There are 10 characteristics of a bicycle that works for everyday bicycling.
‘Tis the season to get a bike. A bike you’ll want to use every day. Don’t get the wrong bike. Here’s the characteristics of the right bike.
What’s the bottomline that all 10 help fulfill?
Simple: a commuter bicycle for around town needs to be grab-jump-and-go. As little between you and hopping on it and going, in whatever weather, as possible. Go.
So: combo lock. Get a heavy serious one. But keys slow things down, get lost, have to be clipped somewhere. Get a combo loopy one that will stretch around anything. Loop it around and beneath your seat post and stretch it open onto whatever, close and go. Instant valet parking.
Ugly Stickers. Ugly your bike. Don’t make it so beautiful that everyone wants to steal it. Ugly your bike.
Chain guard to keep your dress and pants safe. Not just a chain protector rim thing. A full chain guard.
Fenders. Rain, mud, snow: you’ll need fenders.
Bell. Might seem silly, but it’s vital for navigating through bike paths, bike lanes, streets, everything. Make sure it has a good ring, not just a pingy plastic weak ding.
Internal hub. I like 7-8 gears (o r more, but not necessary). Three gears is fine, but 7-8 is best. Internal is best ’cause you can switch all the time, you’re always right where you want to be, and unlike external it won’t clunkety clunk get you stuck between gears when you’re crossing traffic or what-have-you. Internal also stays pretty clean and safe in all kinds of weather. And if, like me, you want to bike all year, you’ll find yourself in rain, sleet, snow, ice, sun, the gammut.
Rear rack. Zip tie (metal plumber tightener thingys are best, they don’t break) a heavy duty plastic milk crate or light metal bin to the rear rack. Front racks can be okay but I don’t like how they affect my steering.
Bungie cord or something to secure your backpack/groceries etc in your rear rack. Bungie should not be too long, or you willll forget to secure it once and it’ll get caught in your spokes and you’ll crash and die or at least have to spend four greasy minutes getting the frayed bungie out of your now-bent hub.
Upright handlebars. Not road bike down low bars. Upright, straight or slightly-but-not-too-far-back-a-squirrel-across-your-path-and-you’ll-die handlebars so you’re upright and can comfortably look around at girls or boys or traffic without dying.
Lights. I like the rechargeable pop off pop on lights you can stick into your laptop to recharge. Leave nice lights on and they’ll get stolen.
Top 10 Commuter Bikes, updated. Last list here.
Linus. The Roadster is $869. 8 gears. Bell included. Classic, pretty, functional, simple: they’re great starter bikes, tho not super quality. You can find ’em often on Craigslist.
Masi stopped making their awesome Soulville, but you can look for them on your craigslist. It’s what I ride.
Swobo (Fillmore Townie) also makes a pretty 8 gear one that you can find on craigslist if you’re lucky.
Bianchi Milano: I love it. Get it. Not really being made anymore, but Craigslist!
Civia Cycles Twin City Step-Through/Over – $850: Civia makes a good one. Seven gears. Steel, so it’s a comfortable ride. That’ll be my next bike, I guess. I’ve already replaced half my Masi over the past six years (I ride every day in all weather and am pretty hard on it).
More models you love? Let me know in comments. If I agree, if they fit our above criteria for jump n’go, I’ll add ’em in.
What you don’t want: there’s some other beautiful models I know of (cough: Spot), but they’re too pricey. You do not want a too-pricey everyday commuter, because you do not want your everyday commuter to be stolen. It needs to be cheap enough that you can use a solid combo lock and you’re good.
Made in the USA and/or Fair Labor: (some of these are spendy)
Shinola. High-end, quality, made in USA.
Remember: a road bike or mountain bike is awesome for road rides to or mountains. But for around town really helps to have paniers (for groceries, bag, laptop) and be able to sit upright—city bikes with fenders so you can wear a skirt or pants, and not get muddy or your clothes caught in the chain.