Are mountain bikes good for commuting?
Read on to find out!
Some cyclists think it’s strange when they see a commuter using a mountain bike, but the truth is it's all down to personal preference.
The most important thing is that you actually decide to pick up a bicycle and use it.
Some people protest that mountain bikes were originally designed for use on mountainous terrain - So are they any good for traveling to work?
As with everything, there are pros and cons to using one.
Mountain Bike Vs Road Bike
A mountain bike is typically heavier than a road bicycle and usually comes equipped with partial or full shocks or suspension. The mountain bike is also set up for a completely different posture than your typical road cycle.
Since it's heavier, it won’t typically reach the same speed on a flat road or going downhill. The suspension will, however, make the ride smoother across uneven terrain.
It’s therefore important to know what route you will be taking to work, and whether it's mainly over even, smooth roads or requires taking some gravel pathways or other textured trails.
Tyres also make the mountain bike slower on even roads. When you check the tyres of your mountain bike, you'll notice they are knobbly, which provides more traction and less speed.
The road bicycle has sleek and slim tyres. It's something to bare in mind, how much of a difference this makes depends on the distance of your commute.
The good thing about tyres, is that you can change them. You can increase the speed on your mountain bike just by changing up the standard tyres for slicks. There’s no need to buy an entirely different ride if this is all you desire to change.
Due to the posture difference, it's technically more difficult for a cyclist on a mountain bike to pedal up a hill. Will you notice the difference? Personally, I do... but you might not.
If you do face a particularly steep climb at any point on your commute then maybe you should consider this if you haven’t yet made a choice of bicycle.
Both mountain and road bikes have various gears designed to make pedaling easier when traveling up or down inclines. As long as the chain is kept in good condition any difference between the two is negligible for a regular commute, particularly if it’s in the city.
The mountain bicycle can be easily outfitted for going on weekend trail rides. Shortcuts across grass, gravel or curbs can also be more problematic for the road cycle while the mountain bike takes them in stride.
Many people find the mountain bike is easier on their back due to a combination of the posture and suspension. If you’ve had back problems in the past, then it can be a safer option.
The mountain bike is heavier and bulkier. If part of your commute requires loading your ride onto a train or bus, this can be problematic. In fact, if you have to carry it at all, like over a bridge, this is more burdensome than your average road bike.
The setup of the cycles suspension means more energy is diverted from the pedals, the typically wider and knobbly tyres also slow the bike down. As I have already mentioned though, the tyres can be changed out.
Yes, it can be positive, but it can also be a negative. The posture does slow the ride down, particularly downhill. It creates a less streamlined shape than a road bicycle posture produces.
What else do I need to know about a commute with a mountain bicycle?
1. Plan out the route
Before any commute, it's best to plan out your route and work out how long it will take. Knowing your route will let you know if there is the possibility of any off road trails or pot holes. Both of these situations mean that your mountain bike could be the best choice!
2. Fit some fenders.
Commuting can be a messy business. Even if you have mudguards, you will want to fit some fenders. They offer more protection from dirt and water. Anytime you can arrive at work clean and ready to go it’s a win!
3. Equip with lights
This goes for any bicycle, but make sure you equip lights. Even if you ride during the day, a thunderstorm can make things considerably darker. One of the most important safety concerns for any cyclist is to make sure they can be seen. For extra visibility, you can even add some spoke lights.
4. Secure your ride
There’s nothing worse than spending money on a new bicycle or fixing up an old one and then having it stolen. Invest in a good lock. U-locks are usually the safest but make sure they have a diameter wider than 16mm. Doing so makes them much less likely to be broken.
For a few more tips on travel in general. Check out the video below from the guys from the Global Cycle Network.
Are mountain bikes decent for a commute? Yea sure! There’s nothing wrong with using them. Millions of people do worldwide. Cycling to work is not about being as fast as possible, it's about getting there.
Although you may have to consider changing a few things such as switching out the tyres or upgrading the mudguards to fenders.
As with any commute, you should consider the type of journey you'll be taking, but don’t be afraid to take the plunge and begin a healthier lifestyle.