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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
With high gas prices and all of the DMV problems in California I've decided to say funk it and make my journey to the dark side complete. I already work from home 3X per week. I currently commute via my toyota tacoma 2X per week.

I want to start bike commuting the 2X per week, 50 miles per day. I've done the ride a few times before on my current road bike and it takes about 2 1/2-3 hours each way with traffic and all of the hills.

So my quest is to find the ultimate commuter. I already have a high end lighting system but I need a reliable and strong frame/components for a Clyde with solid racks/bags and fenders. I currently run a hodge podge groupo of ultegra and 105 on my other road bike with and that setup seems to work really well so I don't want to go any lower in terms of component quality.

I'm also keen on the idea of a carbon frame for commuting...are they more comfortable than aluminum?

Should I go to the bike shop and blow the money on a race bike and convert it to a commuter? Or are there solid high-quality commuter-ready bikes on the market? I haven't seen any at my LBS.

Thanks!
 

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So is there another bike you have? Is the 105/Ultegra bike the beater? I run 9 spd Ultegra on my commuter, and it shows no signs of slowing down, so I think your hodgepodge would work really nicely. As for frames, the most reliable frames, I think, are steel. They'll take some abuse without being compromised; they ride nicely; they're strong; they can be had for just an arm, rather than an arm AND a leg.

If you want a stock bike for commuting, the best seem to be the various touring bikes that most companies sell, although the parts spec on a lot of those is a little less than durable. Jamis, Kona and Redline have some nice steel frames outfitted nicely. Surly stock bikes are a great value; they come with bar-end shifters rather than STI, but their choices on the Cross-Check and Long Haul Trucker builds are pretty solid (if not a little esoteric with a couple of items).

You haven't seen them at the LBS because there's not enough of a high-end commuting market . . . yet. Go to a couple of local shops, and if you don't see anything on the floor ask them about anything they can get you. In my experience, they're more enthusiastic about supporting the bikes they recommend, but don't let that make your decision for you.
 

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Roadrat

You want the ultimate communter? here's one that can be whatever you want it to be:

http://www.cotic.co.uk/roadrat/

Can run fixed, SS, or geared in the rear; up front single, double, or triple; disk brakes, vees or cantis; flat or drop bars. Plus plenty of mount options for racks and fenders and clearance for 700cx40.

I'm lovin' mine - currently running 1x9 & mulleted with drop bars. Tough as nails, lovely balance, great build quality - highly recommended. Comes out of the UK, but I'm in Australia and got hold of one easily.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 · (Edited)
Henry Chinaski said:
50 miles each way or total? How much do you want to spend? What size tires do you want to run under those fenders? Triple or double crankset?
25mi each way, up to 3 grand if I get a fancy wheelset of my choice, otherwise about $2,300 (I can get a nice CK wheelset with DT built for $700). Triple to start out with, though I may ditch the gears and go SS later on. Of course, saving money always helps to buy more parts for my other bikes too....

I would like to run larger tires, no 23mms. Nothing too small, I am a big guy :) Actually I've never run anything other than 25s, am I missing something? I guess I really need to take that into consideration. Would anything larger than 25mm be burdensome on a 50 mile commute?
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
BTW I visited a local shop today and they recommended a Cannondale Supersix series bike or a CAAD9. The supersix seemed kinda pricey, almost like I could get a ti frame for just a little bit more. But ti for commuting? Common! I just need something comfortable and strong as hell...not the easiest element combination of course.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
OverStuffed said:
So is there another bike you have? Is the 105/Ultegra bike the beater? I run 9 spd Ultegra on my commuter, and it shows no signs of slowing down, so I think your hodgepodge would work really nicely. As for frames, the most reliable frames, I think, are steel. They'll take some abuse without being compromised; they ride nicely; they're strong; they can be had for just an arm, rather than an arm AND a leg.

If you want a stock bike for commuting, the best seem to be the various touring bikes that most companies sell, although the parts spec on a lot of those is a little less than durable. Jamis, Kona and Redline have some nice steel frames outfitted nicely. Surly stock bikes are a great value; they come with bar-end shifters rather than STI, but their choices on the Cross-Check and Long Haul Trucker builds are pretty solid (if not a little esoteric with a couple of items).

You haven't seen them at the LBS because there's not enough of a high-end commuting market . . . yet. Go to a couple of local shops, and if you don't see anything on the floor ask them about anything they can get you. In my experience, they're more enthusiastic about supporting the bikes they recommend, but don't let that make your decision for you.
I am keeping my current trek 1500 with the hodge podge of components for training and triathlons. I have a great wheelset built for it and the bike is set up exactly how I like it. The idea is to keep that bike as the trainer and build up or buy a commuter bike that I can permanently mount the lighting system, racks, etc on.

I will check into the makes you mentioned, thank you!
 

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tribune said:
25mi each way, up to 3 grand if I get a fancy wheelset of my choice, otherwise about $2,300 (I can get a nice CK wheelset with DT built for $700). Triple to start out with, though I may ditch the gears and go SS later on. Of course, saving money always helps to buy more parts for my other bikes too....

I would like to run larger tires, no 23mms. Nothing too small, I am a big guy :) Actually I've never run anything other than 25s, am I missing something? I guess I really need to take that into consideration. Would anything larger than 25mm be burdensome on a 50 mile commute?
Maybe something like the Gunnar Sport with Ultegra. 700 x 28 would add some comfort.

http://www.gunnarbikes.com/sport.php
 

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Hmmmm...

tribune said:
BTW I visited a local shop today and they recommended a Cannondale Supersix series bike or a CAAD9. ...I just need something comfortable and strong as hell...
'Dale supersix or CAAD9 for commuting??? For a 'big' guy?

Sounds like their recommendation is based on what they had on the shop floor at the time, not on a considered assessment of your needs. Both of those bikes are race machines, among other things they won't have clearance for tires bigger than 25s, don't have mounts for racks & fenders etc. Between frame, geometry, components on those bikes you're a LONG way from a sensible package for the mix of big guy + long commute + mixed surfaces etc etc as you describe.

I'd suggest starting out with your hodge-podge beater bike, commute on it for a month or three and then figure out what (if anything) you would like different, then purchase accordingly.
 

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ultimate?

I think the "ultimate" commuter is the one that best serves your needs. Need to plan around worst case scenario, like weather, how much stuff to haul, comfort, and foremost, reliability.

Check out REI, especially if you have one locally. They have at least 4 or 5 models for commuting and/or touring.

You need wider, tough tires and fenders in most places to have a worth year round commuter. You want to avoid flats, as they are a real pain when you are trying to get to work on time, and don't want to arrive with messy hands and late.
 

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tribune said:
So my quest is to find the ultimate commuter. I already have a high end lighting system but I need a reliable and strong frame/components for a Clyde with solid racks/bags and fenders. I currently run a hodge podge groupo of ultegra and 105 on my other road bike with and that setup seems to work really well so I don't want to go any lower in terms of component quality.

I'm also keen on the idea of a carbon frame for commuting...are they more comfortable than aluminum?

Should I go to the bike shop and blow the money on a race bike and convert it to a commuter? Or are there solid high-quality commuter-ready bikes on the market? I haven't seen any at my LBS.
I woould not go out and buy a high-dollar road/racing bike and try to convert it to a commuter. What you want in a commuter is a rock-solid, reliable, all-weather machine that will get you and your stuff where you want to go. Some of the key things to look for:

Reliability. The components don't have to be expensive, but they have to work well, and are hopefully durable. Cleaning and lubing old parts can bring them back to life. New cables and housing are cheap. So is a new chain. When you're on a tight schedule to get to work on-time, your bike needs to be hassle-free.

Strong wheels. Consider this a subsection of Reliability. If there's one place to invest when turning an older bike into a commuter, it's the wheels. Wheels that are true, round, built with good-quality spokes, and shod with beefy tires. You know what city streets are like. Even in a car you get rattled by their cracks, patches, potholes and manhole covers. Traffic often prevents steering around these landmines, so wheels need to absorb knocks and keep coming back for more. Mountain bikes are often better than road bikes in this regard be¬cause their 26- or 29-inch wheels are built for abuse. But 700C road wheels are good (essentially the same as 29er wheels) if they're well built and fitted with 28-mm or wider tires.

Your bike needs to be able to carry cargo. This means you need eyelets, or "braze-ons." These are small bolt fittings on the dropouts (where the wheels fit into the frame and fork). Using them, you can easily attach a rear cargo rack. Almost none of your mid-to high-end road bikes have these any more, certainly not those with carbon fiber frames. An alternative, if your chosen bike doesn't have eyelets, is to use P-clamps to mount your rear rack. (And yes, it makes a heckuva big difference over the length of your commute if you can put the load on the bike instead of on your back, as with a backpack or messenger bag.)

Depending on weather in your area, fenders can be a good idea if you get a lot of rain, or anticipate having to ride wet streets. Keeps the bike a little cleaner, but more important they keep your britches and your legs a lot cleaner, less work getting ready once you get to the office.

I'm currently using a Specialized/Globe city commuter bike, with 700C wheels, rear rack, and a hub generator for lights... but after cranking it over the hills and trails here for several months, I have a jones (and an e-bay bid) on a Surley Cross-Check that I plan to customize as an all-round commuter/utility bike...
 

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You want to commute but you still need an efficient ride. I am in the same position. I commute 4 or more days a weeks and my round trip is 43 miles. I had to find the balance between dependability and efficiency.

Forget the race bikes for commuting. If you want something really nice look at a Independent Fabrications Club Racer. Steel frame/fork with clearance for fenders with available eyelets for a rack. Equip it with 105 or ultegra or a mix. The other options listed previously are excellent choices. Another option if custom. Custom can be reasonable from guys like Teesdale (TET cycles) and others.

I ride my snooty commuter (snooty because it now has campy record) to work most days. It is a Gunnar Crosshairs with an eclectic collection of parts that all function well together. I run 25mm tires with fenders and a rack. Most days I have a bag on my rack, but I have a set of panniers for heavy hauling. I can make good time if I need to and usually pass other riders to and from work. The extra weight and cyclocross geometry make it handle sluggish compared to my road bike, but I get the majority of my ride time on commuting so I mostly think of the road bike as twitchy.

Bottom line: Commuting is not racing, it is a way to get from point A to B. I commute to save money on gas, fit cycling into my lifestyle, and to keep fit. I ride my road bike to go fast.
 

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Ditto what a lot of the other guys said. Here's my take on things...

The commuter bike is not a flashy thing. If you have a used bike that's already set up and running right, then that's the thing you want to ride. A commuter bike is a thing that's designed to handle the bumps and thumps of a daily grind, so if you must go new, I'd look into something more along the lines of a cyclocross bike, that's built to be durable. They also have much more braking power, which comes in very handy during stop and go. Bear in mind that when you make pit stops for water or to do... whatever... you're going to lock the bike to a pole. And this will be a regular thing. Carbon frames are NOT made for that kind of treatment. Not for long, anyway.

Here's the thing. Use the bike you got, because it's used, probably not as pretty as it used to be, but it's well broken in and you're used to the way it moves. If you must spend money on something flashy and new, then buy something flashy and new for your weekend rides, to keep them special. DON'T break the bank on something you're just going to lock up outside.

King wheels on a commuter? No, and I'll tell you why. A commuter is supposed to make sure you get to work and get home, without fail. Putting thief bait on a bike that's locked up while you're at work is a bad plan. King wheels would be stolen. Yes they're bodacious, and I think they'd be a great thing to buy for your new weekend ride, but not something to leave out of visible range on a regular basis. And as you get used to riding more often, and to more places, you'll start leaving your commuter bike locked up in those places more often. You don't want a bike that'll attract attention. You want a bike that'll get left alone, so the wheels will still be there when you get back. My ideal commuter wheels... wheels with solid hubs and rims, but nothing fancy, and incorporating bolt on skewers, or the keyed locking skewers, so they DON'T get stolen. And that way the bike will still be able to get you home.

A commuter bike is a utilitarian thing, not a showpiece or a trophy bike. It's something you can ride in the rain and not feel guilty. It's something that functions very well, but doesn't look or break the bank like a high end racer. It's a whole other mind set, because it's not about looking like a competitive roadie putz. It's about functionality that allows you to ride safely, and a day to day durability, and a willingness to accept a few dings and dents, that I don't usually see in the upper echelons. The "Ultimate," commuter bike has no frills, because it's not winning races, it's durable and functional every day, in a way that becomes an item of faith.

Everyone commutes a little differently, but the places a commuter bike shines are not in high performance. The commuter bike shines on your worst day at work, because the bike works, it's comfortable, and doesn't feel like work, even when you're having a crap day. It just works, and you go home.

-------------------------------

On a side note, this question comes up so often in here. I wonder if there should be some sort of sticky thread on commuter bikes, and what makes for a good commuter. After a while, I don't even feel like answering anymore.. is there some place where we can put an FAQ or something?
 

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I disagree with the idea that a commuter needs to be some boring ugly thing. If you're riding that far, you definitely want to buy something you enjoy riding or you'll find excuses not to ride. It helps alot if you don't have to lock your bike outside, but if you do just get some pitlock skewers and a good U lock and you'll be fine.

The things you absolutely need are a good lighting system, clearances for larger tires/fenders, and some way to carry your gear.

I have converted a road bike for commuting, with a Schmidt dynohub and E6 light, a homebuilt 3W LED taillight, and split full fenders using reacharounds. I run 25 mm tires, and carry my gear with a Carradice on a bagman. My main angst is the split fenders, which continuously break on me. Get a bike that is meant for fenders and you'll be happy.

If I had 3k, I'd get something like a Gunnar Sport, a IF Club Racer, an ANT or so on. Get a bike that's fun to ride, with a dynohub and some handbuilt 32 spoke wheels, braze-ons for perfect fender mounting, etc.

The ideal commuter in my mind would have disc brakes, 650b wheels with 42 mm tires, an internally geared rear hub, a dynohub and wired taillight, and made from ti. You'd have a plush comfortable ride and have very minimal maintenance. With great lights and fenders you'd have no excuses, either.
 

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To the original poster - where you you going to leave your bike at work? Is it going to be inside or in your cube, or outside where someone might steal it or steal the stuff on it?

My first recommendation would be to keep as much stuff at work as possible so you don't have to carry it on your bike each time you ride. When I was commuting an hour to get to my last job, I left a pair of pants and a pair of shoes at work. That cut way down on the amount of stuff I had to carry. Do you have to carry a laptop back and forth? If you do, you do, and you should find a way to carry it on your bike as a backpack gets heavy over that kind of distance. You can actually get a rack to go on the fancy smancy race bikes - it attaches at the bottom by locking in there the rear wheel skewers go in, and attaches at the top where the back brake bolts on. But if you don't, I would imagine you might be able to commute with no more gear than would fit in a small bag on a rack on the back of your bike. However, while I don't have much experience with it personally, I would imagine the other commenters are absolutely right about it being difficult or impossible to put fenders on a full road bike.

Personally, if I was going to be bike to work round trip 50 miles, I'd want that fastest bike I could find that was comfortable for several reasons. For one, the faster I get there the less excuses I have to not bike. For another, the funner the ride the more I'll look forward to it.

To my question is - why wouldn't you want to commute on your current road bike?
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Thanks for the great responses everyone.

Paul,

I don't want to commute on my current bike because it is set up for training. The bike is very stiff, the seat isn't exactly super comfortable, and tires I keep at 120psi so the ride can be extra bumpy, etc. I do ride sometimes on the weekend for long distances, but there is definitely an element missing as far as comfort goes with the bike that will deter me from getting on the bike instead of in the car after a few weeks of commuting. I don't know exactly how to describe it. Like mschol17 said you want something a little more "fun" to ride. I guess that fun when commuting is different than fun when riding the race bike on the weekend. On the weekend, you want speed and power out of the saddle and comfort is not really important. I see now that in order to keep commuting on a daily basis you really a more comfortable set up.

I will be keeping this bike at the office when I commute so theft isn't a problem. Also, I feel pretty safe about the bike as long as I bring a lock in my neighborhood for trips to the store and other errands. I live a pretty nice place (Irvine, CA) with pretty low crime rates. Of course, that won't stop some kid who likes my CK hubs and has a bolt clipper.

-

I agree that Carbon isn't the best choice for a commuter. The more I think about it, I will be locking this bike up to poles and racks for errands around town and Carbon just won't hold up to it.

Ti sounds like a good option, but I've always thought that Ti was too expensive of an option (even more than carbon). Are there any decent Ti commuting frames on the market?

Thanks again for all of the frame suggestions. I'll be researching all of these over the next few days.
 

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tribune said:
Ti sounds like a good option, but I've always thought that Ti was too expensive of an option (even more than carbon). Are there any decent Ti commuting frames on the market?
You might check with Habanero (Asian) or Sibex (Russian) for Ti commuters. Sibex has a Ti fork as well. Litespeed made a Ti touring bike a few years back, you might find one of those. Ind Fab makes a Ti version of their cross bike and since every frame is custom you could probably get eyelets for fenders and a rack. A Ti commuter would be cool, but it would also be a target if it was locked outside.

You just can't go wrong with a nice steel frame for a commuter. You can drop it against a light pole, it can fall over at a light, you can bang it around going up a stairwell, drop off curbs, bunny hop obstacles, and trip lights at intersections. Commuting means that you are only in control of your destiny up to a point. Sometimes you have to ride in the gutter, hop a sidewalk, bunny hop a pothole, and other off road excursions caused by pea brained drivers who don't know what to do when they encounter a cyclist. It's nice to not have to worry about hurting your bike.
 
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