Author Topic: To Bike or not to bike  (Read 7204 times)

Moomoo

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To Bike or not to bike
« on: June 29, 2012, 01:45:18 PM »
Hi,
Please weigh in:

I am considering buying a bike (from bikesdirect - it's half off) for 1000 dollars (actually 999.99 lol).  The purpose would be to help make my commute possible while reducing what has become somewhat chronic knee problems.  My current bike which I've been riding much more lately, while in training for a triathlon, is way way way too small.  It's a hybrid which I got at a very reduced price (for 100 MSRP at the time was 600).  The problem, as the guy at the bike store put it when he first saw it is " Where's your bike?"  It's a 49 cm while I am 184 tall with a 92 cm inseam.

I used it to commute the 5 miles to my first job out of grad school.  I since got another job which, initially, was a 5 minute walk from my house.  For reasons I can go into if you want, I now live a 27 mile ride from my job and have for three years.  My 95 Ford died last year and my inlaws generously gave me their old 2004 Jeep for 1000 bucks.  NIce, but the mileage on the car sucks.  I have two children, one in hs and one in ms.  My wife is out of work (well she just got a part-time job.. maybe 12 k a year) and has been for 2 years.  This has eaten away our savings. 

I make 50k (Pitifully, I am chair of a department at a small lib arts school in the boonies.)  There are more details to our financial situation which I can provide if you like, but I don't want to make this too long.

My question is this:  Should I buy the bike and try to commute back and forth to work.  I am only teaching on TTh at the college and I am teaching a dual enrollment (to make more money) every morning at the high school.  I need to be in to the college every day.  On TTh I"d have two hours between the end of the HS class and the start of my first class at the college.  I"m 50, but pretty fit.  I could make the ride in two hours, even on my current bike, but, it'd be close.  The rural highways here are HILLY. 

So, what I'm really wondering is, is this plan of mine, as my wife believes, insane?  Will I, in spite of being kind of crazy, not be able to sustain a 54 mile round trip bike commute?  And most importantly, should I order the bike, when maybe the 1000 would be better spent otherwise (we have a lot of CC debt - like 10000 bucks, but that will be wiped out in a few months; I have an inheritance of around 20k in probate)

Thanks inadvance

onehappypanda

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Re: To Bike or not to bike
« Reply #1 on: June 29, 2012, 02:35:00 PM »
Can I ask why you're interested in this bike in particular?

My gut says that a $1,000 bike can very well get stolen on a college campus, even a small one in the boonies. That's a whole lotta money to shell out on a bike for a commute. Your current problem seems to be fit- you need a bike that fits. But you can find a bigger bike for less than $1,000, much less. And if it fits, I think it will find that it handles the ride much better than the current one. Can you even get the seat up high enough for protect your knees on the little bike? I'm shorter than you with a much shorter inseam and the minimum frame size I use is 54cm.

The commute sounds kinda long, but I say just try it and see. Maybe you can just do it 1-2 days a week to start, but that's still 1-2 days less in gas. And if you get good enough to make it more often than not, you'll officially be a biking badass.

So I guess my short answer is: Go for it on the commute, consider a new bike, but get a cheaper one that fits and scratch the expensive one. With your debt load and your current financial issues, it doesn't sound like you can afford it, and you don't want to risk having it stolen.

Moomoo

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Re: To Bike or not to bike
« Reply #2 on: June 29, 2012, 02:42:43 PM »
Thanks, Panda.  I'm not worried about it getting stolen when it's at the college.  I'll be keeping it in my office.  I do worry a bit about it getting stolen when I use it to grocery stop, though and when I do other errands. 
I did some research on bikes and this one, in addition to being the right size and half off, is light and also built for commuting.  I guess my thinking was that, while a difference of 5 mph over the course of a 4 or 5 mile commute doesn't make that much difference, it does over the course of 54 total miles. (Say I'm able to average 18 mph on this bike instead of 13 or so, this would mean a difference of 30 minutes each way - one hour per day altogether.) You're right about my financial situation, which is why I've been looking at the bike and doing research on bikes for the past month, rather than just buying it. 

TLV

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Re: To Bike or not to bike
« Reply #3 on: June 29, 2012, 03:51:14 PM »
in addition to being the right size and half off

It probably isn't really half-off - pretty much everything on bikesdirect says that all the time.

Is it this one by any chance? (Just wondering because it's the very first bike that comes up on their road bikes list, it costs 999.99, and it's labelled as a commuter.)

I think that $1k is probably more than you ought to spend given that you have CC debt, and I also think it wouldn't gain you as much as you think compared to a $300-$500 bike. I recently bought one of bikesdirect's $300 models for myself and it's plenty light and fast. (I would recommend avoiding DT shifters, though.) The difference between riding a way-too-small bike and a properly sized one will eclipse the difference between a $300-500 bike and a $1000 one.

Moomoo

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Re: To Bike or not to bike
« Reply #4 on: June 29, 2012, 03:58:14 PM »
Wow.  The internet is all powerful.  That's it. 

And thanks for the input.  I guess I liked that the shipping was free, too.  I do hear you on the price. 

skyrefuge

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Re: To Bike or not to bike
« Reply #5 on: June 29, 2012, 04:16:58 PM »
I tend to side with your wife on this one.  Since just yesterday I said that someone regularly doing a 15-mile (one way) commute would put them in the 90th percentile of a commuting badasses, I don't even know what category a 27 mile commute would put you in!  But unlike the "90th percentile" number I pulled out of my ass yesterday, today I looked up some data.  This thread has the total commuting mileage in 2011 for 130 members of bikeforums.net.  Even if you rode only two days per week, that's 5400 miles in 50 weeks, which would put you at 10th place on that list.

So, let's say you do the ride once a week (2700 miles/year, which would still put you in the 70th percentile of people who keep a record of their bike commuting mileage on a bike commuting forum).  Since you probably get pretty crappy gas mileage, that's likely costing you $10/day, so at that rate it would take 2 years for the money you save on gas to cancel out the price of the bike; that's the point where each ride will actually start growing your 'stash.  That'll be nice, but would putting $1000 towards that debt, or doing something else with that 4 hours per day of bike riding be a faster way to grow your 'stash?

But if a new bike still seems like a good idea, you can get to 'stash-growing in half the time with either of the $500 bikes right next to the $999 you're looking at.  Those bikes won't be much slower (if at all) than the $999 one.   And while I agree that small amounts of speed-differential become more important as your distances increase, I think you're overestimating the improvement that you'll see.  Going from 13mph to 18mph average speed is a pretty huge leap.  The anecdotal examples I've seen suggests around a 2mph increase in average speed when switching to a fancy road bike from a less-fancy bike.

Moomoo

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Re: To Bike or not to bike
« Reply #6 on: June 29, 2012, 04:43:15 PM »
Thanks skyrefuge.  I"m considering doing it 3 (MWF) and 2 halves (drive in Tuesday, bike back, bike in Thursday, drive back).  I do have some experience commuting by bike, and, back in the day by foot - I would go 90 minutes running each way most days (I was a marathoner with Olympic ambitions a long time ago).  Anyway, my concern about time is that, now I'm a Dad and I don't want to be gone too long.  On the other hand, I figured it this way:  I ordinarily exercise about an hour/day anyway, plus the hour commuting by car, puts those two activities at 2 hours total.  If I had a total of three hours commute, then this would be costing me, in reality, only one extra hour per day.  The boys will, for the first time be in after school sports and my wife will be home, so....  Anyway, that's my rationalization. 
My jeep gets 16 mpg on the highway.  I could sell it, but there's significant family politics involved with doing that, or at least doing it too soon.  So, what this means is that biking instead of driving, if done 4 days per week, pays the thousand bucks in less than 10 weeks.  And if I can do the commute, I could probably dump the use of the car (if not the car itself) for all but emergencies, which would bring in some money on saved insurance.  I am not totally insane (I hope...) and have thought about the other side - with the help of my lovely wife.
Concerns are:
1.  Bang for the buck.  As the 49 cm frame I've been riding for the last 10 years attests, I am no bike afficianado.  I know that many of you here are; to that end, what would be a better choice than the motobecane that I could get for 500 total (including shipping?)
2. Total fatigue.  What I remember from my days of running high mileage was this: It wasn't the first day, or, even the first week that did you in.  It was the 100th day - trials of miles as one author calls it.  Your stat about bike commuters is telling.  I did do some research on this and other sources confirm what you found; a 54 mile RT commute is unusual.  Maybe even impossible.  Unfortunately, I'm the kind of guy that makes this challenge almost irresistible.  Thanks for trying to talk me off the ledge.
3.  The more I'm out there, the worse my odds get of escaping without getting nailed by some redneck yahoo - and that is where I live...

Jamesqf

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Re: To Bike or not to bike
« Reply #7 on: June 29, 2012, 04:58:48 PM »
As someone who (a few years ago) frequently did a 16 mile (each way) commute, I'd have to say no.  While you could do it sometimes, for fitness/recreation, depending on it as your regular transportation when you apparently have to be on schedule is just pushing too hard against the limits.  Sure, on a good day it's do-able, but the days with strong headwinds, rain, flat tires, etc?

I also think $1000 is too much to pay for a bike in your situation.  For that amount, you could probably browse Craigslist and find a decent '80s-early '90s Honda or Toyota (or motorcycle/scooter) to commute on the bad days, and maybe a road bike that would actually fit you as well.

Moomoo

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Re: To Bike or not to bike
« Reply #8 on: June 30, 2012, 10:57:30 AM »
Thanks Jamesqf.   My wife is heartened by 'how surprisingly wise'  are the posters here.  I do need a new bike, and, I'm thinking about maybe driviing half way and biking the other half, and, maybe only occasionally doing the whole trip.  I'm also considering cutting in half the amount I had considered paying for the bike. 

 I'm thinking about this one, now:
http://www.bikesdirect.com/products/dawes/lt1500.htm#size
The advantage of this one is that it comes with the clip on aero bars, I'm still thinking about doing a triathlon.  It sounds like the break even point is going to be 1000 miles of commuter use (less if I include bike trips to the store etc.  which I also plan to do; the jeep gets only 10 mpg in the 'city'...)  If I do 100 miles of biking/week the bike would have paid for itself in less than 3 months.  I think this is MMM's argument (among others ) in favor of biking.  I can do 100/week easy.    But you all are probably right about 300/wk I was considering.

Any feedback/opinions are appreciated.


mm1970

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Re: To Bike or not to bike
« Reply #9 on: July 01, 2012, 09:16:00 AM »
I"m considering doing it 3 (MWF) and 2 halves (drive in Tuesday, bike back, bike in Thursday, drive back). 

I was totally going to suggest this.  I read an article about a badass guy who bikes to work 4x a week, 35 miles one day.  He eats a lot of peanut butter.

When my husband and I are biking (not right now, probably not for awhile until I give birth and recover and actually go back to work and stuff), we each bike 1 way because we work near each other (but work different schedules so as to minimize childcare).

So I bike 10 miles to work, he drives with his bike on the back.  I drive home, he bikes home. 

After I got pregnant, he did a few days of the drive in on Monday, bike home, bike in on Tuesday, drive home.  Repeat Thursday/Friday.  Then he sprained his ankle chasing after a bunch of 6 year olds at a party. :(

darkelenchus

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Re: To Bike or not to bike
« Reply #10 on: July 01, 2012, 09:53:58 AM »
He eats a lot of peanut butter.

Who doesn't!? :-)

EDIT: Okay, maybe people with peanut allergies...

Okay, maybe people with allergies....
I'm thinking about maybe driviing half way and biking the other half, and, maybe only occasionally doing the whole trip.  I'm also considering cutting in half the amount I had considered paying for the bike. 

Yes, you'd need a sturdier and more expensive bike for such heavy regular commuting, but as you say, it will pay for itself quite quickly. Best to start slowly and work your way up, so as not to suffer burnout and discouragement at an early stage.

smalllife

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Re: To Bike or not to bike
« Reply #11 on: July 01, 2012, 03:24:24 PM »
Have you given any thought to a scooter - it's a relatively inexpensive way to cut down on gas costs, get some fresh air, and you can rely solely on the bike to get to the HS (assuming that is the closer location, I might have gotten them mixed up). when you don't have to go to the college.

Just food for thought :-)

Russ

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Re: To Bike or not to bike
« Reply #12 on: July 01, 2012, 05:19:55 PM »
Without going into any detail on individual bikes, the one thing I would warn you about with BikesDirect bikes in general is the sizing. Nearly every bike that you find in a bike shop will be sized "center-to-top", which means the bike is measured from the center of the bottom bracket to the top of the intersection of the seat and top tubes. Most (but not all, so it's extra confusing) of the BikesDirect bikes are measured center-to-center, which means the bike is measured from the center of the bottom bracket to the center of the intersection of the seat and top tubes. Center-to-center measurements usually end up 1 or 2 cm less than center-to-top measurements, so a size 56 at a bike shop would correspond to a size 54 or so on BD. A mostly reliable way to tell if a bike is measured center-to-center or center-to-top is by what size is considered "Large". A center-to-top Large is usually 56cm, and a center-to-center Large will usually be (subtracting the 2 cm) 54cm.

The most important feature of a bike, in my opinion, is not the componentry or what material the frame is made of, but is how well the frame fits the rider. It seems like you've found this out for yourself already. Fitment is one of the big reasons bike shops exist. Even if you want to buy the bike online, go to a shop and ask to test ride a few different sizes. If you find one you love, support your local shop and if they're good they'll likely pay the difference (realistically, sub-1000 dollar BD bikes are maybe a 100-200 dollar discount, not the 50% they claim) back in accessory discounts and maybe a free tune-up or two. If you're still set on buying online, at least you'll have some idea what size you really need (don't forget to take into account the 2cm sizing difference!).

If you'd still rather not go to the shop and you have someone at home to measure you, Competitive Cyclist has a fantastic fit calculator here: http://www.competitivecyclist.com/za/CCY?PAGE=FIT_CALCULATOR_INTRO Note the results give you both "c-t seat tube length" and "c-c seat tube length". As you might guess, c-t is short for center-to-top (bike shop bikes) and c-c is for center-to-center (most - not all - BikesDirect bikes). For commuting I'd go with the French Fit results, but you can read the descriptions and decide for yourself. To avoid overcomplication, we'll only pay attention to the relevant seat tube length (c-t or c-c, determines how much your legs stretch) and the top tube length (determines how much your torso-arms stretch). You can ignore all the other numbers the calculator spits out. First, just find the sizes that fall within your seat tube length range. For example, if your results gave a range of, say, 53.7-56.2cm, you would then be narrowed down to sizes 54, 55, and 56. If there is no size 55 (which there probably isn't), then you're down to only 54 and 56. Now between those two sizes, find the one that best matches your top tube length range. All of this size info should be available on the BD website in what's known as a "geometry chart". If they aren't provided for some reason, please call them and ask them to provide you with geometry information. It'll only take a minute, and the benefit of having a well-fitting bike is definitely worth the time.

If you need a primer on the bike terms above, read up here: http://www.intownbicycles.com/how-to/bicycle-terms/

Moomoo

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Re: To Bike or not to bike
« Reply #13 on: July 01, 2012, 06:19:39 PM »
I just want to quickly thank the posters for their thoughtful replies.  I've spend the last couple days working on an end of the year report, so I haven't been on. 

I will carefully read everyone's post and reply once I've got this baby put to bed.  Thank you so much mustachians!

grantmeaname

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Re: To Bike or not to bike
« Reply #14 on: July 02, 2012, 08:16:04 AM »
Nashbar has some bikes pretty similar to what you'll find on bikesdirect, but if you haven't checked them out it's worth a quick look. You could also check out craigslist for old but nice bikes, but that takes a bit more mechanical knowledge to make sure you're getting a good bike. Bakari has a great post about how to buy a bike on cragislist that was written for someone asking a question much like yours, if you're considering the craigslist route.

James

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Re: To Bike or not to bike
« Reply #15 on: July 02, 2012, 09:01:41 AM »
Being in the middle of nowhere like I am craigslist isn't always an option, but certainly check.

I agree with the rest that you should get a bike that fits you, and at a low price due to your finances. 

Finding a used 50cc (or higher) scooter would make those days you can't ride bike much cheaper than a car.  If you can get into the bike and scooter cheap/used, then you can upgrade both once you have saved up specifically for that and know exactly what you want and how much it will be used.

jakepeters

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Re: To Bike or not to bike
« Reply #16 on: July 04, 2012, 12:19:13 PM »
I am an occasional bike commuter, but not frequent or an expert.

You say the size of the bike is the problem, and it is.  Others have mentioned the fit, but I would like to suggest a bit more research into actual fit (size and adjustment) of the bike to your body.  Maybe you already know how to adjust, but I didn't.

http://bicycling.about.com/od/howtoride/ss/Frame_size.htm
http://www.peterwhitecycles.com/fitting.htm
http://www.bikefit.com/

Maybe others here can comment, but about 5 years ago I did a 100 mile bike ride with only 3 months of bike training, and one of my criteria was getting the correct size bike adjusted to my needs.  So, I bought a bike from a local bike dealer that used one of these bike fit systems (hardware plus software) to adjust my seat and bars to my body.  I don't know if it helped alot, but I didn't have any serious pains in my joints during the training or the 100 mile ride.

JP

BenDarDunDat

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Re: To Bike or not to bike
« Reply #17 on: July 05, 2012, 10:46:50 AM »
So, what I'm really wondering is, is this plan of mine, as my wife believes, insane?  Will I, in spite of being kind of crazy, not be able to sustain a 54 mile round trip bike commute?  And most importantly, should I order the bike, when maybe the 1000 would be better spent otherwise (we have a lot of CC debt - like 10000 bucks, but that will be wiped out in a few months; I have an inheritance of around 20k in probate)

Thanks inadvance

You wife is correct sir. I'm not 50 yet, but working on it. Sometimes my brain remembers my 18 year old body that was invincible and could do anything...and even the things it couldn't do, I was able to forget them once the pain healed up after 2 days tops. Yes, sometimes that's what my brain thinks I am capable of and suffers painful reminders of my bad knees and a weak lower back. Where most injuries are measured in weeks if not months. Or the time I flailed around like some stupid helpless turtle after a back spasm I suffered when attempting to produce enough vegetables using only the sweat from my brow. Then again, I guess I'm clearly not as big a bad ass as most of the guys on this forum.

A thousand dollars can fix a number of repairs on a car and pay for a good bit of gas and would give you many extra hours of time by reducing your commute.