Hi, I need some help with recommendations for a new bike. I found MMM early last year via the New Yorker article and started riding my bike to work in the middle of March. Since then I've been averaging 3+ days a week by bicycle, before that was 100% car.
My current bike is an old, but not classic, Japanese steel racing style bike (Fuji Ace), from 1993, as close as I can figure. Probably the only original components still on the bike are the down tube shifters. The widest tires I could fit on this frame would probably be 700x28, but then no chance for fenders. Fenders barely fit with 700x23. Things are breaking, the front derailleur bracket cracked in half one day, and the corroded old spokes are going one by one. The teeth of the gears are showing some shark-fin type wear, especially the more useful gears. There is a clicking noise coming from the bottom bracket. I think I need a new bike.
My commute is a little over 7 miles one way and essentially flat. Winds are variable and usually at my back, but occasionally fiercely in my teeth, so gears are necessary. Entire commute is on roads shared by cars, mostly a 50 mph zone. The mile or so of road closest to my house is poorly maintained and bone-jarringly potholey in parts. After that I get onto the faster recently repaved county road which is much nicer with typically a wide (12'?) shoulder for riding in, but some lengthy patches mostly covered in dirt or gravel from the local farm trucks. Only four traffic lights and one stop sign for the entire route. Occasional windfall avocados lying in or next to the road are worth stopping for as well (roadkill guacamole, yum). Beautiful lemon, orange and avocado trees, commercial flowers, strawberry fields, mountain views, all in all a very nice ride.
I'm middle aged and not especially athletic, so not a super fast rider. 6'/180lbs. My commute takes about 35 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes in he afternoon. I wear the biking shorts for the crotch padding and the changing out of sweat factor, and other clothing tends toward conspicuity, so I'm sure I look like a weenie, but I care not, as long as cars keep not driving into me. I like racks and panniers for carrying stuff to work--lunch, coffee thermos, clothes, etc.
I only ride a bike to go places, I haven't really ridden a bike for fun since I was small. Mountain biking and trail riding does not appeal to me. The idea of bike touring does appeal to me, but so far haven't even gone on a bike overnight trip. Any extended touring will probably not happen, if ever, until FI, hopefully right around 8 years from now.
Visiting bike manufactures' websites makes me think that a good number of their bikes would be perfect for me. Take Trek, for instance, 520--that would be perfect, 720--perfect, ooh, District IGH--that would be perfect, etc. Then I browse over to Surly, Long Haul Trucker--perfect, Disc Trucker--perfect, Cross Check--perfect, flat bar cross check--perfect, Straggler--perfect. But then I browse over to Kona... So I need some help.
I'm looking for wide (or at least wider) tires, room for fenders, or fenders preinstalled, and traditional bike riding posture. I like being able to change my hand positions on the bars. I live in small condo with many children and many, many books, no room for anything else, so one bike will have to do it all. I recently bought a trailer and a lock, so grocery and/or kid hauling is also in my future. I feel like with the right bike I could practically eliminate the need for one of our cars.
I live in a fairly small city, 30,000, twenty minutes away from a larger city, 100,000, and about 2 hours away from a major metropolitan area, many millions. So there are occasionally some nice bikes that pop up on craigslist, but the reasonably priced ones tend to disappear quickly. I'm not completely opposed to buying new and supporting a local bike shop. What do you guys think?