Bicycle Travel > Gear Talk

Road bike vs mountain bike for touring


I was having a discussion with a bike shop employee the other day on the merits of using a mountain bike vs a road bike for on pavement touring.  If handle bar design and tires were not an issue, I suggested that the road bike's 700c wheel would be more efficient (more miles per work effort) by the end of the day over the mountain bike's 26 inch wheel.  The bike shop individual stated that if you take the mountain bike's crake arm length into consideration, the mountain bike's efficiency would be almost the same.  Is this true.

Theoretically, the larger 700c wheel will be more efficient because it spins slower and the tire probably has a lower rolling resistance.  However, in practice there is no real difference.  It is true that you will need to use a larger gear on the mountain bike in order to go the same speed as the road bike, but you will be putting in a similar effort.  Personally, I find that stock mountain bike gearing is a little too low for me for road touring.

Crank length is an issue, but think of it more as a part of the gearing; a longer crank will effectively lower the gear.  Play around with Sheldon Brown's gearing calculator (, especially the gain ratio part, in order to convince yourself of this.


Thanks Sean.  I will look at the link you suggested.


Maybe you would want to look at mountain bikes with 29 inch wheels before you make a final decision.


Hans Erdman, WEMT
Backcountry Trail Patrol


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