As cycling becomes a more integrated part of our life the genre of bike that best suits this new rider explosion has changed as well. Gone are the days that you would tough out a commute on a mountain bike that you have modified to ride on the street. Today there are much better choices that turn that commute into an enjoyable riding experience.
These bikes can be used through the week as your transportation back and forth to work or to get groceries and run errands. On the weekend they work just as well for that leisurely ride along your local rail trail or bike path or even a tour of wine country.
I am going to discuss two different types of bikes and give you an idea as to why I think they are the ultimate commuter bikes:
Cyclocross bikes are becoming a popular choice for general commuting by many riders because of their vast versatility. With a slightly more relaxed riding position than a road bike, slightly tougher frame and components, it's clear why this bike category is growing in popularity.
CX bikes closely resemble road bikes in appearance but there are many subtle differences. The wider tires require much more clearance between the forks arms than on a typical road bike. A CX bike tends to have a longer wheelbase for more stability in rough terrain and to help prevent the riders toes hitting the front wheel during tight turns. Higher bottom brackets are also common to help ground clearance in rough dirty terrain. These specs are great for commuting also, especially when riding on and off curbs, and on and off the road.
Cyclocross bikes have wider, grippier tires great for commuting, the tires can be double the width of a skinny road tire for a more comfortable commute and can have shoulder knobs for extra grip when off road riding or for those winter commutes, yet the bike can still take traditional road tires.
Its seems the dirtier the better for CX races so this means disk brake systems and cantilever systems are used. Disc brakes give much better stopping and control in wet conditions and cantilever brakes do not collect as much mud and debris and are much lighter than disk systems. Perfect for daily commuting in all conditions.
The gearing used is more similar to that found on a mountain bike with bigger, easier gear ratios for low speed riding and steep terrain. Most entry and mid level CX bikes allow additions of pannier racks and mud guards, they make an ideal choice for everyday commuting and cycle touring.
Hybrids are just as the name suggest, a mix of a road bike, and a mountain bike They allow you to sit in a comfortable more upright position, like a mountain bike does. They also have slightly narrower tires that will allow you to travel faster and easier, just like a road bike.All of the features that we noted with the CX bike come in to play here as well – with maybe two differences; the cost of the hybrid will be less than a CX bike and your riding comfort will be greatly enhanced.
On the lesser priced hybrids you will find “V” brakes rather than the disc brakes of the CX bike and you will also have the option of front suspension. As you move up in price you get the addition of disc brakes and usually will loose the front suspension.
There is quite a range of tire options available from the skinny road tire to wider more off roadish tire – did I mention studded tires for the winter, these can be fitted to some of the CX bikes as well, tire clearance on the frame will be the determining fact there.