Navigating the worst urban conditions on your bicycling commute can be murder on a road bike. Like the right pair of shoes, a bike designed to handle bumps, curbs and unexpected terrain will be easier to control and will last longer. Bikes that are designed for difficult conditions have specialized components for absorbing the bumps created by worn roads and bike paths. Choosing the right one for your commute depends on the conditions you expect to face.
A hybrid bicycle features a similar geometry to a traditional road bike, but with the addition of a few features normally reserved for mountain bikes. Higher clearance in the frame and fork allows the use of knobbier off-road tires, and flat handlebars place you in an upright position for control and comfort. These bikes often feature a suspension fork for absorbing difficult terrain and come in a variety of durable materials like steel and aluminum. A hybrid bike is the best choice if the majority of your commute is on pavement.
Rigid Mountain Bikes
A rigid mountain bike features the upright riding position and raised bottom bracket common to most mountain bikes, but with no suspension. These bikes are simple and durable and are most often made from steel. A rigid mountain bike handles dirt and trails much better than a road bike, thanks mostly to wider tires and stronger rims. A rigid mountain bike is a good choice for a rider who has very rough terrain, a limited knowledge of bike maintenance and a price limit.
Suspension Mountain Bikes
A suspension system can make even the toughest urban obstacles feel smooth and manageable. Suspension systems on mountain bikes are available for the front fork and the rear triangle of the frame. A suspension system is most often hydraulic-based for the smooth, reliable action, but some older- or less-expensive bikes feature a metal spring. A suspension mountain bike is the best choice if you value comfort above all else, or if your commute is especially rough.
The classic steel frame touring bike can be an excellent choice for a commute over rough terrain. These bikes are tougher than traditional road bikes, with much stronger rims and frames. A touring bike often features higher clearance in the frame and fork for wider tires, and is almost always equipped with rack mounts to make hauling your extra work clothes easier. A touring bike is a good choice for riders who want a slightly more comfortable, extremely durable bike that can handle bumpy roads without sacrificing the speed and capability of a traditional road bike.