My perfect commuter bicycle

Consider the lowly beater bike.

Over at Commute By Bike, Arleigh has started the Build Your Perfect Commuter Bike project. Various people have weighed in about frame style, frame material, brakes, gearing, chaincases, fenders, integrated lightning and so on.

Ghost Rider comments that if you ask 100 people for their opinion on the perfect bike, you’ll get 100 different answers. I caught a lot of heat when I proclaimed Joe Breeze’s Finesse the ultimate commuter bike a little over two years ago. Freewheel likes city bike with internal gear hubs and chaincases, while Jim @ Planetary Gears is less enthusiastic about IGH, chainguards, and even porteur racks.

Alan @ Eco Velo also started a great discussion on the virtues of Euro city bike design vs more American “sporty” bikes used for commuting.

We’re covering longer distances on a regular basis, and for us, lighter, faster bikes make the trip more enjoyable. We’re not talking racing bikes with skinny tires, but practical bikes that share some characteristics with traditional Roadsters while being manufactured with modern materials to reduce weight and increase performance. These bikes may also be missing some accessories that are unessential for our climes and limited cargo carrying needs.

My perfect commuting bike right now is a 1990s GT Aggressor 2.0 mountain bike.

Best commuter bike in the world

I bought this bike six or seven years ago at a garage sale in Longmont, Colorado. It is heavy, ugly, and has almost none of the usual list of features that some of us consider essential for a commuter bike. It has no chainguard, no fenders, no kickstand, and no rack. I have power sucking 1.95″ knobby tires and a suspension fork with 125 mm of travel that’s probably worth more than the bike. The surprisingly robust eight speed Shimano Acera derailleur is almost as low end as you get. The only things I’m missing are a Megarange freewheel hub and bar ends pointing straight up.

Best commuter bike in the world

It’s the perfect commuter because this is the bike I’ve taken to work the past few days. The low end introductory model or even the Bike Shaped Objects from the mass retail stores are probably the most common commuter I see on the streets. The bikes mostly work and they get you there.

The perfect commuter bike is the bike you already own. Hop on, pedal, and be happy!

What’s your perfect commuter bike?

24 Comments

  • themickeyd
    October 30, 2009 - 3:33 pm | Permalink

    My all time favorite commuter was my $20 Schwinn World Sport I converted to a fixie for $100. Very low up keep and never let me down and was one of the overall cheapest bikes & most fun I have ever owned.

  • ramkum
    October 30, 2009 - 3:33 pm | Permalink

    well said!

  • themickeyd
    October 30, 2009 - 8:33 am | Permalink

    My all time favorite commuter was my $20 Schwinn World Sport I converted to a fixie for $100. Very low up keep and never let me down and was one of the overall cheapest bikes & most fun I have ever owned.

  • ramkum
    October 30, 2009 - 8:33 am | Permalink

    well said!

  • mildstallion
    October 30, 2009 - 4:14 pm | Permalink

    @themickeyd:Another Schwinn Worldsport owner! I've been riding a 1992 (black) forever. I can't kill it. It's my everything bike.

  • mildstallion
    October 30, 2009 - 9:14 am | Permalink

    @themickeyd:

    Another Schwinn Worldsport owner! I've been riding a 1992 (black) forever. I can't kill it. It's my everything bike.

  • theskane
    October 30, 2009 - 4:37 pm | Permalink

    I love riding my Trek 520 to work. It's a tank and it can handle anything I need it to. It also makes it easy to spontaneously extend the commute into a real ride with all my gear.

  • theskane
    October 30, 2009 - 9:37 am | Permalink

    I love riding my Trek 520 to work. It's a tank and it can handle anything I need it to. It also makes it easy to spontaneously extend the commute into a real ride with all my gear.

  • Jessi
    October 30, 2009 - 4:42 pm | Permalink

    My perfect commuter bike: whatever's comfortable and sturdy enough to withstand daily rides over potholes and train tracks, and hang wire grocery baskets off the sides – but still be cheap enough that it's not a huge temptation to thieves.

  • Jessi
    October 30, 2009 - 9:42 am | Permalink

    My perfect commuter bike: whatever's comfortable and sturdy enough to withstand daily rides over potholes and train tracks, and hang wire grocery baskets off the sides – but still be cheap enough that it's not a huge temptation to thieves.

  • Arley
    October 30, 2009 - 5:56 pm | Permalink

    I'm with you cyclelicious: My bulletproof 1989 GT Tequesta is the best commuter. Its overwhelming mass overcomes obstacles! You can throw 20 lbs. of groceries on the back, and you barely notice.

  • Arley
    October 30, 2009 - 10:56 am | Permalink

    I'm with you cyclelicious: My bulletproof 1989 GT Tequesta is the best commuter. Its overwhelming mass overcomes obstacles! You can throw 20 lbs. of groceries on the back, and you barely notice.

  • Jennifer
    October 30, 2009 - 6:28 pm | Permalink

    My ugly hybrid is strangely more fun to ride ever since I demoted it to "urban workhorse."A friend recently poked fun at me for treating the new Surly with kid gloves, but that was a lot of money for someone who was unemployed for almost a year! I'm still only riding a mile to park outside for nine hours, so commuting on it seems kind of silly.

  • Jennifer
    October 30, 2009 - 11:28 am | Permalink

    My ugly hybrid is strangely more fun to ride ever since I demoted it to "urban workhorse."

    A friend recently poked fun at me for treating the new Surly with kid gloves, but that was a lot of money for someone who was unemployed for almost a year! I'm still only riding a mile to park outside for nine hours, so commuting on it seems kind of silly.

  • Jennifer
    October 30, 2009 - 6:30 pm | Permalink

    Oh, and I still want a Finesse. If I ever get a job with an actual commute, I guess.

  • Jennifer
    October 30, 2009 - 11:30 am | Permalink

    Oh, and I still want a Finesse. If I ever get a job with an actual commute, I guess.

  • Nancy
    October 30, 2009 - 11:37 pm | Permalink

    OK, I confess I want the lightest bike I can find. I'm at 21 lbs now with a half bamboo/half Trek X01 cross frame with a carbon rack bonded on (it's a home-made bike courtesy of my bike mechanic, bamboo lovin' boyfriend). I use HUGE Basil panniers. I'm plump and slow and try to fit the kitchen sink in on each ride to work so it's perfect for me.

  • Nancy
    October 30, 2009 - 4:37 pm | Permalink

    OK, I confess I want the lightest bike I can find. I'm at 21 lbs now with a half bamboo/half Trek X01 cross frame with a carbon rack bonded on (it's a home-made bike courtesy of my bike mechanic, bamboo lovin' boyfriend). I use HUGE Basil panniers. I'm plump and slow and try to fit the kitchen sink in on each ride to work so it's perfect for me.

  • Anonymous
    October 31, 2009 - 1:41 am | Permalink

    I have a stable of nice bikes but the one I commute on every day (2000 miles per year)is a cheap GIANT Cypress Deluxe comfort bike with chopped bars. I've replaced all cranks and running gear many times due to wear and there's hardly anything original on it but the rims, fork and front derailluer. It's a supreme effort to keep up with the traffic or climb and that's good. When I get on my carbon road bike for a pleasure ride, I hang with the A group and it's like flying a rocket!

  • Anonymous
    October 30, 2009 - 6:41 pm | Permalink

    I have a stable of nice bikes but the one I commute on every day (2000 miles per year)is a cheap GIANT Cypress Deluxe comfort bike with chopped bars. I've replaced all cranks and running gear many times due to wear and there's hardly anything original on it but the rims, fork and front derailluer. It's a supreme effort to keep up with the traffic or climb and that's good. When I get on my carbon road bike for a pleasure ride, I hang with the A group and it's like flying a rocket!

  • GhostRider
    October 31, 2009 - 3:18 am | Permalink

    My "ultimate bike" changes with my mood and the seasons. Basically, whichever bike I choose to ride to work is my favorite that day — and they're all different: Xtracycle, grocery-getting beater, singlespeed/fixed road bike, singlespeed MTB, regular hardtail MTB and a couple others. My friend Chip Haynes said something to the effect of "choose the bike that makes you happy and makes you look forward to riding." I've got that covered!!

  • GhostRider
    October 30, 2009 - 8:18 pm | Permalink

    My "ultimate bike" changes with my mood and the seasons. Basically, whichever bike I choose to ride to work is my favorite that day — and they're all different: Xtracycle, grocery-getting beater, singlespeed/fixed road bike, singlespeed MTB, regular hardtail MTB and a couple others.

    My friend Chip Haynes said something to the effect of "choose the bike that makes you happy and makes you look forward to riding." I've got that covered!!

  • Lief
    October 31, 2009 - 4:10 am | Permalink

    My favorite commuter is my Cruzbike Silvio. * it's recumbent* it's light (27 lbs)* it's comfortable* it uses all standard road bike parts* dual 700c wheels* it accepts accessories (bike bins, rack, full fairing) * it is really fastI love it and it works for me (1000 miles in the last two months).

  • Lief
    October 30, 2009 - 9:10 pm | Permalink

    My favorite commuter is my Cruzbike Silvio.
    * it's recumbent
    * it's light (27 lbs)
    * it's comfortable
    * it uses all standard road bike parts
    * dual 700c wheels
    * it accepts accessories (bike bins, rack, full fairing)
    * it is really fast

    I love it and it works for me (1000 miles in the last two months).

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