Buyers Guide: Commuting Bikes - Road Cycling UK

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Buyers Guide: Commuting Bikes

Previously we looked at entry-level road bikes and while many people will find these suitable for riding to work, they’re not perfect.

The length and nature of your route will effect the specification of the bike you need. A rural route might make a fast and light road bike a better option, but in the city a bike with a more relaxed riding position and better visibility, a more durable build, fatter tyres and even suspension could be preferable.

You also need to consider how much luggage you’ll be carrying. Lighter loads can be stowed in a light backpack and are the better option for short commutes. Heavier loads and longer commutes though will leave you with a sweaty back – look for rack mounts and use a pannier if this is the case.

People who live a long distance from work may decide to use public transport for part of the journey, and then jump on a bike for the remaining distance into work. As public transport is mostly bike-unfriendly (in more ways than one) a folding bike fits the purpose well. Light yet fast, nimble yet compact, folding bikes pack down into an easily portable unit that can be carried onto a train, into the office or into the coffee shop.

So there really is no bike perfect for every commute. Your individual requirements will mean what works for your commute won’t be that great for someone else. Here we have selected four bikes that are all great for commuting, but each slightly different depending on your requirements.

Unfortunately some people will not be able to keep a bike in the safety of their workplace, the only resort to lock it to some railings outside. Obviously this is far from satisfactory. If this is the case, then perhaps an old or second-hand bike that avoids attention from thieves is the solution. We spot many bikes on the streets of London with gaffer tape covering all indications of the value of the bike, and a layer of filth ensuring it is virtually invisible.

How much to spend?

This all depends on how seriously you want to make your commute. If you want to make it part of a training plan and have somewhere secure to keep it during working hours, then a more expensive option could be considered. If you want a bike as a simple means to get to work, then a cheaper bike, or a bike cobbled together out of old components from the depths of the garage, or even a flick through the yellow pages in the second-hand section could be an option.

Condor Pista – £699.99

A stripped race bike

Something we’re seeing more commonly is the reduction in the number of gears. Single speeds offer great simplicity and will outlast a geared bike through a typical British weather, and the Condor Pista is one such Singlespeed, with a fixed option by flipping the rear wheel. Condor have been building bikes for 57 years, and are pretty accommodating in altering the spec to suit your preferences.

Cannondale Road Warrior 800 – £899.99

Urban Warrior

Cannondale are one of a growing number of companies to have cottoned onto the idea of taking a road bike, replacing the drop handlebars with a flat bar, and repackaging it as an urban warrior style machine.

The middle of a range of three, the 800 has (of course) an aluminium frame with an aluminium fork. Shimano’s 550 wheelset (read the review) with wide 32c Continental CityContact tyres provide some damping from the ruggedness of city roads. A Shimano drivetrain with some Ultrega components, Cannondale’s own triple chainset (30/42/50).

Some comfort (the frame won’t provide much) comes from a suspension seatpost fitted with a Selle Royal Gel saddle. The rest of the finishing kit comes adorned with Cannondale stickers

Marin Point Reyes – £875

A slicked mountain bike

Easily the most popular style of bike seen on commutes is a mountain bike that has had its chunky tyres replaced with fat slicks. The reason is simple: mountain bikes are more comfortable to ride due to their upright riding position, and the frame and components are designed to take a hammering on a regular basis. The fat slick tyres increase the speed while retaining the bump absorbing characteristics that made the bike perfect in the first place.
In the Point Reyes these qualities have been honed into an urban warrior, helped by the smattering of black components and subtle graphics.

Disc brakes are a great option in grid locked cities, and the flat bar keeps the head high and brakes easier to access then on dropped handlebars. A rigid carbon fork is a great upgrade, but a short travel suspension fork could be fitted without sacrificing much speed if desired.

Brompton T-Type – £565

City pocket rocket

This classic British design has been much copied but we have chosen the T-Type, the top of a three-model range. The main difference on the T-Type is the rear rack for attaching panniers or a briefcase.

We’ve seen two bikes already that take different approaches to gearing, and the Brompton continues this with an option that is steadily gaining ground, particularly on city bikes where low maintenance is a bonus. A SRAM 3-speed hub, well proven, makes gear choice easier than simple, while a second sprocket can be added to the rear hub to double the selection of gears. Look out for some weight-saving titanium modifications, coming soon.

Ridgeback Tempest – £330

A tough and durable street bike

Ridgeback is a company who seem have the focus of most of their range on bikes to be used around the city. We’ve chosen the Tempest from the Switch series of bikes, as the mountain bike basis is a great place to start. They added some fat slick tyres (these are super slick, some treaded tyres might be an option for poor weather riding), put some disc brakes on for rapid deceleration, and a riser bar for comfort and great handling.

We’re seeing a lot of Ridgebacks around the streets of London, so they’re a popular choice already with commuters. And it looks great too.

Giant CRS – £275

A humble street bike

Just to prove that it isn’t necessary to spend a whole pile of dosh on a bike just for riding to work, we have the Giant CRS. The CRS is essentially a mountain bike fitted with road bike wheels, so durable yet fast. Rigid forks and low-end Shimano components keep everything simple and the running costs low. It shouldn’t attract much attention from potential thieves either.

So, you can see from the above selection of bikes that there is no one bike which is perfectly suited for the commute to work. You need to work out your route to work, the length and charateristics, and then decide how you want to get to work: Fast and furious or slower and leisurely.

Further Reading

More information about commuter bikes and some of the more detailed things to be aware of before making a purchase.

In the third installment we’re going to have a bit of fun and look at some of the most expensive bikes currently available on the market. Stay tuned.


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