feature

road.cc Commuting Bike of the Year 2019/20

We crown the best commuting bike of the year

You don't need us to tell you, but commuting by bicycle is great, and these are the best commuting bikes we’ve reviewed in 2019.

Commuting is the first experience of cycling for many people, replacing the car or bus it’s generally cheaper, easier, more enjoyable and better for your health.

There are no strict rules governing what a commuting bike should be, and the ideal commuter is different for different people. It’s very much open to interpretation and depends on factors like the distance of the commute, the state of the roads or paths, and the sort of cyclist you are.

Some key considerations though which have been important in bringing the bikes list below into this award shortlist are value for money, easy handling, comfort, durability, reliability and versatility. These bikes take all those things into consideration.

Versatility is essential, whether it’s space to fit wide tyres or able to take some mudguards and a rear rack, if you want to invest in panniers for lugging your laptop and sarnies.

A commuting bike also needs to be tough, durable and practical. Wide tyres are a bonus when dealing with rough roads and potholes, which is why gravel bikes are well suited to the demands of commuting.

Previous winners include the Triban RC 520 Disc and Ribble CGR, let’s see who has been lucky this time around. 

10. Triban RC 520 Gravel £849.99

Buy it here

Triban RC520 Gravel - riding 3.jpg

The Triban RC 520 Gravel is one of the company's first forays into the adventure market and if you're tempted to give it a go it's a really good place to start. It's confident on loose terrain and is fun to ride thanks to a decent weight and some quality components. And when you’re not bashing gravel tracks, it’s right at home on the commute with steady handling a full complement of mudguard and rack mounts front and rear. You can load the fork rack up to a maximum of 8kg too, according to the Decathlon website.

The 520 Gravel is a good all-rounder on the whole, whether on the road or off it, ideal for that short blast around the lanes or out on an all-day adventure.The frame is manufactured using 6061-T6 aluminium alloy tubing, and has a claimed weight of 1,780g in this medium size. Svelte, no, but it is solid and will easily stand up to the rigours of loaded-up gravel and commuting. Triban even offers a lifetime warranty.

The wide Hutchinson Overide 35mm tyres are a good choice for dealing with rough roads and potholes, and let you embark on some light gravel, say a canal tow path if you want to get away from the busy roads.

Seeing the main parts of a Shimano 105 groupset for this money is no surprise, as Decathlon has always offered excellent levels of kit on its in-house bikes. You are getting the latest R7000 shifters and the front and rear mech. Gearing-wise you are getting a 50/34 up front paired to an 11-32 cassette which is just fine for daily commuting.

Overall, the Triban is a very good bike. It offers most of what you'd want from an entry-level gravel/adventure bike, all for a very good price, plus its weight is similar to bikes we are seeing at £500-£600 more

Why it’s here: A great entry-level gravel/adventure bike that is fun and easy to ride off-road

Read the review  

 

9. Merlin ROC Disc 105 £999

Buy it here

Merlin ROC Disc riding -2.jpg

Merlin is offering a decent package here with its ROC Disc 105. An alloy frame, carbon fork, hydraulic discs and a Shimano 105 groupset all for less than a grand is impressive against some of its big brand opposition.

It’s a solid road bike choice but for getting to the office the ROC Disc is a fine choice. The handling is good, the aluminium frame isn’t harsh, and there are mudguard mounts front and rear with space for up to 30mm tyres. There are rack mounting points on the seatstays, too, if you want to fit one for commuting or a spot of touring.

The ROC makes for a decent commuter or day-long tourer. It has that kind of 'unflustered' style about it – just get on it and pedal and it'll carry you for miles with little demand for concentration, you can just enjoy the scenery.

As the name suggests, this ROC comes with a predominantly Shimano 105 build, though there is an Ultegra version available too. Gearing-wise the ROC uses a non-series 50/34 chainset, though its shape and colour don't make it obvious that it isn't a 105 model. That is paired with an 11-32t cassette, which offers a decent spread of gears for most, especially on the road.

For a bike like this, the ROC needs strong wheels and Merlin has specced Mavic XM319 Disc rims paired with Shimano RS505 hubs. With 32 spokes front and rear in a 3-cross pattern, they'll stand up to plenty of abuse on the daily commute and if you are riding the bike around loaded up with a bag or rack.

The Merlin ROC Disc is a decent all-round workhorse at an attractive price compared with a lot of its opposition. Hydraulic braking is very impressive to see, and despite its weight it is still a quick, fun bike to ride.

Why it’s here: A versatile all-weather road machine with a very pleasant ride feel that is just as happy off the beaten track

Read the review 

 

8. Saracen Levarg FB £849.99

Buy it here

Saracen Levarg FB - riding 5.jpg

Just when you thought bikes couldn't get more niche, the Saracen Levarg FB is a flat-bar conversion of a drop-bar gravel bike with 650B wheels and a 1x groupset, designed for urban adventures. Despite that rather convoluted genesis, it fulfils its brief exceedingly well.

For a bike that looks like an overinflated hybrid, but which is really a flat-bar version of a drop-bar gravel bike, the Levarg FB is something of a revelation. With impressively accurate control, the first sensation you notice when riding it – even on flat, smooth tarmac – is that this is really quite fun.

The combination of rigid carbon fork with very large volume rubber is an interesting mix that works better than expected, especially for general 'about town' riding. There's no escaping the fact that road imperfections do make their way to you up through the front of the bike, albeit significantly cushioned by the vast 47mm WTB ByWay tyre. But the flipside is that the front tyre's grip, allied with the direct nature of the carbon fork, tapered head tube and stiff, smaller diameter wheels, means the bike goes exactly where you want it.

The Levarg still moves far more swiftly than you might imagine, though. In terms of seated climbing, it's easy to get in a rhythm and pound out the height gain. In terms of out-the-saddle efforts and sprinting, while this isn't the kind of bike that's going to win any race from the lights, it's not averse to being manhandled a little. Indeed, as you'd expect with such expansive contact patches, stability and road holding is very, very secure, meaning you can throw the Levarg around to your heart's content.

Saracen lists 'Mudguard Eyelets and Rack Mounts' in the spec, but there's just one spare eyelet either side on the dropouts which the rack and mudguard would have to share, and no mounts on the seatstays. That might seem a bit of an omission, but it’s not really the kind of bike you'd want to laden down with massive panniers – it's more a 'small rucksack and be damned’ job.

Saracen says the FB is the Levarg range's commuting option, and that seems a very fair summary. One of the great joys of the Levarg's ride experience is being able to fling the bike around a bit – think old school Mini before it went all posh and German. So weaving through traffic, with the insurance of that wide rubber, comes as a real delight.

There are some limitations that prevent it from being higher up this list. The Levarg FB has quite a limited appeal beyond commuting. With that rigid fork, it's certainly no mountain bike. With those huge tyres and wide, flat bar, it's not a long-distance mile-muncher. And there are better general use leisure hybrids out there 

Why it’s here: A fantastic urban bike with an interesting wheel and tyre setup that will leave you smiling

Read the review

 

7. Forme Longcliffe 2 £999

Buy it here

Forme Longcliffe 2 - riding 3.jpg

The Forme Longcliffe 2 delivers a very good ride indeed, and don't pay much attention to that overall weight – on all but the steepest of hills it feels nippy and surprisingly agile for a bike of its type. If you are looking for your first road machine for fun and fitness or you want a budget winter machine, then it is definitely worth considering.

The Forme is here because it’s an ideal entry-level road bike for getting into sportives and road riding, but it’s also ideally suited for daily commuting. It’s keenly priced and the aluminium frame has mounts for full length mudguards with space still for 28mm wide tyres for dealing with rough roads. You also get mounts on the seatstays for a rear rack, which helps for a little light touring or commuting without a rucksack.

The Longcliffe 2 comes with a Shimano Claris groupset, which when it started appearing on road bikes was a bit of a clunker, but since it has been overhauled is a very fun groupset for the money. In fact, alongside Sora and Tiagra, the only thing noticeably different are the number of sprockets on the cassette. Claris gets eight, Sora has nine and Tiagra is blessed with 10.

The Forme has quite a comfortable ride. It's in no way harsh, absorbing much of the road buzz. I covered some decent mileage over three- to four-hour rides without getting off with any pains or niggles.

It has a longer wheelbase than a race bike, giving a stable ride that is quite confidence-inspiring. Its weight actually helps here, as on rough descents or when your speed is pretty high it never gets unsettled by rough road surfaces and feels properly planted.

The Forme offers excellent quality and comfort, and shows that you really don't need to spend a fortune for a fun day in the saddle, and is versatile for commuting duties.

And if you're quick you pick up this bike for £650 making it a bit of a bargain.

Why it’s here: Great ride quality and sorted geometry make the Forme a fun choice, especially when conditions aren't brilliant

Read the review 

 

6. Canyon Grail AL 7.0 from £1,199

Buy it here

Canyon Grail AL 7.0 First Look-1

Canyon’s new aluminium Grail adventure and gravel bike is a huge amount of fun on twisty trails and is able to provide good speed on a wide variety of surfaces, from road to gravel tracks. It’s also great value, as you’d expect from Canyon and is well specced for the money and it has mudguard mounts for keeping you dry on wet roads. The 2020 models have dispensed with the rear rack mounts of the model we tested which is a shame.

The frame is constructed from 6061 double-butted aluminium tubing with fairly industrial looking welds - it’s not the smoothest frame I’ve ever set eyes on - but is packing some neat details. There’s internal cable and hose routing, a tapered head tube, three bottle cage mounts, eyelets for fitting mudguards and even a rear rack if the idea of strapping packs to the frame doesn’t appeal to you. The fork is made from carbon to reduce the overall weight.

Geometry goes a long way to define a gravel bike, and as previously mentioned, Canyon has fitted the Grail with a shorter stem which has the effect of speeding up the steering.  For road cyclists reading this who might be wondering if the Grail AL is a viable alternative to the Endurace AL, I’d say that if you wanted to run really wide tyres and like the option to fit mudguards, and want to dabble in opening up your riding options with off-road trails, the Grail is a solid choice. It’s not going to be as fast on the road with the stock tyres, but for mixed-terrain riding, there’s a lot going for it. 

As you’d expect from Canyon, the Grail offer very good value for money. We tested a Shimano 105 equipped model but for 2020 the Grail AL range consists mainly of GRX equpped bikes, with one SRAM 1x option. The GRX specs will address the range issues of our test bike and we’ve been highly impressed with Shimano’s first gravel groupset.

For leisure riding, commuting, bikepacking or touring, there’s a lot going for the Canyon Grail. The changes over an endurance road bike or cyclocross ensure it’s more versatile and can easily be tailored towards different needs with just a few small changes or additions. The price definitely means it’ll appeal to commuters.

Why it’s here: Fun and agile adventure bike for not a lot of cash

Read the review 

 

5. Cotic Escapade £899.99

Buy it here

Cotic Escapade - riding 4.jpg

One of the early adopters of the whole gravel/adventure/do-it-all bikes, the Cotic Escapade has had a few upgrades since its inception a good five or six years ago. Larger tyre clearances, a new carbon fork and a tapered head tube have now upped the performance and dropped the weight, making the new model an absolute joy to ride whether on or off-road.

For commuting duties, the Escapade offers performance and versatility in equal measure. The steel frame has ample clearance for wide tyres, handy if you want to add some gravel paths to your daily commute, or embark on some weekend adventures. The frame also has mounts for a rear rack and mudguards for fending off road spray on rainy days.

At its heart is still that quality chromoly steel frame that just wafts along, taking the vibration and bumps out of all but the roughest of road surfaces, helped by the fact that it can now accommodate those larger volume tyres. The heavily sloped top tube also means no matter how tall you are, you are going to be running a lot of exposed seatpost, bringing a little more flex and comfort to the ride.

The new full carbon fibre fork is stiff and keeps the steering tight, and has little issue dealing with the forces from heavy braking. Comfort, again, is impressive, and you can just cruise along for miles and miles in total bliss.

The Escapade really is a very good all-rounder, offering so much versatility that it can tackle everything from a commute in all weathers to a bit of light touring or a blast off-road in equal measure.

Why it’s here: An agile, sweet-handling, comfortable bike on multiple terrains

Read the review 

 

4. Goldhawk Rodax £1,400

Buy it here

Goldhawk Rodax - riding 1.jpg

The Goldhawk Rodax is as close as you'll get to the perfect off-the-shelf urban speed machine. With a Reynolds 520 steel frame, wide tyres, flat handlebar, disc brakes and SRAM 1x drivetrain, it offers quick control with instant power transfer and impressive levels of comfort. And it’s decent value too.

Steel bikes might not be as instantly reactive as aluminium (although this one gets pretty close), or as clever as carbon, but for an all-round bike that you can live with, it's hard to beat. In this case, the insulating quality of the steel frame deals with lumps and bumps very impressively. It handles big hits and potholes particularly well – you can't ignore them but you're not left counting your teeth

The frame is made from Reynolds 520 steel tubing and looks fantastic in its retro-inspired colourway. There are some nice details, too, such as the internal routing for the rear brake and even the front brake line disappears into the crown of the sexy, straight-bladed carbon EVO CX fork.

The Rodax can't quite match the best high-speed cruisers in terms of out-and-out stability – it's far more of a Spitfire than a Lancaster bomber – but I don't think that matters in the slightest. This isn't a bike designed for all-day spins through the open countryside; it's a bike made for sprinting from traffic light to traffic light and weaving through traffic.

The SRAM 1x drivetrain works well on this bike. Do you want to ride fast, without compromises and limit the faff? Simple: there's a shifter at your right hand to go up and down the cassette. That's it. No feathering the front mech, no dodgy chainlines. You always know what's happening with your gearing without even having to think about it. The SRAM Level T-A1 hydraulic disc brakeset is a speccing choice that is hard to fault. It offers excellent outright power, nicely weighted modulation, and the dinky little levers add to the overall sense that you are riding a piece of precision engineering.

The fact that you can have a handmade Reynolds frame that looks fantastic and is fitted with a spec that really works for just £1,400 is quite amazing.  And it rides simply fantastically.

Why it’s here: Fantastic flat-bar urban bike with a superb handmade Reynolds 520 frame and ideal spec for £1,400. It's a steel steal!

Read the review 

3. Ribble CGR AL Shimano 105 £1,399

Buy it here

Ribble CGR AL Shimano 105 review

Ribble's CGR AL Shimano 105 is a hugely versatile and superb value bike for everything from gravel bashing to cyclocross and road commuting.

The CGR bit of the name stands for Cyclocross, gravel and road, which tells you pretty much everything you need to know about where this bike is pitched, namely as a do-it-all drop bar bike. The impressive thing is that it actually delivers on this promise, having taken in everything from gravel rides, road Audaxes and tow-path bashing commutes.

The base kit on the bike speaks that Ribble reckons that it's likely to live on tarmac for most of its life and I don't doubt that's true. While you can stuff up to a 45mm tyre on 700c wheel and up to 47mm on 650b hoops in the frame and carbon fork, it comes with a 40mm Schwalbe G-One AllRound tyre as standard. They are a very good choice for road commuting as they are fast rolling, comfy and rugged, and can handle gravel tracks and tow paths.

Shimano's 105 hydraulic groupset is a solid choice when it comes to the drivetrain, with 11 evenly spaced ratios over an 11-32T block and smooth, dependable shifting. The hydraulic brakes are a good reason to opt for this build rather than the £999 Shimano Tiagra bike, which comes with cable discs. They're powerful, predictable and work in all conditions. 

Versatility is a key theme of the CGR and that's really the heart of this machine. If you plan to mix a bit of gravel or a 'cross race in alongside regular commuting, then this build is superb - and if you plan to vary it more towards one aspect than another, then Ribble has you covered with so many custom build options it's quite possible to lose a lot of time speccing up the bike exactly as you want it.

While the handling is a balance between the competing requirements of each of the disciplines, it's a line that Ribble has walked very well, with no major compromises or flaws apparently unless you want to take it to an extreme. Add in the fact that it is stonking value and looks and feels every inch like a quality product and there's very little not to like.

Why it’s here: Excellent value and huge versatility from a well-mannered drop bar machine

Read the review 

 

2. Triban RC120 Disc £399.99

Buy it here

Triban RC120 Disc road bike - riding 2.jpg

The Triban RC120 Disc is an entry-level road bike with mechanical disc brakes,  almost faultless ride manners, a perfectly practical spec and the extra incentive of that enhanced stopping power. The price and addition of the disc brakes and mounts for fitting racks and mudguards makes it an ideal commuting choice, being versatile enough to commute during the week and embark on long road rides at the weekend.

The frame is made from 6061 T6 aluminium with all the tube shapes manipulated,  with a carbon fibre fork and neat cable routing throughout. The RC120 doesn't have the undersize rear triangle found on other Tribans further up the range, but that's fine – I quite like the fact that Triban's lower models eschew fashion and retain some more traditional design details. Indeed, even the compact frame's sloping top tube is probably seen as slightly old-fashioned these days.

Front-end control is excellent. It was certainly responsive enough to steer me out of the way of an oncoming car that had careered three-quarters of the way across my lane, desperate to nip up a side road. The Shimano Tourney compact (50/34) chainset combined with the 8-speed 11-34t Microshift cassette offers a really broad range of gearing ratios if you have a few hills on your commute.

The spec includes Promax mechanical disc brakes which offer good braking performance in all conditions and tough 28mm ResistProtect+ clincher tyres that are grippy and durable.

For relatively inexperienced riders, it's a very safe welcome to the world of fast drop-bar bikes. With rack mounts front and back, it could also be a high-speed commuter.

Why it’s here: Well priced aluminium road bike with disc brakes and top spec that is versatile for daily commuting duties

Read the review 

 

1. B’Twin Riverside 920 £599.99

Buy it here

CBOTY-btwin-riverside-920-riding-3

Who could imagine a big old lump of a hybrid – with 38mm tyres and a suspension fork and weighing north of 13kg – being any fun to cycle? Anybody riding something like that is in for a slog, right? Thankfully, nobody told those crazy French cats about accepted wisdom because in the B'Twin Riverside 920 they've managed to put together an incredible bike that combines all the practicalities of a hybrid, with a fun and enthusiastic ride and almost unlimited potential.

The first thing that hits you about B'Twin's Riverside 920 is just how reactive it is. For a big and relatively heavy bike, you can get it up to speed without any real effort, and weaving in and around parked cars or street furniture is exciting and direct. Crucially, even if the Riverside 920 isn't necessarily quicker than other bikes, it at least feels lively and willing. This is a really rewarding bike to ride.

The frame comes with a lifetime warranty and a really great riding position that definitely errs on the side of uprightness. That gives you a good view ahead and commanding road presence in urban environments. It also contributes to a ride experience that is stable when cruising but dynamic when the mood takes you.

Up front, the 63mm Suntour NCX air-sprung fork are great for taking the sting out of road imperfections, potholes and sleeping policemen. They have a handy remote lockout lever on the handlebar for locking them out as well.

BTwin Riverside 920.jpg

The 38mm Hybrid Trekking Speed tyres are suitable for road, leisure or even a bit of trail riding.  A chance to a slick or semi-slick tyre would be ideal for untapping more speed for urban commuting. The classy NX 36-tooth chainset is teamed with a wide-ranging 11-42t cassette, which really does provide all the gear ratios you'll need to enjoy (or at least conquer) everything from tough climbs to long descents. These days, who needs triples, or even doubles?

It's to Decathlon and B'Twin's credit that they pitch the Riverside 920 as a wide-ranging hybrid trekking bike suitable for commuting, gravel or even trails; other manufacturers would be tempted to chuck in some 'urban lifetstyle' mumbo-jumbo. Keeping the idea that the Riverside 920 has a variety of potential uses, rather than opting for some trendy marketing spin, couldn't be more sensible. Short of road races or hard sportives, this bike can do almost anything you ask of it.

Why it wins: Agile and exciting ride makes the Riverside 920 an unexpected treasure

Read the review 

David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.

Latest Comments