Riding a Hardtail on Roads

Hi there -

i want to keep things brief but can go into more detail below:

Is riding a hardtail on road / tarmac - a good experience for someone who doesn’t have much handling confidence?


  • I had a road bike for 3 years -but then badish crash - kind of scared me
  • been on TR inside on a kickr for 2 years now.
  • have moved to Sanata Monica and long to ride the PCH down to malibu to get on some clibs,canyons and moderate off road trails nothing extreme

really looking for a do it all bike - i know many will say gravel, but is a hardtail a more chill experience on tarmac and busy roads.

i have zero desire to be descending quickly or pushing mph in a paceline.

i have fairly decent power and w/kg and am more concerned with hitting good numbers on climbs for outdoor workouts than doing them fast in a KOM sense .

looking for watts not mph

more than anything i want to feel comfortable and safe both on and off road .

thank you so much for any wisdom - i have two road bikes but know precisely zero about MTB

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From a safety perspective I wouldn’t want to ride very knobby tires on pavement but I guess you can really ride anything.

Also know you’re not concerned with speed but I feel much safer when I’m doing 25-35mph on the road on a road bike and cars pass me, vs if I’m crawling up a climb and they pass me then because I’m just going so much slower than traffic. Cars wise it’s usually the slow drivers that cause accidents, not fast ones


I’ll echo the poser above that I would want to switch out knobby tires for something closer to a road tire. Knobbies don’t handle super great on pavement per my experience.

Overall I think it’d be fine. I guess my question is what about the mountain bike do you think will make you feel safer? More upright position? The different hand position? Stronger brakes? Different geometry? Wider tires so you feel more planted? A lot of hard tails are similar in a number of way to city/commuting bikes fwiw

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thansk for your reply!

i was thinking of switching tires for sure …

i have never ridden a hardtail so i was just being curious as to what the ride feel is like on tarmac PLUS as i’d love to to do some off road … i was wondering if this would be superior to a gravel bike …

i find on the road sometimes when trying to push the numbers i want on the flats the speed started to make me more frightened (this is post crash FYI) i was fearless before. So i tended to just try and find climbs whevever possible

A MTB would probably feel more stable than a road bike but they really aren’t designed for that.

Do you want to do singletrack/MTB riding or do you just want to add in some gravel riding?

If the former then a hardtail might work. The biggest thing would be the gearing. You will probably find your self frequently under geared with a hardtail if you have gearing that is appropriate for MTB. Also, on busy roads remember that MTB handlebars are almost twice as wide as the road bike’s. I’ve never heard of anyone’s bar getting clipped but I definitely feel a bit more “in the road” on my MTB than on my road bike.

If the later then I would probably look at either a rigid MTB (less weight and complication from dropping suspension fork) or a gravel bike. I know you said no gravel bike but there are lots of gravel bikes that fall on the MTB end of the road-MTB spectrum so you get the stability of a MTB (longer wheelbase, slacker head tube) but with the multiple hand positions of a road bike.

The biggest things you can do to limit speed would be to get worse at aero. Wear a slightly looser jersey, sit a bit more upright, etc.

Also, I know this is not what you asked but maybe try to speak to a sports psychologist to try to get over the fear. In the end you can crash just as bad going 16 on and MTB as you can going 20 on a road bike. The speed difference won’t be that big but it will ride completely different and could be not as enjoyable. Also, one of the biggest factors that cause a crash is the rider. A confident rider will be safer than a scared rider. So I think the best and safest thing to do would be to try to address the fear itself.


Sitting on a MTB is more upright, which helps some people with confidence. However, as you have already experience on a road bike, I’m not sure it would be the same for you - I think it takes a bit of getting used to to the different position. Also agree with the above regarding speed - I find being faster and more agile on the road feels safer, when I’m on my MTB I feel more like a sitting duck.

The MTB definitively helps with confidence offroad, on trails or rougher ground, and on steeper descents, due to the geometry.

Maybe you can rent one for a day and try it?

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thank you for everything above - really appreciated!

to clarify - i am not opposed to a gravel bike at all … so if you have any suggestions that would be hugely welcome

re hardtail gearing - yes - i definitely have realized i’d need to switch this if pursued this route.

you’re dead right about the mental side - think after a few rides it would be OK - i jsut came off as i got blown into a pot hole by a huge gust of wind… fortunately i went into a ditch not the oncoming traffic … i think the fact i had no real takeaway from it in terms of getting better made it more of a lingering issue in my head.

lastly i think some gravel and some non technical trails would be what i am looking at - DK would be a reference and potnetial future goal

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I know we will discuss more, but “flat bar bikes” are many. Here is a primer on some of the options:

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thanks splash - yes that’s exactly my plan … as to this point i have no idea what riding off road is like and how much i enjoy it !

amazing thank you Chad!

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I did this one time. I wanted to try road riding and decided to ride my hardtail to get a feel for it. That was the last time I did it. It’s not really designed for either aerodynamics or constant pedaling in a seated position and I just felt kind of like a barney doing it. When I got on a road bike for the first time I felt like I would fall over the front bars and get run over by my own bike, but that went away before the ride was over.

edit: nor the gearing you need for the road.

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Yeah the one’s that don’t have actionable takeaways (other than not riding when it’s super windy!) are the worst. And I think it was probably made many times worse by then not riding for multiple years. Then your last memory of riding was crashing and getting hurt.

Not sure if this helps but it doesn’t sound like speed was really a factor in causing your crash and I’m not sure riding a MTB would have really changed much. I’ll ride my hardtail with XC tires on some gravel rides and when I’m on asphalt I can still cruise at around 17-18ish MPH (300W FTP) so not a ton slower than the 20-21MPH on a road bike.


I primarily race MTB, and I train on my MTB on the road.
Watts are watts, I don’t really care how aerodynamic I am or am not on the road since I’m always riding with a specific purpose with a TR Outdoor workout sync’d to my gps, and nearly all my road rides are solo.
What I think matters most is comfort, I regularly do 3-4hr weekend rides on the road on my MTB, doesn’t bother me one bit. In fact, I just got in from doing Antelope on the road on my MTB.

Some points from my experience:

  • use a pair of TOGS which I feel help with finding another couple positions for my hands on the bars since with flat bars you don’t have many options for moving your hands around.
  • Two bottle cages are helpful.
  • If you have suspension, be sure you can lock it out
  • A downhill or enduro bike with DH tires isn’t going to be fun on the road, however a hardtail / light XC bike with appropriate tires is awesome IMO
  • Power meter if it’s in the budget, is also awesome, and worth it if you can for training purposes
  • I notice cross winds way more on the MTB than I do on my rare road bike ride. So that’s something to be aware of while you’re riding and regain your comfort level being on the road.

All that said, the ultimate decision seems to be based on your comfort level and goals. I don’t think, in my experience, that riding a MTB on the road removes you from any of the typical “road” scenarios/crashes that could happen - short of being able to just bunny hop off the road easier if needed lol.


I have one bike, my XC full sus race bike. So I ride that for everything including 3-4 hour (40-60 mile) gravel rides that have a few miles of pavement mixed in. Since they’re XC tires I don’t notice any issues on pavement or gravel. My avg speed is 15-17 mph with max speeds of 30 mph. I like having the MTB for the rougher gravel sections and rolling through pot holes. Also, occasionally if the road is too narrow I’ll need to ride into the grass as I don’t feel great about cars passing me at 65 mph. I think you’d be fine with a hardtail if you wanted to additionally take the bike onto trails. I have no desire to ride road and don’t like the idea of drop bars, so my perspective is biased.


Wayne this is fantastic thanks - yes i do not care about aero or speed just watts. i’d really rather have more watts and lower speed.
to address your points

• will def looks into togs i’d heard them mentioned on a TR podcast
• yes 100% needs those carbs!
• i’d be getting a hardtail for sure or light XC … any suggestions on tires?
• yes 100% power meter i have some garmin vectors (v3) but guess i might want to get a crank arm as MTB pedals most likely better
• thansk for heads up on wind

ALSO - i am really happy to hear you do your workouts on the road on your MTB as that is my goal … hit some long Malibu climbs but on a hardtail and then pop off road to explore a bit should i want to …

if you had any advice on gearing or tires for tarmac / moderate gravel whilst incorporating TR workouts that would be great

and well done on antelope! its always a fun one !

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I’d love to have some nice long climbs to ride, sounds awesome!

I’ve used Vittoria Mezcal and Terreno’s for the past several seasons. I liked the Terreno a lot more for the road, but so far this year I’ve only been using a pair of worn Mezcals. The Mezcals are my favorite tire, I’m in the northeast on rocky/rooty trails primarily, there might be something better suited to your trails not sure. I do notice the rolling resistance on the road when they are new, but once they wear down a bit it’s totally fine. Terreno’s are great.


Another MTB exclusive rider here. I use it for every kind of ride trail/gravel/road on Vittoria Mezcals. Now that I think about it, the magic is in the wide wheels and tires. You’ll be looking for bad pavement either way because you fly over that stuff compared to a curly bar bike. If you’re not too keen on trail riding, a rigid would be cool for a road/gravel bike.

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I’m gonna just say no. A hardtail with road tires is just a flat bar road bike that might have a suspension fork. There is really very little difference today. The frame will probably be heavier too. I find my gravel bike is much friendlier than my HT on roads. Most HTs are 1x setups. This works great for -20% to +20% trails. But on road, where things aren’t as steep, it’s nice to have smaller hops between gears. Honestly though it probably comes down to if you want a suspension fork or not.

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I’ve been using Mezcals for over 2 years and love them on and off road.


Personal opinion, I think you’ll be plenty happy with the HT on the road for your purposes. XC tires work well on the road, but will wear quickly. You can run gravel tires instead if you want. I am sure you can figure out those details.

Everyone else has listed the cons, and I think if you consider those, you’ll be happy.