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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 12-02-06, 06:42 AM   #1
Easy Rider_PDX
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Need ideas for new commuter bike...

Hello commuters!
This is my third winter of bike commuting and I'm looking for ideas for a new bike to improve upon my current "rain bike". At the moment that's a 2003 Klein Attitude V (hardtail mtn bike) with full fenders and Nimbus EX 26x1.5 tires. My commute is about 11 miles round trip with some killer hills. About half of it is on a very busy four lane highway with a narrow shoulder/bike lane along the side. In winter that bike lane is a dark and treacherous obstacle course of huge piles of wet leaves, twigs, sticks, branches, beer cans, hub caps, glass. You know the story! In summer that same bike lane is dry and pretty clean, so at that time of year I ride my 2004 Lemond Buenos Aires road bike to work. The BA is so light, fast and nimble though that it's pretty much spoiled me. Getting back on the much heavier Klein this winter has seemed like a chore. More imortantly the Klein has always felt kind of squirelly to me, a little sketchy, twitchy and unpredictable. Not sure if that's the geometry of the bike or the Rock Shox front fork or a combo of the two. It might be a great off road bike, but I haven't ridden off road in years and never have with the Klein.
So I'm wanting to find a bike that's lighter, quicker and a little more stable and sure footed in the debris zone. We have very wet winters here, so obviously I'll need to add fenders and probably a rack too. I prefer drop bars to flat, so the cyclocross bikes have really gotten my attention. So far I'm pretty interested in the Bianchi Axis and Volpe models, the Cannondale cross bikes and the Felt F1X, so I'd really like to hear from any owners of those bikes. One problem is I really want a triple chainring and most cross bikes seem to be doubles. Anyone know how cosly it is to have the LBS swap in a triple? Or is that even possible? I'm wide open to other bike ideas as well. Price range is about $1300-1600 USD.
Thanks for the help!
Gordon
Portland, Oregon
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Old 12-02-06, 09:12 AM   #2
voileauciel
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Well, I ride a Bianchi Bergamo through a similar set of conditions and I can definitely recommend it.

A few other good options: Specialized Globe (though slightly heavy), Jamis Coda Sport or the Trek Commuter.

Note that I've pointed out models that are essentially made for commuting, as in they have fenders and rack mounts, and solid forks. The Bianchi, the only of those I've mentioned with which I have experience, is a pretty good value for the money. I looked into the Globe and almost got one, but couldn't legitimise the cost for myself.

The best thing I can say is go out and check out a few different models that appeal to you and see which one you like best.


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Old 12-02-06, 04:20 PM   #3
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Lets see, you want light, fast, stable handling, fender and rack mounts, clearance for commuter tires (700x28), and won't take it off road.
I'd go for a 'light touring bike', like a Soma Smoothie ES, or a Jamis Aurora. (Surly pacer is close, but has no rack mounts). The Volpe and XCheck would be good too, but if it were me, i'd prefer a lower BB (center of gravity) since you're not going off road.
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Old 12-02-06, 08:29 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bokes
The Volpe and XCheck would be good too, but if it were me, i'd prefer a lower BB (center of gravity) since you're not going off road.

Yes, I think you're on to something there bokes, thanks for that post. Maybe a cyclocross bike isn't ideal for my commuting purposes, since it's not really designed for commuting per se. The ride might be more twitchy or harsh than necessary. A tourer might be a smoother, more comfortable ride, yet still offer the options of a rack, full fenders, somewhat larger tires and serious rain brakes. Right now my attention is focused on Trek's relatively new "Portland" model, which I think I read somewhere uses one of their touring frames, but the bike is apparently aimed at wet weather commuters like me. Hence the bikes' name but also the disc brakes, fenders and triple chainring. Decent (if not great) Shimano 105 components too. Plus it's named for my home town, which is kinda cool. Anybody own this bike? How do you like it??

G
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Old 12-02-06, 08:46 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by voileauciel
Well, I ride a Bianchi Bergamo through a similar set of conditions and I can definitely recommend it.

A few other good options: Specialized Globe (though slightly heavy), Jamis Coda Sport or the Trek Commuter.

Thanks for the reply voileauciel. Those all look like nice bikes, but for me personally I'm not a big fan of flat bars anymore. I really like the drop bars of a road bike and the options they give you for varying your hand positions. So the Trek Commuter you mention, is that the "Portland" model? If so, yes that one looks like a dandy and I'm on it like white on rice at the moment. Thanks.
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Old 12-02-06, 08:55 PM   #6
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I ride a fixed gear cross for commuting and it's my favorite bike. It's lighter than the roadie and comfortable for long rides. Just my $0.02.
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Old 12-02-06, 11:41 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bokes
(Surly pacer is close, but has no rack mounts)
Eh? Take another look. It does indeed, they just need to share with the fenders. I've done this before, on a loaded touring bike, no less; it presents no problems. The Pacer would make an excellent choice for the needs you describe. It's an inexpensive frame, you could equip it quite nicely for the price range given.
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Old 12-03-06, 12:10 AM   #8
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The Volpe's popular 'round here.

I personally find immense pleasure in building up a commuter from used parts. Instead of spending what, a thousand plus on a Trek Portland that's been mass-engineered to fit what Trek thinks the needs of the average commuter are, build one up without spending much on parts here and there, just the way you want it. The bike becomes 'yours'.
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Old 12-31-06, 09:41 AM   #9
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Axis

I use an Axis as my commuter, I have only praise for this bike. Tough enough to handle the daily grind of commuting but agile enough for a spirited Road Ride. Also looked at the Volpe which I like still, but the Axis just did it for me.
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Old 12-31-06, 11:00 AM   #10
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If you like Lemonds, how about a Poprad Disc. It seems ideally suited to your purposes and disc brakes are nice, I'll have them on my upcoming super commuter build, ideally suited for winters in the PNW:

http://2006.lemondbikes.com/2006_bik...rad_disc.shtml

EDIT: fenders and a rack may be a problem on the Poprad disc, although there are a couple of decent compromise solutions.
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Old 12-31-06, 11:06 AM   #11
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I'll throw out another idea in your price range that will likely never get mentioned anywhere else on these boards -- the Gunnar Cross Hairs.

Gunnar/Waterford have a great disc brake mount, inside the rear triangle and I believe that option is available for the Cross Hairs:

http://www.gunnarbikes.com/crosshairs.php

and the disc brake mount:
http://www.gunnarbikes.com/
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Old 12-31-06, 07:06 PM   #12
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The good thing about cross bikes is that you can run big rubber... if you want to. Even if you end up running narrower, high pressure tires, you have the option of running big balloonie 42's if you want. After running everything from 28's to 42's on my Crosscheck I settled on some 35's with a street biased tread.

One other thing I love about my Crosscheck is that it has semi-horizontal rear dropouts, as well as a derailleur hanger. This has allowed me to try out a bunch of different drivetrain set-ups as well.

My commuter started life with a Sram Spectro 7 speed internally geared hub. I got tired (literally) of the rearward weight and poor performance in 1st and 2nd gear, so I switched to a 48x18 single speed. Then I tried 2 rings up front with a single in the rear (38/48x16) and a chain tensioner in between. Then I decided that the tensioner was pretty much the same as running a rear derailleur. So I got a wheel with an 8 speed cassette and threw on a cheap derailleur and twist grip and went back to a single chainring up front. I really like the 1x8 drivetrain for commuting. In my opinion it has a similar range but is more efficient than the Sram hub at least.

I dig single speed, and if my commute wasn't so long and hilly, I would keep it SS. I didn't mind mashing it up the hills, but I hated spinning it out so much on the way down. I still have my single speed wheel and chain and can convert the bike back to SS in about 20 minutes. But I digress. The Crosscheck allowed me to try 4 different drivetrain set-ups on a single frame. I experimented with at least as many handlebars before settling on a mustach bar. The Crosscheck's not super light, but nor do I think the bike's THAT heavy. It also rides nice and has rack and fender mounts.

DanO
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Old 01-02-07, 08:14 AM   #13
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I will have to agree with the touring bike suggestion given your requirements.
A Jamis Aurora, Trek 520 or Surly Long Haul Trucker (LHT) should all take 32mm or greater tires with fenders, have drop bars and triple cranksets.
Craig
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Old 01-02-07, 11:59 AM   #14
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I use a Kona JTS for exactly that. Plenty of fender room, rack mounts...and now some slicks for the trail. Plus I can strip the stuff off quickly and go for long weekend rides.

I stayed away from discs due to complexity and some stories of torque issues. Looked at the Volpe and the Axis -- but three LBS's warned me about Bianchi's awful customer service.

Jamis Nova is also a nice bike.
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Old 01-02-07, 12:15 PM   #15
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My Specialized Tricross Comp has a triple ring. It fits in your price range if you can catch the shop giving 10% off or so. http://www.specialized.com/bc/SBCBkModel.jsp?spid=22302. I think it meets your criteria.

edit: see pictures of mine here: http://www.bikeforums.net/showthread...19#post3525119

Last edited by jimmuter; 01-02-07 at 12:20 PM.
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Old 01-02-07, 01:48 PM   #16
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My Specialized Tricross Comp has a triple ring. It fits in your price range if you can catch the shop giving 10% off or so. http://www.specialized.com/bc/SBCBkModel.jsp?spid=22302. I think it meets your criteria.

edit: see pictures of mine here: http://www.bikeforums.net/showthread...19#post3525119

I was just going to mention the Tricross. They are pretty versatile bikes with rack/fender mounts, and a triple up front.
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Old 01-02-07, 02:58 PM   #17
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I have a Trek Portland and like it a lot. I have a 15 mi RT, hilly commute on mostly suburban roads, a little bit of MUP, and some very busy urban streets. I have a rack and the stock fenders on my Portland. I have seen pics of others with full fenders on it. It has enough clearance to get 35 mm tires on. I've been impressed with the wheels. Although they're low spoke count, they have not needed to be trued once despite riding on Boston streets. I love the disc brakes too (no need to flame, I know all the pros and cons).

It is pricey, but I wanted this for my main ride/fast bike. I use it on group rides on the weekends.

Having said all that, with the Portland as my main ride, I wanted something beefier as a backup. I'm re-building my Bridgestone X0-5 as a snow tank.

The Volpe strikes me as a very good value, but the discs and the components on the Portland are what pulled me away from the Volpe. Take a look at the Schwinn DBX, too.
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Old 01-02-07, 03:16 PM   #18
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On question that might be relevant:

How do you store the bike when you leave it at work? I would be pretty sketched out about leaving a bike with expensive disk brakes and other kit chained up outside. I have an old steel beater that I use for the ride to work.

Just a thought.
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Old 01-02-07, 11:52 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by superslomo
On question that might be relevant:

How do you store the bike when you leave it at work? I would be pretty sketched out about leaving a bike with expensive disk brakes and other kit chained up outside. I have an old steel beater that I use for the ride to work.

Just a thought.
And a very good thought. Portland has a major bike theft problem.
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