The bike I use the most is my commuter bike. It’s a flat bar Specialized Sirrus, equipped with full-length mudguards, rack and dynamo lights. I ride it almost every day – a 12 km each-way commute. Not a huge distance, but enough to work up a sweat, and I’m lucky enough in my day job at Spotify to be well looked after as a cycle commuter (indoor cycle parking with decent racks, showers, towels). Oh – and we’ve a barista on site – that’s a nice reward at the end of the ride.
I’ve made some changes to the original spec (above) – new wheels (of course – more on them to follow!), double-sided Time commuter pedals (flat platform on one side, ATAC clip on the other), a bell (I know opinions vary, some like to yell, but I like a polite “ting ting”, just makes for a better all-round vibe).
Comfort, reliability and flexibility
If you want a commuter bike to be a feasible year-round means of transport, I think that comfort, reliability and flexibility are key. Mudguards translate to comfort as soon as the rain hits (which it will – average of 170 rainy days per year here in Stockholm). If you’ve ever done a ride on a nasty wet day you’ll appreciate that it’s not just soaking feet (yuck), or an unpleasant wet and muddy stripe up your back… It’s also all the crap that gets all over the bike – so you’re also adding to reliability, as components won’t wear out so fast. The rack ticks the comfort and flexibility boxes – there’s so much you can fit in to the trusty Ortliebs, and it’s much more pleasant than carrying a load on your back (and presumably better for your back, shoulders, neck…). Dynamo lights make a huge difference – harder to steal, impossible to forget and never need batteries changing. The standard of LED dynamo lights these days is amazing – the technology has moved on so fast (I can remember the first LED bike lights coming out!).
Finally for reliability I’m a big, big believer in Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyres (“the flatless tyre”). They are heavy – sure, but when it’s tipping down freezing sleet or snow, I like the reassurance of knowing I’ve a 5mm puncture protection belt, and will tolerate the somewhat sluggish ride. Schwalbe have recently added a Marathon Winter Plus (previously they had the standard Marathon Winter, without the 5mm puncture protection belt) which is what I’m riding over the colder season here.
For the times I need mapping for navigating somewhere new, I’ve abandoned my Garmin 800 in favour of a phone mounted on the v secure Quad Lock. Phone mapping and routing is just so far in advance of what the Garmin offers. No comparison. The Garmin remains by far the best option (battery life, size, waterproofing, integration with ANT / Bluetooth devices) for all training however.
For the future, I’m thinking about changing to tubeless tyres – I’ve used tubeless on my MTB for years, and have found it a revelation. But I’ve not tried road tubeless yet. Watch this space. I’m also debating adding a dynamo-powered USB power source. There’s some really interesting options available nowadays, but I need to do more research. I like the neat fit offered by the stem-cap models like the Sinewave Reactor or the Cinq Plug III – but I can’t route cables through my steerer tube, so they are ruled out. I like the Igaro D2 almost perfect – apart from aesthetic (it matters to me!). If it came with a neater under-stem mount I would be v tempted. If you’re interested in hub-driven USB power for bicycles, check out this list of current options.
For the further future (retirement!!??), I’m seeing more and more electric bikes on the streets of Stockholm. They seem such a fine option when there’s a headwind blowing….