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Mixed Use Urban Commuter Bike

I am in need of a new bike primarily for commuting, but am a bit uncertain of which type to buy. I am willing to shell out up to £500ish as it will see daily use.

Issues and Considerations

I live in an urban area with several key features to bear in mind:

  • Lots of bike theft (I hear Carrera's are the favourite)
  • Lots of broken glass/drawing pins/caltrops
  • Lots of hills
  • Lots of cycle paths!

Another hybrid seems prudent for frequent commuting, but considering that I...

  • Am not in peak physical condition (lard arse)
  • Plan on making occasional shopping trips (lots of paniers)
  • Will be constantly riding up and down hills

...any speed advantage a hybrid model provides might be under utilized.

I understand that front fork suspension on cheaper models is not always desirable either, particularly when cycling uphill.

I like this idea of converting an ebike in the future also, so flexibility would be desirable.

Questions

  1. Are the advantages of a hybrid bike (as alternative to Mountain a bike) wasted if I am carrying a lot of weight?
  2. Is fork suspension in this price mark/usage/terrain a bad investment? Or is it a good idea if I am carrying heavy loads?
  3. At this price point, is it all much of a muchness?
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    Hi, welcome to bicycles! Unfortunately "what should I buy?" questions aren't on-topic here because they don't have broad applicability, especially as fast as things change. Your other 2 questions are probably okay, with a bit of work, but you should split them up into 2 separate questions so they can each get answered properly. You might want to take the tour to learn more.
    – DavidW
    Jun 7 at 20:28
  • Will you be riding in the rain or on wet roads? If so fenders are wonderful.
    – David D
    Jun 8 at 14:43
  • Advantages of a hybrid over what? I assume you’re thinking a mountain bike as an alternative? Consider adding this to the question.
    – Weiwen Ng
    Jun 8 at 20:17
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At this price point, even saving a bit for accessories, you can get a respectable hybrid that will serve you well, buying new, or a rather nicer bike second hand. My commuter (a GT Traffic hybrid from about 10 years ago) was a little more than that but is still going strong, and hasn't been stolen despite leaving it at the station every day. You should get a good D-lock and use it properly - lock the frame and back wheel with it - as well as a cable lock for the front wheel.

I would definitely avoid suspension on a hybrid (unless you have a history of your wrists suffering from vibrations). The sort you get on hybrids is better thought of as ballast.

Fit anti-puncture tyres. For commuting I go for Marathon Plus, which are a bit slow but very tough (that said I got a puncture on one of mine this morning, the first in months).

A hybrid offers a little speed and weight advantage over a mountain bike (which by default would have slower, softer tyres) or cruiser, Dutch style, & very upright bikes, but hybrids aren't quick bikes. They often have a good range of gears for hills, perhaps based on mountain bike components.

Some will take front as well as rear pannier racks, though both the racks and panniers will eat into your budget. You can also fit a bar bag. Recently I've been using a big backpack for shopping, and am glad to be able to switch back to panniers, so your plan is good. Compared to anything except a tourer, a well-chosen hybrid can carry more than alternative conventionally-shaped bikes, i.e. it would be a good choice. Do check for front rack mounts though. These hybrids with more carrying capacity are sometimes called trekking bikes. They handle better heavily laden than some other styles.

Personally I'd look second hand, and save a bit of money for lights, luggage etc., but I'd give it some maintenance myself

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  • I've had issues with build quality on Halfords own bikes, though some of the Carrera models seem to be OK. They've also failed to sell the right size more often than not. I used to recommend Evans, but since the Sports Direct takeover they're slowly losing their good staff
    – Chris H
    Jun 8 at 11:07
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It seems like what you're describing is what some people would call a Dutch bike - an everyday runaround which lets you get stuff done without the bike itself getting in the way. They generally have the following features:

  • Upright sitting position for comfort and ease of looking around you in traffic
  • Hub gears and chain guard for minimal maintenance requirements
  • Integrated lights (often dynamo-powered) so you don't have to remember to bring lights with you
  • Integrated lock - not the sturdiest but a mild deterrent. Personally I'd recommend carrying a proper lock since the in-built locks don't allow you to lock your bike to anything
  • Rear pannier rack and/or front basket. Can chuck anything in the basket and go, or buy some shopping panniers which live on the back, or even a crate.

Just to cover the requirements in your question I'd recommend checking the tyres on the bike are sturdy and have high puncture resistance.

So I'd say get the tool designed for the job - the job in this case being commuting and shopping, running errands.

If you're in the UK you might struggle to buy a new bike from a Dutch brand due to ongoing supply chain issues - also they're quite expensive. You could look on the second-hand market for a modern bike, or you may be able to find an older English model for quite cheap from the era before we shifted away from utility bikes here.

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    Dutch bikes ('opafiets") are notoriously heavy, and usually have few gears (IGH), which makes them unsuitable for hilly areas. I'd think about a derailleur-equipped trekking/touring bike to save weight and increase gear count. Hub dynamos are great, though. £500 might not be enough for a new bike in that category.
    – Erlkoenig
    Jun 8 at 9:57
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    I don't think that is what the OP is talking about. The UK has a thriving market in hybrids, which weigh about half a Dutch style bike, and have a wider range of (derailleur) gears, which isn't surprising given our terrain.
    – Chris H
    Jun 8 at 10:54
  • Modern UK-imitation Dutch bikes usually come with more than the 3 gears of yesteryear.
    – thosphor
    Jun 8 at 12:10
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To get everything you want for that price I'd take a look at so-called 'Urban' bikes that come with a built in rack and built in fenders etc. I have one from Giant's 'Momentum' sub-brand that is a brilliant grocery-runner and it looks like Raleigh sells that kind of model in the UK. Good quality add-on racks and fenders add up and devour your budget fast. A bike with an integrated rack can handle gallons of milk and 5kg bags of frozen peas for an overall much lower cost than getting a rack you can trust with serious weight. Especially if you want to have enough money left to upgrade to a serious puncture-resistant tire.

Other upsides: 36 spoke wheels, good for heavy riders with heavy groceries who don't really like to spend Saturday afternoon truing their rear wheel once a month.

They are generally made from the 'lowest grade' of Shimano components but they are real 'bike-store' parts that you can maintain and replace, not no-name department store parts.

Even little stuff like the stinking bell will nickle and dime you if you try to buy a new bare hybrid bike and accessorize it into a grocery runner.

Stuff to avoid: Cheapie mechanical disk brakes. These are for people who think constantly fiddling with and adjusting their brakes is more fun than riding their bike. Plus the manufacturer probably cut corners somewhere else to fit them into the cost of goods sold at this price point. V-brakes work great.

The previously mentioned low-end suspension forks.

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