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Are Road Bikes Good For Commuting? – The Pros and Cons Explained

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If you travel to and from work every day, riding a bike as a means of transport has it’s advantages.

It’s cheap, can sometimes be faster than driving or public transport, and of course, you get a workout.

A daily bout of exercise and your commute ticked off at the same time? Win-Win!

But can you commute to work by riding a drop bar road bike rather than a flat bar commuter bike, hybrid or mountain bike?

In fact a better question is – Are road bikes good for commuting? The answer is that road bikes CAN be good for riding to work. They are fast and light. But you should be aware of the pros and cons of going down the drop bar route. They may not be for everyone.

Ok, let’s go…

Are road bikes ok for commuting to work?Pin

Advantages Of Using A Road Bike For Commuting

There’s a few positives for road bike commuting over using a commuter bike. When we say a commuter bike bike, we mean a flat bar bicycle. A “commuter bike” is basically just a marketing term for bikes that have flat bars.

These are considered easier to handle for those who aren’t bike enthusiasts, and just want to ride relatively short distances as easily as possible.

To confuse things even more, there are flat bar road bikes. These are road bikes with flat bars.

Read more: Flat bars vs drop bars

Road Bike Vs. Commuter Bike – Quick Comparison

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For the purposes of this article, we’re calling road bikes the traditional drop bar type.

Anyway, onto the advantages.

Let’s start with…

1. You Can Ride Faster

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Of course, road bikes are designed for speed. This is a biggie.

Because you are in a more aerodynamic position, you will be able to cover more ground at a quicker rate. Your speed is limited only by your ability.

This is good news for those who are often running late for work and just want to get there ASAP (to avoid awkward looks from a boss who likes to keep an eye on the clock).

It’s also good for those of you who hate your job and just want to get home as quick as possible. I’m sure there are some of you reading this who can relate to that!

Another pro with riding a road bike, especially going home, was having little mini-races with fellow commuters. Commuters racing each other is a thing, and it can actually get quite competitive.

Of course, it’s not mandatory to participate, but I often used to get involved, even if I sad to myself I wouldn’t before I jumped on my bike. My inner competitive self was quickly triggered by another commuting cyclist whizzing past me.

I’d love to say I always closed the gap and passed them again, but I’d be lying. LOL.

Related: Road bikes under 2K

2. Easier To Ride Between Cars And Other Obstacles

With their slim bars road bikes are good for squeezing through tight spots.

If you’re stuck in a traffic jam, it’s easier to ride through (or roll through by balancing with your feet on the ground) stationary cars. This gets you to the front of the traffic lights ready for the next green light – and that’s good for avoiding getting squeezed out by passing cars as you set off.

If you live in an area with bike paths you can ride along with more confidence knowing you’re less likely to clip a fellow cyclist or walker on a shared path. We can’t say the same for wider flat bars.

3. Road Bikes Are Lighter

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The lighter, the better. Road bikes are significantly lighter than mountain bikes, and a bit lighter than hybrids or “commuter bikes”.

Why is less weight better?

Well, you can go faster of course, especially up hills. But when you factor in the extra gear you are carrying into work, a lighter bike just makes more sense.

You’ll likely be carrying a laptop, change of clothes, lunch….it all adds up. Riding a light road bike helps lessen the load from all your extras, and helps make the commute that little bit easier.

If your journey partly relies on public transport, it’s easier to lug your lighter bike on and off trains. The ultimate type of bike for this though is the folding bike.

The only caveat with less weight is that some less experienced cyclists might not like the “twitchiness” of lighter bikes. Heavier bikes tend to be more firmly planted to the ground.

Disadvantages Of Using A Road Bike For Commuting

It’s not all good news for a road bike commute.

There are drawbacks, and for some, these might be dealbreakers. Of course, if your ride to work includes off-road and you don’t have the tires on your road bike to deal with this (or it’s REALLY off-road), we recommend you look at using at least a hybrid or even a mountain bike.

1. Handling Might Be Too Twitchy

We touched on twitchiness in the Road Bikes Are Lighter section. But it crops up here again for different reasons.

Drop bars tend to have much narrower width compared to their drop bar counterparts. There are wide bikepacking/touring drop bars, but we are discounting these here.

Narrow bars mean that handling might be more of a challenge, particularly at slower speeds, and in heavier traffic.

A commuting bike (jeez, do we have to keep using that phrase?) with their flat bars can be easier to manouver and can be quicker to turn when reacting to a sudden need to change direction.

The more experienced bike commuters among you might not care about this as they’re used to road bike handling, but it’s absolutely worth a mention for the less experienced riders out there.

2. Road Bikes May Be Less Comfortable

This might be an issue for those who don’t ride often, but have a longer commute. If you are looking for the most comfortable commute, road bikes might not be your best option.

This is because the saddles are typically narrower and firmer. Also, the handlebars are positioned lower than fat bar bikes.

This isn’t a problem for me, because I use bib shorts. And bib shorts have chamois pads to help lessen the pain that the narrow saddles would cause.

But if you’re a very casual cyclist, road bikes may just be too uncomfortable. Especially if you’re riding more than 10 miles into work.

3. Limited Racks and Storage Options

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A road bike with PLENTY of on-bike storage!

I think this is a very general statement, and isn’t necessarily true.

Road bikes often don’t have as many options to add accessories, like eyelets to hold pannier racks – essential for carrying your bits and pieces to and from work.

A lot of road bikes these days in fact DO have these eyelets for pannier racks. With the rising popularity of long distance endurance riding, gravel bikes, touring road bikes, bikepacking etc, eyelets are becoming more popular again.

These eyelets can be used for attaching panniers and other bags for transporting your work essentials

A lot of road bikes, particularly the racier ones, just don’t have these options.

Don’t discount these bikes totally though. There are pannier racks and bags that can attach to seat posts and handlebars without the need for eyelets.

Also, there’s nothing stopping you from carrying your gear in a commuting backpack over your shoulders. We wouldn’t recommend putting too much stuff in there though. Your neck and shoulders might end up hating you for it!

Read more: Biking backpack for groceries

4. Gearing might not be great for weaker riders or hilly commutes

Sometimes road bike gear selection might be limited (for some riders).

Road bike gears are usually less varied than mountain or hybrid bike gears. These bikes often have triple rings at the front which covers all bases when it comes to gradients.

Note that there are some triple ring road bikes too. They aren’t that common though.

Road Bike Cycling Commuting FAQs

What Alternatives Are There To Road Bikes For Commuting?

We touched on this before, but there are “commuter bikes” which is just a marketing term for a flat bar hybrid (or sometimes even a flat bar road bike).

An MTB (mountain bike) is also fine to use.

If you are using public transport, like a train, you could consider a folding bike. Some transport operators have mandatory policies that only folding bike scan be used during the rush hour commuting windows.

Are road bikes good for city riding?

They’re fine. At least I think so.

For others, especially those who don’t ride much, road bikes might be a big “no”. This is because some people don’t like the narrow handlebar handling of road bikes.

Which one is best for a daily commute a road bike or a mountain bike?

Ooooh, that’s very subjective. In very hilly zones, a mountain bike might be preferable for some riders.

What is the best bag for commuting via road bike with a laptop?

When I commuted with my road bike (or with any bike), I’d put my laptop in a backpack.

I just didn’t have full confidence that putting a laptop in rack bags wouldn’t cause enough shock to damage the laptop. I’d put anything else (not fragile) in pannier bags on a rear rack – no problem.

So, Are Road Bikes Good For Commuting? (or at least as good as commuter bikes?)

In my opinion? Yes.

Road bikes are faster, and you can double-up your weekend adventure bike as a daily commuter.

However, if you’re just a casual rider and are looking for a bike purely for commuting, then a commuter bike (hybrid or mountain bike) might just be the answer for you.

So there you have it. The pros and cons of road commuter bikes.

We hoped you enjoyed the article! Comment below if you commute to work with a road bike, or if you want to ask any questions.

Bike Push - Mark W
Mark W
I’m a cycling enthusiast, and the founder and chief editor of Bike Push. If I’m not working on this website, then I’m out on the bike clocking up the miles. I want to help others get the most out of cycling.

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