After reading Evans Cycles' blog post the other day about disc brakes on road bikes:


I want a new bike!

When I got my existing bike (a Scott Speedster S30) I wanted disc brakes but there didn't seem to be anythign on the market that offered this (other than cboardman but I refuse to buy a bike from Halfords!).

The 2 biggest annoyances with my bike are the gears and the brakes needing adjusted and serviced all the time. Although this is a lot better on my Scott than on the bike that I had before it's still a nuisance.

The blog post also highlighted that disc brakes still work in the wet. This is VERY appealing to me as I have actually hurt my hand before squeezing the brakes so hard in the wet. Not having to replace your wheels each time the rim wears out is another good point.

I have also really wanted electronic gears. I hate hears that aren't set up properly and grind and scrape. In my mind all these issues would go away if I had electronic gears.

The only problem is that the cheapest bike that I can find with hydraulic disc brakes and electronic gears is the The Specialized Roubaix SL4 Expert that costs £4,500.

I am happy to spend that on a bike (and the wife has given me permission) but I will be doing 90% of my riding cycling through London on my commute through all weathers and conditions. I could keep my existing bike and use that when the weather's bad but I want those disc brakes for the wet.

I cycle up to 180 miles a week commuting to and from work, other than that I do an occasional Box Hill ride at the weekend and a few sportives a year: King of the downs, London to Brighton, Nightrider, Ride London 100.

Is it stupid commuting through London grime on a £4,500 bike?

I know that the components will be a lot more expensive. I am a big guy (just over 16 stone) and do a lot of miles so I get through a lot of chains and cassettes. I think the cost of a chain and cassette is about double what I spend at the moment. I might be more inclined to clean it when they are that expensive though!

I will also be covering the bike in lights, bags and panniers. It will be a working bike not a show bike so I will need a pannier rack on it, lights, horn ect. Will these all damage the frame?

Where is the bulk of the expense on a £4,500 bike? Is it the components or the super light frame? I am not particularly bothered about lightness as I will be hanging a lot of stuff off the bike (and because I am not light). I did consider getting a custom bike built but I have no idea where to start with that or if it would be any cheaper.

Thoughts and opinions please...

  • 1
    For me, that looks like you want to have two bikes. A solid commuter/touring bike and a leisure/sportive bike (which you already have). For the commuter I would look into a nice internal hub (ex. Rohloff) instead of electronic shifters. Lots of people seem to be happy with them maintenance-wise.
    – linac
    Commented Feb 21, 2014 at 10:00
  • Personally I think that multiple bikes is the way to go. For commuting you would probably be best off with a touring/cyclocross bike with smooth tires, as well as an internally geared hub. Although a good set of derailleur gears shouldn't go out of tune that much. Touring/Cross bikes are will be much easier to find with disc brakes already on them, and still have drop bars like a road bike.
    – Kibbee
    Commented Feb 21, 2014 at 14:15
  • Thanks for the replies. Why do you guys suggest an internally geared hub? I don't want 2 bikes as then my "good" expensive bike would get used 4 times a year and the other 400 hours I'm cycling in a year I'd be on a less good bike. If I invest in good components I want to use them on my commuting bike. My commute is 18 miles and I do it in just over an hour with some mild hills. I like to think that I am pretty quick and don't want a sub-standard bike for those rides.
    – Roaders
    Commented Feb 21, 2014 at 14:32
  • @Roaders What makes you think a Rohloff is any kind of sub-standard? It has (more or less) the same gear range as a deraileur system and does need far less maintenance. With the Rohloff, you could even go for belt drive, which needs far less maintenance than a chain and lasts longer.
    – arne
    Commented Feb 21, 2014 at 14:40
  • Well I don't really know. Why not have this on my sportive bike as well then? Why don't all road bikes come with them? There must be some disadvantages. (these are genuine questions, not me trying to pick an argument!) Thanks
    – Roaders
    Commented Feb 21, 2014 at 14:47

3 Answers 3


I can understand wanting disc brakes for commuting but the only justification I can see is that they work better in the wet. I can't see any justification for a high end bike, especially as you're going to put panniers and mud guards on; that's going to negate any performance increase the more expensive bike has.

All-weather commuting destroys bikes. Sounds like you've already figured this out. An expensive bike will still suffer, but will cost a great deal more in maintenance. With the amount of commuting you do you need a work horse, not a performance bike. It sounds like you've wrecked the groupset on your current bike. If you do that on Di2 it will cost you a grand to replace it. Are you willing to spend £1000 a year to keep a commuting bike on the road?

I have also really wanted electronic gears. I hate hears that aren't set up properly and grind and scrape. In my mind all these issues would go away if I had electronic gears.

I think the cost of a chain and cassette is about double what I spend at the moment. I might be more inclined to clean it when they are that expensive though!

It also sounds like you need to learn a bit about maintenance and put the effort in. The grind and scrape is probably because your chain is filthy. With that mileage you need to clean and oil the chain every week (I do mine on Friday evening so I can enjoy it at its best on the weekend rides). A chain/cassette should last you 10,000 miles if it is looked after. Buy a Park Tools chain cleaner from wiggle, its less than £20 and means you can clean your chain in 5 mins. Every couple of months you should also give your front and rear mechs a thorough clean and lube, this includes taking the jockey wheels off. Learn to set them up so that you can shift cleanly.

Lastly it sounds like in your mind you've already made the decision to buy a high end bike and are just trying to justify it to yourself. Fair enough, I'd love a bike like that, but you really don't need it.

Background: I commute about 100 miles/week on an alu framed Bianchi with Veloce groupset. A new chain and cassette costs about £50 and will last me two years.

  • Can I ask home many miles you do? How heavy are you? (that has relevance to life of chain right?) I am amazed by your chain and cassette last 2 years... I admit that I am rubbish at cleaning my chain (although I am getting better) but I can get through a chain in 2 or 3 months, if I don't replace it soon enough it wears out the cassette soon after.
    – Roaders
    Commented Feb 22, 2014 at 8:35
  • 1
    2 or 3 months really? I go through a chain in about 5000-8000km. Do you ride to work along the beach or something?
    – stib
    Commented Feb 24, 2014 at 5:33
  • 1
    @Roaders - I commute about 100 miles/week and occasionally ride with a club on Sundays. If you're getting through a chain in 2 or 3 months then something is wrong. Either its the wrong size or not fitted correctly or never cleaned. As stib says, 5000-8000 km is easily achievable.
    – Qwerky
    Commented Feb 26, 2014 at 12:26

A commuter should be cheap, and work well. They take a lot of abuse due to weather, risk getting stolen, often go through traffic with risk of hits, etc. Disc brakes are fine, but electronic shifting is a dumb thing to have on a commuter. Its way too expensive to have right now, and a properly setup mechanical system will need tuning up maybe once a year (which an electric system will probably need as well). Lightness and aerodynamics don't really matter for a commuter, and if you're 16 stone (around 225 pounds), buying a light bike and commuting on it is just asking for trouble due to light and fragile wheels among other things.

You should get something with rack mounts, moderately aggressive riding position, like one of the commuter-cyclocross-y bikes, preferably a bit discrete as well (Trek Crossrip and Specialized Tricross or AWOL are an example of what I'm thinking of, or the old Kona Dew Drop). A bit more flashy is the Kona Jake the Snake and some others. There are some on the UK type market which we recently got in the US which look nice, like the Charge Plug line as well. If you look at US market pricing, I don't think anything above around the 1200 dollar mark should be used as a commuter (in fact, I lean towards running something old under the 200 dollar used mark). Get it set up properly and ride away. For an 18 mile trip each way, a more relaxed drop bar commuter like the Crossrip would probably be a good idea (if you want drop bars). Some touring bikes are also decent (Trek 520 which has V brakes, etc).

It also sounds like your bike is setup rather incompetently - your levers shouldn't be bottoming out under normal braking, and your gears should be smooth unless you have a misadjustment or something like a bent derailleur or something (like you had a crash). If this is consistently happening, take it to a bike shop. If they havent fixed it , take it to another bike shop.

  • Thanks for your answer. I am considering a CX bike which I will probably put skinny tyres on.
    – Roaders
    Commented Feb 22, 2014 at 8:23
  • 1
    Smooth tires are god for most commuters. Skinny isn't necessarily a good thing. Fat tires provide more cushioning which is nice on non-perfect roads. CX bikes run fatter tires than most road bikes, so I'd stick with a tire of about the same size they come with, but probably a smoother tire.
    – Batman
    Commented Feb 22, 2014 at 13:17
  • Also, a remark regarding rim brakes: People used rim brakes for many years in the wet with no problems. You just have to periodically clean the brake track and use good quality pads (e.g. Kool Stop Salmons). You may find that your brakes do work a lot better in the wet when they are set up properly. Disc brakes can have their own finicky setup problems in some cases (and increase the weight of the bike), so its not a free lunch.
    – Batman
    Commented Feb 22, 2014 at 13:20
  • 2
    @Batman I would recommend OP to get as fat tyres as he can. 40c might be wide in the road bike world, but its hardly more than adequate if you encounter sand or loose gravel. Most cyclocross bikes doesn't take more than ~40c, so it might be wise to consider more rugged bikes as well. An old mountain bike which can take full fenders, a rack and 2" tyres makes for a great commuter. Commented Feb 23, 2014 at 13:40
  • They are indeed good, but it seems like the OP wants something with drop bars.
    – Batman
    Commented Feb 23, 2014 at 14:47

If I had a budget for £4,500 for a bike that will be primarily for commuting, I would do the following:

  • Either find a disc compatible road frame in titanium (or steel) with eyelets for mudguards and a rack and ample clearance for 28C tires, OR have one made to my specifications. Carbon is lovely and light, but when/if you have a crash or it gets struck by a vehicle you're going to need to be sure it doesn't have hairline cracks. Titanium and steel can be fairly easily repaired and will bend quite a bit before it snaps
  • Forget electronic gears and get internal hub gears from Rohloff
  • Assuming the shifter will work well with the hub, SRAM red hydraulic brakes
  • I would probably opt for Hope or Chris King hubs laced to some carbon clincher rims, and some 25 or 28C tired with a good balance between weight and toughness; something like a Continental 4season or Gatorskin if you want a little more protection
  • Finishing kit would strike a balance between comfort and low weight, the narrowest drop bars that are comfortable, full mudguards and a rack

This way, you'll get something that is probably more comfortable, less prone to problems caused by the grime of London, less obvious a target for thieves and much less compromise as you can do exactly what you want. It'll also probably cost you less.

  • Shimano Alfine internal hubs with electric transmission might be what he is talking about! And within your pricerange.
    – 7thGalaxy
    Commented Feb 21, 2014 at 14:17
  • I am talking about Shimano Ultegra Di2 gears. The bike I looked at was the Specialized Roubaix SL4 Expert: evanscycles.com/products/specialized/…
    – Roaders
    Commented Feb 21, 2014 at 14:35

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