Wonders Anthony Tan, is there such a thing as the perfect commuting bike?
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7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:38 PM

Being rather new to this commuting world on wheels and just as curious about other people's steeds as my own, I sent out a tweet to y'all a week ago...

Road, MTB or cyclocross frame? 23, 25, 28, 32, or 35mm tyres? Flat or rounded bars? Mudguards? Panniers or backpack? Pedals? Gearing? Reach? Lights? Lock?

The choices are endless. And it was reflected in the replies I received.

Of course, there's the singlespeed crowd, otherwise known as Gen-Y on bikes...

I have to agree with @yabba64 from Brisbane about disc brakes; the stop-go-stop-go-stop-go nature of CBD commuting makes powerful brakes essential. Even my mechanical disc stoppers have left me wanting on a few occasions, so I would likely go hydraulic in future.

Contrast @yabba64's pristine singlespeed with that of Fremantle resident @adrianemilsen, a "transport planner, research student and wheel builder", according to his Twitter bio...

It's hard to go past the robustness of steel. And perfect for those foul weather days when you don't want to take your little princess out in the wet (that was my thinking, anyway), although for any serious bunch riding and/or hills you'd probably want more than one gear. Incorporating a dynamo hub-driven light is a great idea, too, because as one mechanic told me "it's always there". Weighing only a few hundred grams more, some models can switch off so it can operate just like your standard non-magnetised hub, and modern makes are very good even at low speeds, I'm told.

Now Sydney Olympic Games Madison gold medallist Scott McGrory would have to ride something like this, wouldn't he?!

Much attention was and still is placed on his track prowess and battles on the boards; it's easy to forget Scott was also an accomplished road cyclist and rode for arguably the first 'super-team', Mapei, back in 2001-02 and Gerolsteiner for two years before that. It's great to see he's able to carry, er, I mean, ride, a memento of his time at the Sydney Games whenever he rocks up to his local cafe. Glad he ditched those Spinergy wheels, though - I was afraid of what harm they might do from the moment I first saw them!

Here's what you might call 'A Steed for All Seasons', from the NSW South Coast...

Out of all the replies received it was one of two or three that most closely resembled my own commuter, although I'm still yet to receive my rear pannier rack and I've gone for the extra comfort of 35mm tread. Unless you're sitting very upright the weight of a backpack becomes a real hindrance, not to mention a pain in the back, quite literally, although it does force you to stay seated more often that you normally would and keep your core engaged. Your clothes will thank you for having those fenders on rainy days.

Speaking of load-carrying, I can't recall seeing anything like this - until now...

@cryhav0c from Perth, WA told me in the photo he was attending to a job in the inner-city and was carrying two loaded toolboxes. (Another reason for disc brakes, I would suggest - heavier loads require greater stopping power.) "~4500km on it so far and it's doing well," he says.

From 'The HammerTruck' to a typical everyday commuter...

While light weight is not nearly as important with commuting since no-one's timing you and you're generally on your own, if you live in a hill-prone area like I do it's still worth considering. I'll certainly chose a lighter frame next time, because lugging a few extra kilos makes your bike feel a tad unwieldy, not to mention the encumbrance of dead weight when going uphill.

Hey presto, one that is lighter of load...

However as our Malaysian reader Grace Phang implies, who happens to be a member of her country's national road team, there's a bit of a security issue when it comes to riding with casual shoes and clipless pedals (which is why I've gone for a platform that can handle both), and when you don't ride with shorts with a chamois, you want a saddle with a little more cushioning. Taking a leaf out of Grace's book I'd be inclined to try some fairly narrow flat bars in the not too distant future - better for weaving in and out of CBD traffic and you get a better 'grab' when braking under pressure. Constantly applying heavy braking while on the hoods tends to hurt your wrists, too. And having the brake levers only a few fingers away (as opposed to riding on top of a set of road bike handlebars) is a bit safer in heavily trafficked areas.

Still, there's beauty in simplicity when it comes to Melbourne psychologist Howard Errey's lugged number...

Simple. Elegant. Practical. Versatile. Low-maintenance. It embodies all the hallmarks of what a traditional commuting bike should be.

Of course, you can ignore tradition and create your own, as Darwin resident Nic French so did...

You probably want to wear an equally bold Sir Paul Smith jacket with that, Nic!

This would be good enough for most people's race bikes, but then again, American-born Sydneysider Josh Blake happens to own a bike shop...

... in which case, his trusty steed is rather demure!

Which this is not!

If one judges a bike's worth on how much it's used, then Hobart resident Justin Hulls' daily ride would surely be up for a medal...

In this less-than-perfect world there's no such thing as the perfect commuter for everyone. Based on your requirements, you need to try first and then, if need be, adapt - either your body, your bike, or a bit of both. And, as your needs change, so may you and your ride.

The short of it, I would have to say, is not to over-complicate things: if it gets you to your destination with a bit of a smile on your dial and that sense of freedom which only cycling can bring, then I'd say it's done its job.

After all, destinations are limited much less by your bike than your legs. To quote Buzz Lightyear, To infinity and beyond!