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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 10-04-06, 09:51 PM   #1
agarose2000
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Give me some upgrades to dream about!

Ok folks. I want you knowledgable commuters out there to tell me what the best upgrades you'd make for my budget commuter. We're talking bang for the buck, pack for the punch. No frivolous expenditures, but pricey, effective ones are definitely welcome.

I'm riding a steel Gary Fisher Mamba with a rear rack and platform plastic pedals, and an "InSync" front suspension fork that I can't find the specs for anywhere on the web. I use panniers to commute. No special bike shoes yet. Shimano Alivio shifters, occasionally hiccup, especially on the high-speed gears, but overall solid. Mild rust on the cables, but brakes work great. Kickstand's on. No bike lights yet (not even a rear blinkie yet). Kryptonite U-lock (Kryptolock). Stock seat, nothing fancy. I wear coolmax type clothes (not biking specific clothes) when I commute.

I love the bike frame, but I think there may be some improvements I can make for a reasonable expenditure. With all the gas money I'm saving, I reason it's worth it to upgrade!
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Old 10-04-06, 11:13 PM   #2
14R
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Clipless pedals and a nice, expensive but effective light system (one of those that you don't need to re-address the issue for several years).

I use campus pedals, clipless one side, platform on the other.

let us know what you get.
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Old 10-04-06, 11:22 PM   #3
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Clipless pedals and some MTB shoes were my favorite upgrade that I've done. Just for safety though, if you're riding at night get a blinkie and headlight.
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Old 10-05-06, 04:47 AM   #4
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First big upgrade bang/buck wise if you want to go clipless would be what Mister stated. If you want to use both clipless and normal shoes, go Performance Campus for your pedals. If you want a name brand, there are always Shimano M324 or Crank Bros Mallets for pedals. However, those may be a bit pricy for what they offer for what you want. I'd consider toe clips if you don't go clipless -- get some power from your feet on the upstroke.

I'd seriously consider some bike lights. You never know when you are going to be riding home at night, and a bright rear blinkie paired up a even an inexpensive Cateye LED headlight will make your ride a lot safer. I use a http://www.cateye.com/en/product_detail/267 for the rear. It is bright enough to be seen, and has a couple flash modes that can help drivers get a bead of where your location is and avoid you at night.

As always, I suggest if the bike has QR hubs, either grab some hex bolt skewers for $9.95 + shipping from Nashbar or some locking skewers if you want more security. Its unlikely that someone will make off with your seat or wheels, but why tempt fate and vandals? If you are in an area where bike theft is low, just the requirement of a hex wrench set will keep seats and wheels from disappearing.

Your bike lock sounds up to the task assuming its not a high-crime place, assuming the Kryptonite you have is a flat key, rather than a round key lock. If you have a round key lock, I'd immediately ditch it and get something like a Kryptonite Keeper (around $18 on Amazon.com -- provides the upgraded pick-resistant cylinder and a fairly cut-resistant shackle) which is good protection for a normal suburban area. I think Kryptonite's lock recall is still available, so if your lock does have a round key, you might be able to get a free replacement. I'm not sure though.

If your gear train is skipping more than occassionally, I'd consider checking the teeth and chain for wear. You can eyeball it (Sheldon Brown and others have excellent information about how to tell "shark fins" from good cogs), use a steel ruler or dedicated chain gauge. Make sure to replace the chain and the cogs as a set.

You sound like you have the basics of what you need with commuting. Good luck with it.

Last edited by mlts22; 10-05-06 at 05:10 AM.
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Old 10-05-06, 05:25 AM   #5
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Old 10-05-06, 06:53 AM   #6
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Lights. Everything else is a luxury. I'd get a front Lumotec, a rear B&M Standlight, and a Schmidt dynohub to power the thing.

Paul
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Old 10-05-06, 07:05 AM   #7
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Lights first as I'm guessing you will need them soon if you continue to commute.
Second a cheap repair is to replace your cables with new stainless steel ones. It will probably improve your shifting and braking and if you are seeing rust, it probably needs done. Replacing the housing at the same time is not much more expensive and is even more effective if things are rusty.
As for an upgrade to your performance, nothing is better than clipless pedal and shoes. However this will probably run you between $100 to $200 depending on your choices.
If you are comfortable with you saddle leave it alone otherwise look at different models there. More expensive does not necessarily mean more comfortable for you but you may have to try several before you find one you really like. (I'm partial to Brooks)
For the rest of the components, use them until they wear out or break then replace with better within your budget.
Craig
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Old 10-05-06, 07:16 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by slvoid
<image>
Even if its made of CF, wouldn't it be pretty hard to pedal up any significant hills?


BTW, I had wellgo campus pedals and shimano campus pedals...both are the same functionally, but my shimano has lasted longer. Still, I don't think it was worth the difference of $35 vs $70.
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Old 10-05-06, 07:24 AM   #9
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Lights
Pannier bags
Metal pedals (MKS if you want plain platforms)
Kevlar slick tyres.
Track pump
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Old 10-05-06, 07:59 AM   #10
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Fresh bar tape is probably the cheapest/quickest upgrade & makes your bike look so much better. Good for your morale. You can also put 3 or 4 coats of shellac on cotton or cork tape to dress it up more & make it last longer. Don
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Old 10-05-06, 03:07 PM   #11
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I dream of Rohloff.
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Old 10-05-06, 04:07 PM   #12
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If you don't want to go clipless, try adding toe clips. I did this for about 15 bucks, and it has vastly improved my happiness. I don't know if it gives me any advantage on the upswing, but when I'm at a stoplight, I can just whir my clipped-in foot around to position my pedal to start again, without doing the crazy pedal-karate I used to have to. It's also easier to stand on the pedals to get more speed -- no more slipping off.
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Old 10-05-06, 04:15 PM   #13
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How's your saddle? Biking is so much nicer if your saddle fits your tuchus (and other nearby property) properly.
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Old 10-05-06, 04:45 PM   #14
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a rigid fork. I'm totally serious. Get one with fender eyelets, then get fenders.

...or Mr Tuffy tire liners. I'm amazed at the huge chunks of glass I pull out of my tires, and they keep rolling along.

Lights are probably the logical first purchase though for the sake of safety. The Planet Bike stuff is pretty good bang for the buck. Cat Eye blinkys are too fragile and eat batteries like crazy.
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Old 10-05-06, 06:50 PM   #15
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1.) Get a helmet if you don't have one.
2.) Lights, even the cheapos are better than nothing. My rear blinkie is something I got from nashbar for five bucks, a planet bike blinkie it is. Was making an order and tossed it in the basket on a whim. It is quite bright for such a cheap price. At least get a cheap LED light for the front. You can probably get a front/back combo for $30.00 that will suffice. But the more expensive stuff is worth it.
3.) If you ride in the rain or after the rain get fenders. please! You'll thank me for this bit of advice.
4.) A more comfy saddle if yours is not comfprtable. Makes a whole world of differance.
5.) Dump the boing boing fork for a rigid fork.
6.) Go clipless or, like me, clips/straps.
7.) Did I mention lights?
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Old 10-05-06, 07:44 PM   #16
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Your needs notwithstanding...

I find myself in the market for a (mostly) new drivetrain.
New LX rapidfire shifters, and an XT rear (low normal) derailleur.

Anyone have xp with the rapid rise D's?
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Old 10-05-06, 07:58 PM   #17
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A good set of stainless steel fenders. They will last forever and are solid as a rock. Giles Berthoud makes a fine pair for about $50.



--A
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Old 10-05-06, 08:45 PM   #18
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Lots of cool ideas everyone. I like them all.

I'll probably keep my fork just because I actually ride this commuter bike with rack and all on some pretty nasty singletrack once a week. (I said I'm a cheapo!)

I'm surprised nobody mentioned slicks - I actually have them, but I found they didn't add enough to my commute to warrant switching them back for offroading.

Lights are definitely a go. I'd love a battery powered display - get this - that I can use RUNNING! (I run-commute a lot too, and the LED headlights aren't strong enough for me. I carry a big camelbak when I run...)

I can't decide whether to go clip/platform combo or the simple strap. The only problem I foresee with the clip/platform is that I don't plan on ever wearing clipped shoes on my commute - I wear my work shoes usually. However, the possibility for off-road climbing with clips sure is sweet...!
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Old 10-06-06, 08:58 AM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CastIron
I dream of Rohloff.
That's probably the most upscale you'll get out of the commute crowd. Not quite like the roadies pondering carbon wheelsets and the mountain bike guys dicussing custom-valved suspension.
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Old 10-06-06, 09:10 AM   #20
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Brooks saddle
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Old 10-06-06, 07:48 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by agarose2000
...bang for the buck, pack for the punch. No frivolous expenditures, but pricey, effective...
New bike: Surly Long Haul Trucker. Cheater Brakes. Tubus Logo rear rack. Ortlieb panniers.
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