If you own a road bike, you may just own a potentially fantastic bicycle to ride to work. But road bikes are primarily built for speed on the road as they come out of the box. Depending on your commute and your current setup, your road bike may need a few upgrades in order to turn it into the ultimate commuter bike.
To convert a road bike into a commuter, consider the following upgrades: flat pedals, comfortable saddle, raising handlebars, adding fenders, puncture-proof tires, and a rear rack for practicality, as well as a rearview mirror, reflective details, lights, and a good lock for safety.
Modifications to the bike
Another upgrade to turn your road bike to commuter flat pedals. They allow you to adjust your position while riding and give your foot more freedom to stabilize.
They also work with any shoe, whether you’re riding to the office or the market, regardless of the weather. In case you switch shoes very often, the flat pedals make you find the best riding position for each shoe.
There are some drawbacks though, flat pedals are not made for speed as they decrease the leverage such as in of road or sprint pedals. But overall, for city and commuting, they are the best option.
A bike rack will be the best upgrade for your road bike in the case that you need to bring a laptop, books, or other things while you commute. There are two options for bike racks, you can either get them mounted in the back or the front. Front racks usually allows less storage and can be accessed quickly. Usually they don’t fit a whole backpack or larger objects.
Rear racks, on the other hand, can hold large volume panniers or baskets in which you can put all of your necessary things.
If you prefer not having permanent racks and panniers, or there are no mounting points on your bicycle, then a commuting backpack may be a good option. Few companies such are Osprey started making backpacks that are sweatproof, aerodynamic, and comfortable for everyday rides.
This bike rack is compatible with most bikes, even with those that don't have mounting points for a rear bike rack.
Road bike saddles are not primarily designed for comfort, but for pedaling efficiency. Riding with a road saddle every day for commuting could be pretty painful. More comfortable saddles, on the other hand, would make your commute rides more enjoyable.
If you are planning on riding daily to your work or college then you could easily spend 3 to 6 hours sitting on your bike every week, when that time adds up, and a hard, narrow saddle will hurt over time. A comfortable saddle could be the number one investment that you will enjoy in the long run.
Think about switching to a wider saddle, made for touring. The Brooks B17 is one of the most popular saddles for a good reason. Its larger surface area decreases the pressure on your pelvis and that could save you from pain along the way. It also breaks in after a few rides, and conforms to the shape of your butt. This makes it one of the best options.
If you opt for another type of saddle, make sure that it’s sufficiently padded, but not too soft. Soft saddles aren’t always the best options as riding on them for longer periods could lead to pain as well, thus, I would recommend finding a balance between soft and hard saddles to achieve maximum comfort while commuting.
Having puncture-proof tires whilst commuting ensures that you don’t have to spend time on the roadside fixing mechanical issues. You’re more likely to run over a sharp object as a commuter in an urban area than riding on paved country roads, and as a daily user of your bike, your chances of getting a puncture are higher. A single puncture in a bad moment could leave you stranded with unpleasant consequences such as going late to work/school or missing an appointment.
Investing in good tires is one of the best upgrades you can do. Some features of good commuting tires include: tires with a good grip for all-weather conditions, the width of a tire at least 28 mm (for more added friction but at the same time less than 35 mm so the tire won’t slow down your bike too much), puncture resistance, and reflective sides (for added safety). Make sure that
After having tested several tires, my personal favorite are the Continental Contact Plus Tires.
Superior puncture resistance for any commuter or touring bike.
Raising your handlebars
Speaking of comfort, raising handlebars is yet another upgrade for more comfort-sustaining commuting. Raising your handlebars will force your body to sit more upright, and you won’t have to bend your back as much. Usually, the best height of handlebars for commuting is approximately at the same level as your saddle.
If you don’t know how you can raise your handlebar, to make your bike more upright, check out this other article in which I show several different ways of achieving that.
The worst part of riding in the rain is not the water from the sky, but the water splashing up from the ground. Small puddles or just mud could ruin your day or your pants if you don’t have fenders.
They will protect your clothing and they don’t add too much weight. And if you are converting an old road bike without mounting points, you don’t have to worry because there are plenty of new options for mounting fenders by using p-clamps.
If you are a year round commuter you don’t pick and choose the times of the day you ride, and you will find yourself ridin at night from time to time.
A reliable light doesn’t only guide you in the darkness, but it also lets drivers around you know that you are on the road. In my experience, I never felt in danger while having lights on. Additionally, some countries have mandatory front and rear lights for cyclists.
This USB Rechargeable Bike Headlight is super powerful and it will illumuniate the path in front of you so you can ride with confidence on the darkest roads.
Often regarded as a necessary evil, your bike lock actually fulfils an essential function every time you’re away from your bicycle. Especially nowadays, when bike parts are scarce and bike theft has increased.
When buying a lock for your daily commuter, you should avoid buying wire cable locks as they can be snapped with anything stronger than a pair of nail clippers.
U-locks are the best locks in my experience, they’re built sturdy, strong and the good ones can only be cut through with a grinder. While this isn’t an impossible feat, thieves generally prefer to go after the low hanging fruit.
The Kryptonite Evolution Mini strikes a good balance price, security and portability. It comes with an added cable to secure your front wheel to the frame too.
A repair kit is a lifesaver for any commuter. A puncture can happen at any moment of your ride and therefore having the ability to fix is important. A good repair kit includes at least two tire lever tools, instant patches or extra inner tubes, and a multifunction screw tool. Of course, don’t forget about a decent mini pump either.
- Tire levers
- Mini pump
Whether you commute in a city or not you will probably encounter pedestrians. A bell is the most polite and effective way of letting others know that you’re coming. This has prevented several potential collisions for me, especially as I come to corners and bends that I can’t see.
If you ride in traffic, then a rearview mirror is an awesome commuting upgrade to your bike.
They provide you rear view without you having to turn your head when changing lanes. Because of that, you are more aware of your surroundings when riding in traffic. You can install a rearview mirror even if your road bike has drop bars as the mirror would go on the tip of the bar on your preferred side.
Here’s a list of my favorite mirrors for drop handlebars (you can find the full article here).
|Sprintech||IRBM||Hafny Bar |
|Hafny Road Bar|
|Image size & |
|Best for||Occasional |
|Regular road |
|Easy to |
These are the best place to put your repair kit and essentials you want out of the way, but you may need quick access to. There are plenty of options for frame bags.
Frame bags can be mounted on or behind the handlebars, within the frame, or behind your saddle.
In my experience, the frame bags have been the best for commuting because they interfered the least with my riding and I opened them only when I needed a repair.
If your workplace or school doesn’t have a secure place to store the bike, and you often leave your bike locked in public places where your bag may be stolen, then you may want to keep your tools in your panniers or backpack.
My solution is to keep all the essentials neatly organized in a Craft Cadence cycling wallet, which is large enough to keep a spare inner tube, a puncture kit, multitool and other bits and pieces.
There is never enough reflective details on a bike. This upgrade will make you even more visible at night, and that is especially useful in winter when fog and early darkness increase the chance of going unseen. They can be bought in tape-like form and they are usually put on the frame, back of the saddle, or handlebars. They are very inexpensive, and you can actually make your bike look pretty unique if you place them strategically.