Part 2 – Choosing the right bike
Last week, our MD Nick took us through what equipment he carried in his bag when cycling to work. This week, we wanted to find out what type of bike he thinks is the best for commuting on.
QUESTION: Our readers loved your piece on what commuter kit you carry Nick. We’ve had quite a few people contact us to ask about the type of bike you would recommend they commute on.
ANSWER: Good question. I’ve used so many different types of bikes to commute on. The first time I ever cycled to work back in 2003, I used a full suspension mountain bike (an Orange Sub 5 SE). I simply didn’t have the space to keep another bike. All I did was swap the knobbly tyres for some slick ones. It looked a bit odd bit it did the job!
QUESTION: You mentioned in last week’s blog that you bought a commuter bike on your employer’s bike to work scheme. Was it a specific commuter bike?
ANSWER: When I did have space for more bikes, the Cycle to Work Scheme gave me a good excuse to go and buy a commuter bike. At the time I opted for a Marin Point Reyes. It was basically a rigid frame and fork mountain bike with slick tyres and a cool urban look – it appealed to the mountain biker in me!
QUESTION: And since then have you change the type of bicycle you commuted on?
ANSWER: Oh yes, I was loving cycling to work, doing it every day and wanted something a bit faster. I went for a Specialized Allez Sport. It was a great workhorse of a bike, with an aluminium frame and a Shimano Tiagra groupset. Around the same time the fixie bikes were becoming very fashionable to ride. They are also popular because they are very low maintenance bikes (that’s why couriers use them). I ended up buying one of those as well!
QUESTION: A fixie? As in a fixed wheel bike? Aren’t they illegal to ride?
ANSWER: Well under UK law, a two wheeled bike must have two independent brakes. A rear fixed wheel on a bicycle is classed as one independent brake. You basically operate it by stopping pedalling and locking your legs straight – that has the effect of stopping the rear wheel from spinning. So as long as you fit a front brake to the bike it will be road legal.
QUESTION: So are you still riding the road bike and fixie now?
ANSWER: No, I gave up on the fixie a long time ago. I wanted something with gears. I was also getting a bit of knee trouble which I’d heard can be a common problem for fixie riders. Whilst I enjoyed using a road bike, I realised I needed something a bit more durable for the potholed roads of London. I started using a cyclocross bike, it’s like a road bike but with a more relaxed riding position and made a bit tougher. Gravel bikes also have similar qualities.
Recently, I had the opportunity to start using what was is best described as a fast commute bike. It’s a Cotic Road Rat. With a light steel frame, 700c wheels (same size as road bikes), internal rear hub gear and a flat handlebar. To me it seems to be the perfect commuter bike, it’s:
- very quick;
- low maintenance (because of the hub gear);
- And of course it looks cool!
QUESTION: Sounds like you’ve found commuter bike nirvana! But what about folding bikes or the hire bikes that are available on the streets of London?
ANSWER: Well, if you are struggling for space at home or work to store your bike, a folding bike is a great solution. We have experimented with quite a few folding bikes but a Brompton is our bike of choice. They are really well made (in the UK), extremely comfortable and, despite having small wheels, can cover quite a distance – it’s not unusual for people to commute a distance of 10+ miles on a Brompton. In fact many private companies have fleets of Bromptons for their employees to use.
As for the hire bikes, I love the concept of hire bikes on the streets of London. However, I have had a few issues with docked bikes schemes where I have gone to a docking stations and there are no bikes, or alternatively when I have tried to return a bike but the station is full. That’s why I think the dockless bike hire schemes are great, we love the Mobikes! You find and hire a bike through an app and then park the bike anywhere (considerately) when you have completed your journey. They are super cheap to use too.
QUESTION: Thanks Nick, really interesting to hear that you have used lots of bikes to commute to work on. Is there any chance we can follow up on what modifications people may want to make to their bicycles to make them more commuter friendly?
ANSWER: Of course, I’ve still also got loads of tips on what cycle clothing people want to use. Let’s catch up next week.