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I live in Reading UK and commute between home and workplace 5-6 days a week (round trip about 6-7 miles). I know that hybrids are good enough for pretty much anything, but I find road bikes really light and good for the job, especially to go around curbs and very high slopes (about 45 degrees). However, most of the roads in Reading are quite broken and full of potholes and cracks. I wonder if it is a good idea for me to use road bikes in general for my daily commute? How badly will it affect me?

A specific example of cracks and potholes I am referring to can be found here or here.

I am really frustrated and want to know how badly will I damage a road bike if ridden on these kinds of roads.

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Duplicate question: bicycles.stackexchange.com/questions/14482/… –  Daniel R Hicks Mar 16 '13 at 2:36
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2 words. "Paris - Roubaix" –  Kibbee Mar 16 '13 at 19:01
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youtube.com/watch?v=7ZmJtYaUTa0 Questions? –  Benedikt Bauer Mar 19 '13 at 13:18
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I too live in Reading. There's nothing different about Reading in terms of the road conditions to anywhere else in the UK. There are potholes everywhere. I rode over 3000 miles on my Specialized Sectaur (a road bike) last year in and around Reading. Nothing broke. Just make sure you go round the potholes and not through them - going into potholes can lead to wheel or fork damage and can also be detrimental to your health. –  Simon Bird May 1 '13 at 12:25
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@Willeke They don't need support and spare bikes because of the cobblestones. They need them because it's a race and they don't want riders losing time fixing flats and adjusting derailleurs. A road bike can traverse pot holes, cobblestones, and even dirt roads without ill effect and without a SAG wagon. I do it all the time. –  Carey Gregory May 2 at 14:45

6 Answers 6

I ride a road bike in Seattle with 700x25 tires and find that you can ride on anything so long as you pay close attention to the road and are willing to put more thought into handling the bike. I find that there's an inverse relationship between the size/width of tire and the level of attention/handling when you ride. A touring bike is a great option because it has the same set-up as a road bike with the larger tires of a hybrid.

Mind that you'll likely have to change thin tires more often compared to a hybrid tire if you ride through the rough stuff.

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I agree with most comments, your style of riding and your tire size make a big difference, and any bike should hold with proper care.

However, if you are concerned with the road quality being extremely bad you can always buy a cyclocross bike, which have similar characteristics to a road or endurance bike but tougher frame/components.

Also, you can perfectly go carbon, just make sure they were designed for your type of riding (there are carbon bike frames/components for extreme riding).

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Any bike can be ridden anywhere, for the most part. It's mostly a matter of how you ride it.

As a rider, you are an active part of the equation. You cannot sit passively and just move your legs. Your arms and knees are part of your body's suspension and you must use them as such.

Go into a good shop and talk to them about what equipment they would recommend for training. That is the stuff that is durable and designed to last. I'm thinking particularly about tires and wheels. No carbon, and unless you're a pretty lightweight person, tires 25mm or 28mm. More spokes are better--28-32 spokes.

A good handbuilt wheel will be better than a machine built unit. Ask around for a builder with good reputation and have him/her build up a wheelset suited to your purpose.

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Fit 25mm (or 28mm if possible) tyres: rolling resistance will be reduced for the same pressure as your 23s, or reduce pressure by a few psi for more comfort. Bigger tyres will reduce the chance of pinch punctures and give more confidence in bad conditions.

I live near Reading too: the big problem is tiny sharp flints - I pick them out with a pointed knife between every ride to stop them working their way into the tyre.

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I live in a city with very bad asphalt conditions. My fellow riders and I used to ride with 700x23c wheels (road bikes, fixed-gear bikes, and hybrids) for training at night and commuting. We were hard on the bikes, and avoided only the big potholes. Our bikes did not become damaged although the ride was uncomfortable.

In conclusion, you can use a good road bike without problems in the conditions you describe.

It is important, though, that your bike have good quality components, especially the structural components that could break: rims, spokes, frame, fork, and handlebars.

Hope this helps!

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Thanks a lot! Which road bike do you recommend then for daily commute in usual UK roads? I can randomly go into an Evans store and do a test ride. But you mentioned about good quality which is important, I need to make sure that I choose the right one? Also, are cyclocross bikes any good? –  Mohammed Manna Mar 16 '13 at 22:57
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Cyclocross bikes are THE choice if you can have one. They are specifically designed to ride over rough terrain. But any moderate quality road bike should do. Only avoid the very low-end models (some entry level modelss of some brands). –  heltonbiker Mar 18 '13 at 2:31
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This is my daily commuter, super comfy, fast enough, durable. This bike will make you happy. surlybikes.com/bikes/cross_check –  Wadelp Mar 18 '13 at 21:34

I know the roads around Reading very well. I commute 10 miles into Reading every day. I also ride a lot at lunchtime. I probably ride 5,000 miles a year in Berkshire. I ride a Bianchi C2C road bike which has an aluminium frame and carbon fork. Any modern road bike of reasonable quality will be fine.

The roads around Reading aren't that bad. I've never had a problem with the roads damaging my bike. That said, I do take reasonable care, including:

  1. Avoiding the really bad bits by looking ahead and steering around them. Be aware and cautious of traffic when you do this.
  2. Hitting rough bits lightly. Bend at your elbows and knees, and absorb the shock. Don't let the shock transmit up to your body as the weight puts stress on the frame and wheels.
  3. Not riding up and down raised kerbs. If you have to cross a kerb, get off and lift your bike.
  4. Only riding asphalt surfaces (i.e. roads or good cycle tracks). Don't ride dirt or gravel routes, such as the one alongside the river.

If you want to check out some bikes, I'd suggest AW Cycles in Caversham (I have no affiliation with them other than as a customer). They have a good range and are knowledgable and friendly.

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