Kona Smoke vs Bianchi Sparta vs KHS Urban X, help me decide!
Most exalted ones:
I’m considering the Bianchi Sparta, Kona Smoke, and KHS Urban X as my commuter bike. I would appreciate any input you have. I’ve been using my Lemond road bike as a commuter but I would like something more purpose built for commuting.
Particulars of my commute, my requirements and the reason I’m looking at these three:
1. My commute in South Jersey is about three miles one way, over one moderate hill, but it may increase in length if I move.
2. I generally stick to the shoulder of the road but I hop some curbs and ride down some pretty bumpy cobblestones.
3. I’d like a more upright riding position than the head down position of my road bike.
4. I’d like to be able to commute in work clothes if I need to, which for me means slacks and a button down dress shirt, and leather dress shoes.
5. Chain guard. See item 4.
6. Around or under $400.00 US max price.
7. Rack suitable for carrying briefcase with laptop, lunch, etc.
8. Just strong enough to handle hopping curbs, cobblestones, etc, yet not a tank.
What are your experiences with these three bikes? Does one stand out above the others in terms of components? Coming from a mid-end road bike, I’m unfamiliar with most of these gear, brake and shifter component groups and styles.
There was a time that I was in a similar boat and looking at these same bikes and maybe some more expensive models (used). In fact the Bianchi Milano caught my eye in part because of the integrated three-speed hub. However, you'd have to find one used to stay in your price range.
Now, I would rule out the Bianchi Sparta right off the bat, because the front shock is not suitable for a three mile commute (my personal opinion). Rigid is simply the way to go for speed (although I'm open to a suspension seatpost or saddles sometimes). The Sparta looks like a comfort bike, not a commuter.
The KHS Urban X looks good to me. I live downtown and I like bikes that are made with me in mind. However, gripshifts just scream KMart to me. The Kona looks good, but I wish I had some experience with both of these models so I could give an informed opinion.
What I ended up doing was buying a Specialized Sirrus 2005, used from a friend for $250. It's a fairly upright ride, but fast as hell. Rapid fire trigger shifters and disc brakes. I did a search online and found on in Oregon for $400. I'll bet you could talk them down a bit if you need to have it shipped.
I've owned and ridden an Urban Xpress for about 3 months. I bought it mainly to deal with downtown traffic, but also to back up my touring bike when it's out of commision. It's worked well for me. I've ridden as far as 35 miles on it, but most of my rides on it are under 10 miles. I haven't jumped over any curbs with it, but I've ridden it on plenty of loose gravel and through road debris when forced to by traffic.
If you're looking for name components, you'll be disappointed. But the Tekro linear pull brakes stop well enough, and the rear hub is a Shimano cassette. Except for the seatpost and seat which I replaced immediately, the other parts are servicealbe. I bought the Xpress for its steel frame. I think that's what you're paying for since it's not in the components. The same frame is built up with a carbon fork and name parts as the $700 Urban Xtreme.
For a 3 mile commute, I'd say a front suspension bike would be OK. But OP said it may get longer in the future. If so, I'd also rule out the front suspension as well. Plus, the Bianchi looks, well, bad.
So that leaves the KHS or Kona. Kona doesn't have a chainguard or a rack, though both could be added for $25-50 total. The Kona does have a steel frame, so that is a plus (for comfort, not weight) unless you live by the beach or it's going to be sitting out in the rain all day. Then the KHS will be better. The Kona is more likely to be stolen by name & color alone if that is a consideration. Components are about the same: basic.
Unless any of the above solidifies your choice, buy the one that feels the best when you ride it. They will both get you there & back.
None of these fully meet your specification, except for the price. None have a chainguard or even the possibility of one. They all have a typical hybrid riding position -- not fully upright. I'd consider none of them good for commuting in a suit and tie. The Kona Smoke at least has a front fender long enough to be useful. The KHS has eyelets for carrying lots of stuff, if that matters. A Breezer or something comparable would meet your specification, but the price tag would be at least double your budget.
South Jersey is pretty flat. A cruiser might be ideal for your application. Good ones are starting to appear -- some are surprisingly light and even have multiple gears. Check out Electra. I've ridden some of the mass market "mart bike" cruisers as rentals at the shore. Unlike their faax mountain bike siblings, theyu are durable, well build, and a fantastic value for the money.
Looking for a used bike is another way of getting the features you want for $400. In particular, an old English 3 speed would be perfect.