When I was growing up I used to ride hybrid or mountain bikes every day because the streets of my city were pretty rough. As a consequence to this day, I’d choose a mountain bike for daily commuting purposes.
Are mountain bikes really good for everyday use though? You might have an old mountain bike in the garage or wondering what kind of bike to get for your daily commute. Having some experience, I decided to share some of the benefits of riding a mountain bike every day and the hassles that come with it.
If you have a mountain bike you can comfortably use it for your daily commute. This might necessitate some adjustments such as adding lights and fenders or switching tires. Their design allows them to be both comfortable and quite versatile no matter what terrain you have to go through.
There are many ride options to consider and of course, you should choose the one that is most suitable for you. In most developed cities you can use any ride type and do fine. However, a mountain bike provides some opportunities over any other type of bike, making your ride quite enjoyable.
Riding a mountain bike every day
When looking at a mountain bike in comparison to other bikes, its design stands out quite a bit. At first glance, you know that this bike can ride anywhere. This design gives it its unique capabilities when it comes to daily commuting.
Firstly, it provides the ability to take any shortcut that is on non-street terrain. It allows you to jump up and down curbs, take a dirt alley, or not worry about a couple of stairs here and there.
Other bikes might get stuck in a heavy traffic jam but with mountain bikes you always have alternatives. This can come in handy when you’re running late.
Second, it can provide for a more comfortable and joyful commute. Gravel and sand on the road from construction work become non-issue due to its wide tires. These tires also provide better control when you have to make sudden course changes. This happens often in a city – whether it is a car door opening or a pedestrian coming out of nowhere.
A mountain bike can easily handle roads in poor condition with a lot of cracks and potholes. Moreover, it can endure a beating, which saves you on the maintenance that other bikes would require.
Mountain bikes require a relatively upright which is also less stressful for the spine. If you use your bike daily, the stress can add up which can make biking feel like a chore. Mountain bikes are also designed to absorb the shock from the terrain which can contribute to a comfortable and stress-free ride.
Lastly, the greatest benefit is the fact that the number of routes that you can take can vary greatly because you are allowed to explore otherwise unreachable options. It makes you explore your city and have fun on your way to school or work in comparison with the monotonous lines of public transportation. That said, you also might need to consider some modifications to make this experience even better.
What do I need to do to ride my mountain bike?
In most cases, you can ride your bike as it is but you also need to follow the regulations regarding the use of safety gear, lights, and reflectors and these vary according to your location. Refer to the local state or country laws to avoid an unnecessary fine. There is also some quality of life changes that you might consider.
Changes due to regulations
Lights – No matter where you are there are likely rules regarding the use of lights. If you never need to ride your bike in the dark you might want to skip this modification but it is still a good idea for unexpected circumstances.
Reflectors and reflective tape – This is rarely required but it is still advised because it makes it even easier for drivers to see you in the dark. You can use either attached reflective gear or reflective tape. Make sure that the reflective areas are visible. If you are using the reflective tape you might consider taping the cranks because moving reflections capture more attention.
Safety gear – when safety gear is required it mostly refers to the use of helmets. Even if it is not required it is wise to use one. There is no straight advice on helmets – see if there are any certified helmets referred to in the regulations. Handle your helmet with care as even small cracks greatly reduce its protective capabilities.
Lights can be of various types – some get energy generated by your tires, some use batteries and some can be even USB charged. The front light is generally white and the back one is red. The lights need to be bright enough to navigate your surroundings comfortably. Some places require a light or reflector around your arm.
Quality of life changes
- Tires – while the wide tires of a mountain bike are really good, they also add weight and have a wider surface in contact with the road, therefore, needing more energy to bike. You might want to consider changing your tire set with narrower tires that still fit. These will be still capable to get you through any rough terrain in the city.
- Fenders/mudguards – mountain bikes come without fenders. While this is needed when riding on trails with a lot of mud, it is inconvenient when going to the office. A good pair of mudguards will keep your clothes clean and will save you the discomfort of working or sitting in class in wet pants.
- Repair tool – while mountain bikes are sturdy and are unlikely to betray you with regular maintenance, you might have to deal with a flat tire or minor adjustments and repairs on the road. Consider getting a bike multi-tool as these are usually quite compact and easy to carry around in your pocket or backpack.
- Medkit – after spending some time in the Netherlands I quickly realized how convenient one of these is. Most pharmacies provide small boxes with just some alcohol wipes and bandages in various sizes. Even this bare minimum can be quite useful to deal with small wounds or road rash.
- a good lock – this one goes without saying but if you plan to leave your bike in the middle of the city you better get a good lock. Lock your bike to something and make sure that nothing is easy to detach from it.
If you are interested in commuting to work on a mountain bike and don’t know if it’s the right choice, you need to read this article: Commuting to work on a mountain bike
What kind of mountain bike should I get?
So I have convinced you that mountain bikes are a good way to go through your day or you just think that mountain bikes look cool. Whatever the case, you wonder what bike should you get. There are no strict rules when getting a mountain bike and it all depends on your needs and budget.
First, and probably most important if you can, don’t go too cheap but don’t spend too much either. A cheap bike is likely to be of poorer quality and as such might require more maintenance or become easily unusable.
On the other hand, the high-end bikes are designed with features such as suspension for heavy terrain which adds to the price tag but is not necessary when riding through the city. A full-suspension mountain bike is heavier to ride in the city but that is more than manageable if you plan to visit trails as well.
A regular hardtail bike can handle everything and usually sits in the middle of the price range and you can have a variety of affordable choices.
Maintenance and servicing
While mountain bikes are pretty sturdy and can comfortably handle city conditions you still need properly take care of your bike.
Make sure that the chain and moving parts are clean and greased when necessary. With time you will easily recognize potential issues that need to be serviced just by how your bike feels and handles.
Moreover, you will learn how to carry out any service task related to your bike. However, if and while you are a novice I suggest you regularly visit a local service shop until you gain enough experience.
Mountain bikes are a good and fun option for your daily commute. With some minor adjustments, you can get a considerably more exciting alternative to the morning or evening traffic jam. It will allow you to know your city better, get some exercise, and enjoy your way to work.
You may also like the following articles:
I started mountain biking many years ago to improve my overall health state. After my first ride, I fell in love with the sport. Now I spend dozens of hours a week researching and training to compete in local XC and Enduro events.