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  1. #1
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    Road vs. MTB Commute

    At what distance (of a commute) would you say that it is better to have a dedicated road bike as opposed to a mountain bike with slicks. I haven't ridden a road bike since the mid 80's and wonder how much different my 14-25 mile commute would really be (14-25 mile round trip daily).

    It is very hilly, actually, the entire 7 mile trip in the morning is two huge downhills and two huge uphills (no flats at all). It is bearable on a mountain bike with 1.5 slicks right now, but you always wonder how much faster or easier it would be. The elevation changes are about 375 feet (top of mountain vs. valleys) at least according to my GPS. Any input is appreciated. (Note: The afternoon trip is much longer because of meeting with customers - estimates).

  2. #2
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    I commute 31 miles (total) almost daily with mtb and knobby tyres on asphalt - I don't think how I could make it easier, I just love how much it helps me getting ready for an endurance race in september. I have also commuted with a road bike for much smaller distance but I enjoy my mtb more.

    I haven't calculated my tyre costs on the long run anyway...

  3. #3
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    Good question ...

    I've wondered this myself and am debating between making my old MTB a commuter or getting a new bike that is more slanted towards road riding as my commuter.

    My commute is about 18 miles round trip - I have done it only three times on my old hardtail mountain bike, with knobby tires. I plan to do it on my race oriented road bike the next chance I get (I just got back from vacation and am currently sick).

    I'll let you know how it goes.

  4. #4
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    I don't calculate distance into....

    my decission on the type of bike. I use the road surface conditions to determine which type of bike to use. Most of my commuter bike choices have been mountain bikes. The reason being I live in the midwest and road break up is a fact of life. It's a continuous and never ending cycle of spring break up and repair! While modern road bikes are strong and will take a pretty good beating, I've found them to be less than ideal both in the areas of comfort and durability for the daily pounding that the roads around here can dish out. Also "normal" man made obsticals, rail road crossings etc., can cause real problems on a road bike. I've seen some pretty nasty crashes involving road bikes and rail road crossings, and I have two multi track crossings to negotiate on my route. I've tried it with both mtb and road bikes and found the mtb to be more comfortable and safer, though a tad slower, but only by about 3 to 5 minutes.

    So if you have good roads and want to, go for it. A road bike is certainly more efficient and faster on the road than an mtb, and they are fun to ride. I certainly would if my route didn't include wheel eating pot holes, several sections of dirt shoulder roads (ever get pushed off onto a soft rutted dirt shoulder on a road bike, ouch!), and a couple of dirt path sections that I like to take now and then to beak things up a bit. Keep an eye on your road conditions as you ride. If they're good and you think a road bike would work for you. See if you can borrow one or rent one for a day or two and try it. If it works for you it's a simple decission from there. Some bike shops even have demo bikes that they'll let you try out for a day, you may want to look into that as well.

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

  5. #5
    LCI #1853
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    Good job!

    Like Squash said, it's not so much the distance as it is the kind of roads you'll be riding on, and whether you need to be able to carry/haul stuff along with you (e.g., racks, panniers, backpacks, etc.) I've been using my 29er as my commuter over the past year since I can clip 2 miles off the route by taking a section of partly graveled doubletrack through the back side of the industrial park and also avoid the morning traffic around the magnet elementary school around the corner. I've gotten a city/commuter bike with 700Cx38 tires to make the cargo business a lot easier while still handling the mixed roads, but still use the MTB in sloppier weather when I need the big wheels and flotation.

    For the average city streets, a good-fitting MTB is hard to beat because those wheels & gears will pretty well get you where you need to go. A hardtail is a little more efficient pedaling on-street, and makes it easier to add racks to put the weight of your stuff on the bike, and not on your back. Invest in a set of slick road tires (much easier for a traditional 26" MTB than it is for a 29er) to reduce rolling resistance on the pave' and you're pretty well set.

    Tom

  6. #6
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    My commute to my previous work place was a 'on road only' affair (and was a very short commute). Most days I would ride my SS road/track bike, but on occasion I'd also use my MTB with knoblies and my 20 speed roadie.

    Usual time on the SS bike was 5-7min depending if I had clear traffic light or not.
    Suprisingly, it too pretty much the same time with my MTB and Roadie.

    The biggest difference though was the effort I had to put in. Ranked from hard to easy: MTB, SS, Road bike. There was a big jump from the MTB to the other two, and only a small percieved difference with the SS and Road bike.

    I would say a road bike would be better for you if you find that your commute is too tiring. Although I think buying a roadie just for commuting is a bit much. A flat-bar road bike (or fitness bike) that can take 700x28 tyres, rack and fenders would be a good choice if you wanted to go down this route.

  7. #7
    Viva Las Peli Taco
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    I built my commuter as I wanted to have something that I am familiar with (geometry, riding position, and handling). I commute 18 miles round trip. It is is extreemly easy since the bike is running narrow semi-slicks.

    On my Turner Flux I just commuted 20 miles to a favorite trail, rode the trail for another 20 miles, and then 20 miles back home. Was it a whipping? Hell yea, but it will only get easier with repitition.

    So, how far is to far? and Which is better? Those are questions only you can deceide.

  8. #8
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    After trying out commuting for the first time during "ride your bike to work week" in May I decided to make it a full time thing. I've made the trip twice, once on my full suspension, and once on my hardtail SS. Both have MTB tires on it, and both took about 25 min to do 6.5 miles each way. I knew I wanted to do a SS since it's more reliable, but I didn't really want to use my hardtail SS MTB for commuting because I love using it on the trails to much and didn't want wear down the MTB tires or keep swapping to slicks. I finally come to the conclusion of just buying a bike strictly for commuting. I went with the Redline 925 because it was a steel framed SS road bike made solely for commuting (came with fenders, rack mounts, and comfortable bull horn handle bars as well). It cost me under $500, and if it only saves me 3-5 mins it is totally worth it to me. Plus since it's steel it doesn't beat the hell out of me like aluminum road bikes do (or so I've heard). The moral of the story, if your serious about commuting and hate wasting even a second in the morning like me, spending the money for a road commuter bike is worth it (if the trip isn't to rough for a road bike that is). By the end of summer I'll had spend that in gas anyway.

  9. #9
    56-year-old teenager
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    I recently bought a Surly Long Haul Trucker to replace my old rigid MTB for commuting. The single biggest difference is comfort - the Surly's geometry fits my body better than the short top tube MTB. No matter what kind of bars I put on the MTB, it was never comfortable.

    I highly recommend the Long Haul Trucker as a commute bike!
    Work is the curse of the biking classes.

  10. #10
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    Get A Fixie !!

  11. #11
    More than a little slow
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    I'm about 12 miles (22km) from work. I use both SS mtb and a touring bike (Trek 520). The commute time is pretty much the same for both bikes. I like Squash's reply, makes sense to me.
    Cheers, Dave

  12. #12
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    For me it comes down to speed and effort. I have a short six mile commute each way. If the lights work with me I can do it in 15 minutes on my road bike while really pushing. If I really push on my hardtail with slicks it takes about 17 minutes and on my FS it takes 23 minutes (but I have 2.2 knobbies on it).

    However, in the same 17 minutes it takes on my hardtail really working hard I can sit on my road bike and spin at a lower gear with little real effort. So it's easier and more relaxing on my road bike.

    For that reason (and the weight of lugging my bike up and down the stairs at home) I ride my road bike most days. It is also nice to be able to hit one of the MUTs on the way home and tack on 20-40 miles of mid-week riding a couple days a week. I rarely get out on dirt during the week because even the boring rides are 40 minutes away by car with traffic.

  13. #13
    Which way? Uphill.
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    I've been doing 29 miles round trip for a while now. Last year, I was on a 26 pound road bike, this year a 36 pound rigid mountain bike running 1.9 semi-slicks.

    I've seen an approximate 10% hit in commuting time with the switch to a MTB. I switched because I had 26" studded tires already.

    One thing I encountered in the switch and you might as well if you have hills, I ran out of gears on some downhills. Of course I only had a 42x14 as top gear, I've since gone to a 52x14 top gear.
    Blog

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    Just keep moving forward.

  14. #14
    I Tried Them ALL... Moderator
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    I prefer the on/offroad capabilities of a mtb. Like someone else here previously mentioned, a mtb can tackle any unexpected changes in terrain instantly. My daily commuter is a 20-lb hardtail XC race bike, and IT FLIES on the road. Even with 1.75" race knobbies- I can easily keep up with the fastest roadies.....and still jump on the dirt(while they cannot!). Spend a few extra bux to lighten-up your mtb(bars, saddle, crankset, tires).....and it will be an absolute joy to ride on the road....or off!!!

  15. #15
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    I love my hardtail with 2.0 Big Apples. Not trail worthy without a tire change, but like a tank compared to road bikes, and with clipless pedals, I have no trouble keeping pace with the roadies.

  16. #16
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    What Squash said...unless your commute is ALL smooth black top, you're better off with a MTB. Especially a hardtail, rigid one, equipped with rack and fenders. I do it on my SS MTB. I like the more upright, heads up presentation better for dealing with traffic, the ride is plusher and more buckling road/pothole proof, and you're better prepared for sewer grates, expansion joints, railroad ties, unexpected curb jumps, animals darting out in front of you, etc etc all of which can throw a high strung, skinny tired roady. The MTB is just a more stable platform. Besides...why would you want to make the ride in quicker time? You're going to work, aren't you

  17. #17
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    My commute is about 10 miles one way. I tried it with a FS mountain bike and several kinds of road bikes. I have some steep short hills, a long steady hill and a few miles of flats. The mountain bike takes me about 5-10 minutes longer out of a 30-50 minute commute which is pretty significant if you think about it. My hands go numb and my ass hurts on my mountain bike after 5 miles of constant riding in the same position. My commuting road bike with it's Brooks leather saddle and multiple viable hand positions is alot more comfortable over a long distance. On windy days it's nice to go into the drops. When I'm in busy traffic I like that I can still ride on the top of the drops and get the same position a MTB or hybrid would give you. Going downhill it's nice to go into the drops and drop into 53x12 and try to pass cars going 45mph. This is much funner to me than jumping curbs which was fun when I was 10.

    This kinda thread seems to come up alot in commuter forums. I generally think mountain bikes for the road are dumb. If I had a really short commute(1-5 miles) I'd ride a proper city bike with completely upright geometry like an old Raleigh 3-speed or modern Dutch bikes. Anything over 5 miles on any road and I think a cyclocross or touring bike are the best for commuting.

    I don't know why people think road bikes are so uncontrollable and dangerous on anything but perfect streets. Are you kidding me? Maybe you guys are confused thinking that all road bikes are like TT bikes or racing bikes. Road bikes is a very board category. A cross bike is basically a full rigid 29er with drop bars. A proper touring bike will be way more stable than any mountain bike could ever dream of being. Potholes sneaking up on you? I know all the various permutations of my route so well I could probably do them blind. It's like a trail you ride everyday....you learn every single quirk. I mean unless you're riding through a war-zone I don't understand how bad the roads are to require a freaking mountain bike with suspension to ride on.

    But hey, plenty of people drive hummers/land rovers/jeeps on 24 inch rims with 40 series tires on the highway so there must be something to driving completely overkill off road vehicles with road tires on roads.

    Even with 1.75" race knobbies- I can easily keep up with the fastest roadies
    You remind me of every full size truck that revs on me and tries to race me when I'm driving my sti.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by fishercat
    Get A Fixie !!
    What he said.

    It's faster, and put some 25's on and you can go on any terrain. Think cyclocross...

    I ride 36 miles round trip. I've done on my MTB just for grins, but my road and fixie are more enjoyable for "city" riding.

  19. #19
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    Thanks

    Wow, you all bring up a lot of good points. It doesn't seem that the trip would be significantly faster with a road bike, at least not enough to justify what I would have to spend to get a good one (maybe I was subconsciously trying to find a justification to buy a shiny new bike - very possible). It may be a little easier up hills, which was mostly what I was thinking of because I have a physical labor job (climbing trees and pruning them) which tires me out pretty much by the end of the day. The afternoon hills on the way home seem even steeper if it was a tough day.

    As for the condition of the road, before I started commuting, I threw a rigid fork on my Trek 8000. I left the suspension seatpost (a thudbuster ST) on there and told myself that I would trade it out for a lighter weight seatpost after the first few rides. After commuting every day this week, there is NO way I will ever take the Thudbuster off my bike. I would say that 1/4 of the roads are newly paved, 5/8 the roads have various potholes (not terribly deep ones), and 1/8 of the roads are under construction (scraped and ready to pave). Oh, and there are plenty of sewer grates and one huge railroad crossing (that the tires must be perpendicular to in order to cross safely). Even now I pretty much know every area where the potholes are.

    Right now I am running Bontrager slicks 1.5 (I think they are satellites?). It is not a bad trip and by the end of the week I was running it decently. I guess I'll keep the Mtn bike for the commuter for now. The comfort factor is not bad on this bike. On the positive side, it gives me a chance to ride one of my favorite bikes (or many chances).

    ************************************************** ********************************

    Do you all run the same commuters in the winter (with the snow and salt on the street)? I was thinking of fixing up a SS beater and putting studded tires on for the winter (thinking ahead).

    ************************************************** *********************************

  20. #20
    M_S
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    I think the difference is minimal. I mean, if you brought your mtb to a road race you'd get dropped in nothing flat, but here's what I've noticed on my 15 mile one way commute (hilly too, if it matters).

    I've been using my cyclocross bike, but with many different tire combos, dependent mainly on whether I remembered to put the slicks back on/what type of riding I was doing over the weekend.

    With 23mm slicks my cruising speed is 2mph or so faster than with 700x35 cross tires.

    The slowest combo I've used is a Panaracer fire cross 700 x 45 front (aggressive knobs) and a 38 mm cross tire in back.

    The 28mm tires are only ever so slightly slower than the 23s.

    So for commuting, perhaps efficiency is overrated a bit. reliability is not overrated, however.

    My commute time ranges from 50 minutes to 1 hour, assuming no mechanicals. Stoplights, it seems, play a larger role than what tire I'm using.

    The main argument against using knobbies is that they wear out quickly on pavement, something I do not wish to do with expensive tires. My personal recommendation would be to get something slick or semi-slick in a volume you're comfortable with and that is on the bulletproof end of things. I'll go with a tire that means leaving 5 minutes earlier to get to work on time than a faster tire that's more likely to flat.

  21. #21
    Mud lover
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    I've just relegated my 1992 Marin Palisades to commute duties. Just got some semi-slicks for it. Notice the difference already.

    Now if only I could loosen the damn stuck seatpost to get it to the correct height!

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by fishercat
    Get A Fixie !!
    For sure, a bicycle with a single gear and no ability to freewheel on the long downhill sections mentioned by the OP is clearly going to make a long commute seem shorter...

    Seriously, just pump your tyres up nice and hard if you've not already and enjoy the ride.

  23. #23
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    Mtb

    I prefer my Mt bike for commuting although if I had a fixie I think I might like it also. I'm sure I could ride faster with my road bike but because of stop lights and obstacles I find that my MTB is better. I change less flats as well. I have 1.5 performance slicks that I put on if I'm racing but for commuting I find that a 2.1 Nanoraptor ro 2.0 python work great. They are relatively cheap and I can still avg. 17 - 20 MPH with stop lights. My commute is 20 miles round trip.

  24. #24
    M_S
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    Quote Originally Posted by gdunha
    for commuting I find that a 2.1 Nanoraptor ro 2.0 python work great. They are relatively cheap and I can still avg. 17 - 20 MPH with stop lights. My commute is 20 miles round trip.
    That average includes stops? Son, there are a few people over in Europe that might like to have a word with you

  25. #25
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    I'm going to start commuting again. 14 mile round trip, many stops, crumbled or buckled asphalt. I commuted before and preferred a f/s mt. bike over my roadie. after dark it took took the unseen hits (pot holes) better. This time I'm going to use a KHS Flite 300 20 lb compact frame road bike with large 700 26c tires. it also has braze on for rack/paniers. I test rode it and it rolled over most put holes and buckled asphalt with ease. I could go to cyclecross tires if needed. it could jump some curbs with those.

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