What’s the best way to commute by bike: City, road bike or mountain bike?

As a rootless, tribeless and bike-agnostic cyclist, I ride anything with two wheels. My daily commutes can range from fast road bikes when I’m looking for a workout, to a city cruiser when I’m on a slow roll to the pub. But I’ve often wondered which method was best for my commute to work.

So I decided to test three methods to compare:

1. A slow bike, ridden safely on bike lanes and separated bike paths.

2. A fast road bike, ridden as quickly as possible on the most direct route, no matter how much traffic I might confront or how much of a asshole I might be while on the road.

3. A mountain bike, ridden in the most direct route possible, whether a road exists or not.

I tracked each ride on the app Strava, and took note of a few more subjective measurements. Here are the results:

My city bike: comfortable, sure and steady.
The slow ride

Distance: 9.1 kilometres (bike lanes aren’t always the most direct route)

Time: 28:09

Average speed: 19.6 km/h.

Description: It was an easy and relaxing ride that felt safe. I arrived at work feeling energized, but not worn out. And best of all: no shower required once I arrived at the office.

Technically a cyclocross bike, this ride is light, fast and gets around quickly.
The road bike

Distance: 7.4 kilometres (I took the most direct roads possible, no matter the traffic volume)

Time: 17:23

Average speed: 25.6 km/h

Description: It was a fast, aggressive ride, and it felt that way. Being alongside rows of traffic for most of the ride doesn’t make for the most relaxing experience, especially when you need to cut across those lanes of traffic to make a left turn. And since I was channeling the stereotypical asshole cyclist, I took stop signs more like suggestions, which undoubtedly annoyed others on the street. I arrived sweaty, buzzing and a little harried.

This hard-tail mountain bike is a dream on single-track.
The mountain bike

Distance: 7.9 kilometres (I thought cutting through green spaces would save distance, but it didn’t really, partly because my navigation was bad. Who knew roads were actually direct and efficient?!)

Time: 23:33

Average speed: 20.3 km/h

Description: While it was fun finding single-track through urban parks, this was by far the most work. I arrived sopping and wheezing. This proved what you probably already knew: Getting around in a city works best on roads that were built for exactly that.

The verdict

Sorry for the disappointment, but this didn’t really clear anything up for me. I still see myself using both the slow city bike and the fast road bike at times (the mountain bike, well, I’ll save that for the mountains). My advice: Choose your favourite style and enjoy every minute of it.

Music by Mark Race.

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Tom Babin is the author of Frostbike: The Joy, Pain and Numbness of Winter Cycling: http://www.rmbooks.com/book_details.php?isbn_upc=9781771600484


Nico Tupas says:

Nice video! I’m interested in that helmet you used for the road bike, looks like a MET Manta.

Platon Kostelletos says:

Nice video…Please reduce the music volume is too loud, comparing your voice volume.

Andre Rice says:

Awesome video! Thanks!

drie wiel says:

Neither has a basket for groceries on your way back to save time so they are all slow.

Chris B says:

I commuted on a hybrid bike with skinny tires. I got two bent rims and three flats because the road I go on has a lot of pot holes and bumps. I changed to a mountain bike and haven’t had any issues.

midtoad says:

Well that was a fun comparison to make. but the results would be different for each person doing the test since every commute is different. Some routes lend themselves to riding off road, while other longer routes benefit most from a fast bike.

Reinis Martinsons says:

A cheap fixie type bike with a freewheel

hellraizer44 says:

Just because you have a road bike doesn’t mean you should cycle aggressively or a mountain bike you should take the shortest route Planning your route, following traffic rules and giving simple courtesy to your fellow commuters and pedestrians is the best way to commute.

Yunus says:

I live in Turkey and we don’t have any bicycle lanes here, I have to always switch between the main road and sidewalks. Your ride is too peaceful comparing to mine. Plus, we don’t have civil drivers like in your country so I dont wanna go fast and die. So it is like mad max. I’m using mtb in the city because I have to make instant turns and switch between main road to sidewalk quickly.

So if you riding in a country like mine, mtb is the gold decision.

NNA77 says:

Youre so HOT!!!

Supreme Flagship says:

What about fat bikes?

Cosmos Daze says:

Great video champ! Ride my hybrid to and from work on a route that has a bit of everything. Loving it and wondering why I didn’t start earlier. Keep up the good work mate!!

Daryn Lanphear says:

Its a one hour bike ride for me to work every day. I have a cheap walmart mtb and I have already worn it down heavily since I bought it this summer.

Google This says:

Interesting. I thought the mtb would win.

Werral says:

it would be interesting to see the results of the different bikes on the same route.

Jose Rene Ducharme says:

What City is it?

jessestylex says:

I use my MNT bike for everything. It’s sturdy, light and has hybrid tires and does good on all surfaces. I don’t like road bikes because I like to sit more in a upright position and I don’t like road bike brake lever positions (too low). I think bike companies have done a good job into making people think they need a bike for every occasion , season and holiday.

Andy Thousand says:

Great video. I would like to feature your video on my blog. Andythousand.com

beetdiggingcougar says:

Yay for Calgary! Thanks for the video.

Dooneegomaface Ifinnaspring says:

I commute on a beach cruiser. This is after many years and miles on all kinds of bikes. I’ve found that a cruiser bike is perfect for any and every ride for me.

MrHockaluger says:

My commute is about 6 miles on mostly bike lanes. I started with a folding bike to road bike to mountain bike and finally e-mtb. The e-mtb is the best commuter for me and then the mtb. Reason for mtb is because tubeless for me is a must as it has saved me countless times. Flats at 5am are not fun. Suspension is great for rougher roads and going offroad if you must. The e-mtb edges out the normal mtb because I can use a low setting when going to work for a nice workout but I can switch to turbo going home when I”m dead tired from work.

ian rama says:

I think mtb is the best coz you can use it anywhere and the rim were so tough you can easily jump into the footpath. You can hit the bumps in the pedestrian crossroads which they put some additional inch bricks any pedestrian pass

Rusev says:

Nice video 😉 Interesting and well thought.

AceRidesBikes says:

City bike all the way for commuting, but I’d have one with mudguards because it rains here. It rains a lot.

André Arauco says:

thanks bro your video helped me a lot

TruthFLA says:

Why not do the same route on 3 different bikes?

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