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In March 2012 I purchased a Cannondale Synapse Alloy 6 road bike. I put around 2100 miles on it during the year. This year I'd like to do a bit more mountain biking, but not any real hard-core mountain biking. It will be for trail use and light off-road riding. The area where I live, NW Ohio, doesn't have a large number of off-road riding trails. The more I test ride some of the bikes in my LBS, the more I wonder if I would enjoy riding one of these for road use as well (30 - 50 miles at at time). It got me wondering how many people use their mountain bikes for road riding as well as off-road riding, and why?

FWIW, I'm looking to get a 29er, probably a Cannondale of some sort.

Thanks very much.

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Is the question here how many people use their MTBs on pavement? Or what bike should I get if I'm going to use my MTB on the pavement? –  zenbike Feb 3 '13 at 4:10
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Oh, Lord!! Don't ever use a mountain bike for road biking. It will lead to the end of the universe as we know it! (IOW, a bike is a bike. What's the issue?) –  Daniel R Hicks Feb 6 '13 at 12:09
    
@DanielRHicks Although I agree with you, a bike is just a bike, there seems to be way too many people riding mountain bikes exclusively on the road. Also, most department stores seem to sell exclusively mountain bikes, or at best, hybrids. I think people would enjoy biking a lot more if they had a road bike, even a cheap one, because they are so much more efficient. –  Kibbee Feb 6 '13 at 13:55
    
@Kibbee - Department stores sell bikes for sex (though kiddie style sex, for those who don't know what sex is). In that context how well a bike rides or how appropriate it is for the rider in not important -- it's how it looks on the showroom floor. (And this is even true to an extent in "legitimate" bike shops, where bikes are set up with the handlebars too low, et al, because that looks "meaner".) –  Daniel R Hicks Feb 6 '13 at 16:16
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closed as not constructive by Neil Fein, Benzo, Unsliced, freiheit Feb 6 '13 at 13:47

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4 Answers

I would say it depends on the bike. About ten years ago I was riding a cross-country MTB with rather slim tires (1.95" I think) and it was fun also on paved roads, even with knobby tires. Its handling wasn't comparable with a road bike but it was okay to ride on roads also for some longer rides. Now I ride a more all-mountain like bike with fatter and quite knobby tires and compared to the other bike it feels like you are pushing all your energy into the rolling resistance of the tires when biking on paved ground.

On both bikes I wouldn't go on 30-50 mile road rides if I could avoid it. As you say you have rather light terrain in your area, if you maybe choose a bike with rather cross-country like geometry, suspension lockout and rather "fast" tires (maybe semi-slicks) you could be OK with it. From my personal opinion it is OK to go on such along ride with a MTB if you have to get from A to B and have no other bike at hand, but I wouldn't go on such a long road trip for fun or if I had a more appropriate bike at hand.

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10 years ago 1.95" was pretty standard fro a MTB...... –  mattnz Feb 3 '13 at 4:24
    
@mattnz yes it was, 2.1 was already considered heavy freeride stuff ;-) but compared to todays tire sizes it was slim. –  Benedikt Bauer Feb 3 '13 at 10:24
    
1.95" is still standard for normal, consumer mountain bikes. –  Kaz Oct 4 '13 at 3:58
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Part of this is going to depend on what you consider to be a mountain bike and what types of trails you are looking to ride. You said you you plan on mostly using it for trail use and light off-road riding so I would say take a look at some of the hybrid bikes out there and see if they might not meet your needs better than a true mountain bike.

I've put about 2,800 miles on a Trek Dual Sport sport over the last 5 months with about 1/4 of that on the road, 1/4 on gravel trails/roads (some of it quite rough) and the rest on paved bike paths. So far I have had no problems with 30 to 50 mile rides on any of those different surface types. Some of the most fun rides I take are actually longish (60-100 mile) rides with a mixture of paved roads, gravel trails and bike paths.

I know many of them won't do this, but once you've narrowed your choice down to a couple bikes will your LBS let you take them each on an extended (90-120 minute) test ride? If so take a nice long ride on pavement and you'll have the best answer possible.

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In my experience, the majority of hardtail mountain bikes and short travel full suspensions are used both on and off road. Only the truly specialty machines, whose riders have multiple bikes will be only used off road.

It's anecdotal, but out of my friends and MTB cycling acquaintances, if you have multiple bikes, you generally have a hardtail, which is used for commuting, casual neighborhood use and light trail use, a fully which is your primary off road bike, and a road bike which is used for sport road riding.

If you only have one bike, you use it for everything, to include commuting/neighborhood use.

If you do not identify as a "cyclist", and yet ride a bike with any regularity, it is likely a basic mountain bike, and it is likely used primarily on the road and in the neighborhood, because there is the perception that mountain bikes are stronger, safer, more stable, more comfortable, and have better traction. People use mountain bikes on pavement because they have them, because it is convenient, and because they are comfortable. But mostly, because that is what they have, and most people don't see a need for more than one bike.

Even hard core roadies tend to have a casual use bike which, if it's not a mountain bike, is a hybrid based on designs evolved from converted mountain bikes.

It is a rare cyclist who only ever uses their bikes exactly as the designer intended them to be used.

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The standard route I take for commuting has only few asphalt kms, most of it is gravel or worse. A road bike wouldn't be as suitable (fun, enduring, ...), even though it is not a problem to use one for this route.

Personally, I would never consider a road bike because I like the versatility of biking. In summertime, I might change the route to one that leads through the woods, in the wintertime, my standard route can require spike tires. Somehow, using spikes, to me, corresponds with using a MTB and not a road bike.

IMHO, if you want to bike on roads only, a road bike is OK. In all other cases you will end up with a non-road bike. I cannot imagine a biker who would stop riding a MTB because she's on a road, whereas most road bikers would rarely use their bike off road. Hence, this "sort of" answers the quantitative part of your question: the percentage of MTBers using their bike on a road is higher that the percentage of road bikers using their bike off road :D

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