RCUK guide: commuter and street bikes - Road Cycling UK

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RCUK guide: commuter and street bikes

The whole street and commuter range of bikes has gone mad in recent years, what used to be a bog standard city bike or hybrid option has exploded into a multi-faceted and wide-ranging choice of bikes to suit all. A commuter bike comes in many guises now, from 700c wheels with fast rolling narrow tyres to sleek mountain bikes adapted for fast riding on tarmac with semi- slick tyres and disc brakes for instantaneous stopping power.

Brompton folding bike

Whichever type of commuter or street bike you choose, bear in mind what sort of luggage you want to carry and whether you’ll be riding all the way or wanting to jump on the train for part of the journey. Many train companies won’t allow full sized bikes during busy periods so you may even want to consider a folding bike, with either 26” wheels or smaller for easy of carrying. Brompton and Moulton are the most well known choices for performance folding bikes, but check out the Dahon Boardwalk D6 with 6-gears and 20” wheels for a bargain £269.

Wheels and riding position

Cannondale Road Warrior range

Smaller wheels bikes offer less luggage capacity, with 26” and larger wheels you can fit panniers front and rear provided the frame has rack mounts. Opting for larger wheels allows for more versatile use and if you fancy riding at weekends and don’t want to buy a specific bike then we’d suggest you opt for a flat barred road-style bike with a lightweight aluminium frame and road componentry, such as the Cannondale Road Warrier range of bikes. The flat bars allow for precise handling and coupled with a short stem and slight rise gives a good riding position with ample view of the road and traffic, ideal for city use. The slightly more upright position is more relaxed than on standard road bikes and exerts less stress on the upper body too, some frames have longer headtubes which also aid the riding position without compromising on aerodynamics as much as with hybrids and mountain bike geometry frames.

700c road style wheels roll faster and smoother than smaller wheels and as long as you go for a well built and durable pair, such as the Mavic Speedcity then you’ll be able to hit the odd pothole or curb without too much worry.


Riding in town along bumpy roads with plenty of grates and glass around you need to be careful of picking up pinch flats and punctures, opt for a well protected tyre with thick sidewalls and avoid lightweight and thin inner tubes. Choose a tyre with minimum rolling resistance but that can shed water and that grips in the wet, Continental make a fast urban commuter tyre, the Sport Contact costing about £19, with carbon and silica composition for grip and longevity. It has strengthened sidewalls and filaments of aramid (Kevlar) for added puncture protection, also the 37mm width enhances comfort from road jolts and rough surfaces whilst the wide grooves guide water away in the wet.

Saddles and grips

Saddles and grips should be comfortable and durable, extra padding or gel inserts are a good choice if you often ride in normal clothing, it also helps absorb some of the road shock. The same goes for grips too, your extremities will thank you for the padding and comfort.


With 700c bikes, you could pay extra and go for a carbon fork to reduce weight and enhance stiffness, they also help minimise road shock through the front end. Or, if you enjoy a more comfortable ride then short travel suspension forks such as the Suntour NRH fork on the Scott Sportster come complete with lockout and 60mm travel option. The best of both worlds in a fork!

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