What makes a good mission bike?
As a missionary, you have much better things to worry about than the state of your bike. It’s merely a low-cost, efficient tool to get you from one appointment to the next, after all. People are relying on you, so you need to be able to rely on your bike.
That means you probably won’t want to run out to the nearest big box store and purchase the first thing you see for $100. Within a week or two, everyone will know the missionaries are coming because of the loud squeak in your drivetrain. You need something more reliable.
Here are a few things to consider when choosing a bike for your mission.
Good components last longer
On any bike, the main aspect of quality is the componentry. You don’t need expensive carbon components, but a well-built, mid-level drivetrain and shift system from a tried-and-true brand like Shimano or SRAM will make a big difference in longevity and prolonged performance.
Forget about suspension
The more moving parts your bike has, the more potential there is for problems. As a general rule, avoid suspension -- especially full suspension. A basic coil fork may be useful in some areas with a lot of gravel roads, but most missionaries will spend the majority of their time on paved roads where suspension will only make their bike heavier and slow them down. And rear suspension will only cause more problems than it’s worth for missionaries.
Choose the right … tires
Like suspension, wide, knobby tires will only slow you down when riding on paved roads. While an old, rigid mountain bike can make a great mission bike, make sure you swap out the tires for a set of commuter tires designed for riding on pavement.
If you’re going to be riding a road bike, ditch the skinny racing slicks and go for something with a little more oomph. Tires that are 28mm wide with good traction and puncture protection would be an optimal choice for most missionaries. These tires would hold up well in both urban and rural environments with changing road conditions and inclement weather.
While you don’t want to put your trust in a bike from a big box store, you also don’t need to spend an exorbitant amount of money on your mission bike. Forget the carbon and the titanium. You won’t be entering any local bike races in the mission field. A steel or aluminum frame with a decent drivetrain would be great for most missionaries. A good mission bike can easily be purchased for well under $1000 and even $500, and it wouldn’t be nearly as alluring to thieves as a high-end racing or mountain bike.
Keep it simple, and keep it practical. A well-built, affordable mission bike will easily last through the best two years and beyond.