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  1. #1
    Dirty old man in training
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    New commuter bike advice: build new frame + old parts vs. buy new bike

    Hello,

    I've been lurking here a while and started commuting a few weeks ago. I live in Cary NC and take the bus to work in the morning and bike home (bus has a bike rack) 2 days per week so far and hope to increase to at least 3 days/week. The route I take home is about 11 miles and relatively flat (a few minor hills) through rural and suburban areas. So far I've been a wimp and avoided riding in the rain, in the dark, or when it's cold. Hopefully this winter I'll strengthen my commuting manhood some and at least ride in the cold.

    I'm getting a case of new bike fever and am not sure what to do: buy a new bike, build a new bike, buy a frame and scavange parts off of my road bike, or do nothing. I would like a road bike that fits me better than my current bike, is more comfortable, and a little less "twitchy". The new bike/frame would be used for commuting home and maybe weekend rides with my kids.

    I think my road bike is too big for me, like the top tube is too long. I feel like I am stretched out on the bike even with the saddle all the way forward, I feel like my butt is too far forward on the saddle. My saddle height is probably OK (set with heel over the pedal axle and slight bend in the knee). The bike is 25" C-T, I am 6'2" 185lbs with 34.5" inseam. I mostly grip the bars on top, I only go onto the drops in a headwind. I am riding 700x28 road tires and an anatomic gel saddle (narrow like a road saddle, not wide, and has a notch for your privates) and sometimes the ride is a bit harsh. Either that or I am getting soft and wimpy.

    I have been researching this and think a steel frame cyclocross bike would suit my needs: steel frame for a more forgiving ride and some cross bikes have more relaxed geometry than a typical road bike (longer wheelbase, head angle not as steep). Maybe comments about steel being more comfortable than aluminum is hype but I read it more often than not.

    I am riding a 1991 Raleigh Olympian road bike. The bike has a technium frame: 6061 aluminum main tubes, chro-moly fork and rear triangle, and mostly Shimano Exage components (hubs, crankset, deraileurs, brakes + levers). I believe Sora is the modern day equivalent of Exage (component quality somewhere between the crap on a muffy and entry level racing groups). I have not put a lot of miles on the bike and the components have held up pretty good.

    I do not have a place to store my bike indoors while at work. A few people ride bikes to work and we chain our bikes to signposts in the parking lot. I'd love to have a shiny new bike with nice components like a LeMond Poprad, Jamis Nova, or Bianchi Volpe, but I am hesitant to buy a $1000+ bike for commuting knowing I'd leave it outside 2, 3, maybe 4 days a week. I could always put a cover over the bike but where to store the cover? Rack trunk maybe.

    I think a middle ground is buying a Cross Check frame that fits me (and treat it with frame saver) and reuse as many parts as possible from my Raleigh. I would still need to get new brakes, stem, brake cable hangers, maybe BB. I can always upgrade components later.

    Any thoughts, comments, advice?

  2. #2
    yes
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    Probably a better way to decrease your reach would be to get a shorter stem, and move the seat back. Moving the seat forward is better when you are pedaling hard. If the seat is far forward, and when you are not going pedaling hard, you will be putting too much weight on your hands. There are some good fit guides online that explain this concept very well.
    If you want to switch frames to something like the crosscheck, you will probably need a new headset and stem, new front deraileur (clamp size may be different), and you will likely need to respace your rear wheel (it is likely 127mm or so instead of 130mm).
    You also may change your fit preference after riding for a year, so I'd take it in and see what a mech says in terms of a stem swap or new frame.
    I'm also in Cary. PM me if you want any info on riding or shops in the area.

  3. #3
    Senior Member BigDaddyPete's Avatar
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    I'm riding a '90 Raleigh SuperCourse with the technium frame and I love it as my commuter. So I would tell you to keep it. It is a much better commuter than anything else I have ever ridden.

  4. #4
    not a role model JeffS's Avatar
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    I've got conflicting thoughts. First, I'd like to see you on some wider tires. At the same time, I'd hate to recommend spending money on a new bike until you're more sure what you need.

    I agree that a shorter stem may be in order. Moving the seat to fix reach issues will only cause knee pain, or at the least and inefficient stroke.

    If you're wanting a cross bike, here's something to consider:
    http://raleigh.craigslist.org/bik/243188711.html

    No relation to me, just remembered seeing it. Shouldn't be a problem to fix.

  5. #5
    your nightmare gal chipcom's Avatar
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    Treat yourself to some bike shopping before you make a decision. Go to your area shops and test ride as many as you want. That will give you an idea of what you want and what size frames fit. Take your old bike with you and point out to the lbs wrenches your problem with it and get their recommendations. You may find that your old bike can easily fit your needs with some changes and upgrades, or you may fall in love with a new bike.
    "Let us hope our weapons are never needed --but do not forget what the common people knew when they demanded the Bill of Rights: An armed citizenry is the first defense, the best defense, and the final defense against tyranny. If guns are outlawed, only the government will have guns. Only the police, the secret police, the military, the hired servants of our rulers. Only the government -- and a few outlaws. I intend to be among the outlaws" - Edward Abbey

  6. #6
    Dirty old man in training
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    Thanks for your comments. I think I'll take my Raleigh to a LBS and ask them about the fit.

    I want to try wider tires, I might be able to go to a 700x32 street tire but I doubt anything larger will fit within the brakes. I got 7 tires for $4 at an REI garage sale a few years ago, some road and some cross. The knobby cross tires would not fit.

  7. #7
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    I know what I'd do, because it's exactly what I did in the same situation - found an ugly-but-sound touring frameset with a fit to my liking, sanded it down and gave it a rattle-can paint job, and swapped out most components from one of my road bikes. The frame was $39 on ebay, and the only new components I really needed were a $16 set of Tektro Oryx brakes from JensonUSA. I've since bought a few other new components, but to me, buying a new bike or new frame for commuting doesn't make much sense. Commuting seems to turn any bike into a beater pretty fast, so I figure you might as well just start with one.

  8. #8
    Yup pyze-guy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chipcom
    Treat yourself to some bike shopping before you make a decision. Go to your area shops and test ride as many as you want. That will give you an idea of what you want and what size frames fit. Take your old bike with you and point out to the lbs wrenches your problem with it and get their recommendations. You may find that your old bike can easily fit your needs with some changes and upgrades, or you may fall in love with a new bike.
    Exactly what I was going to recommend doing.
    When sadness fills my days
    It's time to turn away
    And then tomorrow's dreams
    Become reality to me

  9. #9
    Dirty old man in training
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    I bought some Conti Contact 700x32 tires last night and they fit on my Raleigh, although I only have 1/8" clearance from the center of the tread to the brakes. I'll be interested to see if the ride is more comfortable now.

    Just for grins I took some measurements on my Raleigh: 41" wheelbase, 17 5/8" chainstay length, 22 5/8" top tube. Almost the same as Trek 520 touring bike. I haven't figure out how to measure the head tube angle. I think I probably already have a bike with relaxed geometry. Need to look at the stem length/rise next.

    Thanks again for all the advice.

  10. #10
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    I have your same measurements and can tell you that the reason why your current bike feels too big is because it is too big. You should be riding a size 59 or 60 road bike or a 57 cross bike. I commute on a Jamis Nova and happen to think that steel framed cross or touring bikes make the best commuters. It is really up to you to decide if you want to build or buy a complete one but perhaps a used cross bike would be the best option for you. You should be able to find one for $5-600 on ebay.

  11. #11
    ♋ ☮♂ ☭ ☯ -=(8)=-'s Avatar
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    See this thread.
    CX Winter Commuter project is complete!

    I say keep your commuter cheap and beat-upable and treat yourself
    to a nice new roadbike for fun rides and sunny days if you still have
    the new bike bug!

  12. #12
    domestique squeakywheel's Avatar
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    The problem with moving parts off your old bike to a new frame is that you have no useable bike during the conversion process. One "oops, forgot I need one of those" realizations and you could be out of service for several weeks.

    Are you thinking of doing the work yourself if you build a new bike up from a frame? If you don't know definitively that you are interested in that sort of thing, then don't do it. I wouldn't pay the LBS to build it up either. I think custom builds cost more than buying an existing whole bike. So, I'd either build it myself because I want to or I'd buy an existing complete bike.

  13. #13
    your nightmare gal chipcom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by squeakywheel
    I wouldn't pay the LBS to build it up either. I think custom builds cost more than buying an existing whole bike.
    It depends on the LBS. Yes, the cost of the parts individually will usually cost more than if you bought an off-the-shelf bike...but once you add in all the stuff you add or swap later, it may be a wash. I don't know about others, but my LBS has charged me next to nothing to build up two frames from scratch...of course I bought all the parts from them too, but even those were discounted from msrp. Granted, I am one of their best customers - having a good relationship with your LBS and not always rushing to buy 'all' your stuff online has it's perks.
    "Let us hope our weapons are never needed --but do not forget what the common people knew when they demanded the Bill of Rights: An armed citizenry is the first defense, the best defense, and the final defense against tyranny. If guns are outlawed, only the government will have guns. Only the police, the secret police, the military, the hired servants of our rulers. Only the government -- and a few outlaws. I intend to be among the outlaws" - Edward Abbey

  14. #14
    Urban Biker jimmuter's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by squeakywheel
    The problem with moving parts off your old bike to a new frame is that you have no useable bike during the conversion process. One "oops, forgot I need one of those" realizations and you could be out of service for several weeks.
    Or in my case, a few months. This is very true because everything is not going to work out the way you originally plan. I guess all's well that ends well. I now have my bad weather beater (a 1997 Trek 720 hybrid) and a brand new 2007 Specialized Tricross Comp that I'll ride in on nice days and use for events. The Trek was down for a few months while I waited for parts and figured out what I needed. I had originally ordered an '06 Tricross but they ran out of my size. I was without a bike from April until July. Believe me, you don't want that to happen to you.

  15. #15
    your nightmare gal chipcom's Avatar
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    Dude, what happened to Lumberg?
    "Let us hope our weapons are never needed --but do not forget what the common people knew when they demanded the Bill of Rights: An armed citizenry is the first defense, the best defense, and the final defense against tyranny. If guns are outlawed, only the government will have guns. Only the police, the secret police, the military, the hired servants of our rulers. Only the government -- and a few outlaws. I intend to be among the outlaws" - Edward Abbey

  16. #16
    Dirty old man in training
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    If I built a bike the only thing I would get my LBS to do is maybe install the headset and bottom bracket on a new frame. I already have a decent collection of bike tools. I did ask Santa for a repair stand. I enjoy working on bikes, so I think I'd really like building up a bike or fixing up an old frame.

    Test rode the Conti contact tires yesterday, I rode down the greenway to a local park and rode some trails (paved, hardpack gravel, a little bit of dirt and grass). Me likes! I wouldn't dream of going off pavement with my old 700x28 slicks.

    Problems with parts delays noted.

  17. #17
    yes
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    Quote Originally Posted by jz19
    I have your same measurements and can tell you that the reason why your current bike feels too big is because it is too big. You should be riding a size 59 or 60 road bike or a 57 cross bike. I commute on a Jamis Nova and happen to think that steel framed cross or touring bikes make the best commuters. It is really up to you to decide if you want to build or buy a complete one but perhaps a used cross bike would be the best option for you. You should be able to find one for $5-600 on ebay.
    His top tube is about 57cm. Seems like his bike should be fine based on your recommended size. His seat tube measurement was center to top.

  18. #18
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    If I wanted a steel frame, had 500-600 dollars to spend and wasn't faced with several killer hills, I'd go for a new single-speed like a Redline 925 or a Raleigh One Way, rather than a used cyclocross bike.

  19. #19
    just keep riding BluesDawg's Avatar
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    You might consider looking for a used bike with a decent frame the right size and swap out components until you have the best from both (that will work) on the bike you plan to ride. You could probably do this for less than the cost of a new frame. If you are very lucky you might even end up with two working bikes. You could then sell the too large bike to pay for more upgrades for the bike you keep.
    The more you ride your bike, the less your ass will hurt.

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