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  1. #1
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    New to commuting...advice please.

    Hey all,

    So, I've decided that I'd like to rely on cycling as my main form of transportation to and from school. I will have anywhere from a 10 to 17 mile trip, each way, depending on where I get housing. Let's assume the worst case scenario, however, at 17 miles. I'm from the North Shore of Long Island, so the terrain is pretty hilly all the way through. The roads have their share of pot-holes, especially after the winter we just had.

    It's my understanding that a road bike would best suit me, as it would provide for the most efficiency. It was suggested to me to look at Hybrid bikes, but I would rather get something less heavy and of good quality, if it will make a difference in the amount of work required. The gentleman in the bike store showed me the Trek 1000C and 1200C. If you're familiar with them, what are your opinions on these bikes?

    Also, how do-able is a 17 mile trip each way if hilly? Approximately how long do you think it would take an individual who is in reasonably decent (read not at all great) shape?

    Appreciate your advice...

  2. #2
    Senior Member Dchiefransom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ds81
    Hey all,

    So, I've decided that I'd like to rely on cycling as my main form of transportation to and from school. I will have anywhere from a 10 to 17 mile trip, each way, depending on where I get housing. Let's assume the worst case scenario, however, at 17 miles. I'm from the North Shore of Long Island, so the terrain is pretty hilly all the way through. The roads have their share of pot-holes, especially after the winter we just had.

    It's my understanding that a road bike would best suit me, as it would provide for the most efficiency. It was suggested to me to look at Hybrid bikes, but I would rather get something less heavy and of good quality, if it will make a difference in the amount of work required. The gentleman in the bike store showed me the Trek 1000C and 1200C. If you're familiar with them, what are your opinions on these bikes?

    Also, how do-able is a 17 mile trip each way if hilly? Approximately how long do you think it would take an individual who is in reasonably decent (read not at all great) shape?

    Appreciate your advice...
    Those are both decent road bikes for your purpose, but I'm not sure road bike wheels and potholes are good when mixed together. You should ride that route you plan on taking to see how long it will take you. Borrow someone's bike and do it at the time of day you'd normally commute. With a lot of traffic lights and stop signs, you might take 2.5 hours to go that 17 hilly miles.
    I have an older Trek 1000, and it's pretty heavy. I recently met a guy riding a new Trek 1000, and it's a very light bike. You should get thousands of miles out of Sora components with proper drivetrain maintenance. You might also look at the Specialized Seqouia, which has a suspension seatpost and fully adjustable handlebar stem. The hybrid would use larger tires, and soak up more road "shock".

  3. #3
    The Rabbi seely's Avatar
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    A 17mi would take me an average of an hour I would guess, results may vary with the rider of course, traffic, etc. Headwinds would make that an hour and a half. Its definately doable, and you will be a beast on the bike in about a month. If you can, I would try to get 105 or Tiagra level components... I think they are much more comfortable for shifting (most agree) and you will get a longer life and smoother performance out of them as well.

    Since you are in school, I am guessing you are roughly my age (21) so no need for adjustable bars, especially with the distance you will be covering... I would definately opt for a drop-bar road bike. Its much better riding in the wind on drop bars, and less fatiguing over distance with all the hand positions you can use. As for potholes, try to avoid them.

    Something else to consider is a Cyclocross or CX bike... its a road bike with mountain bike cantilever brakes, larger more aggressive tires on a roadbike rim, and drop bars like a roadbike, sometimes with a mix of roadbike and mountain bike componentry. They are good for commuting with the slightly larger tires and better brakes... would probably handle potholes better.

    Anyways good luck and have fun with the ride!

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    Thanks for the advice so far.

    Aside from riding a Giant comfort bike for 8 mile exercise trips during the last 2 years, I'm essentially a large newbie to this all, as the bright red writing next to my name clearly indicates. Thus, I know almost nothing about components or anything like that. Please pardon any potentially naive questions.

    What are the advantages of the road bike -vs- the hybrid bike? I'm looking to get the most efficient output for my work, as well as to have a bike durable enough to deal with variable quality roads and light rainy weather.

    Seely, you mentioned Tiagra level components. Are you referring to the rear dereailleur? The 1000C evidently comes with Shimano Sora, but the 1200C has Shimano Tiagra.

    What are drop bars?

    You mentioned looking into a bike with larger, more aggressive tires. Would you mind telling me why, please?

    Also, I'm assuming the Carbon with alloy steerer Fork is better than the Alloy with alloy steerer fork (again, 1200C -vs- 1000C). What accounts for this superior quality?

    Thanks in advance.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Stubacca's Avatar
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    I'd get a road bike over a hybrid. I own both, and currently use my hybrid for my commute. My cruising speed on the hybrid is a good 3 mph lower than on the road bike. The road bike will be just as durable providing you buy a decent one. The weakest point that you'll notice will be the wheelset, so it may be worth upgrading this to something stronger if your commute is on rough roads.

    Wider tires will give you more stability on poor roads. If all your riding is on roads and paths, I'd stay with slick tires (no knobs) probably in a 700x28 size. Some road bikes won't allow tires this large. I'd second the recommendation of a cyclocross or touring bike. Cyclocross bikes tend to have more clearance for larger tires, which gives you options if you need to mount knobby or studded tires for winter. The Surly Crosscheck and Bianchi Volpe may be worth a look.

    'Tiagra' components would refer to: brake/shift levers, front derraileur, rear derraileur, brakes, crankset, cassette, chain. I'd agree that you should stick to Tiagra or better, purely because Sora can only be replaced with Sora (it is the only 8 speed Shimano group). With Tiagra, if you break or wear out a component it is far easier to find a replacement and you can upgrade at the same time. If budget allows, aim for Shimano 105 components. (Shimano components from lowest to highest: Sora, Tiagra, 105, Ultegra, Dura-Ace).

    For 17 miles, I'd recommend you get a bike that you can mount a rear rack and pannier bags to. 17 miles on reasonably hilly terrain will probably take you somewhere around 90 minutes, though you'll get faster as you get fitter on the bike. In any case, 34 miles per day is a long time to have a backpack hanging on your shoulders, and if you're riding in traffic it can restrict your body movement for turning to look behind etc.

    A carbon fork will be lighter and absorb bumps and vibration slightly better. A nice to have, but not essential.

    What's your budget?

  6. #6
    Senior Member Stubacca's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ds81
    What are drop bars?
    Bars that look like this... they offer far more hand positions and most riders, myself included, find them much better to ride with.

  7. #7
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    I had a Trek 1000 for awhile last year. It won't take tires larger than 700x25, and even those were a little difficult to fit through the brake calipers.

    Smaller tires = rougher ride and less protection from potholes.

    I'd suggest a touring type of bike. The Bianchi Volpe, the REI (Novarra) Randonee, and others from Jamis, Trek, etc.

    Here's a link to the Randonee:

    http://www.rei.com/online/store/Prod...ory_rn=4500922

    Touring bikes are built for long distance comfort, allow you to strap on bags, and have room for larger circumference tires. Larger tires = more cushioned ride and protection from potholes. If the potholes are bad you might want a larger tire. Plus the touring bikes have low gears for the hills. Important if you are going to carry anything with you.

    For puncture protection I'd recommend Continental Top Touring Tires. I use them on my touring and mtb/commuter bikes and have had only one puncture in the last year. And that was due to a tack I accidentally picked up in my basement.

    I have a Trek 520, but I use it for touring.

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    A touring bike like the Trek 520 is designed to carry luggage over rough roads. They are often lighter than mid-range hybrid bikes, but are well built, with strong wheels. The make good commuting bikes and there are some good deals around.
    Cyclo-cross bikes are designed for off-road racing, but the latest versions often have lots of useful features for riding on the road, like threaded eyelets for a luggage rack and fenders.
    Light-touring bikes are mid-way between a racer and an expedition tourer, so can take moderate luggage and up to 28mm tyres with fenders. They are faster and more agile than full touring bikes, and are probably the ideal distance commuter bike.
    Generally, the more clearance you have for wide tyres and fenders, the worse conditions you can ride in. A luggage rack, fitted to the frame is the way to carry stuff. For gearing, a mid-range system with 3 chainrings is usual, and will cope with most conditions.
    Make sure that you get a bike to fit you, in standover clearance, and more importantly, in reach. You dont have to ride a drop-bar bike like a racing athlete, all stretched out and low. Many tourists prefer the bars to be close and higher for long distance comfort.

  9. #9
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    Again guys, thanks for all the advice.

    I'm looking to stay under $1000. The way I see it, I can make up that much money on gas alone in one year. So, I view this more as an investment (both financially and health-wise) than a financial burden. Still, I psychologically have problems with purchases too large.

    Before I make large purchases, I like to do as much research as I can. I am thus still doing a lot of reading about components, etc.

    It appears that my commute will be more like 5-10 miles each way. Potholes will be present, but not devestatingly so. I would like to have the best cruising speed I can, so I'm still interested in the road bike, though I did look at some cyclocrosses as y'all suggested. For something like the Trek 1200C, would I be able to put "snow" tires on it in the winter? Also, how much snow is reasonable to safely ride in? What other modifications should I consider?

    One final question: What is a tube? Everyone talks about tubes, but I have no idea what they are referring to.

    Thanks.

  10. #10
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    I think the 1200C is like the 1000, and won't allow you to use large diameter tires, which is probably what you want in the snow. I think all of the studded tires (for riding on ice) available are like 700x30 or larger.

    The amount of snow you can ride in probably depends on the width of the tire, the underlying condition of the road (icy, muddy, or dry), and your skill level. I've ridden on maybe 4-6" of dry snow with 26x2.0" tires. After awhile it gets tough to plow through that much. I chicken out and ride the bus when it's icy.

    I'd still suggest looking at one of the touring/sport touring bikes. I think something like the Bianchi Volpe or Novarra RAndonee can be purchased for the same price ( or a little less) than the 1200C and be much more flexible for commuting in varied conditions. You can have skinny tires for the summer, and big-honking studded tires in the winter, with better braking and hauling capacity.

    Think about adding fenders and lights to your bicycle. And maybe a rear rack if you are going to haul things.

    Tube: that could be the inner-tube of a bicycle tire, or it could be one of the parts of a bike frame. A steel bike frame is made of steel tubes (looks like pipes).

  11. #11
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    Take a look at some used touring bikes as well. Nothing would make a better commuter...

  12. #12
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    Why do you want to live so far from school? A five mile (or less) one-way commute is a lot easier to start with than a 17 miler. It is not good for the engine to use a car for such short distances (especially in the winter), so riding is good.

    Snow has a variety of characteristics. Light, dry, snow is easy to ride in -- your tires bite right through it. Heavy, wet snow is difficult -- four inches is VERY tough going. Most likely, you will not encounter these depths, because the roads will be plowed. However, I suspect that the relatively warm, moist winters on Long Island will produce a lot of ice beneath the snow. Nokian studded tires are very helpful in these conditions.

    A typical bicycle is better in snow than a rear wheel drive car without snow tires. You can go most places, but there is some technique required. Really icy conditions will stop you.

    At the other end of the spectrum, a set of studded tires will allow you to get through anything as long as you don't have 4+ inches of unplowed, wet stuff. As good or better than a four-wheel drive, as provided the snow is dry or the roads are at least somewhat plowed.

    Answer: it all depends. However, if you can't make it in on a properly set up bike, the roads are probably so bad that classes have been cancelled.


    Paul

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    Again all, thanks.

    It's not that I want to live 17 miles from school, it's just that that might be the only place where I can find affordable housing. I'm going to be taking out huge amounts of loans, and the cheaper I can make life, the better.

    As it turns out, I was looking at an apartment yesterday that is 5.3 miles away from school. That would, of course, be much better than a 10-17 mile ride. I'm going to meet with the landlord and take a tour during the late afternoon Monday, so hopefully I'll know soon!

    Here's another question: At moderate exertion, could an individual in reasonably good shape make a 5.3 mile trip in under 30 minutes without breaking a sweat?

    Also, it has been mentioned that on a road bike one could average 15+mph. How about on a touring bike? Any data?

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    A 5.3 mile ride in under 30 minutes is definitely a "no sweat" situation. Unless there are a lot of stop signs and lights slowing you down, that is about 10 mph. You are working about as hard as you would at a fast walk. You could wear a tux if you wanted to (if you did so, a chainguard would be good, however). Obviously, if there is a big hill on the way this would all change.

    On my 5+ mile commute, my road bike, hybrid, and commuter bike all take about the same time. That is on a route with lots of stops.

    Paul

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by ds81
    Here's another question: At moderate exertion, could an individual in reasonably good shape make a 5.3 mile trip in under 30 minutes without breaking a sweat?

    Also, it has been mentioned that on a road bike one could average 15+mph. How about on a touring bike? Any data?
    Sweating: Around here in St. Louis in late spring to early fall, you break a sweat just standing around. That's because the humidity is high along with moderate to high temps (80s to low 100s). If you are wearing full-length pants you'll probably sweat. If you can dress informally all the time (shorts & t-shirts in the summer), then you might be OK. Of course, some people sweat more than others. And if you live in a low-humidity region, you'll be better off.

    Also, having a rack on your bike to carry items will save you a lot of sweat over using a backpack or fannypack.

    Your speed over 5 miles will not vary much between the different types of bikes. A touring bike with say 700x28 tires will move along about as well as a racer. The motor is the biggest factor.

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