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Old 02-14-11, 11:55 AM   #1
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Can I use my Road Bike for Commuting to work?

I've seen where a number of folks are getting/using different types of bikes for commuting. I really like the idea of having another bike in the stable but am wondering what traits a "commuter" would provide over one of my traditional road bikes. It certainly seems like one heck of a good excuse to get another bike but need some help on justifying it.

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Old 02-14-11, 12:01 PM   #2
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Disclaimer: This is but one option.

For me a commuter must be a bit of a best of burden. I need to be able to carry things with me. So, racks and bags are a must for me. Since I'm headed to work where this is a dress code I need to keep relatively clean. Hence, mud guards are a must. I commute all year round. So, lights are needed, and I need room for studded tires in the winter. All of this extra stuff adds some serous weight. Therefore, I want something that is a bit more stable when loaded down. I choose to use a touring frame for these reasons. It is stable fully loaded, it has eyelets for racks front and back, and there is enough clearance for mud guards.

I should add that I can't shower at work & I must carry a laptop and text books back and forth. So, a backpack isn't all the practical for me.
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Old 02-14-11, 12:07 PM   #3
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It depends on the weather you will face, which dictates whether you want/need fenders. And then whether you like backpacks or want your 'stuff' loaded on the bike. I started commuting on a hybrid, but since I got my road bike a year ago, I never ride the hybrid. I use a backpack, and don't have fenders. If I ride in the rain, I just get wet, which is no big deal for me. Of course, many road bikes will accept fenders, and the size of the tires they will take varies. I have long reach brakes, and use a 700-25 tire. Same setup no matter what I'm doing. What you may want will depend on the roads/paths you use, and of course just what you like. I -would- like to have a "rain bike" that I could just wipe down a bit and not worry as much about. I don't mind getting wet, but cleaning the bike up after a wet ride is a pita.

So, to me, it is less an issue of the style/geometry of bike you use for commuting, and more a question of maintenance. All weather commuting takes a toll on a bike that many find unacceptable for their expensive road bikes.
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Old 02-14-11, 12:15 PM   #4
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If you ride a long ways on mostly good roads, I would use a road bike. The speed between it and a mountain bike I started with was almost 4 mph. A hybrid is about the same - I made the mountain bike as quick as I could.
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Old 02-14-11, 12:17 PM   #5
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I might add that whether you shower at work is also a primary consideration, and you can see that reflected in the different answers NOS88 and I have given. I provision my food and clothing over the weekend (when I invariably drive to the office and work a few hours), and I shower/shave at work. This limits what I haul back and forth, and allows me to not worry about getting wet or dirty. I stuff my dirty clothes in my backpack for the ride home each day, so that they don't collect at work. I could easily carry my clothes and lunch each morning, but I'm not that much of a morning person - I hate doing prep stuff before I leave in the morning.

Many commuters insist you need racks and bags, and feel wearing a backpack is uncomfortable, especially in the heat. I have not found this to be true for me. I commute in temps of 115+, wearing my backpack. My back is no more nor less sweaty than the rest of me in that heat. In other words, when you get past a certain point of perspiration tolerance, the backpack just no longer matters.
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Old 02-14-11, 12:20 PM   #6
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I think that the greatest advantage to having a dedicated commuter bike is that you don't have a week's worth of dirt and scrunge to clean off your "good" bike every week.
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Old 02-14-11, 12:34 PM   #7
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I think that the greatest advantage to having a dedicated commuter bike is that you don't have a week's worth of dirt and scrunge to clean off your "good" bike every week.
+1 Forgot about that one!
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Old 02-14-11, 12:40 PM   #8
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It's all in the gearing and what position your comfortable with. Road bikes, traditionally, have the rider at a 45 degree angle. Mountain and other touring bikes are more relaxed. If you deal with loads of hills like I do then you may want a 1:1 or closer gear relationship. This is harder to get on a road bike, a bit easier with a touring or mountain type bike. If your mostly flat, go road. You may, as the other posters have said, want to think about panniers or other storage options. I use a backpack. Its cheap waterproof and I don't have extra crap attached to my bike slowing my down. I do not have showers at work, but I bring my clothes in my pack and keep a Dopp bag at work. Sea to Summit wipes are handy aslo.
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Old 02-14-11, 12:51 PM   #9
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I might add the tire issue, I do commute on my road bike, but typically commuters run heavier rubber to avoid flats
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Old 02-14-11, 01:10 PM   #10
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Here in Seattle I see all kinds of riders on all kinds of bikes. The building where I work has excellent bike-storage facilities and showers, so people ride everything from cheap beaters to (very) high end racing bikes. Also 'cross bikes are very popular here as commuting bikes. I think this is a personal decision, depending on what you like.

Personally, I like having:
- permanent fenders
- plenty of capability to carry things in a pannier so I am not carrying anything on my back
- a more upright seating position so I'm up and looking at traffic rather than hunched over
- a bike for commuting that I can also use for touring

...leading me to a dedicated commuting/touring bike.

However, I've ridden my "road bike" to work a few times, with my stuff in a messenger bag, and it's great fun. I see why people do it; especially who ride long distances, who use their commute as a training ride on long days, and/or don't have a lot to carry.
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Old 02-14-11, 01:10 PM   #11
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When you're on the bike, the bike doesn't know what you are using it for. If your ride to work is on streets and roads that you would normally ride on o your road bike, then there is no difference between going out for a ride or commuting. If you travel roads that you normally would avoid on your road bike, then whatever bike would suit the road is the one to use.
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Old 02-14-11, 01:33 PM   #12
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How secure is the storage area? A good road bike can be expensive and a target for bike bandits. If your skinny tires are on a nice ride, get a reasonably priced commuter. You never know where you might want to stop when you are commuting.
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Old 02-14-11, 03:14 PM   #13
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I use my Bike Friday Pocket Rocket for commuting. It has fairly narrow tires 28mm and no racks or fenders. I use a backpack to carry food, clothes, and sometimes groceries. If I need to carry quite a bit home, such as a big bag of dog food, then I use a trailer. I've carried much heavier load with the trailer than I would want to carry on any touring bike. I've used other road race bikes for commuting as well & I don't see any issue with it at least as long my commute is on paved roads with no snow or ice. In that case I would use my mountain bike.
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Old 02-14-11, 03:25 PM   #14
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How secure is the storage area?
that is an important one for me, my roadie cost too much to be locked to rack all day.

also, on my commute (round trip), i cross 10 or 12 pairs of train tracks, two of those at the bottom of a bridge. i didn't want to tip toe over that many tracks (or the curbs or the paving stones). so i was using a rigid mtn bike with slicks, until i eventually bought a cx bike. it's as rugged as the mtb, but faster, and still cheaper than the roadie machine.
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Old 02-14-11, 03:26 PM   #15
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I only do my commute occasionally (30 miles each way) And I will not use a heavy- slower bike for that commute. As to getting a Commuter bike--WHY? I have a couple of road bikes that are comfortable and fit me- They work well and I like riding them. I cannot see the sense in buying a special commuter bike that I would not enjoy riding - unless it was of a similar grade to my existing bikes.

The only thing I would do is get another set of wheels and tyres that will mean that the "Good" wheels and tyres are not going to be the main expense for my commute.The wheels would still have to be good and the tyres may be 25's instead of the PR3's in 23- but that way I would not be wearing out my "Fragile" ride wheels prematurely. And I would make time to check the bike over and keep the chain clean and lubed on a daily basis- so that I would not get home too late after making some roadside repairs.

Come to think of it- I checked out an ideal bike last weekend that could be got as my N+1 commuter- But I don't think the wife would stand $7k being spent on another bike- She could get another car for that money
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Old 02-14-11, 04:47 PM   #16
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My commuter bike requirements are slightly different than some folks', because for me commuting isn't a necessity, or even an effort to Save The Planet per se, it's just a way to get some extra miles in midweek as part of my go-fast roadie training.

So in addition to lights and fenders, the most important thing for me was that it behaved like a bona fide road bike. So no upright posture or flat bars or fat tires for me. Just a 25-year-old Bridgestone lugged steel race bike with some 23c Armadillo tires, full coverage SKS fenders, & NiteRider MiNewt Dual headlamps.

It's worked out great for about 4 years...but after this year's extraordinarily snowy winter, I may be replacing it with something a bit more "knobby friendly". Kicking around the idea of a Salsa Vaya before next December; should do all of the above but also allow up to 42c tires. I think.
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Old 02-14-11, 05:42 PM   #17
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I just use one bike (the Rodriguez fixie with couplers) for everything, even - and especially - commuting. Reasons:

1. There's a secure bike room where I can keep it each day.
2. There's a shower at work and a place to keep my clothes, so I can dress like a cyclist.
3. It's about a 45-50 minute ride with hills each way (dependng on route).
4. When it's warmer and dryer, I like to make the return trip much longer. Often it's a 3-hour training ride.
5. So I just wear a small backpack (big enough to carry a 15" laptop, which I must sometimes carry).
6. With no racks or crap on the bike, since I don't believe a bike should be a beast of burden. (Riding a loaded bike is just not fun, it's drudgery! But I come from a racing perspective; that's just me.)
7. But it does have race blades, since this is the Pacific Northwest.
8. I use the bike as a test bed for evaluating equipment, so it's important to ride it every day in every kind of weather. So far, an FSA carbon track crankset has gone 17,000 km before comng apart at the aluminum spindle insert... I've also got data on various tires and brake pads. Currently testing the SRAM Omnium cranks with GXP external bb.
9. I just enjoy riding the one bike; I see no need for n+1 (too acquisitive), but it's important to have at least a spare set of wheels, in addition to a high-zoot set for important rides! You can never have too many wheels.

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Old 02-14-11, 07:14 PM   #18
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I own four road bikes. I use each one to commute to work. There are differences between them that make one a better choice over another depending on the day.

For instance, my Trek Portland is purpose-designed as a road bike for commuting. It has rack and fender mounts, clearance in the frame and fork for my studded snow tires and full fenders, and disc brakes for riding in the wet and the snow. Its geometry makes it more stable the more I load on it. The downside is that its wheels are heavy.

Yellow Bike has rack and fender mounts, but will fit full fenders only over 25mm tires--nothing bigger. Its geometry makes it unstable with heavy loads on the rack, so it gets modest loads only. Its hand-built 32-spoke wheels are lighter (1609g) than many "light" low-spoke count wheels out there. Strong too. Never been trued in four years.

I use one or the other of them on Mondays and Thursdays (depending on the conditions) for hauling food and clothes (and library books) to work on Mondays, and hauling home laundry (and library books) on Thursdays.

In the three seasons, I can ride any one of the four bikes on Tuesdays and Wednesdays when I don't have to tote anything. "Blue Steel", my 1999 Schwinn Peloton is a real hoot to ride in the cut-and-thrust of heavy city traffic. Slices through it like a scalpel. "Jeeves", my Litespeed Classic, likes the days we do the long loop to work, and it especially likes it when we do the long loop home again too. Both bikes have lightweight low-spoke count wheels. I have only one season on these bikes, but no wheel issues.

So yes, you can commute on a road bike. Personally, I wouldn't have it any other way.

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Old 02-14-11, 07:27 PM   #19
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I commuted on a road bike for a while but decided I needed something more rugged. I convinced my wife I needed a mtn bike for a commuter and she went for it. A buddy I hadn't seen in a while stopped by to tell me about his new commuter. Seems he was commuting on a mtn bike and decided he needed a lighter bike. Convinced his wife he needed a road bike for a commuter.

n+1
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Old 02-14-11, 08:24 PM   #20
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Just about any type of bike can be and is used by someone, somewhere to commute to work. (Have never seen a solo commuter on a tandem, but who knows.)
I have used road bikes, a MTB, hybrids, and now a recumbent.

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Old 02-14-11, 10:17 PM   #21
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Seriously?

You can ride a friggin' UNICYCLE for commuting if it works for you!

What is this "right bike" business? It was good enough for you to ACQUIRE it...!
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Old 02-14-11, 11:07 PM   #22
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You can ride a friggin' UNICYCLE for commuting if it works for you!
actually, i believe that's the point of the thread... he's trying to figure out what will work for him. then he'll acquire it.
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Old 02-15-11, 10:17 AM   #23
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What bike you use for commuting should be determined in part by how secure your bike parking place is.

* If you can stow it in your office, ride any bike you want to.

* If you store it at the end of the parking lot locked to a bike rack, ride a bike that no self respecting thief would want to be seen on.
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Old 02-15-11, 11:03 AM   #24
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You've already gotten plenty of advice. My only advice is road bikes make fine commuters assuming your route is mostly paved.

The only bikes I own that I don't commute on are the MTB and muscle bike. Although most of the rest are road bikes of various styles, I do have a cross bike and a single speed. The road bikes differ from the fast lighter one with only a small saddle bag to the one with home-brew lighting, fenders, rack, and panniers.
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Old 02-15-11, 11:27 AM   #25
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I have a commuter bike, with fenders, lights a rack and panniers. It has bullet proof tires.
But on nice days with only a back pack I ride my fixed gear, and even occasionally my Roubaix.

It's more fun to go fast on the Roubaix, but the commuter is a real workhorse. And teh commuter rarely gets cleaned really well whilel teh Roubaix is pretty all teh time.

Bottom line: It can all work. You need to figure out your need for fenders, lights, hauling crap, the potential theft issues and road surface, amount of glass and thorns on the route as well as available cash.
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