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)
As my first commuter bike, there were many pros to starting off using a hybrid bike.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- 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.
- The upright riding style meant no hiding from the wind and made me feel the full brunt of the cold Chicago winters.
- Toe overlap – when turning or when positioning myself at an intersection, sometimes my foot would rub against the front tire.
- Aluminum frame – I could feel every vibration in the road, especially when dealing with potholes.
- 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.