I never planned to buy a bike dedicated solely to commuting. I already own two road bikes (Litespeed Bella and Specialized Ruby) and a hybrid (complete with a basket), and my kids and husband have bikes, too. How many bikes does one family need?
So resistant was I to buying another bike that I retrofitted the Ruby with a seat post rack and trunk to haul supplies, and carried my MacBook Pro in a well-padded backpack. It worked OK. But after a couple of trips to the office, my neck and shoulders began to ache from the weight of the laptop, power cords and other office gear. I considered hanging panniers off the back rack for the laptop, but I still wouldn’t have a fully functional commuter bike. There was no way to install fenders. Besides, why turn an expensive road bike into a mule?
It was time to get educated about commuter bikes and clean out a space in the garage.
I researched my options on various websites and decided on the Specialized Globe City 6 IG8, a sporty commuter. At about $1,000, it was double what I paid for my first road bike, a Trek 1000, but it was designed for urban commuting. I liked the idea of an eight-speed internal hub (to minimize maintenance. Remember, I have two other road bikes to maintain). Plus, it comes stacked with all the commuting essentials, including generator-driven front and rear lights, fenders and a rear rack. My only other investment would be panniers.
Orange Cycle sells the Globe City 6 IG8, and manager John Sammons owns one. John’s never steered me wrong. I stopped by to talk commuter bikes.
Anyone who’s worked with John knows he asks A LOT of questions. Good thing. After establishing the features I wanted in a commuter bike (durability, rack, fenders and a range of gears), John asked perhaps the most important question: How long is your commute?
Answer: 30-44 miles roundtrip (30 miles if I drive halfway and ride in from Winter Park; 44 miles if I ride from home to the office near Orlando International Airport).
The Globe was scratched from the list. Reason: Weight from the 8-speed internal hub. Fully outfitted, the bike could weigh upwards of 28 pounds – without added freight (such as my MacBook Pro). John promised that if I tried to commute 30-44 miles RT on the Globe I’d sell it within a week. He suggested a cyclocross bike, which has cantilever brakes (and therefore clearance for fenders) and brake bosses for mounting a rack. It’s also equipped with drop handlebars, which I considered essential to to remain as aerodynamic as possible. But at a cost of more than $2,200-plus a cyclocross bike was more than I wanted to spend for a commuter bike.
At nearby David’s World Cycle (also on Edgewater), I checked out the Trek SOHO 4.0 which, like the Globe, is equipped with an 8-speed internal hub. I ended up test riding the SOHO at the David’s World in Casselberry. The skies were darkening and the wind was kicking up – just the kind of weather conditions I’ll undoubtedly encounter on many rides home this summer. I knew before I left the parking lot that the SOHO wasn’t the bike for me. It’s heavy without cargo, making it difficult to pedal into a headwind. The thought of hauling a laptop and office gear on Semoran Blvd. and Conway Rd. during rush hour wasn’t very appealing.
I spied a Trek FX 7.3 upright road bike on display at Davids. It was fully dressed with rack, fenders, trunk and panniers. It looked utilitarian, but not tank-like. Looking closer at the FX line, I discovered a women’s specific version of the FX 7.6 (my two road bikes feature women’s-specific geometry), which Josh and the guys at David’s/Casselberry built for me to test ride the next day.
I knew before I left the parking lot that the FX 7.6 was the bike for me. Here’s why:
- Carbon components (stays, fork and seat post) cushion any roughness served up by the aluminum frame;
- It’s fairly lightweight for a commuter bike – roughly 20 lbs. stripped down – and very easy to handle;
- The 9-speed cassette (48-36-26) offers ample gears for any condition, including wind, which lately has been gusting at 20-30 mph (ugh);
- Trek offers a variety of storage systems to work with a Bontrager rack. I purchased a set of panniers (featuring a rigid back to protect a 15-inch or smaller laptop) and a set of shopping bags. All attach securely to the rack and can haul up to 50 lbs. of cargo. Currently, I use my Trek FX to commute to the office. But my goal is to leave my car parked in the garage all weekend and use the Trek for trips to nearby stores.
I started this blog admitting that I never intended to buy a commuter bike. Truth be told, I never intended to become a cycling commuter. But I love riding my bike – whether I’m in a fast paceline on my Litespeed, climbing mountains out West on my Specialized Ruby Expert or commuting to work.
It will take me about 8 months of gas savings to recoup my investment in the Trek FX 7.6. As for the impact on my quality of life…