Some of my friends are either switching to cycle as their primary mode of transport (while most of them are busy looking for cars!). I often see people as being clueless to the whole notion. They usually have a budget and they want to buy something that would help them commute to their workplace and back. As a result they post an innocent looking question on Facebook – “I have a budget of so-and-so. I want to buy a new cycle. Please give me some advice”. I can assure you that most of them have a preconceived notion of what they are buying / targeting even before they ask for opinion. Due to this buyer’s bias, they often don’t judge the pros and cons of the scenario they are about to enter.
Biking as a choice of commute in Bangalore
- It is safer than a motorbike but may not be as safe as a car. The speed limit of cycles imposed due to your human stamina and power ensures that even if there is a solo accident, you will not break your bones. Such accidents on motorbikes have rendered a few of my friends immobile for months.
- It is faster than a car! Yes you read it right. In Bangalore, the traffic is so bad that it is easier and faster to squeeze through gaps, dirt roads and alleyways than commute via the jam packed main roads. Sometimes it is faster than motorbikes, too. I often cross many of my colleagues on car and motorbikes en route to the office.
- It makes more sense if you live within a radius of 3-8 kms from your workplace. You should not be looking at a commute that is greater than 40 minutes between your home and workplace. Wasting more than 80 mins on road a day is a wastage of your precious time. This rule of thumb applies to all modes of transport. One might argue that more time on the road means more exercise. I beg to differ. Navigating jams and dirt roads will not be anywhere near exercising.
- It is a relatively low maintenance mode of transport. The recurring costs are negligible. Think of all the petroleum cost you will be saving.
- I don’t care about eco-friendliness much. If you want to cycle for that reason alone, then more power to you.
Choosing a bike for Bangalore roads
I have four points to offer. There are a lot of parameters involved in buying the right cycle. However, these are the primary points you must know and understand in order to buy something that will help you navigate Bangalore roads better.
- Bangalore roads have undulating terrain. Some slopes are more ruthless than others. I personally have to cycle two steep slopes en-route to office. If your budget permits so, invest in a geared cycle and make that your priority. You will be saving a lot on recurring cost anyways once you have bought a cycle. Choose the best quality of drivetrain / gear you can afford. Check this: Shimano hierarchy , SRAM hierarchy for MTB / Hybrid .
- Avoid suspension. Rear-suspension is a strict no-no. Even with potholes, damaged roads and debris, Bangalore roads are no mountains and no suspension is needed. Suspension dissipates a lot of energy and you will be working real hard to keep the momentum. Most Indian cycles, namely those by Hercules and Hero, have really cheap and badly designed suspensions. Avoid them like a plague. If the cycle has a rear suspension, too, avoid it like Chernobyl.
- Thinner tires have deceptively high amount of grip. Don’t be fooled by the lack of thick rubber grips as those on the tires of mountain bikes. A road bike will be a really good choice. If you are low on budget, choose a hybrid instead rather than veering towards a mountain bike (Bangalore roads are nowhere close to a mountainous terrain). These will help you in commuting faster. You should know the basic cycle types before buying a cycle (there are lot of sub-classes and newer categories, but that would be information overload).
- Frame material is up to your choice. Or to be precise, your budget will guide your choice. You have the cheaper and heavier steel, the lighter and stronger Aluminiums (2000s, 7000s) or Titanium and the lightest and most expensive carbon fiber composite frames. Really, you can go with anything for Bangalore roads. If you are on a budget, a steel frame would be as good as an Aluminium one.
More reading, more power to you. Read each article on this page  once you have bought a cycle. Or better still, why don’t you read it before buying. It will save you the good willed bad advices of a lot of misinformed people.