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Commuting Bicycle commuting is easier than you think, before you know it, you'll be hooked. Learn the tips, hints, equipment, safety requirements for safely riding your bike to work.

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Old 07-29-06, 12:43 AM   #1
mcpowley
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A few newbie questions.

Hey guys, I posted on the road cycling forum a couple of days ago and I received a huge amount of advice. I go to university, and was looking to get a road cycling bike...but after the advice, I decided to get more of a cheaper commuter so I can see if I can even really stick with it. If after I purchase the commuter and i'm into it, i'll purchase an actual road bike. For now, i'm looking for a commuter. Problem is, I don't want to spend a huge amount of money...I also have a few questions.

1. I am very concerned about security, I was suggested the kryptonite U-lock, and the Ny chain used in conjunction on my bike. I read something about the U-lock yesterday about it being opened with just a bic pen, so i'm looking for other suggestions. I'm go to UCR, uni of california riverside...and there's a pretty big problem with bike theft. Sure, i'd be leaving out my bike for about an hour or 2 unattended and then probably move to my next class, and i'd bring the bike inside my apartment when I'd get home...but i'm still a little worried and this is one of the main reasons I don't want a really expensive bike. If anyone could suggest a alternate lock, or some tips in terms of campus locking up that would be wonderful.

2. I'm kind of confused about tire size, I know 700c is the tire size for most road bikes, but i've seen it suggested that commuters get a bike with a larger tire size if they have to drive over less than smooth pavement. My commute isn't that far, probably 10 miles round trip...but it isn't perfect pavement...and i'm sure there are some potholes in pavement. What do you guys suggest? Is the difference in tire size make a big difference?

3. I'm also curious about brakes, I have no idea what different kinds there are. Usually it's pretty dry in riverside, but there are some days where it does rain. I also want to have the ability to brake rather effectively, as after reading a couple of crash posts has put the fear into me. Is it worth spending more on disc brakes?

4. Also, on my commute, I have a pretty steep hill that goes for about half a little more than half a mile, and cars usually go about 55-60 on the road. I'm very scared about this part of the commute, and was wondering if anyone had tips in regards to taking this hill. I haven't biked since about 5 years ago, and I really don't feel like crashing even though it may be inevitable.

5. I know fit is important, but I was considering buying my commuting bike on ebay or craigslist or which wouldn't allow me to be fit(If I ever decide to purchase a roadbike I would of course purchase it new from my LBS, and that would allow me to be fit...but that is sometime in the future) Is there anyway I could estimate my fit, or size? I'm 5'11, around 150lbs(Pretty skinny).

6.Considering i'm in college, I was wondering if anyone road their commuter with their backpack on their back? Is it very uncomfortable? I don't really like the look of the rear racks, and I can't really see my backpack staying on there. Any suggestions? I would be open to any suggestions.

7. I'm kind of torn between a flat bar or one with drop bars. I originally considered going with flat bar and then adding on drop bars but I heard it's really expensive. Drop bars look cool, and they allow you to get in a different position and get rid of wind interference, but would it be practical for a 10 mile commute with a couple of stops?
That's pretty much all the questions I can think of right now, when I think of more I will post Thank you all for your help!

Any bike suggestions would be appreciated..
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Old 07-29-06, 02:53 AM   #2
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I know that those kryptonite locks have been replaced. that bic thing used to be true, but they've recalled all of those and replaced them with locks that don't have that same vulnerability.
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Old 07-29-06, 03:25 AM   #3
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1. All new kryptonite U-locks are using a flat key now. The bic pen exploit was used against older versions that used a round (i.e., cylindrical) key. These all should have been recalled by now.

2. You are confused about tire size vs tire width. Road riders wishing to maximize speed will choose a narrower tire (say 23mm or less). Riders wishing to emphasize comfort and puncture resistance on bumpy roads will choose a wider tire (say 28mm or greater). The width of a tire that can be mounted on a bike will depend on the rim and clearance available on the bike itself. Most bikes will accommodate a range in tire widths.

3. For your budget I'd recommend against disc brakes. Stopping with regular caliper brakes while in the rain just requires that you ride with a bit more caution. Early, light application of the brakes well before your need to stop will shed the water from the rims and allow the brakes to grab hold.

4. Hopefully the road has a nice wide shoulder? Wear highly visible clothing and/or safety vest. If riding in the dark mount multiple tail lights and use reflective tape to give your form "shape".

5. Many articles on the web on bike fitting. Or just go to the lbs and get them to recommend a size. For your proposed purpose fit doesn't have to be right on the money, just reasonably close. Now if you are riding centuries and spending 4+ hours on the bike - then it matters.

6. Commuters are divided into warring factions on "backpacks" versus pannier racks. Without a doubt a backpack will result in some excess sweating on your back. How much depends on you and your climate. I'd say give the backpack a try first.

7. For a 10 mile commute I would rank drop bars as a secondary consideration. In other words I wouldn't walk away from an otherwise great deal just because it had flat bars. Most of the inexpensive used bikes you are going to find will come with flat bars.
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Old 07-29-06, 07:56 AM   #4
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Slow Train covered everything really well. From my experience, I can add only two things.

4) Rear blinkies are important. In my riding, I've found visibility from the front to be of even greater importance. Day or night, the cars that have given me the biggest scares and have come closest to hitting my have come from the front--all of them turning. Front lights (others will disagree, but I've found blinkies are fine on well-lit streets) catch their attention. I've seen many drivers stop short after having seen my front lights coming at them.

6) I'm currently part of the backpack set. I've worn backpacks daily, since long before they were popular. I like the versatility a good pack provides, and I like having my hands free when managing doors and walking through crowded hallways. However, riding in the muggy 90s, I *get* the sweaty back thing. On the other hand, I already have dry work clothes in the pack anyway, so I'm managing. I've looked at trunk bags, but until you get into the full-touring models, which aren't really designed for carrying around all day, they're all too small for my needs. Had I not already spent nearly $200 on a new pack this year, I'd try a convertable backpack/pannier, like the Arkel Bug. And when I have a few bucks I don't know what else to do with, I'll give it a try. It's certainly worth a look if you're just starting out.
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Old 07-29-06, 08:19 AM   #5
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1. when parking for any amount of time on campus, my approach is to lock everything that you don't want stolen. If you are really paranoid, just imagine how easy it is to take a bike apart and think of ways to make it a little tougher. Especially if it's a cheap bike, there are measures you can take after you have it set up to your liking. Locktite red can be used on things like seat binder bolts. Or you can put some epoxy to fill in the holes for allen keys. These are things that would take a little extra time to undo if someone wanted to take some components off. Then I would definitely lock both wheels and the frame.

4. Don't overlook you ability to pedestrianize during any scary stretches if there's a sidewalk.

7. If you get flat bars, you can add some bar ends for a couple of hand positions. It really helps out and is a relatively cheap addition (~$10 new)
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Old 07-29-06, 08:51 AM   #6
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3. If you coast a lot in situations where braking may be imminent, you don't need the best tech. One of the biggest improvements for braking tech came with lighter alloy wheels. They stop faster than steel, so if you get an old bike, that's one feature to look for. If you're a beginner, who is planning on just getting there sweat free instead of producing tough training rides, it might not be such a huge feature.

4. Is there a quieter side street with the same slope nearby. You can hold on to both brakes and go down pretty slow and easy for the first few week(s). Usually, the faster you go, the more stable the bike gets though, so its rare that you lose handling while going straight down, and not losing a pedal. But gradually increasing speed is generally not a hard skill to build up.

7. flat bar is definitely easier for handling, shifting, and confidence. You can switch later with innexpensive options.
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Old 07-29-06, 09:07 AM   #7
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1. I have an OnGuard lock I like pretty well. I also have a Kryptonite lock that is just fine. Just avoid the ones w/the cylindrical keys.

2. I commute on a road bike w/700x23 tires in NYC. Unless you're actually going off road or riding on very very poor pavement, I think you'd be fine on 700x23. They're available in various widths, though.

3. If it's mostly dry and you're not going off road, you might'nt need disc brakes. And don't worry so much about crashing! People here like to tell crash stories (myself included!) but the overwhelming majority of commutes end with rider and bicycle intact and unharmed.

4. Going uphill, just keep spinning and don't try to push too big a gear. Going downhill, enjoy the breeze!

5. You'd probably ride a 58cm. If you're buying from CL, you'd def. have a chance to check out the bike in person before you bought. You can also go to your LBS & stand over a few different sizes to get an idea of what you'll need.

6. Backpacks are fine, but since I'm a big posenger, I like my Chrome Metropolis bag very very well. Good messenger bags are designed to be worn while riding, and backpacks aren't.

7. Drop bars are fine. I have drop bars and commute about the same as you, though w/o stops. To give myself another riding position, I got a pair of in-line brake handles that are up in the flat part of the bars, so I can ride upright part of the time if I want but not have to reach for the brakes. The pair I have is made by Cane Creek but I'm sure there are plenty of other models and makes as well.

I know there are bitter partisans against them here, but I got my bike from bikes direct and am very happy with it. They offer a Motobecane which is basically a road bike w/flat bars, so it might be worth checking out their website just to see if that's the kind of thing you're looking for, regardless of who you buy from in the end. Hope that helps.
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Old 07-29-06, 12:18 PM   #8
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thanks guys

Wow, thanks for all of the advice! It's kind of silly that i'm looking at all these bikes when I can't afford them yet, I have to pay two months rent in riverside this week (900 dollars even though i'm not living there for the summer...bummer nio?) But the weeks after i have to pay off a few debts, and i'll have about 600 dollars left over to put towards my first bike...and whatever I save I can put it towards a road bike. I looked at bikesdirect but i'm kind of nervous about putting a bike together myself. I'm still keeping an eye on craigslist even though I can't purchase the bike right now. It's kind of odd how obsessed i've become on learning everything about bikes, it's come to the point that the forum here is my home page.

Anyway, The bikes that have caught my interest are the Specialized Sirrus, which I did find in an auction...but it's 59 and needs some help in terms of the mechanical department, would it be worth purchasing? If it is just 145 I can purchase right now and repair later when I have the money.
http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll...ayphotohosting
----
Here's a felt that I found, it looks like it would be a bit pricey but I just want an opinion on it. It is also a 59.
http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll...ayphotohosting
----
One last thing, is there anything I should look for in a bike, that I otherwise would not notice in a bike? Anything I shouldn't settle for, I know i'm kind of limited due to my price range, but should I look for anything speciifc? Thanks guys!
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Old 07-29-06, 12:53 PM   #9
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Just buy whatever bike you can afford and ride it. You don't need anything fancy to get started. This is commuting to a college class, not the TdF. A billion Chinese people ride more than you will on some pretty simple bikes. If you like riding and do it a while, you'll know which type of bike to buy after a couple months, after you get the rent payment squared away.
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Old 07-29-06, 01:37 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mcpowley
Wow, thanks for all of the advice! It's kind of silly that i'm looking at all these bikes when I can't afford them yet, I have to pay two months rent in riverside this week (900 dollars even though i'm not living there for the summer...bummer nio?) But the weeks after i have to pay off a few debts, and i'll have about 600 dollars left over to put towards my first bike...and whatever I save I can put it towards a road bike. I looked at bikesdirect but i'm kind of nervous about putting a bike together myself. I'm still keeping an eye on craigslist even though I can't purchase the bike right now. It's kind of odd how obsessed i've become on learning everything about bikes, it's come to the point that the forum here is my home page.

Anyway, The bikes that have caught my interest are the Specialized Sirrus, which I did find in an auction...but it's 59 and needs some help in terms of the mechanical department, would it be worth purchasing? If it is just 145 I can purchase right now and repair later when I have the money.
http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll...ayphotohosting
----
Here's a felt that I found, it looks like it would be a bit pricey but I just want an opinion on it. It is also a 59.
http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll...ayphotohosting
----
One last thing, is there anything I should look for in a bike, that I otherwise would not notice in a bike? Anything I shouldn't settle for, I know i'm kind of limited due to my price range, but should I look for anything speciifc? Thanks guys!
For buying used, you might want to plan on getting a tune-up at an LBS. Usually those are roughly $50, but they'll clean/lube most everything, adjust the brakes, etc., which are all very good to have done on a used bike in questionable condition. They'll also point out anything that's hazardous (not likely, but nice to get it checked).

Spending $145 on a bike that has issues seems like a poor bet to me, since so many people sell bikes for so much cheaper. You can get a bike that needs mechanical work for $10 at a garage sale...

I would NOT buy a bike off ebay that will be shipped to you. There are soooo many ways you can get screwed on that kind of deal, if you're buying a bike for transportation and you're tight on money you should buy one you can see and ride before purchasing. Your metro area craigslist is a better bet than ebay since most of the bikes there will be local to you.

The newspaper is another place to look, the good old classifieds.

Oh and if you buy from somewhere that doesn't give you an assembled bike (I guess that's what bikesdirect is?) I'm sure your LBS will assemble it for a reasonable fee. It's worth asking anyway to find out how much they'd charge.
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Old 07-29-06, 02:26 PM   #11
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I made a page that condenses some of the most common locking advice, with some photos and some of my own ideas for how to use your locks most effectively: http://www.mechbgon.com/lock Any good?

Looking at the bikes... I see the Sirrus uses a type of rear gear cluster that you basically can't buy anymore (Shimano twist-tooth Uniglide). I'd try to get at least something with 7-speed Hyperglide cassette or later, so you don't have to sink excess money into it later if you need a new rear gear cluster.

At the closest bike shop, I saw an old GT mountain bike for $79, 7-speed Hyperglide, steel chainrings. Not fancy, but tough and maintainable. If you could live without a road-style bike, that sort of bike might be a better pick for campus commuting.
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Old 07-29-06, 02:42 PM   #12
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I used to leave a nice bike locked in a high crime area throughout the day and used a very good U-lock through the frame and rear wheel combined with taking the front wheel and seat (any anything else that came off) with me (on quick release fastenings). I never had any problems.
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Old 07-29-06, 04:12 PM   #13
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I carry a few heavy books and I think they took a toll on my shoulders and spots on my back. Any decent pannier in my opinion is too heavy so I am going to strap my backpack to my rack (as soon as I buy it!)

good luck!
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Old 07-29-06, 04:32 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mcpowley
Hey guys, I posted on the road cycling forum a couple of days ago and I received a huge amount of advice. I go to university, and was looking to get a road cycling bike...but after the advice, I decided to get more of a cheaper commuter so I can see if I can even really stick with it. If after I purchase the commuter and i'm into it, i'll purchase an actual road bike. For now, i'm looking for a commuter. Problem is, I don't want to spend a huge amount of money...I also have a few questions.

...
I've been in a similar situation to you, and I'd have to say, "Don't worry too much about the details to start" Just get a bike that's reliable and comfortable, don't worry about fancy. I rode a $300 Mongoose Pro mountain bike for about 1.5 years (until it got stolen ) and wore a backpack. On my new bikes I got a rack and panniers, which I find is a VERY worthwhile upgrade, especially with a road bike where the forward-leaning body position makes a backpack quite uncomfortable for me.

Security is definitely a big concern. A U-lock is an absolute must. I also recommend non-quick-release skewers for your wheels (I had mine stolen in broad daylight), suchas these bolt-ons http://www.nashbar.com/profile.cfm?c...eid=&pagename= which are only $10 and will prevent casual thieves from taking your wheels. Another prudent move is to lock the rear wheel up with the U-lock and get a separate cable to protect the front wheel.
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Old 07-29-06, 05:47 PM   #15
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man, I would save some money and check out the Salvation army, St.Vincent De Paul, or any other thrift stores in your area. I was just out today and saw a couple of pretty good bikes with Shimano components for 20-30$. you could get one of those and have your LBS fix it up and still have hundreds left over! that will buy a lot of books and beer ... you are going to get sweaty with the backpack, but if you don't like the racks... you could strap your backpack TO your rack. it's kinda dorky but it works for me.
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Old 07-29-06, 07:37 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Slow Train

6. Commuters are divided into warring factions on "backpacks" versus pannier racks. Without a doubt a backpack will result in some excess sweating on your back. How much depends on you and your climate. I'd say give the backpack a try first.
Im a messenger bag user here. Ive got nothing against panniers. There are probably better anyway because the weight is lower down. Look at what happened to Bobby Julich on the timetrial with the camel sack.

Bags are beneficial if you are at uni/school where you have to carry stuff around with you.
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Old 07-30-06, 03:01 PM   #17
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^If you ride as fast as a top pro in a time trial, don't wear a back pack. 99.999% of us have nothing to worry about there!

If you use panniers, make sure they unfasten easily to prevent theft. Personally, I'd spend the extra money on the bike rather than panniers. You can get accessories later.
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Old 07-30-06, 09:09 PM   #18
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Okay yeah, I've decided i'm going to go with something used in terms of my commuter. I'm going to keep my eyes out on craigslist. It kind of sucks that the nearest places to me are San Diego and Orange County, which are about and hour an half away. So just to see a bike I have to drive all that way. I was originally going to go with some older model at a bike shop...but I want to save up for a good road bike, like maybe a Giant OCR3, or something in that bracket. Thanks for all the help guys, any suggestions are still appreciated!
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Old 07-31-06, 07:30 AM   #19
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If craigslist isn't turning up very many local bikes for you, try a local paper.
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Old 07-31-06, 07:57 PM   #20
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Lots of good advice has already been given. I'll add whatever I can, and reiterate a few points.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mcpowley
1. I am very concerned about security, I was suggested the kryptonite U-lock, and the Ny chain used in conjunction on my bike. I read something about the U-lock yesterday about it being opened with just a bic pen, so i'm looking for other suggestions. I'm go to UCR, uni of california riverside...and there's a pretty big problem with bike theft.
As has been pointed out, the newer U-locks don't have this vulnerability. Here are a few extra tips on bike security:

1) If you can, find a place inside to store your bike. I was lucky: I actually made friends with a professor in my department who was also a biker and he let me store the bike in his office! I know, one doesn't just approach profs with such requests , but some exploring of options may be worth it. Some profs might allow you to bring your bike to class if the classroom is large enough! Some auditoria are so big, you can tuck your bike in the corner and no one will notice it's there! Other classes are so small that the prof gets to know everyone very well and won't mind making special personal arrangements. You may try to explain to the prof how bad bike theft is and how much you spent for your new bike.

2) If you leave your bike outside, make sure to put it in a spot with lots of pedestrian traffic and lots of otehr bikes on the rack. AFAIK most campus bike thefts take place at night near student residences, not in broad daylight right next to the Student Centre. Try to make sure there are better bikes on the same rack that have weaker locks than yours.

3) Use a good U-lock and/or chain. You may consider just leaving the lock/chain on the rack permanently, so you don't have to carry it back and forth between the campus and your apartment.

4) If you have a U-lock, fill it: put it through the rack, the rear wheel, the seat stays, possibly the front wheel that you took off (if you have quick release). That way a car jack can't be used to push your lock open.

5) If your keyhole is on one of the ends of the bar, make sure it's pointed down (harder to pick).

6) Lock or take away with you any component that's easy to steal; certainly everything that has a quick release. Use a combination of U-lock or chain and a cable lock: U-lock to securing the frame and rear wheel, cable lock to secure the rest of the components.

Quote:
2. I'm kind of confused about tire size, I know 700c is the tire size for most road bikes, but i've seen it suggested that commuters get a bike with a larger tire size if they have to drive over less than smooth pavement. My commute isn't that far, probably 10 miles round trip...but it isn't perfect pavement...and i'm sure there are some potholes in pavement. What do you guys suggest? Is the difference in tire size make a big difference?
You get WIDER tires for uneven pavement. Wheel diameter is an entirely different thing: larger wheels roll a little bit better, but I'd say it's not really much of a difference, especially under normal commuting conditions. Either 700c or 26" will do just fine. As for the width, that's a different matter. I would say anything from 28 mm to 38 mm should be fine. Narrower tires mean more speed, wider tires mean more control, smoother ride on uneven pavement and better flat protection. If this helps, I'm running 32 mms on my commuter now and the road conditions are probably similar to yours.

Most bikes accommodate a wide range of tires, so if you ever become dissatisfied with your original tire width, you can get different tires. A new tire can cost anywhere from 8 bucks to... um, a lot of money (but you don't need to be concerned about the high-end racing tires... 20 bucks should get you a decent new tire). If you buy new, many bike shops will agree to swap the stock tires to those of your choice for no or just a little extra cost (as long as the new tires are in the same price range, of course).

Quote:
3. I'm also curious about brakes, I have no idea what different kinds there are. Usually it's pretty dry in riverside, but there are some days where it does rain. I also want to have the ability to brake rather effectively, as after reading a couple of crash posts has put the fear into me. Is it worth spending more on disc brakes?
Bike brakes are generally quite reliable. These days you're most likely to get V-brakes on a new bike: it's a good type of brake. When it rains, just make sure to look a bit further ahead, anticipate things and realize you have a longer stopping distance. It also helps to "dry" your rims with brakes first (just squeeze the levers lightly) before you actually start braking. I'd say disk brakes are usually an overkill and at a lower price range the money is better spent on other things such as better components or extra gear. (Don't forget you'll need a pump, some spare tubes, a set of allen wrenches, an adjustable wrench and a basic chain lube as the absolute minimum for smooth bike commuting. Add to that front and rear lights if you'll be riding in dark/dusk. Lots of people will also claim a helmet is essential. Biking-specific clothes such as shorts, jerseys and gloves may be helpful but aren't required. Some extra tools such as a chain breaker may come in handy. If you decide to go the pannier route, you'll need money for that as well as the rack. You'll need water on your rides as well, and fishing for a water bottle in a backpack gets tiresome VERY quickly, so a water bottle cage and a good water bottle are cheap and worth their weight in gold. You'll also probably need TWO pumps: a floor pump for quick reinflation at home and a portable one for on-road emergencies.)

Quote:
4. Also, on my commute, I have a pretty steep hill that goes for about half a little more than half a mile, and cars usually go about 55-60 on the road. I'm very scared about this part of the commute, and was wondering if anyone had tips in regards to taking this hill. I haven't biked since about 5 years ago, and I really don't feel like crashing even though it may be inevitable.
Not enough info. How wide are the lanes? Is there more than one lane in each direction? Is there a paved shoulder? Is there a detour around there, a quieter street you might want to take?

Quote:
5. I know fit is important, but I was considering buying my commuting bike on ebay or craigslist or which wouldn't allow me to be fit(If I ever decide to purchase a roadbike I would of course purchase it new from my LBS, and that would allow me to be fit...but that is sometime in the future) Is there anyway I could estimate my fit, or size? I'm 5'11, around 150lbs(Pretty skinny).
There is a bit too much to talk about here. There are many articles on the web about bike fit and bike frame size: read them for a better understanding of the matter. Generally there is a more or less standardized way to measure bike frame sizes, and most likely you can get a bike that fits your dimensions off the internet. However, even if the fit is perfect, you might not like a certain type of bike (e.g. some people prefer an aggressive aerodynamic position, some want to be more relaxed). If you pick a bike over the internet, see if you can find a local bike shop that carries that model and would let you test-ride it so you get a feel for the bike. (If you feel guilty of test-rides with no intention of buying the bike from the store, get all your accessories from that bike shop later - bike shops apparently make more money selling accessories than selling actual bikes).

Quote:
6.Considering i'm in college, I was wondering if anyone road their commuter with their backpack on their back? Is it very uncomfortable? I don't really like the look of the rear racks, and I can't really see my backpack staying on there. Any suggestions? I would be open to any suggestions.
A backpack is not "very uncomforable". I used to ride a lot with backpacks, still do some of this. Your back will definitely get sweaty. Rack and panniers are pretty convenient on the bike but are more hassle of the bike (can't carry the panniers on your back!) and are generally expensive. Although if you can't afford the panniers, a simple rack and a milk-crate zip-tied to it can do wonders. Among other things, it makes the bike a lot less appealing to potential thieves.

Quote:
Drop bars look cool, and they allow you to get in a different position and get rid of wind interference, but would it be practical for a 10 mile commute with a couple of stops?
Only a couple of stops on the whole commute? I think it's an awesome drop-bar situation! Having said this, I don't think the type of bar is a deal-breaker. There are excellent bikes with a flat bar that will work very well for your purposes. I would keep both possibilities in mind and base my choice of bike primarily on different criteria (quality and price).

Good luck with your commute! Tell us what bike you get and how the commute goes!!

Last edited by chephy; 07-31-06 at 08:55 PM.
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Old 08-01-06, 02:39 AM   #21
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Originally Posted by chephy
Lots of good advice has already been given. I'll add whatever I can, and reiterate a few points.

As has been pointed out, the newer U-locks don't have this vulnerability. Here are a few extra tips on bike security:

1) If you can, find a place inside to store your bike. I was lucky: I actually made friends with a professor in my department who was also a biker and he let me store the bike in his office! I know, one doesn't just approach profs with such requests , but some exploring of options may be worth it. Some profs might allow you to bring your bike to class if the classroom is large enough! Some auditoria are so big, you can tuck your bike in the corner and no one will notice it's there! Other classes are so small that the prof gets to know everyone very well and won't mind making special personal arrangements. You may try to explain to the prof how bad bike theft is and how much you spent for your new bike.

2) If you leave your bike outside, make sure to put it in a spot with lots of pedestrian traffic and lots of otehr bikes on the rack. AFAIK most campus bike thefts take place at night near student residences, not in broad daylight right next to the Student Centre. Try to make sure there are better bikes on the same rack that have weaker locks than yours.

3) Use a good U-lock and/or chain. You may consider just leaving the lock/chain on the rack permanently, so you don't have to carry it back and forth between the campus and your apartment.

4) If you have a U-lock, fill it: put it through the rack, the rear wheel, the seat stays, possibly the front wheel that you took off (if you have quick release). That way a car jack can't be used to push your lock open.

5) If your keyhole is on one of the ends of the bar, make sure it's pointed down (harder to pick).

6) Lock or take away with you any component that's easy to steal; certainly everything that has a quick release. Use a combination of U-lock or chain and a cable lock: U-lock to securing the frame and rear wheel, cable lock to secure the rest of the components.

You get WIDER tires for uneven pavement. Wheel diameter is an entirely different thing: larger wheels roll a little bit better, but I'd say it's not really much of a difference, especially under normal commuting conditions. Either 700c or 26" will do just fine. As for the width, that's a different matter. I would say anything from 28 mm to 38 mm should be fine. Narrower tires mean more speed, wider tires mean more control, smoother ride on uneven pavement and better flat protection. If this helps, I'm running 32 mms on my commuter now and the road conditions are probably similar to yours.

Most bikes accommodate a wide range of tires, so if you ever become dissatisfied with your original tire width, you can get different tires. A new tire can cost anywhere from 8 bucks to... um, a lot of money (but you don't need to be concerned about the high-end racing tires... 20 bucks should get you a decent new tire). If you buy new, many bike shops will agree to swap the stock tires to those of your choice for no or just a little extra cost (as long as the new tires are in the same price range, of course).

Bike brakes are generally quite reliable. These days you're most likely to get V-brakes on a new bike: it's a good type of brake. When it rains, just make sure to look a bit further ahead, anticipate things and realize you have a longer stopping distance. It also helps to "dry" your rims with brakes first (just squeeze the levers lightly) before you actually start braking. I'd say disk brakes are usually an overkill and at a lower price range the money is better spent on other things such as better components or extra gear. (Don't forget you'll need a pump, some spare tubes, a set of allen wrenches, an adjustable wrench and a basic chain lube as the absolute minimum for smooth bike commuting. Add to that front and rear lights if you'll be riding in dark/dusk. Lots of people will also claim a helmet is essential. Biking-specific clothes such as shorts, jerseys and gloves may be helpful but aren't required. Some extra tools such as a chain breaker may come in handy. If you decide to go the pannier route, you'll need money for that as well as the rack. You'll need water on your rides as well, and fishing for a water bottle in a backpack gets tiresome VERY quickly, so a water bottle cage and a good water bottle are cheap and worth their weight in gold. You'll also probably need TWO pumps: a floor pump for quick reinflation at home and a portable one for on-road emergencies.)

Not enough info. How wide are the lanes? Is there more than one lane in each direction? Is there a paved shoulder? Is there a detour around there, a quieter street you might want to take?

There is a bit too much to talk about here. There are many articles on the web about bike fit and bike frame size: read them for a better understanding of the matter. Generally there is a more or less standardized way to measure bike frame sizes, and most likely you can get a bike that fits your dimensions off the internet. However, even if the fit is perfect, you might not like a certain type of bike (e.g. some people prefer an aggressive aerodynamic position, some want to be more relaxed). If you pick a bike over the internet, see if you can find a local bike shop that carries that model and would let you test-ride it so you get a feel for the bike. (If you feel guilty of test-rides with no intention of buying the bike from the store, get all your accessories from that bike shop later - bike shops apparently make more money selling accessories than selling actual bikes).

A backpack is not "very uncomforable". I used to ride a lot with backpacks, still do some of this. Your back will definitely get sweaty. Rack and panniers are pretty convenient on the bike but are more hassle of the bike (can't carry the panniers on your back!) and are generally expensive. Although if you can't afford the panniers, a simple rack and a milk-crate zip-tied to it can do wonders. Among other things, it makes the bike a lot less appealing to potential thieves.

Only a couple of stops on the whole commute? I think it's an awesome drop-bar situation! Having said this, I don't think the type of bar is a deal-breaker. There are excellent bikes with a flat bar that will work very well for your purposes. I would keep both possibilities in mind and base my choice of bike primarily on different criteria (quality and price).

Good luck with your commute! Tell us what bike you get and how the commute goes!!
Wow, thanks for all the advice. I'm planning on keeping my bike near the most heavily trafficked area of my campus where there is an actual place specifically for bikes on campus. And of course, it will never be left overnight. I'm probably going to purchase the NY Chain lock, and the Krypto U-Lock.

I'm also going up to riverside tomorrow, and I will be taking pictures of my hill of death for everyone to see, I doubt it would put fear into any of your hearts but it scares me. There's a other route that gets to this hill that passes through residential area, and forgoes the busy main road, and i'll probably take that but this hill I have to take.

As for the backpack, I was looking at the Chrome messenger bag, I can't remember if it was mentioned in my post or somewhere else, but they look pretty practical, for school at least.
http://www.chromebags.com/
What do you guys think?


Other than that, you guys have done a great job answering my every question, thanks for that. I just hope I find a bike in time for school. As last resort, would it be so bad to bite the bullet and purchase an hybrid or road entry bike from BikesDirect and have it assembled at a local bike shop? I know they aren't as great as finding a great used one...which I really want, but would you guys suggest I wait for one to come along?
http://www.bikesdirect.com/products/...ane/super.html

I guess for fit, if it really comes to it, I could tell the bike shop that i'd buy my accessories and my future road bike from them. There's a really nice LBS in palm springs that sell Giant, speciailzed and trek...and the Giant OCR really looks nice to me.
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Old 08-01-06, 04:57 AM   #22
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If you buy a road bike, make sure it accommodates the tire width you've chosen (some road bikes will only accept quite narrow tires).
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Old 08-01-06, 09:48 AM   #23
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My son has a backpack where a frame support the pack and inch or so away from the back. It is an H2O Aircomfort by Deuter. It is available in 3 different sizes. He then let me have the rack off his bike, which was much better than the one I had.
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Old 08-01-06, 10:00 AM   #24
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Panniers. More stable bike, less sweaty back. Or you can get a fold out wire basket that attaches to the side of your rack and dump the backpack in that. Clip it in with a bungee or a boathook or a mountain climbing loop (caribiner) if you're worried it will catapult out on a bump.
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Old 08-01-06, 01:34 PM   #25
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Originally Posted by Slow Train
6. Commuters are divided into warring factions on "backpacks" versus pannier racks. Without a doubt a backpack will result in some excess sweating on your back. How much depends on you and your climate. I'd say give the backpack a try first.
If you use a helmet or eyeglass mounted mirror, a traditional backpack can interfere with your rearward view. A messenger bag is the better solution, at least for me, when I can't use my panniers.
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