The Perfect Commuter : Bike Type

If you are just stopping in on our Group Build of the perfect commuter bike let’s catch you up. We had an introduction post, a follow up about what type of person will be riding this bike it is now time to move on to what type or style of bike we will be going with.

Remember that we can adapt each type of bike to go one way or another with the style, but what would be the easiest and most affordable to start off with.



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0 thoughts on “The Perfect Commuter : Bike Type”

  1. plauale says:

    Maybe porteur is just a subset of eurotrans but it’s awesometasticness is understated. There are no decent and available front racks that bolt on, so building the bike around the front rack is a good start. Porteurs are lighter than your average dutch clunker and much more nimble due to the steering geometry and weight distribution. Rear racks and pannier options abound for more cargo on those grocery/camping trips.

    of all the trends in the bike market I wish the porteurs had more followers than the fixie craze and 29ers

  2. Rob Sayers says:

    After making the switch from a comfort bike to a touring bike, I could never go back. I will gladly trade the slightly less relaxed position for better geometry and more hand positions. If you’ve only commuted with flat or riser bars, drops are a treat once you get used to them.

  3. Kevin Love says:

    There seems to be a huge amount of re-inventing the wheel going on here. By a process of convergent evolution, widely divergent places with extensive experience of bike commuting have arrived at essentially the same design.

    By “widely divergent” I mean from Tokyo to Bejing to Amsterdam to Copenhagen to Berne. From Europe to Asia and from flat Holland to mountainous Switzerland. In all those places you will see the vast majority of people riding bikes that look basically the same. They have:

    *Fully upright position
    *Load carrying capacity – minimum rear rack
    *Internal hub gearing
    *Full chaincase
    *Lights (usually generator)

    David Hembrow has commented upon this here:

  4. 2whls3spds says:

    I have been messing about with bikes for around 40 years. Based on your requirements a tour bike would be the best all around. But even that moniker covers a lot of territory when it comes to bikes. Much of it will depend on what you want for a riding style. I commuted for years on a Raleigh 3 speed in the Greensboro, NC area. But I had a short commute of ~3 miles one way. Later on I had a 7 mile one way commute and my drop bar tour bike was the more efficient way to go.

    You will want a bike that has as much built into or onto it as possible, lights, locks, racks and fenders. That way you can grab it and go if you happen to be running late, and not worry about leaving things behind.


  5. Ken Hurd says:

    I ended up voting for a cyclocross bike… It was either that or touring.

    The reason I thought cyclocross might be a better fit is that you get many of the benefits of a touring bike (ie. holes for paniers (on lower-mid end frames, a more relaxed geometry), but it also syncs nicely with some of your other needs…

    Want to go camping, and there’s no paved trails? Pop some burlier tires on there… There’s lots of room… And the braking is a lot more powerful than a traditional road bike.

    Want to bike in the winter? You can run 29er tubeless rims, pop some studs on there and you’re halfway to a Pugsley 😉

    The extra clearance also provides lots of room for fenders should you want.

    Of course I’m jaded as I’ve been commuting on a cyclocross frame for years now, but I really enjoy the comfort it offers, the flexibility of tire choice, the fact that it generally comes with a nice range of gearing, they look slick (which is important ;-).

    Should you want to take your riding up a notch, cyclocross is also a ridiculously fun and goofy way to get into racing.

  6. Paul in Minneapolis says:

    Picking one perfect commuter/utility bike is not easy. I have four bikes heavy tour, light tour, hybrid and Euro. I love the low maintenance of the Euro, the in between riding position of hybrid, the speed of light tourer and the 100lb load carrying of the heavy tourer. This summer the hybrid has gotten the most miles…
    If my commute was under 3 miles, it would be the Euro…

  7. BluesCat says:

    It should come as no surprise that my vote for the Perfect Commuter Bike Type goes to a recumbent; specifically, to a LWB recumbent.

    Fenders, panniers, trailer, bad weather fairing, speed, lights, you can have it all, plus the comfort of a seating position which puts every other bike geometry to shame. How can you get more comfortable than a 30 mph chaise lounge?

    The only time a different geometry would make any sense at all is if your commute takes you along some severe off-road trails. And you are the exception, then, and not at all what we are talking about here.

  8. Matt says:

    I voted for touring – it’s not what I’d pick (I’m building up a 29er right now), but it seems to fit your needs the best with the ability to wear normal clothes, ride a variety of distances, and carry a bunch of stuff if necessary.

  9. DDK says:

    I’m writing in for folding — being able to hitchhike home when it’s raining/snowing and you’re not feeling heroic is nice.

    1. DDK –

      I like folding bikes and if I lived somewhere like DC or Atlanta that public transportation was easier to use, a folder would be my selection too.

  10. Ian says:

    I voted for a MTB/Hybrid because price has got to come in to the equation if for no other reason than bike thieves. A sleek looking road bike or tourer is probably going to be very attractive to the dirtbags who steal bikes.

    Getting a $1200-$1500 dollar bike stolen is almost enough to put anyone off bike commuting for good. If you can keep the setup round $500-$750 then not only will it make any potential loss less painful, but might make your bike less attractive in the first place.

    With that in mind the Kona Smoke is worth a look. It is under $500 with fenders and 29 inch wheels. I almost got one when I was buying my last bike and a part of me still regrets not getting it. I think at the time I wanted disc brakes and there was another bike on clearance. Really nice ride and serious smooth rolling because of the 29s.

  11. tdp says:

    I voted for cyclocross (though I don’t have one yet) based on my conditions and for that reason this is a very objective question. It depends on so many factors such as where someone lives (city, country), what type of roads they ride on (gravel, paved, asphalt, chipseal), the terrain (hilly, flat), their commuting distance and the rider’s physical shape (to name a few).

    I live on a hilly island. The roads out here are all chipsealed and the first 400 meters of my commute is on rough gravel road so I used to commute on my tour bike which was great on the gravel but the moment I got onto the paved road, I wanted to go fast and light. I ended up getting a Surly Pacer. The steel is pretty good for the road absorption qualities yet light enough for a faster paced ride to work. It’s also good for the return when I have to grind up a 20% grade for about a half mile. I think a cyclocross would do the job even better than the pacer but I don’t think I could do all that comfortably on some of the other bikes. That said, I know that they are just as good in other settings.

  12. jamesmallon says:

    God, recumbent riders are like herpes: unwanted and impossible to get rid of.

    I have a svelte steel road bike, a drop-bar touring bike singlespeed and a 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.

  13. olivervelo says:

    I voted for a porteur…because I don’t have one and feel that would be the best fit..
    I currently use a folding bike (bike + train + a lot of flexibility ie the bike stays in the office if it rains too much..)

    My other urban bike is a MTB with rear racks and fenders…
    The ideal to me would be : front rack , internal hub (9 speed is more than enough), dynamo hub, fenders are a must, etc..

  14. BluesCat says:

    jamesmallon: So, your objection to recumbents doesn’t have anything to do with the suitability of the bike for the task which Bike Shop Girl has set here (because you haven’t refuted anything I’ve said about them), and everything to do with the fact you simply don’t like the people who ride them.

    Why is that, I wonder? The median age of recumbent riders seems to be my age: late fifties. Do you have a problem with folks who are older, wiser and more mature than you are?

    A lot of the male bent riders seem to be war veterans, too; mostly of Vietnam, but some of Korea and even a smattering of WWII vets. Because of their age, and/or some of the injuries they sustained during their service, riding a conventional upright bicycle is simply not an option. You have a problem with people who have served their country honorably and bear the scars to prove it?

    I really am intrigued by your answer.

  15. Walt says:


    Impossible to get rid of or just impossible for you to drop?

  16. Sailfast says:

    Can someone please tell me what an “European Transportation” is? I live in Europe but I have never heard of anything like it.

    My perfect commuter bike would be a cyclocross with full fenders and rear panniers+rack. I just can’t decide on gears and brakes – standard cx setup or perhaps Shimano Nexus and roller brakes…

  17. jamesmallon says:

    ‘Walt’ and ‘Sailfast’, don’t make it so easy to prove my point about herpes.

    As for the vet/injury/disabled thing. Hadn’t crossed my mind, sorry. Here in Canada we haven’t been very involved in your imperial adventures, though reaping the benefits to our GDP, until we got conned into Afghanistan, so we don’t see too many war injuries on our streets. I’d wager most of your weapon-injuries are sustained domestically: thank god for the NRA.

    That spew aside, I do regularly see a dude on a low-trike with something that appears like spina-bifida. Despite his slow pace, he has all of my respect as I know he’s working a hell of a lot harder than me. He has an excuse for the abomination he rides.

    I ride in the city. I can’t see hopping curbs, locking my bike to the racks we have, getting it inside my house or office, posting over the crappy pavement here, or weaving among and staying out from under Toronto’s witless cab and suburban drivers on one of your abominations.

    I’d have played nice with you, but you raised the stakes. I’ll give you this: at least you’re not an electric-bike.

  18. BluesCat says:

    jamesmallon: “Hadn’t crossed my mind…” Yeah, I guess a lot of things haven’t ventured across that wasteland.

    Example: the common soldiers who have actually fought in Afghanistan, for BOTH our countries, haven’t been a part of promoting this “imperial adventure” you mention; rightly or wrongly, they have simply been trying to do what they believe is right. Unlike you, who’s goal is simply to denigrate something without any real substance to your argument. That being said, your rant reveals your real personal problem doesn’t have anything to do with bicycles, and their suitability for a task, but has EVERYTHING to do with the fact you just can’t stand anybody disagreeing with you and demonstrating to you, and everyone else, that your arguments are groundless.

    I ride in the city, too, for most of my riding. Everybody seems to notice my recumbent, unlike other bicycles which seem to be invisible to motorists. Two other reasons I feel much safer on a recumbent than on an upright bike are that in a crash on a recumbent, (1) it’s a lot less farther to the ground, and (2) the riding position on a recumbent means you’re much more likely to land on your butt than on your head (Hmmm, maybe I have a whole new take on things which have, and haven’t, “crossed your mind.”)

    An “abomination”? Sounds like you have yet ANOTHER personal problem fella: you can’t distinguish between a mere alternative bicycle configuration and a religious movement. Maybe you’ve crashed on your head too many times, James? Too much pavement has “crossed your mind”?

  19. Matt says:

    BluesCat –

    And here I thought ‘bent riders were chill people!

    Take it easy, he was just poking fun… and he left you plenty of material to poke fun back if you put your mind to it.

    Walt had the right approach.

  20. BluesCat says:

    Matt: Oh, yeah, I’m having fun, too; maybe my gut busting laughing out caused my comebacks to come across a little too strident? Okay, so noted, I’ll TRY to back off to simply snickering uncontrollably.

    Oh, and jamesmallon? You got an answer for Sailfast?

  21. RexMarx says:

    Impossible question. Set a few parameters like the following:
    – Distance of commute.
    – Location (is this Portland or Dallas)?
    – Age of rider or fitness level. My Mom and I would have different choices for the same trip.

    With all that said, this is an interesting experiment.

    1. Hey RexMarx,

      check out the article we talk about who the bike is for..or any others in the series

      thanks for your response

  22. Mike says:

    I voted Porteur because it sounds like you’ll be spending most of your riding time on short trips (4-mile each way commute). This design affords you the ability to go with an upright seating position, which is inherently more comfortable than a drop-bar defined seating position. Additionally, the porteur design allows heavy loading on a front rack which makes for convenient access to whatever whether you’re commuting or touring. Finally, you can build up a porteur with a range of bar types, some of which allow for both aero and upright riding positions (e.g., moustache bars). One more thing – looking at the Kogswell P/R frame, it can do double duty as a porteur and light touring bike, depending on the build.

  23. Alex says:

    Man, I gotta sharpen up on my wordsmithing if I ever hope to ride a recumbent. Does BluesCat teach an online course in comebackery at any local community colleges?

  24. Surly Steve SingleLeggedTrucker says:

    Why is it that we as cyclists can’t even get along umoungst ourselves.It’s not bad enough that coffin drivers are out to get us but then someone want to tell somebody else what and how to ride.I have one leg and the other one won’t do what I tell it too.And I ride a bike.The type isn’t the important thing the fact that I ride is. The fact that we all ride is the reason we should work together not against each other. BluesCat thankyou for defending a Cyclist.Jamesmallon has a problem with letting others be themselves.I thank god we all ride.No I don’t support a war for Oil but I do support each and every cyclist that is doing his/her part.Take care of each other and worry about yourselves not what others do or don’t do.The world does not need do gooders that think there shit dosn’t stink.Buy the way My favorite bike is a Big Dummy for commuting.I can carry a wheelchair,two panniers full of what ever and a pint for when I get home.

  25. BluesCat says:

    Surly Steve: You are quite welcome. I think what jamesmallon, and some others, are forgetting (and maybe that’s why my comeback was a tad strident) is that some day we’ll ALL be in the same boat: beset with the age related reduced capacity to just get on and ride.

    The fact that you ride a Surly one-legged inspires me and gives me hope that I can ride much longer as I age. (It also will shame me a bit when I’m tempted to wimp out from commuting on my bike when I see a few rain clouds gathering.)

    I think cargo bikes in general, and the Big Dummy especially, are important pieces of the world wide transportation puzzle as we look for ways to protect our environment and pursue a healthy life style. Cargo bikes are probably the single exception to my belief that recumbents are the perfect commuting bike: a cargo bike is MORE perfect if you need to tote a lot of stuff.

    Oh, and thanks, Alex, I missed your complement over the busy holidays. I guess that English degree I got thirty years ago paid off at last, eh?

  26. David says:

    I dont know a lot about commute bikes, but one thing seems obvious to me: commuting involves many styles.
    There are opporunities for short sprints, long straight hauls, hills, road hazards, etc. Even a total in-city commute could have some or all of these.
    It seeme what is needed is a bike with the best of touring and over-the-road features combined. Comfort bikes are nice for noodling around the beach, but for anything over a 5 mile commute, one needs some oomph to their ride.

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