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  1. #1
    back in the saddle again
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    Commuting with a Hardtail?

    When I go back to school I'm planning to bike commute. I currently only have the Trek at my disposal. Are hardtails OK as commuter bikes? Are there any distinct advantages to using a road bike or hybrid bike instead?

    Wondering if it would be worth it to ship my old road bike out for commute use. It's what I used in the 90's, a Schwinn Traveler. It's mainly been in storage all these years and probably needs lots of work done on it to make it truly road worthy.

    I appreciate the sharing of you wisdom!
    Just a Kitty cruisin' in the Rockies with her Pumpkin (TREK 820)

  2. #2
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    How long is the commute? Mountain bikes make fine commuters once you put some less aggressive tires on there if you are only riding on the street. The only downside I could see is if you have to climb a lot of hills and you cannot lock the suspension to prevent it from bobbing and absorbing your energy.

    I ride 3 to 8 mi (depending on job site assignment) to work on a rigid hybrid with mountain bike geometry and components but has road sized wheels with 700x42 street tires; 42mm is about 1.6". Chainrings are also slightly larger than mountain bike gears.
    Last edited by jseko; 04-09-2011 at 12:39 PM.

  3. #3
    weirdo
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    ^^^ +1
    If you look through the sticky list of peoples` bikes, you`ll see a LOT of hardtail mtbs. They`re great commute beasts for most people. Why don`t you try it on your Trek and see if it works for you? Then if you don`t like it, consider shipping your road bike or trying smoother tires.

  4. #4
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    An MTB that you are comfortable on and like makes a fine commuter. My commuter is a converted mtb. Here in the midwest we get annual spring road break up due to winter freezing of the ground underneath the pavement. Lots of pot holes, cracks and general nastiness. A standard road bike with 90 to 120psi tires will beat the crap out of you on the roads I ride. I run a nice high volume 2.0" pavement tire at about 40psi and they smoothing things out considerably. The only down side to a 26" mtb as a commuter is they are slower. The combination of the 26" wheels as opposed to 700c road wheels and the lower gearing of an mtb make for a lower top end. That and they are usually heavier than a road bike.

    Your call of course. But with some nice pavement tires and maybe a rack for the book bag and such, your hardtail will do just fine.

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  5. #5
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    The gearing and wheels may not matter so much depending on the rider end environment. My gearing is 26/36/48 chainrings and 11-32 cassette. Mountain bikes typically have 22/32/44 chainrings. About 3/4 my riding is done in the middle chainring. The rest is equally divided between the other two.

    If the environment is completely urban and one has to stop every 500 to 1000 ft, getting up to speed from every stop repeatedly on the big chainring just gets exhausting and doesn't provide too much time savings compared to taking it easy on the middle one. In some locations, I have to navigate around 40 ft or 60ft articulated buses, cars, taxis, and pedestrians (jaywalking or running through a red) so trading high speed in favor of acceleration is an asset. Take away my big chainring and I probably won't miss it -- then again I've only been bike commuting about a month or two.
    Last edited by jseko; 04-09-2011 at 11:46 AM.

  6. #6
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    Thanks everyone, this is all good stuff to know!

    My route will be approximately 7 miles taking the direct road route and approximately 9 miles taking the multi-use paths. It will be difficult, I'm sure, to not stop for a few laps at the little BMX track as I pass through it's space The good news is that it doesn't seem like my area is super hilly, and taking the MUP route there will be minimal time dealing with other traffic.

    Depending on what happens with my meet ups this week, I'm going to get out and test ride the commute at a leisurely pace, and do the route once a week from here on out as training.
    Just a Kitty cruisin' in the Rockies with her Pumpkin (TREK 820)

  7. #7
    College Boy
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    It is fine. Just make sure you budget the time for it. While I was a TTU I bike to class fairly often on my bike. Hell half the time it was almost faster than my car as I did not have to find a parking spot and then walk the the good 1/2 mile to class. Instead I just road my bike right up were the building was threw the U-Lock on it and went to class. It was really nice when I would be going opposite side of campus for different classes/meetings. Save a fair amount of time that way.

  8. #8
    Fat-tired Roadie
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    7 miles in the city takes me long enough that I'm happier to be on drop bars.

    With all the stop and go on a commute, though, I don't think a road bike is much more efficient or faster. So, whichever is more comfortable for you.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by AndrwSwitch
    7 miles in the city takes me long enough that I'm happier to be on drop bars.

    With all the stop and go on a commute, though, I don't think a road bike is much more efficient or faster. So, whichever is more comfortable for you.
    My road bike is faster than my commuter bike is faster than my mountain bike on my commute to work.

  10. #10
    Fat-tired Roadie
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    Ever clock yourself?
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  11. #11
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    I used to use a 26 inch Mountain bike as a commuter and it was great but i always wanted it a little faster. Now I use a 29 inch converted to more of a commuter (bigger chain rings and added handle bar pieces) and I'm even happier. I did lose a little acceleration but I like the extra top end speed better. And I can still do trial riding with it for fun when I want to. It will ultimately come down to how you like to ride which one proves better for you.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by AndrwSwitch
    Ever clock yourself?
    Funny you would ask.

    Roadie on Friday.....28.5Km/h
    Commuter today.....25Km/h
    Mountain Tu or Wed last week....19.7Km/h

    It's only a 12K commute for me, mostly on bike paths. I only have to stop a couple times.

  13. #13
    I Ride for Donuts
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    I think it will just boil down to a time difference... my hardtail is comfortable to ride to work, but it does take a little longer than my purpose-built commuter. You can do a lot to an MTB to make it faster on the pavement though...tires are first. I'd say swap the tires out to something skinnier and slicker, and go for it. You could do it faster on a faster bike, but the hardtail will be fine.
    You have no excuse for driving to work
    (unless you don't have studded tires)
    (no excuse for that either)

  14. #14
    Fat-tired Roadie
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    Quote Originally Posted by mrbigisbudgood
    Funny you would ask.

    Roadie on Friday.....28.5Km/h
    Commuter today.....25Km/h
    Mountain Tu or Wed last week....19.7Km/h

    It's only a 12K commute for me, mostly on bike paths. I only have to stop a couple times.
    Wasn't what I asked, exactly.

    The point I was trying to make is that I don't think it effects door-to-door time that much. I don't know if that's your average speed, or your average rolling speed from a computer that stops counting when you're standing around at a light. Either way, though, after 12km road vs. commuter hasn't made a difference of more than maybe 5 minutes. I'm certainly a believer in slicks over knobbies for a pavement commute, though.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  15. #15
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    ^^ Depends on how urban the route is... I know for me (zero stop lights, 1 stop sign that I run every day because there are no cars), bike choice makes a significant difference. I see what you're saying if it's stop/go most of the way anyway though. Lots of variables in city riding.
    You have no excuse for driving to work
    (unless you don't have studded tires)
    (no excuse for that either)

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by firehand10k View Post
    I used to use a 26 inch Mountain bike as a commuter and it was great but i always wanted it a little faster. Now I use a 29 inch converted to more of a commuter (bigger chain rings and added handle bar pieces) and I'm even happier. I did lose a little acceleration but I like the extra top end speed better. And I can still do trial riding with it for fun when I want to. It will ultimately come down to how you like to ride which one proves better for you.
    Firehand 10k, what do you ride?

  17. #17
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    Get a rigid fork for your Trek. You don't need any suspension for a simple commute. It's lighter, no maintenance, costs under 100 bucks and makes your bike less desirable to thieves.

  18. #18
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    On my checklist so far seems to be:
    a) 700cc,
    b) rigid fork,
    c) simple gear system (but not SS)
    d) undecided on handlebars

    Not sure if these criteria can be fulfilled by non-custom-made bike... Or what?

  19. #19
    Fat-tired Roadie
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    Dude. You just described a stock road bike. Hardly custom.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nonjay View Post
    On my checklist so far seems to be:
    a) 700cc,
    b) rigid fork,
    c) simple gear system (but not SS)
    d) undecided on handlebars

    Not sure if these criteria can be fulfilled by non-custom-made bike... Or what?
    Have you considered IGH instead of derailleur gear system?

    My hybrid is similar what you have described for your criteria, but I have 27speed. I use maybe 1/3 those gears, mostly on the middle chainring but the super-low 26-32 ring-cog combo comes in really handy on the climb to work and some of the San Francisco hills that I cannot avoid.

    My tires are 700x42 though, so it is fatter than many road going tires.

    My commute is all stop-and-go so your needs may be different.

  21. #21
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    This is what I commute with. The gearing is 32 X 11X34. Soon to be 34T on a spyderless carbon crank and a gold KMC 10 speed chain. The tires are 1.1" and I run them at 60 psi. I tried to run the max psi, but it was to harsh and seemed to be slower. This set up is fast, fun and it handles like a Ferrari. I also have another wheelset with Racing Ralphs for the dirt.

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  22. #22
    Which way? Uphill.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mountain Cycle Shawn View Post
    This is what I commute with. The gearing is 32 X 11X34. Soon to be 34T on a spyderless carbon crank and a gold KMC 10 speed chain. The tires are 1.1" and I run them at 60 psi. I tried to run the max psi, but it was to harsh and seemed to be slower. This set up is fast, fun and it handles like a Ferrari. I also have another wheelset with Racing Ralphs for the dirt.

    Bling commuter Shawn, though it does need to have the steerer tube trimmed.

    I would be frustrated with the 32T ring on the 1x9 set-up for my commute though, I'd have to go 42 or 44.
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  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by nepbug View Post
    Bling commuter Shawn, though it does need to have the steerer tube trimmed.

    I would be frustrated with the 32T ring on the 1x9 set-up for my commute though, I'd have to go 42 or 44.
    46 for me and I have some 20% grades.

  24. #24
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    I built a hardtail mountain bike for commuting and to use as a backup when my full suspension ride is down. I run Schwable Big Apple's for the commute and it is a blast. I can roll over anything and they corner like a motorcycle. Not quite as fast as my old road bike but don't have to worry about flats like I used to.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Commuting with a Hardtail?-dillinger-1.jpg  


  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by nepbug View Post
    Bling commuter Shawn, though it does need to have the steerer tube trimmed.

    I would be frustrated with the 32T ring on the 1x9 set-up for my commute though, I'd have to go 42 or 44.

    I use it in the mountains also, and the climbs are on the steep side. And, I tend do be a spinner, not a masher. So, this bike is one big compromise, but fun.
    '96 San Andreas
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