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What is your perfect do all commuter bike?

by Commute by Bike

It’s pretty obvious that the bike industry is making a big push to utilitarian bikes.

2008 Kona UTETo carry everything around, Surly has their Big Dummy complete with Xtracycle goodies. And now the 2008 Kona UTE is sporting similar characteristics.

Then you have plenty that are low maintenance singlespeed and fixed gear bikes like the Kona Paddywagon and Redline 925.

Raleigh Detour Deluxe HybridThe Raleigh Detour Deluxe is a nice hybrid complete with rechargeable lights and rear rack.

And if you missed it, QBP’s newest bike brand is Civia Cycles who “builds bikes for people who are passionate about cycling and the art of living. They are designed and engineered by people like you: people on the move; people who see bikes as serious transportation; people who make cycling a part of their lives.”

So I pose this question to you…

If you could create the perfect do all commuter bike, what would it look like?

Would it be a singlespeed? Have a huge carrying capacity? Rechargeable lighting system?

Leave your specs for your perfect commuting rig in the comments.

 
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42 Responses to “What is your perfect do all commuter bike?”

  1. Mike in Florida says:

    That’s a tough question. Different bikes serve different purposes. For example, my commute is long. There’s no way I’d want to do it on anything but a drop bar road bike. Said bike would be a nice bike, since I spend so much time on it.

    That bike would be far too nice to regularly lock to racks—and wouldn’t have the cargo capacity to replace a car. That’s where something like an Xtracycle or a Kogswell P/R comes into play. Come to think about it, a Kogswell P/R would probably fit the bill as well as anything. I can’t see doing long road miles on an Xtracycle, but a Kogswell with a front basket and rear panniers could do it all. Set it up with a DiNotte 500L light and a Schmidt SON dynohub and twin Lumotec lights. Ouch, got kinda expensive there. LOL

  2. MoleMan says:

    Tough call. If you bought new the top of the line bike for every need, commute, mountain, road, cargo, etc., the price would still be less than a cheap car.

    I commute on my fixed gear road bike, but I also use my cruiser/xtracycle, my lightweight three speed, my single speed mountain bike, or whatever tickles my fancy in my bike shed.

    I am currently building up a 7 speed cyclecross bike out of more junkyard parts that will become a commuter with fenders, lights, and maybe a rack as well.

  3. CJ says:

    Wow, that is a tough question!! I mean the perfect bike for commuting depens on a number of variables. Things like distance, terrian, and normal road and weather conditions.

    I suppose if your commute includes decent roads, weather, and no real need to carry tons of stuff. Then a SS will work nicely. But if you need to carry lots of extra stuff, ie. laptop, change of cloths, lunch, files and paper, books, etc… then maybe a full on touring bike with fenders and personalized cockpit would be best.

    I like the idea of a CX bike, and that will be my next commuter as I get older and my knees start to hurt from the pounding that riding a SS can place on your joints.

    Peace out

  4. david in fla says:

    For my flat ~7mile commute, my old Raleigh single speed is pretty good. But, as I look to move out west to CO, I’m eyeing something more like a Fuji Cross or Lemond Poprad for the gears and a bit more off road capability. I actually like having a backpack versus a rack on the back, but that’s probably from years of riding my bike to campus in undergrad. The racks just change the feel of the bike too much for me.

    -david in fla

  5. gazer says:

    Perfect do-all commuter bike:

    A bike that can carry as much as stably as an XtraCycle, yet still fold and fit into a car’s trunk and/or Samsonite suitcase.

    Fenders.

    Light mounts.

    Durable components.

    Quick on roads, but able to handle the occasional gravel and dirt road.

    Configurable with either drop or flat bars.

    Folds quickly and compactly to load onto an over-packed CalTrain (~10 seconds).

    Hub generator a plus, but I’ve never had one, so can’t swear by them yet.

    Oh – and someone to buy it for me…

  6. Nicole says:

    I’m with Mike — it depends on the type of commute. I have a really short commute now (less than 1 mi) and previously about 4 mi (still pretty short). That commute can be done on about any kind of bike — my preference being a bike that I can I lock up anywhere and be relatively certain it’s not the nicest bike on the rack. :P For me, a hybrid fits the bill as a nice mix of speed, comfort and handling. Add a couple back collapsible baskets for grocery gathering and other hauling needs, and that’s commuter perfection to me. If I was looking at a commute of 8-10+ miles then I’m certain my “perfect” bike would be much different.

  7. Fritz says:

    As the others have already written, the “perfect” bike is really heavily dependent on conditions. Fair weather only? Short or long distance? Smooth roads or bumpy trails? Multi-modal? Lots of gear to carry? Parking / bike storage space (e.g. limited space from apartment living)?

    Xtra-equipped bikes are cool for hauling tons of stuff but impractical for long commutes, and might be impractical if you ride a bus for part of the commute.

    I’ve always favored lightweight road bikes for commuting, but over the last year I’ve been riding a train for part of my commute, which is not compatible with nice road bikes.

    For me, the perfect bike *might* be a 3 speed with hand brakes, drop bars or maybe a mustache, fenders, racks and panniers. Or it might be a folding bike equivalent to that — something like the rack-equipped Friday Tikit with internal hub gearing is pretty close to perfect (and flat bars, because drop bars just look goofy on a small-tire folding bike).

  8. doug says:

    my perfect ten-mile flat commute bikes would be:

    summer:

    friction geared steel road bike with wider tires and fenders. probably one of those big cetma racks in front with a bag to carry my stuff (i dislike rear racks). basically an old-fashioned touring bike, i guess.

    winter:
    single speed steel mountain bike, also with a cetma rack in front. hardtail with a rigid fork. it should have fat slicks. 65-70 inch gearing. i wish i still had my ’85 lugged stumpjumper which i sold stupidly, as i am finding it difficult to find a decent mountain bike that fits my needs. it’s either $2000 motorcycle-style mountain bikes or roadmaster/magna around here.

  9. Keith says:

    Cyclocross, Cyclocross, Cyclocross.

    A good cross bike will do just about everything.

    Good speed, tough construction, good geometry. Light enough to do road with a different set of wheels, tough enough to do trails if necessary. Lots of purchase options from as inexpensive as the Bianchi San Jose Single Speed, to a full on carbon cross with all the bells and crazy whistles.

    Although you lose some rack mounts and other amenities the more race oriented your cross bike becomes.

    Keith

  10. Jack says:

    A perfect commuter bike for me would have to be a car replacement, but also provide a nice ride for some weekend cruisin’. Here’s my accessories.

    - steel frame
    - relaxed, touring geometry
    - hub generator and lights
    - fenders and racks
    - mirror
    - Bike Friday H-bars
    - internal geared hub, maybe the Rohloff 14-speed (talk about expensive!)
    - bells and whistles (specifically a bike bell and safety whistle)
    - pepper spray

  11. Jack says:

    A perfect commuter bike for me would have to be a car replacement, but also provide a nice ride for some weekend cruisin’. Here’s my specs…

    - steel frame
    - relaxed, touring geometry
    - hub generator and lights
    - fenders and racks
    - mirror
    - Bike Friday H-bars
    - internal geared hub, maybe the Rohloff 14-speed (talk about expensive!)
    - bells and whistles (specifically a bike bell and safety whistle)
    - pepper spray

  12. Rachel says:

    My ideal commuter have a durable pannier rack and a trailer for the shopping commute. I would add durable tires and thorn resistant tubes due to the debris.
    I would pick a road frame b/c it’s easier on my back and I’d leave the mountain bike at home.

  13. Quinn says:

    I tried coverting a hardtail to a commuter, it was ok, but then gas hit $3/gal. I thought hard and long, and I bought a Raleigh XXIX and put an 11-30 7 speed cassette and 700x38s, and I use the stock Exiwolfs with a 13-34 cassette to tow my cargo trail.

    700c’s make such a difference!

  14. JiMCi says:

    The perfect bike? The one you already own, provided it is the right size for you and properly adjusted to fit you*. It doesn’t really matter if it’s a road, hybrid, mountain, etc., you can always add accessories or replace components to suit your specific needs.

    * I see so many cyclist with bikes that are too tall or too small for them; saddles too low, handlebars too wide; etc. I feel sorry for them, knowing that if they were properly fitted to their bike, they would enjoy their commute much more and even ride more often.

  15. Jared H says:

    I can’t really say what the “perfect commuter bike” is. But I can say that I’m pretty happy with my Bianchi Castro Valley (bianchiusa.com/07_castro_valley.html). Comes standard with fenders and a front hub that generates the front the light. The standard Bianchi saddle is ugly as sin, but after switching that out for something more stylish I feel pretty happy with my set up.

  16. Alberto says:

    I suppose any bike that does the commuting job well and makes one reasonably happy is close to being perfect. Normally the one we already have doesn’t do too bad, I imagine. I’m quite happy with my inexpensive Specialized Crossroads Sport (though I didn’t like the 2007 model that came out this year.) But mine takes racks, fenders, has 700 x 38c wheels for shitty terrain and does quite well climbing as well, which for me is important in my part of the country (Spain). It doesn’t have drop bars, which I prefer for efficiency, but that will be changed in the future. (It has also done quite well in small tours, so I can’t complain. I imagine it can also do OK on longer tours as well. At least I see no reason why not.) And it only cost me new 400 buckaroos!

  17. Joe says:

    A good steel lugged rigid MTB with all of the goodies on it (Brooks saddle, fenders, cyclocomputer, an extra hand position, slicks). Thats good enough for me. Good gear range, tough enough for winter’s surprises, curb hopping, construction zones etc. It may not be fast or sexy, but it’ll be like a “timex”…take a licking …you know.

    I have one like the above, and bought the bike for $25 (A trek no less), and the goodies will be probably no more than $100 not including the Brooks.

  18. Mike in Florida says:

    Joe makes an excellent point. If one is fortunate enough to find an old lugged steel MTB in salvageable shape, setting it up as he describes makes an excellent “do-anything” bike. That being the case—why doesn’t some company just make one?

    The only choices for someone who wants a bike with road bike geometry with wheels smaller that 700c? You can go with the 650B bikes(Kogswell P/R, Rivendell Bleriot, Rivendell Saluki, etc) or the Surly Long Haul Trucker in sizes 54cm and smaller. The LHT would be the least expensive of the bunch, but it’s a full on touring bike, and I don’t know if that will handle quickly enough for a lot of folks. A 26 inch wheeled bike with road geometry and drop bars would be a nice setup.

  19. Aidan says:

    Let me tell you about me and where I live, so you understand my ideal bike. I commute year round 50km/day (30 miles for you Americans) at a quick pace in Toronto, Canada. Winters a bit worse than Chicago’s, for which I have sweet 35mm studded tires. I already ride a steel road bike: 2006 Lemond Croix de Fer.

    So, I need a steel frame, drop or bullhorn bars, room to run my winter tires and 30mm in the summer to eat rough road. I also want a Shimano Nexus 8-speed internal hub/brake on it, because they use WAY too much salt here for a derailer. Aftermarket, I’ll throw on front/rear racks, one bar-top brake lever for the front hub brake, a chaincase to keep me and the bike clean, some spd platform pedals and fenders.

    I think this calls for a conversion of a singlespeed: Kona Paddywagon, Surley Steamroller, Bianchi San Jose, Redline 9-2-5. What do you think?

  20. Quinn says:

    that internal hub sounds cool, I have a buddy that runs San Jose SS Coaster

  21. Steve says:

    I second the internal hub. The Rholoff is pimp, but the Shimano Alfine would be ideal/affordable. 700c flat bar for me. Fenders are a must, racks would be a bonus. Agile yet durable.

  22. Aidan says:

    Doesn’t anyone make a bike like the one I want, ‘off the rack’, as it were? Basically a cross-bike with an internal hub? Think the internal hub will do more good for winter commuting than disk brakes; I can stop on my rim brakes. Steel frame is a bonus.

  23. Van Dessel now only builds single-speeds and derailleurs, but used to build roadish bikes with Nexus internal hubs. They even had one called the “Super Fly” (if I recall correctly) that had a suspension fork. You might be able to find one on eBay.

  24. Michel Phillips says:

    How do you folks survive with no suspension?

    I commute 7 hilly miles each way. No bike lanes, fast vehicular traffic, inattentive drivers, so I ride a lot on the sidewalk and make no apology for it. (Very few pedestrians here in the Atlanta ‘burbs anyway.)

    I tried this on a road bike, then on a hardtail 700c hybrid with a suspension fork and seatpost, but by the end of the ride on either one my middle-aged knees ached from the shock of hopping curbs. And all of the stand-and-sit, stand-and-sit to cross every doggone driveway cut and sidewalk buckle was just driving me batty.

    I finally broke down and bought a full-suspension mountain bike. It’s like a magic carpet. I don’t even break cadence to cross anything short of a curb, and even then only to go up — to jump off one, I just keep pedaling. Sturdy seapost-mounted beam rack to carry my stuff. Specialized Nimbus Armadillos are nearly flatproof, and at 26×1.5 and 80 PSI are adequately fast. Sure, the bike is heavy — but I’m doing this for exercise, aren’t I?

    The only thing that still bugs me is climbing hills with the not-quite-flat handlebars. I’m thinking about trying drop bars on it, but I suppose a moustache would look slightly less crazy.

    Any other suspension commuters out there?

  25. Aidan says:

    Hey, if your knees need suspension, go for it. Me, I don’t like extra weight, complexity, and mechanical inefficiency: I post over bumbs. Do your knees hurt if you keep them flexed on landing?

  26. Quinn says:

    Hills in ATL?????????

    try living in the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas!

    to get to my apt. I have to do a 500ft. elevation climb in less than a mile.
    and the city (Reno, popu. 500k) has a minimum of a 1500ft. varience.

    As for riding rigid, I’m a tough as nails mountain man, born in the sierras, raised in the Appilachians, and now back in Sierras, I ride rigid on AND off-road! even with a perminate birth defect of the spine (spina bifida), been ride that way

  27. Joe says:

    Phillips, I’m guessing that you wouldn’t miss that suspension if you weren’t on the sidewalk going up and down all the time.

    I’m in Southern Oregon, home of the chip seal road. Apparently smooth asphalt is a foreign concept around here. All the roads are rough. I’m out a bit from town mostly, so I take a lane and stay there, and I plan my route to stay off the busy streets, except for one and it has a bike lane.

    I don’t use suspension at all. My hybrid had a sus. fork and I took it off and went rigid; my mtb never had any (an 85 trek Antelope 830 converted to commuter/bad weather bike).

    I do 300 miles a month.

    I also ride in at 4 am, so no worries about traffic; home is a little different.

  28. Juan says:

    I agree with Keith…..Cylocross bikes are hard to beat for commuting. Much more durable than a road bike, and much faster than a mountain bike. I commute just under 19 each way, so the speed is appreciated. Part of my commute is on dirt, so the handling is nice too. The 38C tires can take hits that leave a road bike with flats, and there’s nothing like passing a roadie when you have fenders and a rack!

  29. Zeke Farwell says:

    I am currently looking for the perfect commuter bike. I don’t bike far to work, but I want the freedom to stop at the grocery store on the way home without the fore sight of bringing a bike trailer. I want a long tail like the Surly Big Dummy or the Kona Ute. Ideally xtra cycle compatible because I like the expandable saddlebags. I want an internally geared hub and a full chain case (as found on the Breezer Uptown 8) for low maintenance. While I’m dreaming, LED head and tail lights powered by a Shimano Dynamo front hub would be sweet as well. Fenders that are not flimsy. A wheel lock seems like a great idea as well.

  30. John says:

    I’d take a steel 700c bike, with lots of tire/fender clearance. Schmidt dynamo hub, Rohloff rear, Brooks saddle, 3 x 7 gears. I’d run 32mm Paselas in the summer, and studded tires in the winter. Probably moustache bars, but maybe drops. And either a big basket in the front (short commute) or a Carradice in the back. Probably, I’d like a front rack where the basket could be easily removed and sometimes used, sometimes not. Combo pedals with spd on one side, toothy pedal on the other side. King headset, friction shifting (either bar con or downtube).

  31. Bill says:

    I have to carry a full change of clothes – Georgia’s muggy heat makes you more than smelly so I have to shower after riding each direction for work.

    That full change of clothes tends to wrinkle in a standard pannier so I’ve just purchased (but have not tried) a garment bag pannier.

    One of the toughest hills in the area is just outside of my subdivision and on the way to work.

    I have some heel-strike problems with my current bike/rack/panniers.

    I get numbness in my ring and pinkie fingers on just my right hand.

    My brother has suggested a 700C road-wheel bike with rear (and front, if necessary) pannier racks. He suggested getting a bike that has a wide gear range (I think he called it a bail-out gear?). I’m sure that I want an upright seating position to take pressure off of my right hand.

    I’m somewhat inclined to go for a Surly Big Dummy with slicks or semi-slicks, perhaps a StokeMonkey, and many lights (incl Fossil Fool Amber Down Low Glow or an LED alternative). It’s one of the few bike frames designed to carry my weight (I’m not a small fella at 250+lbs nekkid, although I’m hoping that my belt will shrink, soon). I’m also considering a NuVinci hub for the smooth shifting if the gearing is wide enough.

  32. Michel Phillips says:

    I leave a week’s worth of clothes at the office. When the weather is bad, or I have to work late, I take the car, and on those occasions I bring in fresh clothes and take home the dirty ones.

  33. [...] is making a big push to utilitarian bikes. To carry everything around, surly has their big dummy …http://commutebybike.com/2007/08/15/what-is-your-perfect-do-all-commuter-bike/Lamont, I’m Having the Big One…Sir Jon Fleck, Esq. dropped by the Cykel Garage today with his [...]

  34. Franklin says:

    Okay give me

    -Full Freddy Fenders
    - 28mm Armadillos
    -Tubus Rack
    -Cetma Rack
    -24 Speed Shimano Drivetrain
    -Rapidfire Shifters
    -Trailer hitch and Burley Flatbed for bulkier loads
    -Nice light system

    Thats my GT Transeo my only bike at the time

  35. Dave Rogers says:

    Swobo Dixon.

    I got some promenade bars, funky fenders and the most important thing, a sexy chain-guard and I am loving life.

    http://www.swobo.com/catalog/product_info_b.php?cPath=201_204
    http://www.velo-orange.com/haandst.html

  36. Sam says:

    Dave,

    I am anxiously awaiting my Dixon and will probably go with a similar set-up. How do your promenade bars work with the swobo stem/head? I’d love to see a pic of your ride. Thanks.

  37. montclairbobbyb says:

    Ultimate Commuter Bike?

    The one I’m about to build:

    Salsa Fargo frame
    Titec H-Bar
    Brooks B17 Special
    Shimano hydraulic disc brakes
    Suntour XC thumb shifters (vintage)
    Wheels: Stans ZTR Flow 36 hole rims with Phil Wood disc cassette hub, Schmidt SON28 Nabendynamo generator disc hub
    Home-brew triple LED generator light
    Sugino XD600 triple crankset
    Tubus Cargo rack, rear
    Tubus lowrider rack, front
    SRAM X9 front and rear derailleurs
    Schwalbe Big Apple tires

    Ahhh…. now THAT’S a commuter!

  38. Willy says:

    I put together my dream commuter this year.

    Surly Long Haul Trucker

    Schmidt Sun Generator Hub

    Salsa Short and Shallow Drops

    Shimano Ultegra Compact Double

    Shimano 9 speed rear with XT rear hub

    Schmidt Lumotec Oval Plus Senso Headlight

    Busch&Miller Seculite Plus Taillight

    Shimano Ultegra Shifters/Brake levers

    Avid Shorty Canti Brakes

    Brooks B17

    Thompson Elite post

    Chris King Headset

    Schwalbe Marathon 700 x 35 tires

    Speedplay Frog Pedals

    Tubos Logos Rear Rack

    Ortleib Panniers

    Planet Bike Freddy Fenders with Buddy Flaps

    Sunn Rims with DT Swiss Spokes

    This bike rides like a dream and is super smooth and stable. Provides its own usable and safe light. Can carry alot of weight without getting sluggish or goofy handling. A bit heavy for my Seattle hills but I just push harder on the pedals. This set up has made me so happy I can’t imagine anything I would have done differently…but then for about $2700 I guess I should be happy.

  39. Sebastien F. says:

    Willy, I’m in Seattle as well and I’m looking for a tough commuter bike. Do you have a pic of your bike posted somewhere?

  40. @Michel Phillips I commute from just outside the Washington DC line into the city, 8 miles ea. way. I ride a hybrid w/ suspension a Trek 7300.It’s my recreational bike too. I can jump curbs on it and handle dirt trails too. The suspension and the very well padded seat, plus my padded shorts keep me comfortable. Make sure your seat height is right, if it’s a little to high that can lead to knee problems.

    My ideal commuter? My bike’s pretty good but I wish it had built in lights that work from the power generated by pedalling; and internal hub, covered chain.

  41. Greg H. says:

    I ride a Fuji touring bike w/panniers on my commute to and from work about 22mi one way if I ride all the way to work from home. When the wether is not good I sometimes drive part way and ride the rest of the way on my bike the ride is 11mi one way when I do that. It has work well for me so far. I have other bikes but I seem to ride the Fuji every were I go.

  42. akshay says:

    My commute is 11 miles each way with moderate climbing.
    My commuter bike is a Jamis Aurora.
    Light touring bike with steel frame, full fenders, rack and panniers.
    I have 700X32c tires on my bike run on a relatively low pressure of 75psi.
    Very smooth ride when I cross several sets of railway tracks.

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