Consider the lowly beater bike.
Over at Commute By Bike, Arleigh has started the Build Your Perfect Commuter Bike project. Various people have weighed in about frame style, frame material, brakes, gearing, chaincases, fenders, integrated lightning and so on.
Ghost Rider comments that if you ask 100 people for their opinion on the perfect bike, you'll get 100 different answers. I caught a lot of heat when I proclaimed Joe Breeze's Finesse the ultimate commuter bike a little over two years ago. Freewheel likes city bike with internal gear hubs and chaincases, while Jim @ Planetary Gears is less enthusiastic about IGH, chainguards, and even porteur racks.
Alan @ Eco Velo also started a great discussion on the virtues of Euro city bike design vs more American "sporty" bikes used for commuting.
We’re covering longer distances on a regular basis, and for us, lighter, faster bikes make the trip more enjoyable. We’re not talking racing bikes with skinny tires, but practical bikes that share some characteristics with traditional Roadsters while being manufactured with modern materials to reduce weight and increase performance. These bikes may also be missing some accessories that are unessential for our climes and limited cargo carrying needs.My perfect commuting bike right now is a 1990s GT Aggressor 2.0 mountain bike.
I bought this bike six or seven years ago at a garage sale in Longmont, Colorado. It is heavy, ugly, and has almost none of the usual list of features that some of us consider essential for a commuter bike. It has no chainguard, no fenders, no kickstand, and no rack. I have power sucking 1.95" knobby tires and a suspension fork with 125 mm of travel that's probably worth more than the bike. The surprisingly robust eight speed Shimano Acera derailleur is almost as low end as you get. The only things I'm missing are a Megarange freewheel hub and bar ends pointing straight up.
It's the perfect commuter because this is the bike I've taken to work the past few days. The low end introductory model or even the Bike Shaped Objects from the mass retail stores are probably the most common commuter I see on the streets. The bikes mostly work and they get you there.
The perfect commuter bike is the bike you already own. Hop on, pedal, and be happy!
What's your perfect commuter bike?