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  1. #1
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    Commute via XC bike overkill?

    First I must profess I'm a total newbie, so please forgive my naivete; it is unintentional

    After reading all the road vs mt threads I could find, it seems the general consensus is that the major con of a mountain bike for commuting is its lack of speed due to weight, suspension inefficiency, and knobby tires. A bit more research later, it seems to me that higher end XC bikes can approach the weight of a road bike, and with a front suspension lockout for climbs, it "should" in theory approach the performance of a road bike, especially if the knobbies are swapped out for some road slicks.

    Does a light XC bike with road slicks and suspension lockout represent the best of both worlds? Or am I completely overlooking something?

    My commute is around 10 miles round trip, almost entirely hills on mostly sidewalk/pavement if I go the long way. I'd like to be able to explore some shortcuts as well as ride some trails on the weekends, hence the motivation to look into mountain bikes.

    Thanks in advance,
    Jay

  2. #2
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    my bike has a lockout fork which lets me climb with great speed. bike only weighs about 30 pounds.

    i often ride with my friend who owns a road bike and we race down paved mountain roads.

    he leans forward and is able to maintain 35 mph.
    i have to lean forward and pedal as fast as i can in the highest gear just to keep up.

    conclusion: the tires make the biggest difference to me. the friction!

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by jayz28
    After reading all the road vs mt threads I could find, it seems the general consensus is that the major con of a mountain bike for commuting is its lack of speed due to weight, suspension inefficiency, and knobby tires.
    The major con of an XC mountain bike for use on the road is the poor aerodynamics. The typical wide armed, upright position of a mountain bike causes a lot of extra drag when compared to riding a road bike where you normally have a lower and narrower position. This is really noticeable when you go over 30mph or when riding into a strong headwind. If you're really bothered about speed make sure to wear cycling shorts and top whilst riding too. Loose baggy clothing really hurts your speed. The extra drag from baggy clothing will cost you at least 1 or 2 mph when riding.

    Your choice of tyres makes a big difference too of course. A slick or lightly treaded semi-slick is a lot better than a knobbly offroad tyre on tarmac and worth a few extra mph.

    Within reason I don't think weight is a major decider between the two types of bike. The aerodynamics are more important most of the time. Used on the road a 24lb road bike (for example) is likely to be faster than the same rider would manage on a 19lb mountain bike (for example) because of the lower drag.

    With a modern bike suspension inefficiency isn't really an issue either. If you're used to riding a full suspension mountain bike then you keep your upper body still and consciously smooth out your pedalling style to minimise inputs into the suspension. Depending on the bike and your settings you normally only really end up with bad suspension bob sprinting hard out of the saddle. Compared to a road bike the suspension on a bike such as a Specialized Epic doesn't really give that much away, even when climbing. Working on your seated climbing and acceleration is the key to stopping a FS bike bobbing.

    One major con for using an XC mountain bike for commuting is that mountain bikes are typically more complicated and need more maintenance. If you're considering full suspension in particular the service intervals can be quite short. A simpler bike with less to go wrong is less hassle if you just want to ride it to work without having to service it all the time.

  4. #4
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    It's funny you asked this since just this week, I have been riding my XC race bike into work. No real reason other than it hasn't gotten much love lately. Now here's the real kicker, I think I am faster on it than on my road bike. I was only 1 minute slower on my commute than my fastest time ever on my road bike, and I wasn't pushing too hard either. If I had known when I set out that I had a chance for a new personal best, then I would have pushed harder.

    For the record, my road bike is loaded down with my rack and panniers and I wear a back pack on the mountain bike.

    I don't plan on riding it much to work anyway. It's way too expensive to put commute miles on it!
    "Donuts. Is there anything they can't do?"

  5. #5
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    I've commuted on my XC hardtail several times. I just swapped out the wheelset with another one with narrow slicks. With the slicks and the fork lockout, it seemed pretty efficient on my route - flat roads with the occasional highway overpass. You could probably get a lighter and more efficient (for commuting) front end with a rigid carbon fork.
    Amolan

  6. #6
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    Thanks for the help everyone. I think I'll go ahead and pickup an off brand XC bike in the 20-25 lbs range and swap out the knobbies for some semi-slicks for my commute and just deal with the fact that I'll be a few minutes later

  7. #7
    I Tried Them ALL... Moderator
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    I commute with an XC race bike, which is complete OVERKILL...but I love the way it flies on the road. I run XC race tires, which is the closest thing to road slicks- but can still jump on dirt...in an instant.

    I can easily maintain 26mph on the flats, but my road bike has it beat. The road bike can maintain 35mph without much effort. The XC bike climbs almost telepathically and is supremely suited to smooth singletrack trails.

    "The mind will quit....well before the body does"

  8. #8
    In the rear with the beer
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    I'm thinking you may be onto something. With an xc bike you can find more shortcuts on trails, canals, backyards, etc. With a road bike, you are pretty limited to the streets. Plus, you can probably maneuver a little better if need be when cars are around (ie, jump up onto a sidewalk; how off a curb) if the cars are getting a little dangerous. I commute on my surly LHT with some wide tires to give me a few options (canal paths, etc), that I wouldn't want to take my road bike on.....My mtn bikes are FS, so harder to put a rack onto, so the surly is my compromise. If I had a hardtail mtn bike, I'd probably alternate between the surly and the hardtail just for diversity......
    Salvation Outdoor
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  9. #9
    No-Brakes Cougar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jayz28
    Thanks for the help everyone. I think I'll go ahead and pickup an off brand XC bike in the 20-25 lbs range and swap out the knobbies for some semi-slicks for my commute and just deal with the fact that I'll be a few minutes later
    I always say, if you're more comfortable on a MTB then go with it. Especially if you do plan on hitting some trails along the way! Who cares how much faster a road bike makes you? Is it a commute or a race?
    R.I.P. Ronnie James Dio ~ July 10, 1942 May 16, 2010

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zachariah
    I commute with an XC race bike, which is complete OVERKILL...but I love the way it flies on the road. I run XC race tires, which is the closest thing to road slicks- but can still jump on dirt...in an instant.

    I can easily maintain 26mph on the flats, but my road bike has it beat. The road bike can maintain 35mph without much effort. The XC bike climbs almost telepathically and is supremely suited to smooth singletrack trails.

    Wow! 35 MPH?! The fastest time trial in the Tour de France averaged less than that. I think you need to re-calibrate your speed sensor!
    "Donuts. Is there anything they can't do?"

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by pop_martian
    Wow! 35 MPH?! The fastest time trial in the Tour de France averaged less than that. I think you need to re-calibrate your speed sensor!


  12. #12
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    35 mph....you mean kph,right???

    I use my 25 lb hardtail and have 2 sets of wheels one with slicks.
    It's GREAT for commuting and really fast especially with my spd clips...
    Sometimes i even slap on my aerobars and then I am really close to
    speed of a road bike.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by jayz28
    My commute is around 10 miles round trip, almost entirely hills on mostly sidewalk/pavement if I go the long way. I'd like to be able to explore some shortcuts as well as ride some trails on the weekends, hence the motivation to look into mountain bikes.
    Always ride whatever you are comfortable and will have fun on. 5 miles each way isn't far enough to be worried about how "effcient" or "ideal" the bike is. I ride my "all mountian" bike about that far every day.

  14. #14
    local trails rider
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    Shortcuts. Mmmmm

    Winter riding

  15. #15
    LCI #1853
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    If a feller can only have one bike, a decent hardtail MTB is a good choice. For commuting and utility riding, you'll want to be able to put a cargo rack on the back. Holds your stuff going to and from the office, and when you ride trail on the wekends or whenever, that rack trunk is just right to hold a six-pack of either brew or Dew ;-)

    Fenders make a difference in winter or wet weather riding. Depending on your route and your intentions to be an all-weather rider, these are likely optional. Good lights are a must, front and rear, and good commuting lights will work for moderate trail riding, too.

    I commuted on my XC 29er for the first year, now have gone to a Cross-Check (a little lighter, easier to cheat the wind, and a good multi-purpose all-around town and country bike) but my 29er is still the back-up commuter since there's quite a few places around Little Rock where it's hard to tell the pavement from single track ;-)

    Tom
    Ride a mountain bike... you will not regret it if you live.
    [SIZE="1"](with apologies to Mark Twain & The Taming of the Bicycle)[/SIZE]

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by PscyclePath
    If a feller can only have one bike, a decent hardtail MTB is a good choice. For commuting and utility riding, you'll want to be able to put a cargo rack on the back. Holds your stuff going to and from the office, and when you ride trail on the wekends or whenever, that rack trunk is just right to hold a six-pack of either brew or Dew ;-)

    Fenders make a difference in winter or wet weather riding. Depending on your route and your intentions to be an all-weather rider, these are likely optional. Good lights are a must, front and rear, and good commuting lights will work for moderate trail riding, too.

    I commuted on my XC 29er for the first year, now have gone to a Cross-Check (a little lighter, easier to cheat the wind, and a good multi-purpose all-around town and country bike) but my 29er is still the back-up commuter since there's quite a few places around Little Rock where it's hard to tell the pavement from single track ;-)

    Tom
    I did the same thing.

    I wanted to start commuting as a way to ease back into cycling an 8 year lame spell.

    I started my short commute on a Monocog 29er...simple, beauiful, slow.

    I started wanting a geared 29er as an all-around commuter/fun bike. I came real close to buying a Rockhopper Comp and switching to rigid forks.

    But then.... I started seeing Cross Check threads on various forums. I ordered the complete thinking I would swap out parts down the line.

    So far, I love it as is. It's great commuter for my needs.

  17. #17
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    Ok, Sorry about the long winded non-answer...

    I think a flatbar Cross Check would make a very nice light & fast psuedo-MTB commuter.

  18. #18
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    To the OP...

    this is a debate that has gone on for a long time. The bottom line is, it's up to you. My personal preference is for an MTB commuter. I have a 10 mile commute round trip. The safest route involves some dirt trails and allot of "not very nice" paved sections. None of which are particularly road bike friendly. I've riden a road bike over most of the route and it is actually faster and safer (and shorter) on a mountain bike. And it's a lot easier on the body as well. I use a hard tail with a set of heavily siped road specific 2.0 tires. The bike has a suspension fork with lock out, but I never use it. I've got two pretty good climbs in the "to work" direction and have found that proper pedaling technique pays off more than locking out the fork. Of course it helps that the two climbs are part of the only resonably maintained paved section of the route. I usually average between 15 and 20mph on the paved sections, and about 5mph less in the dirt. The dirt sections aren't very aggressive trails but they are on the rough side and usuitable to a road bike.

    With all that said, my primary focus isn't speed, it's the ride! I love to ride. I'd ride it on a single speed coaster brake cruiser if that's all I had, and still enjoy it.

    The key is, let your route and road conditions, or the way you intend to use the bike, dictate the type of bike. An XC MTB can be an efficient commuter. It won't be as fast or efficient as a road bike on the road. It can't be, it's the nature of the beast. As for maintenance. A ridged mountain bike requires no more maintenance than a road bike, a hardtail requires a bit more as you have the fork to maintain, and a full suspension of course you add the rear suspension into the mix. But it will require no more frequent maintenance than any other bike used to commute. But it will require more frequent maintenance than what you would do if you used it only off road. More miles equals more frequent maintenance for any bike.

    The bottom line is, use what works for you. If you tend to take short cuts that involve dirt road, dirt trails, vacant lots, etc. an MTB will work well. If you stick to reasonably maintained pavement then a road or cross bike is hard to beat. Either way it's fun and good for you.

    Good Dirt
    "I do whatever my Rice Cripsies tell me to!"

  19. #19
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    Interesting thread. I have an 8.5 mile route that involves 6 miles of steep gravel roads and 2.5 miles of hilly state highway. Although my route is actually a small part of a difficult yearly "road race," I find myself getting to work much faster on my XC racing bike than my road bike. The road bike in danger of a popped tire or worse, a crash on the downhills should I push it to keep up with my mountain bike's times (top speed: 39.1mph downhill on gravel, 16mph average).

    Plus I have justified all the bling on it to my family by making it my daily driver

  20. #20
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    Well not to be different

    I currently commute the 7-8 miles on jump bike - Mongose Hardluck! and although i get blown out of the water by some roadies I'm too competitive and thus rarely get over taken or left for dead. by the way its also currently my only bike

    My commute is central london with some stairs foot tunnel etc. I've passed so many people with flats on road tyes that i feel the MTB bike is the only way to go. The roads are horrid state, pot holes etc and the traffic means jumping on off curbs, jumping down stairs etc. Now my commute is really some what of a sprint and hence the jump bike makes it fun and thats all riding is for me.

    So i'm currently in the market for a new bike the salt and general winter weather has really taken its toll. Now being older and slighter wiser I'm looking for a lighter faster ride to work i.e. a XC rig.
    However i really only want one bike and am thus currently can't make up my bind between a stumpy HT or full sus
    The full sus will be wasted and there is more to go wrong! but i like the feel an after testing a few I feel it will in courage me to take my bike out in the country more where it belongs. Also the other point is i'm looking to get a awesome deal on a 2008 FS elite or pay the same for a 2009 HT comp - testing both bikes this weekend. Now my heart says get the full sus has is a great deal and only a little heavier than the HT. but by brain is saying HT all the way. let me know your thoughts???
    Oh an i also plan to get back in the XC race game - purely for fun but something i haven't done for 15 od years since i was at school

    I'm rambling now - its 3am and i can't sleep, my brain is running wild and i have to be at work in 5 hours. so sorry for spelling etc

  21. #21
    No-Brakes Cougar
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    I think I would be more inclined to go with the HT; less maintenance, weight, etc.... but if your heart's really set on the FS then pull the trigger!
    R.I.P. Ronnie James Dio ~ July 10, 1942 May 16, 2010

  22. #22
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    Lovin' this thread - just got a mint condition 2001 Klein Attitude Comp Disc and I'll be using it for a 9 mile commute each way - moderate hills. I also consider this part of my daily exersize regime and actually don't mind a little "extra work" a MTB might require over a road bike.

    QUESTION about tire choice...
    Anyone have favorties that are "good enough" on the road and "good enough" on trails (not mud and things, just hardpack)? How about these from Ritchey?? The Speedmax Beta http://www.ritcheylogic.com/dyn_prodfamily.php?k=98995

  23. #23
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    I would probably go with the Tom Slicks.

    The wider tire might be a more cushy ride, but if I am going to put real miles down (I did 25 yesterday), I might as well go with a narrower tire.

    I am using Tom Slicks and I am satisfied.

  24. #24
    No-Brakes Cougar
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    Michelin Country Rocks always seem to do the job for me. The close together diamond tread pattern makes them fast-rolling, like a slick but I've also taken them off-road and had no traction problems. Probably wouldn't be too hot on an loose, rocky incline but they're definitely "good enough" on hard pack trails.
    R.I.P. Ronnie James Dio ~ July 10, 1942 May 16, 2010

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dirty Tiger
    Ok, Sorry about the long winded non-answer...

    I think a flatbar Cross Check would make a very nice light & fast psuedo-MTB commuter.

    I love flat bars, but I really do appreciate the option of multiple hand positions on my drops. I would opt for bar ends on the flat bar, or something like dirt drops. Just my 2 cents

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