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Commuting on the road on a mountain bike = worst idea ever

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Commuting on the road on a mountain bike = worst idea ever

Old 10-28-13, 07:52 AM
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WestMass
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Commuting on the road on a mountain bike = worst idea ever

I run this bike club after school with my students and they like riding trails rather than on the road, but usually I commute on my 'cross bike and it wouldn't be the best in the woods. Since we're meeting today I rode my mountain bike to work. I was also curious how different it would be since I've never done it before.

1) I added almost 10 minutes to my commute (30min->40min)
2) I felt like I was working so hard and getting no where

I can't imagine how putting slicks onto it would have made any difference. I love my bike in the woods but man I can't imagine how you guys do it who commute on mtbs every day.

Bike in question is a 2014 Cannondale SL2 Trail hardtrail - front fork locked out for commute.

All I could think was "man - I take for granted how awesome riding a road bike on the road is"
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Old 10-28-13, 08:09 AM
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Slicks make a huge difference, even fat ones like Big Apples.

Another nice benefit to always taking the heavy commuter is on the occasional day where I take the road bike, it's like being shot from a cannon.
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Old 10-28-13, 08:13 AM
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Originally Posted by WestMass View Post
I run this bike club after school with my students and they like riding trails rather than on the road, but usually I commute on my 'cross bike and it wouldn't be the best in the woods. Since we're meeting today I rode my mountain bike to work. I was also curious how different it would be since I've never done it before.

1) I added almost 10 minutes to my commute (30min->40min)
2) I felt like I was working so hard and getting no where

I can't imagine how putting slicks onto it would have made any difference. I love my bike in the woods but man I can't imagine how you guys do it who commute on mtbs every day.

Bike in question is a 2014 Cannondale SL2 Trail hardtrail - front fork locked out for commute.

All I could think was "man - I take for granted how awesome riding a road bike on the road is"
Just got a pair of Schwalbe Marathon Supremes in 26 x 2.0, and was easily keeping up with road bikes at 24 mph on the ride in this morning. Slicks make a huge difference, as does conditioning. Very pleased with the new tires. Significantly more comfortable than the same tire in 700 x 35, and not much slower (less than 1 mph, if any difference at all). Of course, this is a flat commute, so hills would be more of a challenge.
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Old 10-28-13, 08:44 AM
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Yeah my commute is relatively hilly.

It actually got me thinking that I might swap down on my cross bike from the 700x32s I'm riding now back to 25 in front and 28 in back like I used to have.
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Old 10-28-13, 08:44 AM
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Slicks make a huge difference. Like 3-5 mph. Try some low profile race slicks.
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Old 10-28-13, 09:27 AM
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I ride an old heavy mountain bike to commute and also use it in the winter with studded tires.
Yes indeed it is a lot of work, but when I ride my 20# road bike it does feel like being shot out
of a cannon...lol
I easily ride 4-5mph faster on my road bike with the same effort.
I kind of look at it like bench pressing 300 pounds so when I bench 100 pounds, well you get the idea..
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Old 10-28-13, 09:30 AM
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Slicks and drops make a big difference. I recommend both.
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Old 10-28-13, 09:51 AM
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I rode my mountain bike to work one time and that was enough. However, I enjoy commuting on my touring and cross bikes for a change of pace from my road bikes. Slicks will make a Mtn bike roll nicer, but it will still weigh a ton and lose energy to the front fork compressing.
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Old 10-28-13, 10:26 AM
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Originally Posted by WestMass View Post
I run this bike club after school with my students and they like riding trails rather than on the road, but usually I commute on my 'cross bike and it wouldn't be the best in the woods. Since we're meeting today I rode my mountain bike to work. I was also curious how different it would be since I've never done it before.

1) I added almost 10 minutes to my commute (30min->40min)
2) I felt like I was working so hard and getting no where

I can't imagine how putting slicks onto it would have made any difference. I love my bike in the woods but man I can't imagine how you guys do it who commute on mtbs every day.

Bike in question is a 2014 Cannondale SL2 Trail hardtrail - front fork locked out for commute.

All I could think was "man - I take for granted how awesome riding a road bike on the road is"
I commute on mountain bikes with aggressive knobbies all the time. I've never found the time difference as large as yours nor the effort to be all that much harder. I do, however, ride trails on the way to work with generally takes more time than riding on the road but that doesn't bother me because being concerned only about speed misses the point of the mountain bike. I ride the mountain bike as a way to break up the monotony. Riding to work as fast as you possibly can may be more efficient but, damn, it gets boring.

Riding a mountain bike equipped for off-road adventures provides another benefit. The reason that I push harder to keep up my speed or work harder to ride off-road is the harder part. It's easy to get caught in the trap of riding a road bike in the most efficient manner possible. That works for building endurance but does nothing for building strength. Pushing an, admittedly, inefficient mountain bike over the same distance and attempting to match the speed or bombing off into the woods does wonders for making you a stronger rider. It also teaches you lots of handling skills that you just can't get on a road bike.

There's also the playing around in the woods with your students aspect. Enduring a small reduction in speed is a rather small price to pay if you enjoyed the ride with your kids.
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Old 10-28-13, 10:27 AM
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Don't forget gearing. I gave my Nishiki Blazer the larget front chainring (53) that would fit. That and road tires.
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Old 10-28-13, 10:41 AM
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I commute on both and of course the road bike is faster but not by much. It feels like its rolling easier but I arrive at work at the very same time. The Mountain bike with slicks is about 3 lbs heavier than my steel road bike but its more comfortable and I can use it for off road jaunts to change things up a little, so I arrive in pretty good shape even though its slightly less efficient. I can put studded tires on it for winter and then it gets really slow but at least I can go safely. I enjoy the road bike better but only because it feels more nimble. In reality the difference isn't as great as you have experienced unless it was a 14 lb carbon fiber racer.
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Old 10-28-13, 10:46 AM
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My main bike (solely recreational...no commuting) has road bike geometry and I generally run slicks or pavement oriented all purpose tires (Schwalbe Duremes). I've been interested in getting a Surly Ogre for more versatility and I found an LBS that has a Karate Monkey (exact same geometry as Ogre) so I went and test rode it. First, I didn't realize KM's come as a single-speed. Second, I've never ridden real mountain bike tires. This is an LBS where you give them your ID and they hand you a bike and show you the door. It's in a college town so there were a lot of residential streets so I went cruising for 10-15 minutes. I can't imagine riding like this for very long or very far but I am extremely interested in how much difference slicks like Big Apples would make. I would love to ride this thing in the dirt but on pavement.......no way. The heavy frame with knobby tires and single-speed drivetrain....talk about pedaling and pedaling and feeling like you aren't getting anywhere!!!!!!
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Old 10-28-13, 12:18 PM
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While not optimal, it is totally doable and is good way to train. I do my 35 mile a day commutes, weekend hill rides and even a century on the Montagus Paratrooper (a 29 lbs folding mountain bike + rack/rack bag) with slicks without problems. I even saw people doing the century on a hand bike -- now that is the worst (but most respectable) idea ever

BTW, how long is your commute and how fast are you going? If you are expecting to go fast against head wind a road bike is certainly a must better idea. My average speed is around 16 mph for my commuite and 15 for my century. I cannot sustain a speed of over 20 mph for long on a mountain bike.

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Old 10-28-13, 01:35 PM
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Despite less than optimal gearing, weight geometry etc., a mountain bike equipped with slicks is probably going to make you about 2-3mph slower. At least that is what it does for me if riding the same roads. Not a big deal on a shorter commute but on LONG commutes it can make a difference.

Regardless, when it comes to bikes and "speed." I always say if I wanted to go fast, I would drive the car.
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Old 10-28-13, 02:36 PM
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My MTB works for my commutes. Obtaining shot out of a cannon speeds for me would mean needing to upgrade to disc brakes and some increased lean angles when cornering, I rarely get to go the same speed and distance for long.
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Old 10-28-13, 03:03 PM
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Slow or not, a mtb can go anywhere a road bike can go. A road bike dare not tread where many mtbikes go!

Last edited by WestPablo; 10-28-13 at 04:57 PM.
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Old 10-28-13, 04:13 PM
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Have 26" wheels with Marathon + tires and trekking bars .. It works for me..
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Old 10-28-13, 04:29 PM
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I HATE when my commuter is out of commission and I have to ride the MTB to work. Listen to all the wise people above, slicks do make a big difference; but also suspension will kill you, especially uphill, especially especially if you stand.
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Old 10-28-13, 04:37 PM
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Fitness/city bikes are the best for commuting, if you are alien to folding bikes.

Merida Speeder
Trek FX Series
Specialized Sirrus

are the ones, that reminds me "commuting".
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Old 10-28-13, 04:46 PM
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Originally Posted by RubeRad View Post
I HATE when my commuter is out of commission and I have to ride the MTB to work. Listen to all the wise people above, slicks do make a big difference; but also suspension will kill you, especially uphill, especially especially if you stand.
Yes suspension does make a difference. You can either lock it up (if available), change it to a rigid fork or set it at the firmest setting which is what I did.

Last edited by stanleyl; 10-28-13 at 04:57 PM.
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Old 10-28-13, 06:10 PM
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It all depends on how your mountain bike is set up. I have two MTB's with a rigid fork, cross tires and singlespeed drivetrain of about 65 gear inches. On of them has drop bars and the other has flat bar with bar ends. Those two bikes are pretty fast and very efficient on the road, almost as fast as my fixie . What I like most about it, is that I can get off the road and take short cuts or dirt trails and ride through places which would destroy a flimsy road racing bike.
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Old 10-28-13, 06:15 PM
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Like every response I expected came out here.

1) I won't ever put slicks or drop bars on my mtb because it is rad the way it is and i like riding it through the woods on trails
2) I don't know how much my MTB weighs, but my regular commuter is a Kona JTS and it's about 23lbs with rack and stuff.
3) Generally I don't ride fast on my commutes at all - on the way in (a little more hilly) I average 12-13.5 mph and on the way home I'll average between 14 and 16. It's a 7 mile commute.
4) Comparing speed on road rides is like apples and oranges depending on where you live. Is it impressive for someone to average 20+mph on a long road ride? I generally only average 14 or 15 miles an hour on a 30-50 miler, but I'm putting in close to 1000 feet climbing for every 10 miles.
5) I did have my fork locked out
6) My ride home was a lot more fun because I knew it was going to be slow - AND I was able to take a woods trail short cut that was pretty fun to cut a half mile off my commute. With my fiddling around in the woods, my ride home took me 45 minutes where it usually only takes me 26-28 minutes.

I guess the point of my post was more along the lines of the following

1) Riding a stock setup mountain bike when you are commuting on roads is less fun, slower, and more tiring than riding say, a cyclocross bike set up for commuting (which is my usual go-to bike for to-work riding)

I guess my experience today made me confused at all of the mountain bikes I see in this forum. If I could ride through the woods to work, you better believe I'd be on a mountain bike - but riding roads... not so much
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Old 10-28-13, 06:18 PM
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Knobbies, aerodynamics, and weight are the big culprits. 38mm slicks help with two out of three. But there's just something to how a road bike responds to pedaling that a mountain bike doesn't. It's like a spring in your step.
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Old 10-28-13, 06:58 PM
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Originally Posted by WestPablo View Post
Slow or not, a mtb can go anywhere a road bike can go. A road bike dare not tread where many mtbikes go!
Exactly!

Originally Posted by Darth Lefty View Post
Knobbies, aerodynamics, and weight are the big culprits. 38mm slicks help with two out of three. But there's just something to how a road bike responds to pedaling that a mountain bike doesn't. It's like a spring in your step.
Depends on where you are pedaling. Bombing down a trail on 23 mm tires is going to put a hitch in your getalong but it won't put any kind of spring in your step.
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Old 10-28-13, 06:59 PM
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i wouldn't say it's "the worst idea ever."

i will say that i burned more calories riding a 25km RT commute on an MTB with semi-knobbies than i do with a 25km RT commute on a single-speed with a 23-622 tyre and drops.
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