Commuting - what bike to get?

For discussions about bikes and equipment.
Posts: 2
Joined: 16 Nov 2009, 10:47pm

Commuting - what bike to get?

Postby NickTheLid » 16 Nov 2009, 10:51pm

Advice please. I will be looking to do a 22 mile (each way) commute early next year. I have lined up 3 hybrids but would like advice on which will be best for the distance and the most reliable. I can't ride racers due to a back injury (can't lean forward for more than a little while) - so it has to be a hybrid.

The 3 bikes I am keen to have your opinion on are:

Boardman Hybrid Team

Canonndale Bad Boy (Disk brake) 2009

Trek 7.5FX

Any advice and pointers greatfully recieved.



User avatar
Chuck Glider
Posts: 266
Joined: 14 Nov 2009, 9:19pm

Re: Commuting - what bike to get?

Postby Chuck Glider » 17 Nov 2009, 2:12am

The main thing is to ride them before you buy one. For 22 mile each way, personally I would go for drop bars - for the variety of hand positions. If flat bars, then they must at least have bar ends. Also, mudguard eyes because I'm not into that streaky backside look and prefer my chamois dry :mrgreen:

Fwiw, earlier this year I bought a Ridgeback Velocity for about half the price of your three candidates and have found it to be excellent vfm. That was after testing a Trek 7.2. The Ridgeback feels lovely to ride, easy to handle, and comes with Conti tyres and decent components. (I'm not connected with Ridgeback, but I am now a fan).

Another thing - have you thought about and budgeted for luggage? A rucsac for 22 miles is not my idea of fun (I commute with rucsac for 1 h a day, so please don't think that I'm against them). For long rides, a rack and pannier(s) is best, and if that's your choice, rack eyes on the frame is a good idea.

(Basically, in my mind, this is now looking like an Audax/fast touring bike.... :) )

Posts: 120
Joined: 31 Oct 2009, 7:32am

Re: Commuting - what bike to get?

Postby thekelticfringe » 17 Nov 2009, 6:35am

I bought a Cotic Roadrat with an Alfine 8 speed hub. This is a steel frame, making for a comfy ride and is fast and lively, meaning that a 22 mile each-way commute is practical. It's flat bar but you can turn the stem over if you like to give it a lower front. The wheels can be specced to be disc-compatible and there are disc-mounts, although I don't have discs on mine. It's also fully configured for commuting, with bossess/mounts for mudguards racks etc.

I also have a Ridgeback Velocity, by co-incidence. It's an OK bike to ride and great value, but not a patch on the Cotic, so I guess you get what you pay for.

Pedal faster, I hear banjos!

Posts: 693
Joined: 31 Jan 2008, 3:58pm
Location: Notts/Lincs borders

Re: Commuting - what bike to get?

Postby neilob » 17 Nov 2009, 7:06am

44 miles a day is a pretty big committment and will take a lot of effort as well as a bike built for comfort, durability and reliability. I can't comment on the models you mention but I have a sense that some of them are built for posing and appearance rather than form and MAY be unlikely to have things like appropriate gear ratios, and mudguard and rack fixtures. No matter what you may think now, both those are essential. And your riding position is also important. The best answer to that is classic touring geometry (although that doesn't mean drop bars necessarily). Fotr the price of the bikes you mention, you may well find a good second hand Thorn or Galaxy (or similar) fitted with straight bars. That would certainly fit the bill for durability, fixtures and riding position. And also hold its value far better too!
Using a car to take an adult on a three mile journey is the same as using an atomic bomb to kill a canary.

User avatar
Posts: 1075
Joined: 31 Aug 2008, 9:46am
Location: Lancaster

Re: Commuting - what bike to get?

Postby Colin63 » 17 Nov 2009, 8:19am

I have a Trek 7.5FX, so I can make a few comments about it. It's a very comfortable, lightweight and nippy bike. You can easily fit mudguards to it. Fitting a pannier rack is a little less easy as the tail end is not designed for one. There are eyelets, but they're not best placed, and I had to make some modifications to a rack to get it to fit, so if you're going to need to carry more than a saddle pack/bag can cope with you may find this bike option a bit restrictive.
On the plus side I've found it very easy to ride the sort of distances you're talking about. I'm not too convinced that the bike is up to a regular 44 miles a day riding however. It's marketed as a fitness bike, and the design does seem more suited to weekend leisure rides. The wheel rims are deep Bontrager with 24 spokes and I'm not confident that they are rugged enough for the sort of riding you propose (perhaps a more technically minded person can comment on the longevity and strength of such wheels with more authority than me).

I can fully sympathise with your drop bars problem. For years I didn't ride due to a back problem. In fact the Trek was bought to see if I could manage to return to cycling without damaging my lower back. It was a great success from that point of view. But if I was making the decision to buy a bike without drops now I would do it differently. I would buy a fast touring bike which could carry luggage, an audax type machine, and then fit alternative bars myself. You can get such a variety of bars such as moustache bars etc that getting a set that suited you would be fairly straight forward. You'll end up with a bike designed for exactly what you need and which is modified for your requirements.

Posts: 1066
Joined: 12 Nov 2007, 11:41pm
Location: St Antonin Noble Val, France

Re: Commuting - what bike to get?

Postby pq » 17 Nov 2009, 1:16pm

A 22 mile commute is a pretty serious undertaking - I know - I used to do a little further than that. What you need more than anything is speed, so any kind of hybrid or tourer won't cut it. Essentially you need something as close as possible to a race bike with the practical add ons a commute demands, i.e. full length mudgards and some sort of carrier.

Depending on what else you might use the bike for and what the terrain is like I'd go for a winter training bike - Ribble do a cheap one, or an audax bike which is essentially the same but with a triple chainset. Doing this restricts your choice somewhat - most fast bikes don't have mudguard clearance or carrier eyes, but when you're late or tired, you'll really appeciate a faster machine.
One link to your website is enough. G

User avatar
Posts: 15184
Joined: 5 Jan 2007, 7:37pm

Re: Commuting - what bike to get?

Postby Si » 17 Nov 2009, 1:43pm

NickTheLid, like you I've got a knackered back too and can't use drops. On my 'road' bikes, rather than going for flats I use bull horns (drop bars flipped over and the 'drop' bit lopped off - see pic). I find this much better on the back/neck, and unlike trying to put normal flat bars onto a road bike, it means that I didn't need to change the stem, brake levers and gear controls. You might want to consider this option as it will give you a much larger choice of road bikes to pick from.


When I used to do my 50 mile round trip commute I used a variety of bikes. Sometimes the off road MTB - 'cos I could do part of it off road, sometimes a race bike (for speed), but the preferred option was a rigid MTB with slicks. I found that the fast road bike wasn't keen on the state of the roads that I used to use, and I didn't like the way that things tended to wear out quick. The slicked MTB was good because is was strong, reliable, could happily take a rack and luggage and comfortable. Sorry, never used any of the ones that you quote so can't really comment on them.

Posts: 492
Joined: 21 Mar 2009, 9:16pm
Location: Edinburgh

Re: Commuting - what bike to get?

Postby AndyA » 17 Nov 2009, 4:12pm

When I was recovering from a broken collarbone I put a set of north-road style bars on my dawes galaxy. Very comfy, upright position. It did mean changing the brake levers to mountain bike levers. Easy enough, and cheap as I got them from a local bike-recycling place. I kept them on as they're perfect for city cycling


If you were to try out the hybrids and the position was still too far forwards you could try these out, I think raleigh makes a set for 15 pounds and all the kit from the hybrid would fit on it

PS, I'd have a very hard time deciding between the bad boy and the boardman. One of my coworkers had a bad boy and loved it, but the boardman has the advantage of 700c wheels. The wheels on the trek, while probably ok, aren't my cup of tea as they have too few spokes.

Posts: 30856
Joined: 9 Jan 2007, 2:44pm

Re: Commuting - what bike to get?

Postby thirdcrank » 17 Nov 2009, 4:22pm

I've never attempted a commute as long as that - I think 13 m each way was my max, although shift work was one of the factors, with quick change-rounds ending at 2200 and back at 0600 four times a month there's not much sleep time as it is. I take my hat off to you.

I think it's wrong to equate flat bars with an upright position because a lot of the fitness hybrid type of bikes come with a very long stem so you are quite pulled out. As chuck glider recommends - try before you buy. A big advantage with modern stems is that you can flip them to get a more upright position and they are easily interchangeable for length, but the time to do that is when the seller is keen to sell and will happily swap ie before you buy.

Position on a bike is a personal thing. Si's nifty arrangement for reducing the strain on his back still leaves the bars lower than the bottom of my drops have ever been.

I'd agree with some other comments made above. Think through what your commuting will involve. If you are aiming for 52 weeks a year, then think about mudguards. Unless you are going to dedicate half your life to bike cleaning, all-weather commuting is the best way to turn a new bike into an old one, so don't throw atoo much money at a new commuting bike. I used to use a couple of old bikes except when the weather was really good when I would treat myself to a ride on my best bike. If you are going to need to carry stuff to work, think about how you will carry it. Rucsacs are a matter of taste but not for me. IMO It's important to be disciplined with luggageto avoid wasting time faffing about. Ride a bit faster and you can shave seconds or even minutes off your ride time but if every trip to work is preceded by a search for the stuff you need you'll have no time for anything else.

User avatar
Posts: 15184
Joined: 5 Jan 2007, 7:37pm

Re: Commuting - what bike to get?

Postby Si » 17 Nov 2009, 4:35pm

Position on a bike is a personal thing. Si's nifty arrangement for reducing the strain on his back still leaves the bars lower than the bottom of my drops have ever been.

A bit misleading in the photo - you have to bear in mind that it's in the turbo so the rear is a couple of inches off the ground and the front wheel is in the grass so an inch lower - hard to see in the photo. Plus I've a quill stem that has come up a bit (similar to flipping an ahead). In reality the bars are well above the saddle - and can go higher by tilting them up a bit.

Posts: 120
Joined: 31 Oct 2009, 7:32am

Re: Commuting - what bike to get?

Postby thekelticfringe » 17 Nov 2009, 5:17pm

pq wrote:A 22 mile commute is a pretty serious undertaking - I know - I used to do a little further than that. What you need more than anything is speed

I really support this point of view - if you're fit, or as your fitness develops, you'll find that a speedy, fast rolling bike makes a big difference. I occasionally ride the Ridgeback if the Roadrat is u/s for some reason, and really notice the extra time or effort required.
Pedal faster, I hear banjos!

Posts: 462
Joined: 6 Feb 2009, 4:19pm
Location: Farnborough, Hampshire, UK

Re: Commuting - what bike to get?

Postby MacBludgeon » 18 Nov 2009, 10:59am

I was in the same boat shopping for a bike for my 40 mile round trip commute, you need to really think about this. Pictures of my bikes are here:-

Bike 1 - Giant CRS Alliance(£800) flat bar bybrid, part carbon part aluminium, takes full rack and guards, 28/24h aeroish wheelset, rear wheel gave constant problems, 622-14 rims - bought this after a lot of research which leant towards maximising speed - progression - flat bars - flat bars + bar ends - butterfly bars - drop bars - north road style bars MTB clamp sizing

Bike 2 - Surly Crosscheck(£1400 but self build and that adds a bit, frame and forks were £300, hub gear rear wheel £400 inc tyre) steel frame, Mavic A719 rim 36H wheels, Shimano 105 front hub(couldn't afford dynamo hub), SRAM I-9 speed rear internally geared hub, full sks mudguards, rack and Marathon+ tyres at 700x35(nearly 1kg each but no punctures in nearly 4k miles), brooks saddle, bought this after commuting on giant and further research - progression - butterfly bars - north road style bars

What I learned re bars - flat bars are no use over these distances, especially when you start unfit as I did. You tire quickly and slump, so rest more of your weight on your hands, cue numb fingers etc. Bar ends are fine but limited, butterfly/trekking bars are superior in every way to them. Comfiest place to have your hands is on the sides, similar to the hoods on drops. There's no pleasing way of mounting controls on sides of butterfly bars. My solution has been the north road style, flipped and with in board bar ends. Controls are where I want them and the hand positions beat all the other bars I've tried. I have spent a lot of money trying out bars, stems and controls(STI's are extortionate).

What I learned re bikes - sporty hybrids/flat bar road bikes are fine but really don't do so well laden down with a 'large' chap and panniers, the ride can be harsh especially as you tire. Steel can be very comfy, coupled with a brooks saddle and bigger tyres it feels much more 'supportive' over rough roads or towards the end of the ride. With rack and guards the Giant weighs 25lbs(700x23 tyres) and the Surly 35lbs(the SRAM hub and M+ tyres are very heavy, 10lbs combined), both unladen. The Giant has 27 gears the Surly 9, my commute involves, tops, 4 of the gears on each bike. The Giant is now my weekend social ride and the Surly does the commute. Using the Giant I can improve my speed by about 2mph but the surly is much comfier laden down, it's also good training. Feels great when I get on a 22lb bike at the weekend after 200 commuting miles on a 35lb bike.

I still hanker after improving on my commuting bike but sporty isn't in the mix. Money no object then it would be a Van Nicholas Amazon Rohloff, same north road bars, schmidt front dynamo, rack, guards, edelux front and rear lights run from dynamo, backup led flasher front and rear lights. Brooks saddle, frame pump, Marathon Supreme 32mm tyres, touring rims and 3 bottle cages. This would weigh in about 28lbs unladen and I'd fancy I could convert that to about 17mph(as opposed to 15.5mph on the Surly) over the 40 miles. Unfortunately you're also talking about £3.3k which takes a bit of convincing.
nuns, no sense of humour

Posts: 4354
Joined: 16 Mar 2007, 1:22pm

Re: Commuting - what bike to get?

Postby glueman » 18 Nov 2009, 11:14am

When I commuted a similar distance the main problem was headwinds, which dictate that you need bars with at least one tucked position. Pushing 20+ miles into a stiff breeze in an upright position is no fun.

After a month or two of pushing hard each way, I settled into a sprightly but steadier pace which suited a traditional touring bike as I needed to carry smarter clothes some days as well as clothing for most weather eventualities - you can't hide out the way on a ride that might take an hour and a half. Good luck with it, I found those mileages a bit arduous day in, day out, when you have to perform at work in between but if you're commited you could become racing fit.

Big T
Posts: 2105
Joined: 16 Jul 2007, 1:44pm
Location: Nottingham

Re: Commuting - what bike to get?

Postby Big T » 18 Nov 2009, 12:37pm

I think you should still consider bikes with dropped bars. All my bikes have dropped bars, but I hardly ever ride on the drops. A lot of touring bikes have quite a high front end. I was surprised how high the front of a Dawes Super Galaxy actually is, when I test rode one at Spa Cycles. My Ridgeback Panorama has an adjustable stem which you can angle upwards.

I would echo the comments about carrying luggage on on the bike and not on your back. My road-racing son has recently started a new job with a 15 mile commute. After a couple of weeks of riding his best bike to work with a rucksack, he asked if I could fit a rack to his winter bike and could he borrow one of my panniers? He's now a confirmed mono-pannierist!

I've done a 21 mile each way commute in the past and it certainly gets you fit, though I found myself falling asleep whilst watching TV in the evenings. Used to take between 1hr 10mins and 1hr 30m depending on wind direction and route taken.
My JOGLE blog:
twitter: @bikingtrev

Posts: 3270
Joined: 17 Mar 2008, 10:10pm

Re: Commuting - what bike to get?

Postby gilesjuk » 18 Nov 2009, 1:01pm

I'd go with a Cotic Road Rat myself, it has the clearances for mudguards and eyelets for a rack. It's very versatile.

You'll need a custom build anyway given you want a hybrid style bike.

The Road Rat comes in two forms, long and short top tube versions. Long being for straight bars.

The frame takes V brakes or discs, I'd go with discs. Choice of gears is up to you, hub gears would be better for commuting through the wet months, but they don't seem as quick to me.