Abused commuter bikes

Yesterday we talked about hot road bikes for the commute. Lightweight road bikes, though, can be a little finicky, and many of us like to keep the sporting equipment in pristine condition.

In a comment, Steve asked the question: “What constitutes ‘commuter bike abuse’?” A few things come to mind for me; I’m sure CBB readers can contribute plenty more!

23 bikes on the bike car
  • Public transportation. I regularly take Caltrain in the San Francisco Bay Area. Bikes are stacked against each other, resulting in scratched and chipped frames, bent derailleur hangers, and other abuse. I hesitate to bring my nice bike into this mosh pit. The treatment of bikes on transit systems like this, in fact, is a good argument for getting a cheap discount store bike.
  • Weather. Rain, snow, ice, and slush! All of these reduce the life and increase the maintenance costs of pricey components on high end bikes. Compare the cost of a 10 speed chain ($50) against a singlespeed chain ($10), and think also that tolerances on utility bikes typically aren’t so tight that you need to replace the chain and cogs every few thousand miles.
  • Road conditions. On recreational road rides, you can pick and choose your route. Roadies typically like long, smooth, clean stretches of open road uninterrupted by stop signs and traffic signals. My commute this last week took me through two construction zones, including an asphalt job that left globs of black gunk on my downtube. I’ve traveled through mud left after bike path flooding, gravel, sand and other grit that reduces the life of bike components. I’d prefer this damage on the cheap beater bike than on my nice sport bike.
  • Shortcuts. Yes, I can hop curbs with my road bike, but I’d prefer not to.
    Roadside Recycler
  • Traffic mishaps. My commute takes me through very heavy urban traffic. Last year, I was right hooked and I hit the car at about 15 mph. The steel bike I rode required only a slight handlebar adjustment. While my Roubaix is a little more stout than the typical lightweight racer, I’m not sure a carbon fork and low spoke count wheel would have survived that encounter.
  • Loads, lights and fenders. Most people don’t worry too much about carrying piles of groceries on a beater bike, but somehow it just doesn’t look quite right on a sport bicycle 🙂

What other abuse might you heap on a bike during your commute?

Photos Credit: Richard Masoner.

Post navigation