What's the best way to commute by bike: City, road bike or mountain bike?

What's the best way to commute by bike: City, road bike or mountain bike?

As a rootless, tribeless and bike-agnostic cyclist, I ride anything with two wheels. My daily commutes can range from fast road bikes when I’m looking for a workout, to a city cruiser when I’m on a slow roll to the pub. But I’ve often wondered which method was best for my commute to work.

So I decided to test three methods to compare:

1. A slow bike, ridden safely on bike lanes and separated bike paths.

2. A fast road bike, ridden as quickly as possible on the most direct route, no matter how much traffic I might confront or how much of a asshole I might be while on the road.

3. A mountain bike, ridden in the most direct route possible, whether a road exists or not.

I tracked each ride on the app Strava, and took note of a few more subjective measurements. Here are the results:

My city bike: comfortable, sure and steady.
The slow ride

Distance: 9.1 kilometres (bike lanes aren’t always the most direct route)

Time: 28:09

Average speed: 19.6 km/h.

Description: It was an easy and relaxing ride that felt safe. I arrived at work feeling energized, but not worn out. And best of all: no shower required once I arrived at the office.

Technically a cyclocross bike, this ride is light, fast and gets around quickly.
The road bike

Distance: 7.4 kilometres (I took the most direct roads possible, no matter the traffic volume)

Time: 17:23

Average speed: 25.6 km/h

Description: It was a fast, aggressive ride, and it felt that way. Being alongside rows of traffic for most of the ride doesn’t make for the most relaxing experience, especially when you need to cut across those lanes of traffic to make a left turn. And since I was channeling the stereotypical asshole cyclist, I took stop signs more like suggestions, which undoubtedly annoyed others on the street. I arrived sweaty, buzzing and a little harried.

This hard-tail mountain bike is a dream on single-track.
The mountain bike

Distance: 7.9 kilometres (I thought cutting through green spaces would save distance, but it didn’t really, partly because my navigation was bad. Who knew roads were actually direct and efficient?!)

Time: 23:33

Average speed: 20.3 km/h

Description: While it was fun finding single-track through urban parks, this was by far the most work. I arrived sopping and wheezing. This proved what you probably already knew: Getting around in a city works best on roads that were built for exactly that.

The verdict

Sorry for the disappointment, but this didn’t really clear anything up for me. I still see myself using both the slow city bike and the fast road bike at times (the mountain bike, well, I’ll save that for the mountains). My advice: Choose your favourite style and enjoy every minute of it.

Music by Mark Race.

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Tom Babin is the author of Frostbike: The Joy, Pain and Numbness of Winter Cycling: http://www.rmbooks.com/book_details.php?isbn_upc=9781771600484


  1. tokoshi s on July 5, 2019 at 11:01 pm

    but what if you were to take the same path say the first route with all 3 bikes using the same amount of effort. is there a difference? is one better then the other?

  2. Corey Frazier on July 5, 2019 at 11:02 pm

    This video could have been much longer. I will be commuting on my mtb because that’s all I have at the moment. I am adding a rack and swapping the tires for some slicks. $80 on Craigslist, should pay for itself real quick. As you can probably guess would love to see more in depth comparo vids

  3. Che Guevara on July 5, 2019 at 11:02 pm

    Please wear your helmet, you will be sorry otherwise.

  4. Reinis Martinsons on July 5, 2019 at 11:03 pm

    A cheap fixie type bike with a freewheel

  5. Byungsoo Kim on July 5, 2019 at 11:05 pm

    I am so happy that I can commute through bike-only lane. I live suburban Seoul area, and there are extensive bike lanes along either side of a river. There also are separate pedestrian-only path, so virtually no walkers in the bike lanes. I didn’t realize how lucky I am until I see this video. Thanks for the post.

  6. misiekbogiem on July 5, 2019 at 11:06 pm

    Was this supposed to be music video with some review spoken in the background? If so, you should’ve turned the vocals down. It’s confusing.

  7. Platon Kostelletos on July 5, 2019 at 11:07 pm

    Nice video…Please reduce the music volume is too loud, comparing your voice volume.

  8. Zen = Yen 🔴 on July 5, 2019 at 11:08 pm

    trek ds2 or a higher priced mtb – lighter but fatter tyres
    which one wud be faster and which one wud be more comfy
    on city roads. no off road ing.

  9. ian rama on July 5, 2019 at 11:08 pm

    I think mtb is the best coz you can use it anywhere and the rim were so tough you can easily jump into the footpath. You can hit the bumps in the pedestrian crossroads which they put some additional inch bricks any pedestrian pass

  10. Nico Tupas on July 5, 2019 at 11:13 pm

    Nice video! I’m interested in that helmet you used for the road bike, looks like a MET Manta.

  11. Fred Mac on July 5, 2019 at 11:13 pm

    In my opinion a mountain bike is the perfect all purpose bike. It’s sturdy.relatively lightweight, and has a more comfortable riding position than the other 2 options. Plus the broader tires makes for smoother safer ride.

  12. ghostspider KGS on July 5, 2019 at 11:15 pm

    Thx for making this beautiful video
    Well explained with every
    Important detail
    Soon I’ll be buy mtb bike
    For exercise the reason
    I chose mtb because
    Of rough and bumpy roads
    We have here thx again:)

  13. SwiftYT on July 5, 2019 at 11:15 pm

    you should lower the volume of the music when you are speaking.

  14. Werral on July 5, 2019 at 11:15 pm

    it would be interesting to see the results of the different bikes on the same route.

  15. Rishi Raghuvanshi on July 5, 2019 at 11:16 pm

    this test doesn’t make any sense, you ride 3 bikes, on 3 different routes with 3 different distances with 3 different mindsets. your road bike route was somewhere around 7 km while mountain bike route 20 km, definitely you will be more tired. mountain bikes can be ridden on roads you know, why not test them on the same route.

  16. MrHockaluger on July 5, 2019 at 11:16 pm

    My commute is about 6 miles on mostly bike lanes. I started with a folding bike to road bike to mountain bike and finally e-mtb. The e-mtb is the best commuter for me and then the mtb. Reason for mtb is because tubeless for me is a must as it has saved me countless times. Flats at 5am are not fun. Suspension is great for rougher roads and going offroad if you must. The e-mtb edges out the normal mtb because I can use a low setting when going to work for a nice workout but I can switch to turbo going home when I"m dead tired from work.

  17. Daniel Santiago on July 5, 2019 at 11:17 pm

    Thanks for taking the time to do this. Very helpful for me.

  18. Muhammad Lutfi on July 5, 2019 at 11:20 pm

    Here in my country there are many pot hole in the road. So yeah, i choose mtb for comuting

  19. Owen Chua on July 5, 2019 at 11:22 pm

    I used a Triban 500 Road Bike and it certainly feels ok. Though I’m a little more like a sloth on it.

  20. John Doent on July 5, 2019 at 11:22 pm

    You need to make more videos like these, testing out different bikes and showing different routes

  21. lilmikey690 on July 5, 2019 at 11:23 pm

    I’m just speculating, I think a mountain bike would be the best bike you could get. They can ride over any kind of terrain, their strong and sturdy, you can ride on bad roads and pot holes, no problem, their light and fast, and you are not limited to just one terrain.

  22. Lester Kearney on July 5, 2019 at 11:24 pm

    Road bikes are the best for me fast smooth and fun

  23. Supreme Flagship on July 5, 2019 at 11:24 pm

    What about fat bikes?

  24. Chris B on July 5, 2019 at 11:24 pm

    I commuted on a hybrid bike with skinny tires. I got two bent rims and three flats because the road I go on has a lot of pot holes and bumps. I changed to a mountain bike and haven’t had any issues.

  25. Google This on July 5, 2019 at 11:24 pm

    Interesting. I thought the mtb would win.

  26. beetdiggingcougar on July 5, 2019 at 11:26 pm

    Yay for Calgary! Thanks for the video.

  27. J W on July 5, 2019 at 11:28 pm

    And without helmet. Idiot!

  28. signontheline1 on July 5, 2019 at 11:29 pm

    I liked!

  29. Andre Rice on July 5, 2019 at 11:31 pm

    Awesome video! Thanks!

  30. todddages1 on July 5, 2019 at 11:31 pm

    You’d go faster if you weren’t riding with one hand on the bars and one outstretched hold a camera. Mount your camera and ride your bike safely for everyone’s sake.

  31. Jaytex 47 on July 5, 2019 at 11:33 pm

    Aggressive on a road bike😂😂 your dreaming mate

  32. Yunus on July 5, 2019 at 11:34 pm

    I live in Turkey and we don’t have any bicycle lanes here, I have to always switch between the main road and sidewalks. Your ride is too peaceful comparing to mine. Plus, we don’t have civil drivers like in your country so I dont wanna go fast and die. So it is like mad max. I’m using mtb in the city because I have to make instant turns and switch between main road to sidewalk quickly.

    So if you riding in a country like mine, mtb is the gold decision.

  33. David M on July 5, 2019 at 11:34 pm

    Your video and the comments inspired me to do one of my own: https://youtu.be/XFw9s-oQCiE

  34. Viviana1918 on July 5, 2019 at 11:35 pm

    I have an urban bike and a MTB, I live in Ecuador, so streets here are full of bumps, I’d rather the MTB.

  35. Sky man on July 5, 2019 at 11:40 pm

    Best way is by ditching the helmet. It’s proven that people that ride a bike with a helmet have more accidents and injuries than people that don’t use a helmet.
    Reason is simple, the helmet gave a falls feeling of safety and therefore, they take more risks and crash more. Also cars keep less distance from someone with a helmet than without, what also makes that they get hit more often.
    The helmet is fake safety. It’s not designed to save you with a collision with a car.

  36. Ankit Gupta on July 5, 2019 at 11:41 pm

    I’m such a badass that I go aggressive on MTB for 16km ride…Hell yaaa! Avg speed 23km/hr

  37. Oleg Petelevitch on July 5, 2019 at 11:43 pm

    What about a helmet dumbo ?

  38. Robert Ostman on July 5, 2019 at 11:44 pm

    I suggest to use mirrors just like the motorcycles… these do help a lot!!

  39. Israel Magalit on July 5, 2019 at 11:44 pm

    Cool experiment. Thanks for posting 👍

  40. TruthFLA on July 5, 2019 at 11:45 pm

    Why not do the same route on 3 different bikes?

  41. André Arauco on July 5, 2019 at 11:45 pm

    thanks bro your video helped me a lot

  42. Gay 4 Pay on July 5, 2019 at 11:45 pm

    At 0:01 I thought that was CJ in GTA San Andreas…

  43. signontheline1 on July 5, 2019 at 11:46 pm

    Thumbs down because I don’t know how fast or far a kilometer is…

  44. Jose Rene Ducharme on July 5, 2019 at 11:46 pm

    What City is it?

  45. Andy Thousand on July 5, 2019 at 11:48 pm

    Great video. I would like to feature your video on my blog. Andythousand.com

  46. Bernard Flannery on July 5, 2019 at 11:50 pm

    Great info but please please re-do the video with a helmet on.

  47. Commute TV on July 5, 2019 at 11:51 pm

    Hi, I am a bike youtuber here in Korea and commute with my bike everyday.
    If you all want to see any of place here, let me know.
    I will show you around with my bike attached gopro actioncam.
    Please visit my youtube channel .
    Safe Riding ~!

  48. Pierre Boucher on July 5, 2019 at 11:55 pm

    European city bikes have the best reputation because they have been tested in real life and are used by thousnds of commuters. Don’t get fooled by the trendy bikes. I have a Dutch bike and I will never change it for anything else.

  49. Pie Face on July 5, 2019 at 11:55 pm

    Youre so HOT!!!

  50. doug on July 5, 2019 at 11:56 pm

    mountain bike i ull the handlebars on the climbs where not with a road so that makes it far more rounded excercise than road bike. Lighter bike means less workout also.