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If you want to ride faster or further on your commute to work, a road bike is just the job – as long as you invest in some essential extras

Road bikes are designed to go fast. They enable you to adopt an aerodynamic racing crouch. They’re lightweight so they’re easy to accelerate. And their slick, higher-pressure tyres roll efficiently on good roads. Whenever you’re going further than a few miles, a road bike should knock minutes off your ride.

The problem for commuters is that road bikes aren’t very practical. They lack mudguards, luggage provision and everyday durability. So it’s important to allocate some of your budget for equipment and components that your road bike won’t come with. If you’ll also be using your road bike for sporty recreational riding, there’s nothing to stop you whipping off the mudguards and luggage for the weekend.



Hardly any road bikes come equipped with frame-fitting mudguards, and many can’t be fitted with them. They lack the threaded eyelets on the frame and fork that are needed to bolt the guards in place. Even on road bikes where those eyelets are present, there’s often not enough clearance above the tyres (10-15mm or more) for a mudguard to fit safely. Fortunately, there are workarounds.

If your road bike has enough room for mudguards but no eyelets, you can usually use P-clips to provide attachment points. The aesthetics aren’t great but they work fine.

If your bike doesn’t have room for conventional frame-fitting mudguards, irrespective of whether or not it has the eyelets, you’ll need road-bike-specific guards. There are several to choose from, including SKS Raceblade Long, Crud Roadracer Mk3, Flinger Race Pro and Quickguard. These all take up less space under the pinch points at the fork crown or seat stay brace or don’t pass under them at all. Check compatibility with your bike’s tyre width and axles before buying road-bike-specific mudguards.

Flinger Race Pro

Flinger Race Pro

If your road bike has both clearance and eyelets for conventional mudguards, they’re usually the best option for commuting. Take your pick from SKS Bluemels, Flinger Deluxe, Dia-Compe, Bontrager or others. The longer the mudguard, the better the spray protection. Mudflaps can be added to most mudguards to extend them.



A backpack or messenger back is fine for shorter distances but can be uncomfortable and sweaty for longer commutes. While few road bikes have the threaded eyelets required for a pannier rack, there are other options for putting your luggage on the bike instead of your back.


Traditional saddlebag. These transverse bags fit to the saddle rails or, in the case or larger ones, either to a metal support attached to the saddle rails or to a seatpost bracket. (Such a bracket is fine on an aluminium seatpost but not on a carbon one.) Carradice makes saddlebags as large as 24 litres – more than big enough for commuting.

Carradice Barley saddlebag

Carradice Barley saddlebag



 • Bikepacking seatpack. Primarily intended for use off road on gravel bikes, bikepacking seatpacks are wedge-shaped bags that usually strap to the saddle rails and seatpost. They range in size from a few litres to 17 litres or more. Their disadvantage for commuting is that they’re fiddly to get on and off in a hurry. For this reason, a bikepacking seatpack with a quick-release bracket is a better option. The 13-litre Ortlieb Seat-Pack QR is a good example.

Ortlieb Seat Pack

 • Handlebar bag. Normally seen on touring bikes, these boxy bags fit to a quick release bracket on the handlebar and typically hold 5-7 litres of luggage. Ortlieb, Altura, Brooks and Carradice make good ones.


 • Special rear rack. Some racks can be attached to the rear axle instead of frame eyelets. The Tubus Disco uses a quick release skewer for the lower fixing; you may want a seat clamp with rack mounts for the upper fixing. The unusual-looking Tailfin uses either a quick release skewer or a thru axle, while Ortlieb’s Quick-Rack can attach to plastic studs fitted to the seatstays.


Tougher tyres

The lighter, faster-rolling tyres fitted to most road bikes are more puncture prone than heavier-duty ones. That’s an acceptable trade-off for racing or for long recreational rides but becomes frustrating when riding daily on potholed and sometimes glass strewn urban roads. It can be tempting to fit the toughest tyres, such as Schwalbe Marathon Plus or Continental Contact Plus. While these will indeed shrug off the vast majority of potential punctures, the extra weight and rolling drag is particularly noticeable on a bike that’s designed to go fast.

A better compromise for most road bike commuters would be a lighter, faster tyre with merely decent puncture resistance. Good examples include the Schwalbe One Plus, Continental Grand Prix 4 Season or Gatorskin, or Michelin Power All Season. Even if you use tubeless tyres, which self-seal small punctures, you’re better off using ‘all season’ versions for commuting as they’ll wear better.

Different clipless pedals

If you use clipless pedals, those designed for road bikes are a poor choice for commuting. There are two reasons. Most are single-sided so you can’t clip your foot into the pedal unless it’s the right way up. It often won’t be, and the stop-start nature of commuting means you’ll be forever pedalling one-legged away from junctions as you try to engage your other foot. The other reason is that road bike cleats sit proud of the sole. This makes walking difficult. Even putting a foot down at the lights can be treacherous if the road is slippery.

Mountain bike clipless pedals and shoes address both of these issues. The smaller, two-bolt cleats are recessed into the sole so you can still walk properly and safely. And the pedals are always two-sided, so it’s much easier to clip your foot in whenever you start off. Whether you choose Shimano SPD, Crank Brothers, Time or something else is down to personal preference. But any recessed-cleat setup will be better.

Flat pedals work fine for commuting on a road bike if you don’t fancy clipless. There are also dual-purpose pedals with an SPD fitting on one side and a flat pedal on the other.

It’s a five-minute job (at most) to swap pedals so it’s easy to run different pairs for different applications if you wish.


Shimano Deore XT pedal - road legal

Shimano Deore XT pedal - road legal


Road bikes are sold with bells because, like all new bikes, they have to be. Most road bike owners immediately bin theirs because it’s not a legal requirement to keep it and, anyway, roadies don’t use bells, do they? Maybe not, but if you’re going to be commuting anywhere there are pedestrians, it’s a good idea to have a bell. If you can’t fit one in a convenient place on your road bike’s drop bar, get a Trigger Bell.



Like any bike, a road bike must be equipped with a white front light, red rear light, red rear reflector and amber pedal reflectors when ridden between dusk and dawn. The pedal reflectors requirement, though never policed as such, is basically impossible to meet if you use road clipless pedals.