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I've decided I'd like to start commuting to work, but I'm not sure what factors I need to take into account when choosing a bike. I figured a hybrid bike suits my needs best, since I will be riding on the pavement mostly. So far, I'm taking the following into account:

  • Brakes - My understanding is that hydraulic brakes are the best, especially for where I live (Vancouver, which is a very rainy city)

  • Fork - I've been told carbon forks are expensive, but worth it for the shock absorption.

  • Cost - I've limited my budget at $850 CAD (about $650 USD)

What other things should I be looking into? The materials of the bikes I'm looking at are usually a brand name of aluminum alloy. Are there any notorious wheel manufacturers that I should stay away fromDoes the handlebar and derailleurs really matter?

Thanks.

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    There's a lot of questions in there. Can you add more background? Briefly, what's your history in riding? How long since you last rode regularly? What style of bike did you used to ride? Do take a moment to read all the "related" links on the right-hand side of this page, some of them look quite relevant. – Criggie Dec 27 '19 at 1:49
  • Another option, might be better to discuss this in Bicycles Chat – Criggie Dec 27 '19 at 1:49
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A couple of things I would advice on.

Firstly, from my understanding hybrid bikes tend to be very upright and commonly with front suspension. Have you looked at any touring bikes?

Hydrauclic brakes: Yes, they are usually better than mechanical ones. Although there are some very good mechanical ones too, look at TRP's Spyre or Hy-Rd for example. Hyraulic brakes come with their own problems too, which you should also consider. They are usually more expensive to maintain (liquid and tools cost more than cables). They are also not great with sub-zero climates.

Carbon forks usually have better shock absorb than aluminium, but steel forks are cheaper, have arguably the same shock absorb and can easily load them with pannier if needed.

You should be able to get a good entry ridgid steel bike for that price, if I were you, I'd buy the cheapest second hand steel rigid bike and use it for a while. You should then learn enough to be able to buy a suitable bike for yourself in the future, using your experience with the cheap bike as a guide.

You should read this article Best commuting bikes as it gives a detailed description of the different choices for commuting bikes. By looking at the bikes they recommend, you should look at what you might like from them, flat bars vs drop etc.

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  • Between flat bar and drop handbars, it just depends on personal preference and how hilly where you live is. Drop bars have better grab for pulling on the bars for uphills, but if you've never used them, they might take some getting used to. Also it's harder and more expensive to have hyraulics with drop bars – abdnChap Dec 27 '19 at 13:06
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    Drop bars also provide more hand positions than flat bars do. On longer rides, flat bars can fall into the "one hand position, all of them uncomfortable or even painful" category. – Andrew Henle Dec 27 '19 at 16:59
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I commute int Tegucigalpa, Honduras, a city with no cycling infrastructure, a lot of hills and a temperature oscillating between 20 and 34 degrees Celsius throughout the year. I Usually ride streets that are wide enough for most cars to leave a space from the sidewalk. I never go between cars. I Also lived for a couple of years in Lima, Perú. Most of the city is flat, and a bit colder. For that I have mostly used a hybrid bike: MTB without suspension, slick tires.

Brakes: V-brakes on aluminum rims or disk brakes. Yes, discs are better but not by much for commuting. I used to clean the rims and pads regularly and had no trouble even in humid conditions. If there was enough water on to cause braking problems, that would mean the street was wet enough for traction to be a bigger issue (as streets are not 100% asphalt, you have to deal with painted surfaces, manhole covers, trash, etc. all of which are treacherous when wet.)

Tires: Slicks are my preferred ones. I use tires marketed for work or commute bikes. They are thicker and harder than racing tires, and they work a lot better on lower pressures, are available in wider sizes and have better puncture resistance for commuting on streets full of debris. For example, I use 700c x 38mm at 60 PSI approx. The lower pressure makes for a more comfortable ride.

Handlebar: I use flat bars mostly because I'm primarily an MTB rider. In Lima I worked as a delivery biker, so I had to maneuver in between car lanes, so I needed a narrow handlebar. Later on, I added some extensions to the handlebar to make it resemble a bullhorn handlebar to have more than one hand position. (I spent 4 hours a day on that bike). For commuting an hour or less, a flatbar is good enough. Rubber grips get slippery with sweaty hands, I solved it with Handlebar tape over the grips of my flatbars for commuting. It's good for cushioning and sweat absorption, so I needed no gloves.

Suspension: None. Suspension adds weight and may not be needed for the route. I do not use suspension, because as I mentioned earlier, I use tires at not so high pressure. If I find a pothole that I can't avoid, I roll over it at lower speed and lifting my weight off the saddle and keeping my elbows at a slight angle, never locked straight.

Frame: My bikes have been rigid MTB aluminum frames, mostly because they are more available and less expensive at least in the mentioned cities. Also they are equipped with mounting points for racks and fenders. In a dedicated commuter or delivery bike, the rack is very useful to carry heavier items, or large items that do not fit a backpack. For example I used to do my grocery shoping on the bike. For longish commutes the rack allows you to carry your items on the bike, rather than on your body, wich helps with cooling and prevents sweat marks and wrinkles caused by the backpack straps or similar. It also helps if the bike has spots to a lock carrier. A good lock is heavy, and it is better to have that weight on the bike and not on you.

Gearing: Singlespeed is OK for a flat route. To climb hills i is better to have gears. If your intent is to get to work and not be tired, you need to be able to select an easy gear for every part of the route. This is a complete topic thoug, I do not want to make this too long.

Accessories: If you will need to lock the bike in a public or shared space, all your accessories should be removable, so you can remove them and take them with you. Otherwise, they are likely to get stolen or vandalized. Lights, phone holders, mirrors, etc. I use little blinking light attached to my helmet so I don't lose time when locking or unlocking the bike.

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My only important recommendation here is that if you get a carbon fork, ensure you get a full carbon fork. The bonded carbon forks with alloy steerers have been known to separate over time. People have died from this (Trek bike).

Hydraulic brakes are the best, and not something you can replace easily later. But I've got friends with mechanical discs that are more than happy with them. They'll stop just as well, but will just need a bit harder squeeze, and the modulation won't be quite as good. Probably not things you'd care about really.

With wheels, it's really simple. They more you pay, the lighter they get. And they sky really is the limit. You'll find very little difference at your budget and they are all really strong. Make sure the bike you get has 10mm rear & 12mm front axles and you could always replace them later if you like. Light wheels make the bike much more fun to ride, it's the one thing people that are serious change as soon as they buy a bike.

I'd recommend a bike with a good frame and groupset as these are the two areas that will make a bike long lasting and great to ride. Avoid bikes with cheap frames and groupsets that have a few carbon parts to get you to buy.

If you can find a bike with sram Apex that's on special, it's a good beginning.

Carbon parts are nice and light, and do absorb a lot of vibration. They are however really expensive from brand names. Companies that make counterfeit parts should be avoided. There is a middle ground though, non brand names. I have purchased quite a few RXL parts. I've found them almost as stiff, but having very good shock absorption. If you are willing to do just a little wrench work, for $150 you'll get a full carbon fork, bars, stem & seatpost. If you put these on your bike you'll have a really lovely ride that would have cost you over $2k in the shops. (And you'll probably drop half a kilogram in weight!) The good thing is that you can do this over time, and bit by bit.

https://rxlsl.aliexpress.com/store/2851081?spm=a2g0o.productlist.0.0.46b925b8qv8d01

And for the actual bike, I'd be going to somewhere like planet x. gravel bikes are all the rage atm as you can fit more bigger tyres if you want to go off-road or the roads you ride are poor quality. I'd have to recommend this option over a flat bar as you get the ability to move your hands around which will keep you more comfortable while you ride.

Gravel bikes will be more upright than a road bike, and give you the ride it seems you are looking for. They will have a well thought out geometry, but be a little longer and the fork will be slacker giving you a really stable ride. Cx bikes on the other hand are much shorter, turn faster, and are more responsive. What you lose is that easy stable feeling. Against this, a flat bar road is a sort of Bastard. It's a road bike with a few mountain bike parts put on them. There's no real design towards anything in particular other than being a bit lighter than a mountain bike to ride on the road.

The below isn't on special, but you could find something similar ar the right time of year on special in your price range.

https://www.planetx.co.uk/i/q/CBPXFMAPEX1MECH/planet-x-full-monty-sram-apex1-gravel-bike

Good luck!

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