Is a mountain bike good for commuting?

Off the bat, commuting and bikes go together like peanut butter and jelly! They are intuitively made for one another! Not to get into semantics but in practice, how useful are mountain bikes for commuting, especially in metropolitan streets, when you have it in their name that the most optimal environment is mountainous? 

We will spare you the suspense, and yes, mountain bikes are good for commuting since they have features that smooth out your riding experience, but there are a few things to keep in mind before you hit the road. 

In this guide, we get into the topic of mountain bikes and commuting, covering the nuances. Do yourself a favor and follow through!

What are mountain bikes good for?

Mountain bikes are designed to be capable of ascending and descending steep off-road inclines while maintaining stability on rocky roads. They can survive extremely technical trails, steep angles, and boulders as obstacles. For stability on steep trails, mountain bike frames are usually long and flexible in construction.

These bikes are a must-have if you want to get started with extreme sports and difficult riding conditions. Practically speaking, mountain bikes are necessary if you live close to hills, forests, or places where snow can be an issue.

Can you commute on a mountain bike?

You can use your mountain bike to commute to work, school, or just for a quick lap around the block. In all fairness, mountain bikes aren’t designed to be commuter bikes out of the box, but with a few easy performance tweaks and gear changes, you can quickly turn your mountain bike into a fast commuter bike.

Advantages of commuting to work on a bicycle

Biking to work is quickly gaining popularity because of its many benefits, which include being considerate of the ecology by not relying on a car and its associated fuel, increased mobility on the road, and the health benefits from physical exercise.

  1.  Being Environmentally Friendly

It’s a sign of the times that we live in. Unfortunately, as a species, we are put between a rock and a hard place with increasing environmental issues such as global warming and everything negative that follows after that. 

You will automatically be part of the answer if you decide to ride to work on a bike and remove one less car off the street that adds to the morning gridlock and pollution. This little mudball is the only one we have. Let’s leave it better for the generations to come.

  1.  Saving Your Money

Using a bike to commute to work is a tremendous way to save money. You do that by not spending money on public transport costs, gas, car insurance, and most importantly, the dreaded parking tickets and fines. 

Admittedly you will spend a bit upfront to get a bike, but with prolonged use, the bike pays for itself since you avoid the many issues that we aforementioned. Maintenance costs are relatively affordable, and it doesn’t matter how you cut it. Commuting to work with a bike is highly economical.

  1.  Health & Exercise Benefits 

You don’t have to go to a gym in order to get in shape and stay healthy. Biking is on the top of the best cardio exercises that you can do.

For the sake of argument, let’s say that your commute to work takes 30 minutes on a bike, that’s 30 minutes to get there and another 30 to get back home. You are looking at 1 hour of biking or riding a day, multiply that by 5 working days, and you get 5 hours or 300 minutes a week of pure cardiovascular exercise. 

Most physicians will agree that this is tremendously beneficial for your physical and mental health. It would take a whole other article to get into the list of health benefits of biking!

Mountain Bike tires

Mountain Bike tires vs. Road Bike tires

Mountain bike wheels have at least 30 spokes, and the extra spokes fortify the wheel by dispersing the load more effectively. Mountain bikes also have wider rims. The added rim thickness, which is around 2-4 inches, increases strength. Because of this, mountain bike wheels are able to withstand the vibrations, jolts, and other damage that come with off-roading.

Mountain bike tires are substantially wider than road bike tires, which are sized in millimeters. However, road tires are much thinner than the smallest mountain bike tires, even at that size. Road tires vary in width from 21-38mm. Since road bikes’ tires normally have pressures between 50- 100 psi, they offer the lowest rolling resistance and the highest speeds.

In a nutshell, you sacrifice speed on flat roads for the ability to handle rough road conditions, and vice versa. 

Cycling position

A mountain bike’s frame geometry puts the rider in an upright position. 

When you’re standing up straight, you may maintain a more neutral position for your head, neck, and back. You shouldn’t stretch yourself too much when cycling in order to see ahead. This releases strain from your neck and back, improving your vision.

The upright stance has a drawback because it reduces the cyclist’s aerodynamics. If you don’t pedal more vigorously, the upright position of a mountain bike will cause you to go more slowly.

Suspension

Full suspension

Mountain bikes with a full suspension, which includes a coil in the rear or middle of the frame alongside the front fork, are made for absolute off-roading performance. These bikes are the ones you see when people ride downhill fast, jump between boulders, fly off a ramp, and land safely. These are totally overkill if you want to use a mountain bike for commuting.

Hardtail

Mountain bikes that only have a front fork suspension, AKA hardtails, are significantly better for daily commuting. The front fork suspension with a decent travel distance will make sure that your riding experience is smooth, and you can handle the bumps, and shocks of most environments, be it metropolitan or off-roads. These are your best overall bet for a mountain bike where your primary objective is commuting. 

Suspension vs. No suspension

SuspensionNo suspension
Smooth ride
Better handling 
Increased performance on off-roads
Improved braking 
Lightweight bike
Economical prices
Less maintenance needed

Durability

Mountain bikes are built to withstand abuse and to ride on unpaved roads. Additionally, most mountain bikes have large cargo capacities. Most of them may be modified with front or back racks, panniers, and other accessories to carry everything you need to haul.

All in all, you can count on mountain bikes to take a beating and still function, although since there are a lot of moving parts, that means you will need to do maintenance work more frequently on mountain bikes. Most importantly, make sure to keep the chainring, cassettes, and cogs free of debris and well lubricated if you want your bike to last you a long long time.

Gearing

Mountain bikes have lower gearing and a larger variety of gears. Low gears let you climb challenging slopes, and a broad range of terrains may be traversed. The majority of modern mountain bikes have one chainring, one-speed gearing, and a cassette with nine to twelve gears. 

Additional 2X and 3X gearing variations with as many as 36 speeds are available. Most commonly, mountain bikes come with 20 speeds, which allows you to leverage your cadence efficiently instead of running out of breath ⅓ of the way up a hill.

Questions to help you decide

Q: How far is your commute?

A: If you are commuting somewhere that’s up to 10 miles away, it will take you on average between 30-45 minutes to get there while biking, not accounting for special weather or road conditions. This is fair, and you can get the benefits of working out, saving money on gas, and it’s convenient for the trip back. If you are commuting 15-30 miles on a bike, you might as well consider riding professionally because it’s not viable for normal everyday commuting.

Q: Do you own a mountain bike already?

A: This is kind of a no-brainer, but if you already have a mountain bike, then take it for a spin and try commuting back and forth for a couple of days, testing out how viable of an option it is. It won’t cost you a single dollar, and if it works for you, then congratulations, you can always buy a different bike specifically for commuting, so your options are always available.

Other questions

Q: What’s a good mountain bike for commuting?

A: The mountain bike that offers you the greatest comfort and makes for an efficient riding experience would be the finest mountain bike for commuting. Even the abandoned mountain bike in your garage might be useful for your everyday commuting needs. Elements that make mountain bikes good for commuting are appropriate thin tires and light overall weight, and if it’s a foldable mountain bike then it will be easy to carry and safely stored away.

Q: How fast can a mountain bike go on the road?

A: Ultimately, it will depend on how much force your legs generate if you can pedal faster and harder then, of course, you will go faster. Considering the efficiency of your typical 2-inch wide mountain bike tire, you are looking at a 10-30% drop in rolling efficiency compared to appropriate road bike counterparts. This means you will be 10-30% slower with a mountain bike for the same pedal effort on a road bike.

Q: Are mountain bikes good for roads?

A: Mountain bikes are ideal for deteriorated roads with large potholes or those with wide cracks that may trap your typical bike tire. They also provide a comfortable ride, which is perfect for leisurely bike trips.

Q: Are mountain bikes good for long distances?

A: With mountain bikes, you can cover vast distances off-road without having to worry about their functionality or longevity. On paved surfaces, though, you could discover that despite pedaling more vigorously, your speed isn’t significantly quicker.

Q: What to wear when commuting on a mountain bike?

A: It might be a good idea to include spare fresh clothes in your backpack if you are commuting to work. But it can be a pretty laid-back trip, and many commuters wear work attire to work and only change a few things once they arrive. If you are riding in the afternoons or in the dark then you should wear reflective armbands, and clothes with reflective material to make your presence known, and increase your safety. 

The Finish Line

Mountain bikes are good for commuting, especially if you live in an area where roads are a bit rough and the weather is not kind. While you will put more pedaling effort to accelerate faster, you can enjoy a smooth ride thanks to the wide tires and the suspension system.

In general, you can receive many great benefits by switching to bikes instead of cars to commute to work and/ or school. The monetary incentives will allow you to save a lot of money, and in the process, you can improve all of your health markers, alongside being a solution to the environmental issues that come from unnecessary car use.

Do be part of the pack and check out some more articles if you liked this one and found it helpful! 

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