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I'm just retiring my old roadie and looking to buy a new bike, and am torn on what kind to buy.

I cycle 34 miles per day on my commute, down roads and canal towpaths (which are bumpy and have on several occasions wrecked the wheels on my roadie). I also like going out on long leisure rides. For that reason, my initial thought was that I should get a touring bike, which would be able to handle the potholes I encounter daily.

The other problem I have though is that I have no proper outdoor space to clean the bike, and this has caused many issues with my roadie (which doesn't have mudguards), which got super gummed up. I have taken it up on the roof through a window to clean in the past, but its a bit of a pain. I really like the idea of an internally geared hub, but I can't find any touring bikes within my budget (£1000) with one. I did find the boardman URB 8.9, which looks really nice, but I'm not sure if flat bars are going to be a problem on longer rides.

I really don't know what to do, please help me!

  • I got a good deal on a Genesis Tour de Fer (derailleur gears) last year, bringing it into your budget, but you'll struggle to find anything with a (decent) IGH at that price. You're probably looking at a custom build. – Chris H Nov 16 '18 at 15:07
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    A rohloff would be about your entire budget, by itself :-( So you would have to settle for a shimano alfine 11 instead. – Criggie Nov 16 '18 at 19:27
  • Maybe you can buy a 5–10 year old Rohloff 2nd hand? I have no clue how they do on the 2nd hand market. – gerrit Nov 19 '18 at 11:19
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I had experience with riding of different bicycle types for commute, my distance was around 20km per day:

  • MTB: tires are bad fit for the job, so you put on slicks, running out of gears on asphalt flats/descends, sitting too high, too wide bars, extra weight from the fork. Makes sense only if you ride offroad for a major time of your commute, like one of my colleagues does.
  • Cyclocross: not bad, more aggressive geometry than road bike works fine for 10km ride but may be a pain for a longer one. Tires work both on asphalt and outside of it. But CX bikes are usually not coming with mudguard mounts, and tire clearance is usually limited to 35-37mm (due to 33mm official CX limit by UCI).
  • Road Bike: works great during the summer for longer commutes or when the weather is dry. Gets you to work ASAP. Many positions available on the handlebars. Slicks are getting not much grip when it's +3 and wet. Not much practicality bonuses, so the extra cargo most likely is going to be carried on you. There are some <1000GBP options available with mudguards (like 2019 Specialized Allez), but with bike's price increase mudguards are getting quite rare. Rim brake versions are quite easy to maintain in my experience. Not the best choice when you get into cycling traffic jams. Can use more robust rims with more spokes plus universal set of tires like Conti 4 season to get it almost bulletproof (remember Martyn Ashton's Road Bike Party showing you what road bike can handle). I use this option during summer when I also want to involve training ride before/after work or get to work very fast beating some Strava segments.
  • Gravel Bike: take pretty much all of the advantages of a road bike and deduct disadvantagess like lack of mudguard or rack mounts. With clearance up to ±47mm you can have comfortable solid tires fit in without sacrificing much speed. Unfortunately hydralic disc brakes for drop bar bikes are still a luxury, unlike flat bar bikes where it's more or less standard over ~400GBP. Can be used as a tourer too, plenty of bags are now sold designed for gravel bikes backpacking which could also be useful for commute. Expected to be lighter and faster than proper tourer. My friend rides around 40km a day on a steel Vitus 650b gravel bike and loves it.
  • Hybrid: my new love. Bought one to replace carbon gravel bike which I believe is too much for winter conditions and only 13km/day commute (after moving to new place my commute distance got shorter). Comparing to gravel bike you get much higher riding position, which with other factors like increased weight makes me around 20-30% slower. Also the fact of not riding a fast bike helps to take things easier, I started to ride to work in jeans with flat pedals again. Having a hybrid bike I don't need to be one of weight-weenies, so I have mudguards, solid rack and a waterproof bag which make my life so much more comfortable. Flat bar works for a short distance but when I finally leave the city I really want to sit lower to make it easier to maintain higher speed. Not talking about comfort, your hands will be in the same only position for few hours daily. Hybrid bikes are usually quite cheap so I can finally park my bike outside and use for things like buying grocery. I think most of the stuff said about Hybrids applies to Tourers too.

Reliability of components

  • If you're able to find within your budget a bike with hub shifting - may be worth considering it. But without sacrificing the shifting abilities, because unlike other commenter here I believe that number of gears is important if you live in a hilly area. Otherwise I wouldn't bother. Sora and Tiagra levels are currently decent enough to use them hard and expect reliability to be high and maintenance to be quite easy. Spare parts are available everywhere (including second hand in mint condition due to many people upgrading from 9/10 to 11 often shortly after buying a bike) and are quite cheap. Here in Stockholm I see plenty of people riding cheap hybrids with basic Shimano groupsets and seems that they've never washed or serviced them, but they are still running.
  • Mudguards are actually making significant difference to how your bike is feeling and what's it's resource.

Conclusions

  • For your distance of commute I would definitely look for a drop-bar gravel bike with wider tires and something around Tiagra groupset. I believe that hybrid would be too slow for your use and works best for up to ~30km per day. I have much shorter distance and went for a hybrid which works very well too.
  • Very detailed summary! I agree that in shorter commutes a hybrid and regular clothing makes a lot of sense, but longer commutes really need to focus on efficiency and speed for “comfort.” – Rider_X Nov 18 '18 at 15:50
  • Thanks so much for a really detailed response - I agree that a gravel bike sounds like a really solid shout for my commute. – Lex Sandeford Nov 19 '18 at 12:16
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A 'gravel' or 'adventure' bike - basically a drop bar bike with clearance for 28 to 40mm tires, a relatively relaxed cockpit geometry, and a slacker steering geometry - would fit your needs.

Your choice of tire width depends on what compromise between potholed gravel and road surfaces you want to make. I've ridden gravel on 28mm tires but I'd prefer to go up to 33mm.

In the US there does seem to be a reasonable selection of such bikes not to far north of $1000.

An internally geared hub is not going to solve all of your cleaning problems. You'll still have to deal with the chain, and mud everywhere else. I've seen few hacked together stands that fit on a bathtub top that allow cleaning a bike in an apartment.

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    An IGH can dramatically reduce the need for cleaning when used with a full chain case; paired with a belt drive it essentially eliminates the need for drivetrain cleaning (according to a colleague who commutes on such a setup). But that gets even more expensive – Chris H Nov 16 '18 at 17:25
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    @ChrisH that is the theory but I personally found IGH were more trouble than anything else for a reasonable volume of riding. They are inefficient for longer distances compared to a regular drive train. Belts can break if a branch gets caught and setting the correct tension. Chains still need maintenance. Affordable IGH also require maintenance every 2500-5000 km, which happens fast if you are riding 60 km a day (OP). Affordable IGH are design for 5 km commutes. Rohloffs are crazy expensive. – Rider_X Nov 17 '18 at 23:51
  • @Rider_X I agree with you as my bikes have to be something I can fix at the roadside, as well as versatile, cheap, or both. My colleague has a short commute and a dedicated commuter bike. – Chris H Nov 18 '18 at 7:45
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Internal gear hubs are great when you want to do a lot of shifting (= urban traffic). Your tours don't seem to be heavy on shifting. So, if you are used to a chain shift, it's probably better to just stick to it.

Don't get me wrong: I really like IGHs in general, but I don't see that you'll have much advantage from them on your tour. Their advantage is in robust, quick shifting, but they do loose a few percents of efficiency. Your tours seem to have many long, uninterrupted segments where shifting performance is unimportant, but efficiency may be important.

When it comes to cleaning/servicing, IGHs may have a slight advantage: I've never felt the urge to clean mine, and it works great. All the delicate mechanics are safely hidden inside and won't ever see a grain of dirt. I don't know how an uncleaned chain shift would behave, though. An IGH generally just needs a few drops of oil from time to time. And cleaning an IGH chain just seems to be for aesthetic purposes.


As to the mud, well, just make sure that your new bike has mudguards. They don't cost you any efficiency, they just add a few grams of weight, and they are more than worth that additional weight.


But, most important, make sure that your tire size fits your road conditions. A racing tire will slow you down on a gravel path, and a mountain bike tire will slow you down on a smooth road. The more bumpy the road, the wider the tires need to be. It seems to me, that you've been abusing your road tires on your tour, and a touring tire would be a significantly better choice.

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On the bike-cleaning tip, there are a number of self-contained pressure washers for bikes, which you could fill up from a tap and then take to the bike (presumably parked on the street), which you would then hose down.

As to what bike to get, I agree that you'd want a drop-bar bike for the distances you're riding, and a gravel bike would be a reasonable option. Mostly it sounds like you need to be able to run fatter tires than you have been, which is what a gravel bike would offer. Some randonneuring bikes also run fat 650B tires, and are designed to wear fenders…err, mudguards. If you haven't been checking around for used bikes, do so--you can get a lot for your money that way.

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Your best bet may be to try to buy (before Brexit date) a bicycle from The Netherlands. Plenty of very good commuting bicycles available below that price. The bicycles tend to be much sturdier, require extremely low maintenance (every couple of months/years a squirt of oil on the chain), solid (reasonably wide) tires and quite affordable. The disadvantage is speed and weight.

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    It seems unlikely that the hassle of importing a bike from a foreign country would be worth the cost saving versus buying an equivalent bike in the UK. Also, I don't think this kind of bike is at all suitable for the asker, who will be riding it for more than 50km per day. – David Richerby Nov 19 '18 at 20:21
  • The thing is that due to the single market the only issue is transportation/willingness from the shop to ship it long distance. There are bicycles suitable for longer distances, and in general a very wide selection. There are plenty of people in NL that commute for such distances by bicycle with similar criteria. – Paul de Vrieze Nov 19 '18 at 20:39
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    And the inconvenience of dealing with a shop hundreds of kilometers away if something goes wrong. And having to make basically a two-day trip if you want to try before you buy to ensure the bike fits. And it's not hard to just buy a Dutch-style bike in the UK. – David Richerby Nov 19 '18 at 22:32

protected by Community Dec 10 '18 at 9:24

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