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Single Speed Bike or Road Bike for commuting to work? What should you buy?

Posted by Michael Tarr on

If you are in the market for a new bicycle with the purpose of using it to commute to work you may have heard of or seen a single speed bike. In London single speed bikes are everywhere in the form of old steel frame conversions, deep rim fashion fixies to dedicated track bikes.

Here are some important questions you need to ask yourself before you make a decision.

How far/short is my commute? Is my area hilly? What's my budget? Is there somewhere safe to lock my bike at work? Can I take my bike into the office? Do I want to take up cycling as a sport? Do I simply wan't an alternative means of transport other than tube, train, bus or car?

Having some answers to the above questions will help you realise your needs after weighing up the facts you will read in this post.

Single Speed Bikes

Nowadays a single speed bike can be picked up relatively cheap. A half decent new single speed can cost you around £300. The beauty of the single speed bike is it's low maintenance and general low cost. It has normal 700c sized road wheels so it will feel faster and smoother when compared to a mountain bike or BMX.

Pros:

  • Less money to purchase 
  • Hassle free maintenance
  • Lots of brands and bikes to choose from
  • Smooth drive-train due to optimal chain-line
  • Choice of handlebar types
  • More customisable

Cons:

  • Restricted to one speed
  • Hills can be challenging
  • More effort over longer distances
  • You will need a road bike if you want to join a road cycling club

If your commute is within a rural area you may struggle having only one gear. Over longer distances you may tire more quickly if the gradient is not flat. If you really like the idea of a single speed bike you can change the gear ratio by installing a smaller front chain-ring or a larger rear sprocket to best suit your terrain. The pros of a single speed bike make the prospect of owning one more tempting. The initial financial outlay would be significantly less compared to a road bike of similar quality so you may feel less paranoid about leaving it locked up outside whilst at work.

 

Road Bikes

Pros:

  • Full range of gears available 
  • Faster over longer distances
  • Weekend rides with road cycling clubs
  • More carbon and aluminium bike options

Cons:

  • Higher purchase cost
  • Increased risk of theft
  • More hassle to maintain
  • Cost of servicing and parts is much more

A road bike is generally a bit quicker due to the access to a larger ratio of gears. On the flats you can ease into a gear where you can spin less and push harder. Owning a road bike also allows you to participate in club rides at weekends however a road bike does come with increased costs. Continually using your road bike to commute on all year round will put lot of wear on the components and can get expensive to replace. Gears may become out of sync quickly if not properly installed or maintained. To have smooth shifting gears you would be looking at £200 just for the groupset alone.

A single speed bike with it's simplicity and hassle free nature is our bike of choice. In an ideal world you would own 2 bikes and reserve the road bike for commuting in the summer. A single speed bike will offer the most reliability when commuting all year round. If you are a student in a flat urban area you can't go wrong with a single speed. It will certainly be the bike that costs you less money in the long run.

 


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