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  1. #26
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    In my view, utility riding and commuting goes best when you get the most speed you can out of your effort. If you're going to be riding on paved roads, then, a road bike built for speed is the starting point. Compromises should be made to that design only as needed for other things.

    I use racks and panniers, on the front and the rear. This set-up is more than most people would need for commuting alone, but all of this carrying capacity comes in handy for grocery shopping and other errands. So, from a road bike, I move to a tourer. A tourer has a longer wheelbase, and so makes the addition of rear racks and bags more straightforward. And, of course, a tourer is set up to mount a rack and bags on the front.

    I add fenders, a kickstand, lights, and some sort of crank-guard to protect regular pants. These things don't require any special bicycle design, though.

    A tourer is as far away from a road bike as I need to go, though. The european-style utility bikes tend to be too casual in their geometry, for my tastes, despite their many other nice features. Mountain bikes, and their urban variants, have much fatter tires than is needed to ride on paved roads. The suspension is not necessary for road riding, but it's heavy and it kills some energy. (If real mountain biking can be done without suspension, and it used to be done that way all the time, riding a fat-tired bicycle on a paved road can certainly be done without suspension.) Disk brakes aren't necessary, either, though perhaps they would be better in very hilly or mountainous terrain.

    Efficient riding on the pavement has long ago been worked out by bike designers, in other words. Vast improvement certainly does not await the application of off-road technologies.

    So, a touring bike is, in my view, the best utility bike. Most people who use mountain bikes would be better served with a tourer.

    All that said, if your commute is only seven miles, and you've got a good bike set-up now, you wouldn't find it's worth a lot of money to make a change. You would go faster on a road bike, to be sure. But on a seven-mile commute you would save only a handful of minutes, at best. A good bike that works for commuting is no small thing, and you have that already. So, it's likely the cost of a more suitable bike would outweigh the benefits to you in your commuting.

  2. #27
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    I agree that a touring bike makes a great all round bike. Having a limited budget, I went for the touring bike first. I plan on adding more specialized bikes as I have time and money starting with a racing road bike.

  3. #28
    Packfodding 3 caloso's Avatar
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    My commute's only 9 miles roundtrip so I could probably do it on a unicycle if I wanted. I've got three road bikes and one old Specialized Rock Hopper (the Bomber) that I bought for $40 at a yard sale. It's heavy, slow, and ugly. And I really hate flat bars, even with bar ends.

    But I find myself commuting on the Bomber nearly everyday. I put a rack and grocery bag panniers on it and I just throw my backpack in it and go. No need to change shoes with the old-school nylon mtb clips and straps. It's just hop on and go. (Once I figure out how to put a set of drop bars and brifters on it, it'll be perfect.)

    So, my two cents is: find an old all-rigid steel framed mountain bike. They stopped making them about 10 or 12 years ago, I think. Which is a shame, imo, because it's a do-it-all bike.
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  4. #29
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    I wanna see the unicycle commute!

  5. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by agarose2000
    To start off, would love to hear about:
    1) Speed - how much faster and on what terrain?
    2) Price
    3) Comfort & carrying capacity
    4) Flexibility - is it worth the whole new road bike if you just use it for commuting, or is a mtn/hybrid the best bang for your buck?
    I have a 9 mile one-way urban commute in Atlanta, GA. It's mostly on-road, with a little time on bike paths.

    Having ridden both a MTB and a road-bike, here's my $.02:

    1) Speed
    This was the main reason I switched to a road bike. I wanted to go faster. I don't think my time changed all that much, though. It was like 50 minutes, now it's down to 45. It could also be due to increased fitness.

    2) Price
    I only look at used bikes (craigslist) but from what I've seen, there are many, many MTBs for sale with a wide range of prices, while the road bike selection is smaller and the prices higher.

    As weight goes down, price goes up. HOWEVER!! You will be carrying all sorts of extra weight anyway (rack, panniers, clothes, lights, etc.) so why spend tons of $$$ to get a light bike that you will then weigh down with all sorts of stuff?

    3) Comfort and Carrying Capacity
    Also high on my list for switching. Riding my MTB made me feel like I was reverse-sailing. The upright position gave me a constant feeling of fighting the wind. Even a slight headwind was awful. I believed that a road-bike would be better for that. It turned out to be somewhat true. I "feel" more aerodynamic.

    Carrying capacity is tough for me to compare. My MTB did not have holes on the drop-outs for a rack, so I always carried a backpack. My road bike has holes in the drop-outs, but no braze-ons near the seat stays. I used the p-clips to hold the rack to the seat stays. My view: this is the most important thing for a commuter bike. A good, solidly-mounted rack with a set of large panniers is essential. I think this will affect the quality of the commute more than many other considerations.

    4) Flexibility
    An MTB that you already own is obviously the best bang for the buck. Other than that, I think it's perfectly acceptable to have a commute-only bicycle. Commuters tend to face much worse treatment than recreational bikes (at least as far as road-bikes are concerned).

  6. #31
    The quieter you become... Falkon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LordBass
    I'm three days into an 23 mile r/t commute on my hardtail MTB. Mostly suburban roads, two stoplights, been averaging around 14mph on 26x1.4" semi-slicks. I paid $100 for this bike. Added rear rack, trunk, blinkie.

    I'd like a more road-biased ride, but IMO a thousand-dollar bike isn't needed for what I'm doing..
    Ritchey Tom Slick tires?

    and in my opinion, an inexpensive road bike is just fine. I would buy used rather than new. I paid a good penny for my commuter at $400, but I had to have that columbus steel. If I take off my panniers, the bike isn't too heavy either. I believe 22lbs with rack, not too bad.

  7. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by tsl
    Yes, I'm getting rid of furniture so I can fit a second bike in my apartment.


    Me too! The entertainment center and futon come out of the living room and into storage; the extra space goes to my bikes! I only need a wall or two to properly display them...
    Last edited by Blue Order; 09-03-06 at 10:59 PM.

  8. #33
    Baby it's cold outside... ViperZ's Avatar
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    I have commuted for more than 15 years on both types of bikes and I prefer the MTB. My longest commute was 8km one way so speed is not a factor. In fact I never felt I got a decent work out on my road bike and that's what started me on the MTB with Knobbies instead.

    I prefer the rugged Urban assault feel of the flat bars and wider tires, to which I seldom have to worry about flats due to the thicker tires. Because of this, I don't have to worry about tires pressures and pumping tires as often. It seems the allowable pressure range can be ran lower with a MTB, knobbies or slicks.

    Additionally, I commute year round, so when the snow flies, I swap the slicks for the knobbies for the 5 months of snow
    Last edited by ViperZ; 09-05-06 at 01:45 AM.
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  9. #34
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    I do a 70 km r/t commute daily. My back is arthritic, a road bike is out for me because I can't hunch over, although I used to use one ten years ago. I use an MTB with 100 psi slicks, speed is down a couple of kmh from my old roadie, although that could be ascribed to me being older, heavier and slower. Sit up 'n' beg is all I can do, and its more comfortable in all circumstances except for constant headwind, when it's a drag. Serious crouchers disdain me. The bike is a discount store alu frame, $110, very sturdy but not very heavy. Has 21 sp Shimano index triggers on high tourer bars which are far more comfortable than the revo shifters it came with. Only thing more to do is trekking bars for more hand positions, I've used bar ends, but had an off when one of the ends hooked up with something immovable. Want more hand places without danger!
    Last edited by zum; 09-05-06 at 01:45 AM.

  10. #35
    Steel is Real. markw's Avatar
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    I've gone the rounds from an MTB on knobbies to slicks, to a road bike, to my current commuter my Bacchetta SWB Recumbent (Corsa). Each time saw a drop in my commute time, and a drop in effort.
    With the winter coming up, which will mean the occasional rain here in San Diego, I'll probably use my LHT as it's fendered, and give myself some extra time. The MTB netted an average speed of around 13-14, the road bike would have me at about 16 give or take, and the Bent has me doing the commute at 18-19 average. The nice thing I like about the Bacchetta is that I have a "Brainbox" that I can throw my junk in, and hydration is taken care of by a fastback hydration system. No panniers involved, and I have enough storage for my commute. If people ask me about a commuter I generally point out the Giro which is a powder coated dual 26", and can take the abuse of commuting, plus the price is a bit less than the Corsa. I went with the Corsa as I do weekend rides and distance stuff, and wanted the little bit of extra speed it offered. Easy 3-4mph increase in speed for the same amount of effort. Oh, and it can climb, but that's more to do with the engine. I was definately slower up the hills when I first started, but now I'm pretty close to my upright speeds.

  11. #36
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    When the weather is OK I much prefer to ride a road bike to work. I have a short commute of 4 miles and I go quite a bit faster with less perceived effort on my old Basso than on a touring or MTB bike. Buy a good quality early nineties road bike (steel preferably IMO).

  12. #37
    Ogr8nwmypstmksnosnse pgoat's Avatar
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    I've used evertything from BMX to mtb to road to hybrid. no recumbents or shock equipped mtbs or penny farthings....well, you get the idea.

    when I lived on Long Island and had nice smooth roads I preferred a flat bar road bike or a hybrid with 700c wheels. On long open roads you want the bigger wheels with narrower tires to limit your rolling resistance. If you are really getting creamed by wind and the traffic is not in your face 100% of the time, by all means get drop bars.

    In NYC I prefer the MTB. I ride a rigid 25-ish lb. bike from the early 90s. I like that I can dab with my foot easier when I zip between stopped traffic and knowing it won't be as bad if someone smashes their chain into the frame when lock up next to me. I cringe when I think of that with a wafer-thin AL road bike brame.....and yes i see people do it all the time (not to my bike, luckily....)

    The keys for a commuter imo are durability, theft prevention, safety and ease of maintenance.

    For the first, I go with a heavier frame - str8 gague is fine.

    2. - an older uglier bike is better if you lock up outside.

    3. I prefer a straight bar with mtb style brakes. I always use bar ends to give additional hand positions. If you prefer road bars just get those new light weight secondary brake levers (mounted on either side of stem) for tight traffic spots.

    4. Single speed is great if your ride is flat. For so-so hills I run one chainring up front and a rear casette with a big enough granny to get over the top. Ditch the front derailleur if possible. Hub gears are okay but heavy.

    I say stick with your mtb and just put some good 1"-1.5" slicks on there and pump 'em up nice and firm. Get bar ends to stretch out and give your hands a break. if your shifters and gears work well your speed will be fine for the commute.

    If you were buying a bike to commute I'd say look into a hybrid. They are the best all-rounders imo.
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  13. #38
    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    For me the issue is gearing and speed more than effort. A major disadvantage of a MTB is that the gearing is low for mud and hills. If you're a fairly strong rider, you can and will max out the gears on most mountain bikes. I find this is mostly an issue on open country roads. In it's hardest gear, at a fast cadence, my MTB does 20 or 21 mph. I am really spinning, as I have the strength to push a harder gear than what the MTB gives me. However, on city streets where I commute, I don't often go much over 16 mph, and the MTB is plenty fast.

    Other advantages of the MTB: it's tough and comfortable, can go off- or on-road, and is better, IMO on snow and ice.


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  14. #39
    Ogr8nwmypstmksnosnse pgoat's Avatar
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    I agree Roody

    I used my MTB (with top gear of 46x13) on a metric century (actually 50 miles) yesterday - I brought it instead of my road bike for the triple crank as it was a hilly course.

    However on flat sprint portions it was kind of a joke. I was better than 20 mph but nowhere near the 30+ one can get on a more aero road bike with 53x11 (not that I can get 30 but you get the point).

    I rather wished I'd brought my road bike instead. The previous week I did part of the NYC Century and the mtb was fine for that. I managed to hit about 20mph into the wind along the shore rd in Brooklyn.

    That said, I also agree the mtb's speeds are fine for me in urban commuting; in fact it works out better because in rush hour traffic I prefer to ignore the urge to speed up - that's a good way to get creamed at intersections or doors or potholes, etc. For my urban commute the MTB bike is more than sufficient.

    You needn't go S-L-O-W when commuting to be safe but sane, assertive speed (emphasis on SANE) is good for safety. I prefer that and the better stopping power of MTB brakes vs. a road bike.
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  15. #40
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    Quote Originally Posted by pgoat
    However on flat sprint portions it was kind of a joke. I was better than 20 mph but nowhere near the 30+ one can get on a more aero road bike with 53x11 (not that I can get 30 but you get the point).
    That's a distinction likely to be missed commuting w/ panniers, or even a backpack, I imagine.

    I just got back from a 12 mile lunchtime getaway, took me 42 min w/ flatbar roadbike (50/39/30 11/28) Friday, 45 min w/ mtn bike (44/32/22 11/30) today (but today I somehow had headwind both ways). Obviously need more replicates to find out if the 3 min dif is consistent. Either way, nice to get out of ot the windowless cube farm!

  16. #41
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    I commuted on an older, rigid fork mountain bike (Trek 950) for many years, and started using a cyclocross bike this year. I chose a CX bike (Kona Jake) because I was concerned about the durability of road bike wheels and fork on damaged roads. A road bike with MTB hubs and strong wheels was the sweet spot for me.

    A few observations re: MTB w/ slick tires vs. CX bike
    • I average about 3mph faster on the CX using city tread 700x28 (90psi) tires vs. 26"x1.9" slicks on the MTB
    • My CX bike is a larger frame which puts me better position to pedal efficiently
    • This particular CX bike has the same eyelets for rack and fenders as my MTB (one pair front, two rear)
    • Although I run thinner tires on the CX bike, the bigger diameter wheel clears gaps in pavement better than 26" tires, losing less speed.
    • Drop bars on the CX bike provide riding positions tucked out of headwinds.
    • MTB max gearing was 44x11, CX max is 52x11. I use 48x11 max during most commuting.
    • Min gearing on the CX bike is 22x26, which has been adequate to climb a steep hill w/ 50lb load.


    I have become fond of 700c wheels as they roll over bad pavement better IMO. My winter bike is also a 700c bike, but has geometry more like a MTB frame. Based on this, I'd be willing to try a 29" MTB as a winter bike, also.
    Nothing says "in good times and in bad" like a good pair of fenders

  17. #42
    Senior Member godspiral's Avatar
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    I like mtb with wide tires for commuting. I enjoy road bikes the most for anything else.
    1. security when locking up.
    2. wide tires are comfortable enough to go over top sewer grates and road repairs.

    A very used gas pipe road bike with 27" wheels would be another choice I'd consider to just coast into town.

  18. #43
    Ogr8nwmypstmksnosnse pgoat's Avatar
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    The theories (with physics supposedly backing this up - don't ask me to explain it) are larger wheels are smoother feel and cover more ground for a given pedal revolution - ie, your gear will actually be higher by a hair with 700s than with 559s, all other things being equal.

    The pluses for the smaller wheels are improved strength and faster acceleration.

    Imo and experience, the big plus is they put me lower to the ground and increase my standover height - both pluses in hop on & off mtbing and urban riding with traffic lights, unpredictable humans, etc.

    I will say I noticed the biggest increase in commuting speed when I went from SS toi a derailleur bike. I never clocked road vs mtb but I am thinking the mtb would be a tad slower. Hardly anything I'd be concerned with tho, especially on the commute. Besides, the MTB saves time in hopping curbs and whatnot.
    Quote Originally Posted by jsharr View Post
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  19. #44
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    Quote Originally Posted by Falkon
    Ritchey Tom Slick tires?
    My reply is a bit late, but yes, that's what I'm using. Got about 300 miles on them so far, quite pleased. Relatively smooth, quick enough for my commuting needs.

  20. #45
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    Disk brakes aren't necessary, either
    Sorry, cant agree with this at all. If you live in a large city full of morons that are not fully awake, using their cell phone or just self absorbed you absolutely owe it to yourself to get the best all weather stopping power you can have, and that is a disk brake. Especially with it being a commuter, rim wear is a very real problem.

  21. #46
    "Per Ardua ad Surly" nelson249's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bike_UK
    Having just got into some regular longer rides recently (30+ miles), I have been asking a similar question myself. And my conclusion...?

    A CX bike!

    My current mountain (style) bike does the 5 mile commute pretty well, but starts to get uncomfortable after about 45/50 mins. I wanted to change to a road bike (Trek 1000 looked like being the one), but there are several non-paved section of my commute and the longer ride is mainly on an old cycle path with breaking-up asphalt. So i have now turned my attentions to something which i see as basically a toughened up road bike - a cyclocross bike!

    In case you are interested, the leading candidate is the Specialized Tricross Sport (cheapest model). Kona Jake the Snake came second only on price grounds and i wanted higher spec components than comes on the standard Jake.
    Agreed. CX bikes rule and are good for just about anything on a commuter run. You might want to consider a Surly Cross Check as well. The nice thing about the Surly for commuting is that it is steel (and hence rides nice under heavy load) and it has all the eyelets you possibly need for racks and fenders. I have no idea, however, what the price point is on that bike in the UK.
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  22. #47
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    Quote Originally Posted by pgoat
    The theories (with physics supposedly backing this up - don't ask me to explain it) are larger wheels are smoother feel and cover more ground for a given pedal revolution - ie, your gear will actually be higher by a hair with 700s than with 559s, all other things being equal.
    I wonder how equal all other things are; my 700c flatbar roadbike has 165mm cranks, 26" mountain bike has 175 mm cranks. There seem to be a lot of features between that two that fortuitously balance each other out.

  23. #48
    Senior Member Novakane's Avatar
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    I do my daily commute (about 20km / 12 miles) on a 1980 Japanese steel-framed road bike. I've got fenders, lights and rack all on there. I also use it for groceries and other erands as well as riding some packed-gravel paths and bumpy pavement and it takes everything I can throw at it. Unless you're carrying a *huge* amount of weight or going down some loose trails, a road bike will do just fine. If you're going to be packing heavy or taking it right off the road an MTB will give you better rim strength and more traction at the cost of extra weight and more wind resistance.

  24. #49
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    Quote Originally Posted by pgoat
    The theories (with physics supposedly backing this up - don't ask me to explain it) are larger wheels are smoother feel and cover more ground for a given pedal revolution - ie, your gear will actually be higher by a hair with 700s than with 559s, all other things being equal.

    The pluses for the smaller wheels are improved strength and faster acceleration.

    Imo and experience, the big plus is they put me lower to the ground and increase my standover height - both pluses in hop on & off mtbing and urban riding with traffic lights, unpredictable humans, etc.

    I will say I noticed the biggest increase in commuting speed when I went from SS toi a derailleur bike. I never clocked road vs mtb but I am thinking the mtb would be a tad slower. Hardly anything I'd be concerned with tho, especially on the commute. Besides, the MTB saves time in hopping curbs and whatnot.
    Larger wheels will result in a higher gear for the same chain ring/cog combination but that doesn't tell you how hard it is to push that gear. The larger diameter wheel does smooth out bumps slightly but that is usually more than offset by the fatter MTB tire. However 700c wheels usually have less rolling resistance due in part to diameter. This is probably a small difference.
    However most MTBs have a higher BB height than road bikes do to accomidate longer cranks and provide more clearance for off-road obstacles. This results in a higher seat height if both are sized correctly. MTBs are usually designed with better stand-over heights but I've never found the need for anything lower than my inseam.
    For bombing steps and jumping on and off curbs the stronger wheels and fatter tires of a MTB are an advantage but CX bikes come in pretty close in that capability. In addition drop bars provide a lower position for fast riding that can make a noticeable difference in speed.
    If you spend most of your time on the roads with only the occasional curb hopping excursion a CX bike is probably going to be faster and more comfortable. However if you are often hopping curbs or other off-road obstacles a MTB is a better solution. A 29er with Dirt Drops maybe a great compromise but those are rare and would have to be built up by the owner.
    Craig

  25. #50
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    Quote Originally Posted by agarose2000
    To start off, would love to hear about:
    1) Speed - how much faster and on what terrain?
    2) Price
    3) Comfort & carrying capacity
    4) Flexibility - is it worth the whole new road bike if you just use it for commuting, or is a mtn/hybrid the best bang for your buck?
    I have a cyclocross (700-25 tires, 28/39/50 x 11-32 9sp gearing, ~23 lbs) commuter and a hybrid (700-38 tires, 28/38/48 x 11-32 8sp gearing, ~32 lbs) commuter. My commute is either 5 miles of pancake flat or 8 miles of rolling hills (one way). In the summer I tend to like the cyclocross. Its a bit easier to roll and I like to extend my trip to do a nice loop of 25-30 miles on nice afternoons. In the winter though, its all about the hybrid.

    1) Speed - on almost everything (except urban streets) I'm significantly faster on the cyclocross bike. This is due to the lighter weight and the improved aerodynamic position (especially in headwinds) and quite frankly the way I feel about each bike's purpose. On urban streets with lots of potholes/road hazards I'm faster on the hybrid because I don't worry about hitting them, and I can just ride along.

    2) Price - cyclocross bike + accessories (fenders/lights/rack/pedal reflectors/flat pack) ~ $1,300. Hybrid + accessories (fenders/lights/rack/milk-crate/flat pack) ~ $700. (I have a pure road bike too at ~$2,300 but would NEVER suggest commuting on that).

    3a) Comfort - if by comfort you mean simply how do I feel sitting on the bike, the hybrid has a much smoother ride. The fat tires at lower psi and the upright seating position ensure this is true. However, on longer rides I'm much more comfortable on my cyclocross bike because it reqiures less effort to maintain my pace.

    3b) Carrying Capacity - Because of the way I have equipped the two bikes, the hybrid will carry more. I use the fashionable milk crate because in winter I don't want to fiddle with panniers etc. I throw my backpack and lock in the crate and when I get to my destination I just pull out the pack, lock the bike and head in. If I wanted to, I could load up the cyclocross bike with full panniers, a trunk rack and a handlebar rack and carry everything but the kitchen sink. So my answer here is that while the hybrid will carry more, it is only because of the way I set them up.

    4) Flexibility - is it worth it? That depends on your budget and your interests. I use my hybrid for commuting and towing my daughter to the park in her trailer. I use my cyclocross bike for commuting, brevets, light touring, club rides etc. For me its worth it to have 3 bikes...these two and a pure road bike for doing triathlons, fast club rides etc. However as far as distinction goes, I think the road bike and cyclocross bike have much more overlap than the hybrid. The hybrid has an attitude...roll easy and get there when you get there, but have a nice ride on the way. The cyclocross/road bikes are more...put the hammer down, countersteer into the 90 degree turn with a lean so deep that you can't pedal or you will encounter pedal strike and haul a** while your HRM beeps that you are over your target HR range.

    If I could only have one bike with my current interests, it would be my cyclocross bike. If my primary purpose for the bike was commuting/utility and didn't do club rides or other longer road rides, I would only own a hybrid. I hope that helps you somewhat, but again, its just my opinion.

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