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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 05-13-08, 02:45 PM   #1
muckthatguy
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Probably an over-asked set of questions.

So crunch time is upon me. I'm finally moving to an urban area (Milwaukee, WI), where I'll be able to commute by bicycle without immediate fear for my life. I've owned nice* (a step or two above conglomo-mart), bikes before, but it's been at least six years since I've actually gotten on one. Plus, I've never made a bicycle my main mode of transportation.

I'm looking to buy a bike within the coming weeks. I've scouted several reputable bike shops, and all seem to be on the up and up. However, I've noticed that the local trend seems to be the fixed gear, no brake, rolled up girl-pants, fashion-forward messenger bag thing. I'm... not ready to jump on that bandwagon, entirely... but most of the sales staff that I've stumbled upon seem to be followers of this hip aesthetic.

As a long time lurker, I've always been surprised by the insight that BF members possess. I've found a few models that are to my liking, and the type of bike that I think that I would like, but more information is always welcome, if possible.

A good friend of mine has a steel road bike from the 80's. It was fast... but when I dismounted, I felt as though I had spent two hours on a thigh-master. Fast forward one week, and I can still feel the seat.

I like the idea of a single-speed bike. I'm all-for fewer moving parts. (Less stuff to break.) I'm not, however, a fan of the crazy hunched-down riding position that every model in town seems to have. I noticed Trek has a bike that's to my liking with the "Soho S". It has a similar geometry to a mountain bike (comfy), but with a lighter frame and slightly bigger-than normal road times. However, the internet doesn't have a lot of great things about it. Plus, I can't find one in the city to try out.

I don't want to special order anything. Is it out of the question to ask a bike shop owner to convert a bike that I like? IE: A Giant FCR series bike (or the dozens of similar bikes available.) I'm not familiar with the gear ratios yet, and don't want to waste his time by constantly switching around sprockets until I find one I like.

-or-
Should I be asking the store clerks better questions? Maybe there *is* a bike already sitting on a rack for me somewhere in this city?
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Old 05-13-08, 02:48 PM   #2
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Schwinn Coffee?
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Old 05-13-08, 02:54 PM   #3
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Schwinn Coffee?
I did a quick google, gave it a look-see, found this:



I understand that I can change them, but mustache-bar bikes that I've tried out didn't really agree with me. I felt awkward going around turns, which is probably not a good feeling.
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Old 05-13-08, 02:57 PM   #4
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These days, the single speed thing has expanded way beyond the "I dress in black because I have better taste than you" crowd. Heck, these days they make single-speed 29ers with and without suspension forks. That would be as far away from hipster as you can get.
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Old 05-13-08, 02:59 PM   #5
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I don't have an answer to all your questions, but I will say this, having gears rocks, especially when going up hills AND they don't break down *often*.. in fact, hardly ever.
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Old 05-13-08, 03:02 PM   #6
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There are a number of SS/FG bikes that have more traditional road geometry, brakes, and room for bigger tires. The LeMond Fillmore, the Bianchi San Jose, the Trek Soho, the Kona Paddy Wagon, and the Giant Bowery, just to name a few.

Or if you like to tinker, you can do like I did and find yourself a nice older steel road bike and fix it up yourself as a sweet single speed commuter. This is my 89 Trek 660, set up as a fixed gear (42x16).

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Old 05-13-08, 03:08 PM   #7
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You'll want to stay away from some of the more prevalent bikes on the hipster-kid scene, since they really do put you in a racing position with their stock setup:
- Bianchi Pista
- Specialized Langster
- Schwinn Madison
They're all more "track-ish" in their styling. There's a whole set of commuter oriented single-speeds out there, like:
- Raliegh One-Way
- Redline 925 (but you aren't a fan of the 'stache bars)
- Trek Soho (if you're into a flat-bar road bike)
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Old 05-13-08, 03:09 PM   #8
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handlebars are easier to switch than converting to SS.

Also take into consideration internally geared hubs. All their moving parts are in the hub so you don't have to worry about them.

Quote:
Heck, these days they make single-speed 29ers with and without suspension forks. That would be as far away from hipster as you can get.
No, SS "29ers" is just new-flavour hipster.
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Old 05-13-08, 03:12 PM   #9
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I don't have an answer to all your questions, but I will say this, having gears rocks, especially when going up hills AND they don't break down *often*.. in fact, hardly ever.
Hmm, you do have a point. Maybe it's the bikes I had when I was younger... I remember always battling gears that would grind along, and not function as smoothly as I'd like. Plus, the bike store guys were praising single-speed / fixies as if they were the gospel. Being a pragmatist, [i]that much[/i of their argument made a lot of sense to me.

I guess when push comes to shove, I can always buy a bike with gears and convert later if I so choose. The models that I've tried out, and enjoyed were:

Trek SU 2.0, K2 Astral 4.0, Novara Big Buzz, Giant FCR series, et al...

All of them would, eventually, convert fairly well I assume?
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Old 05-13-08, 03:19 PM   #10
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All of them would, eventually, convert fairly well I assume?
Its easier to convert if the dropouts (the slots where back wheel slides in) are horizontal(ish). Then you can tension the chain by sliding the wheel back. Otherwise you have to use a chain tensioner or eccentric hub.

You get 25+ mph headwinds up there. If you are commuting, sometimes you really don't feel like being a hero.
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Old 05-13-08, 03:22 PM   #11
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Hmm, you do have a point. Maybe it's the bikes I had when I was younger... I remember always battling gears that would grind along, and not function as smoothly as I'd like. Plus, the bike store guys were praising single-speed / fixies as if they were the gospel. Being a pragmatist, [i]that much[/i of their argument made a lot of sense to me.

I guess when push comes to shove, I can always buy a bike with gears and convert later if I so choose. The models that I've tried out, and enjoyed were:


Trek SU 2.0, K2 Astral 4.0, Novara Big Buzz, Giant FCR series, et al...

All of them would, eventually, convert fairly well I assume?
Actually, most modern frames have vertical dropouts (meaning that the rear hub is always the same distance from the bottom bracket). Since single speeds have no derailleur to take up chain slack, it's necessary to have some way of doing this. The simplest way is with a horizontal dropout or track end, which allows you to pull the rear wheel back until the chain is nice and snug. There are single speed conversion kits that include a spring loaded pulley--but keep in mind that you can't use these with a fixed hub.
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Old 05-13-08, 03:28 PM   #12
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flat bar road bike = specialized sirrus.

Fast, light, comfy ergos, easy on the wallet for the entry level model.


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Old 05-13-08, 03:33 PM   #13
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flat bar road bike = specialized sirrus.

Fast, light, comfy ergos, easy on the wallet for the entry level model.


But how long will it last?

I take care of my things, but I plan on using it five, if not seven days / week.
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Old 05-13-08, 03:34 PM   #14
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I guess when push comes to shove, I can always buy a bike with gears and convert later if I so choose. The models that I've tried out, and enjoyed were:

Trek SU 2.0, K2 Astral 4.0, Novara Big Buzz, Giant FCR series, et al...

All of them would, eventually, convert fairly well I assume?
If you're looking to get a geared bike you can later convert, older model road bikes are usually your best bet due to many of them having (semi) horizontal dropouts. Surly makes the Cross-Check, which is also a good switch option for gears or single-speed, if you're set on something new instead of an older bike.

If you get a newer geared bike with vertical dropouts, the two most elegant solutions to fixed/single-speed conversion would be either the White Industries ENO hub, or an eccentric bottom bracket.
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Old 05-13-08, 03:37 PM   #15
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But how long will it last?

I take care of my things, but I plan on using it five, if not seven days / week.
Specialized makes good bikes. The longevity of the bike is proportional to the care and maintenance that you apply to it.

My daily rider is a specialized full carbon roubaix elite triple 10 spd with shimano 105 group.
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Old 05-13-08, 03:46 PM   #16
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I would recommend something with slightly heavier duty tires for milwaukee, the roads are pretty much one big pothole, and if it's not a pothole, it's halfway through construction. (and if you like sidewalks, same applies... honest)

No real recommendations for tires, just to get something more of a city tire than a road tire.
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Old 05-13-08, 04:31 PM   #17
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I just bought a Marin Muirwoods 29er from REI, and one day in I'm loving it. It's got a steel frame, so it's a bit heavy, but it's like butter rolling over potholes. Alternatively, the Marin Hamilton 29er is a single speed version of the same bike. My only complaints so far are that the saddle is too soft for a long ride and although it has all the right mounting options, it isn't taking to fenders as naturally as I had hoped.

On the subject of gearing, modern STI or trigger shifters are so sweet... You'll be shifting just for the joy of feeling how smooth it is...at least I do.
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Old 05-13-08, 09:20 PM   #18
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Also, being as you're in Milwaukee, be sure to check out http://www.bycycle.org

I can't vouch for how it does in Milwaukee, but it's great in Portland, and Milwaukee happens to be the other place it supports.
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Old 05-14-08, 12:30 PM   #19
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Re: SS vs. gears -- there's always the internal hubs . . .
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Old 05-14-08, 12:38 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CliftonGK1 View Post
You'll want to stay away from some of the more prevalent bikes on the hipster-kid scene, since they really do put you in a racing position with their stock setup:
- Bianchi Pista
- Specialized Langster
- Schwinn Madison
They're all more "track-ish" in their styling. There's a whole set of commuter oriented single-speeds out there, like:
- Raliegh One-Way
- Redline 925 (but you aren't a fan of the 'stache bars)
- Trek Soho (if you're into a flat-bar road bike)
I commute on a Langster. The position is not all that aggressive, and can easily be mitigated with different stem. Plus now they make different versions, even with flat bars. So I wouldn't disregard Langster.
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