Commuting in cities with rough streets? MTB or road bike?- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    Commuting in cities with rough streets? MTB or road bike?

    So, I'm about to move to Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. It has been my experience that Hamilton, like my hometown of St. Catharines, has a lot of unmaintained streets full of big cracks and potholes. I'm planning on using a bike to commute in Hamilton, but nervous about getting a road bike. I have a Specialized Stumpjumper Comp HT that is light as hell and rolls pretty well on semi-slicks, but I like my commute to be as quick as possible, and a road bike might be faster. In a perfect world, we'd all be able to ride a perfect bike lane all the time, but in the real world, that often is not the case.

    To those who commute in cities with a lot of rough streets, what do you ride and how is it working for you?

  2. #2
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    I went with an aluminum framed cross bike but the ride is harsh. If you want speed and comfort, I'd probably suggest the Surly Long Haul Trucker. I have several friends who rave about that bike. Lots of braze ons for racks and fenders. Being steel it gives a nice ride. It's a touring bike so it's built sturdy. Since it's steel, you may want to treat it with some frame saver to fend off rust (that's why I went with aluminum).

    Salsa also makes a steel framed cross bike (La Cruz) with disc mounts which would probably work well.

    Of course, a 29'er would probably be a really good option as well. Depends on if you want road geometry and drop bars.

  3. #3
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    $95 Craig's List road bike with 28mm tires. Finding the right tire pressure really helps, and it's nice to commute and run errands on something I don't mind leaving locked outside for hours at a time.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  4. #4
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    Judging from the condition of the roads you described, I would go with a mountain bike. I'm biased of course, I prefer a mountain bike for almost all occasions. The advantage to using a mountain bike on your type of commute though is that you can run super-wide tires, flat bars for wheelies and better handling, you're sitting more upright and have a better view of your surroundings, etc....
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  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by datalore
    To those who commute in cities with a lot of rough streets, what do you ride and how is it working for you?
    For two years I rode a 2007 Specialized Crosstrail. That year's model is unlike the current crop. It was essentially a 29er mountain-bike.

    Alas, I crashed the bike and bent the frame. It (the frame) now resides in my local landfill.

    For a replacement, I am building up a Salsa Fargo with rigid fork and Schwalbe Big Apple tires. That should be perfect for errand-running and occasional excursions onto rough ground. (For example, I often ride on gravel roads).

    I'm building my Fargo with flat bars (possibly Titec J-bars). But the frame is really designed for drop bars. If your commute distances are non-trivial, you could build quite the robust, drop-bar touring bike from the Fargo. Or think of it as an adventuring bike.

  6. #6
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    There are a number of cross tires that may be just the ticket for you. Lighter than a MBT, sturdier than a road tire. The big apple suggested above is a great example
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  7. #7
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    If you want something inbetween then a "sports bike" or "fast hybrid" might be worth looking at. It's a genre that seems to mean something that's based on 700c wheels but still with flat bars. There are quite a few possibles like the Cannondale Bad Boy Disc, Specialized Sirrus Elite , Trek 7.5 FX etc.

    I actually really like the look of the Scott Speedster S60 FB. It looks fast in pictures anyway.

    The wheels are 700c with 700x28 tyres fitted as stock.

    http://scottusa.com/gb_en/product/24...eedster_s60_fb
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  8. #8
    PCC
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gary the No-Trash Cougar
    Judging from the condition of the roads you described, I would go with a mountain bike. I'm biased of course, I prefer a mountain bike for almost all occasions. The advantage to using a mountain bike on your type of commute though is that you can run super-wide tires, flat bars for wheelies and better handling, you're sitting more upright and have a better view of your surroundings, etc....
    +1

    I'd go with a full rigid or at least a hard tail.

    On a local MUT there are cracks in the pavement that will just swallow a narrow road bike tire and will probably cause you to go OTB but my 2.1" knobbies ride right over these like they aren't there. Larger potholes and things are swallowed up fairly well with the larger tires, too, and riding over glass isn't even a concern if the pieces are less than 2" X 2", which is about 99% of all the glass I see on the road.

  9. #9
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    FWIW I rode the Scott Sub10 (urban bike) and it was indeed fast but brutally stiff. I swear you could tell when you ran over a shadow. A longish ride on that would be torture.

    I'm about to drop some more money on a set of disc compatible carbon forks for my Redline to soften up the front end a bit. I like the low rolling resistance of a high pressure tire but the alloy fork is like riding a jackhammer.

  10. #10
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    I use a HT with thinner tires(1.75) and origin 8 drop bar ends for the best of both worlds.

  11. #11
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    Hey there. I have lots of experience riding around in Hamilton/St. Catharines/Niagara Falls. I think it depends how long your commute is, and how much you value comfort vs. speed.

    Currently, for my 19km (one way) commute, I'm riding a cyclocross bike with 700x26c slick tires. I got the tires cheap. For some sections, the tires seem a little rough (skinny), but overall, they are very manageable. A cyclocross bike will give you clearance to run at least 700x35c tires, which should be all the tire you need. I appreciate drop bars which make headwinds much more bearable.

    But, if you have a shorter commute, and really value comfort, a mountain or hybrid bike may be what you are looking for.
    When under pressure, your level of performance will sink to your level of preparation.

  12. #12
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    Hi

    I am using a 29 inch Mountainbike. This gives a lot of tire clearance and I can ride tires in between 30mm up to 60mm wide.

    Since there is a rather wide selection of tires you can choose from, you can easily change these if you think you need a faster or a beefier tire.

    Cyclocross bikes as well as hybrid bikes do not provide that much tire clearance.

    A 29er might be heavier than any of the other options. Don't know if this is an issue for you.

    apaju

  13. #13
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    Schwable Big Apples were made for that type of road surface. Make sure any bike you get can take the big meat. Nothing like big rubber and air to cushion bad road surface, YMMV..

  14. #14
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    Get a good old steel road bike with 28 tires. road bikes rule for commuting thing your streets are rough? try doing a google-image search for "Paris Roubaix" and you will see what a rough street looks like. I ditched my slick tire mnt commuter for a road bike years ago and have not looked back. I am almost spoiled not can not stand riding my mtb on anything other than dirt.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by peitro
    Get a good old steel road bike with 28 tires. road bikes rule for commuting thing your streets are rough? try doing a google-image search for "Paris Roubaix" and you will see what a rough street looks like. I ditched my slick tire mnt commuter for a road bike years ago and have not looked back. I am almost spoiled not can not stand riding my mtb on anything other than dirt.
    I don't know about you, but if I commuted daily on a surface that resembles that found in the Paris Roubaix (our roads are not quite that bad), I would NOT want to be on a road bike with 28c tires.
    When under pressure, your level of performance will sink to your level of preparation.

  16. #16
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    The Paris Roubaix is nuts! Who would have thought road racing could be so technical?
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  17. #17
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    flat bar hybrid or CX bike

    Sounds like the way to go in your conditions

  18. #18
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    How long is your commute? Mine is ~35 round trip on what I would consider some of the crappiest, debris-strewn roads around.

    Let me preface this by saying I hate riding on the road. I would much rather be on a trail somewhere than on pavement. I tried setting up my 26" hardtail mtb with city tires - sucked. Got a rigid fork, barends, and slicks. Sucked. I've decided I need a faster bike with more hand positions.

    I am building up a Salsa La Cruz. We'll see how that goes. Planning on running 35-38c tires. Should be nice.

  19. #19
    i call it a kaiser blade
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    i go with the mountain bike.

    i'm much more used to the handling and geometry.

    being slumped over the handlebars feels weird to me.

  20. #20
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    It would have to be some really rough road to need a mountain bike. With more and more people riding rigid on MTB trails, I haven't seen pavement yet that needed a hardtail. Then again, I've never been to Hamilton. I commute on the 32c Panaracer Ribmos on a Surly Cross Check. Had them for a few weeks and they are working well. The cool thing I've noticed with these is they have a rib in the middle of the tread. (They say the name is for RIde Bicycle MOre, but I guess it's a double entendre) It lets the tire still roll fast while maintaining large volume for railroad tracks or potholes. You definitely aren't going to want 23c racing tires, but 28 and up commuting and cross tires should do fine. As mentioned, a Long Haul Trucker or Cross Check is a versatile commuter frame.

  21. #21
    Ska
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    Quote Originally Posted by apaju
    ......Cyclocross bikes .......do not provide that much tire clearance.
    LOL

    My Surly Cross Check provides loads of room - and I mean LOADS.

    To the OP. At least have a look at the Cross Check to see what it's all about. Very versatile frame that can easily be made into either a racer or full blown commuter. Tough frame for the shyte roads we have in our area.

    Snapped a rim the other day after being bumped by a car (will write about it some time) and the frame is still straight as an arrow.

    Great bike.
    Here's my crummy, slow-going blog The Slow Spoke if you're interested.

  22. #22
    all about the ride down
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    I'm going to vote for the cyclocross route as well. I did the mountain bike w/slicks bit for a long time. Last summer I picked a Kona Jake and put some 700X40c's on it. I don't ride city streets but a good portion of my commute is on a heavily traveled dirt road, potholes, gravel, etc... It's perfect. It took me one trip to realize how slow the mountain bike is even with slicks. The 40c's are road/touring tires and have minimal resistance. They have never flated. I've done plenty of bunnyhopping over stuff. I ride ranch and potato farm roads all the time, the steel frame gives a great ride.
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  23. #23
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    GIANT SEEK

    the ultimate rough commuter, not talked about enough on the forums, it really is fantastic. 700c wheel size, clearance for 29er 2.1 nanoraptors if wanted. internal hub on the seek-1.

    excellent semi-aggressive position using a low flat bar setup.

    i'm saving up for one, currently using a surly crosscheck which is great as well.
    what would rainbow unicorn do?

  24. #24
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    I use a KHS Flite 300 It is built up like a tourer, has dropped bars, compact frame, braze ons for racks and large 26 tires for ruts and bad asphalt. these seem to do the trick for around here. Many bus ruts and pot holes.

    a mountain bike would be safer, with the larger tires and you would have the ability to pop up or wheelie over obstacles as you would trail riding. May be a urban curb jump or two.

    As for speed, Ive had some guys on hard tail mt. bikes really give me a run for it. but they kinda fall off after 25 mph. You probably can set up a mt. bike to roll pretty fast. My friend has an old 1980's Gary Fisher Hooku Eku that he upgraded with a set of Spinergy Wheelsets with 26 inch slicks. Its really fast.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ska!
    LOL

    My Surly Cross Check provides loads of room - and I mean LOADS.
    LOADS is pretty relative. What's LOADS for you might not be LOADS for others. So, what's the largest size tire you can fit in the cross check frame? Are you saying it takes 60mm wide tires?

    According to the manufacturer it takes tires up to 45mm. That's pretty wide, but far from being LOADS.

    However, I agree that the cross check and possibly other cyclocross bikes are worthwhile considering as sturdy commuters. But one needs to keep in mind, that there ARE limitations with respect to tire width.

    apaju

  26. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by split.therapy
    the steel frame gives a great ride.
    Your Jake has a steel frame? What year is it? The Jake has been Aluminum for as long as I can remember, though it may have a steel fork.
    When under pressure, your level of performance will sink to your level of preparation.

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    Woah, thanks for all the replies, guys! My commute in St. Catharines is almost 13k each way. I've now done it on my Specialized Stumpjumper and an 80s chromoly Miele road bike with updated components. It was fine on the Stumpjumper, albeit a bit tedious on the flats. It was terrifying on the Miele. Cracks in the road and construction debris had me stressing about a puncture the entire time and there was a brutal crosswind threatening to push me into traffic. I don't know where I'll be living in Hamilton yet, but I'm shooting for someplace with a decent bike route to McMaster University (I am a grad student). I move in late June, so that should leave a few solid months of commuting.

  28. #28
    Ska
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    Quote Originally Posted by apaju
    LOADS is pretty relative. What's LOADS for you might not be LOADS for others. So, what's the largest size tire you can fit in the cross check frame? Are you saying it takes 60mm wide tires?

    According to the manufacturer it takes tires up to 45mm. That's pretty wide, but far from being LOADS.

    However, I agree that the cross check and possibly other cyclocross bikes are worthwhile considering as sturdy commuters. But one needs to keep in mind, that there ARE limitations with respect to tire width.

    apaju
    No need to get upset bro. All I'm saying is that, for the purpose of commuting, the cross check (and others) have LOADS of room. Not sure what you'd need a 60mm tire for unless the potholes in your area are absolutely insane.

    Not knocking your choice of bike or tire (different strokes).

    To the OP, good luck with your ride and school. My wife went to Mac as well. Great school, fun town.
    Here's my crummy, slow-going blog The Slow Spoke if you're interested.

  29. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by datalore
    Woah, thanks for all the replies, guys! My commute in St. Catharines is almost 13k each way. I've now done it on my Specialized Stumpjumper and an 80s chromoly Miele road bike with updated components. It was fine on the Stumpjumper, albeit a bit tedious on the flats. It was terrifying on the Miele. Cracks in the road and construction debris had me stressing about a puncture the entire time and there was a brutal crosswind threatening to push me into traffic. I don't know where I'll be living in Hamilton yet, but I'm shooting for someplace with a decent bike route to McMaster University (I am a grad student). I move in late June, so that should leave a few solid months of commuting.
    I'm also a MAC student. Depending where you choose to live, your commute may end up being so short that which bike you ride may not really be a critical decision. There are many places to live within 5km of campus.

    I've been living in Ancaster when I'm in school. Even for a 10km one way commute to school, I found a mountain bike was not too bad, as for much of the trip it's either flying down the escarpment, or climbing up it.

    Of course some areas are worse than others, but overall, I think I'd say that the streets in St. Catharines are worse than Hamilton (which has much more bike lane too). My current 19km route from Niagara Falls to St. Catharines has 3 construction zones right now.
    When under pressure, your level of performance will sink to your level of preparation.

  30. #30
    all about the ride down
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    Quote Originally Posted by rkj__
    Your Jake has a steel frame? What year is it? The Jake has been Aluminum for as long as I can remember, though it may have a steel fork.
    You're right my bad. 7005 aluminum. Didn't realize I wrote that.
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  31. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ska!
    All I'm saying is that, for the purpose of commuting, the cross check (and others) have LOADS of room. Not sure what you'd need a 60mm tire for unless the potholes in your area are absolutely insane.
    Personally, I do not need 60mm tires for commuting, but there are people who like wide tires.They say it gives you a "plush ride". The Schwalbe Big Apple tire has been designed for that purpose. Also, there are other tires made for touring purpose which are 50mm wide. These kind of tires would not fit into a cross bike. At least the ones I've seen. Also the cross check is spec'ed with a max of 45mm. Maybe it can fit wider tires, i don't know. BTW: I am still curious how wide a tire it can fit.

    The only point I want to make here, is that there are limitations of cross and hybrid bikes with respect to tire clearance which mountainbikes do not have.

    This might be something the OP wants to consider. I am not saying wide tires are needed for commuting, but they might be desired.


    Quote Originally Posted by Ska!
    Not knocking your choice of bike or tire (different strokes).
    Well, actually I am running 37mm tires for commuting, but I use the bike for commuting and the trail.

    apaju

  32. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by apaju
    Personally, I do not need 60mm tires for commuting, but there are people who like wide tires.They say it gives you a "plush ride". The Schwalbe Big Apple tire has been designed for that purpose. Also, there are other tires made for touring purpose which are 50mm wide. These kind of tires would not fit into a cross bike. At least the ones I've seen. Also the cross check is spec'ed with a max of 45mm. Maybe it can fit wider tires, i don't know. BTW: I am still curious how wide a tire it can fit.

    The only point I want to make here, is that there are limitations of cross and hybrid bikes with respect to tire clearance which mountainbikes do not have.

    This might be something the OP wants to consider. I am not saying wide tires are needed for commuting, but they might be desired.




    Well, actually I am running 37mm tires for commuting, but I use the bike for commuting and the trail.

    apaju

    I have seen pictures of the Cross Check with Bontrager 1.8's (have the tires sitting in my room but still haven't tried them). That's a pretty big tire, definitely monstercross worthy. I believe Surly's claim of 45's is with fenders. I'm sure 45 slicks without fenders would have extra clearance to spare, there is definitely a lot of room. My Cross Check has 32's with fenders. Plenty for me to not have to worry about debris or railroad tracks (puncture or pinch flats), and plenty of traction in the rain. They are still very fast rolling so you don't feel like your pedaling a mountain bike around on the road, though, which is I think the whole point.

  33. #33
    Occidental Tourist
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    A flat bar road bike that takes cross tires or a cross bike is what I ride in this construciton heaven (with Stan's in the tubes)
    This is just need to know information: Am i supposed to enjoy the irony or pity the sincerity?

  34. #34
    sofa king awsm
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    I vote hardtail mtb but convert to rigid with a carbon fork, add bar ends for more hand options if the commute is long and get some fat slicks like the big apples.
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  35. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sleeveless
    I have seen pictures of the Cross Check with Bontrager 1.8's (have the tires sitting in my room but still haven't tried them). That's a pretty big tire, definitely monstercross worthy. I believe Surly's claim of 45's is with fenders. I'm sure 45 slicks without fenders would have extra clearance to spare, there is definitely a lot of room. My Cross Check has 32's with fenders. Plenty for me to not have to worry about debris or railroad tracks (puncture or pinch flats), and plenty of traction in the rain. They are still very fast rolling so you don't feel like your pedaling a mountain bike around on the road, though, which is I think the whole point.
    There's a reason why Fatties Fit Fine on a CrossCheck. In the winter I run 45 studded with fenders and still have decent clearance for more rubber.

    I use my cross check exclusively for commuting (120 miles a week) and ride everything from MUT's to Roadside to Single Track. When the studs go off, the 40 Ritchy SpeedMax go on. There are smoother tires with cush than the Ritchy, but I love the cross pattern for traction and speed.
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  36. #36
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    For Edmonton roads, I decided on a CX bike. A roadie isn't made for the beating but if you have a longer commute, it'll be quicker than a hybrid or mtb. A touring bike would be another good suggestion, but definitely look at a rust inhibitor for Ontario...they use waaaay too much salt there and in Quebec.

    Tires will also make a big difference. On the cross bike I have 700x35C Conti Speed Kings that seem to do well and still let me hit the MUT's and tame trails.
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  37. #37
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    Quote Originally Posted by Psycho Mike
    Tires will also make a big difference. On the cross bike I have 700x35C Conti Speed Kings that seem to do well and still let me hit the MUT's and tame trails.
    My cyclocross bike came stock with those. I'm not a fan - when I upgraded the rear tire to a Hutchinson Bulldog, I saw a pretty significant improvement in traction.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  38. #38
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    Steel framed cyclocross or 29er imo.

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