Author Topic: Bicycle Commuting Questions  (Read 7555 times)

ApplePI

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Bicycle Commuting Questions
« on: May 21, 2015, 08:33:05 AM »
I will be switching jobs in August to one that I can ride my bike to - reading this blog and forum allowed me to see to virtue in such a shift, so first and foremost: thank you! One thing I noticed at my local bike shop, however, is that bicycles and bicycle-related stuff does not come cheap. For a culture that I've often associated with college-aged hipsters or the working poor, it seems that materialism/consumerism/American-Dreamism is rampant in the industry. I want to hear some opinions on a few matters:

To fix? I own a beater Schwinn that was mine in High School. It was a $100ish at a Walmart (or similar) and is now 12+ years old. The tires are bald and the chain is beyond WD-40. My initial thought was new tires and chain with a cable tuning for good measure. A bit of sticker shock when I realized tires were $30 a pop (with tubes, thank goodness!), and the tune-up would cost me a bit as well. Do I put $100+ and some elbow grease into a 12+ year old bike that is heavy and beat up? Thoughts?

To buy? My next thought is that my auto expenses in total last year were $2400, of which $1400 is gasoline cost (Thanks, Personal Capital!). I posted about this in my case study, but I'll reiterate here that I expect to save $1200/year in gas costs after switching jobs. So, If I *do* buy a new (or slightly used) bike, it will pay itself off within sixish months as I won't be dropping a grand on a bike. MMM reccommended a $500ish new bike in a blog article, but my local shop does not have much in that range. They can order anything, however, and are a Trek/Surly/Moots/Salsa authorized dealer. The guys who work there seem great, but their suggestions seem pricey. So if the MMM consensus is "go new," do any of these makes seem like one I should really consider from a FIRE perspective?

Fatbikes? I live in Northern Illinois and our winters are not very cold, but a foot of snow can drop overnight. The shop guys recommended a fatbike - which is like a hardtail mountain bike with really fat tires. I'm not sold from a price perspective, but from a utility perspective... perhaps? Does anyone have experience?

Keeping costs down? It seems bike commuting will be pricey no matter how I slice it. MMM mentioned REI riding gear and getting a trailer, and I've seen what tires and other bits an pieces cost. Any tips on keeping the costs down?

Any and all comments would be greatly appreciated. Thank you in advance.

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Edit-

My commute will look like this:
5 miles to work at about 6:00 AM
5 miles to the local university for night classes at about 6:00 PM (I may go home first)
7 miles back home at about 9:00 PM

So minimum 17 miles per day, up to 24 if I go home mid-day. Since we are talking multiple short trips, expensive clothing may be unnecessary but the right gear to haul my lunch, dinner, textbooks, laptop, and possibly groceries on the way home will be. My bike needs to be maneuverable under (what I consider) a heavy load.
« Last Edit: May 21, 2015, 09:22:57 AM by ApplePI »

mskyle

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Re: Bicycle Commuting Questions
« Reply #1 on: May 21, 2015, 08:37:31 AM »
Walmart/Target bikes are generally not worth fixing. They are made with super cheap parts that you can't replace for the same cost. Give it away if you can.

Fat bikes are toys (exception: if you are on, like, a polar expedition). They're fun toys, but you wouldn't want to *just* have a fat bike that you needed to use for daily commuting. I bike commute in Boston, and I almost never see people commuting on fat bikes, even this extremely snowy winter. I guess it might be useful if you expect to have to take a lot of unplowed paths/roads, but that's really tough. It sounds like your local bike shop is more "toy" oriented than "utility" oriented, which is fine, you can still get what you want/need from them, but take their advice with a grain of salt.

Get a new Trek7.2Fx. For the winter, buy a fancy set of studded tires.

Don't buy *any* gear until you've started riding regularly. Lots of people don't wear anything special. I wear street clothes and keep my stuff in panniers on my rack; my boyfriend wears bike clothes and carries his stuff in a backpack. Will you actually need a trailer? I can easily do all my grocery shopping (family of two adults) without one.
« Last Edit: May 21, 2015, 08:41:57 AM by mskyle »

KCM5

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Re: Bicycle Commuting Questions
« Reply #2 on: May 21, 2015, 08:41:52 AM »
Don't fix that old bike. I'm not saying an old bike isn't worth fixing, but your old bike doesn't sound like its worth fixing.

Buy and bike. New or used. I'm a fan of used, personally, but its up to you. Good resources are Craigslist and bike coops - a bike coop fixes up donated bikes and also provides resources to learn about fixing your own bike, tools, classes, etc.

I'm in central Iowa and get by bike to work year round by putting studded tires on my bike ($100 for a pair of quality tires like Schwalbe Winter). I don't think they're even really necessary, but it gives me the extra confidence I need to get out in February. But if it snows a foot, I may or may not be able to bike in, depending on when it fell and whether or not the plows have been out. So I don't think you'll need a fat bike, but they do sound fun.

Retire-Canada

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Re: Bicycle Commuting Questions
« Reply #3 on: May 21, 2015, 08:42:20 AM »

Any and all comments would be greatly appreciated. Thank you in advance.

Find a bike savvy friend to help you search CL for an appropriate used bike. Like workout machines most bikes are bought with good intentions and then never ridden until they are old/dusty and the owner sells them so they have room for the next good intention.

You want one of these nearly new 3-6yr old bikes.

If you are not familiar with bikes what you need help with is quickly weeding out the crap from the winners. If you have a bike savvy friend they can do this for you without breaking a sweat. They can also steer you towards a size range that is likely to work.

I had a fatbike when I lived in a part of Canada that had a winter. They are a lot of fun, but for most people they are not something you need for commuting and not something you want to ride year round as a commuter bike. Especially if being low on cost is a priority.

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nereo

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Re: Bicycle Commuting Questions
« Reply #4 on: May 21, 2015, 08:56:18 AM »
Quote
To fix? I own a beater Schwinn that was mine in High School. It was a $100ish at a Walmart ... Do I put $100+ and some elbow grease into a 12+ year old bike that is heavy and beat up? Thoughts?
I'll tell you what I did - I knew literally nothing about bike repair or maintenance, and I found and joined a bike-coop.  I watched youtube videos and the people at the coop were great helping me replace my first brake and shifting cables, and they had free classes on bike maintenence and repairs.  I'm still not a bike mechanic by any stretch of the imagination, but it's made me realize that you can learn to fix most things on a bike fairly easily and cheaply - especially if you have access to the right tools (hence, the coop).
If you otherwise like the bike, I'd say fix it.  If it's not the ride you want, then shop around for something that suits your body and needs.
Quote

To buy? ...  So if the MMM consensus is "go new," do any of these makes seem like one I should really consider from a FIRE perspective?
I would not saythe consensus is to "go new".  I've had great luck looking through craigslist and yard sales.  People buy expensive bikes all the time and then sell them years later when they haven't ridden them.  My latest bike I bought for $50 (new retails for ~$800) because the owner had left it out all winter in the snow and the brake and shifter cables were rusted and seized shut & the chain was shot.  Replaced them for $18 in parts and it rides fine now.  Cyclists also tend to be serial upgraders, so there's a plethora of $1-1.5k bikes out there for sale @ 50%+ off because their owners gut lured into buying the next-greatest carbon-fiber 16lb wonder for $5k and now they need more space in their garage/closet.

Quote
Fatbikes? I live in Northern Illinois and our winters are not very cold, but a foot of snow can drop overnight.
Never rode a fatbike, but they have extremely high rolling resistance and will be a bear to ride back and forth on every day unless you have a very short commute.
For commuting get something efficient.  In the winter you can get studded snow tires if your route is snowy/icy.  Lots of people in Quebec still ride in the dead of winter (even when it's -20F outside... i'm not that hardcore).


Quote
Keeping costs down? It seems bike commuting will be pricey no matter how I slice it. MMM mentioned REI riding gear and getting a trailer, and I've seen what tires and other bits an pieces cost. Any tips on keeping the costs down?
I don't know where you are getting this idea that bike commuting should be pricey.  I'd say the opposite.
Anyone can find a perfectly decent bike to ride for $300-400, including a lock, fenders and panniers.  Beyond that you only need to occasionally apply lube (a $6-8 investment per year) and wipe out grime with some old rags.  Tires should last multiple years unless you have a very long commute - even then they'll last a long time. A trailer can be great but you can carry a lot of stuff just with dual panniers and a backpack.  No special clothing is needed for cycling besides what you already own... most days I wear jeans and a t-shirt/sweatshirt.  I'll change in my office if I need to wear more professional clothes that day.
The one thing I'd recommend is a set of good bike lights.  But even that can be had for <$50 and will last you for years.
« Last Edit: May 21, 2015, 09:03:23 AM by nereo »

ApplePI

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Re: Bicycle Commuting Questions
« Reply #5 on: May 21, 2015, 09:03:42 AM »
Get a new Trek7.2Fx. For the winter, buy a fancy set of studded tires. [/b]

I googled this bike - my shop actually quoted me this bike first (or similar Trek, they all look alike to me!) before taking me around the shop. I didn't write down the exact price, but it was $600ish including tax and a helmet. Has to be ordered.

Will these tires last for more than one winter, or is this a yearly expense?

Quote
Will you actually need a trailer? I can easily do all my grocery shopping (family of two adults) without one.

It's just me, so probably not. A gallon of milk wont fit in a backpack comfortably, but the shop had a pannier specifically for groceries with a gallon of milk "pocket." The maker was Arkel (Arkle?) but I cannot find the same product online anywhere. Anyways, I may be able to do with a backpack and racks/panniers.

Good resources are Craigslist and bike coops - a bike coop fixes up donated bikes and also provides resources to learn about fixing your own bike, tools, classes, etc.

I will definitely seek out a coop. Learning how to fix up a bike will certainly save me in the future. Thanks for the tip!

Quote
I don't think you'll need a fat bike, but they do sound fun.

They look like fun, too. I need to not let shiny and cool dictate this decision. I must remain focused on utility!

Find a bike savvy friend to help you search CL for an appropriate used bike.... finding out the crap from the winners. If you have a bike savvy friend they can do this for you without breaking a sweat.

I actually asked Facebook prior to asking this community... a TON of negative responses, which I thought was interesting. I'm in a college town, however, and there is certainly somewhere I know or a friend of a friend somewhere who can be of assistance. I will look into it. Thanks.

KCM5

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Re: Bicycle Commuting Questions
« Reply #6 on: May 21, 2015, 09:09:44 AM »
Studded tires will last many seasons. I had mine put on in Dec, taken off in Jan, and they didn't lose a single stud.

Regarding grocery shopping - get a cheap rack ($20) and either Wald baskets ($20) or a milk crate (free) or something like that. Zip tie the milk crate on top of the rack. I mean, you could get the fancy arkel panniers if you want, but I'd wait to make such a purchase until you know you'll regularly use them and the investment is worth it to you.

GuitarStv

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Re: Bicycle Commuting Questions
« Reply #7 on: May 21, 2015, 09:11:44 AM »
How far away is your work?  Commuting 20 miles each way will have very different requirements than commuting 2 miles.  Longer distance usage tends to end up more expensive because proper clothing (reduce chafing, comfort) weight and component quality matter more.  Short distance usage should be super cheap.

Winter cycling has different needs than summer cycling.  (I can't use my road bike when temperatures drop much below zero C because the shifters are difficult to work with thick gloves on . . . so I switch over to my winter bike).  You need to do a lot more maintenance on your bike in the winter than in the summer . . . road salt will eat up components quickly if you don't (it's totally worth it though, cycling in the winter is fun).

A rear rack (Axiom makes a cheap, light weight, and sturdy one) and Wald folding baskets work great to carry grocery stuff.  Panniers are nice to have over a backpack for long bike rides to work.
« Last Edit: May 21, 2015, 09:14:11 AM by GuitarStv »

ApplePI

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Re: Bicycle Commuting Questions
« Reply #8 on: May 21, 2015, 09:21:10 AM »
How far away is your work?  Commuting 20 miles each way will have very different requirements than commuting 2 miles.  Longer distance usage tends to end up more expensive because proper clothing (reduce chafing, comfort) weight and component quality matter more.  Short distance usage should be super cheap.

My commute will look like this:
5 miles to work at about 6:00 AM
5 miles to the local university for night classes at about 6:00 PM (I may go home first)
7 miles back home at about 9:00 PM

So minimum 17 miles per day, up to 24 if I go home mid-day. Since we are talking multiple short trips, expensive clothing may be unnecessary but the right gear to haul my lunch, dinner, textbooks, laptop, and groceries on the way home will be. My bike needs to be able maneuverable under (what I consider) a heavy load.

Quote
Winter cycling has different needs than summer cycling.  (I can't use my road bike when temperatures drop much below zero C because the shifters are difficult to work with thick gloves on . . . so I switch over to my winter bike).  You need to do a lot more maintenance on your bike in the winter than in the summer . . . road salt will eat up components quickly if you don't (it's totally worth it though, cycling in the winter is fun).

Good to know. The coops mentioned above sound like a good idea so I can learn how to handle all of this. Thank you.

Nereo - thanks for all of your responses. I will certainly give the high-end used market some serious consideration now. Moreover, I'm glad that you mentioned lights because I had not thought of that. Any suggestions? It will be plenty dark on my commute.

nereo

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Re: Bicycle Commuting Questions
« Reply #9 on: May 21, 2015, 09:21:39 AM »
Quote
Will these tires last for more than one winter, or is this a yearly expense?
Tires should last you several years or several thousand miles (varies slightly between brands and tire type)  Even with a longish 10mi commute each way you should eb able to make a set of studded tires last several winters.

Quote
I actually asked Facebook [about used bikes] prior to asking this community... a TON of negative responses, which I thought was interesting. I'm in a college town, however, and there is certainly somewhere I know or a friend of a friend somewhere who can be of assistance. I will look into it. Thanks.
Not entirely surprising given the source.  Sure - you can get a very nice new bike for $600-800 at a reputable bike shop.  But with some internet searching you can get that exact same bike for $300 that's been gently used and then stored in a garage.  A lot of the 'masses' on facebook don't consider a savings of $400 worth the time and effort... you'll have to decide what's right for you.  I will say one positive thing about buying new from a good bike shop is that they should spend the time with you to find out exactly what you need and what fits you. 

However, there is nothing "bad" about buying a used bike.  They are simple machines to fix and repair, and all the parts are exposed so it's easy to see what kind of condition it is in.  To put it another way, I wouldn't hesitate to buy a 20 year old bike myself with just a 5 minute inspection, but if I wanted to buy a 20 year old car I'd need to have it thoroughly inspected by my mechanic first, and I'd do a lot more research about recalls, repairs etc.  You have no such worries with a bike.

ApplePI

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Re: Bicycle Commuting Questions
« Reply #10 on: May 21, 2015, 09:27:45 AM »
They are simple machines to fix and repair ... I wouldn't hesitate to buy a 20 year old bike myself with just a 5 minute inspection, but if I wanted to buy a 20 year old car I'd need to have it thoroughly inspected by my mechanic first, and I'd do a lot more research about recalls, repairs etc.  You have no such worries with a bike.

Awesome point. I had not considered any of this, either. It seems that I should be able to determine how good of a deal a used bike really is after watching a few videos and talking with a few knowledgeable people. I'll look around. Thanks, again!

GuitarStv

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Re: Bicycle Commuting Questions
« Reply #11 on: May 21, 2015, 09:33:02 AM »
Lights and visibility are work spending some cash on if you plan to be out in the dark.  Bike ninjas get dead.  Don't be a bike ninja.

I like Planet Bike Superflash Turbo tail lights.  I use two when commuting at 6:00 am in the pitch black dead of winter, and they are very visible.  The Cygolite Metro 400 is a very bright headlight and works well for lighting up the dark road and being seen (even in daytime).

If you're spending a lot of time in the dark, get a cheap hi-viz mesh vest (like what construction workers use).  You can usually pick them up for about 10$ on sale.  They're covered in reflective stuff so you're easier to see.

nereo

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Re: Bicycle Commuting Questions
« Reply #12 on: May 21, 2015, 09:39:16 AM »

Nereo - thanks for all of your responses. I will certainly give the high-end used market some serious consideration now. Moreover, I'm glad that you mentioned lights because I had not thought of that. Any suggestions? It will be plenty dark on my commute.
Glad to help.  But let me be very clear about this - I'm not recommending that you run out and buy a high-end bike on the cheap per se.  I think it's good to get your hands wet first and then worry about getting a fantastic bike a bit later when you know more of what you want.  That's what I'd recommend doing...  buy a good bike now, and after a few months of cycling consider finding something else IF it doesn't suit you.
ONe other GREAT think about used bikes is that they hold up their value extremely well.  If you buy a used bike for $300, in all likelihood you can sell it for ~$300 a year later. 
I just wanted to point out that you can get some fairly fancy/expensive bikes off CL for half off, and in great condition. 

Also, it's funny but spend enough hours on bikes and they start to feel like an extension of you, and you can become attached to a bike even though it's 'not all that great'.  I had a c1988 steel road bike with a pink and magenta paint job that I picked up at a swap-meet, and I swore I was going to upgrade to a fancier, lighter and shinier blue bike road bike just as soon as i saved up another $1k - but in that the quirks of my old bike became second nature to me and I passed on the bike, even when I found a used version on CL for $500 fully kitted out as a touring bike.

Quote
My commute will look like this:
5 miles to work at about 6:00 AM
5 miles to the local university for night classes at about 6:00 PM (I may go home first)
7 miles back home at about 9:00 PM
You've got a nice commute.  Completely doable, but long enough that you'll start benefiting from all the cycling you will be doing.  A few cheaper ways of getting groceries home (including a gallon+) is to put a rack on your bike, and then attach a "milk crate"   onto it.  It's a time-honored biking tradition, costs $30 in parts and allows for two gallon milk jugs, plus room in your panniers and backpack.

As for weight---yeah, loading up your bike is going to make it heavier and a bit harder to pedal.  But only slightly.  I think you will be surpised how easy it is to pedal even when you have 40lb+ of stuff strapped on your back and in panniers/milk crates.  After all, assuming that you + bike weigh ~200lbs, you're only talking a 20% increase in the mass. 
Plus, going downhill fully weighted is fun!  Physics!

ApplePI

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Re: Bicycle Commuting Questions
« Reply #13 on: May 21, 2015, 09:55:04 AM »
Don't be a bike ninja.

Noted. This makes a lot of sense, and I'll look into the lighting suggestions. I still have "PT Belts" from the service that are super reflective, too. Not attractive, but very functional for visibility.
Glad to help.  But let me be very clear about this - I'm not recommending that you run out and buy a high-end bike on the cheap per se. 
Quoted so you know I read this and fully understand your recommendations. Your posts have been incredibly informative.


Quote
A few cheaper ways of getting groceries home (including a gallon+) is to put a rack on your bike, and then attach a "milk crate"   onto it.  It's a time-honored biking tradition, costs $30 in parts and allows for two gallon milk jugs, plus room in your panniers and backpack.

I've seen this on campus *A-LOT* so I guess it is somewhat of a tradition. I even own one already that is filled with DVDs.

mskyle

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Re: Bicycle Commuting Questions
« Reply #14 on: May 21, 2015, 10:21:37 AM »
I agree that a quality used bike will hold its value. Out of five bikes in my household, three were bought used, and they're all great bikes, and I expect we could sell them for what we paid for them. But I think it can be difficult for someone brand new to grown-up cycling to assess the quality of the bikes, and to figure out whether they are likely to fit. It's easier to assess a bike when you're already riding regularly, because you know how a bike that you're used to feels.

Buying a used bike is like buying a private-sale used car: you can get a great deal, but you can't be as picky about details as when you're buying from the dealer, and it works best if you don't have any particular timetable in mind. I'm in the market for a mid/low-range road bike right now, and I check craigslist every day, but a lot of people don't price their bikes realistically and don't describe the bikes well - leave out info about sizing, condition, etc. And it takes a lot of time to go back and forth across town looking at bikes that might or might not fit, or might or might not be in good condition. If I get a road bike sometime this summer, that will be awesome, and if I don't get it until next year, that will be fine too - but if I didn't have any bike at all I would look into bike shops.

Buying a new bike, yeah, you are paying extra for the "newness" and for the bike shop overhead. But I could still probably get $400 for my 5-year-old Trek7.3FX, which I paid ~$600 for. That's not terrible depreciation. (Obviously I have also replaced many brake pads and a fair number of tubes and tires as well.)

Anyway, as nereo says - don't worry about getting everything perfect. Just get started.

Don't skip lights, no matter what! I like Cygolite brand lights or the aforementioned Planet Bike Superflash, but even if you only get a set of $5 lights off Amazon, it's 1000x better than just depending on reflectors.

Hugerat

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Re: Bicycle Commuting Questions
« Reply #15 on: May 21, 2015, 10:32:01 AM »
Nothing else to add except don't every use WD-40 on your chain! This may be why it's all rusted! WD-40 is a solvent/penetrant, not a lubricant. It will remove the old lubricant from your chain and then evaporate, leaving you with no lube at all. And as another Bostonian here having recently survived 110+ inches of snow, a fat bike is useless. Get a quality new bike in the $600 range or a good condition used one and learn to maintain it properly. Don't sweat an extra $1-200 because this bike will last you many years.

mschaus

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Re: Bicycle Commuting Questions
« Reply #16 on: May 21, 2015, 10:38:59 AM »
I agree with the consensus that bikes don't need to be expensive, and used is a great idea. Buying new is recommended to people who would otherwise just not ride a bike. A "fitness" bike like the Trek or any other bike with rack and fender mounts will work in general.

When you get your new-to-you bike, learning to take care of it yourself is fun and a huge money saver. I put together a checklist for a full tune-up, which will probably be advanced to you for now, but you can slowly learn piece by piece. Start with keeping the chain lubed and the tires inflated. If there is squeeking or clanking, ask a friend for help.

http://mschausprojects.blogspot.com/2015/05/bicycle-tuneup-reference-checklist.html

nereo

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Re: Bicycle Commuting Questions
« Reply #17 on: May 21, 2015, 10:48:12 AM »

http://mschausprojects.blogspot.com/2015/05/bicycle-tuneup-reference-checklist.html
thanks for the info... learned something new myself (never turn the bike upside-down to work on it).  With the coop this is no longer an issue, but I always lubed the chain by inverting the bike and cranking the pedals while applying lube and then gently wiping off.  Guess I'm not supposed to do it that way...?

mschaus

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Re: Bicycle Commuting Questions
« Reply #18 on: May 21, 2015, 10:58:59 AM »

http://mschausprojects.blogspot.com/2015/05/bicycle-tuneup-reference-checklist.html
thanks for the info... learned something new myself (never turn the bike upside-down to work on it).  With the coop this is no longer an issue, but I always lubed the chain by inverting the bike and cranking the pedals while applying lube and then gently wiping off.  Guess I'm not supposed to do it that way...?

Glad there was a tidbit for you! Maybe "never" is too strong, but lubing the chain can be done with the bike leaned against a wall or tree, then pedal backwards instead of forward. Turning the bike upside down I'd say is just an unnecessary risk -- parts get scraped up and damaged all the time. And for a chain, it's not really any easier. You've got the right idea for sure, though: lubricate regularly, wipe off excess.

But man, if you want to get bike nerds in an argument, just say anything about chain lube...

nereo

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Re: Bicycle Commuting Questions
« Reply #19 on: May 21, 2015, 11:10:26 AM »

But man, if you want to get bike nerds in an argument, just say anything about chain lube...
LOL, tell me about it... the very first time I went to the coop and was very proud of myself for replacing my first brake cables, and I asked for some lube for the chain.  what resulted was a 10 minute discussion among about five different people on what kind of lube i should use and on its application (wipe off?)  After about the first 2 minutes I was completely out of the conversation, and was left standing there wondering who would get mad at me if I just started using the bottle of Dumone Tech sitting at my station instead of whatever else was in the lubricant cabinet. 
"dude, it's just a commuter bike i got for $50!"

Eric

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Re: Bicycle Commuting Questions
« Reply #20 on: May 21, 2015, 11:48:40 AM »

http://mschausprojects.blogspot.com/2015/05/bicycle-tuneup-reference-checklist.html
thanks for the info... learned something new myself (never turn the bike upside-down to work on it).  With the coop this is no longer an issue, but I always lubed the chain by inverting the bike and cranking the pedals while applying lube and then gently wiping off.  Guess I'm not supposed to do it that way...?

Glad there was a tidbit for you! Maybe "never" is too strong, but lubing the chain can be done with the bike leaned against a wall or tree, then pedal backwards instead of forward. Turning the bike upside down I'd say is just an unnecessary risk -- parts get scraped up and damaged all the time. And for a chain, it's not really any easier. You've got the right idea for sure, though: lubricate regularly, wipe off excess.

But man, if you want to get bike nerds in an argument, just say anything about chain lube...

Make sure you clean that chain first!  This chain cleaner contraption was about the best $10 I ever spent.  Turned cleaning the chain from a half hour project to a 2 minute one.  (I just use Simple Green as the cleaner now)

Hugerat

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Re: Bicycle Commuting Questions
« Reply #21 on: May 21, 2015, 11:58:04 AM »

Make sure you clean that chain first!  This chain cleaner contraption was about the best $10 I ever spent.  Turned cleaning the chain from a half hour project to a 2 minute one.  (I just use Simple Green as the cleaner now)

Yes to all of this, cleaning the chain is essential to its longevity and the performance of your bike, and these doohickeys make it a snap. I also use Simple green, which will get a chain and the rest of your drivetrain sparkling, and it's supposedly biodegradeable.

GuitarStv

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Re: Bicycle Commuting Questions
« Reply #22 on: May 21, 2015, 12:04:56 PM »
Meh.

You could also start a holy war over the importance of cleaning the bike chain.  It's possible to get thousands of miles out of chains that are only wiped down and relubed occasionally.  I can keep my bike chain and cassette sparkling just using a rag and a twice yearly soak.

If you are using one of those chain cleaners on your bike regularly make sure that you're checking the grease in your rear axle . . . those degreasers tend to eat away at that stuff, and you'll be splashing it all over the cassette.  It's probably safer to take the two seconds to pop the chain off your bike with a pair of pliers than to use those chain cleaners.  Then you can soak it in degreasers while dancing naked to the gods of cycling (or however you celebrate Tuesdays at your house) at your leisure.

TrMama

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Re: Bicycle Commuting Questions
« Reply #23 on: May 21, 2015, 12:24:21 PM »
Lots of good advice already. I'll just add that I think you need to shop around at a few more bike shops. I live in an area with lots of shops and there's a huge disparity between them. Some are great, some are out to rip you off. Shop around. Good ones should also carry refurbed used bikes for decent prices.

On the subject of cleaning, I've recently switched from fancy pants expensive bike degreaser to basic citrus degreaser from Home Depot (75% cheaper). I also picked up a tile cleaning brush in the same isle for $2. It looks just like the fancy chain brushes, but was 80% cheaper.

Le Poisson

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Re: Bicycle Commuting Questions
« Reply #24 on: May 21, 2015, 01:56:43 PM »
OK so here's a bit of a weird approach to getting a good bike on the cheap...

Ask a Mormon.

OK its maybe not popular or anything, but I was raised Mormon (made my exit shortly after serving a mission) and the Mormon missionaries, who often get assigned to a bike mission have to buy their own bikes. They ride for 2 years, then get sent home. At this point they face a crisis. Take the bike home (I did) or leave it behind. Most of them opt to sell it off cheap or donate it back to the mission for another guy coming up. If you ask a missionary if they know anyone going home, they likely do - and would be happy to put you in touch with them if you are interested in buying their bike.

You may be harassed by eager missionaries trying to bring you to Jeebus for the next 6 months, you may find yourself sitting through an hour-long 'discussion' on the founding of their religion, but you should also be able to find a missionary who is returning home shortly and needs to ditch his bike. When I was out there we had Giant Sedonas, they were good bikes. We had a line on a bike shop (Mormon owned) that would tune the bikes for us monthly and do basic maintenance, so the bikes were high mileage, but in good shape. I even tricked mine out with purple anodized water-bottle holders.

I'm not here to talk about the religion, apart from saying I am not a supporter, but its a decent way to get a bike.

jeromedawg

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Re: Bicycle Commuting Questions
« Reply #25 on: May 22, 2015, 11:26:56 AM »
I got my Trek 7300fx "used" a long time ago back in 2004. It was a relatively new model back then and was lightly used. I had no idea what I was doing back then either so if I could go back and do it again I would. First mistake was getting a bike that was slightly too big. I'm almost 5'5 so I'm at that awkward point for a lot of sizings (for anything) where I could either go the next size up or the next size down. I think it would have been better to have gone down to a 15" frame but I think I was so caught up with getting something and for "cheaper" that I jumped on the used deal... a local bike shop was selling an employee's bike on behalf of her. I guess it kind of worked out either way. I still have it and started commuting into work again - it's definitely a nice bike and I just did some 'major' work on it last weekend - degreased and cleaned the cassette and chain (after changing the flat/leaking rear tube) and readjusted/calibrated the brakes, derailleurs and shifters. It's not *too* difficult to figure out a lot of this stuff... probably the most frustrating thing is tuning the derailleurs properly. I'm sure I'm still not getting it 100% correct but it's not the end of the world if they don't shift *perfectly* for commuting. In either case, degreasing and cleaning is kind of hard too if you haven't done it in a while. I ended up having to use pretty strong solvent to degrease the chain and ended up using degreasing citrus oven cleaner to finally get most of the gunk off - it was nasty. I also had to shorten the chain by a link too - that was a total b**** to work on...! Especially when re-linking the chain. I was using a chain breaking tool that was on a multi-tool too, so not the best thing vs a dedicate chain breaker. Then I remembered I had an actual chain breaker tool tucked away in another bag :(

It is fun for me working on this stuff though and it does relieve "stress" I would say. It's also very rewarding fixing it up yourself and riding it knowing that you are the one who worked on it. Understanding how it all works is relatively easy once you get going. It's just jumping into it that's difficult. I'd definitely say get something used vs new. If and when you get more serious about riding, you could maybe consider new but I would only do that if there are some crazy good deals and or coupons that get you the bike for a good amount less than what it normally goes for. Otherwise, even if I were a more serious rider, I'd still consider buying used first.