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  1. #1
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    Gearing up to Commute

    Hey there,

    I just moved outside of Boston (Maynard MA for anyone who's in the area) and I'm looking to start a bicycling commute to Framingham. It is 11 miles each way. The hills aren't drastic, but it's definately downhill from Maynard to Framingham (which is good, it means my commute TO work will be shorter than my commute FROM work)

    Anyway, right now I'm in the market for a bike. My thoughts on this have rapidly changed over the last week or so (just ask the people in the Advice to New Commuters thread) but now I've refined what I'm looking for to this:

    A bike for under $600 that will provide me with:
    Dropped handlebars
    A relatively comfortable ride
    disc OR cantilevered brakes
    a reasonable shifting system
    A DURABLE bike - I tend not to be nice to things I own.
    I think I'd like cheater brakes too...

    At this range I know I'm looking at Shimano Sora or Tiagra for the shifting, and frankly, I don't really care that much, but I do like the Shimano setup, so I'd probably prefer a Shimano shifting system, or one very much like it.

    Can someone tell me - is there a QUALITY difference between the Sora, Tiagra, and 105's? I know the gears go 8,9,10, but I'm wondering about the quality of the system itself.

    If it affects recommendations, I'm 5'7 215. I'm more wide than fat (I just got a suit... The coat that fit my shoulders had a 46 pant.. I wear a 38.)

    I'm fairly handy, so a bike I can tinker with (or NEED TO tinker with) is fine as well....

    At any rate, I am VERY open to suggestions on what bike I should get.


    Thanks!

  2. #2
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    Sounds like a touring or cyclo-cross style bike.
    See Jamis Aurora, Bianchi Volpe, Fuji

  3. #3
    Scum, Freezebag! Mo'Phat's Avatar
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    Sure sounds like a cyclocross bike. Many cyclocrossers use Brake/Shifters (brifters) and little brake levers near the stem when they're gripping the tops of the bars.

    Differences between Sora and Tiagra are obvious: the Sora shifters have a thumb lever mounted inboard of the hood to downshift. Very similar to the Campagnolo setup. I'd say that's the only major difference between Sora and Tiagra, build quality is about the same. The difference to 105 is in the build quality. Better bits and pieces...tighter tolerances in construction...some would say they're more 'road worthy' and 'reliable'.

    To be honest, I don't see the need for cantilevered or disc brakes if you're just going to be riding on the roads. The reasons for canti's and discs are so, when your wheels are getting packed with mud, they don't clog up the brakes. If you're riding on the road, then traditional side-pull brakes are ideal.

    Another suggestion is to buy a used road bike that fits you and has the components you want, then upgrade as you see fit. Just a suggestion.
    Mo'Phat's Rules to Live By:
    Rule #3 : Never wrestle with a pig: you both get dirty, and the pig likes it.
    Rule #5 : Never argue with an idiot: those watching might not be able to tell the difference.
    Rule #13: Always make sure she has a better time than you do.

  4. #4
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    Thanks! So far...

    I did do some online research regarding the Volpe, and it seems a little out of the price range I'm looking for. I have no problem paying more for a bike, but I think at this point, it's probably not the best idea.

    It seems the Aurora is in the same price range as the Volpe.

    Everyone keeps talking about used bikes, but I've yet to find a good place to go and look for them. Are there any online resources that might have a list of locations in my area that I can check out? Craigslist isn't helping me out in this area.

    Thanks!

  5. #5
    Mostly riding...mostly NM-NewRoadie's Avatar
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    I've Heard good things about Felts in that price range...Buy a bike for it's frame not the components is always sound advice. and Ebay...you can very often find good deals on bikes there that are a few years old...and you can get a lot more bike for your money...I got my roadbike (93 trek 2200, carbon fiber frame, shimano 105) for about $350 shipped. It's been a great bike, though a little heavy (older trek carbon bikes aren't what the new ones are...) but I love it.

    Lastly, but most importantly is...FIT. for someone with a chest as wide as you, you may need to special order a drop bar that's wide enough, i ride a 44 cm bar, and wish i had a 46...I think even a 48 wouldn't be too wide.Be sure you get fitted on whatever road bike you get. They aren't like mountain bikes where you set the seat height and just roll. having a stem that's too long, or at the wrong angle can really mess up your day. I rode my bike as it came to me for about two weeks, and had pain in my back, and neck. Took it in to get properly fitted by a good shop in town, they changed out the stem, put wider bars on it, and changed my seet angle and it made a WORLD of difference.

  6. #6
    cyclopath vik's Avatar
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    I haven't checked lately, but when I was looking for a road bike cannondales were a good value and I like their frames a lot. I got better components with my R600 than I would have with other major manufacturers.
    safe riding - Vik
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  7. #7
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    If you go for a road bike, look for one with as much tyre clearance as possible. Caliper brakes (and frames) come in std and long drop, the latter having more clearance for wider tyres and fenders. Clearance is usually a feature of entry level bikes.

  8. #8
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    Allez? Castro Valley?

    So, I went to my LBS today and was looking at what they carry for bikes. I was flipping through the 2006 Bianchi catalog and stumbled upon the Bianchi Castro Valley.

    Has anyone else seen this bike? Has anyone tried it out? I seem to be hearing a lot of great things about the Volpe and the Castro Valley is based on the Volpe but has fenders and a dynamo headlight stock. It's billed as a "fast commuter" which I suppose is pretty much what UI'm looking for. I wanted to get a bike for less money, but if this thing has fenders already and the headlight built in, that saves me some money and hassle immediately. They also "feature" the Specialized Allez, which is a little more than I want to spend, but I think I migth see if he can get ahold of a used one. Can people offer their opinions of the Allez?

    For those of you who haven't heard anything about it, this is the Bianchi billing of the Castro Valley

    "You won't find a bike this cool or this bright from any other manufacturer. A fast commuter for all seasons, built on the versatile Volpe platform. Ready to rock out of the box, with a front hub that houses a 3 watt Dynamo driving a 12 volt headlight; full fenders; and Vittoria Randonneur (French for running around) tires with a built in 3M reflective stripe on each sidewall. With road bars and a 9 speed drivetrain, this bike is for the savvy commuter who wants the versatile riding positions that drop bars offer, and the simplicity of one sided shifting with no derailleur. The gear range will surprise you, with 43 inces on the low end to 103 inches on the high end. Priced around 800 bucks, this is a great deal for a unique ride."

    I know the lack of a front derailleur would turn some (many) off, but honestly, I don't remember using mine all that much in the past. (Of course, I've never commuted 11 miles before)

    Opinions would be fantastic. Thanks!

  9. #9
    Senior Member mechBgon's Avatar
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    Link for people to check it out: http://www.bianchiusa.com/06_castro_valley.html

    I think I'd be frustrated with a single 42-tooth chainring, and a 3-watt headlight that only shows when I'm moving. Although I think those are supposed to be 5W actually. Given the choice, you may be better off spending the $100 extra for the Volpe and then get really good accessories to fill it out. If it were me, I'd trade out the Volpe's tires for some light 700x28's and light tubes, get a light non-suspension seatpost, and go from there.

    Think about it... with narrow tires and a decent riding position, a road bike can really haul. I don't know about you but I don't like running out of high gears. I run a 48 x 11 high gear on my mountain-commuter, which is certainly slower than either of those Bianchis, and I use the 48 x 11 every day. And when I'm tired, it's nice to have the 36 and 24 on hand on the way uphill to home

  10. #10
    Luggite bsyptak's Avatar
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    I bet that Castro Valley is going to be heavy. Probably near 30 lbs. IMO too much for 22 RT.

    Since you want v or cantilevers, you might consider buying a reasonably priced "flat bar road bike" or "fitness bike" or "comfort bike" (no shocks) with the appropriate brakes and have the bike converted to drop bars. Put the drops up to where they would go and see if it looks OK to you. There are lots of bikes in this category and they start in the low $300s. They share lots of MTB parts which by economies of scale are cheaper. See Felt, Jamis, Specialized, Giant, Schwinn, Fuji, Novara, Cannondale for lot of good choices.

    I started out 2 years ago with a Giant Cypress SX (23.5 lb comfort bike?), flat bars. I added rack, panniers & fendres and use it religiously in inclement weather. It's a tank and I haven't had a single problem with it in 3500 miles. Perfect. Similar to the current FCR series, but I'm not sure if the FCRs have eyelets for racks & fenders. May not matter to you.

    Last summer, I bought a 1984 Trek 460 road bike and converted it to a single speed, which is fine for my commute in blue-sky weather. It's great actually. Light, below 20 lbs, and I use a messenger bag to bring my clothes to & fro.

    This spring, I scored a Waterford cyclocross bike which has become my bike of choice in blue-sky weather. That is a sweet bike.

    So you see, there are many ways to skin a cat. I spent $380 on the Giant, $160 on the Trek, and $900 on the Waterford. They all are great commuters in their own way. Variety is the spice of life.

    Good luck.

  11. #11
    Luggite bsyptak's Avatar
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    The Castro Valley might not be too heavy since it has a single front chainring, and it looks nice. For my commute, I never use more than 5-6 rear gears in the middle ring. I'd use 2 or 3, but getting out of my parking garage is steep. Still, I do it on my single speed, so gears are probably not too necessary.

    Bianchi San Remo is similar, but single speed.

  12. #12
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    Budget

    I appreciate the advice about the Volpe, but my issue with it is that it doesn't really fit my budget. The only reason I'd be able to afford the Castro Valley is because it already came with fenders and a light (and even then I could only afford it if I got an older or used model)

    It's tough, but I'm trying to find the perfect blend of value and quality, with a budget that puts the bike under 600. With the fenders and light, I could rationalize spending 700 on the Castro Valley.

    My commute definately has hills on the way back, but I don't consider any of them to be super steep (I drive a stick, I never worry about rolling back when going from a stop)

    Anyway, I appreciate all of your help so far, please feel free to continue with suggestions. I really *do* have an open mind, I promise.

  13. #13
    Mr. cost-benefit analysis
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    I think the Castro Valley is pretty neat. If I were looking for a new commuter I'd be considering one. I'd like to know what it weighs. My present commuter is an old REI Buzz, which has a 1x9 drivetrain. It also has a single 42 tooth ring up front and I think it has a usable range of gears. Of course my other bike is a single speed.

    The only thing I wonder about is whether the generator hub light set-up. Not that I need a bunch of light. I've taken to using two Catyeye EL500 LED lights because I got sick of the charging issues associated with the higher intensity halogen units. So I don't demand a real bright light. But I've never seen one of these hub generator units in action.

    DanO

  14. #14
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    I fully understand budgets, but if you are going to sink 600 dollars into this, then add 300 and the list will include the bike you want (Jamis/bianchi) and will go above the quality but inexpensive price point. If you go cheaper then the wheels would be worrying me. At your weight and abuse level, a cheaper bike will require the wheels to be replaced in a few years of abuse. This bike will last forever (my road bike is 12 years old and still going very strong), put in a few more dollars and get a much better bike.
    Or not...
    Scott

  15. #15
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    Budgets

    One of the big reasons I'm looking to get a bike for a low budget is because I would be looking for get a better bike in a couple of years if the commuting works out anyway. If the commuting doesn't work out for me, I don't want to have spent 1000 on a bike.

  16. #16
    Commuter First newbojeff's Avatar
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    I tried the Castro Valley (Harris Cyclery in Newton). Nice bike. Didn't fit my personal needs as 1) I already have a lighting system I want to move to my new bike, 2) wanted better than Tiagra components, and 3) was looking for something with disc brakes. The latter 2 get you to the $1000 and up price range right quick. Am a bigger fan of the Volpe.

    The Castro Valley is a great commuter bike to "rock out of the box," but I would think long and hard about the gearing. You should take it for a long (30-40 minute) test ride and see if the gearing is going to work for you.

  17. #17
    Jet Jockey Banzai's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nightskyre
    One of the big reasons I'm looking to get a bike for a low budget is because I would be looking for get a better bike in a couple of years if the commuting works out anyway. If the commuting doesn't work out for me, I don't want to have spent 1000 on a bike.
    But...

    If you buy a bike that is not going to serve you well, maybe the commuting never works out, and you quit in frustration, never trying that better and more suitable bike.

    It could be that a more suitable bike will enable the commuting to work out well for you, and then you won't have a need to purchase another bike.

    Your original plan: $600 for bike + $200 for accessories + $1000 2 years later = $1800
    Buy the good commuter now: $1000 for bike + $200 for even more accessories = $1200

    This is also a phenomenon with "starter" musical instruments. Parents buy a really crappy instrument for their child, because they question the commitment to the new pursuit. No matter what the child does, the crappy instrument never sounds good, so they quit, thus vindicating the parents doubt about the child's commitment.
    Good night...and good luck

  18. #18
    Am I the only car-guy? BradC's Avatar
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    I commute on a Kona Jake that I picked up used for a good price. It has everything listed that you want and I have beat on it pretty hard and it has never complained.

    I haven't ridden since being a kid, so for my first "adult" bike I thought it was ideal. To me it seems fast, it has a wide range of gearing, handles nice and has cheater brakes...plus its my first bike with drops so it is great to have all the available riding positions...

  19. #19
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    "If the commuting doesn't work out for me, I don't want to have spent 1000 on a bike."
    I understand your reasoning, but realistically, 400 isn't that much more money. That only 1.5 car payments, half a month rent, etc... If commuting doesn't work out then you still spent a nice chunk of change on the original bike, which will be even harder to get rid of than a 900 dolar bike.
    But like I said, I definately understand budgets. I realy realy want to build up a comuter bike, but since I already own a capable bike, its real far back on my list of priorities (because of money). Plain and simple, bikes are expensive. 600 is expensive and so is 900. If you buy one, then do it right, IMO.
    good luck, have fun,
    scott
    Of cource, try used, which are hard to find, especially in a size that fits you, or try a box store (like Dicks sporting goods). Every now and then the box stores have road bikes, but budget a bike shop tune up or a book and tools.

  20. #20
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    More bike thoughts

    Since I last posted, I've visited all but one bike shop on my list of "local" (within 15 miles) bike shops. The last one was particularly annoying, as I said "I'm looking for a bike with dropped handlebars under $700" and the guy said "Nope, I have nothing for you. See you later" and promptly walked away. That was irritating.

    Anyway, in talking to a number of shop owners, I've come down to four bikes that have been recommended to me by one LBS that didn't seem like it just wanted my money. I haven't actually had the chance to take a look at them (tomorrow I will) but I wanted to get as much feedback on any/all of these bikes as possible before I go..

    They are:

    Jamis Satellite
    Jamis Ventura Sport
    Fuji Newest 3.0
    Fuji Newest 4.0

    I did notice the Satellite is made of steel, which means it's repairable (a consideration since this is for commuting) but at this point, I haven't done a lot of research.

    Anyone knowledgeable on these?

  21. #21
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    All your choices are good, but...

    I'm a biased Castro Valley fan. Steel frame, same as the Volpe, with a 1X9 gearing and a very smooth, gentle ride. The knock on the bike is the gearing. With the standard cassette the low gear is a pretty large 43 inches. (See Sheldon Brown's website for more info about gearing).

    I had the LBS change the rear cassette to a Shimano 11-34 range from the stock 11-26. The low gear is now 31 gear inches versus the stock 43. In English that means when I'm trying to get up a steep hill one rotation on the cranks moves me about three feet less than the standard setup - enough to keep my cadence up without getting me dog tired.

    I disagree with the naysayers about the front light. In a suburban area a 3 watt light is fine. Enough to light up in front of you and unless you're going 25 MPH you won't outrun it. The Shimano light on the Castro Valley also blinks a very bright led constantly whenever the front wheel is turning, giving some added protection in traffic or cloudy conditions - two big pluses when commuting.

    Unless you plan to avoid rain fenders are a big plus. The Castro Valley also allows wide tires (700X28 standard, but you can go to 32-34) that provide a softer ride and still allow for pretty good speed.

    Geared with the optional cassette , along with an upgraded stem (needed more height), pedals that don't require special riding shoes (a plus when commuting to the office and you don't want to carry extra clothes), a small underseat storage bag with a flat tire kit, and a rear red LED blinking/adjustable light, the LBS charged me just a bit over $650, and he did all the installation of the new parts and fit the bike to me.(He took back my factory cassette and stem, but let me keep the stock pedals). All that and a full Shimano drive system (yes, the 105 has better parts and tolerance, but for commuting the lower end Shimano is the best value out there - real metal parts built from a quality manufacturer. Try to find that on a low end SRAM system).

    I can't think of a better deal anywhere given the quality of the overall bike, and the care that went into blending the basic components at a reasonable price point. Lots of people will suggest that the Volpe is the better bike - maybe, but 9 well placed gears works fine for me, and with one chainring I have less problems shifting. The Volpe is also the "hot" bike - meaning discounts are rare. The Castro Valley hasn't been a sales success (not enough gears?) and is readily discounted. Setting up a Volpe will cost several hundred more than the modified Castro Valley, and you still have the same exact frame when you're done. The Shimano front hub/light is about $60-90, the fenders at least $25-30 (Freddie Fenders).

    It's your money, but don't dismiss modifying any bike you find in a LBS. The few extra dollars you spend can completely change the value of the bike for you. Good luck.

  22. #22
    Prefers Cicero cooker's Avatar
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    I wouldn't recommend a bike with a 43 gear inch lowest gear. I have approx 28 gi as my lowest and it's tough to drag a load uphill.

    EDIT...I see lencap has solved that problem.

  23. #23
    Luggite bsyptak's Avatar
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    Nightskyre,

    I agree with lenscap. I think the Castro Valley with *maybe* a $25 cassette change is the way to go if you find you need one after a ride or 2. The steel frame will be infinitely more comfortable than the Fuji or Jamis. And should you decide to upgrade in a year or 2 like you said, this bike will likely have a very good resale value in the used market. The other 2 bikes will not.

    I think it's an excellent choice.

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