Results 1 to 40 of 40
  1. #1
    mtbr member
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    Posts
    179

    How to pick a road bike for commuting?

    I have a new job that allows me to commute, about 20 miles each way. It'd allow me to quit the gym, save time, save money and prep me better for the trails. Win win win win!

    I never had any interest in skinny tire bikes but now I'm kind of excited. The thing is I have no idea how to pick a road bike. I don't even know who to ask, or I wouldn't ask the MTB crowd! Looking online there seem to be even more categories of road bike than Mountain.

    It's a fairly level commute mostly by paved trail without cars. No dirt of any kind, maybe some curb hopping. So I think a pure road bike would be best. Maybe a cross of some kind but, I don't really know. I can spend at least $1000 to start, hopefully will buy used. That should be doable right?

    Is there a sister site to MTBR for road bikers?

  2. #2
    since 4/10/2009
    Reputation: Harold's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Posts
    17,917
    roadbikereview.com is for the skinnytire crowd. There's a commuting forum there, but you'll find you get different recommendations from them than you get here. For better or worse, it is what it is.

    You have a lot of options, it's true. For a 20mi commute each way, you'll want something faster. While lots of folks commute on mtb's of some type or another, you'll find them to be pretty slow for what you're doing. A lot of people here use a bike they can fit bigger tires into (think 30-45mm wide tires) for more comfort. I think there's a lot of personal preference involved with that. You do sacrifice some speed, but it gives you a lot of flexibility. If you live somewhere with winter conditions that encourage the formation of solid water (and you plan to ride in it), having the option to install studded tires can be important. If you have no intention to be out in anything like that, you can pass.

    Most here would look for something that can accept full fenders easily. Most carbon road bikes don't have fender mounts. That limits your options. There are fenders that will work, but the coverage will be low. Even a lot of the aluminum road bikes are coming without fender mounts these days (at $1,000 budget, carbon won't be there unless you get a deal on a used bike). There are some, though, and you'll have to pay attention to that kind of detail if you want it.

    Because of those issues, a lot of us wind up on steel. Some on classic steel bikes, some on newer ones. Lots of Surlys in the commuter world. I ride a Salsa Vaya. The way I built mine from the frameset up, the parts new would be close to $2,000, though. The Vaya 3 might be close to your budget price.

    Cross bikes are definitely an option. Lots of people use them for commute duty. Also look at touring bikes and bikes in the "gravel bike" segment. A lot of the gravel racer bikes are coming in carbon now, but there are still some that are more touring oriented with rack and fender mounts.

    I like disc brakes for all-weather reliability but getting them on a bike that just "works" can be a challenge sometimes. Beware of things like funky dropouts and funky disc mounts. Sometimes they don't work as advertised. I had an On-One Pompetamine for awhile that fell into that category. Way too fiddly, and certain specific equipment combinations just flat didn't work. Anything with slotted disc tabs so you can adjust the caliper position, I say to avoid. Disc calipers can get in the way of fender or rack attachment points. There are ways around those issues, but be aware of them.

    If you've never been on some of the sub-segments of road bikes, it would be worth to try some out. Most manufacturers have cross bikes and gravel bikes so you should be able to try a road bike with aggressive race geometry (fast, but not the most comfortable), a performance road bike with more relaxed geometry (still pretty fast, but a little more comfortable for long distances), a touring bike, a cross bike, a gravel bike. Pure touring bikes are a little harder to find. I suppose the Vaya would fall into that category.

  3. #3
    29er and 26er
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Posts
    671
    I would stop by your LBS and test ride some road bikes in your price range. IMO there is no real trick to picking a "commuter" bike. Just make sure it fits you and you are comfortable on it. For ~ $1000.00 you should be able to get a reliable bike that will last you several years and thousands of miles of use with proper maintenance.

    Things you will wnat to consider that will be a bigger factor is how much stuff will you need to carry with you on your commute and how you will carry it? This is a very personal choice. I prefer a backpack, but my commute is only about 6 miles each way. If you go that route, bring your backpack with you when you test ride the bikes.

    Good luck and let us know what you get.

  4. #4
    mtbr member
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Posts
    115
    The first thing I'd do, if you already have a bike, is take that out a few times. Take it down the exact route you'll take to work. You won't be guessing on terrain at that point, after a few rides you'll have a fairly intimate knowledge of terrain and traffic. Do make sure you're properly illuminated/reflected on these rides.

    Second, do you need to carry things with you? If so, make sure you have a bike that can solve that problem. Not answering this question properly can make you buy a whole new bike when you otherwise would not.

    Me, I'm a little girl who enjoys some plush in the ride, so I personally wound up strongly favoring 29er over 700c. I've been riding a pair of Big Apple tires for 2 years between my SE Stout and Salsa Fargo. I moved from the Stout (which was never really intended as my get around bike, but became that because I liked it so much) to the Fargo, because I spent too much time missing my rack mounts.


    Good luck, using a bike for fun is fun, and using it for transportation is fun and rewarding!

  5. #5
    mtbr member
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Posts
    1,034
    A few thoughts:

    1. especially with used bikes, don't compromise on fit just because it's a good bargain.

    2. I've worked at an LBS since the late '80s and seen a lot of people march in with their prize (a used bike they thought they got a good deal on), only to find grievous problems with a 2-minute inspection. Or maybe they pick something that's in good shape, but has an obsolete drivetrain they won't be able to get parts for. Ask the seller if you can have your trusted LBS wrench give you an opinion before you commit.

    3. for that kind of daily mileage, possibly with some commuting load added, you deserve top-quality spokes that have long fatigue lifespan. Consider having at least the rear wheel rebuilt with DT Swiss butted spokes by a good wheelbuilder.

    4. for a daily driver doing 40 miles a day, also consider a dynamo-powered headlight system when you have the money. Busch & Muller's new Cyo Premium looks like a winner, pair that up with a Shimano DH-3N80 dynamo hub. Having a baseline headlight that will work EVERY time is worth it in the long run. The Cyo will also be relatively easy on the eyes of oncoming cyclists and pedestrians, since the beam doesn't put a lot of light above the horizon.



    Regarding bikes themselves: if you need clearance for fenders and 700 x 28 tires, you want a bike that uses "normal-reach" 57mm caliper brakes at a minimum (real road-racing brakes are "short-reach"). Cantilever or disc brakes eliminate brake-clearance issues so they're another option. Here's an example, my Soma Smoothie ES with 28s and SKS P35 fenders. Surly's Pacer fits this niche too:



    The rear rack is worth the extra pound for commuting. Some days a trunk bag gets the job done, some days I throw a pannier on, but my bad back (and my sit bones!) appreciates not having to bear any unnecessary weight.

    If you need clearance for studded winter tires, or big touring tires, a cyclocross or touring bike is the way to go. Kona's Jake models and Redline's Conquest are a couple fairly common CX models you could search for. In true touring bikes, REI/Novara's Randonee, Surly's LHT (Long-Haul Trucker) and Trek's 520 come to mind.

  6. #6
    mtbr member
    Reputation: crank1979's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Posts
    1,704
    Quote Originally Posted by NateHawk View Post
    For a 20mi commute each way, you'll want something faster. While lots of folks commute on mtb's of some type or another, you'll find them to be pretty slow for what you're doing. A lot of people here use a bike they can fit bigger tires into (think 30-45mm wide tires) for more comfort. I think there's a lot of personal preference involved with that.

    Most here would look for something that can accept full fenders easily.

    Cross bikes are definitely an option. Lots of people use them for commute duty. Also look at touring bikes and bikes in the "gravel bike" segment. A lot of the gravel racer bikes are coming in carbon now, but there are still some that are more touring oriented with rack and fender mounts.

    I like disc brakes for all-weather reliability but getting them on a bike that just "works" can be a challenge sometimes. Disc calipers can get in the way of fender or rack attachment points. There are ways around those issues, but be aware of them.
    Some great info there.

    When I do commute I ride 52-60km each way depending on the route I take. Whichever route, the quality of the roads is shocking, so larger tyres make things more comfortable. My fastest commuting time, in both directions, for the shortest route was done on my cross bike with heavy 35C Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyres. I've done the same route on my road bikes, but the larger tyres float over the rough surfaces more easily. The cross bike is the only bike I use that doesn't run tubeless tyres, and yes, I have managed to puncture the Marathon Plus tyres!

    I have tried commuting on an mtb with the same Marathon tyres in 26" and you do have to work a lot harder to get a similar time along the commute. I'm rebuilding a different commuter at the moment with 28C tyres to reduce some weight but, hopefully, not sacrifice any puncture resistance.

    I've found disc brakes on the cross bike to be extremely overrated. It came stock with Hayes CX-5 calipers which worked poorly. I swapped the calipers out for some Avid BB7Rs as they seem to get good reviews. While they were a little better they do not come anywhere near the performance of the Dura Ace calipers on my road bikes. I think it's a combination of a smaller contact patch on the road, significantly greater rotating weight and the low power generated by cable discs that don't make them worthwhile, but I got all caught up in having disc brakes on a road bike. Doing it again I'd go for some min-Vs or cantilevers. Discs definitely make fitting full fenders difficult as well, but using spacers and bending the stays can get them fitting.

    My recommendation would be a cross bike with slick tyres, less than 35C in width if you are staying on the road all the time. The road conditions will determine the style of tyre. Full fenders. Disc brakes only if going with 35C or wider tyres and you can get a Shimano hydraulic set up. A close ratio (11-25) cassette rather than the wide ratio that comes with most cross bikes could be a good swap as well, especially when paired with a 36-46 crankset. A nice seat, comfortable bars and bar tape make a big difference as well.

  7. #7
    since 4/10/2009
    Reputation: Harold's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Posts
    17,917
    Quote Originally Posted by crank1979 View Post
    I've found disc brakes on the cross bike to be extremely overrated. It came stock with Hayes CX-5 calipers which worked poorly. I swapped the calipers out for some Avid BB7Rs as they seem to get good reviews. While they were a little better they do not come anywhere near the performance of the Dura Ace calipers on my road bikes. I think it's a combination of a smaller contact patch on the road, significantly greater rotating weight and the low power generated by cable discs that don't make them worthwhile, but I got all caught up in having disc brakes on a road bike. Doing it again I'd go for some min-Vs or cantilevers. Discs definitely make fitting full fenders difficult as well, but using spacers and bending the stays can get them fitting.

    My recommendation would be a cross bike with slick tyres, less than 35C in width if you are staying on the road all the time. The road conditions will determine the style of tyre. Full fenders. Disc brakes only if going with 35C or wider tyres and you can get a Shimano hydraulic set up. A close ratio (11-25) cassette rather than the wide ratio that comes with most cross bikes could be a good swap as well, especially when paired with a 36-46 crankset. A nice seat, comfortable bars and bar tape make a big difference as well.
    Here you see there are differences of opinion regarding disc brakes, too. I personally don't get them for increased power. I like them for two main reasons. Like I said before, for foul weather reliability, primarily. Ride a bike with rim brakes through a nearly frozen puddle, and there's a good chance that some of that water will freeze on your rims. The next time you brake will definitely be a pucker moment. Discs have less of this issue because the disc rotor is further from the road. A side benefit for me is that the wear surface is not the rim sidewall. Over time, rims wear out when used with rim brakes. Takes a lot of braking cycles for that to happen, but it does eventually. Replacing a rim requires relacing the wheel with new spokes. Meh. Replacing a rotor (the wear surface) simply requires you to remove and replace the rotor. While an issue more for tandems and heavily loaded tourers than commute bikes, on long, sustained descents that require a LOT of braking to maintain safer speeds, heating up the rim results in air in the tire expanding. It has resulted in blowouts. With discs, the effects of that heat are different and rarely that catastrophic (and usually give you more warning that you should stop and let the system cool down).

    Also worth noting, according to several sources I've read, using a disc caliper with short pull levers (ie. most drop bar shifter systems) provides less modulation than using a mtn version with long pull levers (must use bar end shifters or some other modified shifter system with long pull levers, because there are currently no STI/doubletap levers with long pull brake levers). I use mtn long pull BB7 calipers with long pull levers (the Retroshift system). I have no complaints about the functionality.

    Shimano's hydraulic setups are very nice, I agree. I love the lever feel they provide. On a commute bike, you would have two options: use a mtb hydro brake with a flat bar, or use the Shimano hydro road setup with a drop bar...but shimano's road hydro levers are only available in Di2 electronic shifting. WAY out of your price range. On a long commute, there's a good chance that you'd appreciate the extra hand positions of a drop bar.

    I am trying out an alternative drivetrain setup right now, too. I am using a 1x10 setup with a 11-36 cassette and a single 44t chainring. It gives me pretty close to the same range of gears as a compact double drivetrain (11-25 cassette and 36-46 crankset) with only one shifter and one derailleur. So far, I like it a lot. There are a lot of different ways to do it. Me, I like to tinker. Trying something a little bit different is fun, and I like the satisfaction of making it work smoothly and reliably.

  8. #8
    mtbr member
    Reputation: crank1979's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Posts
    1,704
    Quote Originally Posted by NateHawk View Post
    Here you see there are differences of opinion regarding disc brakes, too. I personally don't get them for increased power. I like them for two main reasons. Like I said before, for foul weather reliability, primarily.

    Also worth noting, according to several sources I've read, using a disc caliper with short pull levers (ie. most drop bar shifter systems) provides less modulation than using a mtn version with long pull levers (must use bar end shifters or some other modified shifter system with long pull levers, because there are currently no STI/doubletap levers with long pull brake levers). I use mtn long pull BB7 calipers with long pull levers (the Retroshift system). I have no complaints about the functionality.

    Shimano's hydraulic setups are very nice, I agree. I love the lever feel they provide. On a commute bike, you would have two options: use a mtb hydro brake with a flat bar, or use the Shimano hydro road setup with a drop bar...but shimano's road hydro levers are only available in Di2 electronic shifting. WAY out of your price range. On a long commute, there's a good chance that you'd appreciate the extra hand positions of a drop bar.

    I am trying out an alternative drivetrain setup right now, too. I am using a 1x10 setup with a 11-36 cassette and a single 44t chainring. It gives me pretty close to the same range of gears as a compact double drivetrain (11-25 cassette and 36-46 crankset) with only one shifter and one derailleur. So far, I like it a lot. There are a lot of different ways to do it. Me, I like to tinker. Trying something a little bit different is fun, and I like the satisfaction of making it work smoothly and reliably.
    I missed reading the point about wet weather reliability, sorry. That's not a big issue for me so I didn't really consider it when I bought the cross bike. I'd brake maybe 5 times over the 50+km commute, and I generally have good sight lines all the way along the commute and it's pretty flat too. Dura Ace calipers still perform better in the wet with 23C tyres than the discs on my commuter though.

    I have played with the brake set up a lot, fiddled with cable outer length to remove the spongy feeling, adjusted pads and cable tension, caliper positioning, etc. I'm just very underwhelmed with them. They will lock up and modulation is good, but some salmon Kool Stop pads in caliper brakes seem to perform and feel better. It's a shame that the Shimano stuff is out of the price range. I'd save up for a bit longer or look second hand.

    On the new commuter I'm hoping to get the best of both worlds. I'm setting up a Scott Scale 30 with a Rohloff built in 700C rims and 28C tyres, older SLX disc brakes, bar ends and bars cut down as narrow as I can to fit everything on them. If it doesn't work I'll do something else.

    I have thought about going 1x10 on the cross bike as well, but the head wind for 50+km on a slightly uphill run on the way home makes me keep the 36-46 set up. On the road I like the closer spread on the rear. That was a significant issue for me when I was riding the mtb with slicks. The gear ratios just weren't right.

  9. #9
    mtbr member
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    Posts
    179
    OK Great advice all thanks. I just went to the REI and looked at a few bikes and gear.

    The Cannondale CAADX 105 looks like it would work. I guess this would be a cross bike. It looks like a beefy bike but doesn't weigh much, and it has fender and rack mounts. It had the combo street/knobby tires that look like they'd work really well. I was surprised how light it is. It really feels like a street bike but looks like a dirt bike.

    But I was kind of counting on disc brakes. I live in Seattle and it will be wet often. They're pretty much essential on my MTB, which is a Stumpjumper 26 FS. I ride in the mud though, it doesn't bother me too much. I would bump up my price to get disc brakes for sure.

    This is a long commute, I guess I'm looking a fast bike that's still comfortable, and can fit fenders and panniers. I need to carry a laptop and clothes. How do they fit panniers on those race bikes?

    I don't understand the difference in real life between a race and cross bike. It seems either would work. I guess I won't know til I test some bikes.

  10. #10
    mtbr member
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Posts
    1,034
    Quote Originally Posted by InlawBiker View Post
    But I was kind of counting on disc brakes. I live in Seattle and it will be wet often. They're pretty much essential on my MTB, which is a Stumpjumper 26 FS. I ride in the mud though, it doesn't bother me too much. I would bump up my price to get disc brakes for sure.
    Disc brakes on a road bike will put you into mainly the cyclocross category.

    This is a long commute, I guess I'm looking a fast bike that's still comfortable, and can fit fenders and panniers. I need to carry a laptop and clothes. How do they fit panniers on those race bikes?
    Road-racing bikes have short chainstays, so a rear rack that's attached in the conventional fashion may (read: probably will) put the panniers close enough to your crank that you hit your heels on them, especially ones big enough to swallow a full-sized laptop. If that's the style of bike you want, then something like my Smoothie ES (which has extended chainstays and rack mounts) or an old Trek Pilot would give you more heel clearance.

    Another possible workaround for panniers on a road-racing bike is to switch to a fork with lowrider mounts, and use front panniers. This makes the front wheel do its share of the work, instead of adding stress to the rear wheel's life. To pull this off, you need to pick a bike that can take the fork you're going to use, so it would call for some reverse-engineering.

  11. #11
    mtbr member
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Jul 2013
    Posts
    153
    The heel clearance for panniers...good point.

    The Surly Disc Trucker might be another choice. Long chain stays for pannier clearance, definitely a stout frame, nearly an MTB build, discs, and a comfortable high bar seating position compared to some other road frame designs. The frame can clear quite wide tires too, 45mm+ so that gives you a lot of options.

    Another to consider, that just came out is the Surly Straggler, basically a Crosscheck with disc brakes and some other enhancements. Bit sportier feel, lighter than the Trucker, more compact.

    Both have all the braze-ons and mounts for racks and fenders.

  12. #12
    Always Learning
    Reputation: BruceBrown's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Posts
    9,484
    Quote Originally Posted by InlawBiker View Post
    OK Great advice all thanks. I just went to the REI and looked at a few bikes and gear.

    The Cannondale CAADX 105 looks like it would work. I guess this would be a cross bike. It looks like a beefy bike but doesn't weigh much, and it has fender and rack mounts. It had the combo street/knobby tires that look like they'd work really well. I was surprised how light it is. It really feels like a street bike but looks like a dirt bike.

    But I was kind of counting on disc brakes. I live in Seattle and it will be wet often. They're pretty much essential on my MTB, which is a Stumpjumper 26 FS. I ride in the mud though, it doesn't bother me too much. I would bump up my price to get disc brakes for sure.

    This is a long commute, I guess I'm looking a fast bike that's still comfortable, and can fit fenders and panniers. I need to carry a laptop and clothes. How do they fit panniers on those race bikes?

    I don't understand the difference in real life between a race and cross bike. It seems either would work. I guess I won't know til I test some bikes.
    A cross bike will be more race oriented with a shorter head tube length, lower bar height. I would suggest a bit more relaxed geometry in the endurance, touring, commuting bike genres where the head tube length is taller with the bars a bit highter for a more relaxed ride over the lower race oriented geometry. More of a one bike does it all type of purchase that you can use on pavement, streets, gravel, dirt, with racks/without racks, etc... .

    The Specialized Tricross looks like just what you are after. Disc brakes. Road bike/commuter that has rack and fender mounts.

    There is an excellent commuter thread at Road Bike Review:

    Commuting, Touring and Ride Reports

  13. #13
    mtbr member
    Reputation: Straz85's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Posts
    1,348
    Quote Originally Posted by InlawBiker View Post
    OK Great advice all thanks. I just went to the REI and looked at a few bikes and gear.

    The Cannondale CAADX 105 looks like it would work. I guess this would be a cross bike. It looks like a beefy bike but doesn't weigh much, and it has fender and rack mounts. It had the combo street/knobby tires that look like they'd work really well. I was surprised how light it is. It really feels like a street bike but looks like a dirt bike.

    But I was kind of counting on disc brakes. I live in Seattle and it will be wet often. They're pretty much essential on my MTB, which is a Stumpjumper 26 FS. I ride in the mud though, it doesn't bother me too much. I would bump up my price to get disc brakes for sure.

    This is a long commute, I guess I'm looking a fast bike that's still comfortable, and can fit fenders and panniers. I need to carry a laptop and clothes. How do they fit panniers on those race bikes?

    I don't understand the difference in real life between a race and cross bike. It seems either would work. I guess I won't know til I test some bikes.
    If you're riding in the rain often, disc brakes are a great idea. Canti, caliper or v-brakes are fine in the dry weather, but discs are significantly better in the wet. In the past two years I've commuted on bikes with all of those except v-brakes and if I could only have one, I'd take discs any day.

    The CAAD series is very nice. Many consider those the one of the nicest aluminum frames available now. 105 is a good drivetrain, reliable and shifts well. If you're familiar with mountain bikes, you could consider it equivalent to SLX.

    The geometry is slightly different between a road bike and a CX bike, though different road bikes have different geometry too. Some are more comfortable than others. A lot of the comfort factor depends on how you set it up. Frame size, stem lenth, handlebar height will all make a difference. Make sure you get the correct size frame. I would argue it's more important on a road/CX bike than a mountain bike. You can play with your stem length and handlebar height once you start riding it. The seat will also be important, have a LBS measure you for the correct seat. Your butt will be on the saddle a lot more on the road than on trails.

    Cross bikes tend to far more often have rack and fender mounts. Many road bikes don't nowadays. Road bikes have become more race/speed oriented in the past couple decades. A cross bike typically makes a great commuter due to the slightly more comfortable geometry, ability to attach racks and fenders (usually) and room for wider tires.

  14. #14
    mtbr member
    Reputation: junior1210's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2011
    Posts
    1,001
    Another suggestion would be Raleigh Roper/Tripper/Furley. Model depends on the drive train (geared, IGH, single speed). Steel frame, relaxed geometry, with disc brakes. Tend to run in the $900~$1400 range.
    The ridiculousness of cycling clothes increase exponentially in relation to the distance from your bicycle.

  15. #15
    mtbr member
    Reputation: J.B. Weld's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2012
    Posts
    5,686
    Quote Originally Posted by mechBgon View Post

    Awesome commuter! Extra points for all the reflective tape- never can have too much.

    I agree with BruceBrown about cross bikes, though they can make a good commuter they trade comfort for aggressiveness and speed. High bb's and short chainstays are not always ideal for a daily driver.

  16. #16
    I'd rather be on my bike
    Reputation: TenSpeed's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    Posts
    2,495
    Bike fit is number 1 for me, if it doesn't fit you, doesn't matter what kind it is, how fast it is, or what it can carry. It doesn't fit. A 40 mile round trip daily commute is going to call for a perfect fitting bike, or your body will hate you for it.

    What you carry, and how you carry it is now number 2. I just picked up a slightly used Chrome messenger back off of a local mtb forum for my carrying duties. Needed more cargo space than my backpack, but panniers and racks weren't really an option for me.

    Don't forget to factor in safety into your budget, such as good lights, etc. These are not that cheap. You will want them for that ride.

  17. #17
    mtbr member
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    Posts
    179
    Alright awesome thanks all. I'm going to head into my LBS and try some bikes. Browsing bikes on the web is just making me drool. I'll write back with my thoughts for future generations.

    I'm leaning towards a racier aluminum bike since almost all of my commute is flat paved bike trail with no cars and I can speed into work. I have a great MTB so I'm not too worried about a bike that can go in the gravel.

    I don't think a steel bike will work, nor will a road race bike. I'll have to find the one in the middle that fits the job best. I have to admit the Tricross looks like the best on paper. But I don't want a second Specialized for some reason I can't put my finger on. I'm hoping if I ride enough bikes the right one will speak to me.

  18. #18
    I'd rather be on my bike
    Reputation: TenSpeed's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    Posts
    2,495
    I have a TriCross. Great bike!! I love it so far. I have the Sport Disc and to be honest, the brakes suck. I have a set of BB7's that I am considering putting on there.

  19. #19
    mtbr member
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Posts
    1,034
    Quote Originally Posted by InlawBiker View Post
    I don't think a steel bike will work, nor will a road race bike.
    Steel can be all right. In training, the Soma I pictured above goes around a rolling 20-mile road-race course only about 1/2mph slower than my road-racing bike, even with fenders and a rear rack. Doesn't sprint well due to the long stays, however.

    Ironically, the fastest road rides I did this year were on my mountain bikes, e.g. this one: Bike Ride Profile | Highway training on the mountain commuter near Spokane | Times and Records | Strava 21mph average on 2.0" light knobbies with a rear rack, trunk bag, and dynamo lights running. The key is aerodynamics... rest your palms next to your stem to channel the airflow around you, like an aero bar. So you can also think outside the box and consider a hardtail with fast tires and a rigid fork.

  20. #20
    since 4/10/2009
    Reputation: Harold's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Posts
    17,917
    Quote Originally Posted by InlawBiker View Post
    I'm leaning towards a racier aluminum bike since almost all of my commute is flat paved bike trail with no cars and I can speed into work. I have a great MTB so I'm not too worried about a bike that can go in the gravel.

    I don't think a steel bike will work, nor will a road race bike. I'll have to find the one in the middle that fits the job best. I have to admit the Tricross looks like the best on paper. But I don't want a second Specialized for some reason I can't put my finger on. I'm hoping if I ride enough bikes the right one will speak to me.
    The suggestions for a gravel bike are primarily geared toward having a comfortable ride. Bigger tire capacity and frame geometry. Try one or more (there's a lot of variation in the segment) before you decide.

    Why the vote against steel at this point? Steel also gives a little bit of comfort to the ride.

    There is flat paved bike trail on part of my 20mi commute (maybe about half of it), but it's actually the slowest part of the route. Parts of it are very busy, and there are several road crossings that are mandatory (or nearly so) stops. The roads are usually faster, because I have roundabouts (that rarely require a complete stop) and stoplights (that sometimes require a complete stop).

  21. #21
    mtbr member
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    Posts
    179
    Quote Originally Posted by NateHawk View Post
    The suggestions for a gravel bike are primarily geared toward having a comfortable ride. Bigger tire capacity and frame geometry. Try one or more (there's a lot of variation in the segment) before you decide.

    Why the vote against steel at this point? Steel also gives a little bit of comfort to the ride.
    Mostly because I don't know what I'm talking about :-) I have ridden a steel bike before and I love the smooth, planted feel. I wouldn't think they make sense for a longer haul, but then again those touring bikes are made of steel for a reason.

    So I'm going to give every bike I ride an honest shot and take my time. I'm giving myself til February or so to decide. I love buying bikes off-season it gives me something to do and saves money.

  22. #22
    mtbr member
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Posts
    384
    Quote Originally Posted by TenSpeed View Post
    I have a TriCross. Great bike!! I love it so far. I have the Sport Disc and to be honest, the brakes suck. I have a set of BB7's that I am considering putting on there.
    I thought that was just discs (or at least cable discs) in general, since this is the only bike I've had that uses them. Is that not the case?

  23. #23
    mtbr member
    Reputation: BrianMc's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Posts
    4,129
    Although it may exceed the price range:

    Disc Trucker | Bikes | Surly Bikes

    Rim brakes can really suck in the cold with the rims icing up. I "braked" all the way down a hill and had to wide turn it across a left lane and into a yard. Not good for the blood pressure.

  24. #24
    since 4/10/2009
    Reputation: Harold's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Posts
    17,917
    Quote Originally Posted by Sanath View Post
    I thought that was just discs (or at least cable discs) in general, since this is the only bike I've had that uses them. Is that not the case?
    Definitely not. Some cheap discs can be significantly lower performance than a halfway decent rim brake. There are more better ones out now, but the crap ones still exist.

  25. #25
    mtbr member
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    Posts
    179
    Brakes has been an interesting topic in my short research. Since road bikes have longer rides and possibly steeper, longer downhills, the temptation to ride the brakes is much higher. This could lead to overheating and total brake failure. I have experienced this on the trail, it would be a lot less fun on the road.

    But on the other hand, the ability to stop quickly in traffic is pretty essential. It seems like the better option to use disc brakes but adjust your riding style, than to have rim brake failure if they're wet and slimy when you need to brake suddenly.

    I guess we have to trust the manufacturers to have thought of all this.

  26. #26
    since 4/10/2009
    Reputation: Harold's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Posts
    17,917
    Quote Originally Posted by InlawBiker View Post
    Brakes has been an interesting topic in my short research. Since road bikes have longer rides and possibly steeper, longer downhills, the temptation to ride the brakes is much higher. This could lead to overheating and total brake failure. I have experienced this on the trail, it would be a lot less fun on the road.

    But on the other hand, the ability to stop quickly in traffic is pretty essential. It seems like the better option to use disc brakes but adjust your riding style, than to have rim brake failure if they're wet and slimy when you need to brake suddenly.

    I guess we have to trust the manufacturers to have thought of all this.
    I think the overheating issue is overrated in most cases. Knowing that overheating the brakes can be problematic should be incentive enough to use technique to avoid or minimize the issue. I also think that overheating rim brakes is a far riskier proposition. Also, excess heat is less of an issue for cable discs than for hydros. It still presents problems, but mostly only related to glazing the pads, warping the rotors, and that sort of thing.

    Now, where I live in the midwest, overheating either a rim or a disc brake is nearly impossible. The only time heat has EVER been a concern for me was the day I did lift-assisted downhill riding at Brian Head in UT. I got my brake fluid good and hot, to the point that I began to notice them getting pretty mushy with reduced power. The oft-cited "brake fade". Keep in mind, this happened on a bike with 11 year old brakes. Heat dissipation tech has come a LONG way. Shimano's ICE tech really works. But for where I live/ride most, it isn't even necessary. You can't even find the pads with heat sinks in the shops around here. For that matter, organics are de rigeur. I personally don't like them and shop employees try to convince me otherwise. Sorry...another preference issue.

    For me, disc brakes have never been about increased power in general. I've been using them for well over 10 years now on my mtb. One ride convinced me to install them. One ride where it was wet and I was cramping my hands holding the brakes almost constantly. With discs, especially hydros, they feel almost the same in the wet as in the dry. There is a performance difference, but it is very slight. They require far less grip strength to achieve that power, which leaves some in the reserves for handling the bike. Cable discs require more hand strength than hydros, but with the more consistent performance in all conditions, it's at least predictable.

    Road bikes present different issues with discs. As already mentioned, with the smaller contact patch with the tire and the pavement, there is only so much braking power you can use before your tires break loose. This is why you NEVER see road bikes with anything larger than a 160mm rotor, and oftentimes with 140mm rotors. Smaller rotors offer the benefit of improved modulation, which may somewhat counter the reported loss of modulation with using short pull calipers (on 160mm rotors). Smaller rotors present more challenges with heat dissipation. Look at the crazy heat sink fins on Shimano's ICE tech road rotors as evidence.

    How to pick a road bike for commuting?-shimano-rt99-rotors-road-disc.jpg

    One reason it's taken so long for hydros to appear on road levers has to do with how you fit the master cylinder inside the lever with the shifting mechanism. SRAM did it by changing their lever ergonomics somewhat so you can still have mechanical shifting. Shimano decided that it didn't want to do that with its mechanical shifters, so it squeezed the hydro bits into its Di2 electronic levers only. There is also the TRP Hylex, which uses the same caliper as the Parabox, but uses simply a brake lever. I bugged some SRAM engineers this year about offering a SS brake lever to use with their hydro system. I also mentioned it to the local Shimano rep in hopes that he'd pass it along. Both companies just said to buy some of their hydro shift levers and to not use or remove the shifty bits (right, because that's a cost effective solution). Anyway, if you're open to using bar end shifters, or some other type of alternative shifter attachment system on a drop bar bike (or none at all), then the TRP brake might do the job.

  27. #27
    Moderator Moderator
    Reputation: mtbxplorer's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Posts
    6,828
    I have not tried discs on a road/cross bike, but would snatch them up like candy if given the chance. Love the BB7's I have on 1 1/2 bikes (mtb & fat). Reliable, weather resistant, unfussy, and more stopping power than on any v, canti, or road brakes I have used. I was also impressed by the hydros on a rental DH bike - the first time 1 finger braking made sense to me.

  28. #28
    mtbr member
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Posts
    270
    Have you considered a flat-bar 700c road hybrid? I have been commuting on one for the last 10 years and it has worked very well for me. You sit a little more upright and can see much better. Marginally slower but more comfortable and more stable than a drop-bar road bike. Mine has hydraulic discs and they are simply amazing. They require very little lever force and are very controllable. Work great in any conditions and they do not wear out your rims. If you are commuting in the winter in Seattle this is a serious consideration. I used to go through a set of rims every 2 years or so before switching to disc brakes. I would never buy another commuter bike with out them.

  29. #29
    mtbr member
    Reputation: crank1979's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Posts
    1,704
    Quote Originally Posted by mtbxplorer View Post
    I have not tried discs on a road/cross bike, but would snatch them up like candy if given the chance. Love the BB7's I have on 1 1/2 bikes (mtb & fat). Reliable, weather resistant, unfussy, and more stopping power than on any v, canti, or road brakes I have used. I was also impressed by the hydros on a rental DH bike - the first time 1 finger braking made sense to me.
    Hydraulic disc brakes are definitely better than cables, but the notion of cable discs being more powerful than other rim brake types on a road/cross bike hasn't been my experience. A lot more factors come into it than simply swapping brake types. Contact patch between the tyre and the road has been mentioned. There is also the rotating weight and disc size. Compared to the 7900 brakes/C24 wheels/23C tubeless tyre set up on one road bike, the Avid BB7/Merida wheels/Schwalbe Marathon Plus 35C tyre set up on the cross bike does not have as much stopping power.

    At some stage I'll change to lighter wheels and tyres and see if this makes much difference, but I've been very underwhelmed with the performance of the BB7s considering their reputation for being the best cable disc brake on the market. Compare them to the 9000 brakes/C24 wheels/25C tubeless tyres on my other road bike and they don't even come close in stopping power. Modulation they are on par with the 7900 brakes and better than the 9000 brakes, which took a ride to get used to.

    I'm happy to be an early adopter and experimenter with bike tech and have been happy with almost everything. Hayes Mags hydraulic discs in the 90's after using the Hayes hydraulic/cable actuated calipers with Altek levers, UST on mtb, road tubeless on the road bikes, 7970 and 9070 Di2 gearing, Pinion gearbox, Rohloff, clipless pedals, full suspension singlespeed, Spinaci bars, Mag 21s, brake booster plates - ah the memories! Road bike disc brakes just haven't worked for me.

    Definitely test ride a bike with disc brakes if you can, but if foul weather is a certainty then the consistency of discs will make them worthwhile even if ultimate stopping power is lacking.

  30. #30
    mtbr member
    Reputation: Straz85's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Posts
    1,348
    I recently got my first disc brake road bike. Actually, CX but it gets ridden on the road too. It has 160/140mm Hayes CX-5 brakes. I can say for sure it's better than my Avid Shorty 5 cantis, though those aren't too bad either. They don't stop as well as the SRAM Force brakes I had on my road bike before, but very close. I never had one complaint about my Force brakes, but I also never rode that bike in wet weather, I always rode my CrossCheck when it was crappy out.

    One thing that always drove me crazy about cantilever brakes is adjusting them. They're so finicky. With the stock pads on the Shorty 5's, it took 2-3 adjustments to get them to a good point. With the Koolstop pads, I got the front to stop squealing but I can't for the life of me get the back to stop. I've almost completely given up even using the rear brake. It doesn't squeal when it's over 50 degrees, but it's awful below that. I have to stop at the LBS one day in the next week to pick up my new wheels, I may see if they can get it to stop. They built the bike for me and I bought every part from them, so they probably won't charge me.

  31. #31
    mtbr member
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Posts
    115
    I feel your pain Straz, I have never been able to adjust rim brakes properly. I asked my LBS guy for any pointers and advice. He claims you just get a feel for it after a bit. I'm fairly certain that he is both a liar and wizard, because only the most powerful of magic can align those bloody things. When I got discs he told me that truing a disc rotor is difficult and that he'd gladly true it up for me free of charge. Well, I bought one of those funny little disc tools and went to town, 15 minutes and I had a nicely trued disc. Hope your LBS gets you sorted man.

  32. #32
    mtbr member
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Posts
    1,034
    Quote Originally Posted by Straz85 View Post
    With the Koolstop pads, I got the front to stop squealing but I can't for the life of me get the back to stop.
    For stubborn rim-brake squeal, I sometimes resort to smearing a bit of carbon grit paste on the rim and then riding with the brakes on for a couple minutes, dragging the brakes pretty hard to burnish it into the rim. Braking grip will be low at first, then begins to recover. Carbon grit paste is the stuff you'd typically use on, say, a carbon-fiber seat post in a carbon or aluminum frame. It contains grit particles in a grease-like base.

    Since this smacks of "greasing your rims," you can expect howls of protest if you reveal to anyone what you want to use it for. But if you just ask your LBS if they have a packet of it for sale, it's likely they have one, or will just put a dollop into a plastic baggie for you.

    Success rate: over 90%. Reminder to any readers: this is for RIM brakes, not discs.

  33. #33
    mtbr member
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Posts
    357
    I swear one day a study will show that bike commuters are all OCD.

    A good set of cantis with koolstops work just fine in all weather in my experience. A rim is a giant disc brake. Discs can be tough on your hubs. If you can't stop your rim brakes from squealing then watch a youtube video, it is not rocket science by any stretch - certainly not wizardry.

    Take the entire brake discussion with a grain of salt - there are way too many variables to say which setup is better conclusively.

    Find a bike that fits and ride it to work. At $1000 they will all be decent quality. At 20 miles each way, you probably don't want flat bars. Get a cross bike with eyelets and braze-ons, mount fenders and lights, and go to it. Add a rack and panniers for comfort.

    I'd consider that a long bike commute - high quality clothing will go a long way in keeping you motivated.

  34. #34
    mtbr member
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Posts
    115
    Canuck,

    I know its not wizardry (hyperbole, its a figure of speech and I like it!) I've just never been able to get it to work for me. Yes I know what youtube is, yes, I'm aware how to look stuff up, I've learned how to do a number of jobs on there. The truth is rim brakes and I, we just can't seem to get on the same page, oh well. I apologize for commiserating with a fellow biker over our shared incompetence regarding rim breaks. Won't happen again, scouts honor.

  35. #35
    mtbr member
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    Posts
    179
    OK all, I'm replying to myself after doing a bunch of research and trying bikes. I narrowed it down to several bikes. Salsa Vaya, Kona Sutra, and Specialized Tricross. The Vaya and Sutra are in the same family, the Tricross is more of a cross bike.

    I eliminated the Tricross first. If my commute was shorter and if I had any dirt aspirations I might have bit on it. But I already have an MTB and my commute is longish.

    Between the Vaya and Sutra, I'm picking the Kona mainly for budget reasons. It's cheaper, and I'm getting a steep discount from a friend. Also it comes with racks which will save me a little more dough.

    I think the steel frame is probably the way to go for a high-miles bike. I like that I won't have to finagle parts onto it, since it's already designed to do exactly what I want.

    I'm signing up for the Seattle to Portland, which is a 200 mile ride. My commute should get me plenty ready for this ride. Also my legs should be in good shape for MTB once the sun comes back.

    I should have the bike in a few weeks and I'll let ya'll know what I think.

  36. #36
    mtbr member
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Posts
    384
    I think I'm about a day late on this talk of brakes, but I want to throw in that I get significant twisting force on my wheels/hubs when I hit my discs hard. The wheels (especially the front wheel) have to be super tight in the dropouts or I can get more than an inch (estimated) of horizontal deflection between no brakes and hard brakes. Tricross, with whatever cable discs came on it (BB7?)

  37. #37
    mtbr member
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    Posts
    179
    Following up to myself on the Kona Sutra, now that I've been commuting on it for a couple of weeks.

    After all the research I think maybe I over-analyzed but I'm happy with the Kona. It was probably not necessary to get a full-on touring bike for my commute, even though it's a pretty long one (~50 miles round trip). Maybe this is the type of thing I'll appreciate after years, rather than months.

    The steel frame is heavy but the bike scoots along nicely and smoothly, even with fully packed bags it's very stable. I at most have a laptop, change of clothes, shoes and layers, sometimes food, plus shower gear etc. I got Ortlieb classic waterproof panniers they work great. I really have no need for the front racks so I took them off.

    I got a leftover 2013 model (blue). The 2014 uses the Rove frame which is more upright but I'm not sure by how much. The only thing I don't like about the color is the matching blue fenders, but that's a personal thing. I kind of like the khaki of the 2014 too.

    The bar-end shifters are taking some getting used to. They're old school friction shifters, which feels weird after using nice indexed shifters but it's not a big deal. I have to learn to keep from knocking them with my knees.

    I'm using Shimano SPD pedals (A530) which are platform on one side. This is perfect for street shoes or SPD shoes, now I can use either. The brakes work great, no complaints but I haven't had a pucker-stop experience in the rain yet.

    My final thought is that the Sutra is an over-built bike, like all of Kona's bikes. It's not necessary to use a tourer for a commuter but, if you want a comfortable stable ride it sure doesn't hurt. For example, if I have only a single pannier the bike still doesn't feel off-center. I wouldn't call it sexy, but for the long haul this is a really well designed bike.

  38. #38
    since 4/10/2009
    Reputation: Harold's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Posts
    17,917
    The Sutra looks to be a heavier tourer than the Vaya. The Vaya's steel frame is fairly lightweight, actually. I think it would get noodly if you loaded it up too much.

    You are right that a full touring bike might be overkill for commuting, but I think it depends on how you treat your commute.

    I don't treat my commute like a workout, so a more aggressive geometry just isn't right for me. I want to sit a little more upright so I have a better view of my surroundings, traffic in particular. But I also like to look around at anything nice along my route.

    Touring geometry just fits the way I ride, better than cyclocross or racier road geometry. To account for the fact that I'm not going to be hauling huge loads on my bike, I use a lighter rack with an aluminum frame, rather than a beefy steel one. I can still haul what I need to haul, but my Vaya doesn't feel remotely like a tank, as some tourers can (I am thinking about the Surly LHT, that bike can be a bit of a tank, but it's also a heavy tourer). And I love the ride quality. It just feels comfy.

  39. #39
    mtbr member
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    Posts
    179
    Quote Originally Posted by NateHawk View Post
    (I am thinking about the Surly LHT, that bike can be a bit of a tank, but it's also a heavy tourer). And I love the ride quality. It just feels comfy.
    Well, I did ride a LHT. The Sutra is not nearly as heavy as that beast. When I get time I'll compare the weights of my FS Stumpjumper and the Sutra. My feeling is their weights are pretty close.

  40. #40
    mtbr Decade+
    Reputation: Biggie's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    Posts
    1,543
    InLawBiker, you attracted some mtbr heavy hitters into this thread and a lot of good information was shared. Excellent thread. I can't add much.

    The debate between rim and disk brakes? Tough. Koolstop pads make most rim breaks better. There are also different compound pads for different weathers...but there are different pads for disk brakes too...

    FWIW, all of my bikes are steel. For something antiquated and past its prime it seems to do most things very well with riding.

    I hope your Kona suits your needs. Best of luck with your commute!
    "I love being on a bike. It helps me feel free. I get it from my dad", by Guillaume Blanchet

Similar Threads

  1. Commuting: Mountain Bike or Road Bike
    By medi.hash in forum Commuting
    Replies: 154
    Last Post: 07-04-2016, 10:28 PM
  2. Replies: 10
    Last Post: 08-30-2012, 03:31 PM
  3. Post your 29er road/commuting
    By officersdr in forum 29er Bikes
    Replies: 11
    Last Post: 10-22-2011, 04:11 PM
  4. Replies: 13
    Last Post: 07-25-2011, 06:11 PM
  5. Replies: 9
    Last Post: 07-25-2011, 01:29 PM

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •