My first commuter bike

I bought my first commuter bike in 2011 the weekend after I had another expensive repair with my Jeep.  I hadn’t ridden a bicycle in probably 8 years, but that didn’t stop me from going to the local bike shop.  I remember riding it for the first time and thinking how crazy it was that I was going to purchase this bike and use it to get to work.   It served me well for nearly 6 years, through all seasons and all sorts of locations.  I didn’t love it and I didn’t hate it, but it served its purpose and it got me through not having a reliable car.  I maintained it well and I would visit the bike shop to ask questions whenever I was concerned about a potential problem.  It was a great first commuter bike and it gave me the ability to slowly learn about bike commuting.

My first commuter bike

Bike Model:  2009 Raleigh Detour 3.5, 17″ hybrid

Mileage:  Unknown, easily 3,000+ miles

Purchased: $335 (bike), $532 (TOTAL including accessories and tax) From Roberts Cycle on 8/27/11

Sold: Through Craigslist on 6/18/17 for $175

Components replaced when needed: brake pads, chain, saddle (2012, 2014), rear rack (2013), crankset (2014), pedals and tires (2015)

Distance: Up to 40 miles daily, entire route bicycled, or broken up through a multimodal commute (bus or train)


Original look of the bike after completing my first urban commute in 2011.


The original receipt



As my first commuter bike, there were many pros to starting off using a hybrid bike.

  1. The bike fit me.  I’m short, a little over 5’0″ with shoes.  Even though it was a men’s bike, after adjusting the seat, I could reach the handlebars and the pedals comfortably.
  2. It was an upright riding style.  That meant that I was able to see the road clearly, and was especially helpful when in the city.
    Upright front view.


  3. It came with a rear rack where I could bungee cord my stuff.  I didn’t have the money for panniers so I did what I could with my old backpack and bungee cords.
    Backpack strapped to the rear rack.


  4. It was not a flashy bike and I did not have to worry about locking it in the city with just a Kryptonite Keeper lock.
    Locked to a bike post in Chicago. 2017.


  5. It was affordable to me and I found it in the corner of the bike store on clearance.  It allowed me to eventually save money to deal with car repairs and other expenses.
  6. It was “slow.”  I could probably pedal 15 mph if my life depended on it.  This prevented me from being reckless and going too fast.
  7. It taught me about minor maintenance – over time, I learned how to fix my own flats and troubleshoot where exactly on the bike things were giving me trouble.



A few cons for my first bike included:

  1. The weight of the bike itself.  It was heavy for me initially but I gained the strength to lift it up stairs and up on Metra trains.  Switching to a crankset with fewer speeds made it a bit lighter as well.
  2. The upright riding style meant no hiding from the wind and made me feel the full brunt of the cold Chicago winters.
  3. Toe overlap – when turning or when positioning myself at an intersection, sometimes my foot would rub against the front tire.
  4. Aluminum frame – I could feel every vibration in the road, especially when dealing with potholes.
  5. Not great for long distances – near the end of the week, my legs were really hurting, especially my quads.


Over time, I realized what I really desired in an everyday commuter bike and had no hesitation upgrading to a new touring bike this June.  Even with its cons, my original hybrid bike was able to do the job when I needed it.  I put the bike up for sale on Craigslist twice – the 1st time I had no responses, but the second time when I posted it, I used the keywords, “women” and “ladies” and had several replies.  This bike is now in the hands of someone else, and I hope they get as much use out of it as I did.

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