Looking for speedier commuter bike- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    Looking for speedier commuter bike

    Hello all,

    I've been commuting for over a year now, about 3500 miles this year on a heavy steel Kona Sutra. The rest of my biking it MTB although I do a couple road centuries each summer for fun.

    Here's the thing - my bike is overbuilt for commuting and I don't really enjoy weekend rides on it. I really would rather not buy a 3rd bike (actually I would but I can't afford it.) This thing is built for the long haul, but I don't intend to tour.

    So, what are some bikes that are still practical for commuting but fun on the weekends? My commute is 40 miles round trip. I would need fenders for sure, I see a lot of rain in Seattle. I would prefer to keep using panniers too.

    Or am I asking for the impossible here? I don't know too much about road bikes. I'm thinking maybe a Cyclocross bike?

    Thank you!
    Greg.

  2. #2
    Wierdo
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    Fellow Seattle commuter here. I also have a 40 mile RT commute.

    I present for your consideration the perfect Seattle commuter:



    Habanero Titanium frame cross bike. The frame has mounts for disc brakes, rack and fenders. Seen here with a Tubus Airy rack. While I don't have fenders installed in this photo, I almost always have Planet Bike Cascadia fenders installed.

    Weighs in at 19 pounds. Rides great on the daily commute but is also plenty fast and fun for gravel grinding or the weekend century.

  3. #3
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    Wow that's pretty sweet. My bike is probably 30+ lbs. Never considered Ti thanks for the tip.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by InlawBiker View Post
    ... a heavy steel Kona Sutra...

    Here's the thing - my bike is overbuilt for commuting and I don't really enjoy weekend rides on it.
    I don't get it... When I look at it and the Habanero, I don't see much difference.

    How heavy is the Sutra? Is it really that bad?

  5. #5
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    That's about a 10lb difference I think, I haven't weighed the bike. I'm going to weigh it this week out of curiosity. My aluminum mountain bike is significantly lighter.

  6. #6
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    Is the weight things like racks, fenders, and heavy wheels (an ounce on the rims is like a pound on the frame)? If so, try stripping it for the weekend, and get a second set of wheels. Might do wonders and be cheaper than a whole new bike. The wheels would be a step toward a third bike (a frame plus maybe you have some parts available?).

  7. #7
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    Upgrade your mtb wheels and switch the old pair over to the commuter unless they suck. It makes rationalizing a spendy upgrade that much easier. Wheels and tires are the best bang for the buck. Like on a MTB, high quality road tires are worth the money for the ride. If you're on touring tires now by chance, they ride like bricks for the most part.

    I bought a Volagi Liscio frame off fleabay and it's a nice solution for an all around commuter/road machine. You can fit 28mm tires with fenders, 32 without, which is capable for most surfaces. Thankfully, there's more choices like this one out there now.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by InlawBiker View Post
    That's about a 10lb difference...
    Does that matter?

    I'm not trolling, I'm asking.

    I only commute 16 miles, round-trip, but I use a 29" hardtail (I ride through gravel and poop). With a full water bottle, the bike is about 40lbs (including lights, computer, fenders, toolkit, etc. etc. etc.).

    I also wear a pack, and with books and a laptop it's probably 10+lbs.

    Anyway, what kills me is an afternoon headwind, not weight. Once the bike is rolling, the weight doesn't seem to matter much.

  9. #9
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    I ride a Soma double cross (none disc version) CX bike it will take fenders and wide tires. It is steel but it is made of Tange infinity / prestige tubing so it is pretty light. It also has mounting for panniers it's ok for commuting but the frame does flex with touring weights. Not weighed mine but it is significantly lighter than the Surly Cross check and many Aluminium roadies I have come across
    They are a lot cheaper than Ti if budget is an issue (frame and fork is under $500 I think).
    I have 2 wheelsets, 1 running 35mm marathon duremes and one full on roadie wheelset running 23mm Conti GP4000's. I use mine for weeknight club road rides, commuting, gravel grinding and offroad touring.

  10. #10
    Wierdo
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bimmer74 View Post
    Does that matter?

    I'm not trolling, I'm asking.
    If you ride a long commute with a lot of hills and you ride it every day, yes absolutely it matters.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bimmer74 View Post
    Does that matter?

    I'm not trolling, I'm asking.
    Does weight matter in commuting? No not really. It matters on the weekend when I want to have fun. The bike is really built to commute and tour I just don't like doing events and fun rides on it. So I figure 2 options.

    1. Keep the Kona for commuting, get a 2nd bike for fun on the weekends.

    2. Sell the Kona, buy a bike more suited to fun but possible to commute on.

    I see a lot of commuters on aluminum or carbon bikes but they have no fenders or rack. I suppose I could live without the rack & panniers but the fenders are a must.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by InlawBiker View Post
    I suppose I could live without the rack & panniers but the fenders are a must.
    Sorry, another dumb question:

    Can't you just put aftermarket fenders on ANY bike? I have a Topeak XC1 on the front of mine, and in the rear I have an SKS Beavertail XL running into a mud board (along the seat tube).

    They work wonderfully.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bimmer74 View Post
    Sorry, another dumb question:

    Can't you just put aftermarket fenders on ANY bike? I have a Topeak XC1 on the front of mine, and in the rear I have an SKS Beavertail XL running into a mud board (along the seat tube).

    They work wonderfully.
    Full fenders really are amazing and don't compare at all to the stuff you mentioned. And not all bikes can take a good quality full fender. Most carbon bikes lack fender mounts. And many alu bikes lack them, too. I am not a p-clamp fan to cobble fenders onto bikes without mounts, though I suppose that can be done in a pinch. I'd much rather have spots where I can bolt the fenders on directly to the frame.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harold View Post
    Full fenders really are amazing and don't compare at all to the stuff you mentioned. And not all bikes can take a good quality full fender. Most carbon bikes lack fender mounts. And many alu bikes lack them, too. I am not a p-clamp fan to cobble fenders onto bikes without mounts, though I suppose that can be done in a pinch. I'd much rather have spots where I can bolt the fenders on directly to the frame.
    Yeah, real full fenders are a must. Especially in my commute paceline, if I spray water all over my buddies they will make me ride by myself

    So it looks like the new Specialized Diverge is a good option. Disc brakes, aluminum or carbon frame, can take a rack and fenders and 700x30c tires for the commute.

    I can take the rack & fenders off for weekend fun-runs. A second wheelset with 25c tires would be awesome.

    This is kind of what I was thinking towards.

  15. #15
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    Lots of choices out there with more coming, the whole gravel/adventure/do it all bike catagory is expanding.

    Bikes | Volagi Cycles
    Honey Bicycles All Roads
    Macho Man Disc | All-City Cycles
    http://calfeedesign.com/adventure/
    BIKE COLLECTION - Van Dessel

    And I am in complete agreement, if you need fenders at all, full fenders are the best solution.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harryman View Post
    Lots of choices out there with more coming, the whole gravel/adventure/do it all bike catagory is expanding.

    Is that the "cyclocross" genre of bikes, you're referring to?

  17. #17
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    Kind of. These usually have slightly different geometries, tuned towards a more comfortable ride and clearance for up to 2.1" tires. Some are more endurance road like, some more 29er like. Different tools for different jobs.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by JWall View Post
    Is that the "cyclocross" genre of bikes, you're referring to?
    Not really. This genre cropped up because people have long been using cross bikes for "do it all" duty. But cross bikes are an imperfect solution for many. Many of the adventure bikes will accept bigger tires than are cross legal, for one. Biggest difference is the geometry difference. You're starting to see adventure bikes that are a bit more "forgiving" on rough roads, too. Cross bikes are pretty durned stiff and racy, and more maneuverable than is necessary for long, straight, gravel roads. They can get twitchy hauling a$$ down a steep gravel road.

    My boss got a podium finish on a big local gravel race this spring not because he's a really strong rider. He's a B-group rider on the road. He rides a Warbird and according to him, the extra stability going downhill was what won the race for him. He said he wasn't passing many folks on the climbs, but he was passing a lot of people on the downhills.

    The current batch of adventure bikes borrows bits and pieces from a few aspects of riding to create something new. Cross bikes, touring bikes, mt bikes. Lots of tapered headtubes on these. This segment really started exploding once the selection of commercially available road disc brakes started to pick up. I haven't seen a single one without disc brakes. There are the bikes meant for gravel races like the Warbird that have moved away from rack mounts. But many of the options aren't specifically focused on racing, and give rack mounts. Look at Salsa's new Ti Vaya. The Vaya has long been a gravel-capable touring bike. But the Ti Vaya changes up a few things subtly to make it a little more gravel-friendly. Just about every big manufacturer has something in this segment at this point, or has something in the pipeline. Cannondale's recent entry even has a Lefty suspension fork.

    They're definitely not cross bikes.

  19. #19
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    I think there's a lot of good insight on this thread.

    To respond directly to your questions, I'll voice my opinion:

    Owning an assortment of bikes (including a town/commuter), I can tell you that every time I've tried to make a dual purpose bike, it has failed. It becomes a "jack-of-all-trades, master of none." In your case, you'll either have a great commuter or an awesome weekend bike. Building both is nearly impossible. Even if you have a second set of wheels, I find for myself that I get lazy and don't swap them every time. Next thing you know, you are commuting on weekend wheels and recreating on commuting wheels. And There's more to it than just the wheels. A fun, hilly weekend ride is made less fun if you have fenders and other commute gear on the bike on a bright, sunny, summer day. I vote 2 bikes.

    It sounds like if you go the route of 2 bikes, you are keeping the Kona, but if you buy 2 new bikes, for commuter options, I'd look at the growing "gravel/adventure" segment over a pure racing cx rig. I think the geometry of a gravel bike and the features make better sense for a commuter. Rack/fender mounts, really wide tire clearance, comfy geo, etc.
    With that, I'd aim for Alu or Ti or carbon over steel if you live in in a wet environment and the bike is going to often get soaked in order to avoid rust. That said, carbon is not an ideal commute material. Ti is the best bet if its in the budget.
    Ryan
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    AMain.com Performance Sports and Hobbies

  20. #20
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    Another vote for the Diverge. Best commuter/fun bike I ever got with a lot of options (racks and fenders)

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by InlawBiker View Post
    Does weight matter in commuting? No not really. It matters on the weekend when I want to have fun. The bike is really built to commute and tour I just don't like doing events and fun rides on it. So I figure 2 options.

    1. Keep the Kona for commuting, get a 2nd bike for fun on the weekends.

    2. Sell the Kona, buy a bike more suited to fun but possible to commute on.

    I see a lot of commuters on aluminum or carbon bikes but they have no fenders or rack. I suppose I could live without the rack & panniers but the fenders are a must.
    I'd go with option 2. Since you have a MTB already, that would scratch the single track, out for a cruise around the neighborhood type need. It doesn't sound like you particularly like your Kona, so I'd sell it and look for something you can use as both a commuter and weekend fun bike.

  22. #22
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    I have a street bike and a MTB for my street bike which is the commuter bike I have the Specialized Sirius which i've had for 3 and a half years and my MTB is the 2015 Specialized Rockhopper 29 which i got a few weeks ago for commuting I prefer something cheap so that i don't have to lock up and leave an expensive bike although the one mistake i did make in choosing a commuter bike was getting a street bike over a MTB because the MTBs hold up much better against flats (as i was constantly replacing tubes) and are much easier to get uphill I would have been better off getting a cheaper MTB like the Trek 3500 that i could have used as a street commuter bike and bought the better MTB Later like I did. I live in a more rural area and did at least 20 miles a day.

  23. #23
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    After some thought and looking for a 3rd bike, I just don't really have time or storage for a 3rd bike. I'm going to test ride the Diverge pretty soon, leaning towards Aluminum with disc brakes (A1 Elite). They should start going on sale here pretty soon now that Fall is just around the corner.

    This was all good feedback especially from ryan_o however, owning 3 bikes right now just makes no sense. Unless I luck into some great deal on an older race bike for $500, I think a hybrid commuter/fun bike is in my future.

  24. #24
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    Ryan
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