New gear makes it easier to ditch the car. Shiftless gearing, electric boost, micro-foldable models to cycle to the train and cargobikes for getting the kids to class. Here’s a list of commuter bikes.
As more cities, like London, Chicago, Melbourne and New York, invest in cycling infrastructure (see our story Bike commuting goes broadband), there is increasingly more appropriate gear to help commuters switch to two wheels for the ride to work or school.
From a bike based on a Leonardo da Vinci sketch that mimics an infinite number of gears to a basic urban cycle that costs the equivalent of five tanks of gas, options for cycling for transport are expanding fast.
For those unaccustomed to bikes built for transport- as opposed to sport-, here are a few options to consider:
- A chainguard: no messy chain to dirty your work clothes.
- An internal gear hub: with the gears enclosed in the hub of the rear wheel, there is no derailer to get bent or clogged.
- A more upright bike frame.
- Rear rack or panniers: to carry loads (from suit bag panniers to add-on racks for carrying surfboards).
- Fenders and mud flaps.
- Lights: front and rear lights. Look for lights powered by dynamo hub in front wheel. Some come with LED lights.
- A kickstand.
faircompanies list for 2008 of top bikes to replace the car
- Batavus: Dutch made. “7 speeds for touring and an enclosed maintenance-free chain guard for city use”. Longevity assured by the galvanized frame and stainless steel and chrome-plated parts.
- Bianchi Milano: “Although the Milano’s swoopy aluminum frame and low-maintenance derailleur-free shifting are as distinctive as ever, what the bike represents—the idea that functional design can make a bold impression—is particularly resonant in the era of 3-buck gasoline.” Shimano Nexus 8-speed shifting with internal-gear rear hub and rear brake. Fenders, chainguard, kickstand, built-in flashing light for dark. Leather grips. $649.99.
- Biria Easy Boarding EB Top 3: German-designed bike for easy boarding thanks to the distinctive step-through frame. Chainguard, 3-speed Shimano Nexus internal hub, 26-inch wheels, kickstand and rear rack. $420.
- Breezer “New” Uptown 8: Designed by mountain biking pioneer Joe Breeze, but these California-made bikes are like any European commuter bikes. The Uptown 8 comes with a full chaincase and front and rear LED lights. Plus fenders, rack, bell, a shock-absorbing seatpost, more puncture-resistant tires and a built-in ring lock for short stop security.
- Civia Highland: A well-made bike with a 7000 series aluminum tubing frame that is 100% recyclable. It’s expensive, but fully loaded with high end components like aluminum fenders, Shimano hydraulic disc brakes and proprietary recessed cable routing channels. $1,985.
- Electra Amsterdam Classic 3: Stylish, modeled after Dutch bikes, but American-made. Steel frame, alloy rims, internal Shimano Nexus 3-speed, coaster brake and retro leatherette seat and hand grips. Full chainguard, front mud flap and coat/skirt guard. $560.
- Electra Straight 8: A pop aesthetic with its red spokes and black frame. 7005 alloy hydroformed top tube. Shimano 3-speed coaster. Fatti-o 24″ x 3″ tires. $610.
- Ellsworth Handcrafted Bicycles The Ride: Based on a Leonardo da Vinci sketch, the Ride is the first bike to use the gearless NuVinci Continuously Variable Planetary (CVP) drive. Popular Science– which gave it a Best of What’s New Award 2007– explains that the rear hub mimics an infinite number of gears making it easy to find the perfect gear ratio. “Twist a dial on the handlebar, and ball bearings in the bike’s NuVinci transmission tilt between two rotating metal discs. (Your pedaling turns one disc; the other transfers power to the rear wheel.) As the balls tilt, they touch the discs at varying angles. This changes how fast the wheel spins relative to your pedaling—slowly for low gear ratios, where pedaling is easy but the wheel doesn’t turn much, and quickly for high ratios. The balls can roll to almost any angle, giving you precise control over the bike’s torque (and your exertion).” $2,995.
- Felt Red Baron: A design inspired by the Red Baron, the famous German pilot from WWI, and his plane. Rust-free aluminum frame. 24″ x 3″ tires. Shimano coaster brake hub. $549 (3-speed), $479 (1-speed).
- Giant Bicycles Suede Coasting DX: The bike to automatically shift gears using a small computer (created by Shimano and Ideo) that responds to the speed of the front hub. Very upright seating due to lower seat height on the frame and forward-placed pedals. Comes with detachable laptop-sized pannier bags and cellphone-sized handlebar bag. $800.
- KHS Urban X: A utilitarian bicycle. According to the Commute by Bike reviewer: “For the equivalent of 5 gasoline fill ups, you simply can’t beat the retail price of $299!” $329 (suggested retail).
- Masi Soulville: Leather seat, cork grips, steel frame and coaster brake that is “perfect for riding around town with coffee in hand”. Shimano Nexus 8 Speed Internal and Nexus Revo Shifter. $820.
- Nirve Cannibal: Cruiser bike for a short and stylish commute. Chopper frame. Three-speed transmission w/twist grip shifting and integral coaster brake. Double-spring saddle with matching grips. $529.99.
- Orbea Town Uni: Almost vertical seating position at all times. Ergonomic and sturdy enough to be used for urban transport, but also for occasional treks. 499 euros.
- Saab Everywhere bike: The BMX/city-cross bike breed stripped down to its essential elements to create a transit alternative that is light weight, sleek and convertible. The conventional tube of the bike’s frame has been replaced with a detachable wire that double functions as an integrated locking mechanism. If the lock is broken so is the bike – why steal it then? Alloy steel frame, 8 speed Shimano gears, foldable pedals, Kenda slick tires w/reflective lines & K shield, Biomega Design Integrated DT-wire locking system. $1,169.00.
Folding Bikes (for those biking to catch a bus, train, subway, plane or carpool. Also, a solution if you don’t have adequate bike parking at work or home):
- A-bike: The smallest folding bike created by the inventor of other miniatures like the pocket calculator and digital wristwatch. An “ultra-compact” bike for short journeys (i.e. train to the office). Folded size: 67cm x 30cm x 16cm. Max. weight tolerance: 85kgs / 13st 5lbs. A-bike plus has been retooled with a new air-sprung cushioned saddle, a smoother drive system and an improved A-bike sports carry bag.
- Brompton S2L: Classic British foldable bike. The S series are the lightest. The S2L is 10.8kg and the S2L-X IS 9.9kg. Grips are lower and further forward giving a sporty riding position. Two-speed bike without weight of a gear hub. Good for short and medium-range trips. 10.8 kg. £585 (£1,030 for the S2L-X).
- Cannondale The On: First presented at Eurobike 2007, the ON is a highly-anticipated next generation in folding bikes: full-wheeled folder, single-sided front fork, maintenance-free drive train. Cannondale promises to release it soon. “Urban transport as we know it is about to change forever. In fact, we are currently working on bringing products with similar technology to the market so it’s an exciting time for cyclists everywhere. This is technology you’re going to want to own.”
- Dahon Vitesse D7: 7005 aluminum frame with high end components. In one comparison beat out other more expensive bikes. £339.99.
- DiBlasi R24: Italian-made. Fast folding due to a link system. 534€.
- Green Gear Cycling Bike Friday New World Tourist: Classic folder with strong fan base. Hyperfold system folds in 5 seconds, without releases or latches. Fits in suitcase, but built to function as a touring bike. Handles well on long rides. $999, $899 to $1,035 depending on style.
- Riese und Muller Birdy Light: Sturdy foldable bike due to the all aluminum frame with no hinges to weaken it. Instead, pivots allow for the wheels to fold in. Suitable for long distances. Weight: 10.8 kg. Eight-Speed Shimano Capreo gear and narrow 40-355 tires. £950.00.
- Orbea Balade: Aluminum yet inexpensive. Six-speeds. Folds in 37 seconds. 299€.
- Xootr Swift Folder: Full-size wheelbase for a solid, comfortable ride. Built to be your “one bike”. Folds in 10 seconds. Fits in a duffle bag/suitcase. Weighs 9.9 kg (22 lbs.), but that can be cut by replacing the nearly 2 pound 65 psi tires and the generous saddle. $679.
- Strida Strida 5.0 (US): Inside the distinctive trianglular shape power is transferred to rear wheels with Kevlar belt. Folds in 5 seconds. Good for shorter commutes. 22 pounds (10kg), disc brakes, Internal Rear Hub Freewheel, alloy rims and hubs. Mudguards and mud flap, gelseat, luggage rack. £379,00, $800.00.
Electric (for those with long or hilly journeys, or who might be worried about having the stamina to use a bike for transport, there are the hybrids of cycling: the electric assist bikes):
- BH E-Motion: Hybrid propulsion motor starts up very gently. Brushless motor. Lithium-Ion battery runs up to 84 kilometers on a charge (on intermediate level). Motor can assist with speeds up to 25 km/h (limited by regulations). 1,500 €.
- Currie Technologies IZIP Trekking Li: DC brushless geared hub motor. Lithium phosphate battery. Motor kicks in with pedaling. Top speed: 18 mph (29km/h). Range: up to 30-40 miles (48-64km). $1,999, £1,169.99.
- Schwinn Continental: the electric cabling is internal so it looks like a regular bike. Lithium polymer battery can be easily removed for recharging. Recharges in less than 4 hours. Frame is of lightweight aluminum. Comes with rack, fenders and bell. $2,399.99.
Cargo bikes (whether you need to haul kids, tools, groceries, it’s no reason not to cycle. Cargobikes- AKA workbikes or utility bikes- come in a variety of designs, from front-loaders to trikes with trailers):
- Bakfiets Cargobike: Designed specifically for transport. Can carry from two to 4 kids depending on the model. Very common in Northern European countries, like Denmark. From 1,599 euros and up.
- Kona Ute: A longbike with an extended cargo area built into the frame. Capable of carrying 4 panniers or a couple kids. 700c wheels and tires. “The UTE can do that better than any car, yak, buffalo, sherpa, or rickshaw.” £580, $799.
- SmartTrike: A rugged, yet stylish Dutch-made worktrike for kids or cargo. With 250 watt electric pedal assist system from Yamaha. Range: 40 to 200km. 2,199 €.