The Perfect Commuter Bike : The Targeted Audience (Me)

As many people have stated in the Introduction to this series, if you were to ask 100 people what their perfect commuter bike is or would be, then you would have 100 different bikes. The purpose of this build is to get you, the commuter, to ask yourself different questions about the bike, its uses and what the person needs. To realize that the perfect commuter is the one you make yourself and it will be different as you ride more, change your commute or needs change.


Here is the background of myself, and what I would like out of a commuter bike so that you all can aid me in your suggestions and opinions. If there are questions you would like answered that aren’t in the brief description below please ask and I will add them.

  • Athletic mid 20’s female
  • Enjoys being able to wear non-cycling clothes for my 4 mile – 14 mile commute
  • Mostly on road, with the ability to hit gravel or hard packed dirt
  • Mild weather in the South East, the worst is fog and rain from October through March. Very rare snow dustings
  • Commute is all times of the day and night
  • Normally carrying clothes, computer and spare tools
  • Would like to be able to ride the bike for longer distances, or Sub 24-48 hour camping trips
  • I prefer to get to work faster than a gentle pace, but want the ability to go slower if needed (rain, etc)

Your Turn

Here are some questions to ask yourself about your perfect commuter bike:

  • What do you want out of your bike?
  • What are your longer term goals?
  • What are your plans a year from now, are you moving, changing commuting habits or jobs?
  • What do wear or want to wear?
  • What is your goal speed?

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0 thoughts on “The Perfect Commuter Bike : The Targeted Audience (Me)”

  1. Alan@Ecovelo says:

    I guess we’ll need to have an idea about budget as well.

    (Cool idea, BTW… :-))


  2. Kevin Love says:

    Why make your own bike? Companies like Batavus have complete lines of city bikes for all commuting needs.

    I ride a Pashley Sovereign Roadster. It is my perfect bike. And it came with everything I need as standard equipment.

    I would be willing to wager that the overwhelming majority of “real-world” commuters who are satisfied with their bike didn’t build it. They just bought the bike they needed.

  3. JOhn says:

    I built mine as a cyclocross bike with bullhorns. tricky part was getting paul thumbies + thumbshifters on it.

    Usually running 700×28 but winter i’m running 700×35

    yay for fenders!

    I do use it for touring. It isn’t as fast as my sporty roadbike, but it’s still plenty fast if i need to get on it.

  4. Deb says:

    For most of your criteria, I’d recommend the bike I have – a Surly Long Haul Trucker. It’s made for touring. I read some advice when I was researching all this that recommended touring bikes when you have a commute over 10 or so miles. I can’t remember exactly now, but I’ve been really happy with the touring bike. A more relaxed geometry, but it’s not a cruiser either. Made to haul stuff, adjustable so that if you like drop bars, it works great, or if you want the swept back bars, that works well too. I have a wide range of gearing on it, so I’m not sure if I could put a chain guard on it. I need the gearing for the hills, you might not have hills and thus not need the gearing. Fenders work great on the lht, and there’s a lot of clearance so you can fit a wide tire on it also. I ride mostly on the road, but sometimes through short gravel patches or hard packed dirt.

    I’m sure there are other bikes that would have been the perfect commuter for me also, but I’m extremely happy with my lht. I have a 14 mile (each way) commute, and I have also done a longer ride – longest is 72 miles.

  5. Ghost Rider says:

    I maintain (as I did in the last post) that this is a fantastic idea for an article series. Better to think about what you need BEFORE dropping cash on a bike that you may come to regret…

  6. joe says:

    I think the best commuter bike is a cyclocross bike. Tough enough to go over curbs, rides gravel and dirt paths and still be very fast on the road.

    For me my requirements are a bit different, it is very wet here in the Pittsburgh, and its icy on the roads for 3 months of the year.

    I had in the past weighed my bikes down with a generator hub, racks, locking skewers… But now that I can bring my bike in my office I have found the perfect commuter bike, it is my seven mudhoney ti cross bike with disc brakes. I used to just use it for racing, but since I can lock it in my office why not ride a nice bike to work.

    I have an extra set of wheels with studded tires for the winter.

    I can take my SKS ESGE P45 fenders on and off in about 5 minutes.

    I use Light And Motion Vega 200 lights on the front and a plethora of blinkies on the rear.

    Plus I race on it a few times year in CX races.

    Good luck!


  7. Stephen says:

    I’ve been very happy with my Gary Fisher Wingra (but spring for the Monona if you have the $$). I switched to 700×28’s from the stock 700×32’s and it made a huge difference. Put some fenders on, and panniers carry my work computer/clothes. In hind sight I would have liked something with drop bars (like the Surly LHT), but for the money I spent I’m very happy. I take it to work and I can ride it longer on the weekends. Average 17mph to work.

  8. Paul in Minneapolis says:

    What do you want out of your bike?
    Comfort, to ride fast with wind and slow up hills, carry everything I need for work and bring groceries home. It also needs little or easy maintenance.

    What are your longer term goals?
    To NEVER need a metal box again! To have the best bike that is used everyday to commute and shop.

    What are your plans a year from now, are you moving, changing commuting habits or jobs?
    I plan to never live more than 10 miles from work and 3 miles from stores. From there I will compromise so that I will never live the sedimentary, unhealthy lifestyle again.

    What do wear or want to wear?
    I’m not in to fashion. : / Comfortable clothes that are wicking, but during the winter heavy clothes are needed and it is nice not to have any pants cuffs shredded.

    What is your goal speed?
    <5mph on steep hills to 30mph on flat with tail wind

  9. Kirby says:

    My everyday commuter and touring bike is a Rans Stratus. I’ve changed chainrings to 48,36,24 for a lower end and switched to Schwalbe Stelvio 1.1 tyres. I can average 20mph with a 10 kilo kit and can ride for four hours between stops.

  10. Rob E. says:

    Nice idea. I wish I had something like this two years ago when I bought my first, new bike. I did a couple of test rides, picked a bike, and within a month or two I had started compiling a list of features that I would need for my next bike. But it did lead me to my Long Haul Trucker, so that can hardly be a bad thing. It was just a more round about way to go.

  11. Kevin –

    Personally I don’t think a true city bike would work for me. I don’t live in a city, I have long hills and need a more effecient bike, fitting wise.

  12. Alan –

    Let me say the bike should reflect my bike shop budget. <$2k for the complete bike I think I think.

  13. Kirby says:

    I picked up my Rans Stratus used for $700. It was in great shape. I recently picked up a Rans Tailwind from craigslist for $200 it needed some work on the seat but everything else was perfect. If your really concerned about sustainability there are a lot of good deals that can be had on used bikes.

  14. guez says:

    I have become enamored of a older (ca 1995), steel, rigid-fork mountain bike with slick tires as commuters. Tough as heck, no suspension (means more power transfer), can carry paniers without issues, can take fenders, and not a disaster if stolen.

  15. Bill says:

    I bought a 2009 Raleigh Detour Deluxe that came with full fenders, rack, more gears than I need on the flat coastal plain of NC, and the cool Shimano generator front hub. The generator hub creates some drag, but not really noticeable. Now that I’ve traded out the spongy Avenir seat for a classic leather Troxel saddle (circa God-knows-when and as broken in as my old B-17), I have a delightful commuter bike for a 14-mile round trip on pavement. On occasion I cut through the back of a schoolyard field and the tires are adequate for sand and grass, but they are really just sturdy road tires. Now I’m shopping for the appropriate panniers now.

    What a delight to have this website active and vital again.

  16. ’88 Trek 520, pulled out of a junk heap for zero dollars. Built new wheels for $150. Mustache handlebar for $25. PB fenders $30. Will run the skinniest road slicks, as well as my Schwalbe studs in the winter. Nice stable touring geometry and comfy comfy lugged steel.

  17. Surly Dave says:

    Whatever you get, fenders and dynamo lights will make it a lot more versatile.

  18. BluesCat says:

    I actually have two commuter bikes: a long wheelbase recumbent and a Giant Yukon hardtail mountain bike which has been converted to a touring/commuting bike.

    For the sunny, dry, hot weather which is the norm in Phoenix, the recumbent is the perfect commuter bike. The recumbent has road tires on it, and that is the reason I have the Giant as a fall back for when the streets have foul weather debris on them or I want to journey off the pavement.

    As soon as I wear out the OEM tires on the recumbent, I’ll be looking for a tire with a little more tooth in it.

    My blog has a description of how I converted the Giant from an off-roader to “The Roadley.”

  19. Ian says:

    I ride a Kona Blast with road slicks on it. My commute is unfortunately through a rough part of town and the fat tires and stability of the MTB have been a major plus. I have had to hop a curb or plow through a major pothole on many occasions and the Kona just eats it up.

    I also commute in a really hilly area so the granny gears get a lot of use.

    The only downsides that I have come across are a lack of high end speed and multiple hand positions.

    Still for my all urban, short haul (4 miles each way) commute the MTB has been great. Just make sure to get a good front and rear lighting, road slicks, and some fenders.

  20. BluesCat says:

    Ian: Trekking handlebars are just the ticket for multiple hand positions on your MTB/Hybrid:

    You can use your current brake lever/shift lever setup, just transfer them over to the Trekking handlebars.

  21. Kirby says:

    Ian: I use Cane Creek Ergo Control II bar ends on my mountain bike and really like them. Very comfortable, gives me a more natural hand position and is very easy to install.

  22. I am astonished at the amounts of cash invested in some of these commuters. I have a train ride in the center of my commute (except for some dry / frozen days when I can do it almost all on trail)… So I am limited to a couple hundred bucks tops and even that hurts when it gets stolen from the train station. I hit the police auctions for old road bikes and strip them down to single speeds for simplicity and to avoid maintenance issues. In the winter I switch to a 29er w/ Hakkas for the snowy trails. My Karate Monkey ($450 on Craigslist) was ideal for this but I donated that to support the local bike thieves last month.

    Continued on:

  23. Soulfull Commuter says:

    I have been using my early 90’s Specialized Rockhopper. It is a rigid mountain bike. I have a 10 mile commute and I use the full gear range, so I can’t see a fixed gear or geared hub bike working for me. I changed the tires to Continental Town and Country, added a rear rack, water proof panniers, fenders and a bell. Also I added a head light and a flashing tail light. I will probably go with a little narrower tires when these are ready to change. This bike works well for me although the same effort that would average 15 to 17 mph on my road bike only gives me 12-14 mph average. Some of that is due to the greenway trails which are kind of twisty and sometimes I have to slow down to share the trail with people on foot. But this bike is heavier than some and that would make it less desirable for a weekend camping trip at least on the road.

  24. Columbus commuter says:

    My commuter is an 80’s Schwinn Voyageur to which I have added fenders, rear rack, some upgraded components. I commute year round, 12 mile round trip, and it meets my needs perfectly. I typically wear bike specific clothing and change in the office. I can get up a pretty good speed on it yet the 1 1/4 tires and steel frame make it a comfortable ride. I like the older steel frame so well that I recently purchased a similar vintage, 80’s Motobecane Grand Touring, inexpensively off Craigslist. I change back and forth depending on my mood. I love the older technology of these bikes which is easy to work on.

    1. Columbus – The 80’s Schwinn sounds great.

  25. jamesmallon says:

    I have a svelte steel road bike, a drop-bar steel touring bike singlespeed and a steel fixed gear winter trainer. I always pull out the latter: simple, fast and fun. Unlike the cool kids I run brakes, lights, fenders, frame bags and bottle cages.

  26. mikeylikeybikey says:

    Mine is a 95 Cannondale 2.8 Hardtail MTB. My retired mountainbike, which I converted to a Singlespeed. After much experimenting with the best chainring/sprocket/chain tensioner configuration, I’m currently running 36×18 gearing. This combination is good on the road as long as I maintain my fitness,(I have a fairly significant hill on the way home). It even allows me to dump the chain tensioner. I used to run 26″ road slicks, but got tired of frequent flats. I’ve been running the Intense Micro Knobbies for the past year and haven’t had a single flat. My suspension fork is pumped up with more air than it needs, so I don’t have too much movement. Fenders by PB got installed last Summer, as I was getting more committed to the whole commute by bike thing. I stuck to a mountain bike because this is the kind of riding I do for fun and I already had this bike. I also use 15 yr old NiteRider lights (the batteries only hold under an hour worth of charge, but it’s no problem as my commute is just under 5 miles round trip) and a cheap blinky-although my mess. bag has lots of reflective bits on it.
    We’ve had way too much wet weather this year, so I have a Fox Technik waterproof shell and I just ordered a pair of ShowersPass breathable rain pants. 5 10 Shoes for excellent flat pedal grip while still being comfy enough to wear all day and extra points for not screaming “bike shoes”. Depending on how I feel, I’ll add some additional climbs to my route just to get me out of my comfort zone. Oh, and lastly, I log all my commuter miles on

  27. night laser says:

    So, I was hoping that some riders out there were into building a commuter bike that they would or are riding around town instead of driving a car. I would like to build a bike that satisfies my longing for a cool ride, and I would like to build for around $500. I might be whistling in the dark about the amount I want to spend, but I can’t afford a thousand dollar ride at this time. Maybe I need to build this bike over a period of time as the money becomes available. Does anyone in this community have experience with those parameters? I want to locate some folks who have had the experience of building a commuter bike on a budget. Thanks for letting hang here tonight. night laser

  28. night laser says:

    I want the old technology as Columbus Commuter has said. I’m looking for a frame or older bike, steel alloy, that will accept 770c wheels and has a little heftier frame than a touring bike. Has anyone had experience along those lines. Little by little I would like to add some nice mid-level components. Night Laser

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