Commuting on a Mountain Bike: Everything You Need to Know

Mountain bikes, despite what their name suggests, are built to be ridden almost everywhere. They’re durable, offer a more comfortable upright position compared to their counterparts, and absorb shock better than most road bikes.

Commuting by bike, as opposed to other means of transportation, offers a variety of benefits, both for the environment and the mental and physical fitness of an individual. 

If you’ve made up your mind about bike commuting, then you’ll be pleased to know that you don’t have to delve deep into your pockets to fund your new commuting regimen if you already own a mountain bike (MTB).

As MTBs offer great practicality and better comfort levels than a road bike, it’s time to dust yours off, give it a few tweaks, and start commuting.

How Do You Commute on a Mountain Bike?

Getting around on a mountain bike is easy. You just have to make a few modifications to accommodate the change from riding on the hilly terrain and trails to riding on paved roads.

Because of the many advantages this type of bike offers, you’ll be able to take a more interesting route to explore off-beat paths and cobbled streets with a significantly lower risk of injuries and accidents. Even if you hit bumps or potholes, its suspension will take the blow.

Mountain bikes also help you avoid traffic more easily, handle tougher weather conditions, and give you a more comfortable ride compared to a road bike. However, a mountain bike has its fair share of downsides too. 

Compared to a cyclo-cross bike, a hybrid bike, and a road bike, a MTB is comparatively slower in speed.

What factors motivate this? Let’s take a look.

Tires

Mountain bike tires are significantly different from the ones used in standard bikes. They have wider tires designed to handle driving through potholes, bumps, and debris, but that also slows you down.

If you’re planning to ride your mountain bike on the road, you may want to opt for road bike tires that offer a lower rolling resistance. You can swap your mountain bike tires for thin, slick tires (or semi-slick tires). 

Slicker tires will offer less rolling resistance which will make your commute a breeze. If, however, you’re commuting through dirt trails, you may want to opt for thick tires that have large knobs as they offer greater traction. 

When traveling through rough terrain, knobby tires tend to get worn out quickly.

Suspension

Full Suspension

A full-suspension mountain bike offers both front and rear suspension. This means it will handle anything the rough, rocky terrain throws at it, making it great for commuting through mountain trails and hilly terrains. 

This added protection of a full-suspension bike, however, makes a MTB heavy, which impacts its speed and requires a lot of muscle power to use.

Hardtail

Hardtail mountain bikes offer just the right suspension support to minimize the risk of accidents and injuries. They offer a stable ride and are easier to maintain compared to their full-suspension counterparts.

Rider’s Position

A mountain bike is designed to ensure you maintain an upright position required to easily look over your shoulder before you maneuver your bike around to avoid mishaps and accidents due to incoming traffic. 

While the upright position sure has its benefits, it’s not completely devoid of downsides. It tends to make the cyclist less aerodynamic, lowering your top speed.

Aerodynamics can have a significant impact on cycling performance as it creates pressure between the front and the back of the rider, akin to a drag. Unless a rider concentrates all his/her energy on pedaling with more force, a cyclist on a MTB cannot expect less wind resistance, like you would on a road bike.

So, is a mountain bike good for commuting? The answer to that question depends on how the factors detailed above affect you. 

If going on a ride on a mountain bike does not appeal to you, you may want to explore other options.

What Is the Best Bike for Commuting?

A bike commute depends on how different types of bikes work on different road conditions. If you’re looking to explore your options instead of riding your hardtail MTB day in and day out, then this list should help you find the right commuter bike for you.

Hybrid Bikes

A hybrid bike offers the best of both worlds as a combo of a mountain and road bike. It has flat handlebars similar to the road bike and an upright position design for added comfort, visibility, and control, like a mountain bike.

As long as you opt for disc brakes and a rigid suspension fork, you should be able to traverse through all weather conditions, rough roads, and gravel paths comfortably. 

Folding Bikes

Does your commute include public transport? Then folding bikes may just be the best option for you. 

Portable and light, the folding bike offers incredible transportation power but lacks when it comes to speed owing to its smaller wheels. You can find larger-wheel variants, but you’ll have to compromise on portability.

It’s also not as comfortable as other bike types, but if you’re only using it to complete just one part of your journey, it may be your ideal choice.

Mountain Bikes

Mountain bikes are designed to help you traverse steep hills and rocky road conditions. You can use them to commute on tarred roads too, just swap the mountain bike tires and see if you can manage with the full suspension it offers. 

If you haven’t purchased one yet and don’t usually ride on slippery trails and tough terrain, paying for a full-suspension mountain bike may not be the best choice for you. It will add a considerable amount of drag while riding, and it’s slow on the tarmac.

Cyclo-cross Bikes

Cyclo-cross bikes are ideal for off-road terrain. They’re designed to offer versatility and most can mount mudguards and racks, etc, easily. 

Most bikes are fitted with disc brakes which offer more stopping power, better modulation, and predictability on the road.

A cyclocross bike, also called a gravel bike, is like the tougher version of a road bike that offers riders a smooth sail down several types of terrains. If you ride through multi-terrains and take off-road detours, this is the right pick for you.

Other Types:

The above-listed bikes don’t cover the full extent of the availability of different types of commuter bikes on the market.

Riders can also check out

  • electric bikes – for riding long distances with added luggage;
  • town bikes – for convenience and practicality when riding on the go;
  • single-speed bikes – for riding on flat terrain; and
  • road bikes – for long-distance road riding.

Wrapping Up

A bike commute can be a great way to keep fit and explore nature, all in one go. If you’re thinking of channeling the inner explorer in you, ride a mountain bike. 

It will take you through all the rocky terrains and riding trails comfortably, without much harm to you in the event of a stumble or fall.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is a mountain bike good for commuting?

If you’re traveling on rough terrain and value comfort, then doing your commute on a mountain bike is your best option.

Are mountain bikes good for city riding?

Mountain bikes are good for city riding provided you’re riding a hardtail and take precautionary measures to secure your bike.

What are the best bikes for commuting?

The ideal bike for commuting depends on various factors. The Diamondback Overdrive 29 Hardtail Mountain Bike, METAKOO 26” Electric Bike Cybertrack 100, and VIVI Folding Electric Mountain Bicycle are excellent choices for bike commuters. 

If you plan to ride the bike for long distances, you may want to opt for a light hardtail mountain bike, like a XC bike.