What should I look for in a mid-range commuter bike?
April 7, 2011 10:50 AM   Subscribe

What should I look for in a mid-range commuter bike? And where should I buy one in Oxford, UK?

I'm looking to buy a new bike, and to spend a bit more than I have in the past. My previous bike was a Falcon Explorer, which cost about £130 a few years ago. There was nothing particularly wrong with it, but I'm thinking of getting something nicer to replace it, and I'm trying to figure out what is worth spending money on and what isn't. There seems to be a wide range of bikes between £250 and £500 and I don't know what features would be a big improvement on my old bike and worth spending the money on, and what I'm not going to notice.

Possibly useful details:
I cycle between 3 and 10 miles a day on my work commute and other daily trips. I'd like something which is good for daily use but up to the occasional longer ride.
I cycle mainly on the road in a reasonably flat city.
I'm 5' 8" with quite long legs - my last bike had a 20" frame, and I think I'd want something similar, so models which only have 18" frames might be too small.
I want a step-through frame, and something that I can stick mudguards and a pannier rack on.

I'm going to try my local bike shops at the weekend, so recommendations for good bike shops in Oxford are also welcome.
posted by penguinliz to Travel & Transportation around Oxford, England (3 answers total)
The list at St Cross points to the old reliables, including Daily Info, though I'd suggest not going second-hand when you're spending decent money and aren't sure what you're looking for. OCW on Magdalen Road in east Oxford looks well worth a visit, with its refurbs and workshops.

You're paying for better components and frame materials; I'd say you should also pay for fit and comfort. But I'm also mindful of how nice bikes in Oxford get pinched, even if you have a bike shed or keep it indoors most of the time. I had a pretty cheap bike my entire time there, and it was fine for the commute and good for the occasional pootle into the countryside, and even it lost a front wheel to thieves.
posted by holgate at 11:17 AM on April 7, 2011

I haven't bought a bike in Oxford--I brought my own--but based on my shop visits for parts, the occasional hire for visitors, etc., I'd recommend Warlands (Botley Road, west of the rail station) and Summertown Cycles (Banbury Road).

I'm in Oxford in the summer, and I have secure parking at home and in college. I get nervous leaving my nice bike elsewhere for very long. You might consider researching options online and then checking the Daily Info for bikes for sale, or the Oxford Cycle Coop for what they have. I've seen scads of bikes around Oxford that could be refurbished into nice commuting machines, including a lot of Raleigh Twenties that are probably not very attractive to thieves but work quite well for commuting, even for tall folks.
posted by brianogilvie at 8:08 PM on April 7, 2011

For a bike used chiefly for commuting I'd recommend a hybrid-style bike with hub gears instead derailleurs. You usually get less gears (mine only has 3, but they can have up to 7 I think), but that's really all you need for going about town. Apparently they're more reliable and weatherproof as all the mechanism is contained within the hub, and the chain is likely to come off as it doesn't have to move from gear to gear.

In this ilk, I bought a Raleigh Chiltern hybrid bike Iffley Road a couple of years ago for similar sorts of purposes to what you want yours for, and am very happy with it, so I'd recommend something similar (although obviously this particular model doesn't have the frame you're after). Perhaps something like this would suit you?

As for bike shops, I got mine from Reg Taylor Cycles on Iffley Road, and was very happy with the service. I think as long as you avoid Cycle King though, most of the shops around Oxford are meant to be OK.

If you work in Oxford, don't forget you possibly could get your bike for cheaper with the Cycle to Work scheme!
posted by Richard Holden at 10:39 PM on April 7, 2011

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