When you can only afford to buy one quality bicycle for commuting, then the decision can be overwhelming. A good bike can be very expensive. Narrowing down the right type of bike for your riding style can be difficult but here are some tips to help you choose the right bicycle for commuting.
What’s Your Landscape?
When choosing a bicycle for commuting you should focus initially on your local landscape. Is your town completely flat or do you live where you will be constantly riding on hills? Will you always be on pavement or will you need to take some dirt trails?
Any bicycle can be used for commuting; even a penny-farthing and unicycle can be used. The key is to get the best bicycle for your area. If you live in a large city such as New York City then your choice of commuter bike may be vastly different then someone that lives in a hilly rural area. A hardtail mountain bike can be used for any type of commuting, including large city commuting. The great thing about using a mountain bike for commuting is that you can easily cut through alleys, dirt trails, and any other shortcuts you may find. A mountain bike may also be easier to use in the wintertime when the weather is icy and snowy. The downside to using a mountain bike as a commuter bike is that generally they are not as fast.
You may find you prefer a fitness style bicycle such as the Trek FX, which allows you to sit more upright than a road racing bike yet still allows you more rolling efficiency then a mountain bike. More rolling efficiency means you can go faster with less effort. The downside to these bikes is that they are not very good to use except on paved or hard-packed surfaces. You will get to work faster, but a mountain bike will allow you to ride it daily to work in town and then on the weekend you can take you bike out on the singletrack in the hills near your town.
In between the mountain bike and the fitness style bike are countless other styles of bikes, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. It is imperative that you take a serious look at the terrain you will be riding on and then find the right bicycle for you. Your local bicycle shop can be an invaluable tool to use to help you find the right bicycle that can meet your needs.
Are you simply going to carry a small backpack with you or do you also plan on doing your grocery shopping with your bicycle? If you plan on carrying a load of groceries home on your bicycle then you should look at an option such as adding a rack, panniers, or even a simple basket. If you plan on carrying a lot of stuff with your bicycle and will be riding mainly in town then a full-suspension mountain bike will probably not be a wise choice for you. Racks on your commuter bike is a necessity for many people, however I still tend to use a backpack more than anything. Either way works, and if you decide to add racks later you will always have that option.
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Fenders are a necessity for many commuters. There is nothing worse than getting mud and gunk flipped up your backside from your bicycle and then arriving at work covered in mud. Any serious commuter will find fenders very valuable.
Fixies and Singlespeeds
Many people like to ride fixies and singlespeeds. If you live in a town with hilly terrain then you may find a singlespeed bicycle is not a good choice for you. If you are fat and out of shape then a singlespeed bicycle is not a good choice. On the other hand if you do not have to fight hills, are in relatively good shape, then you may enjoy a singlespeed bicycle. If you are not in shape then a singlespeed will rapidly get you into shape. One huge benefit to a fixie style bike is that there is not as much upkeep. If you cannot park your bicycle inside while at work then a simpler fixie may be a good choice. Again, speak with your local bike shop and let them know what you want to do with the bicycle and they can help guide you towards a bike. Test ride them all and then choose the one that “feels right” to you.
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