Need to start cycle-commuting - help!

by notfastenough   June 6, 2013  

Ok, so I've got a new contract that reduces my daily commute to just 8 miles each way. Helpfully, parking is £8 per day(!), so using the bike is definitely on the cards.

I currently only have one bike.
I have never ridden to work before.

First thing's first - the bike. I've got a carbon bike (think it was actually a Ribble originally, but stickered up differently by the shop) with SRAM Apex/Rival mix, Mavics and Speedplay pedals. If I ride this to work every day, then I figure that the Mavics will be taking quite a bit of abuse, and the speedplay cleats will wear out more quickly walking from the bike rack to the office etc. Plus, I like riding quickly and without mudguards/rack etc, so overall it doesn't seem very suitable.

So, I'm feeling a second bike coming on. However, budget is limited to about £1k at the moment, so either:

Keep the current bike as it is, and buy something like a Genesis or Kinesis. I note the Croix de Fer is a couple of hundred over my budget. Also need to buy SPDs, shoes, rack and a smallish pannier.


Take off the Mavics, Speedplay, Fizik saddle, seatpost, Garmin mount etc. Replace with all the stock bits that came with the bike, put the lightweight plastic guards on (close clearances, no room for proper ones), buy SPDs, shoes, lightweight rack (the bike has no mounts - is this doable?) and use this as the commuter. I would then need to source a frame, groupset, bars and stem for under £1k including the bits added to the first bike. Plus, this would then be my 'good' bike, so I don't know how achieveable this is.

Oh, and if anyone is thinking of suggesting that I buy something of theirs, I'm 5"11 and usually ride a 56cm (give or take for odd frame dimensions)!

Then as an aside, 8 miles doesn't feel far enough to go to the trouble of putting lycra on (except maybe for taking a longer route home after work). Think I'd get away with just wearing work clothes with a hardshell jacket on?

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Tifosi CK7 at around £850 would just require a rack or seatpost bag, pedals and you're ready to go. I've done everything from the 7 mile rural commute to the Paris-Roubaix Cyclotouriste with no problems. Off the shelf with Sora or Veloce mix it's a great commuter, Audaxer, club run bike

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posted by Wooliferkins [47 posts]
6th June 2013 - 15:15

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What type of mavic wheels? I would just ride it to and from work, come winter put on some winter wheels and keep it clean. For an 8 mile commute you would be mental spending £1000 on an extra bike!

posted by SammyG [295 posts]
6th June 2013 - 15:38

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I'd be scouring the web for a second hand bike.
Something like a single speed, preferrably with mudguards already on.

No point in spending that much money if its a second bike just for commuting.

posted by qwerky [130 posts]
6th June 2013 - 15:51

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Can you take advantage of the Cycle To Work scheme? You can save 40%+ on up to £1000. Well worth it if you have access to it.

Re: lightweight rack, I use one of these - - it bolts onto the seatpost and is just big enough for the daily essentials. There are various other similar packs available.

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posted by netclectic [116 posts]
6th June 2013 - 16:14

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I would get a second bike for the commute. I think you are right to go for panniers, make sure you get a frame with eyelets that will take a rack. The bike would double up as a winter trainer or spare in the event of your first bike being off the road too. I would stick with SRAM so that the parts would be interchangeable with your first bike which would save you duplicating on spares and allow you to change bits over in an emergency. Personally I would commute in bike clothes. You might be surprised at how sweaty you get in work attire and you are bound to have days when you get caught out in the rain. A nice bike will give you the option to throw in a few extra miles on a sunny day too. Add your choice of puncture proof tyres to the build too. You don't want to be having to change tubes on the way to work.

I enjoy my commute and it has made me miles fitter and faster. I hope it works out the same for you. Good Luck.

Ah! Condor

posted by Bedfordshire Clanger [307 posts]
6th June 2013 - 16:39

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I have carbon Tarmac for dry days and Genesis Croix de fer for wet.
The Genesis is superb in cruddy weather with full length guards and 28mm armadillo's.
Stops on a dime with disc brakes and is kinda tank like so no problem riding through unseen potholes in dark/wet conditions.

posted by bike_food [93 posts]
6th June 2013 - 18:42

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Ha, can see I should have explained myself a little more!

Ok. I've only physically got room for 2 bikes. Ultimately, I would like to have a 'good'/summer bike and a 'do-everything-else' bike. Something that will also do light off-road use will keep me going right through winter when my club mates switch to mountain bikes in icy conditions. Would the Tifosi cope with knobbly tires etc?

Hence, while a cheap single-speed did occur to me, it's not moving in the right direction. I'm a freelancer rather than an employee, so no c2w for me (unless anyone knows how to do this as a contractor with your own ltd co.?)

It would be useful to extend the evening commute a couple of times a week, to maybe 30-40 miles.

If I could have, say, 6 bikes, would it stop me drooling over others that I don't have?

posted by notfastenough [2951 posts]
6th June 2013 - 22:31

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I'd also go for the second bike and the bike clothes. My ride is c19 miles, and I do it regularly but not frequently.

Definitely feel the difference

Good luck

posted by Stratman [36 posts]
6th June 2013 - 22:31

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I can't recommend my Dawes tourer highly enough which I commute on - a triple (giving a good turn of speed downhill), drop handlebars, panniers and mudguards and room for lamps which you'll need (USB rechargeable, nice and bright). Schwalbe tyres are nearly completely puncture-proof (did LeJog and the St David's = Lowestoft East West on mine, not a single puncture on either trip). Also it's heavy, so you'll really appreciate the road bike when you swap back Smile

posted by RuthF28 [89 posts]
6th June 2013 - 22:55

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If you are after light off road use then a cyclo-cross would make sense. I bought a Graham Weigh off E-bay, it has mounts for mudguards and panniers (having these makes sense after a while!). If you cannot bring it inside then do not have anything too Gucci 'cos it could disappear. It took me a while to ride every day, initially I drove one way and cycled the other. I now ride every day, I do not think I could do this without mudguards. If you get picky about when and if you ride then you can get out of the habit. You can save a pile of money, get fitter and feel better whilst at work. But having a shower at work is the best part; not all employers are so enlightened.

posted by SideBurn [765 posts]
7th June 2013 - 9:13

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there's any number of disc-equipped crossers out there that would be an ideal second bike for you, i reckon. whyte, trek, boardman, pinnacle, marin, genesis, charge, merida, kinesis and more.

C2W - if you're a true freelancer (not paying PAYE) you can't do it. If you have a limited company you'd need to pay yourself enough as wages that you'd be liable for the tax you're attempting to recover through the scheme.

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posted by Dave Atkinson [7254 posts]
7th June 2013 - 9:19

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And never, ever, underestimate the kudos you can pick up by making it in when the really shit weather kicks in and all other transport inevitably grinds to a halt.

If you have a desk at work, always maintain a supply of clean and dry boxers and socks in it.

I personally have a full back up set of clothes - Jeans, trainers, t-shirt and jumper in my desk along with a towel.

Oh, and when it does start hooping it down with rain sometimes the best thing to wear is as little as possible, you'll be riding for under an hour so you can get away with short sleeve jersey and shorts. Bare skin dries quicker than any fabric.

posted by farrell [1308 posts]
7th June 2013 - 9:20

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I had similar situation last year.
bought a used cx bike, got some mudguards and some road tyres and good lights. Job done. Get used to riding a lot slower so you arent sweaty in the morning and no need to shower. Then cane it on the way home for a work out. I reckon a pair of mtb baggy shorts is best for summer and take trousers in a rucksack or panniers if you prefer.


posted by pashda [12 posts]
7th June 2013 - 10:48

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Mudguards are a good call. I wouldn't do without them on my commute. Regarding the C2W, have a word with your accountant. You may be able to get your company to buy the bike which would give you the same benefit as C2W without the effective HP agreement but without having to pay to transfer it either.

Ah! Condor

posted by Bedfordshire Clanger [307 posts]
7th June 2013 - 11:39

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Have to say, I probably go against the grain in commuting on my only (fast) bike, simply changing wheels and tyres for winter.

I'm in full lycra, I get sweaty, no 'guards, and when I'm feeling good I time trial it!

Can't afford n+1, get no pleasure in going slowly.

This only works because I have showers at work and lockers where I can store clothes.

8 miles is definitely worth getting into your gear for, and you have the option of extending your route on the way back. Mine's only 10.5 miles each way if I go the most direct route.

posted by 700c [556 posts]
7th June 2013 - 12:25

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Just as a note, I think but not sure - if your a contractor you could do it on expenses, at least this way you wouldn't pay VAT? Not too sure though!

posted by Cycle_Jim [281 posts]
9th June 2013 - 18:09

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There are plenty of racks available for bikes with no rack mount. I have a Blackburn EX1 on my 12 mile each way commute. Rock solid one year on (titanium frame).

Definitely Lycra up although just 8 miles. Changing in and out is good mental prep for the roads. You don't want to jump from desk to bike still thinking about an email or distracted.

If you have a nearby laundrette option, you can rotate a selection of work clothes easily enough without having to faff about taking clothes to/from home.

I put my bike maintenance and parts thru my business (one man limited co.).

posted by putmebackonmybike [12 posts]
9th June 2013 - 22:11

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Obviously as an LTD you couldn't do the ride to work scheme, as Dave said.. unless you're paying yourself a large wage and taking smaller dividends. I do wonder, though, if you can't claim a bike as a legitimate expense? I know that as a sole trader I was allowed 20p per mile on a bike as a legitimate expense - 16 miles a day for 48 weeks a year makes..... hang on a sec... £768. Yep, you need to claim that. Not bad! I presume you can do this as an LTD too? I need to find out, I just went LTD myself.

I've given up Lycra for the commute. As someone often working in new clients' offices, I like to not show them my package on the first day. You really don't need it for urban cycling either. I'm happy to wear cycle-specific jeans in cooler weather, and a pair of rapha commuter shorts when it's warmer. I picked mine up in the sample sale, but brands like chapeau and vulpine do similar for less.

posted by bashthebox [619 posts]
10th June 2013 - 0:08

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Loads of info to ponder over, thanks for all the replies. I've just picked up a brochure for Genesis, but am having difficulty dragging myself aware from the awesome paint jobs on the volant/volare!

Equilibrium looks ace for £899, but suspect it won't take knobbly tyres.

Wearing less seems like a winner as well.

If I could have, say, 6 bikes, would it stop me drooling over others that I don't have?

posted by notfastenough [2951 posts]
10th June 2013 - 16:23

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Find yourself a steel frame that is single speed preferably fixed. Chuck on some guards ( full, not these crappy clip to seat post efforts) and a set of spd's. You will then have a non shiney bike in the racks not looking for unsolicited attention. Keep the lycra and if it looks too posey a pair of baggy mountain bike shorts. Also means you don't roll into work with wet trousers. The fixed will really help your training as well. I now use the fixed all year round and it is soo much more fun.

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posted by giff77 [1039 posts]
10th June 2013 - 21:49

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