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Longer distance commute: road bike vs. fancy road bike

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Longer distance commute: road bike vs. fancy road bike

Old 07-12-21, 10:55 AM
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alias5000
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Longer distance commute: road bike vs. fancy road bike

Hi all,
I might be changing jobs soon. The new position would be a 52km commute roundtrip (2x26km) with a total elevation gain of 220m. 40% is good city trails, 20% somewhat busier roads and 40% is quiet roads or intercity trails. Only about 40% of the commute would be subject to occasional stop&go, the rest is straight and fast. Short, but steep climbs.

I would be doing this 2-3 times a week, 3-3.5 seasons of the year. Excluding SW Ontario winter, I am hoping to be able to do as much of it on bike, as overall feasible. I love the cycling part, but am wondering what I can do to keep the commute times short. There's a good chance that a commute on a road bike (with bikepacking bag on the seatpost for daily items) is feasible from an infrastructure and workflow perspective.

So, I've been wondering how much time I could save with a fancy road/gravel bike, over a regular mid-level aluminum road bike.

My current road bike is a 2015 Devinci Silverstone SL4: Aluminum frame, 10kg, Shimano 105, standard road wheels, nothing aero, somewhat aggressive but comfortable position. There might be justifiable budget to go nuts and all out fancy. But it has to make sense. I'm not overly worried about dings and component wear in this particular scenario.
How much would I gain from - say: an aerodynamically optimized frame and build, carbon frame, aero carbon wheels, light-weight build (7.5kg range?), tubeless setup, etc?
I'm young and fit, but not a racehorse. Assume 200W FTP, to increase with that longer commuting distance.

Cheers,
alias5000
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Old 07-12-21, 11:08 AM
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Don't get a new bike yet, ride the route a bunch of times to get a feel for what kind of bike does the job best.

Do one day a week by car, pre-position clothing for the week, especially shoes, you don't want to be carrying heavy shoes. If you need to carry stuff and cannot easily install a rear rack and panniers (best solution), look at front and rear bags designed for bike packing. Having stuff in a backpack sucks.

To shorten the time, do a park and ride, find someplace partway where you can safely leave a car, ride from there.

Is the car safe in the parking lot at work overnight ?. My commute is 27 m (44 km) one way. I have a secure parking lot so I often leave the car overnight, bike home, then am up to ride at daybreak for the ride in. I love this commute.

Use whatever bike you have, put on the biggest tires that'll fit, use less air and make it a comfy ride. 32mm tires at 70psi will not make your commute slower. Traffic and lights will do that well enough.

Go out of your way to use bike paths whenever possible. They are safer. One thing about working an 8 hr. day, then hopping on a bike for the commute is you will be tired and possibly not paying as much attention as you should. That's when accidents happen. Also be aware that over time, riding the same roads and routes every day can make you complacent and less attentive to whats going on around you. Maybe mix up the route is possible

Last edited by Steve B.; 07-12-21 at 11:11 AM.
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Old 07-12-21, 11:19 AM
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I really don't see how a fancier bike than what you already have is going to net you much.

But if you need an excuse to get a new bike then yeah, this might as well be it.

Just start riding the commute with what you have... you'll need a baseline to prove how much the fancy bike gained you.
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Old 07-12-21, 11:28 AM
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Originally Posted by AlmostTrick View Post
But if you need an excuse to get a new bike then yeah, this might as well be it.
Yeah, you got me there
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Old 07-12-21, 11:32 AM
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Originally Posted by Steve B. View Post
Don't get a new bike yet, ride the route a bunch of times to get a feel for what kind of bike does the job best.
I guess you have a point there. The lovely thing is that this commute is basically along one of my most favourite recreational routes that I cycle all the time already. 2 traffic lights in total

As to the rest, that is part of my calculations. I am living car-free (and would like to stay that way, if I reasonably can), so the thoughts are slightly different - but same idea (ride share, car share, public transit, etc.).
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Old 07-12-21, 12:06 PM
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Originally Posted by alias5000 View Post
I love the cycling part, but am wondering what I can do to keep the commute times short.
To reduce commute times, install an electric front hub wheel like the one I installed from Hilltopper. But make sure you first check your local laws on Class 2 ebikes being allowed on your city's trails. An e-wheel can help regulate your commute times, especially when your have an unexpected fierce headwind, or you just feel sluggish due to some hammering the day before.
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Old 07-12-21, 12:59 PM
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I have a 50km long, 450m elev gain round-trip commute. I've ridden it on 3 different bikes, 2 using the same powermeter pedals. Unless you "upgrade" to a TT bike, a nicer bike with no other changes will save you maybe 5 minutes, and that's being extremely generous. There will be a bigger difference from having a strong headwind vs. tailwind and from your energy levels on a given day.

I should mention that my times dramatically improved more from the consistent training benefit of commute cycling after a year, about 10 minutes shaved off. If saving for a really nice bike gets you more motivated to ride, then that will also make a much bigger difference than the aero and weight savings.
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Old 07-12-21, 01:26 PM
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Ride whatever you enjoy riding. Riding a more expensive bike won't necessarily get you there faster, so ride the bike that you find comfortable, and enjoyable. That is more important than shaving a few minutes off the ride. You're only talking about 16 miles one way.
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Old 07-12-21, 05:46 PM
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FWIW, I commute my 27 (or 18) on either a fasti'ish road bike, with no rear rack or panniers, or a touring bike with a rack and panniers. The panniers if I didn't leave clothing at work and need to carry them in or want to bring in lunch, or when I do a round trip of 36 miles total and can carry stuff. The faster road bike is my gravel bike, has 32mm road tires and I only carry, wallet, phone, house keys. Not really much time saved on the lighter bike as that's very much dependent on how many traffic lights I hit (Brooklyn, NY). Your situation may be different if little traffic ad few lights, then a faster road bike may save a few minutes at best. One thing to keep in mind is don't make a commute a fast training ride. You're mind set is to run lights, push the pace, etc..... greater chance for an accident (route dependent) but generally is just hard to do after a long work day (in my experience).
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Old 07-12-21, 05:59 PM
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Commuting can be hard on a bike, but I'd get whatever you want.

A lightweight CF bike just feels good. I'd only go CF if you have good secure indoor parking at both ends.

As others have mentioned, it isn't a bad idea to try the commute on your current bike to get a feel for the roads, potholes, chipseal, etc. As well as your parking. That might play into your ultimate decision of what kind of bike you want.

26km=16 miles. If you keep moving, you should be able to do it in about an hour each way. If you get better, you may be able to cut it slightly below an hour.

Oh, also keep in mind that the new bike market is a mess now. You may be able to find what you want on the used market, but even that has gone a bit bonkers.


Fenders? Perhaps fenderize and add a rack to your Da Vinci, and ride the new bike on sunny days.

Oh, I wouldn't commute on carbon rim brakes. Although, perhaps carbon disc brakes.

I personally am happy with a small pack. And, have tied shoes to the outside of the pack at times.
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Old 07-12-21, 10:18 PM
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You might gain enough time on the fancy bike in order to get back the time you spend brushing your teeth.

The further I get into my family life, the more I look at these sorts of things in terms of time commitment. A solid six hours of your non-work weekday time, and any other weekday trips (groceries doctor dentist bank school drop off soccer practice lunch etc etc) have to schedule alongside it. You are also locking in to working out alone. You have to find or make opportunities for meshing it all together.

The equipment is fun, but not crucial, unless it’s actually bad. Same with a lot of things.
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Old 07-14-21, 08:54 AM
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Originally Posted by CliffordK View Post
Commuting can be hard on a bike, but I'd get whatever you want.

As others have mentioned, it isn't a bad idea to try the commute on your current bike to get a feel for the roads, potholes, chipseal, etc. As well as your parking. That might play into your ultimate decision of what kind of bike you want.
Not sure where OP lives and rides, or what the road conditions are there, so that second point is going to be key. I've ridden some urban streets and trails that leave me thinking a gravel bike is the way to go, rather than a nice road bike!

Again, try it with what you've got, and ultimately ride what you love to ride.
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Old 07-14-21, 09:09 AM
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Originally Posted by pdlamb View Post
Not sure where OP lives and rides, or what the road conditions are there, so that second point is going to be key. I've ridden some urban streets and trails that leave me thinking a gravel bike is the way to go, rather than a nice road bike!
Fortunately, that's not a concern on this route. There is a short section of compacted soil (not gravel), but an alternate highway route exists for bad weather conditions. My assumption is that I can find a secure indoor storage space - otherwise all of this is out the door, more or less.
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Old 07-16-21, 12:35 AM
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Originally Posted by alias5000 View Post
...So, I've been wondering how much time I could save with a fancy road/gravel bike, over a regular mid-level aluminum road bike....
If you expect a noteable difference in speed between the two you will likely be disappointed.

There's little or no speed difference between the two if you're not measuring times in seconds and milliseconds, some people have bought the new bike and found it slower than the cheaper bike - probably a slightly different fit.
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Old 07-16-21, 09:19 AM
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I would like to add another good excuse to acquire another bike: Having two bikes to choose from is good when commuting. That way, a flat, dirty chain, etc. won't be a stopper, and I also find that changing it up keeps it interesting.
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Old 07-16-21, 09:42 AM
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I would not get a fancy bike to commute on. I would get a fancy bike to be my "weekend bike." My commuter is a bike I don't mind locking up outdoors, riding in the rain, and not cleaning until the weekend. An aluminum bike with 105-grade components is great for commuting.

Consider the things you can do to your current bike (or your eventual commute bike) to make it better for commuting, and all the ancillary stuff that makes up your "bike commuting ecosystem."

It'll be very hard to reduce your commute time significantly by getting a different bike, but very easy to increase your commute time by getting a flat, so consider tougher tires, or tubeless tires with sealant, or tubes with sealant. I get paid hourly, and the time I've lost to flats on my commute would pay for some really nice tires (in the beforetime, when I was bike commuting). Looking at the stock tires on your bike, I would want fatter tires: I've got 32s on my commuter, which might not fit on that bike.

Consider buying duplicates of stuff to leave at your workplace so you don't need to carry it on your bike. Really good headlight and taillight. Fenders. I'm a convert to disc brakes, especially for riding in foul weather. Obviously there's no way to adapt discs to your current bike.
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Old 07-16-21, 09:42 AM
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Originally Posted by timdow View Post
I would like to add another good excuse to acquire another bike: Having two bikes to choose from is good when commuting. That way, a flat, dirty chain, etc. won't be a stopper, and I also find that changing it up keeps it interesting.
Haha, what a good point!
(and very timely, my road bike carbon seat post just developed a crack a few days ago and the bike is out of service until a replacement is in). One of the pandemic blessings at my current position has been that I can use the fancy bikes all the time, because I don't need to worry about locking things up - it's really nice, and as you say, switching it up has kept it interesting.

I wonder what (other) responses I would have received, if this was a thread in the road cycling forum
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Old 07-16-21, 09:48 AM
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There's a part on your commuting bike that will automatically undergo continuous, free upgrade on every ride - the engine. This is what I am so fond of about commuting. And that will effect your commuting times.

Last edited by randallr; 07-16-21 at 09:49 AM. Reason: second thought
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Old 07-16-21, 06:25 PM
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I would add that constantly trying to better your time either through upgrade to the bike or pushing harder can wear you out. I used to be feel this way myself, though my commute is only about 20+20 km. Now whatever weather conditions call for is the bike I use, and I try not to wear myself out pushing the pace. The goal is to arrive safely, and preferably without breaking a sweat. I just try to enjoy the ride.

As for savings with an aero bike, it's not going to be much, as others have already noted. If it makes the commute more enjoyable for you, then by all means.
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Old 07-20-21, 03:45 PM
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As soon as you put a rack on the bike, or wear a backpack, or a baggy rain coat, or anything else not aero then the fancy carbon aero bike won't be any faster than you mid-range aluminum bike. If you had a low end department store with junk parts it's a different story. Buy it because it's fun, not because you expect a faster commute time.
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Old 07-20-21, 04:15 PM
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Originally Posted by adamrice View Post
It'll be very hard to reduce your commute time significantly by getting a different bike, but very easy to increase your commute time by getting a flat, so consider tougher tires, or tubeless tires with sealant, or tubes with sealant. I get paid hourly, and the time I've lost to flats on my commute would pay for some really nice tires (in the beforetime, when I was bike commuting). Looking at the stock tires on your bike, I would want fatter tires: I've got 32s on my commuter, which might not fit on that bike.

Consider buying duplicates of stuff to leave at your workplace so you don't need to carry it on your bike. Really good headlight and taillight. Fenders. I'm a convert to disc brakes, especially for riding in foul weather. Obviously there's no way to adapt discs to your current bike.
That's the thing! My current commuter isn't optimal for this kind of distance. Fairly upright, slow in the wind, heavy uphill and somehow doesn't 'fly' as nice as the road bike does. My road bike is quite nice for that commute, but as you said: I too would like disc brakes (hydraulic), hub dynamo for lights, potentially tubeless. That's where everything starts
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Old 07-20-21, 04:43 PM
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Originally Posted by alias5000 View Post
That's the thing! My current commuter isn't optimal for this kind of distance. Fairly upright, slow in the wind, heavy uphill and somehow doesn't 'fly' as nice as the road bike does. My road bike is quite nice for that commute, but as you said: I too would like disc brakes (hydraulic), hub dynamo for lights, potentially tubeless. That's where everything starts
If it'll make you happy and you can afford it, buy a new bike. Sometimes fun is worth paying for just for its own sake.
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Old 07-21-21, 02:42 AM
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Road bike vs fancy road bike won't make a massive difference in commute times. My gravel bike is my main commuter (with road tyres), but as the weather is really nice right now, I'm using my road bike, which has faster tyres. Difference in commute times is maybe a minute or 2. Earlier this year, when weather allowed, I was also using my TT bike for commuting (TTs after work as well as just getting time on the bike prepping for the 100 mile TTs I had coming up). Again, there was maybe a minute over my road bike. My commutes are generally easy recovery rides. Once a week I have a workout from my coach that I do on my way home. Occasionally, if I'm feeling it, I will just smash my commute- this is where I make any gains in time. And they can be significant (8-10 minutes).
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Old 07-21-21, 07:02 AM
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Originally Posted by rivers View Post
Road bike vs fancy road bike won't make a massive difference in commute times. My gravel bike is my main commuter (with road tyres), but as the weather is really nice right now, I'm using my road bike, which has faster tyres. Difference in commute times is maybe a minute or 2. Earlier this year, when weather allowed, I was also using my TT bike for commuting (TTs after work as well as just getting time on the bike prepping for the 100 mile TTs I had coming up). Again, there was maybe a minute over my road bike. My commutes are generally easy recovery rides. Once a week I have a workout from my coach that I do on my way home. Occasionally, if I'm feeling it, I will just smash my commute- this is where I make any gains in time. And they can be significant (8-10 minutes).
What distance is this referenced to?
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Old 07-21-21, 07:14 AM
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Originally Posted by alias5000 View Post
What distance is this referenced to?
11 miles. I normally average 13-14mph on my commute.
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