Road Bike vs Commuter Bike: What’s The Difference?

What’s your riding style? There are so many types of cycling, so this should be the first question you should ask yourself before choosing the right bike. Are you more interested in racing or riding for adventure? Or are you into enjoying more of a leisurely, straightforward ride? When you consider bike racing versus recreational riding, you not only need different bikes, but also different safety gear, accessories, and apparel.

In this article, we’re going to break down the differences between these bikes and the most ideal scenarios to ride them. From the bike’s physical construction to the feeling you get from riding, you’ll know just which bike is right for you by the end of this blog.

Road Bike vs Commuter Bike: Major Differences

To get you started, let’s look at the most fundamental differences between a road bike and commuter bike. Then, we’ll get into the specifics of each.

Distinct Features of a Road Bike

  • Sleek and lightweight frame
  • No suspension, only frame and rigid fork (the ride will be a little bumpier)
  • Round handlebars, to lower your center of gravity, put more power through the pedals, and improve aerodynamics
  • Narrower wheels (increased acceleration)

Distinct Features of a Commuter Bike

  • Wider saddle with plenty of cushioning
  • Flat, straight handlebars, for easy steering and stability
  • Upright riding position, as well as to suit casual clothes, ideal for riding to work or meeting up with friends
  • Wider tires 

When to Choose a Road Bike

Road bikes are for, well, any road – whether it’s flat, an incline, or a descent. When you’re riding a road bike, you’re ready to take on anything, such as racing, bike packing, and more intense riding in general. You can also use a road bike for commuting if you need to get somewhere in a hurry. Because of their lightweight frame and aerodynamic riding position, road bikes are built for speed and agility. In the end, you’ll most likely want a road bike if you’re down for a more extreme ride that involves pushing your speed and covering long distances. 

When to Choose a Commuter Bike

If bike riding is a favorite pastime of yours and you love to just ride without a set goal in mind, a commuter bike is the way to go. You can ride a commuter bike to work or around your neighborhood, to get groceries or to meet friends for a meal out, slow or fast. Built for comfort and longevity, you’ll feel fresher for longer, especially in regards to your shoulders and upper body. While road bikes can be used interchangeably as commuter bikes, the same does not apply in the reverse situation. Commuter bikes should generally be ridden on smooth roads. So, if you’re looking for a simple and effective ride, a commuter bike is the perfect fit. You can even wear your casual clothes on commuter bikes, so there’s no need to change when you get to the office or see your friends.

Safety Equipment and Accessories for Road Bikes and Commuter Bikes

Now that you know which bike is better for bike racing versus recreational riding, it’s important to be prepared with the proper safety equipment, gear, and apparel. As a standard rule for all bike riders, no matter how extreme your ride, we always recommend wearing a helmet. Let’s shift into talking about more specific gear so you know the equipment that best complements the bike you choose.

Safety Equipment and Accessories for Road Bikes

Since you’ve learned that road biking is more intense than commuter biking, it only makes sense that the safety gear you use for road biking can handle high speeds and long distances. If you’re riding a road bike for racing and speed, a properly-fitted, aerodynamic helmet that has good ventilation to keep you cool and can boost your pace while keeping you safe.

Road cyclists often wear lycra, sporting a tight-fitting cycling jersey and shorts. Lycra kits are usually made from breathable materials for your most intense and sweat-inducing rides. This apparel helps cyclists get up to top speeds as it's close fitting. It also is often made of materials that protect you in the event of crashes. Also, there's no loose clothing that gets in the way of the rest of your bike.

Some other pieces of equipment we recommend for road cyclists are:

  • Grip gloves, which help you to grip the handlebars, brakes, and shifters and will also prevent getting sores and blisters from gripping hard
  • Cycling shoes that attach to your pedals
  • Cycling-specific sunglasses with wide protection that helps to stop your eyes from watering if it's windy and protect your eyes from any bugs or road debris that might get kicked up
  • A puncture repair kit including tire levers, a spare inner tube, patches, and a mini pump
  • Front and rear lights

Safety Equipment and Accessories for Commuter Bikes

Commuter biking may seem safer because it’s typically not an extreme style of riding; however, if you’re commuting on the open road in traffic, safety equipment is still essential. Again, we always recommend a properly-fitted helmet. In this case, it can be aerodynamic or extra protective.

Other pieces of equipment to keep you safe on a commuter bike include:

  • Front and rear lights 
  • First-aid kit
  • A bell, to make your presence known to pedestrians and oncoming cars
  • Reflective clothing
  • A puncture repair kit including tire levers, a spare inner tube, patches and a mini pump
If safety is your top concern when getting from point A to point B (and let’s be honest – it should be!), why not invest in a piece of equipment that helps you to do just that? KAV's Portola Helmet is 3D printed and custom fit to your exact measurements. Plus, it’s constructed from lightweight materials and has an aerodynamic structure, so you won’t be weighed down. With our state-of-the-art design, you’ll never have to adjust your fit or your safety standards. Order your free Fit Kit now. We'll help you get measured in an online fitting session with one of our experts to make sure your measurements are precise. This is also the perfect opportunity to ask our team any questions you may have.