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The context here is that I'm using a mountain bike to commute and I'm considering buying a hybrid bicycle or road bicycle.

I'm experiencing various issues that require repairs and maintenance. Perhaps the most time consuming being punctures.

Even if the road or hybrid bicycle is faster, I'm afraid that this benefit will be negated by the time lost on more frequent repairs.

I have no idea how these punctures/tears happen, I try to be careful with curbs and avoid any debris I can.

How durable are hybrid bicycle tubes compared to mountain bike tubes?


Another (and perhaps more correct) way of phrasing the question is to ask, what is faster for city commute where there is a lot of curbs, uneven surfaces, traffic, and similar challenges. A hybrid bicycle or a mountain bicycle, when factoring in the maintenance/repair time cost as well as the speed?


As a bonus question, how much faster is a road/hybrid bicycle anyway? Are there any studies that look at average speeds in typical city commutes? Obviously they would need to look at the exact same route and be somewhat serious, not just being marketing blurbs.

  • How worn are your tyres? How heavy are you and do you pack a lot of stuff to work with you? How wide are the MTB tyres? At what pressure do you run them? – Criggie Nov 27 '18 at 18:47
  • They are 53-559 (26 X 1.95) 0-1343-20, I've tried inflating to either 2.5 bar, 3.0, and 3.5 bar (between punctures). I guess they are pretty worn, not sure how to specify that. – AlphaCentauri Nov 27 '18 at 19:23
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    When a tyre is too worn, it becomes more vulnerable to punctures merely by being thin. If you see canvas or nylon threads, the tyre is past date and needs to be replaced. Could be your punctures are all because the tyres are done-for. – Criggie Nov 27 '18 at 19:44
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    I'm confused. Why are you having to ride up and down curbs on your commute? Is riding on the footway legal where you are? – David Richerby Nov 28 '18 at 0:23
  • @DavidRicherby I don't know about where you are, but in the various places I've lived, it's not uncommon for a cycle route to move on and off the road where it's been shoe-horned in. As it's just been delimited with nothing more than a painted line, it's also not uncommon for there to be a lack of a dropped curb where this transition occurs. – Baldrickk Nov 29 '18 at 10:28
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You do not need to think about tubes' durability if you start thinking about tires' puncture resistance. Most punctures (except snake "bites" caused by underinflation, i.e., user error) start with a foreign thing penetrating the tire. Once a sharp thing penetrated the tire, it is only a matter of time when it breaks the tube.

There are simply tires with better puncture protection. They exist regardless of riding style; that is, compatible both with MTB and/or road/hybrid tire sizes and widths.

Look for tires designated for touring or commuting, not racing. The former are heavier but provide better puncture protection. Alternatively, there exist kevlar bands that are placed between a tire and a tube and are meant to stop sharp things that penetrated the tire to go further.

If you are so determined on tubes choice, look for ones that come with self-healing sealant.

As a bonus question, how much faster is a road/hybrid bicycle anyway?

Any bicycle is as fast as a biker that drives it, regardless of bike type. Especially when you consider commuting, not racing/competition. Your choice of route, amount of traffic light stops, presence of narrow passages with a lot of walking people affect your commute more than bike choice. There is definitely no such thing as "an average commute": some people ride 2 km in a straight asphalt line, others 20 km muddy gravel roads, third navigate in tight car traffic. I my life course I commuted on different bikes distances varying from 2 to 20 km, on surfaces varying from dry fresh empty tarmac to iced snowy car nightmare hell. Any study attempted on the topic as you formulated it simply would not be of use for you personally, unless it was you who did it for yourself.

  • Re the last bit - I use Strava and have a private segment set for each of my common routes to/from work. I can see I've done sub-50 minutes several times, and 72/76/91 minutes at the other end. Noone else can see private segments. – Criggie Nov 27 '18 at 18:49
  • Thanks for your detailed answer. However, it feels like you're suggesting it is not possible to say anything about the performance in terms of speed and reliability, at all. This, because of the different riding styles and road conditions, etc. I find this hard to believe. Wouldn't one example, even if it doesn't map onto my "track", still be of use? If e.g. gravel road was known to be slower on a hybrid bicycle compared to a mountain bicycle, at least I wound find this useful to know, instead of just being told that "it is impossible to say anything about speed differences". – AlphaCentauri Nov 27 '18 at 19:16
  • @AlphaCentauri As a person who uses the scientific method and heard about statistics a bit, I am just wary about questions that are too general. My feeling in this case is that the answer will always be either "data cannot be fit into model" and "measurements' difference is statistically insignificant". There are just too many variables you omit, as you only mention one parameter (bike type) and assume without further reasoning that it is the only one. Other variables that certainly affect speed include: road length, road surface, elevation gain and loss, wind direction, time of year, rain,… – Grigory Rechistov Nov 27 '18 at 22:02
  • … snow, time of day, what you ate for breakfast, what you are for lunch, what your boss said to you today (if you are sad on a bike it is unlikely that it will speed you up), number of traffic lights on the path, pattern of traffic lights "green" for you, human and car and bicycle traffic patterns… Note that some of these are not "one-off" factors but things that affect each and every ride on average, with some distribution curve. – Grigory Rechistov Nov 27 '18 at 22:03
  • As the first example, one route to my work had many traffic lights on it, and any speed/time difference between my road and MTB bikes (I used both to commute) was hidden by the fact that I spent up to 10 minutes simply waiting for green light. On my second commute path there are no traffic lights, it is a dedicated bike way. Now, in summertime I managed to ride this path faster on my road bike than on my MTB. BUT, now winter has come, the road is slippery, and I am very careful and slow if I choose my road bike. On MTB I feel much safer and do not drop speed. Now my MTB is faster! – Grigory Rechistov Nov 27 '18 at 22:11
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Having ridden both mountain and road bikes, I don't think tire/tubes designed for paved surfaces are actually any more puncture prone than tires designed for dirt or gravel, if used within their intended limits.

If you are getting frequent holes and tears in your tubes but not your tires, and you are not getting pinch flats, inspect the inside surfaces of your tires carefully for debris or small sharp objects that may be buried in the tire surface. if you run your fingers over the inside surface you can sometimes feel embedded objects that are not visible.

It's impossible to say how much faster you will be on different bike types on your commute. Also, speed is only one consideration, you may be more comfortable and happier on a hybrid with relatively wide tires and a riding position that allows better control than a slightly faster but more uncomfortable road bike.

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I recently rode my old commute on my MTB. It took 40 minutes without traffic. On the hybrid 40 minutes was a good run, but in rush hour, and I'm fitter now. That implies the hybrid is quite a bit quicker, and it certainly feels nicer to ride.

My tourer (i.e. a slow, heavy road bike) is considerably quicker than my hybrid on the open road, but not measurably so in urban riding. So overall a hybrid works well for commuting.

As for tyres, on a bike that's used for commuting and the odd leisure ride, just fit marathon plus or marathon supreme in about 32-35mm, pump them up every couple of weeks, and don't worry. I carry the means to deal with a puncture, but I've had one or two punctures this year (10000km), and they weren't commuting. There are other effective anti puncture tyres, but those are the ones I'm familiar with. They're meant for touring and commuting.

Both my old commute and my current one are tarmac with potholes and debris, I no longer have any gravel on my commute, but happily take the same tyres on it on other rides.

  • I usually refrain from mentioning brands, but I ride the marathon plus as well and can confirm that they really bring the puncture frequency down to the level you describe. I don't bother with taking patches with me, I don't even bother patching anymore. Should I get a puncture, I just replace the tube, and likely also the worn-down tire... – cmaster Nov 28 '18 at 22:58
  • @cmaster I always replace the tube but also carry the means to patch. But sometimes my commuting tool kit comes with me on a club run (like tonight) when I want to be slightly better equipped. I save punctured tubes and patch them properly at home – Chris H Nov 28 '18 at 23:01

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