Bicycles are a timeless joy, offering an environmentally friendly mode of transport and a great tool for exercise.
Buying a new bike is a big decision that you should take seriously. Whether you plan to bike commute every day or use it for leisure, you will spend significant time in the saddle and rack up many miles on the wheels.
This article describes the factors to consider when choosing your first commuter bike.
What’s the best bike for commuting?
You can easily find a commuter bike if you consider several basic things.
The best bike for commuting depends on several factors, such as terrain, journey distance, and your taste in bikes. Hence, you will find several commuter bikes such as flat bars, electric bikes, urban bikes and mountain bikes.
The flat bar bikes are the best all-around commuting bicycles as they suit a longer speedier commute.
They differ from mountain bikes, which are suited to rough terrain. Mountain bikes are incredibly adaptable with a fast and comfortable ride. They usually have shock absorbers and fat tires to handle off-road riding.
Mountain bikes are also good for casual and city riding, with their robust design making them good at handling bumps such as potholes. You can use that instead of the Urban bike.
Urban bikes or cruiser bikes are good for relatively short and relaxed rides. They are slower than other commuter bikes but comfortable and upright. You can find city bikes with accessories such as mudguards, lights and racks.
However, if you are likely to slog up hills or travel longer distances, electric bikes may be the option for you. There are pedal-assist or throttle powered e-bikes. It’s also possible to convert your current commuter bike into an electric bike using conversion kits.
Choose a bike that’s a good fit for the riding you do. For example, you may not need a mountain bike if you’re riding mainly in the city.
If you are a cycling newbie, choose an upright bike style as it’s more comfortable and gives you awareness on the road.
Avoid the speedy drop handlebar road bikes, as they are not designed for stopping and starting. The low riding position of these bikes makes it harder to monitor the traffic.
The sturdy nature of a mountain bike and its upright riding position makes it a popular choice for commuters.
Factors to consider when choosing a commuter bike
There are different commuter bikes with unique designs to achieve the same goal.
Choosing the right bike involves considering how it will meet your needs. Here are the factors to consider:
How to feel comfortable on a bike
The solution to choosing the right commuter bike is to ensure it is comfortable and practical for the riding you intend to do.
It doesn’t matter how fancy or well-engineered the bike is; it’s useless if you aren’t comfortable with it. Hence, find a bike you think is comfortable to ride before worrying about squeezing professional-level performance out of it.
Getting a bike with the correct frame size is essential to a comfortable ride. A too big or small bike will compromise the feel and comfort. If you need a basic city bike, look for a model where most weight is carried by your feet and bottom and not in your hand.
The size of commuter bikes is based on the seat tube length. Ensure you can stand over the bike with some clearance for the correct size.
For the best saddle height, place your heel on the pedal and ensure your leg is straight when it’s at the bottom of the stroke. The length of the top tube is also important as it determines how far you’ll have to stretch while riding. Ensure you’re not stretched out or bunched up on the bike for maximum comfort.
Knowing the length of your commute can make all the difference in choosing a commuter bike. If you ride like 3 miles per day, any bike can fit your needs. However, if you ride over 6 miles per day, consider the height of your commuter bike for maximum comfort. Choose bikes designed for speed and ride efficiency if you travel anything over nine miles per day.
Wheel size for commuting
Consider factors such as durability, spoke count, and ease of removal when getting the right wheels for commuting. For example, double-wall rims are stronger than single ones, while a higher spoke count is better if you ride on bumpy paths. Getting quick-release wheels also makes life easier if you have a flat.
If you want to make the trip to work and home quick and painless, choose bikes with slightly wider wheels. They are less likely to puncture and will give you more traction over a slick-road bike tire. The wide tires provide a comfortable air cushion, so you float over bumps and rough terrain.
Avoid knobbly mountain bike tread if you are riding on the road, as it is meant for off-road biking and not city commute. Also, If you want to use a commuter bike solely for commuting, consider fitting slick tires to unleash their full potential.
If your area experiences frequent rainfall, choose a tire that can withstand puddles and slick spots. For example, focus on tires that are marketed as being puncture-resistant to reduce your risk of a flat. Approaching tram trucks with small tires can easily cause the bike to get stuck in the rail grooves.
Suspension is not always better.
Suspension is a common feature on most commuter bikes. They compress to absorb impact from bumps, cracks and obstacles for a smoother and more comfortable ride. Manufacturers design suspension systems to take the bumps and shocks of rough road conditions and ensure you enjoy the ride.
However, while a bike with a suspension system should have a smooth and more enjoyable ride, that’s not always the case on most bikes. For example, low-end bikes with suspension systems often skimp on suspension quality. This leads to a cycle with an unnecessary weight that doesn’t help your ride.
Purchase a well-constructed bike if you want maximum comfort. You can always forfeit suspensions to get a more comfortable bike that’s easy to pedal. Also, steer clear of full-suspension mountain bikes if you only want to commute since you may pay for loads of technology you won’t use.
The best type of brakes
Finding the best bike breaks for your commuter bike is one of the key component decisions you will make when buying your bike.
Any bicycle will have brakes suited to the riding use it was designed for. Most modern hybrid bikes come with rim brakes or disc brakes to help move through gravel roads and city streets. The third option of hub brakes is designed for durability and low maintenance.
Rim brakes are much cheaper than disk brakes. They rely on the pressure applied to the inside of the tire via a rubber-coated clamp. These brakes are powerful stoppers and excellent for all-around riding. However, while rim brakes are lightweight and cheap, they are prone to slippage when wet or overly worn and will not work with consistent force.
On the other hand, disc brakes are heavier and more expensive but offer more braking force than rim brakes. They are popular for offering more braking control in descents and can perform better in muddy situations. You can rely on them for long periods because of their ability to offer more braking force.
The disc brake systems work in the same way as the disc brakes in the average car. This heavy-duty braking may not be required for some commutes along quiet side streets.
Commuting gear for a bike rider
If you ride primarily on flat ground, a single speed or fixed gear with one gear may be all you need. However, if your daily ride requires you to ride up inclines of any grade, you need to set the right gear to make life much easier.
Many modern bikes come with 27 gears, which are much more than you need for commuter riding. A bike with 5 to 8 gears is enough if you ride in the city. In most cases, additional gears cost more, add weight, and increase maintenance issues.
Bicycle gears come as part of a group-set, including everything making up the gears and the brakes. Manufacturers often make different grades for both mountain and road bikes. You may notice the difference between low-end and high-end groupset, with high-end sets more durable and performing more efficiently.
The external drivetrain is a multiple gear-set common on most commuter bikes. It comprises a set of sprockets at the front connected to the pedals and a set of sprockets connected to the rear wheel’s hub joined with a chain. There are external drivetrain bikes with over 30 gears. The urban bikes usually have between 18 and 27 gears. These external drivetrains are smooth-shifting reliable and have stood the test of time.
You can also find internal gear hubs whose gears are nicely contained within the rear wheel’s hub. While the drivetrain looks similar to a single-speed bike from the outside, there are commuter bikes with internal gear hubs with up to 8 speeds.
Compared to the external drivetrains, internal gear hubs are easy to maintain. All the moving parts of an internal gear hub are sealed and protected against water, dirt or grit that could damage the gears. Your only responsibility is to keep the chain clean, lubricated, and properly tensioned. You can also shift gears from a stop, which is impossible with external drivetrains.
Choose a gear depending on where you plan to ride your new bike. If you plan to ride on flat terrain, you can choose a bike with fewer gears or even a single speed. However, if you want to ride on hilly terrain, having many gears comes in handy.
Grips, Pedals, and Saddle
Consider these three components if you’re seriously looking for commute bikes. There is a wide variety of handlebar grips on the market.
Test how the bike’s grips feel in your hand before selecting. For example, check whether they are too narrow or too fat for your hand. A good commuter bike should give a good grip so your hand won’t shift or slip. If the grip doesn’t feel right, consider replacing them with the most suitable ones.
A commuter bike with simple pedals and no clips are easy to use and good for casual riding. However, if you engage in longer-distance rides or commute, try pedals with toe clips that your shoe fits snugly into. These pedals stop your foot from slipping off.
Toe clip pedals also make the ride more efficient; as one foot pushes the pedal down, the other pulls its pedal up. You can also try the clip-in pedals for ultimate in efficient riding. However, they demand special cycling shoes that clip onto the cleats on the pedal and take practice to use.
Similarly, there is a wide range of sandals for your commuter bike. You can find wide comfortable sandals common on cruiser bikes or narrow ones common on road bikes. Saddle comfort is important for the efficiency of commuter riding.
The saddles offer perfect economics, material, and features to make them comfortable, versatile, and supportive. You will find them in different shapes.
Don’t forget the frame material.
The frame material of your commuter bike can have a big effect on how easy it is to carry around. It is the backbone of any bicycle and can determine its efficiency.
The most common materials are steel, aluminium and carbon fibre. Steel frames are powerful and absorb bumps, though they rust easily.
Aluminium is lighter than steel and doesn’t rust, but it doesn’t absorb bumps. Carbon fibre frames are light and corrosion-resistant. They offer the smoothest ride but are the most expensive of other bike frames.
A commuter bike is a worthwhile investment in your health and happiness.
If you want an efficient and comfortable ride, it’s important to think about where you plan to ride your bike. The answer can help you select the right wheel size, saddle, frame material, gear and brakes.
When buying a commuter bike, verify the max tire, clearance and rock and fender capabilities. It allows you to buy the most versatile bike for your use.
With a little research, you can find a bike that’s safe and comfortable to use for a long time.
Last Updated on July 15, 2023 by Danijel Cakalic