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NYC bike commute - road or hybrid?

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NYC bike commute - road or hybrid?

Old 10-12-12, 11:23 PM
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NYC bike commute - road or hybrid?

first off, thanks for all the help on this forum. i'm new here but i've used this site for research in the past. i am a fan of bikes, but no expert or anything, just always happy to be on one... here's my issue for which i'd appreciate some input. i just moved to NYC and decided to bike commute. i've bike-commuted before, but in smaller cities, and a basic entry-level hybrid, though heavy (a Trek 7100), was fine for the distances i was doing. in NYC my commute is about 9 miles one way and on my recently-acquired Fuji Absolute 3.0 is taking me about an hour. i had done a lot of "window shopping" for bikes before i ultimately decided on the one i'm riding, because (1) it's a hybrid, and i am not totally confident on a road bike and (2) it's a secondhand bike, but in near-new condition from 2009 or 2010, and for what it cost me i wouldn't be too bummed if it got stolen (remember i'm living in NYC, so theft is a factor i threw into the calculus for buying a bike)... but now i'm having second thoughts and wondering if i should consider a road bike, just so i can shave some time off my commute. my main questions are:

(1) how much time would i save on a road bike vs my hybrid? (i realize part of the issue is just getting back into shape. i'm a petite woman so body weight isn't an issue but i haven't been regularly biking in 2 yrs, so i might be slow)

(2) does it really pay to buy a road bike if i don't have experience on one? one bike shop guy let me try riding a road bike on whatever-that-apparatus-is-called-that-they-have-in-the-shops, and i actually felt more comfortable than i expected...my concern though is that i'd buy one but then realize i don't like the position for longer distances, and also that i won't have as good eye on the road if i'm not upright

(3) is it sensible to buy a road bike if, now that i know my basic route, it's not always going to be a smooth ride? (it's def all road, but in some parts it's bumpy). i would say that when i was looking around for bikes, the bike shops, after hearing my needs, all told me to go with a hybrid. several guys also said the only reason they ride a road bike is because their commute is just too far (farther than mine), but they'd prefer a hybrid in NYC because of the potholes, bumps, etc.

also, i should say that i'm not "afraid" to get on a road bike per se, but just to use one for commuting as a novice NYC rider

any thoughts?
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Old 10-13-12, 02:27 AM
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There was a recent thread on here about a guy who took his mountain bike on a commute that he usually uses his road bike on, and much to his surprise, he made it to his destination at the same time. He figured that all the time he spent slowing down and dodging potholes on his faster road bike was eliminated on his MTB. So basically, you could go either way. I personally choose form over function by riding a track bike on my commutes, but heck, as long as I love the bike I'm riding on, who cares? Ride what you think you will love riding. Oh, and lastly, if you chose the road bike, it shouldn't take you more than a couple of days to adjust, so don't hesitate if that's what you feel you want.

Last edited by Training.Wheels; 10-13-12 at 02:31 AM.
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Old 10-13-12, 04:49 AM
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happy to say i don't commute in nyc, however i do visit the city 2-3 times a year to attend a meeting or conference - always bring my bike for transport in the city. have also ridden in several 5 boro rides. to your quo-
1. given the lights and traffic - if your bike fits fine, type of bike won't make much difference in your travel time.
2. ride what makes you feel comfortable and safe, have to agree that the road racing riding position that most current "road bikes" seem to have isn't optimal in traffic.
3. usual road bike tire is 23 or 25 mm wide, you will be more comfortable and less jarred with 28 or 32 mm tires. the wheel set on many road bikes won't stand up to the constant abuse city streets can pound out.
PS. IMHO - a 20 yo steel road bike frame , giving a slightly more upright riding position that is set up as a 1x8 with 28 mm tires on stout wheels is a nice balance of features - more comfortable than a "comfort" bike, more efficient to ride if you get a straight stretch, better handling than a road racing bike and less attractive for theft than a newer bike. A couple of currently made choices would be from masi or a surly pacer. Cannot think of the name right now , there use to be a shop in Brooklyn that put together a very nice steel frame bike with 1xN gearing, good wheels and cyclocross style cross levers for the brakes - a very well thought out set up.

Last edited by martianone; 10-13-12 at 05:06 AM. Reason: ps
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Old 10-13-12, 07:45 AM
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As a NYC commuter I can tell you that it won't make any difference AT ALL. It takes me an hour to do my 10 mile commute on either my road bike or my MTB. I was riding my Trek 8000 MTB with slicks for a couple of years, and just last month I had to switch to my road bike, a 16 pound carbon fiber one at that, and it still took an hour. Between the lights, the places where you know better than to ride fast, the traffic, the pedestrians, and the fact that I don't want to get too sweaty I don't make better time. The only time I appreciate the road bike is going up the hill on the Manhattan Bridge. I can usually pass just about everyone else for commuter points.

The other issue I have with a road bike is I don't have a rack, so I'm carrying my stuff in a backpack. Yes, there are other solutions, but I haven't tried them yet. My real solution was to buy another MTB, this time a Trek 7000 from the same year. (oh yeah, the reason I don't have my 8000 is my son took it with him to college when I wouldn't let him take my classic steel roadie.)

So to answer the OPs' questions:
1) none
2)You'll get experience by riding one.
3)Don't worry about smooth roads, they aren't all smooth anywhere, but NYC isn't as bad as one might think.

Last edited by zacster; 10-13-12 at 07:49 AM.
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Old 10-13-12, 09:27 AM
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thank you for the responses! i feel better now about my commute.
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Old 10-13-12, 10:36 AM
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When I become president of the United States, all bicycles will be equipped with touring-grade tires. Nothing less than 28mm. Preferrably 32-28 with air pressure around 80 psi.
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Old 10-13-12, 07:55 PM
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I don't know if you were planning on commuting in the winter, but if it's a possibility, remember that a hybrid can probably take snow tires (which are usually ~35mm minimum), but that may not fit on a road bike.
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Old 10-13-12, 08:31 PM
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Originally Posted by gerv
When I become president of the United States, all bicycles will be equipped with touring-grade tires. Nothing less than 28mm. Preferrably 32-28 with air pressure around 80 psi.
you will have my vote.
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Old 10-15-12, 09:09 AM
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You don't need snow tires in NYC (usually). If you do, take the subway.

Re: roadbike, you can always opt for a flat bar roadbike so you sit up a tiny bit more to see traffic. Throw some 28's or greater to smooth out the bumps, use a rack to carry your stuff so you don't get back sweats, and keep in mind the weight of the bike and how easy/hard it is to carry if you have to carry it up/down stairs to get into your apartment.
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Old 10-15-12, 09:32 AM
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I agree, you probably won't get there any faster with a road bike.

Personally, my ideal NYC commuter is a road bike with fenders and fat-ish touring tires. 32mm is the best compromise between comfort and speed, IMO.
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Old 10-15-12, 09:56 AM
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This may not mean anything to anyone, but my aluminum road bike with CF fork and 700x25c tires rides better than my aluminum MTB with 26x1.5 tires (38mm equivalent) and chro-mo rigid fork. I don't know, everything just seems smoother and more dampened with that CF fork, even though the MTB has much wider tires.
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Old 10-15-12, 10:28 AM
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You got it Locked up off the street on both ends of the trip?
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