Best of the Bunch: Six Perfect Commuting Bikes for Under £1,000 - Total Women's Cycling

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Best of the Bunch: Six Perfect Commuting Bikes for Under £1,000

We've looked at the most popular styles and chosen one from each...

Bikes for commuting vary dramatically – and that’s because people’s commutes vary dramatically. The machine you choose for your daily grind needs to be tailored to your needs – and there are a few distinct styles available.

For many bike brands, creating a model that sits just at the cusp of the £1000 mark is the goal – and that’s because many commuters will choose to use the Government Cycle to Work scheme, for which employees can spend up to the magic £1k on their bike and equipment and save on tax whilst paying via salary sacrifice.

How the Cycle to Work Scheme Works

Ensure you Commuting Resolutions Become Reality

Though you can opt for a £700 bike and invest in £300 worth of kit, it’s worth maxing out your budget as much as possible – the more you spend on your bike in the first place, the less you’re likely to spend on upgrades just a few months down the line.

What you get at this level will vary depending upon the style you go for – so here’s a run down of the most popular commute options – and our favourite pick of the bunch for each…

Road

A road bike as a commuter will suit someone who wants to combine their ride in to work with their fitness goals. A more sporty option, you’ll probably enjoy this bike on the weekend too. Road bike geometry varies greatly – some bikes will be race orientated, whilst more relaxed options are often described as having ‘sportive’ and ‘endurance’ geometry – these are generally considered more appropriate for a commute where comfort and an ‘eyes on the road’ position are crucial.

Road Bike Buying Guide: All You Need to Know

The Pros and Cons of Disc Brake Road Bikes

Disc brake road bikes are becoming more common these days and are great for commuting where you’ll want effective brakes, even in the rain. You may also want to look for models with clearance for wider tyres which will be more resilient and feel safer in wet conditions.

Pick of the bunch: Pinnacle Dolomite 5 Women’s Road Bike – £1,000

Confession: What we like most about this bike is probably the colour. Isn’t it stunning? Cherry red aside, the aluminium frame Dolomite comes with 25c tyres, plus space for 28c if you want more comfort. It’s got Shimano hydraulic disc brakes which promise to be fast stopping without the efficiency fade of cables, and a full Shimano 105 groupset as well as female specific saddle and narrower bars.

Pinnacle 2016: The TWC Range Overview 

Genuinely a bike you can commute on and use for the Saturday club run, this is an all rounder. Having ridden Dolomite models in the past, we’d always note that comfort is clearly much higher on the agenda that race-style speed, so expect a fairly upright stance and confidence inspiring handling.

Cyclocross/Adventure Road

Once upon a time, Cyclocross bikes were just for Cyclocross racing – running around a muddy field of a Saturday morning and leaping over obstacles for around an hour. Then, the cycling world realised that a bike that could perform on and off road, with wide tyres, often disc brakes and a more relaxed geometry was basically perfect for commuting, or all-day adventures over whatever terrain the rider fancied.

Adventure Road: Marketing Spiel or the Perfect Bike? 

A new breed of CX bike was born – and it was called Adventure Road. Still capable of tacking on and off-road terrain, these are slightly more relaxed to ride than full on muddy-racing bikes, and generally have mounts for the kind of things racers don’t need: mudguards, panniers, bottle cages and the such.

Adventure road bikes make great commuters, or you can go for an all out cyclocross bike and make a few tweaks, such as swapping the often mud munching tyres.

Pick of the bunch: Liv Brava SLR – £999

Oh, look – you even get £1 left over from your Cycle to Work voucher!

Seriously, though – the reason we’ve chosen this bike is because it’s genuinely dual purpose. Fit for racing, you really could take this bike down to your local cyclocross league or thrash it around the park. Even if you’re not racing, the promise of a good one hour around your local trails is far too much fun to be overlooked. However, Liv have been clever – the alloy frame bike comes with dual bottle cage mounts, mudguard mounts, and an adapter that means you can fit panniers.

The shifters and derailleurs are all high quality Shimano 105. There’s a bit of a sacrifice in the TRP mechanical discs as opposed to higher quality hydraulics, but this will mean they’re easy to maintain.

The tyres specced on the bike are Maxxis Mud Wrestlers – at 33c they’ll feel great off-road and you could even jazz up your commute by fitting in some muddy sections. However, if it’s all going to be on the road, we’d recommend swapping these for something smoother and narrower (see our road bike winter tyre guide here for inspiration).

Hybrid

Probably the most popular option for commuters, is the hybrid. A cross between a mountain bike and a road bike, these can vary quite a lot depending if they take most of their elements from road or most from mountain bike.

Hybrids closer to road bikes with have skinnier tyres, a lightweight frame and often look a lot like roadies with flat handlebars. Those that take more chromosomes from their mountain bike parent usually have fatter tyres and some even have a short travel suspension fork for light off-road use – though this can always be ‘locked-out’ which means it’ll be transformed to a rigid fork so you don’t bob around on the road.

Pick of the bunch: Specialized Vita Elite Disc – £850

We know this one is a big seller and we like it because it draws the line between road and mountain bike right down the middle. With ‘fitness geometry’ you can enjoy leisure rides in the park, and there are hydraulic discs that will prove handy when you want to stop quickly in traffic.

The fork is the real crowning glory – it’s light and responsive thanks to the carbon material, and rigid so you don’t expend extra energy bobbing around where it’s not needed. However, Specialized have used Zertz inserts which absorb bumps in the road and will cope with rough park surfaces. The tyres are fairly wide at 30c, again great for smoothing out the lumps and bumps on those cycle paths you just wish were a tad better maintained.

Folding Bike

Want to combine your ride with a stint on the train? Then a folding bike will no doubt be your ideal choice.

There are a few different styles of folding bike, and they all have a slightly different mechanism. Most people are looking for something that’s quick to fold, lightweight to carry, and requires little maintenance as this one really is all about getting from A to B.

You can get folding bikes with varying gear numbers – more gears mean more maintenance and added weight, but you’ll probably need them if you live somewhere hilly. If you know you’ve got a real beast to get up every day, electric folding bikes can be remarkably inexpensive (right down to £500) and are a good option – we’ve got ten here.

For those thinking more about storage than train journeys, there are indeed full sizes folding bikes which fit easily into the home and are great for caravan trips and the like – the Tern Joe P24 is probably the best example.

Pick of the bunch: Brompton M3p – £980

Brompton are the market leaders in the folding bike world. Made in London, the bikes are built by skilled professionals and there’s a wide range of matching and compatible accessories to help you make your bike your own.

The brand also make it easy for you to pick a model that’s right for you, with their Help Me Choose selector. We got this 3 speed version with mudguards by telling it that we want a daily commuter, we live in a medium hilly place, and want a position that sits right in the middle of ‘upright’ and ‘sporty’. In other words, we went for ‘average’ in all areas. Then we just chose our favourite colours of those available. Very neat.

Dutch Bike

Dutch bikes, or ‘Sit Up and Beg’ style models, are about comfort, easy maintenance and utility. They’ve generally got racks and mounts to enable you to carry a food shopping spree fit for an army (ok, exaggeration) as well as weather-proof hub gears which don’t allow spray and salt to corrode them and covered chains to prevent greasy marks on your trousers.

5 Reasons to Buy a Dutch Bike

Added extras can include dynamo lights and a basket so your bag can travel up front. These bikes put very little strain on your back, thanks to the upright position, but it’s worth noting that more often than not they’re considerably heavier than other options and usually have just a few gears – these are meant for flat lands, not hills. 

There are many electric powered versions of these bikes which will mean the hills are much easier – we’ve got a round up here and there are some versions still at the £1k mark. 

Pick of the bunch: Electra Cruiser Sugar Skulls 3i – £600 (approximate, may vary per dealer)

Well, if you’re going for style, you might as well go loud, right?! This sugar skull pattern won’t be up everyone’s street, but there are plenty more options. 

The selling point on Electra bikes, save the styling, is the incorporation of ‘Flat Foot Technology’. This upright position tech means the geometry is tweaked so that your legs extend fully with each pedal stroke, yet you can still plant your feet on the ground without your bum leaving the saddle – a feat that most brands can’t reach, leaving riders to opt for a more cramped leg position so they can touch down when needed.

Chain guard, three internal hub gears and springs below the saddle make this a true Dutch bike that will require little upkeep and provide plenty of comfort.

Single Speed

Thinking more ‘woman on a mission’ than ‘sit back and enjoy the view’? City riders tend to be big fans of singlespeed, or fixed gear, bikes.

Who Needs a Fixie? Singlespeed Explained 

A single gear (which can be altered by changing the chainring or rear sprocket) means there’s very little weight and very little maintenance. However, they’re better for flat rides, or people who are confident they can get up the hills with their chosen gear.

Most that are designed for commuting will have a flip-flop rear wheel. This means the hub is threaded both sides, and you can swap it to ride with a freewheel or fixed sprocket. The freewheel will allow you to stop pedalling, whilst a fully fixed option will mean the cranks will always spin with the wheel, just like a track bike.

Track specific singlespeeds have no brakes, you apply pressure on the pedals to stop. However, unless you’re riding on a designated track, it’s a legal requirement that you have a front brake.

Narrow handlebars are often fitted, so you can weave through traffic, and since the bike itself is often relatively cheap, many choose to fit deep rims and cool accessories to really let their personality shine through.

Pick of the bunch: Charge Plug 0 – £349.99

If you’re going to go all indie and cool, then you might as well do it properly, and Charge are a good place to start. Aside from great minimalist styling, here you get wide 42c tyres which will provide comfort and are definitely geared towards commuting over vast road miles.

The KMC ‘rust buster’ chain is a nice touch and should need little maintenance, and the gear set up is a 42 tooth front chainring with a 16 tooth freewheel rear sprocket. That’s a pretty easy gear so should allow you to get up milder hills, but don’t forget you can change it at little expense.

The Charge Spoon saddle obviously isn’t female specific, but it is known to be a popular saddle- so fingers crossed you get on well with it!

So there you go – the most popular styles, and our favourite of those available. Want to make sure you stick with this commuting lark? Check out our tips here. 

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