We transpo bicyclists spend a lot of time talking among ourselves about what makes a good bike for commuting, getting around, and getting things done. It makes for fun discussion and I never seem to tire of it. For me, there’s a short list of basic requirements any bike I use for daily transportation should have (your list is probably different):
- Tires over 30mm in width
- Front and rear racks
- A comfortable saddle
- Sufficiently low and wide gearing
- Sufficiently powerful brakes
- And, finally (and most importantly), it should fit
Once I go beyond those basic requirements, I’m pretty sure I’ve entered the realm of splitting hairs. Things such as frame material, dropout design, drivetrain design, TIG versus lugged, sloped versus level, high versus low (trail), quill versus threadless, and on-and-on, are, in my opinion, subjective and personal, and I certainly don’t think they’ll keep most bikes from getting the job done.
In my stable, I have two bikes that I normally think of as being as different as apples and oranges, but when I step back and look at them from outside the little transpo bike bubble I live in, they really are very similar. My Rivendell Sam Hillborne and my Civia Loring seem quite different when looked at from my usual narrow perspective, but when compared to a carbon racing bike, a downhill mountain bike, or even a simple fixed gear city bike, their similarities suddenly jump out. The fact is, as much as I focus in on the differences between the two bikes, they both perfectly meet all of the requirements on my “must-have” list.
This tendency to focus in on the subtle differences between our specialized machines is normal human stuff. I see the same type of thing (and partake in it) in all sorts of endeavors ranging from photography, to fly fishing, to cooking and music. I think many of us enjoy digging deeply into our specialized niches, regardless of whether what we’re doing is actually comparing apples to oranges or just splitting hairs.