I've been going back and fourth about whether to restore/convert an older Raleigh M50 for city/commuter use, or just buy a new bike. No matter how I hack it, buying a new bike will be, at most, as much as fixing up the M50, and at the end of the day I'll be left with a better/more appropriate ride. I'll find a new home/new purpose for the M50 eventually, but anyway...
I've been doing some poking around. A Cafe-style bike seems the best option for me, just given what I'm accustomed to, and the type of riding I need to get done. I also like that the ones I'm looking at lack a front derailleur and have only one chain-ring. Trying to keep it as simple as possible, preferably as maintenance free as possible too.
So I've narrowed it down to the following choices. This is by no means the result of an exhaustive search, so if you think there's something better out there for the money, by all means shoot me a link.
As reliable as possible.
As maintenance free as possible.
Under $450 shipped.
I'll be using the bike in Los Angeles, which has a mix of up, down, flat, all-around, etc. The weather is generally nice and rain-free, but there's sand to contend with. The bike will serve first and foremost as a commuter, and will be equipped with dual Soma grocery panniers as needed for food and laundry (up to 50 pounds of cargo at any given time). For reference, I'm at about 200 pounds myself.
So, without further adieu...
(EDIT: The Motos have been removed from the running for several reasons, and replaced by the KHS Green)
KHS Green -- Not the coolest looking bike, but this is going to be a utilitarian ride first and foremost. The three speed internal seems the most reliable and least picky of the Nexus hubs, but I question whether or not three speeds will be enough. Still more versatile than the single-speed Raleigh build I was considering, and really, when I had 21 speeds I don't think I was using more than three of them 90% of the time. Despite questionable frame strength and components, this one will be hard to pass up if I can get it for the $275-$300 it's rumored to go for. Online outfits list the price at $370; if that's the case the Felt is far and away the better choice. Either way, I'm giving a LBS a call tomorrow to see if they have it in stock, and what they run.
Felt Cafe 8 Delux -- About $420 to the door for a leftover '08, which is effectively identical to the '09s from what I can tell. Looks to be a pretty sweet ride, comes with a rack, and has a few little extras to sweeten the deal, like a saddle bag, fenders, etc. Has an external cassette/derailleur system as opposed to the Nexus, which is, I suppose, somewhat of a disadvantage for the type of riding I'll be doing. On the other side of the coin, it has 8 speeds, which may prove better than three for LA's varying terrain.
Any help/advice is greatly appreciated.