Birmingham Cyclist

Cycling in and around Birmingham England

Advice Please -- Can you suggest a good low maintenance commuter bike?

I have one of these:

It has served me well as a low-maintenance bike for my short, flat commute (6 miles, largely along a tow path) and pootling about with the kids at weekends.

But, it is getting a bit worn and I want to have a spare.  So, I am looking for a new bike.

I want:

(i) hub gears.

(ii) straight bars,

(iii) low maintenance, and

(iv) a 'clean' look.

Since I am looking for an all year round low-maintenance commuter, the set up I want will include:

- a dynamo hub and good LED lights, ideally with a well designed front lens (to avoid blinding other road users) and a stand-light;

- a rack,

- puncture resistant tyres (such as Schwalbe Marathon Plus)

- full mudguards.

Nice to haves include:

- Gates belt drive:  like what I hear about low-maintenance and lack of rattle, but worry about reliability and/or unplanned obsolescence;

- disc brakes: I like the idea of good wet-weather braking but I am not sure the extra complication is worth it; and

- a matt black finish.


I have looked at:

(i) The Cube Hyde Race (£899.00)

Verdict -- A great looking bike.  But I would need to add mudguards and lights.

Weight: 12.3 kg

(As against 12.43 for the Courier Nexus)

(ii) Kalkhoff Durban 7 2017 Men's (£499.00)

Weight: ??? kg [not known]

Verdict -- This looks like a great option.  The front runner.  Just edging clear of the Cube.

(iii) Kalkhoff Endeavour 8 2017 Men's (£859)

Also great looking.

Verdict - unsure: does the spec justify the price hike from the Durban?

(iv) Thorn Mercury, Matt Black (£2,000 +)

Verdict -- A fine spec, but seriously pricey.  Would I ever use its potential?  I certainly wouldn't leave it locked to a lamp post ... and that's a problem.

(v) Marin Fairfax SC2 IG (£950)

Verdict -- too ugly.  (You can't account for taste.)

(vi) Genesis Day One 2017 (£799)

Verdict -- great looking.  But I want flat bars.

(vii) Cannondale Bad Boy 1 2017

Verdict -- I don't like the look of that lefty fork..

Any thoughts?

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The Kalkhoff's look great. I think the specification is right for a city bike. I bought something similar in 2002 and still ride it most days. That is a Thorn Commutour which you have seen. Son dynamo (second one) Lumos front light. Started with a 3 speed SA for canal commute eventually changed to 18 speed Shimano derailleur to get up into Moseley with Board Papers and stuff. No discs in those days and a Rolhoff hub would have cost as much as the bike c£600. Commutour was a short run cheaper version of the Raven. Mine has a stand and tows a trailer but it's never been beyond Sandwell - all Comm and no Tour. I prefer a lighter bike for club runs and trips. I met someone with a new Thorn on the Cross City Line this week might have been a Mercury. Discs, Rolhoff, dynamo looked great and he was very pleased with it. You could probably specify a cheaper bike with Thorn just ring them up. But the Germans build these bikes as standard hence the value of the two from Edinburgh

Thanks David

That's reassuring.  The Thorn is on my list because I met a Pushbikes member (Paul?) on the Cross City Line heading into Redditch, with a very tidy looking Mercury in matt black. He was kind enough to offer me a test ride in the car park but I had to run for a meeting.

Take care!

I reckon it was the same guy (Paul?) that I met getting off at University. He was very positive about the bike and it looked great.

Thanks - that looks beautiful!

Update: the Kalkhoff's not available from EBC until April so I've been looking around.
After test-riding some Dutch bikes with help and advice from the Kristina and Harry of the Flying Dutchman ( I'm quite taken with the Secret Service:

If you are after low maintenance and clean looks for a flat commute and general pootling have you considered going for a single speed?  I used to have an Alfine 8 speed hub gear on my commute bike but I swapped bikes for a single speed last year and it is a decision I have yet to regret.  The simplicity is very appealing and it removes an awful lot of maintenance requirements (and weight)

Good idea.  John at On Your Bike said the same thing earlier today,

So many options ...

I have been using a Scott Sub Speed 10 for my daily commute for the past year.  I've googled it and unfortunately it looks like that line might be discontinued and replaced with the Scott Silence Speed 10, which unfortunately has a stupid looking half height rear stay, but I guess maybe some people like that?? (

What I have is this... and it is basically the same spec, but with a better looking frame and paint job (not black though)...

I am a huge fan of the bike.  I have literally done NO maintenance in an entire year.  Nothing.  And I ride every day in all weather.  It is running perfectly.  Whether or not you consider the scott I definitely recommend the Gates Carbon Drive; coupled with an Alfine hub it is so far, so good having done perhaps 3000 miles.  The gear range is good, though if I was designing the bike from the ground up I'd go with a bigger sprocket because the high end is a bit easy (though more than once I've been down in first feeling thankful for not making that change!).

Here's the thing about the Gates carbon drive that I think should be the top of their marketing... It is CLEAN!!  I find that doesn't just mean my trousers stay clean.  If you have a bike with a chain, oil will get on your hands at some point from time to time, e.g. from your lock if that comes in contact with the drive train or if you have to deal with a chain problem.  Then inevitably your grips get grubby, and so your hands get a bit grubby every time you ride.  With my bike it is an entirely clean system - sealed hydraulic brakes, no-oil drive train.  I ride it around town in my suit if I have to get to meetings, don't even tuck my trousers into my socks - I would think twice if I had a chain.  It is also almost perfectly silent as well, it's nice when the only sound is the quiet whirring of the hub and the tyres on the road.

I'm seeing more and more belt drives around town.  I wouldn't worry about obselescence (there would be nothing to stop you retro-fitting a standard chain drive if it really became impossible to get spare parts).  In terms of reliability, the timing belt in my car has done about 80,000 miles and Gates made that.  Belt drive technology is well and truly tried and tested.  It will never catch on among elite cyclists because of the weight and performance limitations of internal hubs but for commuting, if you can afford it, I think it is hugely beneficial.

PS If you could get the endeavour 8 with rigid forks that would be the one I'd go for!!

*Edit... Actually I'd go for the badboy because I've always wanted a lefty fork... what's not to like?

Thanks - that is a really helpful post.

The suspension fork was just what put me off the Endeavour 8.

One more for the list - over budget but absolutely gorgeous.

A couple of questions.   If you have a dynamo hub (which in itself is a good thing), does that not mean that aluminium rims and rim brakes are a really bad choice?   My thinking is that rim brakes wear out aluminium rims pretty quickly, necessitating either regularly scrapping the dynamo, or regularly getting the front wheel dismantled and rebuilt with a new rim.   And if you have disk brakes on aluminium rims, do the rims quickly become unusable anyway as a result of being ridden down your average (worn out and potholed) British road?   Aluminium is soft; Dutch tanks typically use stainless steel wheels, and don't necessarily have a front brake.   And the Dutch and the Germans don't have to endure potholes.

On the subject of single speed, one of my friends went single speed and quickly gave up on the idea, as it just caused him knee problems.   There's a good reason why bikes have gears in the UK (and indeed Germany, since you're looking at German bikes).

A rim transplant isn't a big deal, if you can source a replacement with the same ERD.  You just tape them together and swap the spokes over one by one, then re-tension the wheel.  None of that complicated spoke length arithmetic and getting the lacing right, which seems to be the really tricky part of wheel building.  If you don't have the relevant wheel-truing skills, your local bike shop will.

If the tyres are doing their job the rim shouldn't be getting damaged by the state of the roads (and if they're not, you either need more air, or more appropriately specced tyres).  Failure is either due to abrasion of the braking surface due to rim brakes, or with a hub-based brake, corrosion, which is a fairly slow process.  The rear rim on my disc-braked tourer has some internal corrosion after 20000 miles, but I expect to get a few more miles out of it yet.  The front had to be replaced a while ago due to hairline fractures at the spoke holes, which might be corrosion, but is probably my fault for using too much spoke tension on a low-spec rim with no eyelets.

Single-speed (or even fixed, if you like that sort of thing) seems eminently sensible iff it will only be used on the flat.  Put some thought into what gear ratio you actually want - most bikes are over-geared, and I doubt single-speeds are immune.

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