Over the past few weeks we have been favouring the Brompton fold bike option, but is this the best way to commute? What if you need one bike for all activity with work, your own fitness and the family? You may not need to fold a bike after all? We had a look at the options on offer with recommendations from our industry colleagues at Bike Radar.
Of course, terrain matters and length of your journey, so these factors need to be considered. Plus, depending on the facilities at your work, you may wish to consider a more economical option to get rid of wandering hands that may take off with your prize belonging.
You may not have access to a garage or secure lock up at home so these will also be factors to consider when choosing a bike for primarily your commute.
Pros: Fairly quick, hugely versatile, confidence inspiring upright position. Good for family trips, own fitness and the commute especially when carrying panniers or rucksacks.
Cons: Not the lightest or most comfortable bike for longer distances and if you cover any rough terrain this may prove insufficient.
General comments from Bike Radar: “Hybrids are best thought of as a hardy road bike that takes some influence from mountain bikes, borrowing its off-road cousin’s flat handlebars and a more upright, traffic and comfort-friendly position. Like a road bike, most modern hybrids are usually built around 700c wheels. However, the tyres are often wider than a road bike’s – but usually not as wide as a mountain bike – allowing you to traverse rough roads and gravel paths with ease. Hybrid bikes also offer almost unrivalled versatility, with many bikes bristling with bosses and mounts for every accessory imaginable. This makes them an ideal candidate for conversion to other duties, such as touring. If you are a beginner looking for a bike for general use or are a dedicated commuter that favours an upright position in traffic, a flat-bar hybrid is likely to be the perfect choice for you.”
Pros: Possible to cover great distances, even when loaded, very efficient, a true car alternative and can support those riders who struggle with fitness or injury. Brompton now produce an e-version so this could help those wishing to maintain the Brompton style and brand relationship.
Cons: Heavy, must be recharged, expensive for reliable bikes but costs are coming down all the time.
Recommendations from Bike Radar: “As technology has matured and their adoption has become widespread, particularly in Europe, there’s absolutely no denying that electric bikes have become an increasingly dominant force in the cycling market. While the proponents and haters of e-bikes will forever more debate whether or not they have a place in the cycling world. Not only do they open cycling up to a broader audience, but they also allow more experienced cyclists to cover far greater distances than would otherwise be possible This ability to cover ground easily really comes into its own when turned to your commute; with the helping hand that an electric assist e-bike affords. With that in mind, for those that live far away from work, it’s definitely worth considering whether ditching the car, and the associated cost of running one, and investing in an electric bike is a viable option.”
Pros: Incredibly convenient to store and travel with, extra effort required on the commute journey = fitness, they can be stored in car for family breaks and easily kept ‘to hand’.
Cons: Not as spritely, confidence inspiring or comfortable as a ‘full-sized’ bike and the best ones are not cheap.
Recommendations from Bike Radar: “Most often built around diminutive 16in or 20in wheels, folding bikes, as the name suggests, fold down into often impressively small packages that can be stored just about anywhere at either end of your journey. Folding bikes are also ideal for those that don’t intend to ride the entire way to work and plan on completing part of the journey by public transport. A folding bike won’t handle like a regular bike due to its use of small wheels and the inevitable compromise that creating a packable bike demands. If convenience, easy storage and the ability to travel on public transport trumps all, a folder is likely the right choice for you.”
Pros: Relaxed riding position, eminently practical, perfect for the maintenance-phobic and will suit most family days out riding at weekends.
Cons: Heavy (although may help with family work out), not the easiest on the hills, often not that cheap or the easiest to work on.
Recommendations from Bike Radar: Often referred to as Dutch or sit-up-and-beg bikes, town bikes come in all shapes and sizes, but are generally characterised by an upright riding position and oodles of practical accessories. Town bikes are also generally very heavy. Practicality is the key focus here, with stout, abuse-proof frames and components that are designed to last almost indefinitely over featherweight, speed-focused performance. Usually outfitted with full-length mudguards, chainguards, racks or baskets and often even integrated dynamo lighting, town bikes are as practical as it gets, offering true hop-on-and-go convenience that could even go some ways to replacing a car in an urban environment.
Pros: Incredibly simple, often good value for money and add a ‘cool’ factor through simplicity.
Cons: Potentially unpleasant in hilly areas, not very adaptable and not ideal for multi-use scenarios i.e. any green lane activity with family at weekends.
General comments from Industry: Long adored by hip urbanites, the classic fixie/singlespeed bike continues to attract devotees in every corner of the world but certainly come with a certain style in mind. The appeal of a singlespeed bike is totally understandable. With no multi-gear drivetrain to worry about, fixies and singlespeed bikes offer a largely fuss- and maintenance-free ride that’s ideal for commuting. It’s also worth clarifying that a fixie has no freewheel – that’s the component that allows the drivetrain to coast, so if you’re moving on a fixie, you’re pedalling. With only one gear, riding a singlespeed bike in a hilly location can be challenging, so think carefully before buying. If you’re after an easy to maintain ride and you don’t mind mashing a hard gear, a singlespeed or fixie may be the perfect commuting choice for you.
Recommendations from Bike Radar: For those that plan on travelling longer distance, road bikes can make a great commuter. Best suited for use on tarmac, road bikes are the best way to ride long distances fast. However, a road bike subjected to constant abuse from potholes, poor weather and rough terrain will inevitably deteriorate quicker than a hardier bike. But given appropriate care and regular maintenance, it will, of course, last for years. You’re unlikely to want to spend a fortune on a road bike dedicated to commuting, even bikes as cheap as the £600 mark can make great and dependable rides. Just make sure that whatever you choose has mudguard eyelets, a dependable group-set and a strong, high spoke-count wheelset. While carbon will offer the lightest and stiffest ride possible, value for money (which a cheaper alloy or steel bike may offer) and longevity should be your primary concerns. If you do decide to go for a carbon bike, greater care should also be taken when locking it up.
Recommendations from Bike Radar: Primarily, clearances are improved so that chunkier tyres may be fitted. The wheelbase of a gravel bike is also often considerably longer than a road bike, with the head angle also often slackened in a bid to ease handling in rougher terrain. Gravel bikes are designed with versatility in mind, with most having provisions to mount mudguards, racks and multiple bottle cages. Combined with a road-like fit, these bikes make excellent commuters for those who have to contend with poor roads or even light off-road detours. Dedicated cyclocross bikes tend to lack these commuter-friendly provisions and also usually feature a more aggressive fit than their all-road minded cousins, but still make great commuters with some modifications.
Recommendations from Bike Radar: The upright riding position and sturdy nature of a mountain bike has long made it a popular choice for commuters. While a mountain bike’s stock knobbly tyres are great if your commute follows an off-road route, they will add a considerable amount of drag when riding in town. If you plan on using a mountain bike solely for commuting, we’d recommend that you fit slick tyres to unleash its full potential. We would also recommend that you steer clear of full-suspension mountain bikes if your main aim is commuting because you’ll just be paying for a load of technology that you’ll never use. Instead, look for a cross-country bike, even one that’s fully rigid, and as with everything else, ensure it has all the mounts you need to make the bike more commuting friendly.
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