I will be moving soon because of my work and the new area is not very "mountain bike friendly" as it is very flat and there aren't much hills or mountains around.

So I think of buying a road bike to keep practicing and maybe commuting to work. But I know nothing about road bikes and I have never ridden one before.

What are the main things I should be aware of when buying one that are fundamentaly different from a moutain bike ?

The bike I currently have is a Lapierre Zesty 414 with tubeless tyres. I'm also quite tall (1m95 or 6'4") so I'm wondering if it may cause any problems.

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    There is nothing stopping you putting slick tyres on your MTB and turning it into a Hybrid. It's likely the cheapest option and you are already familiar with your setup. Commented Jul 29, 2015 at 10:51
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    If you've got a moutain bike already, you should tell us a little more about it. If you've got a hardtail with lock-out front suspension, just stick some more suitable tyres on it, but if you've got full suspension with no lock-out you might want something different
    – Chris H
    Commented Jul 29, 2015 at 11:26
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    @ChrisH have edited my post to answer your comment.
    – Tom
    Commented Jul 29, 2015 at 11:34
  • Roughly how far will you be commuting?
    – Pyritie
    Commented Jul 29, 2015 at 12:19
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    Don't overcomplicate it. A road bike is just a bike. The biggest difference will be the geometry and shifting gears. The geometry you'll get used to. The shifting you'll figure out in minutes. Beyond that, you should have no problems going from one bike to another.
    – Mohair
    Commented Jul 29, 2015 at 13:20

6 Answers 6


You will find the differences are significant.

When you say a road bike, we understand a bike with drop handlebars. Drop bars give you a very different riding position compared to an MTB. Some people need time to adjust to the new position, and can have problems with weak or tired neck muscles.

An alternative would be a hybrid style of bike, with flat handlebars. This would be much closer to the riding position you are used to.

The thinner, smaller, slick tires will provide two more differences.

One is much less cushioning, so you'll feel bumps more. The other is they'll be much faster. So you'll ride faster and feel any bumps in the road more.

As a consequence, some people get sore hands or wrists.

The other main difference is how light the bike is. On any medium quality bike (or better) you'll feel like you suddenly got on an F1 bike :-)

When switching to road cycling, make sure you have well padded gloves to absorb road vibration. And the bigger the change in riding position from your MTB, the more gradually you should make the change. Keep the MTB and ride the new bike for a few days, then switch back. If you start feeling sore then give the new bike a break for a day or two.

It may sound like I'm talking road bikes down, but as a road-only cyclist I am keen for you to get the best out of the change. You'll quickly discover that each kind of cycling has it's own different pleasures.

  • I also shifted from MTB to a road bike. Initially I got lower back pains, but eventually got adjusted. But road bikes are really fun and speed is amazing.
    – STEEL
    Commented Jul 9, 2020 at 17:04

There is not much to be aware of. The geometries range a bit between relaxed “training” geometries and more aggressive “racing” geometries. Get what fits you. Above 1000€ they are all solid quality with the main differences being weight and more or less aerodynamic wheels.

If you plan on commuting, a randonneur or cyclocross bike where you can fit fenders, wider tires, a rack and hub dynamo might be a better, more versatile choice.

If it’s flat, windy and mostly overland an aerodynamic time trial/triathlon bike might be an option.

  • Road bike often refers to a racing bike designed mainly for speed, and use drop bars. You might also want to look at hybrids, or flat bar road bikes. Both are a cross between mountain and road bikes.
    – Kim Ryan
    Commented Jul 29, 2015 at 10:18
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    I never quite understood those “fitness” bikes (road bikes with flat bar). Drop bars are great, why would anyone get a road bike with flat bar?! I think they only exist because people are irrationally insecure about switching to drop bars.
    – Michael
    Commented Jul 29, 2015 at 10:27
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    @Michael for urban commuting I'm used to being able to see over cars on a hybrid. Even on the top of drop bars I lose enough height that I can see over far fewer cars, while not being very near the brakes (interrupter levers would of course help with this). For steep hills (which my area has plenty of) a typical road bike might need custom gears, adding to the cost. Some people don't find riding on the hoods for long period very comfortable. That said, starting from a road frame I'd go for drop bars, just fairly high (think touring bike) and interrupter levers, rather than flat bars.
    – Chris H
    Commented Jul 29, 2015 at 11:06
  • +1 for CX bikes, they have more relax geometry, offroad+onroad uses, and good for commuting.
    – azer89
    Commented Jul 29, 2015 at 11:11
  • Another +1 for CX. You can throw on CX tires to go on easy offroad trails, or road tires for more efficient pavement riding. And as you say, usually they accept fenders and racks. I don't want the fastest bike, I want a fast enough one with versatility.
    – jpkotta
    Commented Jul 29, 2015 at 16:51

Road bikes typically:

  1. don't have suspension
  2. are stiffer (frame doesn't flex as much)
  3. are intended for seated high cadence stroking with even power throughout the stroke (vs mountain bikes that expect and withstand very powerful downstrokes while standing)
  4. have higher gearing ratios that allow greater speeds
  5. use thinner tires with higher pressure for less rolling resistance
  6. provide many more hand positions so you can switch frequently to avoid fatigue and numbness
  7. have a much more forward facing position to reduce wind resistance

The consequences of these design decisions are many. For instance, due to 1, 2, and 5 you'll find that when on very flat surfaces you can go very fast with very little (relative) effort. However, this also means that on even good roads you'll feel road vibration and every single bump.

Due to 7 you'll be putting a lot more pressure on your hands as they support more of your upper body. This puts you in a position to provide powerful strokes without having to stand up, but means you may have to deal with more hand issues - which is one reason road bikes typically have 6. On the standard drop bars there are at least four positions which put pressure on your hands and wrists differently, and switching between them while riding will be important.

Number 3 above means that if you consistently use a standing position, or prefer to stand to accelerate away from stops, you may eventually place too much stress on parts of the frame, including the bottom bracket. If you change to a road frame, you will really need to practice pedaling faster in lieu of pedaling stronger. The frames are simply not designed for strong standing stroking techniques, and the larger you are the more destructive those techniques are to the frame. Shift down to a slower gear when you're about to stop, and get up to a cadence of 90 before shifting to a faster gear.

You might instead want to consider a hybrid bike, such as a touring bike. Alternately, many people simply put tires with no tread pattern, or a light road pattern on their mountain bikes. It would be much less expensive, but you may find that you quickly reach the highest gearing and want to go faster than the mountain bike is designed for. This is certainly much less expensive to try out, though, and provides a transition time to determine what your needs really are after you move.


After I made the same switch, I found I needed to check the tire pressure much more frequently, otherwise I'd get "pinch flats" all the time. Find the recommended pressure on the side of the tire and inflate to that every day you ride. Because of this, you'll need a pump with a gauge. But I'm happy I switched!

  • Yes, 23mm wide tires lose pressure very fast. After 2 or 3 days I’m down from 8.5bar to 7bar. So I usually re-inflate every second day or so.
    – Michael
    Commented Jul 29, 2015 at 21:55

Get a cyclo-cross bicycle. I recently got one and:

  • have hydraulic disk brakes
  • have RD clutch
  • am nearly as fast as a roadie
  • control in the hoods of the 44cm handlebars feels close to a cross-country MTB
  • do trail riding on it, including rock gardens
  • drop 1 meter with it (as much as my timidity allows on an MTB)
  • is equipped with the new Shimano GRX 2x10
  • costs 800EUR
  • re-inflate the tires every 2 weeks
  • have fallen multiple times with it and the damage is superficial.

What are the main things I should be aware of when buying one that are fundamentaly different from a moutain bike ?

The main thing to be aware is that road bikers are obsessed with not only light weight like mountain bikers are, but also about aerodynamics.

Thus, you will find stupid "aerodynamic" wheels with less than 36 spokes in many road bikes. Needless to say, you should stay away from such stupid wheels. Most reasonable-spoked (36-spoke per wheel) bikes are not marketed as "road bikes" but rather as "gravel bikes" or similar.

You will also find that the stock tires are very likely extremely unreasonable 23mm ones, despite the fact that 23mm tires give worse rolling resistance than say 28mm or 32mm tires. This is because of the fact that many racing cyclists ride at such high speeds that the most important consideration is not rolling resistance but rather aerodynamics. Many road bikes cannot be fitted with >23mm tires. If you're lucky, 25mm might fit both front and rear. If you're very lucky, 28mm might fit both front and rear but then you will not have any reasonable tire clearance for mud etc. For non-racing speeds, 28mm and 32mm are far better than 23mm and 25mm.

You will also find that the handlebars cannot be raised to a reasonable height with the stock stem, unless you purchase a needlessly large bike, and if you purchase a needlessly large bike, the handlebars can perhaps be moved to a reasonable height but are too far away from the saddle and bottom bracket.

The obsession with light weight has gone so far that many road bike components are not durable despite the fact that with high-pressure narrow tires and no suspension, the components receive far higher loads than mountain bike components do. Thus, plenty of them fail early and often. This is exacerbated by over-using foolish materials like carbon fiber.

The chainstays are often very short, so if you're tall and pedal uphills sitting on the saddle, the front wheel rises from the ground. Such short chainstays are marketed as "light weight" and "quick handling". Reasonable chainstay lengths cannot be found usually on bikes called "road bikes".

You will also find that road bikes have wobbly brake levers, because of many buyers with $$$ feeling a need to be able to shift without moving hands. Thus, reasonable shift levers like bar-end shifters have gone nearly extinct. It will take some amount of time to get used to such wobbly brake levers, if coming from a mountain bike background where such wobbly brake levers are not used.

You will find that tire pressures are far higher. In fact with 23mm and 25mm tires you need so much pressure that any mini pump with reasonable design takes hundreds of strokes to fill the tire. A mini pump with larger stroke volume would require unacceptably large hand force. My solution to this is Quickex Quicker Pro pump that pumps on both in and outstrokes, but you can't find such pumps for sale anymore because the CO2 filling systems killed their market share.

The chainwheels are larger, but then again on road that's a necessity. On road bikes, the small chainwheel is typically the same size as the large chainwheel on MTBs -- too small for anything except uphills.

Many "road" clipless pedal attachment systems do not allow walking on the shoes, so stopping at a grocery store to buy something to drink is out of the question -- but then again, if you afford $4000 carbon fiber road bike you obviously cannot afford $2 drink at a grocery store and have to carry a water bottle with you (fortunately, nobody weighs water bottles so its added weight does not matter). Thus, you'll want to stay with MTB-style SPD systems even on a road bike.

Don't buy a road bike. Buy a reasonable bike. Some time ago, such reasonable bikes were most easily found by the name "touring bike" (although such bikes often had too low bottom bracket), and nearly reasonable bikes could be found by the name "cyclocross bike" (although such bikes often had too low handlebars). Today, the hot word for reasonable bikes seems to be "gravel bike".

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    This answer doesn't just use strongly negative and subjective language ("stupid wheels"? Really?), it makes statements that are downright wrong: 23mm tires give worse rolling resistance than say 28mm or 32mm tires 25 mm tires seem to be the actual tires for lowest rolling resistance, but that's an extremely tire-specific characteristic. handlebars cannot be raised to a reasonable height Again - not true as that depends on the frame geometry and how you have the bike set up. I have a Ridley Fenix - full pro-level race frameset - set up with just about a fully-upright posture. Commented Jul 12, 2020 at 16:56
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    (cont) Many road bikes cannot be fitted with >23mm tires That probably stopped being true about 1995 or so. Just about every road bike now can take 28s or larger - even ones aimed at top-end racing. chainstays are often very short So don't get a racing frame. reasonable shift levers like bar-end shifters So only if you have to take hands off the bars and thereby lose the ability to brake and steer while shifting is "reasonable"? Many "road" clipless pedal attachment systems do not allow walking on the shoes What? You CAN walk even in old-style all-metal Speedplays. Commented Jul 12, 2020 at 17:03
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    This is more of an elitist, close-minded, smug, "MY way of bicycling is best!" rant than it is a useful answer. There are some valid points here, but they are buried by the condescending attitude and the many downright WRONG claims. Commented Jul 12, 2020 at 17:06

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