Recommend a Commuter Bike

A Twitter follower asked

Got a recommended bike for a newbie wanting to make a suburb-to-town commute Haven’t ridden since my mtn bike days 8+ yrs ago

I’d say check your local bike shop and look at Swobo, Redline, Kona, Surly and the usual suspects. There’s much value in commute bikes these days; especially with Novara at REI. A new fav of ours is Soma with their straight-up steel bikes. And much has improved in the last 8 years. Find a bike in budget and get the best parts you can.

Also check the Commute by Bike blog for more reviews.

Readers what would you recommend?



11 Comments

Gotta say usually the writing here is good, but I’m not impressed with your advice here. Rattling off 6 different brands with little to no pros and cons is not advice.

Personally, I’d say to take a look at the Trek bikes they usually offer good parts for the money. I had one of the FX line bikes and loved it. Unlike specialized that you gotta pay an arm and a leg before you get decent derailers. And if you live in an area with hills you’ll want decent derailers. Also, hills are better with a lighter bike without suspension as you loose peddle power with suspension. Then again if the rides in your area are shit and you prefer a more comfort ride then your bones will thank you with suspension.

Other brands are good too of course. Above all make sure you test ride a few bikes before you purchase. Try different setups comfort, hybrid, road—don’t get a mountain bike for commuting. You might like drops or you may prefer flats. Personally, I use a road bike with flat bars so I can be up in prairie dog mode in traffic and still use my brakes.

bah twitter is having issues again. 

i would stick to craigslist and get something used.  maybe a cross bike with slicks, get some fenders and a rack.

@Colin,

The point of the post was to ask our readers for their recommendations . . . sure I can write a post on that—I’ve written articles before, but I’m putting it out to you. And Commute By Bike is an outstanding blog.

Your recommendations are good. Also, by the nature of Twitter, it’s a brief, concise medium with just enough room to say, “go to your LBS and look at X.” I’d like to share this post back with the reader that asked.

(also thanks for the note on the writing, appreciate someone noticing.)

I purchased a Giant FCR1 back in February and absolutely freaking love it. It’s worth checking out. I was looking for something more comfortable than a road bike (since my commute is almost 11 miles one way), yet still fairly quick so I can cover some ground. The Giant FCR1 fits those requirements. I test rode a Trek 7.6 FX too. A good bike but didn’t fit me well compared to the Giant. Trek makes a number of versions of the 7.x FX series, with different prices points and components. Also worth checking out.

Choosing a bike really depends on the commute. How long is it? Is it all on streets? Are there hills (and how big)? Looking to haul stuff (i.e. is it a possible grocery-gitter)? etc…

Definitely check out the CommuteByBike site for numerous reviews and tons of information.

I’d need to hear more requirements from the person commuting before I could suggest something.

1) Will you ride year round, including bad weather?

2) Will you carry much gear with you?  You can put a rack on most anything, but if you regularly need 30 lbs of cargo, some setups will be better than others.

3) Will you be climbing a lot of hills?
Most people immediately think about weight here, but sometimes a more sensible answer is lower gearing.

When I only had one bike that I rode, I tried to force it to be good at too many things.  When you have a variety a different bikes you own, you can then optimize them for specific purposes.

I am really happy with my Bianchi Volpe.  It’s a steel cross bike and I have put a rack on the back.  I was in a similar boat when I bought it a year ago.  I hadn’t ridden since I was a kid and wanted to start commuting.  I initially thought I wanted a bike like the Specialized Globe, but I’m glad I went with the cyclocross bike.  I think it ups the fun factor, which is important to me when I commute.

I would also take a look at Salsa, particularly the Casseroll or La Cruz.  Again depends on the commute, but either of these would serve most commuting purposes.  I think doing some research on what you want then sitting on ebay for a used bike is a great way to score a reasonable commuter.  I picked up a used Lemond Poprad (cyclocross) frame and build it up for my riding style.  That’s worked out peachy for me.

As the “Twitter follower” who posed this question to BikeHugger, I’m impressed and amazed by the quick and speedy collection of responses to this post ... any of you bike messengers or couriers by chance? :D

I’m taking the suggestions to heart and will start looking seriously at the brands/models rec’d, plus see what I can find on Craigslist/eBay ... starting a 2x week commute now, up to a daily commute as we move into fall (schedules w/ kids and activities demand I’m a car driver for the summer). My ride will be about 7 miles each way, with a bunch of hills in between.

I’ve got a great little bike rack that I couldn’t part with when I sold my old bike that should be sufficient for a change of clothes and my running gear. Not planning on carrying much else at this point.

Thanks again for all the great suggestions!

One caveat to my post, if you haven’t ridden a road-type bike for 8 years, it may be worth the extra money to go into a good shop so they can get you fit correctly and get some advice.  Ebay is great if you know what you’re looking for, not so great if you buy something that doesn’t fit well.  Also, Jamis Aurora is also another nice cost-effective option that you don’t hear much about (clearly I favor the steel thing).

Our local shop has some 07 Trek Portland bikes on closeout for $1100… pretty cool bike and great price.  I’d probably look pretty hard at that.

Otherwise, I think I’d get a cyclocross bike and just run smooth tires & snap on fenders when I’m commuting.

Sorry - we had a kid so I missed weighing in on this one (this topic is my area usually).

Yeah - I really like the disc-brake road bike option as I’ve written about a bunch.  For a 7mi commute, you probably don’t need to go with the road bike, but it wouldn’t hurt.  I have a Trek Portland that has treated me really well for the past couple commuting seasons.  I ride 20mi each way in all weather but ice.  My terrain is good roads and a couple spots of bumpy trail.  For the ~hour commute I really like the options of a drop bar.  I’m going to be selling it soon to go with a custom steel rain bike (also with discs) and 135 spaced rear wheel to handle the new Disc Brake PowerTap

Feel free to comment back with info that might help us flavor our recommendations like:

budget,
frame size,
road/mtn prefs,
road conditions,
winter/summer,
speed you ride,
mechanical ability,
time of day for commute,
annual mileage estimate,

and we’ll get you dialed in with a better idea of what you’re after.  You can also email me at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) if you want to air some of this off the interwebs :)

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