Author Topic: choosing a bicycle  (Read 3764 times)

alexan

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choosing a bicycle
« on: October 18, 2013, 10:46:22 AM »
Mustachians,

I need some advice. I'm hoping to replace my 7-mile one way car commute with a bicycle commute. I'm going to rent a bike this weekend and do a trial run, see how long it takes, what the route is like, etc.

Like Mr. Money Mustache, I live in Colorado. That means winters are cold, but not that cold. It usually snows surprisingly infrequently, and when it does snow, it all melts within a couple days.

I don't own a bicycle. I donated my last one to Goodwill after college as I was moving out of state with only my car. I want to get a new bike. I'm trying to find a balance between being able to ride through the occasional few inches of snow, the odd icy patch in a shady area, and other smallish bumps and hazards -- and efficiency.

I'm thinking about some kind of hybrid commuter bike. Am I on the right track? What should I look for, cold-weather-biking Mustacians? 700c wheels? Fenders? Lights for dark mornings and evenings? Will knobby tires help at all or will they be just as useless on ice and slow me down in fair weather? Should I just give in and go with a mountain bike? That seems silly as I will likely be moving further south soon, making snow and ice a non-issue. Do I need rain pants & jacket to stay warm and dry in sloppy conditions?

Thanks in advance

GuitarStv

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Re: choosing a bicycle
« Reply #1 on: October 18, 2013, 11:31:29 AM »
GuitarStv's commuting essentials:

Fenders - If you commute often, you will ride in the rain.  Rain sucks without fenders.  Unless you like getting sprayed in the face, legs, and up the back with grimy road water.)
Lights - Yep.  One rear, one front at a minimum.  These need to be brighter if you plan on cycling unlit streets/paths at night.  Even if you do no cycling at night, it's nice to have for dark mornings and overcast days . . . as well as rainy/snowy conditions.
Tires - Most people are better served with minimal treads on their commuter bikes.  Knobby tires slow you down, they make climbing hills harder, and they have less traction (squirmy feeling) on paved corners in most conditions.
Clothing - Brighter is better.  You want to be seen on the road.  Re-live your early 90s love of neon colours.  Rain pants and a jacket tend to be waterproof (duh) which for me means that you will sweat so much that you might as well not be wearing them.  I've kinda just learned to deal with being wet.  If you're flush with cash, there are some waterproof breathable fabrics that apparently get over this issue.  Everybody has a different amount of comfort with cold, so you'll have to do some trial and error to figure out how much clothing to wear depending on various conditions.
Wheels - 700c wheels roll easier than mountain bike tires.  What I'm most interested in checking out in a wheel though is spoke count.  32-36 spoked wheels are typically more robust (and easier to repair) than minimally spoked racing type wheels.

If your commute is mostly on the road a hybrid, cyclocross bike, or touring bike would work better than a mountain bike.  You want a bike that has attachment points for a rack, can fit a beefy road tire (700c 32mm at least), has attachment points for fenders, and fits you well.

alexan

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Re: choosing a bicycle
« Reply #2 on: October 18, 2013, 02:55:22 PM »
Thanks, GuitarStv. That's a good bit of information to get me started. Would a chain guard make any difference?

Russ

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Re: choosing a bicycle
« Reply #3 on: October 18, 2013, 02:58:04 PM »
Re-live your early 90s love of neon colours.

These are "in" right now anyway FWIW. That and camo prints, go figure.

Eric

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Re: choosing a bicycle
« Reply #4 on: October 18, 2013, 05:30:29 PM »
I love the google maps street view for planning my bike routes for streets I've never ridden on before.  That way you can plan a bike friendly route ahead of time. 

jflo

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Re: choosing a bicycle
« Reply #5 on: October 18, 2013, 07:32:22 PM »
Chain guard is optional but be prepared to tuck your right pant leg in your sock if you don't have one. If you don't have fenders or tons of rain you can use a clip on fender for the back.  I hate fenders so that's my compromise :) The front fender is not as crucial. Agree w the rest.

GuitarStv

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Re: choosing a bicycle
« Reply #6 on: October 21, 2013, 07:15:28 AM »
Thanks, GuitarStv. That's a good bit of information to get me started. Would a chain guard make any difference?

I've never had a bike with a chain guard so am not sure if they work well or not.  Your pants WILL get caught in your chain without a chainguard if you don't secure them!  I have used reflective velcro straps that look like this:



for about a year with good results.  Plus . . . more reflective stuff is always good.  I found that tucking my pants into my socks not only looked uncool, but my pants tended to come out of the sock over a 10 mile trip, and then get caught in my chain.

alexan

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Re: choosing a bicycle
« Reply #7 on: October 21, 2013, 11:18:10 AM »
Thanks everyone. Did my trial run yesterday. It's not a bad little ride. I'll definitely be riding some unlit trails, so I'll need a good light. Apparently chain guards are a rarity except on fixed gear bikes, so velcro strap it is. Aside from a baffling spot where a trail crosses a major street with no stoplight, crosswalk, break in the curb, or even a gap in the median, it looks pretty straightforward.

Since my current bicycle gear is comprised of a helmet, I guess I'll need bicycle shorts, reflective vest, leg strap, head and tail lamps, portable pump, patch kit, and spare tube. And probably eventually some cold weather gloves. I've got plenty of stuff for layering - jackets, long johns, etc. Anything I'm missing?

I'll probably be borrowing my girlfriend's mountain bike until I'm sure I'll be doing this for the long haul. Don't want to drop the cash for a bike and then stop after a week or two.

GuitarStv

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Re: choosing a bicycle
« Reply #8 on: October 21, 2013, 01:47:11 PM »
Be really careful on those unlit bike paths when it's around freezing and cold.  The ones around here often get covered with ice and cornering can get a little scary if you're not paying attention.

Underdress for the cold, but remember to keep the extremities warm.  It took me forever to realize that you want to be chilly for your first 5 minutes on the bike so that when you do warm up you're not pouring buckets of sweat.  I cycle most of the winter (averages about -5 to -10 C or 32-14 F around here) with light gloves, face mask, touque, insulated hiking boots, and a windbreaker over some track pants, wool socks, and a light sweater.

I'd say that bike shorts are very optional . . . I get by just fine with regular clothes in the winter and soccer shorts in the summer, although that will depend on how comfy your butt is on your seat.  Get a comfortable face mask or scarf for the wind for sure, because the cold is totally concentrated on your face in the winter.

I started out using a crappy old mountain bike with knobby tires too.  You will really really really appreciate the difference when you switch to smoother tires.  For me it was a difference of doing 10 miles each way in close to an hour to doing it in about 45 minutes.