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Commuting Bicycle commuting is easier than you think, before you know it, you'll be hooked. Learn the tips, hints, equipment, safety requirements for safely riding your bike to work.

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Old 08-26-10, 07:22 PM   #1
voldemort
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Stupid Question?

So is one of the reasons people buy commuter specific bikes for the mental "comfort" of knowing you have a more stable bike when going through gravel, crappy streets, and on the very edge of the road when in heavy traffic (and knowing going off the pavement on your road bike is a crash waiting to happen)? I have a long commute, about 30 miles each way. And I'm okay with the physical part, but I currently ride my road bike, and having to focus almost constantly for two hours can be mentally exhausting.

Do you find it easier to put your brain in neutral once in awhile when on a decent commuter that helps decrease some of those things above?
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Old 08-26-10, 07:47 PM   #2
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"commuter" bikes usually just mean they have a more upright riding position, so you can see traffic better and for increased comfort, and are usually built to be durable. The durability issue is mostly so you don't get stuck on the way to work and end up late. It follows the same logic as wanting a reliable car to get to work.
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Old 08-26-10, 08:06 PM   #3
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Good question.
voldemort, I bought my "comfort" bike (a Breezer three-speed) primarily for the built-in front and rear generator lights, and built-in ring lock. I expected it to have fenders, chainguard and a rear rack. Any bike that is used for commuting should have those things.

As far as security on gravel and crappy streets, the slightly wider tires and upright riding position help quite a bit, but you still can't let your guard down. I hate/fear loose gravel more than anything.

Terminology: what you term "comfort" bikes, I think of as "city" bikes.
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Old 08-26-10, 08:22 PM   #4
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This is something I've been wondering about, except the other way around. In my mind what makes a bike a commuter is that it has a rack and fenders and slightly wider tires. So my question is would such a bike be acceptable to bring to group rides or do centuries? Currently I only have a mountain bike, but I want to get a road bike, actually probably a touring or cyclocross bike for added durability, and equip it for commuting. But if I want to go on group rides do I really need to start thinking about n+2 right now? Or should I take the rack and fenders off and switch to skinnier tires for road riding? Or should I just leave them on and show up for group rides as is?

Does anyone else ride group rides with their commuting bike?
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Old 08-26-10, 09:55 PM   #5
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Any bike that is used for commuting should have those things.
My, what a broad brush you're painting with.

Are the commuter police going to track me down and beat me with their nightsticks because I have the audacity to ride my bike without fenders, never mind that I live in the desert and get rained on during my commute maybe once a year? Or that I ride far enough and fast enough that I find cycling-specific clothing to be more comfortable and practical, eliminating the need for a chainguard? Or that mounting a chainguard on a derailleur-equipped bike is problematic at best, and never mind that I prefer the closely-spaced ratios and wider range that are available when I've got 27 speeds available instead of 3?

As for the OP, a bit more stability can help with keeping you from being so worn out at the end of your ride, particularly if your current bike is particularly twitchy, er, I mean responsive. A road bike with more relaxed geometry, a touring bike, or possibly a cyclocross bike (some will have suitable geometry and some won't) could be the ticket. For a 60 mile round trip commute, I would personally avoid anything with an upright riding position, since to cover that sort of distance efficiently you'll need to stay as aerodynamic as is reasonable (don't go overboard and get a TT bike!), as well as needing the myriad hand positions and more effective muscle position that goes with the leaned-forward posture of a road bike.
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Old 08-27-10, 05:14 AM   #6
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I commute on a road bike with 23mm 120 psi tires and the only place I feel any hint of instability is one stretch of newer, larger gravel. It feels as though I am skating across the surface a bit on that patch. I do regularly ride much older, much more packed down gravel trails and while a road bike isn't the perfect bike for this, it doesn't feel unstable.

Wet wood bridges on the other hand...
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Old 08-27-10, 05:57 AM   #7
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Bike commuting is great for my mental health. I am in a much better mood all day long when I ride rather than drive, and I find is less stressful during my commute as well. A lot depends on your route, I guess. Mine is mostly on neighborhood streets and suburban roads, except for a 1.5-mile stretch on a busy 4-lane street. Ironically, I've come closest to getting hit several times by people backing their cars out of driveways on quiet neighborhood streets.

I commute on a touring bike as well as racing bikes. My touring bike can carry more gear but is slower and more working climbing the hills. My racing bikes are faster and more fun to ride but I can't carry much gear on them. I enjoy commuting more on my racing bikes but can only carry so much stuff on them, so they don't get much use in colder weather when I have to carry more clothes and cold-weather gear.

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Old 08-27-10, 06:02 AM   #8
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Since you own a road bike already, cyclocross with fattest road tires you can find will be most logical choice. Just don't go cheap and do not go full carbon. There are proponents of steel CX bikes, I happened to have a Tricross Comp (alu+carbon). Durable, stable, comfortable, versatile, still lightweight, plain fun.

Good Luck

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Old 08-27-10, 10:05 AM   #9
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Do you find it easier to put your brain in neutral once in awhile when on a decent commuter that helps decrease some of those things above?
Going back to the OP's original question. I started commuting on a road bike with 23mm tyres. I do a short commute 5 miles each way. I found it mentally tiring having to dodge every pothole for fear of wrecking a wheel or getting a puncture. I've now got a Marin hybrid with 40mm tyres and though it more phyiscal effort to make progress its less stressful and you don't panic quite so much if you see a pothole at the last moment..
You can also go faster over rough ground.
If you've got a 30 mile commute then you need to compromise as 40mm tyres are going to take it out of you over that distance.
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Old 08-27-10, 10:16 AM   #10
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How much mental effort I put into my commute depends more on my route than which bike I ride. I used to have a nice route through some city parks, and in those parts, I could relax and get lost in my thoughts because I had very little to worry about in my surroundings. That route is temporarily impractical due to construction blocking easy access, so I'm on the roads more now, and I'm much more focused on my environment (i.e., traffic).
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Old 08-27-10, 10:18 AM   #11
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Do you find it easier to put your brain in neutral once in awhile when on a decent commuter that helps decrease some of those things above?
Putting your brain in neutral while commuting in traffic is gonna make you have a bad day...no matter what kind of bike you ride. Don't do it.
If you want to put your brain in neutral, do it at work.
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Old 08-27-10, 10:26 AM   #12
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I agree with tassinari that it's all about compramise one the tire choice for your situation. I recently switched from a "commuter" bike to a road/touring bike, and both have the exact same tires - Vitorini Randonuer 32mm. The performance on gravel with these two bikes is identical really, but I have to admit that I only have a couple of short 40 yard dashes across that type of surface.

On a side note, my commute is 10 miles - I couldn't imagine doing a full 30 miles one way, every day, on my previous commuter bike. My lower back and hands would suffer at that distance without the ability to vary my riding and hand positions like I can on my new bike. I would experiement with tires on your existing road bike.
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Old 08-27-10, 10:33 AM   #13
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Does anyone else ride group rides with their commuting bike?
I show up for the Thursday night group rides from the LBS on my brevet/commuter bike. Steel frame, Carradice and Berthoud bags, generator lights, steel fenders, 32mm tires on box section rims... Everyone else is on carbon fiber with low-spoke aeros, except for 1 guy on an aluminium frame.
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Old 08-27-10, 11:54 AM   #14
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There is no such thing as a commuter specific bike. The answers to this question alone illustrate that. One person lists the must haves in his view and another blasts him for being presumptuous. The must haves vary with environment and the length of the commute. For example, my must have is that it must fold. If it does not fold it is not a commuter bike for me. That is inviolable, imposed by railway rules. Obviously very few of the others who post in this section feel this way. You have to fit the bike to the commute and with a 30 mile commute I think you have to look at a road bike or a performance hybrid which is very nearly the same thing. If the route you must use does not allow something very much like a road bike then maybe you should look for a different transportation option. Doing 30 miles twice a day over poor roads on a MTB will certainly build you up but it will be very tiresome over the long run, I would think.

As others have said you cannot turn your brain off while bike commuting. I don't think you can turn your brain off while cycling, period. It is sad really but when I cycle I think only of cycling and it has to be that way. It would be nice to forget for a while what you are doing and bask in the scenic wonders you pass through. You are moments from a spill or worse if you do that, you have to pay attention to what you are doing. You can spare brief glances and that is about it. When you are commuting you have to pay attention to the traffic because the traffic pays no attention to you. I'd have been run down twice so far this year by people driving on the wrong side of the road if I had not been paying attention! So your "commuter specific" bike will be one that fits the road surfaces you travel and it will have whatever other features that are needed or helpful for your commute. It may or may not resemble someone else's ideal commuter. There is no need to worry if it does not. The one thing it will not do however is allow you to turn your brain off. Now riding partway on the train does allow you to turn your brain off for a while, just be careful you don't miss your stop.

For the person who asked about group rides I would say if you can keep up on your commuter you can ride your commuter. I don't take group rides but the impression I get is that it is all about keeping up. It is something I might do in the future and I am certainly not going to let the rest of the group's prejudices of what bike to ride dictate my choice. If I can keep up with them on the bike I am riding I might take some ribbing but it won't have much force. If I can't keep up, I'll just look for a slower group because I don't think my bike or its accessories prevent me from keeping up with anyone. It's the engine, it's always the engine....

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Old 08-27-10, 02:52 PM   #15
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You probably have to ask people who bought "commuter" style bikes why they did it. I have a mountain bike that has never seen a mountain. I also have a touring bike that has never been on a tour.
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Old 08-27-10, 03:32 PM   #16
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I try to make at least one of the weeknight group rides. I ride one of my race bikes those days. Anything I need to bring to work goes in a backpack; I'll just swing back past the office on the way home from the group ride to pick it up.
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Old 08-29-10, 06:11 AM   #17
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I have two bikes, a "commuter" bike and a road bike. Like hikelite says, my commuter bike is more comfortable (I can ride it in my regular work clothes, if it isn't too hot out). I also commute with a lot of stuff (I'm a hs teacher and a graduate student, so bike with a lot of papers/books), so I've added pannier racks, etc. to my commuter bike and don't have to weigh my road bike down....

And, finally, I leave my commuter bike unattended for long periods during the day, and it would be less devastating to have it stolen than my road bike.
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Old 08-29-10, 06:28 AM   #18
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This is something I've been wondering about, except the other way around. In my mind what makes a bike a commuter is that it has a rack and fenders and slightly wider tires. So my question is would such a bike be acceptable to bring to group rides or do centuries? Currently I only have a mountain bike, but I want to get a road bike, actually probably a touring or cyclocross bike for added durability, and equip it for commuting. But if I want to go on group rides do I really need to start thinking about n+2 right now? Or should I take the rack and fenders off and switch to skinnier tires for road riding? Or should I just leave them on and show up for group rides as is?

Does anyone else ride group rides with their commuting bike?
Absolutely. I find touring bikes make excellent commuters and workhorses as well as being able to fit in with most group rides. FWIW, I have one bike, a '95 Novara Randonee, that I use for commuting, grocery shopping, and group rides alike.

I don't use fenders, but all I do for group rides is take off the panniers. Rather than change tires, I'd just find a good middle-ground tire and stick with that, if possible. I run 35's, which many consider to be tank-like, but you might consider 32's.

Last edited by sudo bike; 08-29-10 at 06:33 AM.
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Old 08-29-10, 07:41 AM   #19
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This is something I've been wondering about, except the other way around. In my mind what makes a bike a commuter is that it has a rack and fenders and slightly wider tires. So my question is would such a bike be acceptable to bring to group rides or do centuries?
I haven't done many centuries, but about the only kind of bike I haven't seen on one is the old classic balloon tire cruiser. They opt for the 35 mile option.
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Old 08-29-10, 08:03 AM   #20
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When I hear "Commuter bike" I think of a bike that has mounts for Racks and fenders and can run a tire up to 35mm. That fits a wide range of bikes from Cross bikes to touring bikes. I gravitate towards touring bikes.

REI sells a bike marketed to commuters called the Fusion, Comes with rear rack, fenders, Dyno lighting, disc brakes and 8speed IHG. Pretty well most peoeples ideal comuter features in one package. http://www.rei.com/product/774422
In europe most "Commute" bikes are step through frames to ease use and large covers to keep womens skirts and childrens feet out of the spokes. . http://bikecommutetips.blogspot.com/...ket-in-us.html
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Old 08-29-10, 12:05 PM   #21
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Are the commuter police going to track me down and beat me with their nightsticks because I have the audacity to ride my bike without fenders, never mind that I live in the desert and get rained on during my commute maybe once a year?
Of course they will. Not nightsticks though, it'll be an old worn Brooks saddle.
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Old 08-29-10, 12:38 PM   #22
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Does anyone else ride group rides with their commuting bike?
I do. I have a hardtail MTB with 1.5" tires, rack, fenders, and lights, and I do group rides when I get the chance. It depends on the group, of course... I'm not going to hang with 21MPH roadies, but there's always a few beginners I can stay behind and run sweep for.
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Old 08-29-10, 12:58 PM   #23
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This is something I've been wondering about, except the other way around. In my mind what makes a bike a commuter is that it has a rack and fenders and slightly wider tires. So my question is would such a bike be acceptable to bring to group rides or do centuries? Currently I only have a mountain bike, but I want to get a road bike, actually probably a touring or cyclocross bike for added durability, and equip it for commuting. But if I want to go on group rides do I really need to start thinking about n+2 right now? Or should I take the rack and fenders off and switch to skinnier tires for road riding? Or should I just leave them on and show up for group rides as is?

Does anyone else ride group rides with their commuting bike?
There are different types and levels of group rides. On some, there's no way I'd show up with any extra weight on my bike at all, if only for psychological reasons. The one I tend to go on however, is fast but targeted at a wider audience. My 3 season commuter is a road bike with 23 mm tires. In periods of rainy weather I'll put fenders on it and I had a rack on it for part of this summer. I did the group rides with the rack. I'd leave the panniers behind the counter at the shop that the ride starts from.

Though people show up with a variety of bikes, most of the regulars ride bikes of the carbon variety and I'm the only regular that ever showed up with a rack that I can remember. No one cares though. There's another regular who commutes on his bike. I believe it's titanium and he's usually one of the first guys up this nasty hill.

I have a set of tires and wheels I use for competing. I haven't done much competition this summer and have been commuting on them more than I'd like but I finally ordered a new cassette so now I can easily swap my "racing" and everyday wheels.

Last edited by tjspiel; 08-29-10 at 01:05 PM.
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Old 08-29-10, 02:01 PM   #24
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I just recently purchased a bicycle for commuting. I decided on a Surly Long Haul Trucker after riding several different bicycles in the shop. Personally I really wanted a bicycle with drop handle bars. That eliminated all the hybrid/comfort/city style bicycles and left Road bikes, Touring Bikes, and Cyclocross bikes.

If I had decided on a road bike I would have to get used to wearing a loaded backpack with a 15" laptop, and clothes for the day while riding.
On the cyclocross bike I might have been able to get a rack with panniers that would hold my things, but not have me striking the bags while pedaling. I cam very close to going this route!

Ultimately I decided on the touring bicycle because it offered the overall best platform for how I and where commute to work. Big panniers, hooked on a rack. Riding from the outskirts of the suburbs into a very small town in the rural midwest. I ride on county highways along side corn fields

The Cyclocross bicycle, and Touring bicycle easily accepted between 25mm and 40mm tires. I have 35mm Continental Contacts installed. They are pretty tank like, which inspires a lot of confidence while riding on rural highways to work. I can't count how many rocks that have fired out from under my wheels as if fired by a gun that I'm certain would have instantly flatted a true road tire. Finally the cyclocross and touring bicycle both had plenty of clearance for fenders. While I don't think they're absolutely necessary, fenders sure are nice when it rained the night before my commute and the roads are still wet.
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Old 08-30-10, 12:11 AM   #25
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Of course they will. Not nightsticks though, it'll be an old worn Brooks saddle.
As long as they don't take the Brooks off my bike - it'll take me a week to get the height dialed in just right again!
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