Our Urban Cyclist considers a tricky dilemma - choosing a single bike to satisfy his many demands.
Words by Justin Smirk
Buying a bike can be a complex process with the decision based on one’s taste, aspiration, sense of self and of course, budget. If I could only own one bike, what would be my perfect bike?
As a car-free family, we have a lot of bikes. These include: mountain, road, cyclocross, cargo, hybrid commuters, outgrown kids, fixies and a tag-a-long or two. An N+1 competition can be rather boring so I won’t reveal our total number of bikes but all of them, except the ones outgrown by the kids, have a purpose and are used regularly.
However, if we were to suddenly lose our garage space and each of us could only have one bike, what would be the perfect machine?
Being car-less by choice, the bike would have to be multi-functional. I would have to be able to ride it in rain, hail or shine and cover all kinds of terrain comfortably. I would also prefer to be able to ride in my everyday clothes.
If you have never used fenders or mudguards, you don’t know what you are missing. And if you have ridden a bike in the rain with disc brakes, you understand just how confidence-inspiring they are on rainy day commutes. Boom, I have just lost my lovely, light fast road bike.
The bike would also have to be shopping-ready, capable of carrying camping gear and small kids safely and comfortably. The kids who gradually grow heavier and remain ever precious are a key consideration in my bike choice. While a cargo bike is perfect for this role, it’s not so great for a wander down to the pub, a dash to the beach or riding gravel trails with your mates. There goes my beloved long-tail “utility wagon”.
“Is it a mountain bike?” I hear you say. Sadly, suspension adds weight. On the road, even with a hardtail, the need to lock out front forks for hills or for carrying a heavy load renders the suspension’s extra weight and complexity superfluous. And big knobby tyres are not great on the road. While I am sad to see my favourite adventure bike go, it just does not cut the mustard for an all-purpose bike.
It looks as though a cyclocross bike would fit the bill. Many have disc brakes plus can fit fenders and racks to carry gear or children. All will take wider tyres for touring, general comfort and puncture resistance on Australia’s rough roads.
But heavy loads and negotiating tricky situations slowly behind drop bars is less than ideal. That means flat bars are installed on that cyclocross bike and lo and behold we have – a classic hybrid commuter.
Costing around $1,000 (or even less) it can be locked up outside, left at work or carried home disassembled in the back of a taxi. Equipped with fenders, racks, disc brakes and mountain bike gearing, this bike is great for large hills and carrying a load (of kids or beer, take your pick).
If I had to choose just one bike over all other bikes I have it would be: my Merida S-presso hybrid commuter. Despite the fact that it isn’t the lightest, fastest or prettiest bike I own, it can do everything I need capably. And I don’t mind if it is left outside in the rain (sometimes). I have even ridden it down mountain bike trails with my son on a tag-a-long behind me. How many bikes can do that and still get you to work safely on a rainy day?
A bike can be thing of beauty, a technological marvel aimed for speed, or a trusty companion that takes to the shops and back. But no matter what bike you chose it will grant you endless happiness, I promise.