Author Topic: Commuter Bike Recommendations  (Read 12224 times)

msilenus

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Commuter Bike Recommendations
« on: November 04, 2013, 06:11:50 PM »
Hi all,

I haven't ridden a bike since I was practically a teenager.  I'm thinking of getting one now, but don't know squat.  I've got a commute that I could do in nine miles, with maybe 8 of that on trails.  The terrain should be very flat, with few lights.  Weather is great here, and I probably won't be hardcore about riding in bad weather.

I'm thinking a fast/efficient one-speed that isn't super fragile is probably what I need, but don't know which ones are good.  Any recommendations?  One that can accept panniers would be a plus, but I don't think I'd be willing to trade too much for that, either on cost or speed.

My budget out the door is probably about $800, but can be flexible on that if it's crazy.  I'll be shopping Craigslist, and am not in any kind of rush.

Any recommendations on brands/models?  What to watch for when shopping used?  How to get the most efficiency out of it?

Thanks!

dr hamlet

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Re: Commuter Bike Recommendations
« Reply #1 on: November 04, 2013, 10:33:51 PM »
Guided by MMM's general advice for going for a $500+ retail bike but on sale, I got this one from Performance Bike for $350:

http://www.performancebike.com/bikes/Product_10052_10551_1131041_-1_400319__400319

I bought it at the end of August and am very happy with it for commuting and errands.  It's not a fixed gear, but an 8-speed is probably the most you'll need - in fact, I'd recommend it for a 9-mile commute instead of a single speed.

I had a little difficulty attaching this rear rack (had to buy 2 longer screws from the hardware store), but I got it to fit and it keeps my pannier away from the wheel spokes:

http://www.performancebike.com/bikes/Product_10052_10551_1088406_-1_400104__400104

I found this excellent and inexpensive pannier from walmart.com:

http://www.walmart.com/ip/M-Wave-Double-Day-Tripper-Pannier-Bag/11065094?action=product_interest&action_type=title&placement_id=irs-srp-1&strategy=PWVAV&visitor_id=47588646261&client_guid=492d4b73-6426-49b3-976b-d93b39229420&config_id=8&parent_item_id=16539675%2C19582687%2C26947301%2C26947317%2C26947300%2C26947305%2C26947304%2C21913514%2C31918765%2C29667504%2C31924633%2C31921289%2C31916286%2C30826063%2C31916234%2C31925327%2C31914689%2C30826134%2C30826151%2C21913527%2C31914980%2C31914916%2C31925108%2C31568848%2C31919093%2C31918995%2C31914266%2C30825200%2C31916687%2C31921910%2C31922047%2C19593668&guid=95f8fa86-db28-4ec4-8da6-fb79a0ed2087&bucket_id=000&findingMethod=p13n

GuitarStv

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Re: Commuter Bike Recommendations
« Reply #2 on: November 05, 2013, 06:38:22 AM »
800$ is a ton of budget for a bike.

You can get a nice steel touring bike brand new with decent components for that kind of cash.  I have one of these that I picked up for cheap when they went on sale last year and think it's great (although the pedals and rear rack it comes with aren't anything special):
http://www.nashbar.com/bikes/Product_10053_10052_522412_-1___202339


A touring bike will be faster (has a low more aerodynamic position due to the drop handlebars), will easily fit racks / fenders / big tires, and will have a tougher wheel-set than your typical road bike.  Lots of gearing helps you pedal more efficiently whether it's windy, when you're carrying around heavy stuff, or even when accelerating.

galaxie

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Re: Commuter Bike Recommendations
« Reply #3 on: November 05, 2013, 07:46:38 AM »
GuitarStv, that looks JUST like my bike but without the Surly markings on it. :) 

I would also recommend a touring (or maybe cyclocross) type bike - you want to be able to attach stuff, if you have a 9 mile commute, and those types tend to be set up so you can do that.  I've heard good things about the bikes at Nashbar and BikesDirect, and they're pretty good deals.

msilenus

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Re: Commuter Bike Recommendations
« Reply #4 on: November 05, 2013, 11:13:41 AM »
Thanks all!  I'm surprised that the recommendations seem to be for new/on-sale bikes as opposed to used.  I'll probably be happy to run with that advice, but I'd run with it a little happier if I understood it.

It also sounds like features are more important than brand names in this market.  Is that accurate?

GuitarStv

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Re: Commuter Bike Recommendations
« Reply #5 on: November 05, 2013, 12:18:04 PM »
If you know exactly what you're looking for, know what size you need, and are willing to wait for one to pop up . . . used is totally the way to go.  Touring / cyclocross bikes with all the points for racks and fenders are pretty rare around here, and finding one in your size is difficult.  I probably should have held out for longer than three months when I was looking though.

As far as brand goes . . . as I understand it, most frames are made in the same factories in the far east.  Most bike components are standardized (Shimano and Campagnolo being the most common).  Brand name bikes are typically sold in local bike stores which has the advantage of someone making sure you don't pick the wrong size, that the bike is fully assembled and adjusted when you get it, and that you get some free adjustments for a period of time after purchase.

galaxie

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Re: Commuter Bike Recommendations
« Reply #6 on: November 05, 2013, 01:39:32 PM »
Thanks all!  I'm surprised that the recommendations seem to be for new/on-sale bikes as opposed to used.  I'll probably be happy to run with that advice, but I'd run with it a little happier if I understood it.

It also sounds like features are more important than brand names in this market.  Is that accurate?

Depends on your location.  There might be plenty of suitable used bikes available where you are - that's certainly the case in my hipster neighborhood.  But $800 is plenty for you to buy a new bike, if you want.  You could get a pretty great used bike for $300 or less, I think.  The question is, is there a used bike shop that would have enough inventory to get you the right type and size of bike you need?  Do you want to wait for the right bike to come up on Craigslist, or do you want to start biking right now?

In either case, you probably want a steel frame, a road bike (not upright) riding position, and plenty of attachment points for you to attach stuff.  You're going to put in 90 miles per week if you bike every day, so make sure it fits you well.  That's not a crazy distance for people who like cycling, but also you want a bike that fits right.

RumbleKittie

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Re: Commuter Bike Recommendations
« Reply #7 on: November 05, 2013, 03:34:26 PM »
I hope I'm not being rude by piggybacking my own question onto this thread. I registered for this forum just now specifically to ask about commuter bike suggestions just like the original poster!

I also know 'squat' about bikes and haven't ridden one since I was a child. As a new Mustachian, I'm inspired to start biking to work and the store. My office is about 7.1 miles away with a HUGE hill. I was thinking of getting a hybrid, so I can use the bike recreationally, as well.

My main question is how to figure out the right size bike, especially if I purchase one online. I am incredibly petite, as in 4'11". I have a hard time even finding grown-up shoes my size, so I anticipate similar challenges with bikes.

Any insight is appreciated!

GuitarStv

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Re: Commuter Bike Recommendations
« Reply #8 on: November 05, 2013, 03:55:18 PM »
There are calculators online, but most of them suck.  The best way is to go into a bike store and ask questions and try bikes.

rogar

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Re: Commuter Bike Recommendations
« Reply #9 on: November 05, 2013, 06:59:24 PM »
If you are shopping Craig's list for a used bike, $800 is a very generous budget!  You can definitely get some deals on Craig's list, but you might thank your self later for starting at the local bike store.  They can help you sort through the different bike styles and maybe more importantly help you get the right frame size help you set up the the various adjustments like seat height that will help avoid stresses to you knees and back.  In my humble opinion you should be able to get a quality new single speed commuter in the $500 range.  I personally would want some gears.  Even if your terrain is perfectly flat there will be days when the wind at against you or with you and the gears will make the ride easier.

That said, here is what I would do.  I'd shop Craig's list for a late 1990's Specialized Stumpjumper in the correct frame size that seems to be in nice shape.  They are fairly common.  The big tires add some stability jumping curbs or going through gravel, sanded streets, potholes or wet conditions.  The gears come in handy, it is a strong frame, and the Stumpjumper is a high quality bike.  Aside from something that isn't beat up or rusty I look for good tires.  A decent new replacement tire can run in the $40 range.  You should be able to find one in the $300 range or less.  Then I'd take it down to the local bike shop and have them adjust the brakes and gears and replace anything that looks worn out, which is probably going to run a couple hundred.  You should end up with a thousand dollar plus quality bike.  That's what I have done.  I think a used bike that looks like a bit of a clinker is also less attractive to thieves.

But that's what I would do.  I've done a ton of bike commuting and gone through my share of bikes over the years.  My second choice would be a used basic cyclocross bike, which would be faster than a mountain bike but sturdier than a fancy racing bike or a entry level hybrid.  They would have the drop style handlebars, which some people like.  They are a little harder to find and it sort of depends on which riding position feels most comfortable to you.
« Last Edit: November 05, 2013, 07:18:33 PM by rogar »

GuitarStv

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Re: Commuter Bike Recommendations
« Reply #10 on: November 06, 2013, 06:43:18 AM »
^ You do not want to be biking 9 miles each way on big knobby mountain bike tires.  I started out doing my 10 mile commute on a mountain bike with those.  They're fine for short trips here and there, and serious off-roading . . . but really suck when you want to go somewhere quickly and efficiently.  Very rare that you'll get flats with 'em though.

tfordon

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Re: Commuter Bike Recommendations
« Reply #11 on: November 06, 2013, 10:07:58 AM »
Bakari (one of our forum members) put up an excellent guide for buying a bike on craigslist: http://biodieselhauling.blogspot.com/2012/01/buying-bikes-from-craigslist.html.

The guide includes some information on sizing as well as what to look for depending on your needs.  Since you require a smaller size frame, you might need buy your bike from a shop (Depending on your CL market).  Even buying new, you can get a good bike for less than $800.  Good luck.

rogar

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Re: Commuter Bike Recommendations
« Reply #12 on: November 06, 2013, 03:42:13 PM »
^ You do not want to be biking 9 miles each way on big knobby mountain bike tires.  I started out doing my 10 mile commute on a mountain bike with those.  They're fine for short trips here and there, and serious off-roading . . . but really suck when you want to go somewhere quickly and efficiently.  Very rare that you'll get flats with 'em though.

Well, my commute is 10 mi one way 3 or 4 times a week often on a mtn. bike and I'm approaching 60 years of age.  A nine mile one way commute is probably going to take a little conditioning regardless of the bike.  I just like dinking with bikes and also have an older Kona Jake cyclocross bike (Craig's list $450) with 700X28 road tires.  The difference over the same route is not huge, but there is certainly a difference.  I prefer the mtn. bike in the winter when the roads have been sanded and there might some ice or snow.  At least one trick is to keep the fat tires inflated to their upper pressure.

I  might add to the original post that if you are on a budget of $800., that you probably should consider wanting a few accessories like a kit to repair flats, a floor pump, a spare tube,  a bike computer, and possibly lights or fenders.  And a helmet of course.  I like a rack and panniers for carrying spare clothes and what ever else and do not find a backpack comfortable for routine use. 

« Last Edit: November 07, 2013, 05:51:56 AM by rogar »

GuitarStv

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Re: Commuter Bike Recommendations
« Reply #13 on: November 07, 2013, 05:58:21 AM »
I guess it might also depend on your mountain bike tires.  The ones I was using were REALLY knobby.  If the tire's you're using are smoother it would probably make it more comfortable.  I just could not believe the difference smoother skinnier tires made when climbing the hills around here, and rolling on the flat areas.

FWIW, I prefer a skinnier tire for use in winter snow.  I find that it punches through the snow to the road beneath where as the wider tires tend to float over top of everything . . . but we always have salters and plows out pretty quickly after a snowstorm so I'm rarely biking through more than 7-8 inches of the stuff.

RumbleKittie

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Re: Commuter Bike Recommendations
« Reply #14 on: November 07, 2013, 11:01:26 AM »
A lot of great information! The Bakari guide, in particular, was very useful!

While looking around online, I found this bike.

http://www.bikesdirect.com/products/motobecane/bistro-7v-city-bikes.htm

It comes in 44 cm. I think that would get me in the ballpark for the size I would need, since I'm so little. If I ordered a bike from this site, I would probably take it to a local bike shop for assembly and adjustments.

What do you think about this choice? Is it a good value for my needs? Am I judging the size well? How much would it generally cost to get it assembled at a bike shop? Would I be able to hook up a trailer to it, so I can use it for grocery shopping runs?

GuitarStv

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Re: Commuter Bike Recommendations
« Reply #15 on: November 07, 2013, 12:29:56 PM »
Have you gone in to your bike store to try things out and get a feel for what sizes are comfortable?

Since you're buying from somewhere else, some bike stores will charge quite a bit to assemble an internet bought bike.  You might want to ask them about that before placing an order.

The bike that you've selected has a very upright seating position.  With this style of bike you will catch a lot of wind and will travel much less efficiently.  7 miles isn't a huge distance, but you may find yourself wishing for a lower position after commuting for a while.  They come with big tires which usually make a ride more comfortable (at the expense of greater weight).  The tires kinda look like Kenda Kourier tires which are usually pretty well reviewed.  There are connection points for a rear rack if you decide to go with panniers.
« Last Edit: November 07, 2013, 12:33:50 PM by GuitarStv »

rogar

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Re: Commuter Bike Recommendations
« Reply #16 on: November 07, 2013, 12:32:28 PM »
I don't have much experience with that style of bike.  I could be way off, but it honestly looks more like a city cruiser good few a few miles, but maybe not the most comfortable for serious longer commutes.  Maybe someone more expert that me will offer a better opinion.

If you like browsing, these are pretty cool.  Made in Detroit.  They still look like a bit of a cruiser to me, but I like the concept.
http://detroitbikes.com/
« Last Edit: November 07, 2013, 12:37:52 PM by rogar »

dr hamlet

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Re: Commuter Bike Recommendations
« Reply #17 on: November 07, 2013, 03:50:05 PM »
RumbleKittie, it's a great bike for a great value for your purposes.  A 7-speed is sufficient for commuting.  Size may be a concern, however, in your case.  I second GuitarStv's advice about going to a bike shop and trying out bike sizes.  Here's a general guide  http://www.cyclesuperstore.ie/shop/pc/viewContent.asp?idpage=40 but these are no substitute for in-person sizing.

I've done upright riding comfortably with my hybrid for my commute of 7 miles one-way.  There are several hills.  It does not take long to develop the stamina to scale those hills if you do it regularly.  Also helpful is staying in 1st or 2nd gear, and standing while pedaling so that your weight does most of the work.  With this technique, you could even do it in 3rd or 4th gear.

The PerformanceBike chain charges $60 to assemble a bike purchased elsewhere.

the fixer

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Re: Commuter Bike Recommendations
« Reply #18 on: November 07, 2013, 05:19:03 PM »
Personally I love touring and cyclocross bikes for rides longer than a couple miles, but I wouldn't unconditionally recommend these to someone who hasn't ever ridden a bike as an adult. Is there a place near you that has bike rentals? Try renting a road bike for an hour. At a superficial level it will feel similar to a touring or cyclocross bike: narrower drop handlebars, road shifters that don't always indicate what gear you're in, bent-over aggressive riding position. These are all things you can get used to with a couple months' experience and even come to like, but there's a good chance you will HATE such a bike the first few times you ride it. I wouldn't want to see you buy such a nice bike then leave it in the garage, only to continue driving to work every day.

On the other hand a hybrid bike will be much easier to get used to. As you gain experience you might find yourself wanting something better/"faster" in a couple years' time, especially if those trails you'll be commuting on are heavily used by other bike commuters. Having people passing you the whole ride will start to make you jealous. Those other cyclists are pretty hardcore, though, and would probably go faster than you even if you swapped bikes with them (I get passed by them all the time too).

galaxie

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Re: Commuter Bike Recommendations
« Reply #19 on: November 08, 2013, 08:06:57 AM »
Personally I love touring and cyclocross bikes for rides longer than a couple miles, but I wouldn't unconditionally recommend these to someone who hasn't ever ridden a bike as an adult. Is there a place near you that has bike rentals? Try renting a road bike for an hour. At a superficial level it will feel similar to a touring or cyclocross bike: narrower drop handlebars, road shifters that don't always indicate what gear you're in, bent-over aggressive riding position. These are all things you can get used to with a couple months' experience and even come to like, but there's a good chance you will HATE such a bike the first few times you ride it. I wouldn't want to see you buy such a nice bike then leave it in the garage, only to continue driving to work every day.

On the other hand a hybrid bike will be much easier to get used to. As you gain experience you might find yourself wanting something better/"faster" in a couple years' time, especially if those trails you'll be commuting on are heavily used by other bike commuters. Having people passing you the whole ride will start to make you jealous. Those other cyclists are pretty hardcore, though, and would probably go faster than you even if you swapped bikes with them (I get passed by them all the time too).

This is a good idea.  The first time I rode a road bike it felt terrifyingly fast, and it was a little hard to get used to.  Now I feel slow on anything else.  Maybe you should have a cruiser to start with, and then switch to a road-style bike when you start to feel jealous of other people's fast bikes.

thelamb

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Re: Commuter Bike Recommendations
« Reply #20 on: November 08, 2013, 08:29:26 AM »
This suggestion might be a tad un-mustachian...  Most bike friendly cities have good small, local bike shops with experts to figure out the perfect bike for you.  With your budget, you will have no problem finding something right.  The advantage to most of these shops is often they offer lifetime free maintenance (brakes, chains, gears, etc), which if you're frequently riding 9-18 miles will be a good thing to have.  Sure, you can find something on CL, hope it's the right size, type, etc, do all the repairs yourself, but this is one case where I think the value of having local expertise that you can call on, largely for free, whenever, could be worth it. 

baniak

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Re: Commuter Bike Recommendations
« Reply #21 on: November 11, 2013, 08:57:02 AM »
I second the hybrid bike suggestion. A hybrid won't get you any cred with bike snobs, but that just means that it's actually a practical bike! :D

Hamster

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Re: Commuter Bike Recommendations
« Reply #22 on: November 11, 2013, 11:46:04 AM »
  The advantage to most of these shops is often they offer lifetime free maintenance (brakes, chains, gears, etc), which if you're frequently riding 9-18 miles will be a good thing to have.

Free maintenance for life?

Maybe I've been living in the wrong places, but I haven't seen this. In my experience, it's typical for the bike shop to do a complementary tune up in the first few months, and a complimentary fit, but I've never seen free maintenance for life of the bike. That would be a big potential edxpense for them to bear, and they'd have to make up for it by increasing the sales price of the bikes. I can't imagine them replacing brakes, chains, etc at no charge.

Russ

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Re: Commuter Bike Recommendations
« Reply #23 on: November 11, 2013, 11:56:17 AM »
Free maintenance for life?

Small adjustments for life. No parts, and nothing that takes longer than 5 minutes or requires more than a spoke wrench and a set of allen keys. Most shops will do this (on top of the 100-mile tuneup) if you buy a bike from them, even if it's not an official policy.

Or if I'm totally off the mark I really missed out on a good deal when I was living there.

msilenus

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Re: Commuter Bike Recommendations
« Reply #24 on: November 13, 2013, 12:06:39 AM »
Wanted to thank everyone on the thread for their sagelike advice.  Lots to chew on.