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I'd really like to be able to commute to work. It's a long way though - 25 miles away. Too far for every day, but maybe I can cycle it once or twice a week.

I tried it on my old mountain bike a couple of times and it took me 2 hours each way, and I was very tired. I'm hoping a new bike might make it more do-able. I really can't decide what kind of bike to get though. My route has about 10 miles in the city, and 15 miles on country roads.

I'd like something reasonably light. Hybrids look a bit on the heavy side. Full on road-bikes look a bit too aggressive, and I don't think I'd like the drop handle-bars. Something like a more relaxed road-bike with flat bars would be good, but on digging through the web I'm having trouble finding anything that looks like that.

Can you recommend a suitable bike that would fit what I'm looking for?

I'm in the UK and could spend up to £1000 for the right thing.

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I think you should reconsider the drop handlebars a bit... Having more available hand positions is good for longer rides. You could get a bike intended more for touring (a relaxed road-bike, basically) where the drop bars aren't so low. –  freiheit Sep 20 '10 at 23:25
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don't forget to factor in a decent lock (or two). Leave the heavy one at work. –  Phil Johnstone Feb 10 '12 at 23:10
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10 Answers

up vote 4 down vote accepted

A cyclocross bike which can accomodate fenders and a rack could be an option. I personally use an aluminum framed Cannondale CAADX Tiagra on my 17 mile (one way) commute and I like its versatility. It is relatively light (21 lbs) and has eyelets to accommodate fenders and a rack. It can also be fitted with a variety of tires ranging from slicks to studded. The XC frame makes the bike more maneuverable (can be useful in negotiating traffic) than a touring bicycle. Pic of the commuter below: enter image description here

I use this bike 2 or 3 times a week to commute downtown. It is almost as fast as my road bike on uneven roads. The wider tires (that can run at lower pressure) can soak up bumps better.

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I did revise my thoughts about drop-bars and went for a cyclo-cross bike, and I find it works well for all of the reasons you mention. The only thing I'd do differently if I bought a bike again would be to get one with disc brakes. I don't feel safe trying to stop with the rim brakes, especially if I load up the panniers. Recently, the rules on cyclo-cross racing have been relaxed to allow discs, so I think there will be a lot more cyclo-bikes with discs about soon. –  Scott Langham Feb 11 '12 at 22:31
    
Forgot about the brakes. Indeed if there was a weakness with my xc commuter it would be the cantilever brakes. They are not as strong as those in my road bike and are hard/finicky to adjust. However, I was able to mitigate this weakness somewhat by using a longish brake "shoe/pad" assembly. With the "shoe/pad" assembly you just need to replace the pad the next time these wear out, the shoe stays so no need for re-adjusting. Fortunately, the pads also appear to provide better friction than the stock Tektro I had before so the brakes now have better stopping power too. –  cyclo Feb 13 '12 at 4:58
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I would defiantly not rush out and buy a new expensive bike. Here are the steps you should follow:

1) Try to make your bike faster. There are a few ways that you can do this but I am going to make two suggestions that will be cheap and easy.

  • Get slick (smooth) tires. The should put you back around $60 but should give you a good idea of what a road bike might feel like. The difference in speed will be shocking to you.
  • Put some bar ends on your bike these will help you to change your body position on your ride. (More positions = greater happiness)

bar ends

2) Before you buy a "new kind of bike" (ie: road bike, hybrid, etc) make sure that you try it. I just bought an older road bike on craig's list for $20. The bike was in very poor condition but it allowed me to figure out what riding a road bike is like. I upgraded a few weeks later knowing what I really wanted.

If you don't know what you want I would mess around with your bike a bit and then buy a couple throw-aways. I bet that you could do that for $50 - $200 (not including resale revenue) but you will know what you want before you drop the big dollars.

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+1 Big ol' barends on fat bars are great, I used them for a year before going to the dark side (i.e., drops). –  Neil Fein Sep 21 '10 at 2:24
    
Slick tires ask for enough pressure. Check your rim-strip if it can take it. And go to the maximum pressure (printed on the side of your tires). –  GvS Sep 21 '10 at 13:38
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To add on to #2, in a lot of places you can rent fairly nice bikes of varying styles for fairly cheep. Might be worth it to try out a road bike for a weekend. It wont be a super-nice, all-carbon, jobber, but it can give you a feel for the geometry, tires, drops, etc. –  Jack M. Sep 21 '10 at 15:18
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50 miles per day is a fair amount of riding. 4 hours sounds about right when you take into account traffic stops, hills, etc. If you're not used to putting in this kind of distance -- not to mention a full day's work too -- then it's not surprising that you're tired.

Before splurging on a new bike, try some of the modifications others have suggested. Narrow slick tires can really make a mountain bike feel faster. But you're still going to have to work on getting used to the distance -- going a bit faster won't build up your endurance.

One way to build up to this commute would be to ride only one way per day. If transit is an option, ride in one day, leave the bike overnight and transit home. Then on the second day, transit back and ride home. If you can't do transit but can transport your bike by car, drive your car in the first morning then ride home in the evening. Then ride in the next morning and drive back home on the second day.

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I am going to second @freiheit suggestion that you reconsider the drop bars. You commute is going to be roughly 90+ minutes each way in an urban setting and you will want the extra had positions. You can still get a geometry that is relaxed and gives you a more upright position.

When my commute got longer (15+ miles one way) I switched from a converted hardtail (rack, slicks and fenders) to a 'touring' bike. This is a 'road' bike with drop bars, a more relaxed geometry, longer chainstays (to accommodate a rack an panniers) and lot's of rack and bottle braze-ons. The gearing is wide, so hills and wind don't bother me. The forks and stays are wide as well, with cantilever brakes to accommodate fenders. This is similar to the bike I own.

When all is said and done, the best suggestion is to go to your local bike shop (the one you go to all the time for parts and advice, right?) and describe to the staff the way you expect to use your bike. They will have the best suggestions based on your riding style, your requirements, your body geometry and your budget. As an added bonus, you can test ride their suggestions.

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The bike Gary linked to is the Novara Randonee, and it's a little hard to find in the UK, but it's a similar bike to the Surly LHT and the Trek 520. –  Neil Fein Sep 21 '10 at 2:26
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Another option is to have a rack on your car to transport your bike, then.

  • You drive to the outside of the town where you work and park before you hit the traffic jams
  • then get the bike of the car and cycle past all the traffic jams

And/Or

  • Day 1 am – you drive to work
  • Day 1 pm – you leave your car at work and cycle home
  • Day 2 am – you cycle to work
  • Day 2 pm – you leave your bike at work and drive home.

Also consider:

  • if you can take your bike on the train for part of the way, if so you may benefit from a folding bike.
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For $1000, you can get a pretty decent folding bike. Brompton makes a great bike, and it should be easy for you to find one in the UK. –  Neil Fein Sep 21 '10 at 19:33
    
I second the folding bike suggestion, I would recommend Dahon as you cannot really go far on a Brompton. Dahon bikes are proper bikes that happen to fold. Also time on a train is not dead time as time stuck in a car is, you can do some work on the train and have breakfast. –  ʍǝɥʇɐɯ Aug 21 '11 at 16:37
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If you've tried it on your "old mountain bike" then almost anything you could take from the shop when you walk in with your £1000 with be a better experience.

If you're in the UK, while you can, I'd look at the Cycle to Work scheme (if your employer operates it). It does at least make your money go a little further (and gives you longer to pay it off).

The top allowance is £1000 (can include accessories but can also, generally, be topped up).

I would second some of the other suggestions that you experiment with drop handlebars, perhaps looking at some of the cyclocross bikes (e.g. like the Ridley Crossbow), but if you're set on the flat bars maybe some of the hybrids (e.g. Specialized Sirrus).

A 50 mile round trip every day is quite aggressive - that's one of the longest regular commutes I'd have heard of - good luck with that!

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Thanks for suggesting the Specialized Sirrus, that looks tempting! –  Scott Langham Oct 17 '10 at 16:15
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A lot of manufacturers sell something like a road bike without drop handlebars—variously categorized as urban, city, or touring. I have a Marin Alp Series that has flat handlebars, with some short bar ends that allow you to get a bit of a different position for comfort on longer rides. You might consider something with drops which will make longer rides (I would consider 25 miles a good length) more comfortable: Raleigh Clubman, Trek Portland, Surly's Long Haul Trucker are good options, but there are certainly more.

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I've seen the more comfortable road bikes with flat handlebars marketed as "commuters" too; especially when they include fenders/mudguards and/or a rack. –  freiheit Sep 21 '10 at 2:31
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Based on my own experience with electric assist bikes, 25 mph is a reasonable range to get out of a good system, and you could just buy a kit to update an existing bike, avoiding the expense of starting of scratch. Amped Bikes is one such vendors for kits.

Our electric bike can do about 20 mph on flat group without any pedaling. It would be reasonable to average between 15 and 20 mph for the trip, without putting in a huge amount of effort. You can charge the batteries while you work (for pennies) and ride home on a fresh charge.

What my wife has done is to use to heavy-assist going in, so she can get there faster and sweat less, and then pedal more on the way home, when she has more time and sweating is not an issue.

Because of the reduced time and effort involved, you'll be able to ride more often, and will also find that due to the extra assist, you'll be able to carry home heavier loads from the store then you were previously able to.

Here are a couple things my wife has asked me to pick up in the last week or so with our electric bike:

Another bike trailer load too big for the car

My errand today: pick up child from day care

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Excellent suggestion! –  ʍǝɥʇɐɯ Aug 21 '11 at 16:35
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As others have said, 25 miles is long and will take at least 1.5 hours each way for an average rider if it's flat, longer with hills. The longest bike commute I've done is a flat, 12 mile route and that took 45 minutes each way on a road bike with dropped handlebars and smooth tires, when I was a 30 year old in reasonably good condition.

I would consider the following possible ways to reduce the time investment so that you'll actually do it:

  1. Consider using rail or bus if a route is available that covers over half the distance, and that allows taking bikes. Then you might be able to bike every day.
  2. Consider getting an electric bike. I just got one this year due to injury/aging. I'm averaging 14mph on the uphill ride home and around 18mph on the downhill ride to work. Some models go faster than this but cost more. If you choose to commute by electric bike daily, the expense of the bike quickly pays for itself in lower auto costs, as the electricity cost for the bike is just pennies per day.
  3. If you really think you have the time, motivations, and athleticism to do 50 miles of riding regularly without an electric bike, then you should follow the suggestions provided by other answers: You'll be far better off with an aggressive road bike with drop bars, thin/slick tires, wide range of gearing (if you have steep hills to contend with), etc.

The key to bike commuting is to make it easy on yourself. If it's a Herculean effort, it won't happen.

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Expanding a little on Drew Stephens answer, one option that I would consider is to ease your way into it a little more and look for a "park-n-ride" station about half way in on your commute. That will let you ride more often, and still not cost so much in time. On a good bike, with a reasonable commute, you could get 25 miles down to about 1:30. However, that is still a long time to be riding, three hours each day.

If you can get to somewhere half way, park your car for free at a transfer station, and then ride in, you can probably do the whole trip in an hour, pretty easily, and two hours travel time is not too bad, especially when you consider the fitness aspect of it.

As to what bike you want, I would also re-iterate what Gary Ray said, and go speak to a bike shop, or two. They will be happy to make some recommendations, and if you speak to two you will get a counter-view as well. Personally, I would strongly suggest that you reconsider the road bike if you really want to ride 25 miles. I have both, a road bike and a tourer, and the tourer is fine for country riding, but it is a lot more work than the road bike, and a lot slower.

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