Questions from a Newbie
Hi, I'm new to commuter cycling, and haven't done any regular bike riding for about 10 years. I'm going to be living close to my college campus next year and decided I might try to dodge the $200 quarterly parking fee, not to mention $3/gallon gas prices, by joining the commuter bicycle scene. I've gathered quite a bit of info here and, before I start with the questions, I just want to say thanks a bunch! Here goes...
I have an old Huffy 10-speed mountain bike that's been collecting dust since the early 90's. I'm hoping I can save some cash by using its frame, and my general mechanical savvy, to build a "point A to point B" commuter bike. However, I'm having trouble finding info on the conversions I want to make.
1) I want to install a shimano, 4 or 7 speed internal gear hub, preferably with coaster brakes (The only big investment I want to make). While I'm fairly mechanically inclined, I'd like to have some kind of verified list of the components, other than the hub itself, I'm going to need or want to upgrade. Where could I find this information?
2) Judging by what sheldonbrown.com has to say, my bike should be compatible with the shimano hubs (Horizontal dropouts, spacing), but is there anything else I should know about compatability? Is it hard to convert from hand-brakes to coaster brakes? Is the weight of the fairly cheap steel mountain bike frame going to be an issue on hills with an internal gear hub?
3) Is there any disadvantage to coaster brakes for a commuter that I'm missing?
4) I also want to mount fenders and a rack, but how do I know which, if any, fenders and/or racks I will be able to mount on my bike? Is fender, rack, or headlight theft a big deal, and what do you do to discourage it?
Sorry for the flurry of questions, and thanks a ton!
With a coaster brake, if your chain comes off, you no longer have any brakes. In my opinion, you should just clean up what you have, ride it for a semester, and see what you might want to change. Your priorities may be WAY different after a couple months of practical experience.
it's my road too, dangit
I agree with truman. Just ride what you have and see how you want or need it customized. There's no point to blowing money if you don't have to.
Before I changed the gear hub, I'd install fenders and a rack, then purchase a decent bag to hang on the rack. But, those are my "must-haves." You'll discover your own by riding and noting what really bugs you. After riding for 3 months, I changed my seat and stem. The Brooks saddle is super comfortable now that it's broke in and the longer stem allowed for a more comfortable commute -- couldn't move the seat back any further and needed a tad more room.
Very happy to hear of a new commuter. Welcome!
I suggest putting thinner tires on (1.5"). Your old tires may have become hard so are likely to need replacing anyway.
New 1.5" slicks with puncture protection are the best upgrade.
Modern quality brake blocks and a set of stainless steel brake and gear cables are worthwhile.
For all-weather commuting fit lights/fenders/rack and a decent lock.
I'd recommend that you just keep riding what you have. After a few months, you will have a very good idea what your needs are.
I ride a bike with hub gears and would not want to commute with anything else. I did the figures, and purchasing a fully equipped internal gear commuting bike is cheaper than rolling your own.
Coaster brakes are a good idea, as long as you also have a front brake.
New tires and make sure your front brake works well. Nothing wrong with a coaster brake but a front brake will stop you quicker in an emergency and its always a good idea to have two independent brakes incase one fails. A coaster brake hub geared Huffy MTB will be a pretty heavy and slow bike. Good enough for a few miles, and unlikely to attract much attention from thieves but it won't be a fun ride if you have to ride very far.
As for adding the rear hub. You will need a wheel built around the approiate hub, a shifter for the hub and a cable and housing to connect the two. That should be it.
You can do as suggested and ride what you have (with some new tires) for a few months until you figure out what you really want.
Thanks for all the advice! After reading, I was going to stick with it and figure it out as I went, but fate would have it otherwise. I got a slightly used beach cruiser as a gift, so the game has changed. It's still heavy, but it's infinitely more comfortable!
It has a 3-speed Shimano internal hub (I wouldn't have even known what that was a week ago ), which isn't bad since my commute shouldn't be too hilly. It has a coaster brake, and I'm already seeing why many suggest a front brake to compliment it. That's a probable upgrade.
It had nice chrome-y swept-back handlebars, but they made it feel slightly unstable to steer. I switched them out for the handlbars on my old Huffy. They don't look nearly as good (wrong paint, scratched, rusted, crumpled the foam grips getting them on, no end caps, maybe even a little off-center), but they feel much more stable. I'll get some decent MTB handlebars when I have some cash to spare.
I do want to put a rack and fenders on it, and possibly a light since I'll be coming home at night. Is there a decent light that actually illuminates (as opposed to being a powered reflector) for under $50? And of course, I'll be getting a lock. I'm rather excited about taking this thing out, but I won't get a chance until at least Tuesday..
Thanks again for all the tips! As a newbie, this whole "not driving a car" thing can be kind of daunting, but it's really motivating to see such a helpful and friendly community.
You may have a lot of trouble trying to mount a rack to either your old Huffy or the new cruiser. Chances are they won't have the appropriate braze-ons for a rack or fenders. Those bikes were not designed with commuting in mind. Neither, in my opinion, are coaster brakes. When stopped at a light, I find it very annoying to not be able to rotate my pedals backwards to put them in a good starting position. Luckily, I only ride with a coaster brake when I'm down at the beach and only going a short distance.
For $50, you can probably pick up one of the cheaper halogen lights on sale. Anything 6W and above will give you some decent visibility. 10W or better and you'll actually be able to ride normally at night but those may be out of your price range.
I was worried about the rack and fenders, as that was one of the bits of information I couldn't find anywhere in a 100% clear format. The huffy was missing some holes and things. A second round of research, prompted by your post, gives me a little hope:
The cruiser has a hole in the fork crown on the front and in the brake bridge on the back. It also has one set of eyelets above the axle on the front fork, and two sets of eyelets on the rear dropouts. Are these the "braze-ons" you speak of?
Judging by the Freddy Fenders installation sheet, I'm going to need 2 of those sets of eyelets for the fenders, as well as the crown/bridge holes. They don't have a sheet for their rack, but I'm guessing it also attaches to the bridge and the other set of eyelets?
Originally Posted by daeval
You're asking great questions! With the holes in the fork crown and bridge, and your eyelets (or brazeons) on fork and rear drop out you should be able to figure fenders out with little problem. I've never been totally satisfied with the stock mount for the Zefel fenders I have (they're late 80's era) and have, over the years, worked out better mounts of bits-n-pieces from the hardware store.
I haven't looked at the Freddy sheet, but remember that you can often use one mount for more than one function. Also, should the back rack and fender thing look like a total cluster, um, mess, you might consider one of the racks that mounts to the seatpost and cantilevers out over the back tire.
Your fenders in the rear will attach to one set of holes on the dropouts, the hole in the middle of the brake bridge and to the bridge between your chain stays. A rack will attach to the other set of holes in the dropout (the ones further up and forward) and two holes on either side of the seat stays (the bars from the seat post to the rear dropouts). Your bike may or may not have the holes on the seat stays. If is doesn't you can use P-clips (so names because they look like a P) to attach the upper part of the rack to your frame. My wife's Trek Town & Country cruiser has fenders and includes all the mounting points for a rear rack, but your may differ.
Originally Posted by daeval