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The Perfect Commuter Bike: Which Bicycle Frameset

by Bike Shop Girl

Quickly recapping the series in which we are trying to build the perfect commuter bike for myself.  We have discussed what makes a good commuter bike, who the target audience is and which style of bike would be best.  As the touring style seems to be a big hit let’s now discuss which touring bike.

Quickly I put together a list of bikes you all mentioned.  Please add ones that you have used or like as well.

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Which touring frameset or bike?
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27 Responses to “The Perfect Commuter Bike: Which Bicycle Frameset”

  1. Logan says:

    SOMA – Saga
    Salsa – Fargo

    Also adventure cycling has a free article archive online reviewing suitable touring bikes and offering a “buyer’s guide” for the last few years: http://www.adventurecycling.org/features/buyersguide.cfm

    They even have a history of the touring bike by Jan Hiene that is a good read. ;)

    Cheers,
    Logan.

  2. BluesCat says:

    See now we have another problem with definitions.

    With the exception of the Bigfish, I’m guessing when YOU say “Touring Bike” you mean a bike with 700c wheels, but like the articles at adventurecycling that Logan gave us a link to, especially one by Shubert for buying a touring bike in 2008: “Many tourists select mountain bikes so they can carry large quantities of gear.” So, technically, a converted mountain bike could be a “Touring Bike.” (Heck, the Touring Bicycle Wiki even talks about “recumbent touring bikes,” but, once again, I’m thinking our model rider is leaning toward believing a “real” Touring bike has 700c wheels.)

    For the streets I ride, a bike with 700c wheels is mercilessly comfortable, I would go with 26″ wheels like on my converted Giant Yukon backup commuter. Since you’ve included the Bigfish in your list, I think you’ve opened the door for all kinds of framesets; but if you’re excluding recumbent framesets, and hardtail mountain bikes are out, too (for some reason) then I have to say the Soma Saga (you can put either 26″ or 700c wheels on it, depending on the size of the frame).

  3. BluesCat says:

    Excuse me, a bike with 700c wheels is mercilessly UNcomfortable. Sorry if the typo confused anybody.

  4. Paul in Minneapolis says:

    In 06′ I built up a LHT to replace my metal box. Over the next two and half years it was a perfect commuter/utility bike.
    Then I retired it from commuting and it became a fully loaded touring bike. Both camping and utility trips have carried close to 100lbs of cargo on it.

    The only issue is mounting it when it has a very heavy load. Kicking a leg over a stack on the rear rack and the bike can’t be leaned over with its loaded….

  5. BluesCat – A touring bike does not have to be a 700c, infact a Long Haul Trucker that would fit me is 26″ wheels. When we went over bike style/type touring was the most selected so I am staying within perimeters of that.

    You can make a touring bike out of several bikes, I am going after ones that are designed for it.

  6. Len says:

    Raleigh’s One Way is a better commute option than the Rush Hour IMO. The One Way has rack mounts and comes with fenders and a fixed/single flip hub, giving you more versatility.

    I put some Albatross bars on mine, a VO porteur rack up front and a Soma Deco rack on the back and it’s a great commuter.

  7. Len says:

    And by the way, it’s the bike I won from Commute by Bike and I still love it!

    http://commutebybike.com/2008/04/30/last-day-to-enter-to-win-the-raleigh-one-way/

  8. BluesCat says:

    Bike Shop Girl: Well, well, you got me curious and I went to the the Surly LHT web page; in bold letters it says “we’re also offering 26″ wheels for the larger frame sizes.” Excellent. I see also that it uses a 1-1/8″ threadless headset, which means it can accept a 25.4mm clamp size MTB stem, which in turn means I could use my favorite type of handlebars on it (a Phase 4 item).

    So, sticking with your parameters, this new information would force me to change my vote to the Surly LHT.

  9. plauale says:

    Looks like everybody is going with the Surly LHT. No doubt it is great all around bike with all the thoughtful lugs and generous fits. I have ridden a friend’s and I wouldn’t hesitate recommending it. It doesn’t take my breath away like the Tout Terrain Silkroad in terms of good design that pushes the envelope.

    Integrated rear rack. ’nuff said.

  10. Ghost Rider says:

    You may consider the KHS TR-101 touring bike as well — it came out in 2008 and is the functional equivalent to the 520/LHT.

    Your heading is a bit misleading, though — are we selecting a frameset or a complete bike? Most of the ones on the list aren’t available as bare frames. Building the “perfect commuter” in your exercises should mean building up from a bare frame…selecting parts that are suitable for your specific needs. Sure, some of these complete bikes would serve a commuter well, but hey, that’s cheating!!!

    Oh, and add Salsa Casseroll to the list, too. That’s a really nice versatile frameset.

  11. Hey Ghost Rider,

    I list bikes, as I understand that many perfect commuter bikes start off as one thing and end as another. As well as some bikes, like the 520, aren’t available as frames… as I know of.

  12. Cycler says:

    Remember, folks, we’re discussing a COMMUTING bike, not a tourer loaded with 100lbs (45.5kg) of equipment!

    A well-fitted cyclocross bike is my recommendation. 700c wheels with 700X35c (37X622) tires eats up the bumps and is very efficient. I’ve commuted 3000+ miles (4800+ km) this year on roads ranging from rural to urban, pavement ranging from smooth to horrible.

    It looks great, too!

  13. Cycler – I believe they are getting the idea for touring bikes from my want list. Check this post out and let us know your thoughts.

    http://commutebybike.com/2009/11/02/the-perfect-commuter-bike-the-targeted-audience-me/

  14. cycler says:

    BikeShopGirl,

    There’s nothing at all wrong with a touring bike for a commuter — it’s a very versatile bike. But I feel that searching for the perfect do-it-all bike is an exercise in futility.

    Nevertheless, a steel ‘cross bike with fender eyelets gives the owner a huge range of uses.

    It’s a beefed up road bike, able to take the potholes, depressed storm drains, and torn-up construction zones with ease. It loves the dirt roads (and easy singletrack).

    How? Its canti brakes allow for big tires — knobby off road tires, studded snow tires (I need those for the New Hampshire winters) as well as narrower models. My Michelin Trans-World Cities are 700x35c. They absolutely tame those rough urban roads.

    And loads! I load my rack and panniers with forty pounds of newspaper, magazines, glass, #1 and #2 plastic, etc., and ride the 8 or so hilly back road miles to the transfer station. On the way back, I stop at the grocery store and bring back a lot of stuff. It’s very stable despite that load all in the back.

    I frequently ride the 3 miles to my favorite coffee shop in civvies, with bike shorts underneath. But a 14 mile commute mandates cycling clothes, at least for me.

    And this being near the end of ‘cross season, bargains in these bikes may soon be more likely than in other categories.

    My ’01 Lemond Poprad is my go-to bike for all but fast recreational club rides, but in a pinch, I could use it for those, too.

    I often ride with my 80-year old Dad at a walking pace, and have fun taking in the scenery and bonding all afternoon. He rides a ‘cross bike, a purple Jake the Snake(!) with fenders and rack. We ride on the hard pack gravel at the state park, and (very) easy singletrack, too.

    I’ll stop now….

  15. BluesCat says:

    Cycler! I need you to talk to my wife!

    She’s always frowning a me whenever I mention getting an Electra cruiser, and a folding bike, and a Catrike 700, and a SWB recumbent, and then she asks “Why do you need another bike?”

    You’ve got the answer: “But I feel that searching for the perfect do-it-all bike is an exercise in futility.”

    I need you to tell her “Because he has a job for it none of the other bikes can do!” She doesn’t believe it when *I* tell her!

  16. ac says:

    That survey has a great list of bikes. It’s going to take me a while to go through the list, and I think I’ll learn a lot while I do it.

  17. The LHT is an admirable bike – but if we are giving the business to the boys from Minnesota why not buy their most flexible 700c frame? The Karate Monkey – I rode mine every minute of every day until it was stolen this Fall (and now I spend sleepless hours trolling craigslist for an affordable replacement). You can run Rim or Disc brakes, 700c x 29 tires, cross tires, or 26ers with Discs. Single / geared with a real Der-hanger AND horizontal dropouts. It is a cross bike a MTB and touring bike.

    Not sure the weight penalty over the LHT but I can’t think of another downside…

  18. Cycler says:

    BluesCat,

    Uh, oh! I exercise my Fifth Amendment* right to remain silent so as not to incriminate myself.

    ;-)

    *to non-USA citizens, don’t ask…

  19. A Karate Monkey isn’t a designed, designated, touring bike. Do you think it handles well under load?

  20. BluesCat says:

    Cycler:

    HA! I KNEW it! Another BIKE JUNKIE! I’ll bet, on the days you aren’t cycling to work, you rearrange your auto route to “just happen to go by my favorite LBS … and why not stop in … just to window shop, mind you …” A half hour and a maxed out credit card later, you just barely get all the stuff into your trunk and are plotting how to get it into the house without your spouse seeing it.

    Yeah, been there.

    But you do have a valid point. This is a fun exercise: figuring out what the best commuter bike would be for an athletic 20-something female (which makes for some interesting dilemmas for a 50-something male couch potato like me), but there isn’t any perfect bike even for one person for all commuting conditions. My recumbent is the best bike, MOST of the time. But for those infrequent stormy days in Phoenix, when the wet roads are ice-slick from the dust storm and the automobile grease and oil, the road tires on the recumbent inspire zero confidence and I’m much more comfortable with the surefooted, wide Serfas Drifter inverted tread on my Giant Yukon MTB.

  21. ac says:

    Regarding the Bigfish folding bike:

    I love folding bikes, and I’m happy to see one in this list, but this folder has a big flaw: To fold it, you’ve got to lower the seat. This makes a big difference in time spent fiddling at unfolding time, trying to get that seat-height just right again.

    I think there are better folding options.

  22. SFuller says:

    @ John @ SmithBikes

    The KM is a versatile frameset, but with the short rear stays on it, I’d be afraid of heel strike. While the frame does have fender mounts, there aren’t any solid rack mounts. I’ve ridden mine with a seatpost rack, and it’s OK for light loads, but I prefer a little more stability and the ability to carry a heavier load if necessary. I’d probably opt for some sort of cross bike frame or a standard touring bike frame if it were my choice. LHT or Crosscheck if you wanted to go with Surly. La Cruz if you wanted to go with something from Salsa.

  23. Oddman says:

    Looking at the results I’m not surprised the Surly LHT is in the lead. Being in the last phase of my commuter build up I wanted to throw in why I went with the Surly Cross Check and not the LHT. Put it simply: horizontal dropouts. With the Cross Check you can run a single speed, internal hub or multiple gears. You could set up the LHT as a single but then you lose the benefit of direct drive (you need something to take up the chain slack). My commute is under five miles and relatively flat so a single speed works well for me (what I use now). With the Cross Check you can have those option the LHT doesn’t have and still have fenders and panniers.

  24. WheelDancer says:

    I just picked up a Surly Long Haul Trucker a couple months ago and I love this bike for commuting. I had been doing the backpack routine on my road bike which was always a bit tiring when I had my laptop in it. Now it all rides on the bike and other than the additional weight, the bike just takes it in stride. Great bike with a comfortable ride and the will to keep on rolling.

  25. Scott says:

    I actually Built a Touring bike/daily commuter with a Long Haul Trucker Frameset as a basis…

    It has Butterfly handlebars, and SRAM X-7 Trigger Shifters mated to a SRAM rear derailleur and a $12 Shimano front derailleur with SRAM Brakes and levers.

    all in all I think I put it together with about $1200 since I had a few components from a road bike that was a few years old that I was able to put to reuse.

    I’ve got Schwable Marathon Tires, and a Koobe century seat.

  26. Mike says:

    Added the Kogswell P/R because I did reference it in an earlier comment. I don’t sell them, just really like the flexibility they have, plus the great look.

  27. Mistie says:

    If you are looking for an affordable, quality made “dutch style” commuter bike you should check out http://www.bowerylanebicycles.com

    They are made by hand in american, out of american steel using solar power and they only cost $595.

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