Are you thinking about taking the plunge into commuter cycling? Before you do, there are a few questions you should ask yourself to help you decide which bike to buy. Whilst this article is aimed at people intended for bike commuting the questions still apply general cycling. There are many different types of bikes and each of them specialising in either a type of terrain or the type of rider (or sometimes both).
Which Bike to Buy Stage 1: Terrain and Distance
Have You Mapped Your Commute?
Modern technology makes planning your commute easier than ever. Google maps has a cycling route feature which will map the flattest route from home to work. It is important to map your route so that you can identify what type of terrain you’ll be riding on during your commute. Two key factors are the terrain surface, road, off road or a bit of both, and also the how hilly the route is. You may want to identify a few routes for a bit of variety whilst also avoiding any areas with heavy or fast moving traffic.
What Distance is Your Commute?
Let’s face it, virtually every commute will be different, there are no rules to how far or how often you want to ride but if your worried about how long your first commute will take we can give you a rough guide. Cyclists commonly ride at between 10-15 miles per hour with the variation being due to traffic, weather (headwinds can really sap your speed) and the surface your riding on. Roughly speaking a good time for a 20-mile ride is around 90 minutes, and a 5-mile ride should take around 20 minutes to half an hour.
Stage 1 Conclusion: Narrow the field of bikes
So now you know your route and the distance. You can start to narrow the range of bikes available and help you decide which bike to buy. For instance, an all out road bike wouldn’t be suitable if some of your commute is along a toe path or gravel track. Likewise, you could commute faster and father by choosing a road bike over a heavier hybrid, if your commute is all on tarmac.
Stage 2: What is Your Cycling Style or level of Fitness?
You should also think about your cycling style and level of fitness when looking for the best commuter bike. The geometry of bikes differs based on their specialisation, some bikes have very aggressive and aerodynamic body position for racing and speed. Whilst others are designed to be more comfortable and forgiving for endurance riding. When deciding which bike to buy, it’s important to consider your level of fitness, levels of flexibility and if you have any other ailments (e.g. bad back / joint problems). If you are just starting out in cycling it’s a good idea to make sure you’re comfortable on your bike. The chances are, if you’re not comfortable, then you are more likely to use other forms of transport for your commute.
Once you haven narrowed down the different type of bike from stage 1, e.g road, hybrid, cyclocross etc. You can then often further down-select on with your cycling style or fitness level. Even a certain type of bike, hybrids, for example, can have different subcategories to choose from. E.g. rigid, fast city hybrids or more off-road orientated recreation hybrids.
Stage 3: Bike Security?
Not necessarily crucial to deciding which bike to buy. But, another important factor to consider is how your bike will be stored when not being ridden? Is there a secure area where you can lock your bike during the day? Do you feel comfortable leaving your bike there all day? Rather than transport your bike lock around with you every time you ride in. It can be a good idea to have dedicated lock at your destination that you can leave there permanently.
Stage 4: Destination Facilities?
Again not critical to deciding on which bike to buy but what are the facilities like at your destination? In our experience places of work are becoming a lot more accommodating for cyclist by providing showers, changing facilities and lockers for their staff. But again the facilities you can use is something to consider for planning your bike commute. Your clients and co-workers might not be too impressed with you if you spend all day in a warm office after a hot and sweaty ride to work.
Stage 5: Transporting Your Kit?
Finally, you’ll need to have a plan for transporting everything you need for your day at work. You no longer have the luxury of a boot on a bike. Fortunately, there are plenty of bags, racks and panniers that can provide storage for your work kit. If you do plan on attaching racks and panniers, when deciding which bike to buy you’ll want to make sure that the bike has the correct mounts. Lugging loads of kit too and from work everyday can be a pain. There are ways to slim down on the amount of kit you need to carry. You could leave some dedicated stuff at your place of work. e.g shoes, trousers, toiletries etc. That way you only need to carry the bare essentials with you. The more weight you carry the more it will slow you down.