Hello all, I'm a new member here - for those with looong memories, I am the poster 'rek' from cyclingforums.com, but have been idle there for the last few years.
The search for an "ultimate" all weather commuting bike is something that has been my hobby for the last couple of years. My commute has usually been anywhere between 11km (ultra short) to 25-30km (and beyond, if I go the scenic route) so it's a very difficult mix of comfort, practicality, and performance to get right. Hopefully some of you will enjoy the (very much abbreviated) tale below...
Before getting seriously into this ultimate commuter project I did the typical commute things - start out with slicks on the MTB, then chuck a rack on it, then buy and set up a cheap MTB dedicated for commuting. Then one summer, feel the need for speed and buy a CX bike with a rack, and learn to hate cantilever brakes. Then when winter comes, put on some mudguards and learn to really hate not just cantilevers, but simply not having disc brakes anymore!Commuter Mk.1 "Donkey", late 2007
- is very similar to Mulger Bill's Kona. Back then the "Dew Drop" model didn't exist, so I had to put one together myself starting with a Dew Plus (the cheapest disc-specific Dew frame I could find at the time), and rebuild it with drop bars, an Ultegra 9sp groupset and Avid BB7-Road disc brakes. I used a super-close-ratio 28/36/44 triple chainring which was great, but in the long term was a pain to keep in adjustment - it was just too far off normal Shimano specs for what the front derailleur design was expecting to deal with (both the rings, and the different chainline of the MTB crank).
I also came across the toe clip overlap issue Mulger Bill mentioned, which I solved by using 26" wheels (with 1.6" Continental Sport Contacts - excellent 26" slick, by the way) on the bike instead of 700c. It did lower the bottom bracket a few centimetres, but not enough to have any pedal-scraping issues on the commute. Because of this I called this bike the "Donkey" - it was a workhorse, but with little 26" donkey feet instead of 700c (pathetic I know, but the name stuck)
Here is a picture of it, in its current semi-retired state (105 groupset, 36h wheels and 28/38/48 trekking gearing):Commuter Mk.2 "Moose", mid 2008
- one day a friend flippantly commented, "hey your commuter bike is cool, but can it handle a monsoon?" Well this was an itch I had to scratch, so went all-out and built a Rohloff equipped commuting bike, Wippermann rustproof singlespeed chain, with a Hebie Chainglider to protect the chain from the elements. Unfortunately with the Rohloff meant no more drop bars, which I find more comfortable.. with the combination of a riser bar and Ergon grips with horn-like bar-ends on the tips, it looked like it had antlers, so it was called the "Moose". I used a Kona Explosif steel frame for the build, as it had sliding dropouts. It was comfortable, but h-e-a-v-y and quite lethargic compared to the Donkey (a good 2km/h average speed slower) - didn't really like it on longer commutes.
Shortly after building the Moose I moved from inner Melbourne (Ivanhoe) to Eltham, and in doing so my commute route changed from city streets to the Main Yarra Trail, most of which is a gravel path. You'd think this would be perfect for a bike like the Moose, burly bike with hub gears and a chaincase - low maintenance right? Sort of, but not really ... the dust kicked up from the gravel path made its way into the chaincase (and stayed trapped inside), polluting the chain oil and causing the chain to wear very quickly. I only got 2000km out of a thick rustproofed singlespeed chain, even with regular cleaning. (I get double that, out of a normal exposed derailleur chain!) .. and cleaning that chaincase and the chain was a really messy process I hated doing.
As such, I moved back to the Donkey, and sold the Moose early this year. The moral of the story for me was that instead of trying to "seal" the drivetrain as much as possible and hope for the best, a good maintenance programme for a derailleur drivetrain (rotating multiple chains and a good cleaning regimen, replacing cables and outers yearly) is, in practice, more effective for a bike that sees a lot of action, and a lot of weather in the process.Commuter Mk.3 "Chairman", late 2009
- when I built the Donkey, a friend of mine in Sydney was also building up a custom Titanium disc-specific cyclocross bike as a commuter. But after using it for a while he wasn't keen on the mudguards and disc brakes (apparently it never rains in Sydney
), and wanted something that was faster and more sporty - so we swapped: I found and sent him a Ti road frame, and I got his Ti CX frame. Fortunately the CX frame fit me pretty much perfectly (just need more head tube height - so flipped the stem). 700c is okay with this bike, thanks to a very generous front-centre measurement. To alleviate the drivetrain issues I had with the Donkey, I moved to a more normal 30/39/50 triple. This bike's name is "The Chairman" - the Ti frame was built by Hi-Light in China...
It is just as, if not more comfortable than the Moose, and with Michelin Dynamic 32c tyres (which are more like 35s when you measure them) it is almost as fast as my racey road bike! Steel may be real, but even both sides of the Cold War agreed that Titanium was better.
This picture was from my first commute on it, using the Conti Countryride tyres that came from that Dew Plus I pulled to pieces in making the Donkey. (The other parts of that Dew now make up the bike I ride to the shops/Parkiteer cage)
I'm absolutely wrapped with this bike (as is my friend with his new sporty commuter - win-win!) I do still have the Donkey in the shed, but I don't use it anymore. I keep telling myself that it makes for a good spare bike, in case the Chairman breaks for some reason - it's a nice excuse as I can't bring myself to list it for sale.
Someone mentioned a carbon commuter bike - I actually found some rack/mudguard friendly carbon CX framesets about recently. Linking to eBay
is acting up but it's item 290379275999.