/ General purpose bike
I'm planning to cycle to and from work, starting in September. The route is mixed - a lot of canal towpath, some designated cycle-way and a bit of urban road.
I'm no would-be adventure cyclist, and no real ambition to be anything other than proficient & use it to (a) get fit and (b) be a bit greener.
Suggestions for a decent all-rounder in the region of £300-£700. VFM rather than bells & whistles is important for me.
Thanks in advance for suggestions.
I ride a specialised tricross which would fit the bill and I can recommend but you can only get those second hand now...
the below gets a good review.
What sort of distance and how hilly?
I bought a Planet X Kaffenback with Alfine 8 hub gear from eBay about 4 years ago for a very reasonable sum. My daily commute is circa 15 miles each way on canal towpath with a variety of surfaces. I also frequently vary my route between alternative trails and road. It takes rack and mudguards. I've also dabbled in a little CX racing on it as well. I have the Alfine hub serviced in an oil bath about once a year for approx £25 and beacuse it's set up like a singlespeed, I've only had to change the chain, ring and sprocket once in about 7,000 miles. It's been super reliable and near perfect for my commuting.
I have a Boardman cyclocross (CX?) bike from Halfords. It was an ex demonstrator that was listed on their website as being available in one of their local stores for £650. When I got there, they also mentioned there was a free offer on 'accessories' which bought me a set of road tyres and mudguards.
It's been absolutely perfect for cycle track / towpath / road riding and the disk brakes have been so much easier to live with than any of the rim brakes on my previous job-a-long bikes.
I'm constantly amazed at how good bikes are for that sort of money these days.
I've been using a Boardman hybrid for a simliar journey, in London, cannot remember which one but it was about £500. Current bike is my second one but is of lesser quality of the first one (both Boardman), if I had to buy again I'd go for something a bit more expensive, like Jim Lancs above I got mine from Halfords.
Great deal on Planet X London road right now.
I use a carbon GT105 for a 16 mile each way commute as well as tracks and crap weather. Its abit more expensive but you'd notice the difference. Link attached for the alloy version https://www.tredz.co.uk/.GT-Grade-Elite-2020-Gravel-Bike_215423.htm?sku=677990&utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=google_shopping&gclid=CjwKCAjwr8zoBRA0EiwANmvpYOz94-2JkKO4-3Zil9eOaDhRk8F_6vv3DlZRng7t3XSWM46SckFN9BoCrFAQAvD_BwE#
If you're not looking for drop handlebars, Islabikes Beinn 29 may do the job. I've had one for several years, used it as a commuter for 3. Happy on all kinds of terrain, comfortable, simple to look after, mounts for mudguards and panniers.
I use a voodoo agwe from Halfords for that kind of riding. Pretty decent spec for the money (and easy maintenance) and is often discounted. I'd also look at gravel/adventure bikes if I was buying now - they are basically the same but with drop bars.
Alternate option: I found myself in a similar situation recently, and went round a few bike shops looking at bikes in that price range. Then I decided I wasn't really sure what I wanted, so I bought a second hand hybrid for £100 on Gumtree. I can always sell it for about the same. And in the meantime I'm getting fitter, getting better at riding, and getting a clearer idea of what I want from a bike.
Thanks all. Useful stuff here - just the sort of info I was after. UKC does the business again
BTW. Commute will be approx 10 miles each way.
For me, I'd be looking at three important things. For utility riding including off-road you must have a bike with good clearance (not just tight fit) for mudguards. A rear rack for shopping and work stuff. And for me disc brakes are a must (but probably don't bother with hydraulics). They eliminate issues with grit etc embedded in brake blocks that is the bane of rim brakes.
I have an RC520 that I use for commuting. I've done about 1,200 miles on it since October (Its not my only bike). I'm pretty happy with it.
Not all that impressed with Decathlon, but that's for other reasons, and probably not fair to share here.
Specialized CrossTrail, or similar, if you want a hybrid - tyres wide enough to cope with gravel, but fast enough on road. I got my hybrid on eBay for a pittance, so worth looking there.
If you want drop bars, then a CX or gravel bike would fit the bill - I bought a CX bike earlier this year for exactly what you're describing and just swapped the tyres to something a bit more road-friendly. I'd probably avoid a second-hand CX bike, unless it's mint, as the drivetrain might be trashed from winter commuting/racing.
Have a look at the Evans adventure road ranges - I nearly bought an Arkose. The Boardman ADV ones in Halfords look good, too.
Good comments here on the rack and mudguards, but check your route doesn't have any stiles that you'll need to lift the bike over before loading it up too much.
Go you! I've been commuting on my bike (about 8 miles each way) for the last few months and it's been a revelation. Frequently the best bit of my day. Also more pies allowed, less worry about never having time to exercise, a couple of hundred pounds not paid to Great Western, just as quick a journey, freedom in choosing when I travel rather than being tied to train timetables....and on and on....
I'd be tempted to do what Jack B suggested and get yourself something second hand and cheap and work out what you really need/want over a period of time. Having said that I did something similar and just used an old mountain bike I inherited and have spent a couple of hundred on it replacing the gnarly knobbly tires with hybrid tires, and replacing a bunch of other stuff that was worn out or not working properly. So this strategy may well turn out quite expensive in the long term!
Also be sure to leave room in your budget for all the other stuff you'll need if you don't already have it...lights, helmet, hi viz, gloves and the rest. A set of cameras doesn't make you any safer but does give you the knowledge that you might have some recourse against anyone who behaves like a complete bellend on the roads around you.
I commute on a tow path but it is gravel and well made, others can be rather wet and muddy. What your's is like my dictate what tyres you get, but probably not what bike you need.
I for years used a 'sports hybrid' (no suspension), it was great and had great brakes, but I then got a Boardman cyclocross bike. Even though the brakes weren't as good, having drop bars just suited me better and got me to work a bit better. I did many thousands of kms on that over 6 or 7 years and then last summer went for a Boardman gravel bike (ADV 8.9), and am very happy with that too. It has survived a winter of commuting once or twice a week, more since the weather has improved and I've done long rides on it too.
On sale the ADV 8.8 will be in your price range, very similar to mine but slightly lower spec components, and getting glowing reviews. All-round drop bar bikes, say, 8 years ago were called entry-level cyclocross bikes. Now they are called gravel bikes or adventure bikes, and they've let cyclocross bikes go back to being pure cyclocross bikes for weirdos who spend their winter saturday afternoons getting covered in mud and churning up a field! I'd definitely look at a cheaper gravel/adventure/all-road bike as they are perfect for commuting when you are mixing roads, cyclepaths, towpaths, bridleways and so on.
I'd go the cheap second hand hybrid bike route at first. It will probably not be the quickest or give the greatest level of comfort, but will do a decent job, not require too much maintenance and give you a much better idea of what you want if (probably when) you want to upgrade. There are loads on eBay really cheap, and often with low mileage. Avoid ones with suspension, which are usually pretty rubbish.
Again, thanks for this enormously helpful advice. I'm probably going to look at ebay (other sites are available...) as I think it'll be a good idea to get this cycling lark into my system first with a decent second-hander. If things go well i can upgrade to new and shiny.
One further question - I'm approx 5.9, fairly short legs. What frame-size should I be looking for? I will factor in some of the features suggested on here, so as to maximise the advice.
I'm a similar height and also have fairly short legs. My roadie is a Cannondale Caad12 with a 52cm frame (which some folk might think a bit on the small side) but it seems to do the job for me. I think it all depends on the particular bike's geometry and it's probably best practice to try it for size. Too big a frame size is probably more of an issue than being slightly too small.
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