Whether you already own a mountain bike or you are choosing a new bike for commuting and you’re considering an MTB, in this article we’re going to answer all the important questions regarding riding MTBs as commuters.
Mountain bikes are outstanding bikes for certain types of commutes. They are comfortable, durable, and can take on unpleasant weather conditions with ease. They are also much fun to ride. Because of their bulkiness and weight, they are best suited for short city or off-road commutes. Their inefficiency compared to other bikes becomes noticeable on flat and long paved roads.
Pros or commuting on a MTB
In my experience, the tire width plus higher weight help to increase the stability of riding in the city, especially on rough surfaces. While other bike types would struggle with potholes the MTBs can cross them with ease as it was made to conquer rough terrains of nature.
Mountain bikes were designed to provide comfort on rough terrain. They are built to protect your wrists from rough roads and sudden bumps. In my case, my wrists stopped hurting when I started commuting with a mountain bike as the rough-built and powerful suspension has been taking all the hits and bumps of the road for me. This can be a really important feature for some as they commute to work daily and if they work with hands they don’t want their wrists to hurt even before work.
Rugged and wide tires are exceptional at reducing the danger of slipping in all kinds of weather. From snow to rain, I was always confident while riding my mountain bike.
This depends if you would ride a Cross country Mountain bike or Downhill bike. Cross country mountain bikes do not lack mounting points and they can hold extra accessories. Most MTBs do not need to save as much weight as road bikes or gravel bikes, and therefore, there are almost infinite possibilities for accessories to make your ultimate commuter bike.
All mountain bikes are made to endure the harsh conditions of nature. Unless you live in a cyclist paradise such as Amsterdam or Copenhagen, your city is probably like a concrete jungle, full of bumps, sharp edges, and more bike-unfriendly infrastructure. Therefore, the MTB excels in commuting within a city as it can take a lot of everyday beating.
Mountain bikes are designed to make quick turns. This is possible because of long handlebars which give lots of leverage to turn the front wheel quickly. Maneuverability is especially useful in a city while dodging pedestrians or trying to do quick maneuvers in the morning traffic.
Cons of commuting on a MTB
Mountain bikes are usually bulky and heavy. Those features can be annoying at times. When you encounter stairs on your road, and you have to carry your bike or if you don’t have much space to store your bike. The weight is also undoubtedly noticeable when riding uphill.
The additional weight and the aerodynamics that don’t favor speed mean that mountain bikes are not as fast as some other bikes. Going downhill MTBs can be fast, however, quick starts are like a day and night, in comparison to a road bike or a gravel bike. It definitely takes more power to move that extra weight. Maximum speed is also much lower on straight and flat roads. This is mostly because of the thick tires, weight, or aerodynamics of a mountain bike. If you need to commute for long distances and fastly then MTB is not a great choice. As a side note, we must mention that a commute is not a race, so this is probably less important a factor if you need a bike that gets you to work.
Here, it comes all to the cyclist preference, however, many agree that the bulkiness and roughness of mountain bikes can make them less elegant than a road bike, a gravel bike, or even a great-looking city bike.
MTB has a bigger footprint than any other type of bike. They are wide, sometimes tall, and also bulky. Their size can be quite frustrating in the case that you are trying to find a place to keep your bike and as a result, you have to compromise space for other items in order to store your bike.
What kind of commutes are MTBs good for?
Mountain bikes are best for commuting short distances in dense cities. In big, crowded cities and downtowns there is not enough space for speed and places of destination are not usually far from each other. Which makes a mountain bike as useful as the other bikes or even better as it provides comfort in the case of old cobble roads in the city or while on train tracks where your tire won’t get stuck in between the rails. Additionally, the ability to make quick maneuvers makes MTBs one of the best types of bikes for this kind of commuting.
On the other hand, Mountain bikes for commuting longer distances are not a good idea. Mountain bikes are heavy, and when you have to commute for more than an hour in the countryside, you will notice it, in the speed or riding uphill.
Can you ride the MTB in the city?
Absolutely. You may work harder at times but a Mountain bike will be as good as any bike for commuting in the city, or even better.
How does MTB stack up against other types of commuter bikes?
In comparison to gravel, city, or road bikes the MTB is the slowest of them all. However, if speed is not your thing or your type of commuting does not require it, then the MTB is one of the most practical options for the city. It’s one of the best types of bikes for comfort, fast handling, and safety.
MTB upgrades to turn it into a commuter
There is lots of glass and trash in cities that could damage your inner tubes and therefore converting to tubeless could save you one day.
In my experience bell has proven to be an everyday tool for letting pedestrians know to move while commuting.
To fully commute with the MTB you need to get fenders to prevent getting your clothes dirty before work or school.
Because of the MTB’s weight, quick starts are slow. End grips will add more leverage so when you get the green light you can get to the optimal speed faster.
Front or rear rack
With a bike rack you will be able to put on panniers or transport larger objects, some MTBs have eyelets, and in case that yours doesn’t, there are plenty of options to work around it.
Front handlebar basket
If you want to maximize your storage and have a place to put your lock and backpack then a front basket is a great option for commuting with a mountain bike.
Can you put panniers on a mountain bike?
Yes, you can put panniers on a mountain bike, you just have to install a rack. However, It also depends on where you put your panniers. For example, if you own a downhill bike it could be more difficult to install panniers, but in that specific case, it would be more practical to put them on the front wheel. On the other hand, Cross country MTBs are tall and long and can easily have panniers in the back and front for your everyday commuting.
Mountain bikes are one of the most versatile bikes in the realm of cycling. They would make a great everyday bike, however, MTBs also come with drawbacks, such as speed, weight, and size. Having that in consideration, I would not recommend MTBs for long commutes where you would ride for long distances with higher speeds.
On the other hand, MTBs excel in dense cities where you need to maneuver with dexterity and where the obstacles of concrete jungle are not a problem for this kind of bike.
My favorite bike commuting products
Here are some of the products I love using for bike commuting. They make riding so much more fun and enjoyable.
Ergon GP5 Bar End Grips: These are super comfortable, ergonomic grips that offer me two extra hand positions on my flat bar bicycle. They also offer a much more comfortable grip that helps distribute my weight on the handlebar better.
Bar end mirrors: If you ride much among cars then a bar end mirror can make riding much safer. You don’t have to turn around every single time to check on the traffic coming from behind.
Bike lights from Cateye. This is essential year-round. I recommend going for a more powerful light than just a to-be-seen light. I like the 800-lumen ones from Cateye because they are affordable, portable, and still, give out plenty of light so I can see where I’m going even in pitch dark. The battery lasts for a long time too, and it’s USB rechargeable.
Bike rack. This bike rack from Dirza is great because I can put it on almost any bicycle regardless of whether they have mounting points for racks or not. I can leave it on my bike for commuting or take it off for weekend rides or whenever I don’t need a rack.
If you want to check out my full list of recommended products, you visit my recommended gear page.