Getting around by bike is a beautiful thing – it keeps you fit, it saves you money and it saves the environment. However, with so many options out there, finding your perfect commuter bike can be tricky. Using our experience, we have compiled a short list of simple things to look out for and take into consideration when selecting a bike for the daily grind.
Mounts & Fixings
If you’re riding to work you’ll probably want somewhere to keep your kit: whether it’s a change of clothes, a laptop, your lunchbox, or all three! Making sure your bike has the right mounting points for your needs should be close to the top of your checklist. Pannier racks and bags are an easy and accessible way to carry your kit, keeping the weight off your shoulders so you can focus on the road rather than the laptop charger digging into your back.
The nature of British weather means there’s always a chance of being caught out. Fitting your bike with mudguards will prevent groundwater from splashing up, not only keeping you clean but also protecting your bike’s drivetrain components and bearings from wear and tear. However, if you don’t have mudguard-specific mounts it’s not the end of the world – there are plenty of mudguards out there that will strap to your seat tube or seat stays, rather than fixing directly to your frame yet provide similar, if not quite the same functionality.
Simple Bike, Simple Life
When it comes to commuter bikes, there’s no need to overcomplicate things. High performance 11- and 12-speed drivetrains have their place, however tighter tolerances and lightweight materials mean that maintenance and replacements are required much more frequently compared to an 8/9-speed equivalent. One person’s “crude” is another person’s “resilient”: 8/9-speed parts will keep on going regardless of what you throw at it, require less frequent fettling – and much to the delight of your wallet, will be substantially cheaper!
Hub gears with belt drives are also a fantastic option for ultimate durability, as fragile gear components are stowed away from the elements inside the rear hub. They are seriously durable and reliable so that servicing is few and far between, therefore saving valuable time and money in the long run. Whilst they do come at a higher initial cost and are not so commonplace, hub gears offer some clear advantages over traditional drivetrains – definitely worth considering for your next commuter bike.
Disc brakes will offer the most reliable stopping power in all weather conditions, offered in either hydraulic or mechanical variants. Hydraulic discs, as the name might suggest, use fluid in the hoses to deliver bags of power with minimal input from the rider, but come at a higher cost and are more complicated to maintain. Mechanical disc brakes use cables rather than fluid, the same as a traditional rim brake setup, requiring a change of cables from time to time but are simple and durable, as well as significantly cheaper. Many brands do still offer rim brake models – these still get the job done well and despite not delivering as much stopping power as disc brake equivalents, they require little maintenance and are an easy way to save weight and keep your outgoings low. Just remember to keep the braking surfaces clean!
Under Lock & Key
Although accessories aren’t necessarily part of the bike, a lock is something you should think about as soon as you’ve chosen your steed – if there’s no space in the office for your bike, you’ll probably be leaving it outside. Leaving your ride outside without a safeguard runs the risk of theft – it’s worth investing in a lock that is suitable for your needs but can withstand a range of attacks, whether it’s a foldable lock that you can throw in a bag or a heavy-duty D-Lock mounted to the frame.
It’s also well worth considering insurance, particularly if your bicycle is your primary means of transport – many policies can cover accidents as well as theft. Bear in mind though, that the value of the bike will affect the premium: aside from avoiding unwanted attention at the bike shed, a cost-effective workhorse commuter bike will be cheaper for you to insure.
For maximum security and maximum flexibility, there is the wildcard option: the bike you take with you everywhere. We’re a longstanding Brompton dealer, a bike invented – and still made – here in London. The compact fold not only makes them easy to stash away under your desk, but also tucks the grubbier drivetrain parts out of the way. You can take one onto public transport without a fuss, so if today’s commute is a little further than usual there’s no reason not to ride the parts you can. Plus many galleries and museums will happily take them into the checked baggage areas too, so even if you’re grabbing some culture there’s no need to risk locking up outside.