How to Choose and Setup a Commuter Bike?
‘Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of riding a bike.’ – John F. Kennedy. Surely, this is the case for almost all of us. Apart from pleasure, cycling can also get things going. From my past experience, I always have had to wait long hours in a line for a bus to arrive, or the train is coming late. This has always engulfed huge amounts of time which I could have spent otherwise. After two years of tolerating all these hassles, I finally decided to buy a commuter bike, and it was a very wise decision to make.
Commuter bikes are the best choices to make if you travel regularly. You can ride through smooth roads or the roughest of terrains without worrying much about the bikes. In addition to your daily commute, these bikes can provide a great way of daily exercise.
Choosing a Bike That Suits You
The key to choosing a commuter bike that fits you is knowing exactly what you need. If you’re riding to your destination regularly, you’ll have to choose the bike wisely. You must consider which frames you want, the components, geometrical shape, riding position and additional features. You’ll also have to decide whether or not you want speed over comfort or vice versa.
Bikes Can Differ for Gender and Age
Bikes are specially designed to suit people from specific gender and age. Due to the geometrical differences in shape in males, females, and kids, the bikes are also different. Bikes designed for males are somewhat larger in size, with wider handlebars and a stout riding position. These bikes can be driven at greater speeds but allow little comfort to the cyclist.
Bikes designed for females tend to be relatively smaller in size, with a narrower handlebar and a relaxed riding position. The drivetrains for these bikes are often elevated to provide extra comfort to the cyclist.
Kid’s bikes are specially designed keeping safety in mind. Some offer an attachment for two extra supportive wheels. These bikes feature a wider handlebar and don’t often come with gears. The drivetrain used in these bikes are smaller in diameter, which ensures that the speed of the bike is relatively lower.
Factors That Affects You Comfort and Convenience
Apart from the geometrical differences and design of the commuter bikes, there are a few other aspects that you must consider.
Condition of the Terrain
At first research quite a bit on the terrain that you’ll be riding on. You may look up in maps and try to locate all the hills, roads and alleyways you’d need to pass. Take some time identifying the distinctive road conditions and alternative routes.
Know the distance you’re traveling. This is particularly important because you’ll have to choose a bike that provides a comfortable biking experience if you’re supposed to ride for longer distances.
You may have back pain or shoulder pain, so you must be extra cautious on your riding position. This means that you’ll have to choose a bike that has straight and wide handlebars.
Decide as to where you’ll store your bike. This is particularly important because your bike can easily get stolen. Decide if you can store the bike in the garage of your home or workplace.
Another important factor to consider. If you’re someone who doesn’t want the hassle of having to fix the bike regularly, you can surely purchase a simplistic bike that has only one drivetrain with one gear variation.
Reasons for Commuting
Decide on why you’re purchasing a commuter bike. Is this for commuting to your workplace or educational institution? Is it to keep you healthy and fit? Or is it to consciously help reduce the amount of CO2 in your locality.
Decide on how much you’d like to spend for commuting. If you’re a regular commuter, it is always recommended that you buy high-end bikes instead of cheaper ones. If you’re conscious about your health and want a better alternative to your exercising equipment, you can surely choose a mid-range commuter bike.
It is probably the most important thing that you must focus upon. When you’re riding longer distances, you’d always want the ride to be as quick and as painless as possible. It’s always recommended that you choose high-end commuter bikes. Although a bit pricey, these bikes can provide you with higher comfort without sacrificing the speeds.
I have seen many beginner riders which are not quite sure about the riding positions. This can be a very big mistake because the riding position can affect the riding comfort and efficiency of the ride. Specific terrains require dedicated riding positions which can boost your performance and prevent potential injuries.
For a short ride, you may want to choose a bike that has a more upright and relaxed riding position. This will ensure that you get the maximum speed while keeping your back taut. For longer rides, it is recommended that you choose a bike which can enable you to lean forwards. It will reduce back strain and will give you higher speeds.
Digging Deeper into the Technicalities
Apart from the riding position, distance, condition of the roads and the maintenance, you must pay attention to specific technical aspects that might affect your biking experience. Although these may seem irrelevant, it plays a big role in ensuring that you have a smooth and comfortable ride while maintaining high speed.
Just like riding positions, many beginner cyclists often don’t understand the importance of the gears. In my early days, I also had the same wrong perception about the gearings; these are meant to increase speeds. Although this is partially true, the main reason for the gears is to make paddling a lot easier. During longer rides, you can switch the gear to reduce the strain on your legs without reducing the speed at which you are traveling.
The braking system is very important in ensuring that you have a safe drive. Whenever you’re at a sticky situation, these braking systems can help you get out of it. This is why you’ll need efficient braking mechanisms. Rim brakes are popular brakes which come with a rubber coated clamp. These are rather inexpensive and easy to maintain but may wear out within a short period of time. If you cycle shorter distances, you can surely go for the rim brakes.
Disc brakes, on the other hand, are more versatile brakes. These are heavier and cost more, but these can stop the bike within a less braking distance. It’s always recommended that you go for such disc brakes.
I’ve personally seen many cyclists preferring a bike with a suspension system. In theory, the suspension system may reduce the bumps in the road providing the cyclists with a more enjoyable ride. These systems act just like a shock absorber to ensure a smoother riding experience, but this is not always the case. Some of the low-end bikes have a lot of unnecessary weights attached to the body which are of no use. These can reduce the speeds greatly, and you’ll have to push the pedal more to produce enough torque to keep you moving.
Things That Matter When You’re Riding
There are some factors which can influence the bike’s on-road performance. But before you move onto these factors, you must remember what you decided on having – speed or comfort?
The wheel size plays a big role in providing you with a better grip the road. The bigger the wheel is, the more traction you’ll get. But with increasing size, you’ll have to sacrifice maneuverability but will achieve higher speeds.
The tire size plays a big role in speed. The thicker the tire, the more the frictional resistance. This means that the speed will be slower as more kinetic energy will be lost, so you get lower speeds. If you want greater speeds, you can opt for narrower tires. These have very little drag and so help you to travel at higher speeds. If you travel longer distances or roads which have potholes or cracks, you should choose tires which are thicker. These can act as great shock absorbers but lacks the speed. This is why you must always choose a high-end bike that may facilitate your bicycling.
Customizing Your Bike
Sometimes it’s the little factors or things that can make a lot of difference. The best thing about commuter bikes is that these are highly customizable and the external parts are readily available in local shops. There are rare things that you can customize according to your personal preferences.
When you’re purchasing a new commuter bike, you’ll be facing a wide range of bikes each having different structure, shapes, and colors. You can surely choose a bike that you think looks the most appealing to you.
Bike Size And Fit
A commuter bike is meant to provide you a comfortable ride. In order for you to enjoy such a ride, you must ensure that the bike fits well with your height and riding position. A bike that doesn’t fit you well will make paddling a lot difficult. This causes strain in the muscles. This is why you must choose a bike that fits you, not a bike you fit in.
Cycling Gloves and Ergonomic Hand Grips
Both of the cycling gloves and ergonomic hand grips provide better grip onto the handlebars. The grips ensure that you’re having greater control over your bike. These can reduce the strain on the hands and wrists while riding the bike. When choosing such cycling gloves or hand grips, you must always choose the high-end ones. Even though these are a bit costlier, it will be a worthwhile investment.
Pedals are just as important as the drivetrain or the brakes. Most commuter bikes are often installed with flat pedals. These are very efficient and comfortable if you want to ride for a moderate distance using very little effort.
If you love to ride through rough terrains and mountainous areas, you should install the caged or clipless pedals. These pedals can grip onto your cycling shoes and ensures efficient paddling. Regardless of what paddle you use, you must ensure that the pedals are ergonomically well built so that you get a comfortable ride.
When I first bought my bike at the age of 10, I actually didn’t know how important the saddle was. As I continued riding my bike and going to my school for a month, I realized how badly I needed a comfortable saddle.
When buying a commuter bike, you must always choose a saddle that provides you comfort for long distance rides. This is particularly important because you’d not want to reach your destination with a paining bum.
Before buying a saddle, you must at first put it on your commuter bike. Then you must test it out and check if it is comfortable or not. Make sure that the saddle is adjusted properly maintaining the correct height, angle, and positioning. Only then, you can ensure yourself a comfortable biking experience.
Are you planning to travel with a bag or other necessary items? If yes, then you must purchase a commuter bike that allows the installation of racks. The racks can come in very handy on a number of occasions, which is why having a pre-installed rack is somewhat necessary. If your bike doesn’t support the installation of a rack, you can contact a professional bike repairman to weld a rack into the body of the bike.
You won’t want to get yourself dirty when driving along a muddy road, would you? This is where fenders can come in handy. By installing fenders, you can eliminate mud and rubble from splashing while you’re riding. This is why you should always install front and rear fenders.
Don’t Forget These!!
Bells are probably one of the essential additions to a bicycle. These can provide you with safety by alerting everyone in the area. You can use this for signaling when you’re moving past a person, animal or just taking a turn. It is very useful as it avoids accidental collisions.
There may be times when you’ll have to cycle in the dark. Although the streetlights provide enough light for you to maneuver through the road, installing bike lights can be a lot helpful. In addition to providing light, it can signal people and vehicles which are coming from the other side while alerting the ones at your back.
Very few bikers install rear-view mirrors onto their bikes – which is a surprising fact. I personally have faced a lot of incidents where a bus is sweeping just by my side and knowing that it is coming towards me I could sway to a safer side of the road. The rear-view mirrors make our biking a lot safer. The best thing about these mirrors is that these are highly versatile, yet very cheap.
Having a mini-pump at your home can make the pumping a lot more convenient. Whenever the tires are lacking in air pressure, just pump them on your own. This will save you some money and effort going to the mechanic.
On a further note, always remember to keep the tires properly inflated. This is very important because reduced air pressure can reduce the lifespan of the tires.
A High-Quality Lock
When you’ve purchased your beloved bike, you won’t want it to be stolen away. Bikes have always been one of the favorite items for most ‘professional’ thieves out there. This is why you must protect your bike using high-quality locks. These fairly inexpensive locks can protect your thousands of dollar worth bike.
When you’re buying a lock, test to see if it is sturdy enough to resist huge blows from hammers or cutting edges.
Different Types Of Bikes Explained
Before you buy a bike, you must at first study your route. This is particularly important because you’ll have to know if you’re riding through rough terrain or a smooth one. The conditions of the road can heavily affect your cycling experience. There are specific bikes that are specially designed to be ridden on specific terrains. If you know the conditions of your road, you can buy a bike that fits accordingly.
Hybrid bikes are a mixture of road bikes and mountain bikes. Featuring flat, upright handlebars, large padded seats, and a relaxing cycling position, it is considered to be one of the best commuter bikes. 700c wheels are most commonly used in such bikes. These are sturdy and highly versatile, meaning that you can use them both on rough terrains and smooth roads.
- Highly versatile; can be used in any terrains
- Relaxing cycling position, which gives a comfortable ride
- Highly customizable
- Requires regular maintenance
- Harder to control
Road bikes are highly specialized bikes which are meant to be ridden on smooth roads without bumps. These feature a very lightweight chassis and an aerodynamic body, which helps to reach immense speeds without much effort. These are very popular for sport bicycling. Along with speed, these bikes can provide a comfortable ride to anyone who wishes to commute with it.
- Very fast
- Tires are thin; very little resistance
- Aerodynamic body
- Can break if ridden on a rough surface
- Uncomfortable when riding on a bumpy road
The cyclocross is a variant of hybrid bikes that are meant for both off-road and on-road riding. These offer a more relaxed riding position along with a more flexible paddling experience. These cycles often feature a slackened head angle and high-performance disc brakes that ensure proper safety. The handlebars are a bit wider which provides additional off-road traction.
- Highly versatile bikes
- Can be used in gravel roads
- Highly customizable
- Easy to pedal
- Can’t be ridden on mountainous terrain
- Not as fast as the road bike
Known as all-rounder bikes, the mountain bikes are one of the most versatile bikes that you can find. It doesn’t matter if you’re riding on a smooth road or a rough, mountainous trail, the mountain bikes can handle each and every terrain with ease. Featuring bigger tires and great suspension, these perform like a beast when it comes to cycling.
- Can be ridden in any terrains
- Highly versatile and durable
- Comfortable riding position
- Efficient suspension system
- The body is a bit too heavy
- Requires more force to cycle
Fixed Gear Bikes
The fixed gear bikes are one of the cheap commuter bikes that are available. They are designed specially to be ridden on a countryside or smooth road. These are simplistic bikes which ensure high speeds and riding comfort. This ergonomically bike features a single drivetrain capable of producing a specific speed variation. These are very easy to handle and requires little to no maintenance. Some of the higher ends fixed gear commuter bikes even come in incredibly stylish appearances.
- Ergonomically built
- Comfortable riding position
- Highly durable
- Achieves high speed
- Not suitable for rough terrains
- Body is a bit too heavy
Foldable bikes are ideal bikes to use for if you have to travel long distances but don’t have sufficient space for parking the bike. These impressive bikes can fold themselves into a very compact shape, thus increasing the storability of these bikes. These are sturdy bikes that can endure almost anything that comes along.
- Very compact
- Convenient to travel with
- Provides a comfortable riding position
- Can easily pass through dense traffic
- Needs regular maintenance
- The body is heavy, so biking can be hard
For people who want both speed and durability, the touring bikes are the ideal choice to make. The touring bikes are specially designed to be ridden on both rough and smooth terrains with ease. Generally, these bikes look similar to the road bikes, but these have thicker tires. Some even feature an extended suspension system for better riding experience.
- Comfortable riding position
- Low tire resistance; higher speeds
- Can be ridden in any terrain
- Minimal maintenance required
- A lot of extra weight can be carried
- Often heavier than road bikes
Electric bikes are one of the most popular bicycles of this modern era. With an inbuilt motor, these bikes can assist a biker to go further distances. This has enabled the biking arena to a wide range of individuals. Although people nowadays don’t consider these bikes in the bicycle category, the perception will change in a decade or so. Generally, these bikes feature a motor that can assist the rider to ride longer distances. The rider can, however, pedal the cycle manually and still get to his/her location.
- Can cover long distances
- Convenient and easy to use
- Can be ridden in smooth and semi-rough surfaces
- Can be manually pedaled
- Needs to be recharged
How To Setup Your Bike
So now you’ve chosen the bike that fits you, but how are you going to set it up? If you’ve purchased the bike from a showroom, it is more likely that they’ll set the bike up for you. But what if you order it from online? Or what if you didn’t like how the salesperson set your bike up? You surely can set the bike and install all the necessary equipment all by yourself.
To setup your bike properly, you’ll have to follow some simple steps. Choosing the bike was the first step, now we’ll discuss all the other steps that you must follow.
Step 1: Ensuring Proper Saddle Height
Upon purchasing a new bike, you must at first fix the saddle height according to your comfort. This is important because a perfect saddle height will increase the riding efficiency and reduce strain on legs.
To setup the saddle height, you must mount on your bike and stand upright. Pull the frame of the saddle until it reaches your crotch. Mark the position of the frame and then tighten the frame within the cavity in the frame. It is recommended that you tighten the frame at least 1 or 2 inches higher to increase the comfort and maximize the efficiency.
Step 2: Adjust the Saddle Positioning
After you’ve properly installed the saddle, you must adjust the fore-aft positioning of the saddle. To properly adjust that, you should mount on your bike and get into the riding position. By using a plumb line or a string with a weight attached, you’ll have to determine the angle of your riding position. While determining the angle, you should make sure that the plumb line is falling directly across the middle of the pedal axle. Now, check to measure the angle and adjust the saddle accordingly.
Step 3: Aligning Cleats
If you are planning to use clipless shoes, you must ensure that the cleats are properly aligned with the pedals. This is important because you’d always want to get the best grip possible to ensure an efficient riding experience.
Step 4: Adjust Handlebar Width
When setting up the handlebar, you must make sure that the handlebars as wide as your shoulders. This will give you a comfortable grip onto the bicycle.
Step 5: Check the Reach and Handlebar Height
This is another important step. Most beginner riders don’t know significant this step is. This is why they tend to ignore it. Properly adjusting the reach and handlebar height will not only add to the comfort but will also increase speed. To check the reach, you must sit on the saddle with your hands on the hood. Next, look down at the front hub of the bike. If you can’t see it, then you’ll know that your reach is properly adjusted.
You can adjust the handlebar height according to your preference. Lowering the handlebar height will provide you with a more aggressive aerodynamic shape which is ideal for higher speeds. If you drive in a free highway, you can surely opt for lowering the handlebars. If you want to drive in a busy motorway, however, you’ll have to increase the handlebar. This will reduce your speed but increase the visibility.
If you’re a regular rider, you may have faced a situation where the bike tends to have issues while you’re traveling. Sometimes it’s all the small fixes that can make all the difference. This is why you must maintain your bike and repair them periodically to ensure that they last longer and can perform better. Maintaining the bikes is a very easy process, and you can perform this on weekends.
Some of the Tools That You Might Need While Maintenance Are
- Allen wrench set
- Bike Lube
Now Let’s Look Into How You Can Perform The Basic Maintenance For Your Bike
Washing Your Bike
If you regularly use your bike, there’s an increased chance that dirt will accumulate within the frame. This is why you must clean it every now and then. By using a soft brush, you should at first clean all the mud and dirt. Then you should pour water over the bike. Don’t use high-pressure water sprays as this will damage the bearings. After washing the bike, rub the excess water off and then dry the bike.
Before riding the bike, always check the pressure of the tires. This is important because if the pressure of the tires is low, then you’ll have to apply more force to move the tires. In addition to that, the lifespan of the tires will be reduced. It is recommended that you pump the tires until you think that it is hard enough for riding on the road. Be aware, don’t overpump it.
The chain is one of the most important aspects that you need to focus upon. Upon regular use, dirt and grease tend to accumulate in the chains. This clogs the chain, making it harder to run. To clean the chains, you can use a bicycle chain cleaner or a degreaser.
The brakes are another important part that you must consider. Before your commute, you must check if the brakes are working properly. If you have rim brakes, check if the rubber is eroded or not. If yes, you must change it. If you have disc brakes, check to see if it is functioning properly.
Adjusting The Derailer
This is a common problem faced by many bikers. The derailers may get clogged up and may sway to a side, which causes the tires to rub against the rim. To prevent such situations, you should check to see if the derailer is perfectly aligned.
Regular commuting may cause the bolts and joints to loosen. This is a common problem, and bikers often complain that the bolts have automatically fallen off when they were riding the bikes. To prevent this, you should tighten the bolts in a regular basis to ensure that they’re tightly held in place.
Commuter bikes are the best choices to make if you’re traveling regularly and need an alternative to the bus and train. Along with great comfort, these are very convenient and are a great way to exercise.
When you’re purchasing a commuter bike, you should know all the aspects that you should consider. Starting from the bike size, tire size, riding position, gearings, braking system, suspension system, grips to customizing your bike, everything is important. You must also study thoroughly about the distance you’re going to travel and the road conditions that you’ll have to face.
After deciding all these, you’ll have to choose a bike that fits all of your needs. You can choose between hybrid bikes, road bikes, cyclocross bikes, mountain bikes, fixed gear bikes, foldable bikes, touring bikes and electric bikes. But before considering which one to buy, always try to choose the bikes from the best bicycle brands and manufacturers so that you get premium biking experience.
Before you take a ride on the bike, you must ensure that you’ve properly adjusted all your gears in the bike. Pay extra attention to the saddle height, saddle positions, cleats, handlebar heights, and handlebar widths to ensure that you can travel faster and get extra comfort while on the road.
As a regular rider, you must also take care of the bike. This is very important if you want to last the bike for a long time. Before riding, you must check the pressure in the tire and the brakes. You should also check the bolts, clean the chain and wash the bike regularly. On an ending note, bikes are not always meant to be only for riding when you need them. They can be your best friends when you’re feeling alone or depressed. Just go out into the wild and enjoy what nature has to offer!