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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 09-22-13, 09:09 PM   #1
LiteraryChic
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Any bike will do?

I was thinking about this earlier. You know how people say any bike will do for bike commuting? I'm just curious, do you believe this to be true? Do you think a commuter bike needs certain "standards"?

For example, I bought (it was my birthday gift) my 2012 Schwinn Voyageur 7 specifically for the purpose of commuting, and (as most of you) know have been outfitting her ever since. Although, I love Lola, I tend to lust after other Dutch style bikes (similar to Lola), such as Azor Oma, Linus, Public etc. I suppose we all covet what we are not able to have at the moment (or however it is that saying goes). Do you covet other bikes even though you have one, or multiples? Do you tend to use one over the other (if you have multiples)? Are you a LBS buyer, EU-style buyer (i.e. Dutch style commuters from Europe), CL buyer, or another source?

I just thought it would be interesting to get other people's thoughts on the subject!

Thanks!
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Old 09-22-13, 09:59 PM   #2
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I'm one of those who says any bike will do for commuting.

Every time there's a transit strike somewhere, the news has pictures of grown men riding their daughters' Barbie bikes to work--white tires, streamers and all.

Is it optimal? No. Is it doable? Evidently.

“Commuter” as an adjective is not descriptive of the object, or its features, but rather, what is done with the object or who uses the object.

Commuter trains are used by commuters. Commuter towns are where commuters live. Commuter colleges are those that people travel to daily.

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commuter, adjective before noun
used to describe something that is used by people who regularly travel between home and work, for example a place that they live, or a method of travel
Citation: http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dict...ish/commuter_2
None of these usages describe the nature of the train, the nature of the town, or the nature of the college. It's only in the fantasy land of bicycle marketing that commuter describes a set of functions and features an object possesses.

In other words, in the real world, there is no such thing as a commuter bike. But there are commuters who use bikes.

In marketing terms, my 1996 Litespeed Classic is a racing bike based on “classic” Italian road bike geometry. It has no luggage rack or fenders, nor provisions for them. Yet, twice a week, it's a commuter bike. Nothing about the bicycle itself changes, (Okay, this time of year I put lights on it.) only its destination when I ride it.

My 2006 Trek Portland was marketed as a high-speed commuter. The rider makes the bike fast or slow, so there's that marketing term out the window. It has features that many commuters find desirable—rack and fender mounts—yet those same features are desired just as often by touring riders. I've ridden it on centuries, and to the to top of Mt Evans, 14,130 feet. Hardly a commute.

However, most people would instantly recognize the Portland as a “road” bike. The drop bars and forward-leaning position are the dead giveaway.

My 2013 Ribble Winter/Audax is marketed as a winter training bike. I don't ride it far enough for an audax (AKA brevet, randonee), and thus far, I've ridden it in every season but winter. Its drop bars and rider position also make most people call it a road bike. But I've slapped a rack and fenders on it and ride it to work when I need to tote stuff, or if the chance of rain is between 30 and 50%.

Why roadies? Because that what I like. Roadies make me happy.

I work on average 216 workdays a year. The last workday I didn't bike commute was in July 2006. (To save you the math, tomorrow will be the 1,552nd consecutive workday of bike commuting.) So I take little stock in those who say road bikes aren't tough enough, or that you must use a Dutch bike to commute, or an MTB, or an IGH, or 32-spoke wheels, or anything else. Baloney.

All that matters is your destination, and then any bike you're on is a commuter bike. With luck, your bike's style and feature set will make you just as happy with yours as I am with mine.

And you can call it whatever you like.

Last edited by tsl; 09-22-13 at 10:14 PM.
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Old 09-22-13, 10:09 PM   #3
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I would say yes, judging by all the Hispanic fellows I see-out in all weather-on everything from department store mountain bikes to 1970s 10-speeds with safety grips. I alternated for years between my Raleigh Super Course MKII and Kabuki Submariner. Installed padded handlebar coverings, Brooks B-17 saddles,Union generator sets, Blackburn racks, fenders.
Then in 1999 I switched to 3-speeds for something different, a little nostalgia, a "retro" feel.
Brooks saddles, generator lights,Pletscher racks, flasherson the racks. The bicycle is merely a conveyance. Proper lights, a comfortable saddle, a saddlebag with tools, patch kit, and pump.
I tried my mountain bike a few times, didn't find it that comfortable for around town use, but that's just my opinion.
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Old 09-22-13, 10:22 PM   #4
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So I take little stock in those who say road bikes aren't tough enough,
You probably have good roads.
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Old 09-22-13, 10:41 PM   #5
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You probably have good roads.
Nope. But I have good technique.
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Old 09-22-13, 10:45 PM   #6
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Looking back I really liked my first bike I used for commuting. I liked it more than these other bikes I've had that are designed for commuting. It also taught me quite a bit and from my first bike I learned. I miss it some because it was so comfortable, and I liked how easy the gearing was. I could actually, max out the gearing on the way home. It had a suspension too, which people say is bad but I liked. A cheap bike from target that when outfitted right with the rack, fenders and road tires I loved.

I did wear out everything quicker than normal on it like bearings in the stock rear hub, and the chain. I upgraded as I went though.

If you want to look it up it was a schwinn ranger 2.6 fs.

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Old 09-22-13, 11:13 PM   #7
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Any bike will do?

The ideal commuting bike is what you finally end up deciding on. Many variables, the most obvious IMO are the distance of the commute, your luggage requirements, your personal preference, and budget. I personally have never bought a new bike for commuting. First one was a Novara randonee I bought from a friend at work. I was lucky because it was the ideal commuter for my 25 mi Rt commute. The only change I made I that bike were putting specialized armadillos and a brooks saddle on it. This doesn't happen normally. Some buddies of mine have been through quite a few setups before they finally were happy. Sadly the randonee was stolen, and I did lust after another bike, the trek 520. I got insurance $ for the randonee and bought a 05 trek 520 off Craigslist I still commute on today. Changes to this bike was switched from messenger bag to rack and panniers, and currently have a brooks saddle on it as well. My commute has changed a bit, shorter by 5 miles a day but much hillier. I will be changing the gearing eventually and installing birifters(Barcons work great just love the action of a good birifter and the fact I don't have to move my hands) oh yeah I have a really loud brass bell, and lights. Still no fenders but ill be adding them soon.
My point is this; yes, you will lust over other bikes. Won't make your commute much different unless you're trying to commute 30 mi rt on a beach cruiser or something. You'll quickly find the bike style that's right for you and then lust over similar style bikes that won't make much of a difference in your actual commute. The upgrades and customization will enhance your commute much more.
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Old 09-23-13, 12:53 AM   #8
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Nope. But I have good technique.
Whatever does it for you. I'd rather relax and not worry about not seeing a pothole in time. Though commuting on a road bike is more fun, I seldom do it - it is less convenient for me. But that's me. If you like it and have no problems with it - cool!

I'd always recommend something with fenders, rack and fatter tyres as a commuting bike. A starting platform. Extremes like road race bike, or a full suspension MTB are extremes that people can choose if they like them, but I'm not sure it is more convenient.



To answer the OP: yes, any bike will do, but depending on the length of the commute and the weather, road conditions, some will do a little, or a lot more better.

While my commute was under 5 km, I could do with really anything. Now it's 11 km's and it is significantly different. If I carry a backpac, my back gets sweaty, so the extra 6 kms made a rack (for backpack and/or panniers) a must. Since my working hours are often at night and roads are bad, I also must have really good healights, or strong wheels with fat tyres to handle potholes not seen in time.

So it all depends. You can start with any old bike and see what you like and what you don't like.

Last edited by Slaninar; 09-23-13 at 01:32 AM.
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Old 09-23-13, 06:39 AM   #9
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I rode 8 years and 30,000 miles on a $300 hybrid. I probably would have ridden the $50 ancient 10 speed that I had before that, but it was far too small for me and I hurt after riding it. I think if the bike fit, I'd have made it work. Probably would have upgraded things. I did ride it to work maybe a dozen times total before giving up and buying a new bike.

I did also buy a lot of stuff to bolt onto the $300 bike, but little of it was necessary. My roads are pretty harsh and I did need to build a new rear wheel, I broke 12 spokes in 2 months. Apart from that though, most of the other buys were optional.

After 8 years of riding I finally gave up this year and bought a new bike. Now, 5 months later, I'm buying another new bike and retiring the old hybrid (the 2nd new bike is similar but much higher quality).
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Old 09-23-13, 06:53 AM   #10
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Most bike commuters on this planet commute on 40 odd pound single speeds with roughly the worst brake type ever developed. That should say something.

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Old 09-23-13, 07:43 AM   #11
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I've commuted using a unicycle. It wasn't terribly long distances and was mostly flat*, but it worked.

What did my unicycle have that any bicycle somebody here might consider for commuting didn't?

So, yes, any bike will work.

* People have ridden centuries on unicycles and ridden them on one-track riding that I wouldn't ride a two-wheel bike on...
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Old 09-23-13, 10:09 AM   #12
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any functioning bicycle can serve as a commuting bicycle.

depending on route, terrain, topography, climate, distance, personal preference and loads of other variables, a given individual may find that a particular kind of bike works better for them on their commute than others, but at the end of the day, there are only 3 absolute must haves to be a bicycle commuter: A) a working bicycle, B) a physically able body, and C) a destination to commute to.
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Old 09-23-13, 10:23 AM   #13
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any functioning bicycle can serve as a commuting bicycle.

depending on route, terrain, topography, climate, distance, personal preference and loads of other variables, a given individual may find that a particular kind of bike works better for them on their commute than others, but at the end of the day, there are only 3 absolute must haves to be a bicycle commuter: A) a working bicycle, B) a physically able body, and C) a destination to commute to.
+1
I agree, and with that said, I like to optimize my commutes due to the long distance I have to go. So I now have a few dedicated commuter bikes setup for different weather conditions. They all do an excellent job even though they are different from each other. For example, if its dry out and I plan to use the smoother roads to get there, I will use my Fugi road bike because its the lightest and fastest one I have. If it looks like it will rain, or I plan to use some offroad shortcuts, then I will take my fendered MTB commuter. So, Yes, you can use any bike.
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Old 09-23-13, 10:23 AM   #14
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I was going to compose a thoughtful reply, but tsl covered everything I would have said, and better. This was my "commuter bike" today:

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Old 09-23-13, 10:28 AM   #15
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My thoughts on the subject...a Hello Kitty bike with tassles will not work as a commuting bike, unless you are really small. OK for coasting downhill, but hard to turn the pedals when your knees hit the handlebars. I know, because I've tried. That is riding one, not commuting on it. Any bike that fits reasonably well will work fine.
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Old 09-23-13, 10:38 AM   #16
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. . . Do you covet other bikes even though you have one, or multiples? Do you tend to use one over the other (if you have multiples)? Are you a LBS buyer, EU-style buyer (i.e. Dutch style commuters from Europe), CL buyer, or another source?

I just thought it would be interesting to get other people's thoughts on the subject!

Thanks!
Wait, you're asking members of BF whether they covet another bike? I thought that was the 10th commandment for BF membership (you know, you shall covet another bike, and then another, and yet then another . I think most of us on this site are serial monogamists at least when it comes to bikes.
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Old 09-23-13, 10:54 AM   #17
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During the dry season, I will ride my road bike more often than not. Either I was doing structured workouts (the road bike has a power meter) or I was meeting a group ride after work. I don't have to carry much other than clothes and a lunch and I could fit that in a backpack. If I have to carry anything, I'll ride my old Rock Hopper with a rack and panniers.
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Old 09-23-13, 11:11 AM   #18
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I have commuted on this bike. But its not something I care to repeat more than necessary.

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Old 09-23-13, 11:12 AM   #19
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Agree with tsl and blackhawk but add...

Yes, any bike will do but it depends on the commute. Commutes can vary with distance and terrain. Many of mine are within half a mile so any of my vintage middleweights are perfect. They're comfortable, easy to hop on, easy to hop a curb, tough, fendered if needed, etc. At more than a mile or so an English 3-speed is a great choice - it's lighter, faster, has those extra gears and still fairly comfortable. For the 10-miler commutes my MTB with 1.9s is great - faster yet, can hop curbs or plow through gravel/grass. For commutes to the next city - the road bike. There are plusses and negatives with each choice - with a speedier, more efficient bike you sacrifice a little comfort.

Now for those who defend a road bike for comfort I'm in agreement to a point. A road bike during a hundred-miler will ultimately be more comfortable than an MTB, hybrid, etc., especially with respect to the time savings/speed but I wouldn't choose to ride it down it down the block to the convenience store.

Now for old heavy ballooner bikes, ug! I'll use them only for show - or a Tour de Fat parade.
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Old 09-23-13, 11:15 AM   #20
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It's all about just getting there, on time, in the morning. (Unless you work off hours)
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Old 09-23-13, 11:22 AM   #21
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I have in my mind, the specs of what I consider to be the ideal commuter bike but if all of you did the same, each one of us would have a different bike because of commuting-distance, terrain, environmental conditions, fitness, financial resources and so many more variables that in the end, almost every make and model of bike would end up on the collective list.

I think it might be interesting for all of us to get together (virtually) and design a commuter bike based on voting: 24", 26" or 700c wheels; narrow, medium, wide tires; slick, moderate, knobby; disc-, caliper-, v-brakes; etc.
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Old 09-23-13, 12:06 PM   #22
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When I commuted 5 miles any bike would work and indeed I rode nearly 20 different bikes in all sorts of weather (think snow and cold). On my current 30 mile round trip I prefer more of a road bike. It would be just too far to enjoy riding a bike that didn't fit and take too long on some of my bikes.
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Old 09-23-13, 12:16 PM   #23
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Wait, you're asking members of BF whether they covet another bike?

Thy shall not covet but that thy lust be n+1.
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Old 09-23-13, 12:45 PM   #24
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This is only an answer for me. A bike that won't do for me, might work just great for someone else. For me, though, I don't think just any bike will do. I'm not riding anything fancy right now, just a basic mass produced, aluminum hybrid (a 2003 Giant Cypress DX). I've always used it for weekend recreational rides, almost always on greenways. Now that I'm commuting on it I've noticed some things that weren't obvious on the nicely paved, car-free paths. First, the ride is kind of harsh. I feel absolutely every bump. Second, the derailleur gearing is much more difficult for me to manage now that I have to stop frequently (why do my stops always seem to happen at the bottom of a hill?). Third, my bike is on the small side, which meant that it could only fit a seat post rack. That limits how much I can carry and means that I can't use panniers.

Yes, this bike is working for me. It gets me to work and back. And more, it makes me happy. So, I guess it "will do." But I also think that riding it has established my low threshold for what will do. A department store bike won't do (for me). A bike with narrower tires won't do (for me). A bike without fenders won't do (for me). A bike that is less upright than this one won't do (for me).

I've promised myself that I can have a new bike if I commute regularly for a year. That bike is going to have a step-through frame so that I can wear skirts and dresses without having to change at work. That bikes is going to have a rack that can take panniers. That bike will have hub-based gears, lights, and brakes. That bike is taking on a very nice shape in my imagination!
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Old 09-23-13, 12:56 PM   #25
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Originally Posted by LiteraryChic View Post
I was thinking about this earlier. You know how people say any bike will do for bike commuting? I'm just curious, do you believe this to be true? Do you think a commuter bike needs certain "standards"?

For example, I bought (it was my birthday gift) my 2012 Schwinn Voyageur 7 specifically for the purpose of commuting, and (as most of you) know have been outfitting her ever since. Although, I love Lola, I tend to lust after other Dutch style bikes (similar to Lola), such as Azor Oma, Linus, Public etc. I suppose we all covet what we are not able to have at the moment (or however it is that saying goes). Do you covet other bikes even though you have one, or multiples? Do you tend to use one over the other (if you have multiples)? Are you a LBS buyer, EU-style buyer (i.e. Dutch style commuters from Europe), CL buyer, or another source?

I just thought it would be interesting to get other people's thoughts on the subject!

Thanks!
The answer is that it's complicated.

Any bike will get you where you need to go, but there's a lot of factors at play with how well it does this job:
- commuting is really hard on a bike, and a cheap department store bike will break down quite quickly under hard use.
- commuting lengths vary widely. Dutch-style upright bikes are easy to jump on and off of, comfortable to ride, etc, but if you have a 30mi RT commute, the extra effort to propel the heavy frame from an upright sitting position will be less than ideal. Long commuters will see a greater benefit by a focus on weight reduction and efficient positioning.
- commuting topography varies. A single speed or 3-speed is fine for flat riding, but sub-optimal if you're doing hills.

There's lots of other things that a regular commuter might want to optimize for their commute and preferences. Lighting, gearing, baggage carrying capacity, etc. But all of these are nice-to-haves, and are not necessary to the basic function of getting from point a to point b. Any bike can do that.
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