Choosing the right commuter bike
We're seeing more and more folks buying bikes for commuting to and from work. So many in fact, that I thought it was about time to write some suggestions.
Most bike commuters spend more time on their commuting bicycle than any other bicycle they own. Therefore, your commuting bike should fit you well. It's just as important to have a professional NEXT-fit session on your commuter bike as it is on your sweet 'pride and joy' bike.
Ride quality is also part of your comfort. The frame should be comfortable to ride on Seattle's roads (you commuters know what I mean). If a frame has a harsh ride, or fits you poorly, then you're spending a lot of your riding time feeling needlessly miserable :-(
WOW! Our commuting customers bring in some dirty, well ridden bikes. As far as wear and tear on the bike goes, I estimate that one month of commuting rain or shine, is like a year of training and fun rides. If you're like me, you don't want to spend $200 a month keeping your bike in good riding condition. My main suggestion for commuters is: Keep it Simple! That's the rule for a great commuter bike.
Up Front, I suggest that a commuter bike have a triple crank. I don't ride a triple on my 'go fast bike' but I've found that commuting is a whole different kind of strategy. The triple crank up front will get you up even the gnarliest hill after a long days work.
In Back, I suggest that less is more. Buy a bike with 9-sp, or even 8-sp for commuting. I realize that the industry is trying to squeeze more and more gears on the rear cluster, and I've got no issue with that, but if you're going to commute, let me save you a bunch of money right now.
- Frequency of adjustments required. Fewer gears on those back cogs means more space between those cogs. This results in less accuracy needed for shifting adjustments. Less accuracy means fewer trips to the repair shop for derailleur adjustments (ie. money in your pocket).
- Frequency of parts replacements. Under 'rain or shine' commuting conditions, an 8-sp chain and cassette will last most commuters a full year. Under those same conditions, a 10-speed chain and cassette will last only 2 ~ 3 months. Realize that a 10-sp chain and cassette cost about $160 just for the parts, and it adds up fast. An 8-sp chain and cassette combo is just $65 and lasts all year. You can do the math.
- Cost of bicycle. Marry the Frame, Date the Parts. We find that the medium level parts last as long or longer than the more expensive parts. So, you can put your money into a good frame that fits well, and save your money on the components. Upgrade components that effect comfort (handle bars, seat, pedals & shoes etc..).
Keeping it simple on the components will save the year-round bicycle commuter several hundred dollars on the purchase price of a bike, and hundreds of dollars every year on repair costs.
I know it's kind of strange for a shop to recommend that less expensive parts will suffice, but for the commuter, your money should go into a quality frame, a good fit, and components that are durable and inexpensive to repair.
Good places to spend extra on a commuting bike
If you're the tinkering type, and you really want to upgrade some components on your commuting bike, then I strongly suggest: Put your money where your bearings are.
A Phil Wood bottom bracket is an upgrade that really increases durability for the commuter. A pair of Phil Wood hubs is a nice 'durability' upgrade as well. As far as derailleurs, shifters, cranks, etc... the more expensive stuff is really designed for lighter weight, and performance oriented riding. Transportation is a different animal.
At R+E Cycles, we'd love to help you select the perfect bike for your commute. Give us a call today 206.527.4822 or just email me directly.
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