Wants & Desires | Commuter Bike

I’ve been after a commuter bike for a while now. Something that I will ride to work (on the days the dog stays home; sorry dog) and generally use to just get around New York. Maybe I’m just jealous of all the fun they are having in Copenhagen? I already have two bicycles at the moment, but I really think one should own as many bikes as one can effectively store at home. Seeing how my building has a bicycle room, I’m pretty much free to go as far as my wallet will take me. Tonight the better part of three hours was spent making this wish-list-of-sorts for a commuter bike. I should point out that this list is by no means recession friendly. Most of the rigs included (especially that super tasty Vanilla), are going to cost you both arm and leg. But that is why this post is titled Wants & Desires and not Needs & Requires.

Fast Boy Cycles


Velorbis Churchill Classic.


Velorbis Scrap Delux.


Rivendell Sam Hillborne Frameset.


Commuter bike #2 from Portland’s Vanilla.


Pashley Roadster Sovereign.


Independent Fabrication Super Commuter.


Surly Long Haul Trucker (Image via the excellent EcoVelo blog)


The Oldshatterhand model from Danish maker Sögreni.


A.N.T Bicycles Basket Bike.


Comments on “Wants & Desires | Commuter Bike

    Jay on April 6, 2009 10:48 AM:

    http://www.madsencycles.com makes some really cool “Sport Utility Bikes” for a variety of different uses. My favorite is the “bucket”

    Chris on April 6, 2009 10:52 AM:

    Check out NY’s own http://www.ablackbike.com. Muna, the owner, imports them from her native country Denmark. Her bikes are in the same ilk as the Pashley and Velorbis you listed.

    Chris on April 6, 2009 10:54 AM:

    Correction – Muna’s bikes are from Holland.

    Sam Jacobs on April 6, 2009 11:04 AM:

    Mike – I ride a 1970’s Dunelt that I found on ebay. It cost me like $15, and I picked it up locally, then put about $50 in repairs into it (new tires, brakes, lube, etc.) If you want to keep your costs down and look truly vintage this is a good option.

    bergmayer on April 6, 2009 11:11 AM:

    I like those expensive, custom bikes too. But for an decent-quality, affordable option, you can try the Electra Amsterdam. I bought one for around $350-$400 dollars.

    The back wheel was of questionable quality and eventually required a rebuild, and this wobbling back wheel caused the wheel guards to break at one point. So you get a $400 quality bike for your $400. But, the thing looks good and rides well.

    Another caution with *all* Dutch-style bikes is that the totally enclosed chain, while very pants-friendly, makes it difficult to perform basic maintenance, such as changing a flat tire, yourself.

    Sean on April 6, 2009 11:16 AM:

    A good place for supplies to build your own, if you can’t swing the price tag on these guys.


    JP on April 6, 2009 11:19 AM:

    Digging the Independent Super Commuter.

    plaidout on April 6, 2009 11:24 AM:

    Ezra of Fast Boy does such a bang-up job. Beautiful bikes, every time.

    nick on April 6, 2009 11:27 AM:

    My wants & desires at the moment are quite close to these…

    Django on April 6, 2009 11:30 AM:

    Randonneur bikes are the new fixed gear.

    william on April 6, 2009 12:02 PM:

    I’ve had my eye on a Batavus Favoriet since my trip to Amsterdam back in the early 90’s.

    Jeremy on April 6, 2009 12:06 PM:

    You also missed out on Ebisu on the high end, made in japan, brought in by Jitensha Studio in Berkeley, CA, along with the Kogswell P/R (more at the Surly pricepoint).

    Velo Orange is also bringing in a city frameset, and Soma has a new mixte frame coming that’s also rack and basket friendly.

    Civia makes nice looking commuters, but way too expensive for what they are.

    I just picked up a Kogswell frameset, and I’m going to build it up with a mix of Velo-Orange parts and vintage, but using an internal hub for ease of riding.

    Thom on April 6, 2009 12:24 PM:

    Build your own.

    Harvey on April 6, 2009 12:32 PM:

    I can’t recommend enough Gallus Cycles unfortunately their currently lacking a proper website… Fort Worth, TX builder via Glasgow, UK http://www.galluscycles.com

    Jacob on April 6, 2009 1:24 PM:

    Long Haul Trucker instead of the Crosscheck?

    stephanie on April 6, 2009 1:31 PM:

    You might want to add cicli polito to the wishlist:

    Hand built right here in Cleveland, Ohio (and Dan is a really great guy).

    Brian on April 6, 2009 1:48 PM:

    Can we get the “Needs & Requires” bike list? I’m also looking for a new commuter bike… but all of these are way out of my price range.

    Is it cheaper to build one yourself?

    Sean on April 6, 2009 2:44 PM:

    Another good mid-level bike –


    For local Nyc’ers Earnest Sewn carries them.

    Quentin Chuddley-Stoker on April 6, 2009 3:06 PM:

    Im currently waiting for my Surly Long Haul Trucker to be delivered from the States.

    I can’t bloody wait!

    I’ve been on a vintage 70’s Raleigh Ace for the past year and am sick of the pedals dropping off.

    NW on April 6, 2009 3:23 PM:

    in DC I make do with a smartbike for $40 a year/unlimited use

    vroom on April 6, 2009 4:13 PM:

    oh please, seriously, are you trying to relive your junior year abroad? those danish, euro type bikes are frickin’ ridiculous.

    Coleman Horn on April 6, 2009 4:16 PM:

    That Independent Fabrication bike looks like the best of the bunch, as it is the only one that you could actually ride more then a few miles.. if I saw a gentleman on the Vanilla #2 I would most likely make some off comment about it being a sissy bike..

    MR on April 6, 2009 4:42 PM:

    Singlespeed commuter bikes for 2009 at Urban Velo

    MR on April 6, 2009 5:05 PM:

    Chanel “couture” bicycle

    DCJ on April 6, 2009 5:13 PM:

    Great shop in Newton MA, lots of great bikes hard to find parts, diy tips, etc!


    akatsuki on April 6, 2009 5:32 PM:

    Arrow bicycles in Japan makes some lovely bikes (or you can actually make your own in the shop.)

    Skeppshult makes a nice commuter as well.

    I’d probably stick to a ladies-type commuter, since the male straight bar is really just for insecure types and the low standover of a woman’s bike is just a lot more pleasant for commuting purposes.

    Daniel on April 6, 2009 6:21 PM:

    Let me preface this comment by saying that I generally like what I read on ACL, but this gave me pause, “I really think one should own as many bikes as one can effectively store at home.”

    I’m not sure why it disturbed me.

    But I guess my question is, “Why?”

    Mathias on April 6, 2009 7:12 PM:

    I have bought a Velorbis Scrap Deluxe gents bike and I love it! The quality and ride is just amazing, and I would not switch the bike for anything else. The first I got had 3 speeds, and I got that changed to 7 speeds, which is now perfect for my needs.

    See the bike here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/16nine/2732581399/

    and here:


    Michael Williams on April 6, 2009 7:40 PM:

    I say that because I want to own a bunch of different types of bicycles. Also because I like to celebrate consumerism. Nothing sinister.


    Lesli Larson on April 6, 2009 7:46 PM:

    For a passing view bicycle (one you buy before the next), I’d recommend a nice Kogswell or a Rivendell Mixte (the Wilbury). Or.. a Gentleman City Bike by Velo-Orange (by way of Ahren Rogers).

    Friend Michael has a lovely, no logo Kogswell w/custom front rack (w/u-lock holder) which makes for a sporty, stealth urban commuter.


    Brendan on April 6, 2009 7:48 PM:

    Love to see ACL promoting cycling! In response to Daniel’s question, I think cycling is a healthy alternative form of transportation so the more bikes you have the more of an advocate you can be to your friends/family. Track, cyclo-cross, commuter, tandem, cargo-bike, off-road, road, cruiser, single-speed…the more the merrier!

    Matthew on April 6, 2009 9:24 PM:


    I believe Jorg & Olif closed up shop back in November. That place may have the last few remaining.

    Finn on April 6, 2009 10:05 PM:

    As akatsuki mentioned, Skeppshult (http://www.skeppshultbikes.com/) bikes from Sweden make some great commuters. I commute on the (regrettably) discontinued Ess model, and love it.

    Kronan (http://www.kronanstoreusa.com/) makes nice utilitarian bikes based on the classic Swedish army bike.

    And I’m all for owning as many bikes as possible (9 and counting here!)

    Frederik on April 7, 2009 12:10 AM:

    Check out http://www.mybikes.dk/ from Denmark.
    All handbuild and the spokes in the wheels are assembled by how much you weigh.

    I bought one myself 6 years ago, there is a picture of it here http://www.7inch.dk/blog/fa

    Simon on April 7, 2009 6:11 AM:

    Check out Abici (abici-italia.it).

    Tone Loki on April 7, 2009 8:47 AM:

    Second the Abici recommendation… Check out the Abici / Oi Polloi Grantourismo collab with Brooks leather-taped path racer handlebars:


    Sean on April 7, 2009 9:24 AM:

    @ Matt

    I’m bummed to hear that! Spoke with them on the phone a while back and they were super nice peeps.

    Mark on April 7, 2009 9:56 AM:

    This (sorta) confirms my theory that the cycling trend will move away from the track bike (or fake track bike/fixie) and towards the practical commuter. I agree with Thom above…build your own. Internal gear hub is the way to go. Even if you don’t know anything about bikes, you can get a light steel frame/complete bike on craigslist or at a flea market or in the trash, and get a rear wheel built for it.

    Get your bikes shop to build you a wheel with a new sturmey 3-speed hub, a decent double walled road rim, and some double butted spokes. Then get yourself a vintage sturmey shifter, and the old hardware if you can, cause the new pulley hardware looks like poop. Scrap the existing derailleurs and shifters and replace the rear wheel with your new built 3-speed, and you now have a lighter version of your typical 3-speed. Simple, cheap, and reliable.

    Andrew on April 7, 2009 12:37 PM:

    a brooks saddle is a bit too fancy for a commuter bike. it will get nicked.

    Jake on April 7, 2009 12:52 PM:

    I was out at Rivendell in January and test rode a Sam Hillborne. Those guys are great. “Got a waterbottle and a free afternoon? Take our expensive bike and be back whenever you feel like it.” It rides like a dream, and can be set up with more traditional “commuter style” handlebars if you like. I ride my Atlantis to work every day. It’s worth every penny.

    Abe on April 7, 2009 3:47 PM:

    All beautiful bikes, and I subscribe to that as many bikes as fit philosophy perhaps a bit too much (down to 8!) Only problem with using rando/townie bikes as commuters is that you really need a bike room at work, they tend to have too many nice steal-able bits to be comfortably locked on the street. Set up a 1962 schwinn paramount in full on townie mode (fenders, basket, priest bars, single speed) last year, but I wind up commuting on a track bike anyway.

    @Andrew, I put Brooks on my street locking bikes, I just cable lock the saddle to the frame.

    Marcotico on April 7, 2009 4:41 PM:

    I love A.N.T. bike’s website, and his mission of bringing cycling to everyday users is great. If I have the $2-$3K that his fully custom offerings require i would go that way.

    Coop on April 8, 2009 1:59 AM:

    If you want to see some amazing custom beach cruisers go here: http://www.roadkandy.com/

    david on April 9, 2009 12:23 PM:

    beautiful bikes, i hope you don’t have any stairs to haul any of those dutch style bikes up!
    i ride a peugot frame with nitto albatross bars, rides like a dream and looks good, but not good enough to tempt thieves which is highly important in NY.

    girl on April 11, 2009 11:27 AM:

    Very timely post. I just got my 70’s vintage Raleigh and am over the moon! Those are some beautiful picks.

    Brian on April 18, 2009 5:01 PM:

    I continue to enjoy your website. If you are ever in Burlington, VT, visit the Old Spokeshome (it’s a bicycle shop).
    The attic has a surreal collection of bikes – many of which belong in a museum and some that are for sale.
    I purchased a 1958 Raleigh Sports with enclosed chainguard, leather sprung saddle and 3 speed Sturmey Archer hub for under $300 – all overhauled and ready to ride.
    Why go retro when you can buy vintage for less and get just as much utility out of it??
    Brian C.

    Bob English on April 22, 2009 11:56 PM:

    Very nice bikes. I have two custom Tsakanikas bikes, built by David Cheakas and am on the waiting list for a steel 29’r. I got in just before he announced he was not taking new orders for several months.
    Check him out when he starts taking order again. http://www.southwestframeworks.com

    Quaker Prof on August 6, 2009 10:05 AM:

    I love some of your selections. They are quite beautiful. However, for a realistic commuter bike, we all know that anything over 800 is ridiculous.

    -First, the bike gets dinged up on the road. An 8-week Vanilla custom paint job isn’t going to look the same after just a few weeks.
    -Second, commuter bikes get stolen, in part if not in whole.
    -Third, commuter bikes encounter rain, either on the move or parked. Leather and rain in the long term do not mix.
    -Fourth, guys run a serious risk of looking like a dandy on some of these bikes, cool as they are. An American in an average city is going to be the only one in 40 square miles riding something like the Vanilla 2.
    -Fifth, many men have wives. Wives do not appreciate men spending 3,000 bucks on a bicycle. Generally speaking, keeping a wife is better than having a bicycle with a leather saddle.

    So, here are my recommendations for those of you who agree:
    -If your commute is more than 4 miles each way, or if it has substantial hills (mine is 8 miles each way and does have hills), you need more than 3 gears. I would say that 8 would be the minimum, and this puts you into derailers instead of internal hubs.
    -3,000 dollar bicycles come with hub-generator lights, which are nifty. However, battery lights and a set of rechargable batteries will run you about 30 bucks and work just as well. If they get stolen, go back to Target.
    -If you are a serious commuter, you will be wearing a bike helmet, and probably a Camelbak. You will not look urban-chic, regardless of the bicycle, so forget your dreams of being Swedish, Danish, or Dutch. Seriously.
    -Safety is important on a serious commute. Lights are required, helmets are required, and a mirror is highly recommended. I also use a “Flash Flag” side-mount safety flag, which has been shown to increase the distance drivers give you when passing.
    -Panniers do not need to be made from leather. Leather is heavy, doesn’t stand up to rain, etc. Mine are removable “grocery bag” panniers from LL Bean, 60 bucks.
    -Finally, there are dozens of very nice commuter bikes available for under 800 bucks. I ride a 2009 Giant Transend LX, which I got for 540 from my local bike shop. He threw in a free 50 dollar cable lock. It is orange for visibility, has 21 gears with trigger shifters, and came with a strong rear rack and kickstand. I figure with accessories (60 for panniers, 15 for the lights, 15 for the rechargable batteries, 20 for the side mirror, 10 for the flag, already had the helmet and Camelbak), I’m up to 660 total.

    Consumerism is not worthy of worship. As the Quaker abolitionist John Woolman said (paraphrasing), just the trimmings of the vain world could clothe all the naked one. Get a grip, people.

    Logcabineer on December 8, 2009 3:36 PM:

    I have seen a lot of bikes, perhaps all of them and i have to say that i have never ever seen a bike without racing pedigree look ‘just right’. I also truly believe the cheapest bike here is the titanium IF Super commuter because it will probably outlive all of the other bikes tenfold. Thrash it 24/7 for five years, strip it, scrub it and give it a new set of decals NEW! If i were to pick one favourite commuterbike of all time it would be the Willits replica of the Ibis Scorcher. http://www.willitsbikes.com with a big Wald basket.

    The rest of the best is found here http://www.oregonmanifest.com and here http://www.handmadebicycleshow.com

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