De-Evolution of a Commuter Bike

Did your commuter bike come into your life with a different purpose?

I found this comment at Reddit:

I’ve realized that every single commuter bike I’ve ever seen is a Frankenstein-like combination of pieces. Racks, fenders, tires, frames – despite the recent appearance of “package deal” commuters, where the rubber meets the road I almost never see them. Instead I see an almost endless range of repurposed bikes.

I’m very close to admitting that my mountain bike isn’t really a   mountain bike anymore. It’s a Diamondback Apex and, when I bought it 14 years ago, it was out of my league as a rider. I aspired to be adequate to the awesomeness of this bike. I’m not sure I ever fulfilled that. It’s a de-facto commuter bike now, but I hold onto the notion that it’s ready to attack any single-track trail that I might decide to try.

Ted's Commuter Bike

This is one of two bikes I own, the other being a Dahon folder–my preferred commuter bike because it doesn’t remind me of my failure as a mountain biker the way that my Diamondback does. But the Diamondback has been chosen to be my winter commuting bike for obvious reasons: It’s sturdier, and has wider tires. But it’s the accessories for the winter commute that seem to push this bike ever farther from it’s true calling.

I have a Planet Bike Superflash (a) attached to a Vaude Silk Road Plus rack-top bag (b). These transfer easily between this bike and my Dahon, and the mini panniers don’t interfere with my heels on the smaller bike. The Silk Road Plus comes with a rain cover for when the weather gets wet.

The Delta seatpost rack (c) allows me to believe that I can pop this thing off, shed some weight, and shred up some trails. It hasn’t been removed in more than a year, since the last time I needed to tow a Trail-a-Bike. (In other words, not because I needed to blow any minds in the mountains.) This rack pivots on the seat post, and often rubs against my tires. I can’t help thinking that a different style rack might work better for me, but it would be less easily removed. For now, I’m clinging to the dream.

It was surprisingly difficult to find a commuter mug that was shaped for a bottle cage. I finally found this Trek Soho commuter mug (d) at a bike shop in Austin, TX. My only complaint is that it’s stainless steel on the outside, but plastic on the inside. (Plastic!)

On the handle bars, I have a Planet Bike Beamer 3 headlight (e). It’s pretty good. However, I’m considering getting a Cygolite MiliOn 200 USB LED Front Light, which can be recharged at work from my computer’s USB port.

The newest addition is the Vario Shockblade fender (f). I haven’t encountered any mud, slush, or even water since I installed this. All it’s done so far is bring back happy memories. Simply looking over my handlebars and seeing a bouncing plastic fender reminds me of when I used to ride a 100 cc Yamaha farm bike (in the Peace Corps, in Cameroon, but that’s another 100 stories).

Finally, I’ve got some new Schwalbe Marathoner Winter studded tires (g). These, more than anything, have given me the confidence to try winter commuting. When the streets are dry I simply inflate them to full pressure (60 psi) and the studs hardly contact the pavement when I’m upright. When snow or ice is present, I deflate them a bit (40 psi), enlarging my footprint and increasing the stud factor.

So the title of this post is “De-Evolution of a Commuter Bike.” But, if you study evolution beyond popular culture’s understanding of the word, you’ll learn there is no such thing as de-evolution. (Sorry, Devo fans.) Evolution is not progressive (inevitably leading to more advanced or complex forms). Rather, evolution it’s adaptive. This bike has adapted to a new role as commuter bike, and it’s getting more use than ever. If I view commuting as a lower calling than exciting mountain biking, that’s my issue. This bike is a success story.

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