If you’re thinking about commuting by bike then you’re possibly weighing up the different types of bikes.
I’ve always used my cheap road bike for commuting and I’ve been happy enough on it but I’ve never commuted full-time by bike (yes, I’m a fair-weather commuter!).
A habit I wanted to change so I set about seeing if there were any better biking options and whether I’d be more comfortable on a different bike.
Want to know how I got on?
Are Road Bikes Suited For Urban Commutes?
If you have a long commute then road bikes could be the way to go. As the name suggests they’re fantastic on roads and if you want to travel quickly by bike, then road bikes are going to be your best option.
However, there are a couple reasons why road bikes aren’t necessarily the first choice for every commuter.
- Road bikes are lightweight and that means they aren’t the strongest bike money can buy.
- Riding your road bike every day in all weathers, through potholes with poor road surfaces you might get more mechanical issues than a more durable bike.
Saying that, as with most things, regular maintenance and care will see it lasting for many years.
You don’t need to spend a fortune to get a dependable road bike for commuting. There are a number of good road bikes under $1,000 which are perfectly suitable for most people.
Pros Of Using A Road Bike For Commuting
Road bikes are some of the fastest bikes available and that’s seriously appealing when you’re thinking about commuting – you can do it quickly! Not only can you achieve speeds of 25mph with relative ease, but it’s also easier to maintain these sorts of speeds on a road bicycle too.
This has a lot to do with the riding position, a road bike forces you into a more aerodynamic position. When you reach speeds above 15mph, this becomes more important. The more aero you are, the less energy needed to achieve the same results.
The components used on a road bike are designed for speed. You get a high ratio of gears so you shouldn’t ever feel like you’re spinning out.
Tires are important on a road bike too, they’re usually slick and offer lower rolling resistance so you can expect higher returns of speed compared to the energy you put in.
For commuting, I’d recommend 28mm tires as you still get a lower amount of rolling resistance but you get the bonus of extra cushioning, giving you a better ride.
Road bikes have the advantage that they’re lightweight. Even budget-friendly road bikes tend to be lighter than hybrid or mountain bikes.
Why is this good?
There’s less weight to carry when you’re cycling up a hill (or just cycling generally!). Also, should you need to lift or carry your bike, it’s easy to do if your bike weighs less.
Providing you maintain your road bike regularly, they are reliable machines. If you’re looking at doing the basics, then I’d say you should be cleaning often, lubing the chain, chainrings, and the cassette.
When the weather gets bad this is especially important as the drivetrain can collect all sorts of rubbish from the roads. Be sure to keep an eye on your tire pressure too. Generally, you can expect your tires to deflate around 14 psi a week. Pumping them up once a week should help you to avoid pinch flats.
Looking for some maintenance tips? Check out Jeff’s tips on how to maintain your bike!
Here’s a video showing some pros and cons surrounding commuting on a road bike:
Cons Of Using A Road Bike For Commuting
It’s not all sunshine and roses when using a road bike as your daily driver. Unfortunately there are some disadvantages.
As we’ve discussed, road bikes are designed for speed. Comfort comes second to that.
Unlike with a mountain bike or even a hybrid bike, you won’t see any suspension forks or wide tires. This means that any imperfections in the road, you tend to feel. As a road cyclist, I can’t say it’s horrible, or even bad but if the road surface is bad, you’ll know about it.
As for that aerodynamic position, if your core isn’t strong then you’re going to be relying on your arms to support your body weight. For some riders, this can cause their hands to become numb.
Being in this position also means that it can be a little more difficult to turn your head around to keep an eye on the traffic. For me, it’s something I’ve got used to over-time and don’t have an issue with but if you’re switching from a hybrid bike to a road bike, you may have a bit of an adjustment period to get used to!
When you purchase a road bike, you may be expecting it to come with everything you need to get riding…I’ve got some bad news for you, that’s not going to be the case.
As a lot of road cyclists like to fit their own lights, pedals, even bottle cages to their bikes, they don’t come as standard so you’ll need to pick them up separately.
If this is your first road bicycle, it may seem frustrating and frankly, a bit odd but roadies are particular about their accessories (I have my favorite pedals and I won’t be without them!) so it’s easier for a road bike to come without these.
Paying for some extras is something you need to factor in when you’re looking at a bike.
Road bikes don’t often come with mounting points for rear racks so if you were planning on strapping your bag onto your bike this way, you’ll have to think again.
There are ways around this. You can pick up a seat post-mounted rack. As the name suggests, you mount the rack onto the seat post. They’re incredibly easy to install and if you want to take them off (going for a weekend epic?) then you can do so in seconds.
Fenders can sometimes be a bit tricky too. Commuting can be a messy game so fenders are almost an essential piece of kit. Some road bikes do some with eyelets for fenders to be fitted, but if yours doesn’t you can get those that are attached to your seatpost.
There is also the option of clip-on fenders. They are actually fairly lightweight and installation is simple, though the initial install may take a little bit of fiddling to get things how you want them. The great thing about these types of fenders is that they tend to fit most frames.
It’s kind of a given that as a commuter, you’ll be facing traffic, sometimes heavy traffic so having a bike that handles well in these conditions is important.
Given the geometry of a road bike, maneuvering at low speeds can be a challenge. Navigating between cars that are bumper to bumper can be difficult.
Some cyclists will opt for clipless pedals. If you aren’t used to them, you will have that learning curve to get over (worth the effort, in my opinion). However, clipless pedals can become annoying in heavy traffic as you have to clip in and out frequently.
Road bikes look nice and they draw attention. This means that they can be a target for thieves.
A good lock and a crash course in locking practices are essential. Even then, I would be disinclined to leave it outside! Most workplaces have a bike storage facility so make full use of it.
Check out this video:
A lot of road bikes come with quick-release wheels. They’re great when you need to change your wheel quickly or repair a puncture. They’re also great for a thief when they want to steal your wheel too!
When you are locking your bike up, you need to think about your wheels and frame. It’s quite easy to forget about the wheels but thieves will take these given the chance.
Alternative To Road Bikes For Commuting
There are other bikes that are suitable for commuting though…
Hybrid bikes appeal to a lot of commuters, they’re the ‘do it all’ bicycle of the world. They provide some of the speed aspects of a road bike, combined with some of the comfort elements of a mountain bike.
Win, win, right?
If you’re new to commuting by bicycle then a hybrid could be the place to start. Want to read more? Here are some great hybrid bikes under $500!
Gravel bikes are taking the world by storm, with commuters enjoying them too.
They take aspects from road and mountain bikes and blend them together. Hybrid bikes are good for short distances with uneven terrain, gravel bikes are good for longer distances with uneven terrain.
The handlebars on a gravel bike come from road bikes, meaning they tend to be drop bars so you can get that aerodynamic riding position when you want it. They provide more comfort than a road bike and they can tackle different types of terrain too. A solid all-rounder.
Want to read more about gravel bikes? Read more on gravel bikes under $1,000!
Frequently Asked Questions
Is a road bike good for everyday use?
Absolutely, if a road bike suits your commute, then there is no reason why it shouldn’t be your bike of choice – just be sure to do regular maintenance on it!
Commuter bike vs road bike – is there any difference?
There certainly is!
A commuter bike is going to be more like a hybrid bike. It’s going to be heavier than a road bike but potentially more comfortable. Tires are likely to be wider or have the ability to add wider tires. Lastly, road bikes come with drop bars, commuter bikes are predominantly with straight bars.
That’s it, road bikes as commuter bikes all wrapped up!
Overall, road bikes do make good commuting bikes depending on your commute and how you want to do it.
What’s your commuter bike of choice?