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Hot road bikes for the commute

by Richard Masoner

Here at Commute By Bike we focus primarily on utility bikes designed more for practical transportation rather than fast sport recreation. I know many of you, however, like the fast road bikes.

My good friend Ken Conley in Silicon Valley is a fast bike fanatic who rides his bike to work. He recently had an opportunity to test the amazing Storck Absolutist 0.9 road bike. This $6,700 carbon fiber bike is handbuilt in Germany and weighs less than 15 pounds.

Using this bike for your commute is a little like racing down the freeway in a Formula 1 race car, so I thought it amusing that Ken wrote about his commute on this bike.

My record for commuting to work was also beat by 5%. I thought my commute time wouldn’t be improved upon because of traffic lights, but I was able to sprint through lights I normally miss.

I’ve been riding my own “go fast” bike (a carbon fiber Specialized Roubaix) lately. How about the rest of you? Do any of you regularly commute in full road kit on a nice bike? Do you usually commute on a commuter but sometimes take the road bike? Does anybody combine training with your commute?

 
Burley nomad 269

38 Responses to “Hot road bikes for the commute”

  1. xcskimt (Robert) says:

    I sometimes combine my commute with training. My favorite bike is my old race bike (Ocshner) that I have converted over to an awesom fixie. I sometimes use my road bike when my friends contact me for an afternoon ride. With my family life being so hectic it sometimes the only free time I have for training.

  2. JMH says:

    I recently sold my single speed mountain bike, which has been acting as my daily commuter. With it gone, I am now using my new SOMA Smoothie ES for the 14 mile ride to work. My SOMA may not be considered a “fast bike” by a road racer, it has a steel frame and heavy bomb-proof wheels, but it is much nicer (Campy) and quicker than my 14 year old mountain bike. I’ve easily cut 5-10 minutes off my commute. When riding to work I don’t wear any spandex or team jersey, seems a little silly for such a short ride (not to mention the flak I would get from coworkers!). I think I’ll stick with the SOMA for commuting, and save my money for a real road bike.

  3. Juan says:

    I used to combine training with commuting, but that was back when I chased people down on my Mountain Bike with fenders and rack….it’s tough finding tall enough gearing to make a mountain bike as fast as a road bike. I don’t race anymore, so I can’t really call it training, but I still love chasing road bikes with my heavy cross bike (still with fenders and a rack!). Did I finally get the first post?!?

  4. Juan says:

    Darn!! No!!

  5. Tom says:

    I normally ride my Gary Fisher commuter with racks and fenders…but i’d love to ride my Fuji Team SuperLight. The problem, planning ahead so that i don’t have to wear a backpack on the Fuji day so that i can shave even more weight!

  6. SteveS says:

    I ride my only bike, a road bike, to work every day (shortest route 8 miles each way). Every day is a training ride, albeit a short one twice a day. I take a variety of routes to work and from work, ranging from 8-20 miles in one direction, and with a combination of extra hills or lots of flats, for variety.

    My bike isn’t that great (stock Tommaso Mondial, full 105 compact triple, about 25 lbs.), but I average 21-23 mph on the way to work in traffic, and about 19-20 mph on the way home. I always wear spandex and jerseys, and change at work (I carry my change of clothes in a backpack). The great benefit of getting most of my miles with a 10-15-lb. backpack is that when I go on longer rides on Saturdays without the backpack, I feel like I’m flying. I bought my road bike 1.5 years ago without too much invested because I wasn’t sure I was going to really use the bike. I fell in love with cycling, so now of course I want a nicer carbon fiber bike with a standard double crank and better components and wheelset to see just how fast I can make my commute.

    The biggest difficulties of using my road bike for a commute have been basically two factors. First, the thinner tires have been sometimes prone to flats. My Conti Gatorskins have been really good to me, though, as well as better rim tape. Secondly, I really don’t ride in the rain because I don’t have fenders, and because the bike is more prone to slipping due to the thin tires. I end up taking the bus to work and working out at the gym.

  7. Ghost Rider says:

    It’s like having a sports car that you only drive on weekends…I have a 1984 Trek 460 road bike converted to singlespeed/fixed that I ride on the weekend days that I work (when I don’t have as much to carry). God, I look forward to riding that bike — 20 lb. of fast machine versus 55 lbs. of tank-like Xtracycle for my regular workdays.

  8. NSK says:

    I’ve been commuting on my C’dale R1000 (full ultegra, carbon cranks) for the past few weeks, but only because I crashed my regular commuter fixie, and my no-brakes track bike is a little more adventure than I’m willing to handle twice a day in Miami traffic.

    It’s not a bad commute – just 4 miles each way, half downtown, half suburban – but the weight of my messenger bag plus the high seat position makes it a little unwieldy to mount, dismount, and ride with comfort. I really prefer commuting on a simpler, one-brake fixie rather than this fancy, expensive road bike.

    And I always wear regular clothes, just roll up one trouser leg, good to go.

  9. I ride a Giant OCR C3 everyday. Light rail in the morning followed by 5 miles to school, then around 20 miles home, depending on route, in the afternoon. Spandex on the ride, and change at work in an un-used bathroom. I love that bike, so it’s what i ride. I’ve just gotten a Trek 700 Multi-tack off Craigslist that I’m going to use on rainy days this winter. But comfort and speed make the commute fun, so it’s carbon fiber for me!

  10. Kevin says:

    I commute on my fast road bike, a 9 year old Titanium Eddy Merckx. Shortest route is 15mi and 1800 feet of climbing each way. My commute is my training. I got hit by a car about three years ago. The only thing that survived (besides me) was the frame. I had the bike rebuilt with DA-10 and Mavic Ksyrium Elite SL wheels. It is a sweet commute bike. My weekend rides with friends are not nearly as intense as my commute. My wife has a almost matching bike that she commutes on from time to time.

  11. Noah says:

    I had a mountain-bike-turned-hybrid that got stolen a few weeks ago. I’ve been slowly adding commuting goodies to my Trek 1200 that I’d removed to put on the hybrid (which got stolen with the bike). While not exactly a “go fast” bike, or even all that expensive, the Trek 1200 is a road bike and I’m definitely using it for commuting — something it wasn’t designed for.

  12. In addition to the Storck Absolutist, which is sadly on its way home now, I commute on a Look 585, which is my “comfort fast” road bike. My ‘beater’ bike is 2001 Specialized Allez Sport that has it’s share of bruises from riding the Caltrain commuter train.

    One of the things I like about living and working in the Silicon Valley is that I can do a quick 6 mile commute to work and, if I can get out of work by 5:30, do a ride like the Portola Loop/OLH on the way home.

    Then there’s the days I stop and do errands on the way home — the Look 585 always gets compliments as I roll into the pet store to pickup food for my cat and dog.

  13. Shiny Flu says:

    Yep, my Scott CR1 gets commuting duties done when I’m in the mood for sheer speed (and gears!). Sometimes my Niner RIP if I want to do some urban-gutter-hucking :P.

    It helps add variety to the commute.

  14. Steven says:

    I ride my Spec Tarmac SL2 with full Dura Ace on my 22 mile commute into London everyday! Used to use my full sus MTB with smooth tyres but this thing just flys past anything else on the road. Including some cars :-)

    Not sure what I am going to do when the weather turns later in the year… maybe time to get another bike!

  15. John says:

    I’ve been commuting 10-12 miles to work on my Specialized Roubaix for about a year now. I have thought quite a bit about whether I am being silly riding such a nice bike for my commute. But I have made my peace with it. My middle-aged bones love the way the carbon soaks up the road buzz and my type-A personality loves to ride fast. This bike is a pleasure to ride, which at the end of the day, is good enough for me.

    That said there were some dicy days last winter with black ice on the roads so I am looking to add a fatty with spikes to the stable to keep me on the roads those days I took a pass last winter.

    Cheers

  16. Tom says:

    I commute on a 2005 Scott S3 with a seat post rack attached for my bag. I have a 9 mile each way commute and I wanted something I could “ride” not just commute.

    I don’t ride in the rain, on those days I drive.

  17. Mike Panic says:

    My only bike is a 2007 Jamis Ventura Sport, so my road bike is my commuter bike and I have no issues. I use the 7.15 mile trip to work and again home as training 2-3 days per week, then ride longer loops on the non-commuting days and weekends. Since I’m still only a few months deep in road cycling and training for an MS charity ride, this gets me as much seat time as possible in the bike I’ll be riding next month.

    I don’t have any gravel, off-road or unpaved areas on my daily commute, nor curbs to hop, so I have no problems rolling on 700×23′s.

    The commute usually takes 27-28 minutes, if it was double that I would more than likely look into a specific bike for commuting, but that’s not really in the budget right now.

  18. Jim says:

    I have always combined my commutes with part of my training regimen. When I lived in the Salt Lake Area I have used my Specialized E5, then my Cyclocross bike a VooDoo Aizan and combined the hill work I got with my ride in both directions. Since there were some off-road alternatives with my cyclocross bike it gave me options other than how to dodge the cars using the bike lane. Now that I am in NW Oregon my commute is less than 5 minutes and it is whatever has fenders when the rain is falling.

  19. Ron Callahan says:

    I’m in the process of converting my 1995 Kona Kilauea to a drop bar style commuter, but for now, I occasionally ride home on my Giant TCR Composite. It’s a full on race bike with SRAM Force/Red.

    The quickest route home is about 36 miles, so speed rules when I decide to ride home. I’ve made it there in about an hour and 45 minutes.

  20. Nicole says:

    Since my commute is less than a mile (I could walk, but biking is much more fun), the road bike only gets called up if it needs to go to the shop. Otherwise, I’m on my commuter in my heels!

  21. xcskimt (Robert) says:

    My other commuter is a full on Bianchi (steel lugged) cross bike. Very fast (faster if I lose more weight:) Its a great commuter even in the winter. If things become really snowy then the Breezer Mountain Bike comes out. Although for training purposes the fixie is still the most efficient.

  22. idbob says:

    KONA CYCLOCROSS ALUMINUM FRAME. FAST LIKE A ROAD BIKE. AND TAKES ABUSE LIKE A COMMUTER.

  23. SteveS says:

    What constitutes “commuter bike abuse”? I ride solely on the road, don’t have to jump any curbs, no gravel, etc. on my commute. The worst hazard (besides the cars and trucks) is the road debris (nails, sticks, glass) that sometimes builds up on the sides of the road. I also take my bike in with me to work to prevent would-be thiefs, so it doesn’t get jostled around sitting on a bike rack all day. And I don’t ride my road bike in the rain because it has no fenders. So how would riding an expensive carbon bike in these conditions constitute any more “abuse” than training, club, or race riding?

  24. locus says:

    My first commuter bike was an imminently practical Breezer Uptown. Four years later I was looking for something faster (lighter frame, 700cc wheels, etc.)

    After much research, soul searching, and budget review I decided that my next bike would be a “fast commuter”. No suspension, no generator hub, minimal add-ons (lights, fenders and a child carrier compatable rack for the kid). Since I was going to forgo front suspension, I wanted a steel frame. With young kids, I couldn’t afford anything over three figures. I would have loved to build up my ultimate commuter starting with a kick-ass frame (like a Surly Cross-check), but didn’t have the time or cash.

    I ended up buying a Jamis Coda Comp, their flat-bar road racing bike. Outside of less-than-optimal cable routing, I haven’t found anything wrong with the bike except a slight tendency of the front end to shimmy when riding w/o hands on the handlebars. It’s light, plush, and came equipped with a decent grouppo. It doesn’t have the disc brakes I wanted, but the kid’s rack wouldn’t have allowed them anyway.

    For the price, it is an excellent commuter bike, provided you’re prepared to add on the fenders and lights.

  25. Fritz says:

    “Commuter bike abuse” — that’s a good idea for another article! Believe me, my commuter bikes have seen plenty of abuse.

  26. Ken Conley says:

    @SteveS: the most common form of commuter bike abuse around these parts is pedal bites on chainstays from being stacked with other commuter bikes on Caltrain. My Specialized Allez is thoroughly scarred.

  27. Paul in Minneapolis says:

    I ride fast on my Surly LHT touring bike.. Thought I was in the tour de France the other day… Wiped out on a tight turn at 22mph….on a bike that weights 45lbs loaded..

  28. Fritz says:

    KWC, Caltrain is the first thing I just mentioned.

    I have a a couple nice gouges in the Roubaix top tube, probably from a mountain bike handlebar. I once lost a derailleur (cheap plastic Sora on a Trek) when my hanger got bent in and sent the chain and pulley into the spokes.

  29. J.D. says:

    I ride a Giant OCR 3 (recently purchased about 2 months ago) and commute on it daily (I don’t own a car). I originally bought it with the intention of buying a bike that was both comfortable and fast, with enough gears that a day (or weekend) long touring excursion was a possibility. So far, the bike has met all of those standards.

    One thing that I was kind of disappointed with is the fact that there wasn’t enough clearance to attach fenders. However, I was able to buy a set of halfsie fenders (also made by Giant) that hook on the outside of the wheel rather than to the frame itself. They’re a little noisy and don’t block mud from getting onto the bottom of your derailleur, but they keep your bottom from getting that fashionable “wet line” look. I just make sure to clean my bike at least once or twice a month, or after a particularly hard rain.

    As an added bonus, the OCR 3 comes with a second set of brakes on the flat of the handlebars for easy braking in heavy traffic. Otherwise, the drop bars are great for those long distance weekends when I want to make sure my hands don’t get cramped from being in the same position for too long. One note about the flat-bar second set of brakes… they make buying a decent light extraordinarily difficult! I’ve opted for buying two little white lights since I wasn’t able to find a larger headlight that would fit while still allowing me to brake.

    I love traveling on my roadie… though I have been known to take my bicycle into class with me instead of locking it outside in the rain. :) With a little T.L.C I think this multi-purpose road bike is an absolutely FABULOUS commute bike for anyone that’s interested in getting into touring but is on too tight a budget to get a separate bike.

  30. eric s says:

    Count me in the fast-roadie-commuter category. After two years on my Jamis Aurora I got a custom Della Santa last year and since the weather got nice I’ve been doing my 20 mile-each-way commute on it almost exclusively. As others have noted, I do not take it on the Caltrain because it WILL get damaged — the Jamis or beater fixie conversion comes out fo the garage on train days. But I have a really hard time going back to the Jamis for the full ride. The plus side, I can leave my fenders on the Jamis year-round and not have to wrestle getting them on and off each season.

  31. Quinn says:

    I have no interest in a geared road bike, how ever I use my fixie for a lot of my sub 5 mile rides, when im not on that im on my 29er, rollin’ on Serfas Drifter 9′r tires.

  32. Eric says:

    I commute to work and forth on a Pashley Roadster Sovereign.

    20 miles a day is always easy to ride on such a comfortable bike. I’m seated straight on a Brooks B33 and see the lanscape at an ideal position. And I’m seen by the traffic, which is a great, secure feeling.

    Full chainguard allows me to ride calmly with my office suit, not worrying at all about grease. Low maintenance. Stylish. Still keeping me elegant, ready for real life.

    This is the bike that makes me want to go out even when it’s raining. That way, I ride twice as much as I would have done with another bike. So reliable and easy gliding, even with panniers full of errands at the end of the week.

    Whatever the bike, I hope it makes you feel that great between destinations. Cheers!

  33. surlyrider says:

    I have been riding my new Tarmac with a mix of force and rival bits to work and it is so nice to ride a fast bike. I am always concerned that I am going to get hit, and that bike will be toast. I also ride my Tricross elite. That bike is fast as well, but I think it will take a bit more abuse. My workhorse is my surly cross check with racks and fenders and all that jazz. Problem is that it is much heavier than the other bikes, but I am not really nervous about getting hit on that bike at all…except for my body.

  34. LosFelizRider says:

    I guess I’m a member of the club: Specialized Roubaix all the way!

    My commute is 17 miles each way through Los Angeles > Hollywood > Beverly Hills > West LA > Santa Monica.

    I have “hardier” bicycles but, really, why pedal a slower, heavier bicycle? If I had a Porsche, I’d drive it to work everyday too, so there.

    Ride on!

  35. burnsey says:

    My “Frankenstein” (Bridgestone RB2 and various mismatched parts) bike has turned out to be a nice stealth bike. I have passed many a rider in full kit on the uphills. I can only imagine the look on their faces when I pull past riding an old steel frame with a single pannier and fenders. The Nitto mustache bars give it some class.

  36. I think I’ll stick with the SOMA for commuting, and save my money for a real road bike.

  37. DaveP says:

    I used to commute on my Mountain Bike – a full on Maverick ML7 with DUC32 forks – in baggies and a Camelbac.. But I used to get cold sweats about the bike getting stolen so I’ve upgraded ( ?!? ) to a Giant Bowery singlespeed for commuting. At less than the price of the brakes on the MTB I have no issue with leaving it locked up outside all day, and it’s a whole load quicker than the Mav, but any damage or wear to the road surface is now VERY noticable. ;-)

  38. menash says:

    I commute on my only bike. A self build on an old litespeed titaniun. mostly 105 or better components.
    I train on my commute when i have time.
    I ride in yellow jersey and “touring shorts”
    they dont look as weird as spandex
    these shorts have nice deep pockets very convenient,
    my lunch goes in my oversized saddle bag. and more things (wallet, cell phone) in jersey pockets.
    no need for backpack
    cant imagine hauling heavy bike on my 15 mile commute

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