I love looking at people’s commuter bikes - no other type of bike seems to go through the same level of personalisation. Dependent on variables such as distance, topography, luggage, fair-weather or year-round use, a commuter bike is often an open book when it comes to describing their owners requirements and preferences. Well, it was time for me to replace my long-suffering commuter / road bike with something new. It’s the bike that I spend the most time sat on and so for the last few months I’ve spent much of my grind to work and back carefully considering exactly what I want. For this reason I’ve decided to build something up from individual components, rather than pluck something off the shelf.
I’ve had the privilege of being able to agonise over every single component. They’re by no means the most expensive items out there, but I’m hoping that they will do the very specific jobs of whisking me to work and around my local Surrey lanes with the utmost reliability, efficiency and maybe even a hint of style.
Below are a few notes on some of the key components:
Frame: This was surprisingly difficult. I wanted something relatively light that was designed for dropped handlebars with disc brake and mudguard mounts as well as the ability to tension the chain. Many came close, but very few ticked all the right boxes. Then I saw the 2016 Arkose Pinnacle SS with THAT paint job. It took me all the way back to the GTs and Diamondbacks that I wanted so much in the early 90s.
Rear Hub: The latest iteration of my modified Sturmey Archer design. This gives me all of the range that I need in a low maintenance and elegant package. This version now incorporates the original axle bearing cones and covers, machined to accept cartridge bearings and now providing an extra layer of defence against the elements. My first modified hub is still purring along nicely on my mountain bike, but this was a relatively simple alteration for very minimal weight gain.
Brakes: My old bike had cable actuated disc brakes with secondary levers on the tops. The latter have been a real boon while commuting. My first thought was to replicate this arrangement, but then I heard about TRP’s hydraulic set-up. If the TRP’s prove to be even half as good as the brakes on my mountain bike then I will be a very happy man, but sadly this will mean no more secondary levers. If someone could now develop a set of hydraulic secondary levers then I think we will have reached braking perfection!
Stem: You spend a lot of time looking at your stem so I think that it’s important that it’s not just functional, but beautiful as well. Thomson don’t make loads of different products, but the ones they do make are exquisite. I’ve lusted after them ever since I got into mountain biking and nothing else would do. The matching seat post and clamp complete the look.
Handlebars: I suffer from pretty poor circulation, which I blame on my rather lanky proportions. As a result I tend to get numb hands after a while in the saddle. I’m hoping that the oval shape of the tops on these 3T ‘bars combined with gel pads and Widget Grip Wrap bar tape will keep this to a minimum.
Tyres: I hate punctures as much as the next person, but it’s always a bit of a trade-off with tyres. While you may be able to eradicate them with super-tough tyres, they’ll inevitably weigh a tonne and ride like they are made of solid wood. I’ve only had good experiences with the Continental tyres that I’ve been running on my old bike and so I’m happy to repeat this arrangement. Because I only ever seem to get punctures in my rear wheel (probably due to the natural rearward weight bias of a bike) I’ve gone for a Gator Hardshell on the back and a slightly lighter Gatorskin on the front.
Lights: Previously I have been using a Hope front light and a Cateye rear. It’s been a trusty combination and because they both take standard batteries it means that any news agents or petrol station can provide me with a full recharge in an emergency. But what I really wanted was to free myself from batteries altogether. So an SP Dynamo front hub and a set of Supernova lights should hopefully now mean I’ll have endless, self-sufficient lighting and no longer need to rotate two sets of rechargeable batteries.
Saddle: I’ve already demo’d a Brooks Cambium and have to say that it is the most comfortable saddle that I’ve ever had the pleasure of sitting on. The latest C15 Carved is a good width and provides some useful ‘pressure relief’. I also think that it looks fantastic.
Time will tell whether I’ve made the right choices, but, if nothing else, I’m very pleased with the way it looks. I’m a bit of a magpie and although it may not be very practical I’m a sucker for a beautifully machined and polished piece of aluminium.