Monday, June 13, 2011

Beginner’s Guide to Bike Commuting in Singapore: Road Bike as a Commuter Bike

In continuation with the last post on selection of bicycles, let's see what kind of bike is the best...

There is only one solution to going fast:  dropbars, 700x23c, clipless pedals, tiiiiiiight clothes and legs of steel

It's true that horses are for courses. The Singapore course is not the same as the Taiwanese course. Singaporean roads are soooooooo much better than Taiwanese roads. However, there are some challenges involved in riding in Singapore...

Built upon my knowledge of riding with a road bike, mountain bike and foldable "city-commuter" bike, I shall share with you my two cents on what I think, some bikes are inherently better than others in certain ways, and while your mileage may vary, I think these points run true no matter who you ask.

Let's see what a road bike is good for... besides racing.

Road Bike

  • Fast
  • Time-saving (because it's fast)
  • Enjoyable (well... especially if you like speed)
  • Least tiring (efficient tyres and aerodynamic)
  • Risky
  • Limited baggage carrying capacity (on some bikes)
  • The least comfortable type of bike
  • Expensive (and thus very risky to lock outside)

Road bikes hold the highest honour for speed and nothing else. If you want to go fast, there's only one type of bike that you would choose - the 700x23c (700 = diametre of wheel in mm, around 700mm, 23 is the width of the tyre in mm), dropbar, aerodynamic and hunched-forth position.

However, if you have never ridden a bike on the road and your first bike is a road bike, things can get a bit hairy. For one, the hunched position makes it hard to look over your shoulder without starting to drift in a direction. It also takes away forward visibility, makes signaling harder, and can be hard on your neck. And then there's vibrations, bumps and other roadside irregularities which 120psi tyres will inevitably not absorb.

With a road bike, you'll want to totally forget about locking it outside. Even the most entry-level of road bikes start at $700, and a used Giant can start at $500. Unless you're willing to lock it for a short while only - and with a very beefy lock - I'd advise against locking these beauties out there. Of course, if your office is big enough for a bike,  and all you plan to do is to ride there and back home, then it'd make excellent sense.

But a road bike, once you get used to it, will make bike commuting all that more practical and enjoyable, especially if you like to go fast. Compared to a mountain bike or city bike, you could shave off 5-10 minutes on your commute time, and that stems from it being the most efficient bike. The corollary is that it is also the least tiring bike to ride. So if you can manage risk while riding the bike, you will reap great benefits.

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