Knowing the types of bikes available can offer you much-needed information for picking the right one for your needs. In this article, we will explore the various characteristics of road bikes and commuter bikes to see which features make them stand apart. If you plan to commute every day to work on a bike, you may prefer the latter. But if you like to be able to speed up, the former could be your choice. Let’s explore all these differences thoroughly.
The road bike in a nutshell
The name of the game for a road bike is speed. Everything, from the design of the frame to the position of the handlebars, clearly caters to this particular aspect, so that’s the first thing you need to remember when you pick one. In case you need to get somewhere fast, you can count on a road bike to satisfy your need for a fast means of transportation that’s not a gas-guzzling vehicle.
The commuter bike in a nutshell
While speed is the most important characteristic of a road bike, a commuter bike has something else as its crucial feature, and that is comfort. Speeding to work on a road bike may sound like fun, but if you do it every day, you might notice that the comfort is not stellar. For regular commuters who need to spend quite some time every day on a bike, a commuter bike is what they should get.
Several essential characteristics of road bikes
One thing that makes road bikes truly stand out is their lightweight design. It’s natural that they have this type of profile since the fast acceleration they are known for is made possible by it, among other things. Also, if you need to go over hilly terrain, you will be more than thankful for the lightweight construction of a road bike.
To make sure that road bikes keep their weight low, manufacturers use a rigid frame and not a suspension system. Because the rider sits in a dropped position, your own weight is used to push your bike forward, making the use of a suspension system redundant. However, as you may well expect, this design sacrifices the rider’s comfort to some degree.
One of the things that make road bikes what they are is the type of tires and wheels employed. Compared to a commuter bike, a road bike has larger wheels. That means that you will get faster to your destination, as the big wheels will need fewer rotations to cover the distance. At the same time, the tires are slimmer than what you can see on a commuter model.
There is little tread on the tires, as well. That means that you will get less friction and resistance. All in all, these tires are clearly designed for speed, and that’s what you need to know. The wheels themselves are lightweight, and that contributes to the speedier ride you will enjoy while on a road bike.
Several essential characteristics of commuter bikes
If you are a commuter who has to ride to work every day, your choice should be obvious. Commuter bikes are made with your needs in mind, and the most important trait is the superior comfort they provide. The saddle installed on such a bike is wider than what you can see in a road bike, and that surely caters to your comfort. Since your daily ride to work might be half an hour or longer, such an aspect cannot be ignored.
These bikes are equipped with straight handlebars, which you will quickly come to appreciate, for the excellent grip and wrist support provided. That also means that you will sit in the saddle in a more relaxed position. Overall, all these aspects contribute to the excellent comfort offered. When you ride this type of bike, you will notice that you will be able to go like that for a long time without experiencing any fatigue.
Another thing that must be taken into account is that commuter bikes offer excellent durability. Even if your road to work includes some potholes and other obstacles, this type of bike will behave better than a road bike. The tires are heavier, compared to what you can see on a road bike, but it also comes with a suspension system that makes everything easier to handle.
Dealing with heavy weights is possible for a commuter bike, and that is why you will notice that many have various accessories. If you are interested in adding lights, baskets, or fenders, you will see that it is not only possible but easy to do if your bike of choice is a commuter model.
Because you sit in the saddle in an upright position, you have more control over the bike, and also better visibility, another factor that’s incredibly important when you commute to work every day.
Road bikes have an aerodynamic design
If you take a good look at the way a road bike is designed, you will notice that the handlebars are positioned lower than on a commuter bike. That’s an essential element, as it contributes to the overall aerodynamics of this type of vehicle. Of course, that means that you’ll get a higher speed. What’s essential to notice here is that this particular design of the handlebars will allow you to use your strongest muscles to propel the bike forward.
A road bike makes good use of your weight to gain speed. It is particularly agile for this reason, and you can leverage your body weight to increase the speed you can achieve. If getting anywhere fast is your most important goal, you should get a road bike. However, the high agility of a road bike comes at a price, and that’s comfort, which is precisely the most important characteristic of commuter bikes.
Commuter bikes come with a dependable suspension system
While road bikes have a rigid frame, commuter bikes are equipped with a reliable suspension system. This part of the equipment allows the wheels to roll without influencing the bike frame. That’s great for absorbing shocks, which is why it is one of the crucial differences between the two types of bikes reviewed here.
The tires are made to resist shocks as well, and their sturdy construction contributes to the overall comfort. Because of such characteristics, riding a commuter bike is always comfortable, and your daily commute will be relaxed and easy on your muscles, too.
The most important disadvantages of road bikes
Since you need to compare the two bike types side by side, it is helpful to understand the most critical weaknesses, as well. Lack of comfort is the main factor that prevents a regular commuter from opting with an easy heart for a road bike. When you commute over long distances, having a comfortable position on a road bike is a challenging thing to obtain.
Also, you need to consider the fact that you will have to grip the handlebars with all your strength, which means that your muscles will be put, from one point forward, through a real ordeal.
Don’t expect a road bike to do well with heavy loads. That means that regular usage over long distances can reduce its durability quite significantly. Therefore, you would do better to choose a road bike only if you like to engage in activities such as racing. For that, road bikes are the optimal alternative, but for commuting, consider the lack of comfort as an impeding factor.
The most important disadvantages of commuter bikes
As you may already expect by now, one of the crucial downsides of a commuter bike is its weight. By no means a light means of transportation, the commuter bike compromises a few things for the extra comfort you’ll enjoy while riding it. With size and weight comes a drop in performance, and you should never consider it a good option if you want to race to work. As already said, this type of bike is built for comfort, not speed.
The upright position you will naturally assume when in the saddle will also create drag; therefore, the aerodynamics have a lot to suffer. Power transfer is not possible the same way it is for road bikes, so you won’t be able to use your body weight to make the bike go faster.
Last but not least, the suspension mechanism may be a cause of headaches as it can malfunction and encounter other technical problems. Road bikes have a rigid frame, and therefore, they are low maintenance when compared to commuter bikes.
Road bikes are all about performance
For people who value speed, a road bike is a godsend. It is still a type of vehicle that you can ride around town, unlike specialized models designed to conquer mountains and challenging terrain, and it has the looks to prove it. Racing is possible, and riding a road bike is plenty of fun, something that can’t be easily said about commuter bikes.
Let’s say that you have to ride uphill. Good luck tackling such challenges when in the saddle of a commuter bike. Get a road model, and you will fly over hilly terrain without breaking a sweat. The nimbleness of a road bike is hard to beat, and you will know that getting from point A to point B in a timely fashion is not only possible, but it could also be a thrill ride.
The low rolling resistance of the tires used on a road bike is another essential feature that contributes significantly to performance. Also, if you intend to hike your road bike up the stairs to your apartment, seeing how some models weigh as little as 14 pounds, that’s clearly a doable thing.
You will love the acceleration on a road bike. That’s why they’re great at racing. It doesn’t matter how challenging the route you’ll take is, the road bike you’re riding will help you tackle it without a problem. What you should take from this is that road bikes are created with performance and speed in mind, and this is what they do best.
Commuter bikes are all about utility
Ergonomics and comfort are two elements that define the core of a commuter bike. If you need a reliable means of transportation that’s not a car and reduces your carbon footprint, a commuter bike is highly recommended. As its name indicates, it has a very specific purpose, which is to help you get to work and back home every day.
Especially if your commute is long, the comfort this type of bike offers is paramount. While no one keeps you from going to work on a road bike, you will notice soon enough that it’s not an ideal choice. The wide saddle and grips with proper wrist support are just a few elements that cater to the rider’s absolute comfort.
A commuter bike is sturdy, and that shows in every part that goes into its construction. The tires are wide and heavy compared to what you can see on a road bike, and they’re built to last. That means that you will experience fewer flat tire incidents, so getting to work every day will be as uneventful as it can possibly be.
In the past, it was common knowledge that commuter bikes are, by no means, good looking vehicles. They appeared clumsy and heavy, and that could be a reason why many people weren’t crazy about them. However, that changed a lot during recent years, and more and more bike manufacturers sell models that are stylish and elegant.
Road bikes and commuter bikes are both excellent at what they do. That said, your purpose for the bike you intend to purchase plays the most crucial role in choosing the right one. Road bikes are fast and built for racing, and they’re a lot of fun. You use your muscles to make it go faster, which is a reward – and a workout – in itself.
Commuter bikes are slow, cumbersome, but really comfortable, so commuting to work every day over long distances will be a breeze. While not as presentable as road bikes, they are reliable, and that’s the essential aspect for commuters.
You can use a road bike for racing, while you can’t even dream of doing the same thing with a commuter bike. If you want to ride uphill, the former is the obvious choice, once more. But try spending a lot of time in traffic in the saddle of a road bike, and you will wish you opted for a commuter bike, instead.
There is no winner between the two for very simple reasons. They are both great for the purpose they were designed in the first place. Don’t forget that bike manufacturers continuously compete to come up with ideas to improve existing designs. That means that road bikes will become more comfortable, and commuter bikes may also become lighter and more manageable in the future.
Take your time and think about what bike would be a good option for your needs. If you like to race, and speed matters most, go for a road bike. But if you have a long commute to work every day, don’t waste money on a road model, and opt for a commuter bike.