Commuter Bike Recommendations

After years of bike commuting, the drive train on my 15 year old mountain bike (circa 1990s GT Backwoods) is starting to skip. I asked my biker friends on Facebook to recommend the ultimate urban commuter bike.

My criteria: Lightweight, geared for hills, low maintenance. My budget is only around $1,000. I don’t want something custom, just something practical. Ideally, also stylish with fenders and and a rack.

From Johnson Donglecorn: I recommend any internally geared hub, I like Rohloff. I also recommend a steel frame. I’d find an older (2000ish) Lemond. They use really nice Reynolds tubing (853 for example). Buy an IGH built up wheelset, and build the rest from your spare parts bin. Also,  I really wanted a Civia Bryant when i test rode one for fun.

Scott Nonnenberg: I’ll try to be the zen perspective here. First, decide your minimum requirements. Then, spend as little time as possible finding one that achieves those things and be done. You’ll be overwhelmed and/or led astray by the market’s focus on differentiators and not the core things that matter to you. I didn’t fully do this, but I did just go to REI and bought one that rode well and was reasonably cheap ($600 – Scott SUB 30).

The principle is taken from this article in the Journal of Consumer Psychology. Take a look at my note summarizing it.

With regard to the bike,  musts haves are: disc brakes, rack, fenders. Nice to have: wider tires to make the bike more versatile, internal hubs or other drive train changes to reduce maintenance costs. Solely my opinion: Mountain bike style handlebars will help with maneuverability, and you want enough gears to reduce sweating while riding.

Matt Terich: There are a lot of stock commuter bikes that are decent and stylish with internal hubs. Public and Linus come to mind. Very affordable. For commuting, albatross bars would be better than flat.

Eric Artzt: I have been riding a Rawland with an SRAM 3-speed internal / rear derailleur combo. Although the above is awesome, in retrospect given cost and weight considerations, if I had do-agains, I would go with a real derailleur and no front derailleur. I would definitely go for disc brakes and a rack/fender compatible frame. Additionally, get the bolt-on wheel skewers — basically, you want to be able to u-lock the thing with one of the compact locks, without worrying about parts being removed. There are some incredible deals right now on off-the-shelf disc based commuter bikes. It’s a bit hard to justify going fully custom.

I can’t wait to read Scott’s journal article above. I think about this kind of “maximization vs. satisfaction” stuff a lot.

 Scott Neilson: If I was replacing my 50lb Dutch wonder, I, Like Johnson above, would take a hard look at a Civia Bryant. My friend Matt is very happy with his Salsa Vaya too.  Unfortunately, those are both well over the $1k budget. You could join the hordes of Surly folks and get a Disc Trucker or, like Matt says, go the Linus route. My friend Clarke (a serious cyclist and aesthete) is very happy with his Linus Roadster, I just wish it had discs.

 Matt Leber Go test ride the Civia Cycles Bryant at Counter Balance Bicycles near U Village. It’s a little above your budget but is a nice bike. While a Rohloff hub would be nice, the hub alone is your entire budget. The Alfine on that Bryant should do the trick. The belt drive should be virtually maintenance free. I’d comment more but I’m off to go clean my chains on 2 bikes.
 Jason Morris I think internal gear hubs feel like your pedaling in sand. There’s a higher transmission friction loss than a chain drive. Unless you’re just cruising on the boardwalk, you’ll feel it.
Scott Neilson I hadn’t heard that about planetary hubs before. I’ve been very happy with the Nexus 8-speed that’s on my Jorg & Olif Dutch bike but, of course, a little friction would be hard to discern while riding around town on 50lbs of the early machine age. Here’s a good review of the Civia bryant which is my top vote for Adam’s dream commuter.


The Scott SUB 30 was kind of what I had in mind. However, I’m going to try and find a Bryant for a test ride. Drive train maintenance is always what ends up stopping me from riding. I think I would prefer flat bars for commuting, but we’ll see. Oh, with regards to Scott & Eric’s comments on consumer psychology, I’m definitely a “satisfier” (not a maximizer)!