Road E-Bike Bike Vs. Mountain E-Bike – Which One Should You Choose?

January 24, 2022

Whether you live in a rural, urban, or semi-urban area, the need to traverse from point A to point B always poses a serious issue.

The mainstream is currently stuck between driving a car or traveling via public transportation - a train or a bus. But, for all of you that wish to “break free” from the mainstream, the solution might be an electric bike.

A quick and easy solution to commuting to work, riding around town, or experiencing a bit of an adrenaline rush, the road e-bike bike vs. mountain e-bike debate seems to be the burning question these days. 

Questions regarding the general safety of these two, their average speed and riding range, load capacity, the strength of the motor, battery life - and many more - are all open for debate.

We decided to try and settle this debate by taking a closer look at the crucial traits and features that make a difference between the classic road and mountain e-bikes. 

So, stay until the end if you wish to learn which one takes the trophy!

Both Are Relative In Speed

Black Bicycle on Green Grass

Hearing about the difference in speed between road and mountain e-bikes seems to be a top priority for many people.

Although they seem like two completely different types of e-bikes, both are relative in speed - averaging approximately 20 mph. But, there are some models that go well beyond that range, nearly doubling it.

It’s vital to point out that both types of e-bikes rely on the same mechanism - a battery-powered motor that offers fast travel with minimal financial consequences. You just need to use the pedal assist, and you’re good to go. 

Coincidentally, in order to find the main differences between the road and the mountain e-bikes, we need to dissect their “similar” features, one by one.

Let’s start with the motor, shall we?

Motor

There’s a famous saying - “You get what you pay for.” That’s how it goes with electric bikes, as well -  if you want a faster, more powerful one, prepare to pay up. 

For most models, the motor power ranges between 250 and 900 watts. Some stick to the lower end of that range, and others push the upper limits; it depends on the model. 

On one side, there’s a common trend that road e-bikes usually use more powerful motors than mountain e-bikes - regardless of the lower-end power margin hovering somewhere around the 250-watt point.

On the other hand, when talking about the lower-end value - the average mountain e-bike has approximately 300 watts integrated into its motor.

Don’t worry, though: 

While mountain e-bikes take this round, road e-bikes will get their fair share of glory - but you’ll need to wait a little bit longer. 

Load Capacity

We apologize to the owners of road e-bikes, but this aspect of their construction heavily favors mountain e-bikes.

As the name suggests, mountain e-bikes are primarily used for riding on rougher terrain, where room for errors shouldn’t exist. Because of that, mountain e-bikes use more robust frames than their counterparts, as it’s necessary to keep the stability between the rider and bike in check at all times.

That’s not to say that road e-bikes don’t have a solid load capacity; an average adult will be able to ride them on most tracks with zero difficulties.

However, with superior frame construction, most mountain e-bikes will support even the largest riders - and easily so. It all depends on your body type.

So, yes, mountain e-bikes take the win here. But, at what cost? 

Well, let’s see the other side of this story - the bike’s weight.

Weight

MTB e-bike tire pressure

Having a robust bike is a definite plus for day-to-day riding. But, when you realize that durable models will always remind you of their heavy weight whenever you lift them, the problems just start to pile up.

First and foremost, it’s pretty difficult to handle an average mountain e-bike - especially if you don’t live in a house. Most people have apartments that are approachable with elevators. But what happens when the elevator isn’t working - or worse, there isn’t one?

Well, depending on how many stairs you’ll have to climb, you might need to consider joining one of your local gyms - or rather, revoking the monthly membership:

These e-bikes, on average, weigh from 40 to 70 pounds, but most commonly, they lean towards the 70-pound mark. 

Pretty heavy, don’t you think?

It’s apparent that lifting and carrying mountain e-bikes forces you to pay a hefty price, especially if it’s an everyday ordeal.

Road e-bikes are much more forgiving - with an average weight of 40 pounds, they won’t pose a serious threat to your back and shoulders once lifted! Some are made to be even lighter. 

With the looming presence of carbon-fiber-based e-bike frames, the weight of e-bikes will, in the future, become lower and lower. Until that happens, we will award points to road e-bikes. 

But we’re not stopping here. The next question is: 

How does the weight of the bike affect the battery?

Battery & Riding Range

As we previously pointed out, both e-bikes use the same mechanisms - combined performance of the electric motor and pedal assist are necessary for maintaining optimal speeds on the road.

But does the weight of the bicycle affect how fast - or slow - the battery will run out? 

The short answer would be - both yes and no.

The longer one? 

Well, the battery’s performance also depends on the rider, the bike, and the terrain. 

Suppose that you own a bulky mountain e-bike and are a heavier person. If that’s the case, your average riding range will be somewhat shorter compared to an average-sized person.

On the other hand, operating a lightweight road e-bike with a standard body size will leave you with more room - or should we say, more miles to conquer before running out of steam.

So, on average, when comparing similar - or nearly identical - batteries, both road and mountain e-bikes offer approximately the same riding range.

When comparing them on the road, a slight gap can be observed when they’re driven by people with different body types.

Most e-bike manufacturers are continuously working on finding the optimal balance between the motor’s power and the battery and nailing the proper weight distribution.

For instance, for the mountain e-bike, we’d recommend that you lean towards the 750W motor models that use a large 48V/14Ah battery that can provide a riding range of more than 37 miles when fully charged.

On the other hand, our advice for the road e-bike segment would have to be a 350W motor with a 36V/10.4Ah Lithium-Ion battery that offers up to 40 miles of riding range.

All of this wouldn’t be possible without a good set of tires, though. So, how about we get right to them - and leave the batteries to charge for the time being?

Tires

Man Standing Near Shore

Most e-bikes are equipped with 16, 20, or 26-inch diameter wheels. 

Now, for most people, knowing only that piece of information will be sufficient enough. But for those that are hungry for more knowledge - we’ll let you in some secrets:

Choosing the most oversized tires won’t offer you a better transient time during your everyday bike commutes. On the contrary, if you expect to drive faster just because you installed bigger, fatter tires, you’ll be utterly disappointed with your e-bike’s performance. 

And you’ll be better off reinstalling the previous ones.

When it comes to e-bikes, regardless of them being road or mountain-specific - they’ll share the same average speed if fitted with the same tire size.

But, if you wish to add some more swiftness to your journeys, we do recommend smaller tires.

Unfortunately, it’s not quite simple to install smaller tires on a new e-bike, regardless of whether it is a mountain or road type.

We highly recommend that you follow the strict rules given by the e-bike manufacturers, as they ran numerous tests before launching them for sale. And they know what works - and what does not.

The moral of this part of the story is that both road and mountain e-bikes don’t particularly fancy any specific tweaking - although we recently had the pleasure of testing Cannondale Neo bikes that leave enough clearance room for such modifications.

So, it seems to depend on the model.

When it comes to tires, the only thing that you need to worry about is this: 

The wider the tires, the more traction you’ll get.

The width of most electric bike tires ranges between 2 to 3 inches. The road e-bikes are mainly manufactured with tires that lean towards the 2-inch mark. On the other hand, mountain e-bikes are mounted with 3-inch tires - or more, venturing into the fat-tire category.

You’ll find that most feature 26-inch rims, as they offer the perfect balance of stability and speed for newcomers. Anything less than that might prove detrimental in situations that require extra attention, such as accelerating upwards of 20 miles per hour.

Full Suspension Or Hardtail?

Let’s wrap things off with a quick side note on the two types of suspensions - the full suspension and the hardtail suspension.

If you want a road e-bike, we highly recommend getting one with a hardtail suspension system, as they are more affordable and require less overall maintenance.

Contrary to them, choosing a full suspension mountain e-bike is always a more superior choice to the hardtail models. 

Why? 

They are much safer for the rider; they provide more stability and fun in more rural places - and they offer a nice bouncy, shock-absorbing feeling when traversing over uneven, rough terrain.

Road E-Bike Bike Vs. Mountain E-Bike - Wrapping Things Up

As you’ve all witnessed, the similarities between these two bicycles are unfathomably close. So, to crown a champion of this epic road e-bike bike vs. mountain e-bike battle, we should take a quick look at the things previously mentioned:

  • Both are relative in speed, averaging between 20 and 40 miles per hour, depending on the components - including the motor and battery.

  • Mountain bikes have more powerful integrated motors, as they are more often used for challenging terrains and uphill rides compared to conventional road e-bikes.

  • Mountain bikes have better load capacity - a direct result of their more robust frames and overall sturdiness.

  • Both types are made to be between 40 and 70 pounds, keeping the road e-bikes around the minimal mark and propelling the mountain e-bikes towards the high-end values.

  • Road e-bikes tend to have narrower tires suitable for high speeds, while mountain bikes usually feature fat tires.

In conclusion, there is no winner - or rather, they are both winners! 

Depending on what you wish to achieve and the type of terrain you want to ride on, buying one or the other is perfectly fine. The choice, as always, is yours.


About the author

Emma was born and raised in the UK, studied in Amsterdam (where she discovered her passion for biking), and is currently living in Ohio. Her main passion is cycling, that's why she is always looking for an amazing new e-bike to make her journey even more unforgettable!

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