoor Barren

All of us at Outdoor Barren love the outdoors. We all specialize in different areas to give you the best possible information on each topic. Land, sea, or air, we've got it handled.

Recent Posts