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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 04-15-08, 06:43 PM   #1
talleymonster
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New guy here.....Guess what I want to ask you?

Hi Everybody. New guy here, just joined the forum today after lurking for only about an hour.

I've been wanting to commute for a while now, for various reasons: Gas is expensive, I could use the exercise, I can't stand traffic, I hate waiting 30+ minutes just to get out of the parking garage, etc. Really, I just want to make a drastic change to my everyday routine.

I travel about 17 miles round trip to and from work each day. It's relatively flat, and pavement the entire way.

And here is the question: What kind of Bike should I get?
I'm a little bit bigger...220lbs. I think I would pretty much only ride pavement. Maybe the occasional cut through a dirt parking lot or something. I don't know much about the different bike styles (Road, Cyclocross, Mountain, etc). I think I would like a wider tire. Definitely some lights and a rack/pack or two. Not sure what else. I'm browsing the pic thread right now for ideas!

Like I said, not a huge budget, but maybe with CraigsList I could score pretty good.
If you wouldn't mind taking a look, here is my local CL Bikes page. Maybe you could point out a good bike for me.

I could always get upgrades later if I needed to.

p.s. I did a search for "what bike" first and I realised that this is an exhausted question. So if you've read this far, thanks for your help!
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Old 04-15-08, 06:46 PM   #2
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Oops...forgot to add that I'm in Las Vegas, Nevada.....if that matters.
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Old 04-15-08, 07:02 PM   #3
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I would get a hybrid for this chore. You can pick up a lot of them off craigslist for very little cash. Most can take racks and fenders so you shouldn't have any issues there. With the larger tires and front fork, it should ride very nice on road and dirt roads. That's what I'd do anyways.
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Old 04-15-08, 07:12 PM   #4
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I'm new to bike commuting too. I bought my bike about 6 weeks ago, just before I heard of this site. I first went to friends that I know that ride and asked them, and looked around online, and I got advice that was all over the map. I finally went to REI in Seattle, and narrowed it down by category and price there, and went with that. (Not saying you should, just saying that's what I did.) I wound up buying their Novara Forza, which is a hybrid - flat handlebars, large diameter wheels, but wide, treaded tires. My commute has some rough spots, and Seattle averages 288 days a year of rain. So far I like it a lot. It's just the thing for me for bombing around town on, through parks and to work, errands, etc. I'm on it more than I expected. I'm already thinking about eventually getting a road bike for longer trips and weekend tours. (Like I said, I have friends that ride.) But I'm sure I'll still use this one as the urban assault bike and commuter.

Take your time and keep looking. You might see something and say "That's IT!" I sort of found this one that way. I am by no means an expert on bikes, but after looking around, I picked out this Forza and am really happy with it.

Good luck!
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Old 04-15-08, 07:18 PM   #5
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I spent a couple months working in Seattle and the surrounding areas back in '04. That rain was UNREAL. I'm born and raised in the desert....my body is not acclimated to that kind of weather.
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Old 04-15-08, 07:44 PM   #6
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Go to bike shops and test ride, test ride, test ride. Ask about bargains specifically. Look for used bike shops (usually found near universities). Even if you buy used, you'll get a better idea of what you like if you've tried a lot of bikes. Bike shopping is fun too! Be patient and you can find a good used bike.

Whether you buy new or used you are probably going to be buying upgrades for commuting
My recommended accessories for a budget:

$80-$100 for flat resistant tires (schwalbe marathon plus, specialized armadillo, or similar). There are no shortcuts when it comes to tires. The cheapest tires I've been happy with are Bontrager hardcase at $35 each, but the armadillos and schwalbe marathon plus are better tires.

$110 for Fenix 2xAA headlight, Eneloop batteries, and Superflash tail light setup

$30ish for fenders if you want to ride in the wet/rain.

$30ish for a cheap rear rack unless you like backpacks. Backpacks are too sweaty as the weather warms imho

$30ish for affordable pannier to go with your rack. Wald baskets are great as an alternative and will hold most bags you already own (wald baskets are a little heavy but that doesn't matter unless you have a lot of climbs to deal with)

$40 helmet (don't spend more. Go to the LBS and get this)

$30 frame pump

wedge bag loaded with a spare tube, patch kit, Alan wrench set, tire levers, multitool. ~$25-$35
This minimal list is nearly $400. You can skip lights if you never get caught at night, but spending about $20 on "be seen" lights would be wise regardless. The fenix/superflash light setup I listed is a great value. You can skip the fenders if you skip riding in the wet. You can skip the rack and panniers if you don't mind a backpack. You need the good tires, frame pump, helmet, and repair kit ($175 worth of stuff).

Don't burn yourself out at first. 17mi rt is a pretty long commute to ride daily if you are normally sedentary. Set realistic goals for yourself and give yourself plenty of time to get to work on time and "cool down" once you get there.
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Old 04-15-08, 07:45 PM   #7
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Don't focus too much on "the perfect bike", just get a cheap one that works for now. No matter what bike you get, a year from now you are going to hate it. And that's good because it will show how much you learned and it will eventually become your beater bike. The nice thing about beater bikes is you just don't care about it, so you're free to go any where at any time.

Chipcom had a great quote, something like "You're then engine, focus on riding smoothly, your route choices, and how to ride with traffic will give you the most results". Some thing like that.

Every year the same things seem to be posted here, so just lurk for a few minutes a day and you'll pick up a lot. On weekends or free time with light traffic, explore new routes. Baby steps, start off with small distances and work up to longer ones as your confidence and ability grows. If you've stuck it out a full year, then you're a true maniac and should think about getting a better bike. If you're not riding at night now, you won't need to think about lights until fall. With other accessories, experiment with used cheap stuff if you can. What works for one person doesn't necessarily work anyone else. Then after you've found it, then buy new quality.
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Old 04-15-08, 07:52 PM   #8
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Wow, you CL has more bikes in a dat than i get on CL in a year. Go ride some stuff then look at CL again. Some screaming deals on there and i saw 5 or 6 that would work great for you.
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Old 04-15-08, 07:59 PM   #9
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This bike w/these tires

Also add the rest of the recommended accessories listed above.

Ask me about upgrades if you're willing to divulge your budget.
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Old 04-15-08, 08:08 PM   #10
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Wow! Thanks for all the replies!

As far as my route being 17 miles round trip.....I work construction and although I'm a big and out of shape I can still handle physical work. I'm not saying that the ride will kick my butt at first as I'm sure it will. I'm saying bring it on, I'm up for the challenge!
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Old 04-15-08, 08:10 PM   #11
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I saw these two on CL just now. Any good?

Trek 970

Trek 800
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Old 04-15-08, 08:10 PM   #12
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Surly Crosscheck would get my vote (when doesn't it) or one of the 800-1000 dollar touring bikes like the surly long haul trucker, Fuji Touring, Bianchi Volpe, or Jamis Aurora.

Another option is to go used and cheap. Ride something not too great for a while until you know exactly what you want in a bike.

I would not want flat bars myself, thus those ccomendations. A hybrid might work as well. Also, Jeffbeerman's suggestions as far as what else to get are very good.

I know it might sound like alot or a bike, in fact I'd probably erase the idea of saving any money, at least as far as the first year goes, when you have to buy all the equipment. However there are numerous non financial benefits, as you seem aware of

As far as craigslist goes, could you provide us with maybe your height and inseam measurments so we can get an idea of what may fit you?
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Old 04-15-08, 08:14 PM   #13
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Inseam like as in pants size?

Well I wear 36x32 pants
and I am 6'1''
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Old 04-15-08, 08:17 PM   #14
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For an 8.5 mile commute on pavement you'll find it a little faster and easier if you have skinny, slick tires. Right now I have smooth 1.5" tires on my mountain bike (bad weather commuter) and 1 1/4" tires on my tour bike (normal commuter). It's a lot less work than riding with fat, knobby, off road tires. You should also get a bike without any suspension since it is unecessary and inefficient on pavement.

I remind myself of a broken record when I tell new commuters over and over to get a bike with the handlebars the same height as the seat. If the bars are higher, you may feel more confident and comfortable in your upright position, but you lose a lot in aerodynamics and pedalling efficiency, and the bike will eventually seem frustratingly slow for your commuting distance. Racers and fast sport riders like the handlebars several inches lower than the seat. For commuters, they should be about the same height. (Some people may disagree.)

I'm assuming you have a plan for sweat management, like access to shower at work. I can often get to work without getting too sweaty because its cooler here than Las Vegas and I live uphill from work so I coast in (and then sweat going home). Carrying your stuff on the rear rack in a pannier ("saddle bag" that hangs on the side of the rack) or large trunk bag (blocky bag that sits on top of the rear rack) is going to be a little more comfortable and less sweaty than carrying stuff in a backpack. On hot days I ride in bike shorts and a T shirt or short sleeved dress shirt, and carry work clothes rolled up to minimize wrinkling. I also keep at least one full set of clothes and a spare pair of shoes at work all the time.

I ride cheap used bikes to lessen the likelihood or pain of theft. Plus, I use a Kryptonite U lock for the rear wheel, and loop onto that a fat cable for the front wheel, and a seat cable.

Do at least one dry run on your day off to time yourself, and even so allow plenty of extra time for locking and unlocking, loading and unloading, and cooling off.

Enjoy!
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Old 04-15-08, 08:17 PM   #15
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This bike just showed up on CL, too.

http://lasvegas.craigslist.org/bik/643929934.html

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Old 04-15-08, 08:22 PM   #16
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I saw these two on CL just now. Any good?

Trek 970

Trek 800
Either one of these would be a great commuter and give you a lot of options. I spent years commuting on mountain bikes with no front suspension just like these. Also, there is a 54 trek that is recently listed on your CL for $250 that would be a wonderful bike if you are leaning toward road bikes and the size is right.

A pair of slick tires and the right stem can make a rigid mountain bike like either of the two above a very fast and efficient machine.

Make sure when you buy used that the parts are not too worn out and are in reasonable condition. You could easily spend what you paid for the bike if you have to replace the drive train. Purchasing a $10 park chain checker and taking it with you when you look at the bike can tell you a lot about the maintenance of the bike. First, measure the chain to see if it is too stretched (this is pretty evident with the tool or just ask us how). If the chain is too streched out (fails the park tool test), then you probably don't want the bike if you are spending less than a couple hundred dollars. Then, ask if it is on its original chain. If the owner makes some comment like "I didn't know chains wore out" (and most will), you can assume that the gearing is also not worn out since the original chain is still good.
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Old 04-15-08, 08:22 PM   #17
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For trips over 5 miles one way I wouldn't go for a mountain bike or a hybrid. Road bikes on pavement are much faster and lighter. Fenders are good but you may not need them. Like someone else said get a mechanically sound bike and start commuting. You'll learn what you want to spend more cash on.
I'd recommend a steel frame road bike 10 - 16 (double) or 18 - 24 (triple) speed. 27" or 700c wheels. To help your selection

$75 - $200
no long add-on suicide brake levers
27 lbs or less - most bikes over 30 are crap, most under 23 are good
chrome fork or stays are a fair indicator
alloy, not steel wheels
no cotter pin on cranks
shifters on bar ends or down tube versus stem
eyelets on front fork and rear for attaching rack
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Old 04-15-08, 08:22 PM   #18
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I'm assuming you have a plan for sweat management....
I work outdoors in construction in Las Vegas. I sweat no matter what I'll be doing.

The ride to work will be much easier as it is slightly downhill in some spots.
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Old 04-15-08, 08:32 PM   #19
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Inseam like as in pants size?

Well I wear 36x32 pants
and I am 6'1''
Biking inseam is a few inches longer than pants inseam. You ram a large atlas or similar oversized book as high into your crotch as you can, while holding the top edge of the book parallel to the floor, and then measure from the top of the book to the floor (barefoot or in socks). You'll probably get something like 35 inches. See picture.

You mentioned you work in construction, so I assume you can arrive at work a bit sweaty. However, you may find that heavy work jeans chafe or are just too sweaty and could lead to saddle sores or a fungal rash or something like that "down there". If you can ride in shorts, or better yet, bike shorts, you'd be better off. Mountain bike shorts are a bit more "normal" looking than the lycra road bike shorts, but still have the protective thin padding in the crotch that helps avoid trouble like that. If you ride in shorts or pants not designed for biking look for ones that have very flat seams to minimize chafing.
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Old 04-15-08, 08:37 PM   #20
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the red mountain bike is too small for you - a recipe for knee pain. So is the blue trek road bike, probably. At a guess you might need a 60 cm or so road frame, and that's a 54 cm. I'm 5'11 and ride a 56 cm road bike and I could go bigger. I'm not sure what size mountain bike frame you would need.

Last edited by cooker; 04-15-08 at 08:44 PM.
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Old 04-15-08, 08:49 PM   #21
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I would keep the search for bikes outfitted with 700c tires, most MTB are 26", and the ride will be a little stiffer. The 700c tires provide a smoother ride and can offer variety of tread options, as well as reasonable PSI rating 80 - 100 #s, good for your size.

Hybrids provide either straight bar, or slight riser types, Road bikes the drop down bars.

Traffic on roads you travel will also be a good item to consider, starts/stops for lights or cross intersections, a lighter bike will handle the take offs smoother as long as you remember to downshift on approach.

Mirror for left side is also item to consider.

Just my 2 cents.

Also do not be afraid to test drive LBS rides and get the feel of the right bike to help narrow your search. Also listen as they recommend a fit for your experience as well. And look around at accessories, as many can be found on net for some time lower price, but not always, remember LBS maybe your best friend when service is required.
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Old 04-15-08, 08:51 PM   #22
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One suggestion and maybe you can clear up a story I have heard in the meantime.

I have heard that las Vegas is really good for Pawn Shops because people come there to gamble and loose everything, then pawn stuff a LOT. Maybe they have a selection of bikes.

Man, I feel so cheap repeating gossip.
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Old 04-15-08, 08:52 PM   #23
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"LBS" = "local bike store"
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Old 04-15-08, 09:19 PM   #24
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This bike just showed up on CL, too.

http://lasvegas.craigslist.org/bik/643929934.html

Ooohhh...for 17 miles, that looks good. Couple things though: Do you need to carry lots of tools and gear? and will that bike be comfortable for you? If the answers are "yes" and "I dunno", then find out if it has eyelets for a rear rack and take it for a long test ride and see how your arms, wrists, shoulders, and back hold up. If you're buying off CL, don't worry about numb nuts and weak legs on the test ride, the first thing you'll do is change the saddle anyway and the legs will only get stronger. If you're at a bike shop, then definitely don't leave until your satisfied w/ the comfort of the saddle. That's the one piece of equipment you don't skimp on. Also haggle w/ them on price and freebies (patch kit, spare tube, blinkies, water bottle, cage, etc.)

A minimum, you'll need a helmet, front and rear blinky, maybe a headlight if you ride in the dark and the lights of Vegas aren't enough to see by, a patch kit, spare tube and tire levers and a bottle cage. You can work on getting the rest as you need it.
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Old 04-15-08, 09:23 PM   #25
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The Nishiki Colorado on CL from Sunday looks like it might be more your size, but I don't know for sure. If the seller will tell you what the standover height of the top tube of the frame is, and its an inch or two less than your biking inseam, it would likely fit. Of course I don't know how much he wants.

I said the blue Trek was probably too small, but upon reflexion it might suffice until you decide to get something better. If a bike is too small you can make some adjustments like getting a longer seatpost as a temporary fix.

EDIT: I See jvossarian likes it!

By the way, my experience buying used bikes is that within a short time you usually need to spend $50-$100 on repairs.

Last edited by cooker; 04-15-08 at 09:29 PM.
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