£500-ish commuter bike: advice?

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  • £500-ish commuter bike: advice?
  • Hello. New to Singletrack. Sure this has been asked before but couldn’t find similar threads in the ‘search’.

    I’m looking for a new bike for my commute to work. I currently ride a very old, mistreated, Raleigh with a heavy steel frame. Think it’s a hybrid (which I gather is akin to swearing for some, sorry) but its finally giving out. The crank barely fits in the frame; and just the other day the gear cable, for the back 7 gears, snapped. I now do ten miles (there and back) five days a week, so want something that’ll put the fun back into the commute, as well as make it a bit quicker, ideally.

    I live in Cambridge, so the ride is very flat and, generally, on well maintained bike paths/pavements. Cycling friends say I should get a road bike but I feel a bit of a fraud. A bit like buying a dragster for your granny. I’ve looked at Mango bikes (on another thread) as I’ve been totally seduced by the visual appeal – and I know nothing about bikes. It should have wheels and brakes is about the sum of my knowledge.

    Talked to a salesman in my local Giant shop who steeered me towards a Rapid: http://www.giant-bicycles.com/en-gb/bikes/model/2013.giant.rapid.4/11834/56812/ – which is about my price point.

    Have read about the ‘Halfruads’ Boardman’s. I dont want drop handlebars, so looked at this, a hybrid (that word again!) http://www.halfords.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/product_storeId_10001_catalogId_10151_productId_992052_langId_-1_categoryId_165534 Disc brakes are, I’m assuming, better? More expensive to maintain though? I’ve replaced a brake block before but that’s about my DIY limit.

    Read lots of recommendations of Decathlon’s Tribans but my nearest Decathlon is a fair way away.

    Anyone have any advice? Or own any of the above?

    Thanks on advance.

    Premier Icon cinnamon_girl

    Why don’t you want drop handlebars?

    A fair question! I think it ties in with the feeling/looking a fraud. In my mind drops handlebars are for racing/racers and I want a more heads-up riding position so I can see where I’m going. Thought about just flipping the drops upside down but seems a bit silly to buy a bike I already know doesn’t suit what I want. Plus I took it that the drops were indicative of a more ‘racer’ set-up – when I’m more of a commuter.


    Single speed sounds ideal, as do discs.

    Premier Icon smokey_jo

    I’m selling a flat bar-commuter in the classifieds here.

    It needs a pair of mudguards but £20 would sort that out. I could also supply with a standard flat bar and bar-ends if preferred and I have a few different stem lengths and more road biased tyres if preferred.

    Size-wise it would be ok up to 5’9 I think.

    Premier Icon kcal

    for that budget you’d get a cracking bike second hand (although I suppose there’s the risk of previous owner, purchase, etc).

    drop bars aren’t for all; my commute hybrid was flat barred, and that worked well commuting in a relatively hilly city (Edinburgh), 5-6 miles each way. It would be worth trying out drop bars again, 10 miles each way (especially if any headwind) will see a noticeable difference in time w.r.t. each bar type.

    disks – more efficient stopping in the wet in the main, reduced rim wear, possibly increased power – however added weight and can be a fiddle to swap pads.

    are you looking to use the bike for anything else? light touring? bit of light off road / canal path? that may affect choice as well.


    For the commute you do, in my opinion a road bike wouldn’t be that much faster than some kind of hybrid/city bike.
    I also find that the more upright position of a hybrid/mountain bike syle more comfortable and gives me more confidence when riding in traffic. I used to live in Cambridge so know what riding around there is like.

    If you did go down the road bike route, look at what tyres are on it and how much clearance there is for larger tyres should you want a bit more comfort. Also have a look at how much clearance there is for proper mudguards and whether there are any eyelets for adding a rack/panniers should you decide that you’d like to get some in the future. A lot of people prefer a rack and panniers to carry their stuff in, rather than a rucsack.

    I have just started subscribing to Cycling Active magazine and this month they have a review of the Pinnacle Lithium, which to me looks like the ideal commuter style bike:
    rigid fork, so no worries about having to maintain/service
    disc brakes
    ‘road’ size wheels (rather than 26″ mountain bike wheels)
    ‘slick’ tyres for low rolling resistance
    mudguard/rack eyelets
    discreet styling, to hopefully avoid the gaze to bike thiefs

    Here’s a couple of links:



    Other brands do similar variants, of course.


    I’ve got a Giant Seek for sale with a brand new Alfine hub.
    It’s great!

    In the classifieds for £600, but going to do a price drop to £500 when I get access to a computer again (damn phone)


    I got me a Kona Dew City in 2011 on Cyclescheme – that came with a rack and mudguards for about £380, although looking at them now on the Kona website, I’m not sure if they still do. Has done a lot of miles with very little care and is still going strong, it’s nice and comfy, and the upright position gives you confidence and good vision. My commute, if I cycle, is mostly quite lanes, and the racer’s just the job for that, but if you’re going across town or otherwise through traffic, I’d recommend a flat-bar hybrid to anyone. While I’m in a recommending mood, I’d even say steer clear of suspension, and I wouldn’t be that bothered about disks.

    kcal: not planning to use it for anything else… Just commuting. ‘Proper’ cyclists at work insist I should get cleats and pedals… which’d seem a bit overkill on a Mango!

    Smokey: thanks, but I’m 6ft. And planning to use the cycle scheme at work to save the tax – so second hand wouldn’t fit my plans, unless from a dealer. Considered 2nd hand but have no idea what I’m buying already, so buying person-to-person would be, for me, quite risky. Also, warranty and service deals are appealing – given my utter lack of bike repair knowledge/DIY.

    Premier Icon smokey_jo

    No problem, my missus has a boardman flat-bar hybrid which she loves and has had no problems with. Quick and sturdy with a decent value spec.

    Premier Icon Nick

    I got an On One Pompino for this purpose, it has been flawless and fits your budget and they do cycle to work.

    They do a flat bar or drop bar version, drop bar looks nicer 🙂

    You could even leave it fixed, or just screw on a £15 free wheel.

    Nick: I’m frightened of single-speed bikes! How can it possibly work pulling away from the lights AND downhill without spinning out on one or requiring Hoy-like thighs for the other?

    Premier Icon cookeaa

    15 miles each way on a Drop bared fixie here, it’s an acquired taste, but I quite like it.

    that bike only really works for me because my commute is pretty flat, the bike choice is more about minimal maintenance, I simply don’t want to spend time looking after the damn thing…

    If the route undulated more I would have gone geared…

    The drop bars are a noticeable benefit when trying to be a bit more efficient (normally get a head wind on the way to work), but they are not to everyones tastes and if you don’t want them, don’t have them.
    Perhaps consider bar ends to let you change hand positions and/or alter your posture a bit perhaps…

    If your route is mostly flat the major advantages of SS (Fixed is probably OTT really) it maintenance reduction, less to go wrong = more time for riding, similarly disc brakes are probably less fuss and bother maintenance wise over rim brakes (IMO), a flat bared, disc braked hybrid, or maybe a rigid 29er MTB with slicks/semi-slicks with or without gears might be the route to go down for what you describe and your budget.

    Its worth considering a few minor changes that might make any bike suit your needs better (Tyres, Bar ends, mud guards, etc)…


    If I were looking for a shiny brand new commuter I’d probably have that Lithium 4 at the top of my list.

    (instead I’ll be replacing the heavy as **** suntour suspension fork that came on my spesh hybrid with something light and rigid)

    Premier Icon Nick

    co2, SS is a bit of a con really, it’s a lot easier than you would think.

    I run 42:18 on my Pompino, on this I can get up anything that doesn’t have two chevrons on the map.

    You just stand up on the pedal to move off/pull away from lights, you pick up speed ok.

    Spinning out isn’t a problem, you just chill out and have a rest 🙂

    I have replaced one freewheel, one bottom bracket, chain ring and chain on my Pompino in six years, the cantis did take a bit of setting up, good pads make a big difference (swissstop).


    Disc brakes are, I’m assuming, better? More expensive to maintain though?

    I’d go for discs every time when it comes to commuting. I was just saying in another thread how much of a hassle it is cleaning your rims after every ride in winter. Otherwise you just end up with an abrasive paste, pads last a couple of weeks, and your rims don’t last a lot longer.

    Disc brakes are fit and forget in my experience. There might be a little more tinkering involved with mechanical discs (used to hydraulics myself). But depending on the pads they can last ages. And dead easy to change them.

    My preference would be flat bars too, I think. Drops are great for the open road, but if it’s stop, start I’d go with flats, mainly because I’d feel more comfortable on the brakes. Road bikes aren’t made for stopping.

    Premier Icon brassneck

    Islabikes Adult 29er might be worth a look too?

    Brassneck: thanks. 29er means the size of the wheels, right? The road bikes (and the Mango) are 25. I’ve no idea what the difference means. In my amateur head it’s reading as: bigger = slower but more comfortable on the bumps.

    In the right ballpark?


    The road bikes (and the Mango) are 25

    25(mm) will be the width I assume. Road bike wheels are 700c. 29er(inch) wheels are the same size as road bikes really for all intents and purposes. They just run bigger tyres. Bigger tyres will mean more weight, and a bit more sluggish accelerating and up hill. But bigger wheels carry you faster. So a 29er will be faster than a regular MTB, but a road bike, or hybrid will be more spritely again.

    Premier Icon DaveRambo

    If I lived in Cambridge (which I have in the past) and had £500 and a need for a commuter bike then I would without question get a Pompino

    like this

    Premier Icon gofasterstripes


    £400 bike:
    *No suspension!
    *Disc brakes [Shimano or Tektro, hydraulic if possible]
    *2 or 3×9 gears
    *700C tyres, perhaps 35mm or thereabouts – Schwalbe or Continental PUNCTURE PROOF IF AT ALL POSSIBLE

    *£60 big as you can carry lock
    *Pump with gauge – set tyres to 80% of max PSI

    Did I mention a big lock?

    Thanks again everyone. I think I’m even more confused if anything! Why is a Pompino so much better than a Mango? Pompino is just one speed/gear; Mango has three. Both have steel frames. What’s better about the Pompino?

    Hope that doesn’t sound sniffy – I’m genuinely confused. Had never heard of Pompino, so now have more bikes in the mix, not fewer. 🙂

    Gofasterstripes: your shopping list is helpful, thank you. My local bike shop tell me I’ll not find a bike around the £500-mark that has disc brakes and hasn’t compromised on something else to keep the price down. His example was the Boardman’s – who (he says) have cut corners on the gears and crank to make the breaks affordable.

    Saracen hack.


    There might be a little more tinkering involved with mechanical discs

    the bb5 on my commuter has done over 1000 km (might be 3000) – i’ve fiddled with it a few times. BB7s are nicer.

    Premier Icon garage-dweller

    For what you propose my view is flat bars. 5 miles in and out of traffic what you will gain in control and visibility will easily outweigh the more aero drops position. if you do go flat then make sure they are not too wide and get some L or ski bend bar ends.

    Make sure you get mud guards a rack and ppanniers too. If riding for transport not sport the comfort they will bring is so worth the weight and cool penalty.

    Premier Icon gofasterstripes

    Corners will always be cut – but I’d rather have better brakes myself, plus worn wheels are not free.

    Good hunting!

    Premier Icon Moe

    Not trying to undermine lilchris (was seriously considering it) but I just bought a Giant Seek 0 brand new for £565! walked in the shop and there it was. Thanks! I didn’t even know the model existed until I saw this thread, perfect for my needs! Very happy! 🙂


    I have one of those boardman comp bikes that I use for a bit of training on the roads, it’s a great wee bike for the roads and I wouldn’t say it’s compromised at that price point, the brakes are very good and easily maintained. As for compromise on cranks, I disagree, ok it’s a splined bottom bracket that is now an old standard but it works and parts are available, the rear mech is great for the job you are asking of it

    If I was being critical I’d say it’s maybe a bit of a harsh ride but I solved that by fitting a set of wider cx tyres and ergon grips, great wee bike for the money

    Premier Icon Moe

    Just reread my last post… 😳 what I meant was I was seiously considering getting in touch with an interest to buy! sorry!

    Premier Icon jameso

    edited, someone already said that )

    Just revisiting this as I found the advice and forums on STW useful when making my decisions.

    I ended up buying a Giant Rapid 4– and I have loved it! Admittedly I was coming from a very low base (a very old, very heavy bike that had seen far better days) but the new bike has made a massive difference.

    On windy, foul weather days it would take me around 28 minutes to cycle by 5 miles to work. On the new bike I do it in around 18. That’s an enormous difference – and means more time with the kids at breakfast and home well in time for bedtime… even a cheeky jigsaw or game or two before kids’ bed! I worked out that on an average working year, I’m saving more than two days of time just by commuting more quickly!

    In sum my advice to anyone that finds themselves in a similar situation to me (looking for a £500-ish bike to commute):

    [*] Favour function over style – that ‘pretty’ bike will be pretty for a while; but that faster road bike will get you home quicker every day[/*]
    [*] If you can afford them, get the shoes (known as SPDs, as I found out) and pedals. I wavered on this (as it’s about £100 for pedals and shoes) and bought reversible pedals (flat/normal on one side). As I got used to them I cycled in trainers – but using the shoes/pedals makes another chunk of difference to commuting time and efficiency[/*]
    [*] Take it for a test ride![/*]
    [*] If your workplace has it, look into the cyclescheme or other bike ‘voucher’ options. The admin is a bit of a faff but it can save you significant amounts of money.[/*]

    Lastly, thanks to all the patient STW posters who shared their advice!


    Premier Icon kcal

    yeah! result.

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