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  1. #1
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    can anybody help a newbie choose a good commuting bike?

    Hey I'm new at this and I was wondering if anybody can help me pick a good bike for commuting to school with. The main thing I am looking for is a good balance between speed and comfort because I will be carrying quite a lot of medical/nursing textbooks in a Deuter 1850 cubic in. backpack. Basically, I want the fastest comfortable commuter bike out there. Another big factor in my commute is a 1 mile, almost 20% grade hill I must overcome each trip I've tried biking up from my house (7 miles one-way) using a mongoose dual-suspension 21-speed mtb I got at Wal-Mart for 99 bucks. Definitely the worst kind of bike for going uphill but its the only bike I have so far. Took me 12 mins to get up the hill after stopping a couple of times to catch my breath. As a side note, I will be riding only on the road which calls for a road bike, not a MTB.

    I've been looking mostly at two bikes so far. The Specialized Sirrus and Allez (which is significantly more expensive). I'm not sure whether I should go for drop or flat bars. With dropped bars, I think the brakes may not be sufficient enough to go downhill unlike the V-Brakes on the Sirrus. However, I do like dropped bars because of the different hand positions I can use. I guess the real question is how much difference in speed and comfort can I feel with dropped vs flat bars. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you in advance.

  2. #2
    cyclingjack cyclingjack's Avatar
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    I am looking at commuters also, currently riding a C'dale roadie. I like the Kona Jake & or Jake the Snake, lots of bike for the buck. Also the REI Rondoneer another possiblity, all have drop bars......

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    Mooninite shakeNbake's Avatar
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    I have a Schwimm Fastback, pretty cheap and strong. The downside is it doesn't have a rack braze-ons.

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    SERENITY NOW!!! jyossarian's Avatar
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    If you're just gonna use it for commuting and errands, put some drops on the Sirrus. If you want to do some recreational road rides, get the Allez. Whatever you get, ride before you buy to see if you like it and make sure it's got braze-ons for racks and fenders.
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    Hey thanks for all your inputs so far. Does drop bars affect my braking power and won't it be a hassle to mount drops on a Sirrus?

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    Mooninite shakeNbake's Avatar
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    Mounting drops is not cheap. Brifters(brake/shifter) are expensive.
    If you want drops, get drops.

  7. #7
    yes
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    Yeah, switching to drops is not cheap. Comfort at typical commuter speed = more upright = flat bars or different geometry such as cyclocross or maybe touring. You can always try to raise the bars on a road bike such as the allez, but the range of adjustment will be over a lower more aero position.
    Also, the option for a rack and panniers is probably good. There are some cyclocross bikes w/ pannier rack eyelets. Cyclocross bikes also usually come w/ an extra set of break levers on the tops of the bars (some like this for commuting, since it gives you brakes on the upright position). You also get room for bigger tires, which is generally nice on a commute bike. Cyclocross or touring bikes will also stand up better to a big load (if you really have lots of weight in books). It all kind of depends on your riding style. If you are going to go as fast as you can, a road bike may be better in the long run. On the other bikes, you will probably be sneaking way up to the front of the seat while hammering on flats, and wishing that you had lower drops and a steeper seat tube angle. Drop bars definitely help with this.
    Definitely condiser a rack and pannier. You can get a briefcase pannier that unclips and gives you a shoulder carried bag. Although some swear by messenger bags, for me it's a lot more fun to ride w/ the load on the bike.

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    I strongly second the suggestion for a rack and panniers or a rack trunk. I can't imagine doing that commute with textbooks on my back.

  9. #9
    Prefers Cicero cooker's Avatar
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    The Sirrus seems to have more favourable gears for climbing, with 28/26 teeth front/rear compared to 30/25 for the Allez triple, but neither of them is going to be geared like a mountain bike. So you may discover that the Mongoose was not the problem!

    Panniers are far easier to transport books in than a backpack, or at least get a rack you can strap your backpack onto. You can also get folding wire baskets on the side of your rear rack that open out and let you drop the back pack in.

    Fenders are worthwhile too, since you don't know what the weather will be like when you head home.

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    Senior Member mechBgon's Avatar
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    If I were going to buy an off-the-rack commuting bike to use in a California climate with hills and maybe baggage, I'd look at this:

    http://www.rei.com/online/store/Prod...ory_rn=4500922


    Unlike a lot of bikes, this one has real Shimano hubs, crank and bottom bracket. It also has a very low climbing gear (34 teeth in back, 26 in front, it doesn't get too much lower than that). Braking should be adequate, test-ride one at an REI store and see how you like it.

    A bike of that price level is going to call for some pretty good locks and proper locking technique on a college campus. If it were my $1000 bike at stake, I'd probably use a Kryptonite New York Chain to lock the rear wheel & frame to something very strong, and then lock the front wheel & frame to eachother and hopefully to a solid object using a second lock, perhaps a Kryptonite Evolution2000 U-lock. I favor locking to railings made of heavy welded pipes, since they usually afford you the ability to lock both the front and the rear of the bike to the railing, preferably separate pieces of the railing.

    A Kryptonite New York U-lock would be another option as a primary lock, but not as flexible... you can't lock to a large streetlight pole with a U-lock, for example.

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    Quote Originally Posted by cooker
    The Sirrus seems to have more favourable gears for climbing, with 28/26 teeth front/rear compared to 30/25 for the Allez triple, but neither of them is going to be geared like a mountain bike. So you may discover that the Mongoose was not the problem!

    Panniers are far easier to transport books in than a backpack, or at least get a rack you can strap your backpack onto. You can also get folding wire baskets on the side of your rear rack that open out and let you drop the back pack in.

    Fenders are worthwhile too, since you don't know what the weather will be like when you head home.

    I'd like to thank you all for the advice! I am surprised that this forum is so helpful. I only expected 3-4 replies at most

    Anyway, my mountain bike is geared at 24/28T for climbing. But after I've tried climbing the hill once, I HATE that ratio. It seems I go more backwards than forwards hammering up the hill. Feels like I'm pedaling forever and only going an inch a min I think I'm going to go with the Sirrus (have to sacrifice some speed on a flat for some comfort). A thousand dollar bike will probably be stolen on the first day at my ghetto school. Guess I won't be needing any of my books to class either since I just got a laptop. Racks are not an option because those would probably be stolen if not my bike. Poor college students are desperate to sell anything!

    Maybe if I wanted to go dropped I can also mod the sirrus since I will be working at a bike shop soon and all orders I place will be wholesale price. But once again, I appreciate all your help!

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    first, and foremost, get your gear (books etc) off you back and onto rack/pannier bags (saddle-bags). let the bike carry the load! you can carry your pannier(s) to class if needed (done it/did it)
    what distance are you riding? do you ride a bicycle regularly? are you mechanically inclined (can you fix a flat tire)?
    these are some of the things to consider if commutingby bicycle.
    good luck!

  13. #13
    Jet Jockey Banzai's Avatar
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    Before you go buy that Sirrus:

    I bought a flat bar road bike when I first started commuting (Fuji Absolute). It now has drops, but at considerable expense. (of course it also has a lot of new things...). I don't regret buying that bike, since it was like being able to build a bike while also riding said bike, and figuring out what I really needed. I purchased it at discount from its clearance price, so it was like simply buying the frame.

    Flats do NOT equal more comfort. Otherwise I would have stuck with them. Drops aren't just for speed; the variety of hand and body positions affords you much greater comfort over the course of a ride, plus an ergonomically correct refuge from the wind...as you increase your speed and fitness, you'll find that the wind is a worse enemy than any hill.

    To convert to a drop bar, you will need to purchase: 1 drop bar: $40. 1 stem: $35. "Brifters" (if you go "high tech"): $250. Cantilever brakes (if you are concerned with using your existing bosses or with fender clearance): $60. Brake cable hangers: $10. Bar tape, maybe several times: $12. Even if you don't go with brifters, you'll then need Dia Compe 287 V levers: $60, and bar-end shifters: $40. This is a prohibitively expensive modification. I know, I did it, but like I mentioned I had a killer deal on the original purchase, so in the end I wasn't really "set back".

    V-brakes are not necessarily more powerful than calipers or cantis...they simply give clearance for mud and big tires. I think you'll also find that if you ride smart your brakes are a seldom used safety accessory. I'm more concerned usually with maintaining my forward velocity on my commute, rather than stopping it.

    The problem with the Mongoose is the weight and the suspension, and I bet you have knobbies on there too. A full suspension is a device cleverly designed to sap kinetic energy from every pedal stroke. Knobbies also offer a great deal of rolling resistance.

    I would encourage you to look at the Specialized Sequoia, if you are looking into that brand. The Sequoia has favorable gearing, a more "relaxed" geometry for the comfort you seek (usually achieved by having the top of the drop bar level with the saddle), and eyelets and attach points for a rack, from which you can hang panniers to carry your stuff in. You'll be amazed at how much better you feel with that bag off your back.

    Flat bars were the first handlebars, and curve or drop bars were invented to overcome their deficiencies.

    I was, by the way, fairly low in some of my price estimates...depending on the quality of components, you could go a LOT pricier than that.
    Good night...and good luck

  14. #14
    Jet Jockey Banzai's Avatar
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    And now I will try to ignore the fact that you spell "boy" like an Avril Lavigne album...
    Good night...and good luck

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    Quote Originally Posted by banzai_f16
    I'm more concerned usually with maintaining my forward velocity on my commute, rather than stopping it....

    I would encourage you to look at the Specialized Sequoia, if you are looking into that brand. The Sequoia has favorable gearing, a more "relaxed" geometry for the comfort you seek (usually achieved by having the top of the drop bar level with the saddle)...
    Thanks for the advice. I already looked into the Sequoia. Considering the dreaded hill I must encounter, I do not know if the 30/27t gearing will be adequate for the climb. And speaking of that hill, I am more concerned about safety on the steep descent. From where I live, braking comes before velocity with all the blind drivers we have.

    Also, sorry about the "boy." I had no idea people here are so sensitive to spelling
    Last edited by h2o_polo_boi; 07-16-06 at 07:06 PM.
    Congressman Earl Blumenauer once said: "Let's have a minute's silence for all those Americans who are currently sitting in traffic on the way to the gym to ride a stationary bicycle."

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    Senior Member cgchambers's Avatar
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    Cyclocross, at least for me. Setup like a road bike, will take the punishment from the bad pot hole filled roads however. Very sturdy, and pretty fast

  17. #17
    SERENITY NOW!!! jyossarian's Avatar
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    The Raleigh One Way looks kinda like the REI bike pictured above, but it's a singlespeed and has fenders and a rack. Depending on the hills, this may or may not be a good option for you.

    And Big Boi from Outkast spells "boy" the same way and he's got millions of dollars and hot video girls surrounding him. Just sayin'.
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    Quote Originally Posted by jyossarian
    And Big Boi from Outkast spells "boy" the same way and he's got millions of dollars and hot video girls surrounding him. Just sayin'.
    haha...Is it true that flat bars are more comfortable and have better steering than drops? It would seem so if one were to use motorcycles as an example.
    Congressman Earl Blumenauer once said: "Let's have a minute's silence for all those Americans who are currently sitting in traffic on the way to the gym to ride a stationary bicycle."

  19. #19
    tsl
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    Quote Originally Posted by h2o_polo_boi
    haha...Is it true that flat bars are more comfortable and have better steering than drops? It would seem so if one were to use motorcycles as an example.
    Apples and oranges, I'm afraid. On a motorcycle, the bars don't bear any of your weight. On a bicycle, they do. On a motorcycle, you don't need to pull on the bars to climb, or duck down to get out of the wind. On a bicycle, you do.

    Thus, more available hand postions of a drop bar let you change positions as required for performance and every now and again for comfort. And as someone else said above, remember the wind--it won't forget you. Drops get you down comfortably to reduce the surface area you present to the headwinds.

    Edit: Comparison with a mountain bike is invalid as well. MTBs go slow, where the wind doesn't matter. As for sterring, you need to be able to crank the wheel around a lot at slow speed on an MTB. Try that on a road bike at speed and you'll crash.
    Last edited by tsl; 07-16-06 at 08:41 PM.

  20. #20
    Administrator Allen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by h2o_polo_boi
    haha...Is it true that flat bars are more comfortable and have better steering than drops? It would seem so if one were to use motorcycles as an example.
    Not necessarily. Flats have one hand position, and tend to concentrate pressure on the wrists. Many people's hands go to sleep (I'm one) on flat bars. Drops have many different hand positions, so like squirming around in a chair, one can find a new position when your current one becomes fatiguing.
    That said, I don't get along well with drop bars. Nothing wrong with them, they just don't work for me. I broke my neck, and looking up from the heads down position quickly becomes uncomfortable. There are a couple of other choices, one is a mustache bar, which looks cool and old school and is quite popular with some commuters. There are also cruiser bars, looked down on by some because they are kinda dorky, but my god they are comfortable, and what I ride on my town bike. And lastly flat bars are not all made flat. I'm trying this one on my next frame.
    Oh yeah, grips can make a huge difference in comfort. Ergon grips being my personal favorite. They cost 3 times what standard grips cost and are ten times better. The way they flair out allows you to move some of the pressure from your wrist to your palm, which amounts to a big change on how any bar feels.

    --A

  21. #21
    Prefers Cicero cooker's Avatar
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    Pretty unlikely anyone would steal your rack. They'd have to undo 4 bolts and that would take too long to risk it for just a rack. If you get a lightweight cable to secure your seat (it has a loop at each end - you put it through the seat rail, then through itself, then place the free end loop around one arm of your U-lock) it would probably be long enough to also go through your rack adding a little protection.
    Last edited by cooker; 07-16-06 at 10:39 PM.

  22. #22
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    How are drops at hopping curbs? I know I have to hop quite a few curbs on my commute. Hasn't been a problem on my flat bar but never tried with drops before.
    Congressman Earl Blumenauer once said: "Let's have a minute's silence for all those Americans who are currently sitting in traffic on the way to the gym to ride a stationary bicycle."

  23. #23
    Administrator Allen's Avatar
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    I actually prefer drops bunny hopping, you can get a good grip from the brake hoods.
    --A

  24. #24
    Prefers Cicero cooker's Avatar
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    Bunny hopping on 700 c road wheels....not recommended

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    You know I was considering the same two bikes almost a month ago. The problem sounds the same I wanted drops because they are fast and I thought I could expnad my biking wiht somthing more fun than a utility bike. The sirrus was okay and some think the uprightness is good for the city. But the sequoia was smooth to ride. think butter.

    But I'm a [I]premed[I] meaning I am even farther away from earning the big bucks and I haven't even been accepted to a school yet. So I did somthing a lot of people on the forum reccomended- used. I used craigs list to find a bike my size, a trek 520, and picked it up for $200. The bike is 90s but the frame is solid and would have loved to replace the parts on a new beginner bike anyways, so in a few years I will do that to this one. the bike is just what I wanted solid and fast. I would do some checking out on craigs's list yourself. Or hey if the shop you are working at sells bikes wait for that one.

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