What Kind of Bike Do I Need for My New Commute?

As part of my ongoing (secret) mission to make this blog all about me, I’m here with a “bleg” as I believe the kids call it.

To be fair, this “blegging” wasn’t really my idea. I merely asked a perfectly innocent and not at all loaded question in the comments on Walker’s post about declining bike sales, and a wise fellow commentor suggested that it was fodder for a post. Despite my enthusiastic agreement, please direct your complaints elsewhere.

Anyway, silliness aside, I’m sitting at my desk at a chair that does not belong to me, because my home is currently staged for showing to (hopefully deep-pocketed) real estate shoppers, and my name appears on a line somewhere on a contract to purchase a different home, which means I’m busy ignoring how much all this is going to cost me and instead fixating on how I can manage the 5.5 miles or so between the new place and the office without getting in a car.

I mean, I guess I could drive, aside from the fact that I really hate driving in rush hour traffic. And the fact that paying for car storage is annoying. And the fact that I maybe sorta have been mildly evangelical about the virtues of car-light urban living.

But the bottom line is that I do not want to drive to work. If everything goes as planned, it will be pretty easy to take the bus to the office (doesn’t even need a transfer!), but that’s a little passive for my taste, so I’m looking for something a tad more physically involved.

It occurred to me today that I can grab a Nice Ride to the train station and ride the rails to work about as quickly as anything, so that’s going to rocket to the top of the options pretty darn quick during the biking season, but this suburban kid turned urban advocate is thinking about how best to cut out the choo-chooing middleman.

So, yeah, let’s stop beating around the bush and get to the question. I want to bike to work, but I’m not sure what I need to do it.

Up until recently, I’ve biked mostly for recreation. This summer, I’ve added a Nice Ride membership to work in a little discretionary bike “commuting” for a trip that’s around a mile and easily walkable. Now it’s time to take it up a notch (hat tip, Guy Fieri).

My trusty, inexpensive hybrid Trek has served me well. I’m at around 700 miles this biking season after going over 600 or so last summer, mostly on weekend rides for exercise. I like the upright riding position, and the gearing and tires do reasonably well for faster-than-mountain-bike-slower-than-road-bike tooling around. With some modifications, maybe it can do the commuting job?

A trusty steed at rest

A trusty steed at rest

At minimum, I will need some cargo capacity and some protection from flying debris kicked up by the rear tire. I figure adding a cargo rack and some panniers in which I can carry work clothes and maybe I’ll be fine.

But is fine really the goal? So, let’s get right down to the question. I’ve got 5.5 miles each way to go between home and work. I’ve got to spend the day at a desk in an office, with no real access (or desire to have to) clean up. So, leaving aside truly inclement weather, what’s your recommendation of the right two-wheeled, human-powered vehicle to get the job done? Or, just as good, what features should I be looking for in picking one out?

Adam Miller

About Adam Miller

Adam Miller works downtown and lives in South Minneapolis. He's an avid user of the city's bike paths, sidewalks and skyways. He's not entirely certain he knows what the word "urbanist" means.