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Bike for suburbs and city

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Bike for suburbs and city

Old 02-26-24, 11:12 AM
  #1  
ScottCommutes
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Bike for suburbs and city

I'm going to assume that many bike commuters, like commuters in general, live out in the suburbs and commute into a more urban area each day for work.

Obviously, the type of bike one might choose for each end of the commute is somewhat different:

Suburbs -
Nicer, faster bike
More gears
More speed and aero

City -
Wider tires to roll over road imperfections, expansion joints, railroad tracks, etc.
More puncture resistance
Upright bars
More compact
More maneuverability in tight quarters
Smaller wheels
Fewer gears needed - city centers are often along a river and thus relatively flat.
Platform pedals for safety

I'm interested in hearing from anyone that commutes from the suburbs into the city. What kind of bike did you start with, and how do you make it work in both environments?
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Old 02-26-24, 01:36 PM
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FWIW, I go across downtown on my commute. (Big city by total area, ~4x4 blocks of "downtown.")

My solution when I bought my bike, and then my spare bike, was to get a touring bike. A. because I'm a clyde, and it made (and makes) sense to me to carry a load with a bike designed to carry a load, B. because it rolls well with wide(r) tires, and C because I ride when it's windy, and nothing kills the joy of a good ride like 5 miles of 25 mph headwind when you're sitting up straight.

If I were buying today, I'd look at touring bikes again because they work. I'd also look at gravel, multi-surface, or all-road bikes. I'd probably look at putting different tires on it, either slicks or minimal tread. Note you'll probably want to go low-end, both because of the greater loss if a high-end bike is stolen, and because there may be a better chance of finding rack mounts on the less expensive bike.
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Old 02-27-24, 07:19 AM
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I started commuting to get more miles in during the week. I used my older back up road bike and still do after 25 years. Los Angeles is not known for maintaining its streets in the parts of town where I work.
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Old 02-27-24, 09:51 AM
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For most of my bike commuting life, I've had a hybrid or hardtail mountain bike. As I got older, I added rack & fenders. (I don't like a sweaty back)
I have two commuter bikes now:
  1. Trek Verve 3; it's their comfort hybrid. It's from about 7 years ago; when they still had rim brakes. I added Planet Bike fenders and the Bontrager rack. It has a cheap Amazon trunk bag, a tube top bag and a set of lights. It's great. The 45 mm tires are meaty enough and it has a little shock in the seatpost. Only problem with this bike is that it's slow. I find myself averaging 12-13 mph on it where I would average 15 mph on my road bike.
  2. Aventon Level.2 (eBike) - This is the perfect commuter bike. The lights are built-in and the rears serve as brake lights too. In addition to the one on the rear fender, it also has a pair of lights in the seatstays. I replaced the stock rack with a Topeak MTX rack and I have their expandable trunk bag with fold-down panniers. It's a Class 3 eBike, so I unlocked it to allow 28 mph under pedal assist. (20 with throttle) I'd say I use it about 30% unpowered, 60% on the lowest level of assist and 10% at higher assist levels when I need to make time. At the lowest assist level, 15-18 mph on flat ground is pretty easy; won't sweat until it gets above 75 F. When it gets warmer, I can dial in assist level 2 or 3. When it's cooler, I often turn off the assist to make a bit more of my own heat. (Here's a link to my long-term, unsponsored review on it)
I'm thinking of buying another bike in the future that could serve as a nice middle ground between the above two: a steel-framed gravel bike. Why?
  • Drop bars are better in traffic (narrower) AND more aerodynamic. The only time I miss the leverage of flat bars is on rough trails, which I don't ride much of, these days.
  • Meatier tires than a road bike handle bad roads better
  • Faster than a hybrid or mountain bike
  • They usually have provisions for rack & fenders
Last option would be an endurance road bike, like my Trek Domane AL3. It is a road bike, but built for comfort and a wide range of usefulness. With its stock 32 mm tires, it rolls smoothly, but they're still wide enough to give a good ride. (regardless of frame material) With those stock tires, it can accommodate fenders. Without fenders, it can accommodate up to 38 mm 35 mm tires.

The thing about a fast bike is that it's never a detriment, unless you go too skinny and hard on the tires. Don't want to go as fast? Fine, but you'll still be faster than a less efficient bike with the same effort. Or go slower with almost zero effort, on those really hot days.

Last edited by Smaug1; 03-04-24 at 08:30 AM. Reason: Corrected spec., added link
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Old 02-27-24, 05:42 PM
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Don't forget fashion.
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Old 02-29-24, 09:18 PM
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I have busted potholey roads & streets to ride, and I ride a fast bike on them because most of the pavement between the cracks & potholes is smooth enough to ride 18mm tires. I use 28mm racing tires on my main commuter and 60mm tires on the bike I ride if Im carrying a weeks worth of work clothes to/from work or doing a medium load of groceries.

I rode through Massachusetts once on tour with those 28s and even deflated down to 45psi the smooth parts of the road were so rough I dont think Id choose to ride there on anything smaller than 40mm tires ever again. That excludes most fast framesets.

The answer depends on your roads & streets and your skill level. You might want dual suspension, 3-5 tires, and a motor. You might want a legitimate track racing bike with 23mm tires, clipless pedals, and a front brake.
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Old 02-29-24, 09:47 PM
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My choice is none of the above. An older steel frame with horizontal dropouts and clearances for 28c tires and fenders. Dropped handlebars. Caliper brakes that work well in all weather. (Mafac Racers usually.) Fix gear in say 44-17. Semi-platform pedals with toeclips. For the past 10 years or so, Pasela tires.

For me, that bike must work well in the rain, be unlikely to be stolen using nothing more than a U-lock and fit me well enough that the hills I have to do are fun. (I love riding fix gear. I also love how reliable it is in any weather I am ever going to put myself in. And in my younger days, that I could crash on ice or snow to the drive side and know I could pick the bike up and everything was going to work. Never a given on a derailleur bike.

The bike that has done this service for me has been through 4 frames and is on its 5th. (Two frame-ending crashes, a cheap frame broke, one got stolen. They were/are:

1967 Peugeot - my first 10-speed, set up as a fix gear rain and winter bike when I started racing.
Early '89s Japanese built Schwinn
Early '80 Sekine?, Sekai? (Mediocre bike. It broke.)
circa '84 Miyata 610. Excellent bike, poor fit.
circa '83 Trek. Decent bike, very good fit. Now powder coated and running really well.

Parts got lifted off the last frame and slapped on the next. Easy once I got past that French one.
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Old 03-01-24, 08:28 AM
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I live on the edge of central Shanghai, and my commute is all high density urban area. I use a steel gravel bike with 36c tires to commute on, as some of the pavement isn't of the smoothest quality. 1x11 drivetrain gives me more than enough gear range, especially given how flat Shanghai is. SPD pedals as I don't like riding not clipped in, ever. My drop bars are quite narrow which makes maneuvering between bikes, scooters, and cars easier. Of course, full fenders for the rain, and a rack for carrying my stuff, though these come off for the summer as I'm a teacher and don't commute in the summer months.
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Old 03-03-24, 03:24 AM
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My quick commuter, a roadie style with a couple accessories to make it practical.

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Old 03-22-24, 08:38 AM
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Originally Posted by Darth Lefty
Don't forget fashion.
You can use very expensive and nice looking bike for commute, but reality is - more good expensive modern looking bike - it's more chance that this bike sometime will be stolen if located outside of your work' building. Friend of mine lost his nice new bike this way. I prefer use good functional bike but not attractive and modern at least.
P.S.: More important not how your bike looks like, but how you can handle your bike.

Last edited by C.I.; 03-22-24 at 12:26 PM.
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Old 03-22-24, 11:33 AM
  #11  
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Trek 800 or something similar by Giant. The reason that I like these is as follows:
26" wheels (ISO 559) are strong
There are plenty of smooth tire choiced in 26" wheels
The bikes are built strong
They are generally inexpensive, you should expect to pay under $100
They have good or good enough components on them
They have a wide ratio of gears
You can fit racks and bags on them
They handle extra weight without issues
The cantilever brakes or linear pull brakes usually work good. If not you need to get new pads.
If it gets stolen you won't cry too hard, but you will still be made at the insanity of bike theft
If it gets damage or something breaks you can get parts for it or even another frame.

By the way, if you come across a Trek 700 or Giant Cypress, they could be good too.
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Old 03-22-24, 11:42 AM
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I saw a guy in the suburbs east of NYC commuting on a Trek racing bike the other day. He was using a backpack, so probably leaves shoes at work. Likely doesn't need to wear jacket and tie either. Roads are in OK shape so no need for a bike with 36mm tires. I used a road/sport bike with 30mm tires, or if I needed to carry stuff, my tourer with 36mm tires and panniers. Half of the commute was in Brooklyn with crappy roads, so a large wide and durable tires is wanted. If I was commuting Brooklyn to Manhattan I would use a hybrid. Part of the equation to how expensive a bike is where are you locking it up. I had interior to my building lock up, so could use an expensive bike and nor worry about it getting stolen. I was also riding between 18 and 27 miles each way, so used bikes with drop bars, which are more comfortable on distance commutes.

Where you commute, can you lock it up securely and how far completely changes which bike you choose
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Old 03-23-24, 11:31 PM
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I have ten bikes right now, of all different sorts, and when I commute ( fully remote at the moment ) it is suburban and urban, and I've used all but two of them for that purpose, in addition to another dozen or so that I no longer own.

Except for when roads are snowy -- when I use a fat bike -- the best choice for me is a cyclocross/gravel bike.
  • 33-ish millimeter tires are plenty
  • drop bars for comfort and speed
  • light enough to easily carry onto the train for hybrid commutes, and easier to store onboard
  • quicker than other options, given the terrain and effort
  • plenty of gears -- more than I actually need
My commute has varied. Sometimes it has been a cross-suburban 12 to 20 mile roundtrip, and sometimes a hybrid where I ride to a train station, and then from another station to my office -- in which case, I can choose from a variety of stations that provide roundtrips anywhere between 2.5 and 30 miles. And sometimes I ride a 50-mile roundtrip directly to a downtown office. I've used road bikes, hardtails, fat bikes, and city bikes, in addition to a couple cyclocrossers.

Because I have options, I still vary my choice. As I said, when it snows, I ride my fat bike. I sometimes ride a hardtail just for a change, but in that case, I'm not making a 50-mile run, and I'm a few miles-an-hour slower. At times, I will take a road bike downtown so that I can go for a recreational ride around the city after work, before commuting home. Etcetera.

Without doubt, if I ever had to drop down to one bike, it'd be a cx bike -- or gravel, if you prefer. Their versatility is unmatched -- except for deep snow, I could do all of that on my cx bike and enjoy it.
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Old 03-24-24, 06:06 PM
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I think whether you ride in suburbs, city, or both doesn't necessarily your choice of bike will be on a spectrum like the one you described. Some suburbs have reasons for fat tires, and some cities -- and parts of other cities -- can be ridden with light bikes and thin tires. It depends on what you're doing.
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