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What makes a commuting bicycle different from other bikes?

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What makes a commuting bicycle different from other bikes?

Old 03-21-16, 10:55 AM
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Punchy71
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What makes a commuting bicycle different from other bikes?

Hello,
What makes a commuting bicycle different from other bikes?
Thanks
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Old 03-21-16, 11:17 AM
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It's ridden to work. That's really what it comes down to.

Lots of people ride lots of different kinds of bikes to work. Many people like having a bike with fenders, lights, and a rack to commute with. Others may not want those things.
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Old 03-21-16, 11:18 AM
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Old 03-21-16, 11:41 AM
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Originally Posted by Punchy71 View Post
Hello,
What makes a commuting bicycle different from other bikes?
Thanks
I will ponder that question in solitude for a year and come back with an answer.
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Old 03-21-16, 11:48 AM
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Originally Posted by tjspiel View Post
It's ridden to work. That's really what it comes down to.

Lots of people ride lots of different kinds of bikes to work. Many people like having a bike with fenders, lights, and a rack to commute with. Others may not want those things.
It occurred to me that this could come off as glib. I didn't really mean it to be. It's a fair question but my experience with this forum is that you might get a 100 different responses on what makes commuting bike different. Just through the sheer number of responses things can seem more complicated than they really have to be.

Are you trying to figure out what kind of bike to get to ride to work or are you just curious about commuting bikes?

If you already have a bike and we're talking about a moderate commuting distance (8 to 10 miles or less), then I'd just ride whatever you have unless you dislike it for some reason.
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Old 03-21-16, 11:51 AM
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Originally Posted by tjspiel View Post
It's ridden to work. That's really what it comes down to.
Indeed. How can we know the dancer from the dance?
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Old 03-21-16, 11:58 AM
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Needs vary a lot depending on length of commute, bike parking options, how much gear one has to carry. If you have a short commute, can park your bike near your desk, and don't need to bring home computer or other items, your commute bike can be anything.

For most people, a bike with lights, fenders, racks/panniers, and good brakes is a must. Also, if you can't keep your bike in your office or work space, having a bike that can be left in a bike rack without excessively having to worry about theft or incidental damage is important, too.
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Old 03-21-16, 12:03 PM
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Originally Posted by Punchy71 View Post
What makes a commuting bicycle different from other bikes?
Apart from tjspiel's answer, which really is complete in a very meaningful sense, many of us here customize bikes for the purpose of commuting. The characteristics that make a bike an "ideal" commuter depend on what customizations you would like to make. The ability to accept wide tires, a rack and fenders are commonly sought attributes. My ideal commuter may not be your ideal commuter.

As an example, here's a pic of my bike, which for me is very nearly the perfect commuter.



Is this bike a commuter? By tpspiel's definition it is certainly a commuter. I have built it for this purpose. According to the marketing division at Kona, this is a cyclocross bike. They didn't build it to be a commuter, but they did know some people would want to use it that way so they provided braze-ons for rack and fenders. I personally also want drop bars and disc brakes on my commuter. Other people don't want either. I don't need tires for unpaved roads. Other people do. Theft prevention isn't a big priority for me. For other people, that might be a very high priority.

So in some sense a commuter bike is a bike that you can customize (or not customize if that's your preference) to suit your needs.
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Old 03-21-16, 12:08 PM
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We often tell people you can ride to work on any bike. What makes a "commuter bike" to my mind is that we have some universal probelms to solve and the way we solve them, like lockup, changing clothes, luggage and what we carry in it, inclement weather, darkness. Clearly from our constant discussion of these you can tell that there's many ways to do each of them.
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Old 03-21-16, 12:09 PM
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Originally Posted by tjspiel View Post
It's ridden to work. That's really what it comes down to.

Lots of people ride lots of different kinds of bikes to work. Many people like having a bike with fenders, lights, and a rack to commute with. Others may not want those things.
Pretty much this. Any bike can be used to ride to work, any type you want. The only times that one type of bike might make it where others couldn't is perhaps a fat bike on deep snow or something. Otherwise you just have to make choices. How much or little do you want to spend? How fast or slow do you want to go? How hard or soft do you want the ride? How much or little do you want to carry? How wet or (less wet) do want to get when it rains?

All of those questions and answers provide clues to the type of bike you should use for your particular commute to work.
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Old 03-21-16, 12:23 PM
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Originally Posted by Punchy71 View Post
Hello,
What makes a commuting bicycle different from other bikes?
Thanks
You buy one based primarily on your expected commute - how long it is, is the terrain flat or has lots of hills, will you be riding primarily on roads or is a good part of your commute on dirt/gravel, your budget, etc. Whereas if you were looking at bikes for a specific sport (trials biking, road racing, mountain biking, cyclocross, etc.), you just buy the bike best suited to that sport.

Of course you could be blissfully ignorant like I was when I started bike commuting and buy a bike unsuited to your unique commute requirements. I had the handlebar and other stuff changed on my first bike to make it more tolerable for a 14-mile commute with some hills, mostly paved roads and trails, but... lessons learned!

I've seen all kinds of bikes in our bike parking room at work - mountain bikes, racing road bikes, touring road bikes, etc. I've even seen a cargo bike.

Last edited by GovernorSilver; 03-21-16 at 01:14 PM.
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Old 03-21-16, 12:40 PM
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Yup...a bike that you use to get from point A to point B is a commuter. I've used an English 3 speed, a hybrid single speed, alloy road bike, steel road bike, carbon road bike, and an old mountain bike or so. For those rides, they were all commuters. In fact, I like to use all of my bikes (except for ones meant for the dirt and mud) to commute once in a while, just to have a different experience. With the exception of my two mountain bikes with suspension and my cyclocross bike, I have used every bike I own as a commuter at one point or another.
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Old 03-21-16, 01:17 PM
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Originally Posted by MoAlpha View Post
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Old 03-21-16, 01:33 PM
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...also, what makes a commuter bike to the marketing department is
  • OEM accessories (lights, fenders racks)
  • ostensibly low-maintenance and weather-resistant components (IGH, belt drive, disk brakes)
  • NYC-themed name and ad copy, bonus points if they mention carrying it up the stairs. Trek is pretty clever with this stuff, this year they have a bike called Chelsea which is a neighborhood in both NYC and London, and in the past they've had a Soho.
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Old 03-21-16, 01:47 PM
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Originally Posted by noglider View Post
Oh, so you're the wicked child.
I always thought he was the smart one.
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Old 03-21-16, 02:12 PM
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Originally Posted by Darth Lefty View Post
...also, what makes a commuter bike to the marketing department is
  • OEM accessories (lights, fenders racks)
  • ostensibly low-maintenance and weather-resistant components (IGH, belt drive, disk brakes)
  • NYC-themed name and ad copy, bonus points if they mention carrying it up the stairs. Trek is pretty clever with this stuff, this year they have a bike called Chelsea which is a neighborhood in both NYC and London, and in the past they've had a Soho.
Here's an opportunity for an interesting exploration of the topic. In addition to their many NYC themed bikes, Trek has attempted two "commuter" bikes named for Portland...

the Trek Portland



and the Trek PDX



The only thing you can really tell from this is that apparently Trek thinks people in the PNW need disc brakes.

The fact is, if you spent a morning hanging out on the Hawthorne Bridge, most of the bikes you'd see look very little like either of those. Here's a link for what they would look like: People on Bikes Archives - BikePortland.org
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Old 03-21-16, 02:42 PM
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Originally Posted by Andy_K View Post
Here's an opportunity for an interesting exploration of the topic. In addition to their many NYC themed bikes, Trek has attempted to "commuter" bikes named for Portland...
As goes the beardy hipsters, so goes the marketing
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Old 03-21-16, 02:49 PM
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Not the bike, but the rider.
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Old 03-21-16, 02:51 PM
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YMMV as they say as to what makes it a commuter. Some of us even ride our commuter bikes to places other than work, the differences are mainly semantics if your bike gets you to work and back.
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Old 03-21-16, 03:04 PM
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Originally Posted by no motor? View Post
YMMV as they say as to what makes it a commuter. Some of us even ride our commuter bikes to places other than work, the differences are mainly semantics if your bike gets you to work and back.
Exactly. My road bike serves as a commuter and a longer weekend rider. I use that bike because my commute is long. My utility bike is for around town stuff, and I have commuted with it a couple of times. However the one time I rode it to work in the morning I had a big head wind which made it take nearly 2 hours to go 15 miles, and I had a flat a mile from the office. Then my yellow gravel bike also gets ridden around town and other fun rides. Multiple uses for every different bike.
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Old 03-21-16, 03:08 PM
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And then there's what the world outside of the U.S. considers a commuter bike:



Agree with all above though, it's really whatever someone wants to use and what works for them. I have a strong preference for the simplicity and comfort of Dutch bikes (though I have a bunch of road, track and mountain bikes for recreation) while others prefer more racing types.

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Old 03-21-16, 03:12 PM
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Originally Posted by CrankyOne View Post
And then there's what the world outside of the U.S. considers a commuter bike:



Agree with all above though, it's really whatever someone wants to use.
Except that would be ridiculously slow for my commute. Totally not practical. Although doing my commute by bike, in and of itself, probably isn't practical.
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Old 03-21-16, 03:30 PM
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Originally Posted by CrankyOne View Post
And then there's what the world outside of the U.S. considers a commuter bike:

It's funny, Paris was clearly nuts for bike commuting but I never saw a one of these. Maybe it's because they have hills there.
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Old 03-21-16, 03:34 PM
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It makes no difference what type of bike it is. As long as that bike is used for transportation/commuting then it is a commuter bike. Appearance has absolutely nothing to do with it, it all about how it's used...The same can be said about a cyclist. Spandex, clipless pedals and drop bars is not what makes a person into a cyclist. Any person who rides for transportation is a cyclist, makes no difference how they are dressed, or what type of pedals or handlebars they are using.
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Old 03-21-16, 03:41 PM
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Originally Posted by Andy_K View Post
Apart from tjspiel's answer, which really is complete in a very meaningful sense, many of us here customize bikes for the purpose of commuting. The characteristics that make a bike an "ideal" commuter depend on what customizations you would like to make. The ability to accept wide tires, a rack and fenders are commonly sought attributes. My ideal commuter may not be your ideal commuter.

As an example, here's a pic of my bike, which for me is very nearly the perfect commuter.



Is this bike a commuter? By tpspiel's definition it is certainly a commuter. I have built it for this purpose. According to the marketing division at Kona, this is a cyclocross bike. They didn't build it to be a commuter, but they did know some people would want to use it that way so they provided braze-ons for rack and fenders. I personally also want drop bars and disc brakes on my commuter. Other people don't want either. I don't need tires for unpaved roads. Other people do. Theft prevention isn't a big priority for me. For other people, that might be a very high priority.

So in some sense a commuter bike is a bike that you can customize (or not customize if that's your preference) to suit your needs.
That is one damn nice bike @Andy_K. Other than the color and my proclivity to steel that is my dream bike.

For me a commuter is something that can handle racks and fenders, pull a trailer, hold a kids seat, ride smooth, and carry a load. But any bike will do. I always remind myself people all over ride to work on Walmart specials.
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