Which Bike is Right for You?
Commuter Bike Styles - Pros and Cons
The bike you choose can really affect different aspects of your commute. Many riders do just fine with the bike they have, while some assemble a purpose-built machine with just the right attributes for their route and style. Here is a quick rundown of the pros and cons of each style of bike for urban commuting. Keep in mind that your commute may have special, unique requirements, making a less likely bike the ideal choice.
Pros—Road bikes are light and fast. They are the sports cars of the bicycle world. The longer your commute is, the more open roadway you have to cover or the faster you like to ride—the more a road bike makes sense. This is the quickest ticket to get to work. Did I mention they are fast?
Cons—Though touring and cyclocross bikes offer some improvements, a road bike’s weakness is strength and durability. Pounding from rough roadway and potholes can truly work a bicycle’s wheels over badly. Braking power is not as good and traction is always at a premium, especially when wet. The position on a road bike is designed for efficiency, not necessarily good visibility or comfort.
Pros—A bike designed for harsh off-road use really shines as a commuter, because the commute route conditions and topography are typically much, much less than what the bike was designed to handle. Mountain bikes have more upright positions, which many equate to more comfort and better ability to see your way in traffic. Big tires, beefy wheels and suspension options mean fantastic durability. This gives a rider the confidence they can regularly show up to work on time, not sidelined by bike problems part way in.
Cons—All that durability and suspension comes at the price of weight and those big, knobby tires don’t roll as easily. Many effective modifications to wheels and tires are available and are almost universally undertaken by mountain bike riders to pick up significant speed.
Hybrid or Cross Bikes
Pros—As the name implies, a hybrid gives you the upright positioning of a mountain bike and the faster rolling wheels of a road bike. This style of bike is really built with comfort in mind and is frequently the best selling bike category in many shops for that very reason. Super-practical and designed to accept commuter accessories, a cross bike is a popular pick for plenty of commuters.
Cons—The flipside is that a hybrid is not as fast as a road bike or as durable as a mountain bike. The bulk of the models offered are also in the low to mid-range in price, which means they can still be mountain bike heavy.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter. Some bikes may be better at one thing than another, but commuting on whatever you’ve got is better than not commuting by bicycle. And, regardless of any cons listed earlier-- if the bike you ride puts a smile on your face, that is far more important.