Study: Mountain Bikers are More Efficient, Hardier, and Have More Fun than Road Bikers – On the Road


By Charles Pekow

Cycling West - Cycling Utah Magazine logoWhat can you tell about riders by the kind of bikes they ride? And can this information be useful in planning? A Canadian study looked at the issue. And while the authors acknowledge they haven’t answered all the questions, they found some differences in behavior among Vancouver cyclists depending on whether they rode mountain bikes, hybrids or road bikes around town.

Researchers from the universities of British Columbia and Bologna studied 531 bicyclists using the three different types of cycles. Those using mountain bikes, as a rule, rode more efficiently, faster and comfortably on major roads and rode more year round. Those who rode road bikes scored worse on those criteria, with hybrid riders in the middle.

The study, Appearance & Behavior: Are Cyclist Physical Attributes Reflective of Their Preferences & Habits?, appeared in the July Travel Behaviour & Society ( journal produced by the Hong Kong Society for Transportation Studies. The authors note that they only could document associations, not cause. They also note that local conditions could affect results and cyclists may inflate data about how much they ride.

But the report says that “cyclist physical attributes have been largely excluded from bicycle transportation analysis, limiting consideration of important aspects of physical performance….” In addition to type of vehicle, researchers have generally neglected matters such as clothing, tire type and pressure, and riding position.

Researchers queried cyclists at nine locations in summer 2016 at university, residential, downtown and waterfront bike path areas. They found that mountain bike users “had significantly lower household income than the other two clusters” and were less educated. (The study didn’t examine whether these people were riding mountain bikes on the streets because they couldn’t afford another bike and how many other cyclists also may have owned a mountain bike.) It merely notes that the least-efficient mountain bike riders “are significantly lower-income, likely related to purchase cost differences among bicycle types.” The mountain bike crew tended to report riding more year-round, though all three groups did about the same amount in summer.

Road bike riders reported cycling more for commuting and shopping, but mountain bikers reported riding more for fun. But within all the clusters, amount and type of riding varied widely. In fact, the differences between the three weren’t all that great “and the lack of large differences…could be viewed as a refutation of common cyclist stereotypes,” the report says.


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