One of the simplest and most effective ways to improve the comfort of almost any bicycle is to increase its tire width. Wider tires can be run at lower pressures without exposing rims to damage, providing greater suspension and absorbing road imperfections.
On a commuter bike that will be ridden on varied terrain while carrying a light load, I like at least a 32mm tire. On a utility bike used for hauling groceries, etc., tires up over 40mm wide can be a real advantage. Anything under 30mm on either of these types of bikes is a compromise in my opinion. The heavier the total load (rider plus baggage), the greater the benefit of riding wider tires. For reference, I’m currently running 37mm tires at 60 psi on my commuter.
It’s a common misconception that wider tires are slower, but this is not necessarily the case, particularly at non-racing speeds on rough roads. Bicycle Quarterly has done extensive testing on suspension losses and their conclusions show that on rough roads, up to 50% of a bicyclist’s power output can be attributed to suspension losses, and these losses are best mitigated by wide tires run at lower pressures.¹
One of the main issues with running wide tires is frame clearance. There are simply not that many road bikes on the market that provide adequate clearance for the wide tires and fenders needed for commuting and utility riding. This is one area where the industry as a whole could really improve their current offerings.