Are Road Bikes Good for Commuting?
Are road bikes a good choice for commuting? If you own a road bike, the answer is an undeniable yes.
Road bikes are designed for speed. They are designed around the premise of getting along a road as fast as you can physically propel your bike. That idea is something we all think about after a long day at work. All you want to do is get home quickly and settle down and watch TV. A road bike may well be your fastest way to achieve that.
Never Slow Down
If we look at a hybrid (the bike most people will consider using for commuting) and a road bike, we can see a few differences. A hybrid bike will generally have a flat bar, wider tires, and may have a suspension fork. These differences are designed to bring comfort to your commute. Hybrids will also make you slower.
If you can deal without those small comforts, then your road bike will not be a problem for using to commute to work. We can replicate some of the hybrid comforts on your road bike, except the suspension fork. By reproducing them, we will lose some speed and gain a bit of comfort. It is up to you whether you want speed or comfort, both options are correct as it is a personal decision.
The easy way to replicate the flat bar is to ride on the tops of your road bike handlebars. That is not the whole story though. The flat bars on a hybrid bike will generally be positioned higher than bars on your road bike. A hybrid bike will also have a shorter top tube to give a more upright riding position. It makes your bars closer to you.
There is an easy way to copy this position. Place all your headset spacers below your stem (headset spacers are the circles of metal below and above your stem) and invert your stem. Your stem should now noticeably be pointing upwards. Doing so will make your handlebars feel closer to you. You could even swap in a shorter stem. With the shorter stem, we are in essence copying the shorter top tube, and this will bring your bars even closer and give you a more upright riding position.
Totally Tired Out
You could then fit some wider tires. You will not get tires as wide as hybrid tires on a road bike though. Due to road bike design, your frame and fork will not have the clearance needed for large tires. You will probably be able to get a millimeter or two wider though. That may not sound much, but it is incredible the difference between 23mm tires and 25mm wide tires.
Making your road bike like a hybrid though spoils the main reason for running a road bike as a commuting bike. Commuting by road bike is fun. You can ride at speed. You can cut through traffic. You will fly past other people on bikes. It just puts a big smile on your face.
You don’t want to be getting into work feeling all depressed on a gloomy Monday morning. Use your commute time wisely. Use it to get endorphins kicking through your body. Use it as a time to feel alive. Use it to make commuting fun.
Sitting on public transport, sitting in a car in traffic, and slowly plodding along are all nowhere near as much fun as unleashing your inner child… trying to pedal so fast you feel like your legs will fall off. Come on, we all remember that feeling from being a child. You don’t want to lose it. So, grab your road bike and ride to work as childlike as you can.
Bomb Hills Don’t Drop Them
You can sprint for road signs, bomb down hills, race away from traffic lights. These are all the things that will make commuting by road bike fun. To have fun though, you may have to make a few concessions. The first one is you will work up a sweat. Hopefully, your work has showers. If not, use baby wipes. You should not get smelly from commuting, provided the rest of your hygiene regimen is good. It takes a while for sweat to become a smell.
The most significant concession though is you’ll have to travel light even if your bike has pannier rack mounts. The bike’s frame may be able to carry the extra weight, but most road wheels won’t take too kindly to a big load being placed on them. If you are happy to commute with a backpack, you’ll be fine.
To give you extra speed, you will find that standard tires on your bike may not be the most puncture-resistant. Puncture-resistant tires have a thicker layer of rubber added to them. Many road bike tires don’t have this so they can be lightweight. You can still buy some puncture- resistant tires, such as the Schwalbe Durano. Say no to punctures on your way to work and still retain speed.
Punctures are not the only issue with wet days. You will want fenders on a damp day. Some road bikes come with mounts for fenders, and for road bikes without mounts you will be able to buy clip-on guards.
Fenders are great as you will now only be getting wet from the falling rain. The rain will not be getting compounded by water spraying up from the road via your tires. Your toes will also thank you for this respite. You will not believe how quickly the spray can soak your toes. Having cold and wet toes can ruin any fun you’ll get from cycling super quick.
You may also find out that your road bike consumable parts may need a bit more care than other bike parts. Road bike parts are designed around being lightweight and not for the day to day rigors of commuting. Make sure you don’t skimp on cleaning and maintenance, and this will not be an issue.
Road bikes are super fun for commuting, so don’t be put off by their racy nature. Enjoy your ride to work. Your ride home will be much faster. You will then have more time for relaxing, and after all, who doesn’t want spare time at the end of the day?