Mountain bikes good for commuting: Important things to know

  • By: Luke James
  • Date: January 16, 2022
  • Time to read: 7 min.

Mountain bikes have their pros and cons just like any other type of bike. So are they good or bad for commuting to work? If you live in an urban area, then it is usually best to stick with a road bike over a mountain bike. 

If you have an off-road at the end of your commute, then adding some gravel or dirt may be beneficial for toughening up your transmission and suspension.

So are Mountain bikes good for commuting? I’d say it depends on where you live and what you do each day. When there is a big percentage of off-road riding at the end of your journey, then I’d choose a mountain bike over any other option. 

But if you stick to city streets and need efficiency on top of everything else, then you shouldn’t consider buying a Mountain bike for your daily commute.

Can We Use Mountain Bikes For Daily Commuting?

Mountain bikes are one of the best options available for commuting in an urban environment. There are many benefits to using Mountain bikes for your daily commute, and it doesn’t matter what type of work you do or how far away your destination is. I’ll explore some of the advantages and disadvantages of using a mountain bike during your daily commute.

Advantages of using a Mountain bike for commuting

  • When you use a mountain bike for your daily commute, not only do you have to pedal harder than usual, but also your muscles would feel sore the next day. Mountain bike will be best for someone who needs to reach a workstation as well as need some exercise to stay fit.
  • Mountain bikes are designed for riding both on and off-road, your regular road bike won’t be of any use in some places. This is because mountain bikes are much sturdier and more adjustable than normal road bikes, so you can ride on rougher terrains such as dirt roads or rocky single tracks without feeling unsafe.
  • When you use a road bike, you will always stick to the main roads and won’t venture off into dirt tracks or gravel hills. Most people stay in their comfort zone when using a road bike even if they may want to explore other places. However, mountain bikes open up new possibilities, as stated above.
  • You don’t have to worry about any flat tires during the entire day, as mountain bikes are much sturdier and more durable than normal road bikes. This is even more important if you use your bike for commuting long distances on rough terrain or off-road tracks. When riding a bike on an off-road track, there are times when you have to make sudden swerves, and if the bike is flimsy or doesn’t have a wide wheel base, it will be very difficult for you to maneuver.
  • A more adrenaline filled ride: If you live in an area where there are trails on your way to work then it’s probably worth considering using a mountain bike as opposed to another type of bicycle because you’ll be able to get that much needed rush from going off-road.
  • Can carry heavier loads: If you’re thinking about using your mountain bike for commuting, then you should know that they can carry a lot of weight in their frames as compared to road bikes and other types of bicycles. Being able to carry a lot more load on your bicycle will definitely come in handy if you have some work stuff or school books that you need to carry every day.
  •  More control over steering: Mountain bikes have wide tires as compared to a regular road bike, which makes them more suited for rough and unpaved roads. This means that you’ll be able to drive with greater control and precision on off-road trails in your area while commuting.
  • Can carry a greater speed: As compared to road bikes, you’ll be able to maintain the same speed on a mountain bike even if you don’t have that much experience riding off-road trails or rough grounds.
  • Easier and more durable brakes: If you’re going to use your bicycle for commuting purposes then you should know that mountain bike brakes are easier to use and make for a more reliable braking experience, even when going downhill at full speed.
  • Better shock-absorption properties: You’ll enjoy smoother rides on your mountain bike as compared to road bikes because of the shock absorption properties built into them. If you’re thinking about using it for daily commuting then your ride will be significantly more comfortable.

Despite all their advantages, mountain bikes may not be as fast during your daily commute as road bikes would be. 

You might think that riding a mountain bike on the streets of the city will be a race against time, but it’s not. You can never ride as fast as you would in an off-road environment, so if speed is what you want then using a regular road bike may be a better choice for your daily commute. Taking all this into consideration, I think these are the five biggest advantages of using a mountain bike for your daily commute.

How to convert a mountain bike to a commuter?

Step 1: New tires and tire pressure

If you’re going to be commuting or doing recreational riding, then you need to swap out your knobby off-road tires for slick tires to reduce rolling resistance. The type of tire you choose will also affect your speed. Dual sport tires can give the perfect balance between off-road grip and on-road traction.

Step 2: Saddle position (fore-aft, height)

Adjust the saddle so it’s in a more upright position and raise or lower the seat post to get your desired saddle height. Swapping the saddle for a wider road bike model will also help with comfort.

Step 3: Addition of a mirror

You won’t need to check your rearview at every stop sign and traffic light while on the road, so the addition of a small, cheap bike mirror can help you see if cars are approaching from behind. This will also give you extra feedback for cornering. (Plus it adds an extra bit of safety.)

Step 4: Remove or lockout suspension 

You don’t want your rear shock-absorbing the bumps and road vibrations on your commute, so you’ll need to bypass it. One tactic is to remove the shock entirely, but if you’re planning to use a mountain bike for some off-road riding as well, then lockout mode is a better choice because it still allows the shock to move through its travel on uneven terrain. You can lift your bike and turn the dial on the lockout, which is typically located either at the base of your seat post or somewhere on the suspension fork itself.

Step 5: Rack on back

Mounting a rear rack will help you carry any items you pick up along the way such as groceries or your work shirt. This is also a great opportunity to add mud flaps and fenders, which will help reduce road spray from getting in your eyes when you’re at speed.

Step 6: Lights and reflectors

Get some front and rear lights for night riding so people can see you while you commute. Reflectors are also a good idea if your bike is parked for longer periods of time.

Step 7: Mud flaps and fenders

If you’re planning to ride in the rain, then mud flaps will help keep your drive train clean and dry, along with keeping road spray off of you as well. If you’re riding in snow, then fenders are a good idea as well.

Step 8: Handlebar ends & bars

Some mountain bikes have straight handlebars with no ends to them. This isn’t the best option for road riding because it can put more strain on your wrists as well as make gripping the bars uncomfortable. Go for a set of drop bars instead.

Step 9: Handlebar type

Mountain bike handlebars come in many different styles including flat, riser, bullhorn and swept-back to name a few. Flat bars are good for most recreational riding since they have the widest range of hand positions; however, you’ll still want drop bars for road riding to help reduce fatigue in your hands and wrists.

Step 10: Pedals

Mountain bike pedals can’t clip into clipless road pedals, so you’ll want to get a set of platform pedals instead. These will allow you to use normal road shoes and still give you some grip while pedaling when the weather isn’t so hot.

Step 11: Gearing 

The gearing on a mountain bike is optimized for off-road riding, so if you’re going to be commuting or doing recreational road riding, then you’ll need to change it up. Consider looking into a 1x type drivetrain (one front chainring with an integrated sprocket) that’s common on newer mountain bikes or even a road triple setup.

Step 12: Extra parts and accessories

You may want to consider adding some extra bits of equipment as bar ends, grips, and/or a dropper seat post depending on your style of riding.

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