If your ride to work involves more than just a few urban streets, are you best sticking with a hybrid or should you go nuclear and pick a mountain bike? Matt Lamy finds out.
There’s a lot to be said for commuting by bicycle. Unlike unreliable trains, or traffic-jammed cars and buses, on a bike you’re generally guaranteed to get to work at the time you expect. Pedalling is cheaper than petrol or public transport. And then there are the physical benefits. A dose of daily exercise is good for long-term health, while a morning cycle ride is also beneficial in the short term — you arrive at work fresh and invigorated for the day ahead.
But very few things in life are perfect, and cycle commuting has its downsides. Pre-eminent among these is the very thing you’re trying to beat: other traffic. You might enjoy nipping in and out of stationary cars, showing the world how clever and quick you are on your bike, but wouldn’t it be better to avoid vehicles altogether? After all, nobody really wants to breathe in exhaust fumes.
Let Cycling Active unveil a different way. With a little investigation most cycle commutes can follow less populated routes. Whether it’s through parks, or woodland, or along towpaths and bike lanes, you can find more pleasant ways to reach work. The one caveat is that you’ll need the right bike for the job — super skinny-tyred road bikes won’t take kindly to muddy paths or glass-strewn alleyways.
We’ve got together two fine flat-bar brawlers that should be up to the task. First is Specialized’s well-respected Sirrus Elite hybrid — one of this country’s best-selling bikes and many people’s first choice when it comes to commuting machines. The Sirrus puts speed and comfort on tarmac at the top of its abilities list, but that doesn’t mean it can’t handle a bit of rough and tumble every now and then.
At the other end of the spectrum is the Vitus Nucleus 0.1, a genuine — although budget-priced — all-terrain bike. With its chunky tyres, suspension fork and disc brakes, the Nucleus should conquer most obstacles with ease, but how well can a mounatin bike cope with the occasional asphalt dash? Time to go to work.
This article first appeared in the February 2011 issue of Cycling Active magazine