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What makes a commuter bike?

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What makes a commuter bike?

Old 07-12-03, 12:19 PM
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trappermark
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What makes a commuter bike?

In your opinion, what are the essentials that make up a good communter bike?

From the many posts in the "what do you ride to work" thread, it is obvious that we ride a great variety of bikes to the daily grind...but what are the basics any everyday commuter should have, from type of bike to accessories?

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Old 07-12-03, 12:53 PM
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Ruggedness. Drop handlebars for aerodynamics and comfort. Lots of places for lights and reflectors and such. Multiple bottle holders. 700c wheels.
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Old 07-12-03, 01:22 PM
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Wheels, pedals, handlebar, saddle! Oh yeah, you need a saddle!

Some of the nice things to have is full fenders, lights and reflectors, rack and a pannier. Some like to have a mirror. When looking for a pannier, you have to consider what you will carry like lunch, change of clothes, documents, etc.

As for water bottles, it depends how long is your commute.
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Old 07-12-03, 02:45 PM
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Rich Clark
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If a "commuter bike" is one that must carry baggage, be reliable on city streets, and function in all weather, then:

--Rack mounts
--Fender mounts
--Clearance for tires suitable to the terrain, with fenders
--Somewhere to carry a battery for your lights
--Really robust wheels, well prepared
--Tires that resist flats
--Tires that maximize wet traction on pavement (ie, not knobbies)
--Somewhere to carry a pump
--A riding position that allows the rider to see well in all directions, and be seen by other road users.

A lot of bikes can meet these criteria, including a number of hybrids, flat-bar road bikes, touring bikes, mountain bikes, and cyclocross bikes.

And of course you can commute on any bike at all, just as you can walk in any pair of shoes.

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Old 07-12-03, 08:03 PM
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I'm going to go out of my way to be different and say that a commuter bike should be an internal hub geared cycle. If you live in an area where it rains and snows, why not get a hub geared bicycle? The Dutch and Chinese have been commuting on them for decades and this is the preferred cycle. Do you want to know why?

The derailleur needs constant maintenance for it to work properly. No so with a three or seven speed hub geared bike. My three speed folding bike has been practically indestructible and shifts evertime in every temperature.

Cleaning a derailleur is a lot of work after commuting in rain/snow. To be totally honest. I haven't cleaned the 3 speed in almost five months and it still works like a charm.

Furthermore, the cost of replacing a derailleur is far more than buying a new hub which will last for years. In fact, the hub may even last longer than the bike!
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Old 07-12-03, 09:49 PM
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For me, a commuter bike has to be:
1. light - because I carry a lot of stuff on my commute
2. fast - because I'm in always in a hurry
3. aerodynamic - because it's quite windy where I am.
Having said, I use an aluminum roadbike with drop handlebars as my commuter. As far as accessories, I use a blinking light and a headlight when it's dark.
Cheers!
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Old 07-13-03, 04:06 AM
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Lots of possible styles for a good coommuter, but it should have clearance for tyres of appropriate size (usually mid-size slicks) and fenders, luggage capaciity (usually a frame-fitting rack), a number and range of gears suitable for the rider, load and terrain (hub, derailleur or single/fixed). It should also be a light as possible without being fragile.
Most good commuter bikes occupy the middle ground in termms of design parameters, an area badfly served by the bike industry.

I agree with Dahon Steve that hub-gears could be far more widely used for commuting duty, but the Dutch and Chinese seem to use them on the heaviest most cumberson grade of bikes. This, I think, is wh
at gives hub gears a bad rep.
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Old 07-13-03, 09:48 AM
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After reading another recent post from the guy who got his ride stolen, I'd offer this advice: if security might be an issue where you store your bike, you might want to consider an uglyfied bike.
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Old 07-14-03, 10:41 AM
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I'd just have to say that it depends. People use all sorts of things to commute -- even brakeless track bikes.

My commute is a 10 mile (16 km) round trip, and my philosophy is that iriding has to be less hassle than driving. That means no changing clothing, minimal mechanical work required, maximum reliability -- just hop on and go. I would consider the following essential (which means essential for me, not necessarily anyone else):

Upright riding position
Chainguard
Internal gears
Disk or drum brakes
Dynamo
Fenders
Rack
Good "U" lock and good way of mounting it.

My primary bike is an aluminum city bike. I also have a hybrid and a road bike available. They all work perfectly well for getting to work, although the "backup" bikes are much more of a hassle due to the lack of the above equipment.

I'd like to add to Dahon Steve's comments the observation that hub gears can be faster than a derailleur if there are frequent stoplights.

Paul
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Old 07-14-03, 12:20 PM
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Not having commuted yet, my opinion has little weight behind it, but i have thought about it a lot.

For me, my commute will be 28-40 miles per day depending on the route and wether or not I use the train for a portion of the route.

So, I would say requirements will vary depending on the mileage. One with a 5-10 mile round trip has much different requirements from one with a 30+ mile round trip. efficiency is far more important on a longer journey i'd say.

take care,

Jester
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Old 07-14-03, 06:56 PM
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In terms of the bike if you commute every day its going to get dirty. I've picked up a couple of mean second hand middle of the road bikes over the years and got good mileage out of them. Current one has done about 6000 kms and still going strong. I paid $AUS300.00 for it so have got good value for money.
Avoid steel rimmed wheels if it rains where you ride.
For me when I'm commuting the golden rule is "light is right".
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Old 07-15-03, 03:58 PM
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My commute is short; 6 miles round trip. This affects my opinion. I also have access to showers and lockers at work. So for me:
  • Fenders - I live in the PNW, so fenders are necessary.
  • A head light - I often work late and in the winter darkness is ~4:30pm.
  • Reliable - I only commute by bike, no car. This means my backup is a bus/max or walking.
  • Light and fast - I ride with guys from work 2-3 times a week during lunch. They shouldn't beat me too easily.

I use a backpack for carrying gear/clothes. I have carried up to 40 lbs this way without problems. I have been commuting for four years by bike but am only now getting serious about cycling.

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Old 07-15-03, 05:37 PM
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I fully agree with the internal hub for a commuter. You can get anything from three to 14 speeds (although 14 is probably way too much unless you live in really wierd terrain)

I ride both a 3 speed (sturmey archer AW) and a 7 speed (shimano nexus). Both are great. I do enjoy the extra spacing of the 7-speed but the 3 is more than adequate for the average road.
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Old 07-15-03, 07:03 PM
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What makes a commuter bike?

The joy of riding.

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Old 07-16-03, 03:28 AM
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For me it's got to be off-road capable, because one of my favourite commutes has a few off-road miles in it.


I ride an MTB with semi-slicks and componentry that suits me - 48T big wheel helps on the road. Air/coil forks help off-road (actually with some of the country lanes round my way (and main roads come to think of it) a suspension fork is almost essential) with an ETA lock-out for road climbing. I use a rack and panniers because I prefer the weight distribution. Bars, stem and seat post are Raceface (air alloy XC riser, Deus stem, XY post) which are reasonably light but plenty strong enough. Shifters are SRAM gripshift with Shimano mechs. Brakes are SRAM 9 v's with Avid evers - I don't feel the need for disks. Saddle is a nice and minimal Selle Italia Flite. One bottle does me the 50- 90 minute commute. A slim crud guard keeps the worst of the weather off my front, and a customised guard under my rack keeps the worst off my back - but hey I can get changed at then of the commute.

Some days I do a bad roadie impression down the dual-carriageway, some days I potter down quiet country lanes, some days I intersperse the lanes with a bridleway through the woods, somedays I'll do part of the commute on a hardpack bike path...

My bike suits my commutes - yes a tourer would probably just about do the job, but I'm quite happy with a confused MTB.

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Old 07-16-03, 06:34 AM
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Well, it's got to be a tough, knock down, drag out, durable, dependable bike that can carry heavy loads, stand up to heat, cold, dry, wet, road salt and getting knocked around every now and then. When you start riding your bike every day to get where you go, you don't have time to sit on the side of the road making repairs, you need to get where you need to go. Commuter bikes are not light weights and they're generally not pretty, they need bullet proof tires and a brooks saddle and fenders to protect you and the bike. They need wide range gearing that gives good accelleration and a reasonable top speed while having low gearing available for climbing while loaded. Steel is the material of chioce as far as I'm concerned, the above is based on 12,000 - 15,000 miles of commuting each year for a number of years.
But most bikes will get you to work once in a while.
Commute, it's good for the body and the soul, It's well worth the effort., It makes every day an adventure.
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Old 07-16-03, 08:10 AM
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I agree with the comments about the internal hubs. Is there anyone that knows of current bike manufacturers making something like the old English 3-speeds? I occasionally use an AMC Hercules circa 1964 for my 10 mile one way commute and just love it, I would like to get a brand new one.
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Old 07-16-03, 09:33 AM
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Originally posted by jfz
I agree with the comments about the internal hubs. Is there anyone that knows of current bike manufacturers making something like the old English 3-speeds? I occasionally use an AMC Hercules circa 1964 for my 10 mile one way commute and just love it, I would like to get a brand new one.
Several manufacturers use SRAM or Shimano internal hubs including Scott, Brompton, Ideal
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Old 07-16-03, 09:39 AM
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Shimano and Sachs both make 7spd hubs. Sturmey arecher make a 5spd, and Rohloff make a very expensive high performance 14spd. Either of the 7spds are good for most commuting.
The best new bike which comes so equiped is probably the Bianchi
https://www.bianchiusa.com/site/bikes/44_Milano.html
or
https://www.trekbikes.com/bikes/2003/citybike/7400e.jsp

Pashley in the UK make trad style gentlemans bikes but these are very crude and heavy. There is no point using such old-fashined technology when modern bikes are lighter, stronger and better.
Giant do some better models
https://www.giant-bicycle.com/uk/030....mode=rangelist
Most serious hub-gear commuters simply fit the hub to an older style lightweight road or touring bike, the kind with horizontal dropouts.
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Old 07-16-03, 10:15 AM
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<<from the originator of this thread>>

Thanks for all the replies thus far.

I'm just getting started in commuting. I have a Trek 4300. When my wife and I were planning to do some light touring (30-40 miles/day) in Nova Scotia, the bike shop sold me some 1.5" tires with a slick center and very slight tread on the edges (wheels are stock Matrix 750, original tires were knobby Bontrager Connections, 26 x 1.95. The 1.5s (can't remember brand right now) are now on the 4300 for my 2.5 mile each way commute and my 6-10 mile road exercise rides.

My next question is this: the 1.5 tires actually have less max pressure (60psi) than the original 1.9 knobbies (65psi). Could I get a higher pressure slick or semi-slick tire for my Matrix 750 rims, and would it make an appreciable difference in my road riding? I remember reading a thread elsewhere where someone claimed that high pressure was more important than tread or width for reducing road resistance.

BTW, the 1.5s sure do look funny on my MTB...get some stares, but they do roll a little easier on the pavement!

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Old 07-16-03, 11:30 AM
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Originally posted by Pete Clark
What makes a commuter bike?

The joy of riding.
Pete has hit the nail squarely on the head here

Today I rode in on my full suspension MTB with knobbly tires so I can hit some trails after work... absolutely fine on the road, just a bit more effort than my normal commuter. Ideally you probably want a rear rack, fenders and lights. If you don't intend to commute in the rain and the dark then you can do away with the last two, if you don't need to carry much then you don't need a rack. I think the important thing is to get out there and have fun, that can be achieved on pretty much anything with wheels, pedals, a saddle and handlebars My newest (and most fun) commuter doesn't even have gears
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Old 07-16-03, 11:36 AM
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Originally posted by trappermark

My next question is this: the 1.5 tires actually have less max pressure (60psi) than the original 1.9 knobbies (65psi).
Those max pressure ratings are generally a fine work of fiction, drawn up between the tire manufacturer's marketing and legal teams... The legal guys want a real low number on there so people don't get blow outs, the marketing guys want a number bigger than their competitor's tires... Either way there's going to be a large margin of safety built into it, I just inflate mine until I see a little deformation in the rear tire when I sit on the bike.

BTW, the 1.5s sure do look funny on my MTB...get some stares, but they do roll a little easier on the pavement!
Don't worry about them, they're just jealous!
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Old 07-16-03, 12:02 PM
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In general, comfort, good finger print (ability to be seen by cars in all weather), realibility.
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Old 07-16-03, 12:47 PM
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Originally posted by Mine'sAPint
Those max pressure ratings are generally a fine work of fiction, drawn up between the tire manufacturer's marketing and legal teams... The legal guys want a real low number on there so people don't get blow outs, the marketing guys want a number bigger than their competitor's tires... Either way there's going to be a large margin of safety built into it, I just inflate mine until I see a little deformation in the rear tire when I sit on the bike.

So you're saying I should be able to safely overinflate my tires? By how much? Anyone else back this up (that the max pressure numbers on tires can be ignored)?

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Old 07-16-03, 01:07 PM
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Something fast and dependable. My commuter is an 18 speed steel Fuji road bike/tank that I bought for $35 from the local police auction two years ago after my other commuter was stolen. I've put fenders on it, and use tire liners as I ride through a lot of glass on the west side of Chicago. My commute is 11 miles each way. When I get to work I get out the unscented baby wipes and deodorant. At work I leave shoes, a belt, and several pairs of pants, and carry fresh shirts back and forth in my backpack. Also in my backpack I carry two tubes, a patch kit, a pump, and a multi-tool just to be on the safe side. Commuting through the west side of Chicago is not the most scenic of commutes, but the base miles are good and it's a good way to wake up in the morning and relieve any stress after work.
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