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  1. #1
    Aging bike commuter DESchindel's Avatar
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    Replacing my aged commuter bike

    I've been getting a lot of advice from reading Forum posts and thought I'd join and pose a question. I posted this on Fifty-plus forum and then saw the Commuter forum, which is probably more relevant.

    I belong to both the over 50s (now 58 years old) and Clydesdales (6'3", 235#). I've been commuting to downtown DC from the suburbs since the 80s on a 1983 Raleigh Grand Prix 10-speed - a dear old friend. I used to use the gravel Canal tow path and switched to an asphalt trail (the beautiful Crescent Trail) about 15 years ago. Between my weight, the rough surfaces, and the weight of daughters in the baby seat, I've snapped the front forks and bent the rear stays. Given my history with the bike, I dutifully repair and maintain it.

    Last week the top tube snapped just below the head tube. The pictures are too sad to send.

    I immediately bought a used Miyata 12-speed steel frame for about $300 so I could continue to ride while I consider my next move. Don't love it, but it gets me to work. I found a welder who will repair the break and I may give the Raleigh a thorough rehab. I could bite my lip and throw it away and ride the Miyata, to which I have no attachment. Or I can think about an upgrade (without going nuts on costs).

    As I age my bike commuting has dropped from 4-5 days a week to 2-3, mostly from sore quads and knees. I commute for the exercise and relaxation, which raises the following question. If I get a lighter, more efficient bike will it lower the exercise benefits? Or will it allow me to ride more often, thereby increasing the total benefits?

    And for you old-schoolers out there who started on steel frames, how do you feel about upgrading to different frame materials, skinny tires, toe-clips or clipless systems, etc? Have you old dogs learned new tricks?

    Thanks -

    David

  2. #2
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DESchindel View Post
    I've been getting a lot of advice from reading Forum posts and thought I'd join and pose a question. I posted this on Fifty-plus forum and then saw the Commuter forum, which is probably more relevant.

    I belong to both the over 50s (now 58 years old) and Clydesdales (6'3", 235#). I've been commuting to downtown DC from the suburbs since the 80s on a 1983 Raleigh Grand Prix 10-speed - a dear old friend. I used to use the gravel Canal tow path and switched to an asphalt trail (the beautiful Crescent Trail) about 15 years ago. Between my weight, the rough surfaces, and the weight of daughters in the baby seat, I've snapped the front forks and bent the rear stays. Given my history with the bike, I dutifully repair and maintain it.

    Last week the top tube snapped just below the head tube. The pictures are too sad to send.

    I immediately bought a used Miyata 12-speed steel frame for about $300 so I could continue to ride while I consider my next move. Don't love it, but it gets me to work. I found a welder who will repair the break and I may give the Raleigh a thorough rehab. I could bite my lip and throw it away and ride the Miyata, to which I have no attachment. Or I can think about an upgrade (without going nuts on costs).
    It's a bike. It's a thing. It's busted. You got your value out of it...long ago...buy something new and help the economy. I've been through the same thing -several times- but just move on. Here's a slobbery piece I wrote on my old touring bike and something I wrote on my new touring bike a week later. The new one was, and is, a thousand times better. It shifts better, rides better, does what it is designed to do better, etc.

    Just go ride a bunch of new bikes, pick the one that you like the best and forget the cost. I mean you rode a 1983 Raleigh for which you paid $300. That's $11 per year. If a new one lasts half as long and you pay $1000 for it, you'll still only pay $70 per year for it.

    Quote Originally Posted by DESchindel View Post
    As I age my bike commuting has dropped from 4-5 days a week to 2-3, mostly from sore quads and knees. I commute for the exercise and relaxation, which raises the following question. If I get a lighter, more efficient bike will it lower the exercise benefits? Or will it allow me to ride more often, thereby increasing the total benefits?
    Don't worry about the lower weight. If you are like most people you'll ride a new bike more and you'll get more benefit out of it.

    Quote Originally Posted by DESchindel View Post
    And for you old-schoolers out there who started on steel frames, how do you feel about upgrading to different frame materials, skinny tires, toe-clips or clipless systems, etc? Have you old dogs learned new tricks?

    Thanks -

    David
    There are lots of steel frame bike still made. Surly makes several (Cross check, LHT), Jamis makes some (Aurora), REI has a few (Randonee) and there are others. All of these use wider tires than most road bikes and are a bit more relaxed...like your Raleigh. Aluminum bikes aren't nearly as bad as most people make them out to be (I only have aluminum...or titanium). They are stiffer but that makes them more responsive and most of the cushioning of the ride comes from the tires anyway. Carbon fiber forks on aluminum make for an even smoother ride.

    All the other new stuff (toe clips were old in 1983) just enhances the ride.

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  3. #3
    Bike Junkie aadhils's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
    It's a bike. It's a thing. It's busted. You got your value out of it...long ago..
    A good bike; if kept properly should last a lifetime.

    DESchindel, there are still excellent steel framed bikes out there, Surly, Rivendell etc... I'm sure you can find something used within your budget if you look around locally in your craigslist or something.

  4. #4
    Seņior Member ItsJustMe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
    It's a bike. It's a thing. It's busted. You got your value out of it...long ago...buy something new and help the economy.
    Depends on if it can be made really whole again. There's no point in buying something new just to have something new.


    Quote Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
    All the other new stuff (toe clips were old in 1983) just enhances the ride.
    I switched from clipless back to platforms+toe clips this year. I honestly haven't noticed any "de-enhancement" of my ride; seems pretty much the same to me. I'm not a racer, I'm just going to work and back.

    As you can guess, I'd probably fix the bike, assuming that fixing it still left me with a safe, reliable ride. Again, why buy something new when you've got something old that you like and can be made whole for a fraction of the cost of a new replacement?

    I really hate the "throw it away" mentality that we've developed in the last 30 years or so.
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  5. #5
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ItsJustMe View Post
    Depends on if it can be made really whole again. There's no point in buying something new just to have something new.
    The frame is broken. A frame break is pretty much the end of the bike's life. Not too much you can do about it. Yes, it might be fixable but at what cost? $200 or $300? And if the top tube is broken, what else might fail next? If this were a unique bike...custom, important technology advancement, historically important...then it might be worth pouring money into but it's a good early 80's production bike. It's not really worth the effort.

    Quote Originally Posted by ItsJustMe View Post
    I switched from clipless back to platforms+toe clips this year. I honestly haven't noticed any "de-enhancement" of my ride; seems pretty much the same to me. I'm not a racer, I'm just going to work and back.
    There are other enhancements that have occurred since 1983 that make riding easier and more enjoyable. Clipless is only one of them.

    Quote Originally Posted by ItsJustMe View Post
    As you can guess, I'd probably fix the bike, assuming that fixing it still left me with a safe, reliable ride. Again, why buy something new when you've got something old that you like and can be made whole for a fraction of the cost of a new replacement?

    I really hate the "throw it away" mentality that we've developed in the last 30 years or so.
    This is not a "throw away" mentality. I doubt, highly, that this frame could be repaired to the point of safe usability. At some point, fixing something becomes too costly to be effective and fixing something that has had a major problem and the 'assuming' that it will be safe could cost you far more...hospital stays aren't cheap
    Stuart Black
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  6. #6
    SERENITY NOW!!! jyossarian's Avatar
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    Steel bikes today are usually lighter than steel bikes of yesteryear. Get a new steel tourer!
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    Pro Paper Plane Pilot wunderkind's Avatar
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    I too dislike the "Throw away mentality" that is so prevalent in today's society. Products these days are made to have a short lifespan. Manufacturers want you to replace than to fix. Mechanics no longer fix cars anymore. they just replace the entire part. That's why they are called technicians instead. Anyhoo, I do agree with cyclocommute on this one. A broken frame like the top tube is a major structural damage. Given that OP has ridden the bike for more than 2 decades, I think it is nothing wrong to buy a replacement rather than to spot weld the old bike for nostalgia purposes. It can be dangerous too.
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    I rode a classic steel road bike (lugged, horizontal dropouts, downtube shifters) as my daily commuter for many years but at one point, the repair bill for worn out stuff became so high that I retired it and looked at getting some newer technology. This, at a time when all the kool kids are getting into steel lugged singlespeeds; my anti-fashion antennae are still functioning.

    My replacement has Aluminium frame and fork, flat-bars, 8 speed internal hub gears and disc brakes. I'm really happy with high-tech stuff; I can still appreciate older bikes but the convenience and performance of new stuff is hard to beat.

  9. #9
    Senior Member DX Rider's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ItsJustMe View Post
    I switched from clipless back to platforms+toe clips this year. I honestly haven't noticed any "de-enhancement" of my ride; seems pretty much the same to me. I'm not a racer, I'm just going to work and back.
    I have clipless on one bike, toe clips on another. I prefer the comfort of the clipless, but I don't see any significant difference in performance.
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  10. #10
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    I love clipless pedals, but if I was having sore knees I'm not sure that's the way to go. If you get them adjusted wrong it can make it harder on your knees. Getting them adjusted exactly right can be an art in and of itself - I payed a professional fitter to do it, and it involved cleat adjustments, shims, etc.

    Though if you're having knee pain issues, and if you haven't already, I would consider consulting a professional fitter. Though who knows, I'm just thinking out loud.

    Personally, I would never ride a bike where something on the frame has cracked or bent more than once. Frames shouldn't break unless you crash them into something. You mention your weight + kids, but unless you weigh 500 pounds it *really* shouldn't be an issue. Sometimes wheels don't do well under to much extra weight, sure, but the bike frame shouldn't be having the issues you describe. It's a safety issue - either the frame is wearing out from age, or it wasn't built the best to begin with. I would definitely buy a new bike for safety reasons.

    If you don't need to still carry around kids on a baby seat, I know I've read a ton of posts from people who have bought full carbon road bikes and said they think they're noticeably more comfortable than their old steel bikes. Usually these guys buy an "endurance" or "relaxed" road bike like a Specialized Roubaix, which is designed to be more comfortable than the twitchy and more crouched over race road bikes.

  11. #11
    Seņior Member ItsJustMe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
    The frame is broken. A frame break is pretty much the end of the bike's life. Not too much you can do about it. Yes, it might be fixable but at what cost?
    Really? 5 minutes with an angle grinder, slap a sleeve on it, break out the torch, sweat some brazing in there, cool, clean, paint. Maybe 90 minutes, $10 cost. Way stronger than new.

    Probably a lot more expensive if you don't have a torch, I suppose, but the point is, a clean break on the frame is nowhere NEAR the end of the bike.
    Work: the 8 hours that separates bike rides.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ItsJustMe View Post
    Really? 5 minutes with an angle grinder, slap a sleeve on it, break out the torch, sweat some brazing in there, cool, clean, paint. Maybe 90 minutes, $10 cost. Way stronger than new.

    Probably a lot more expensive if you don't have a torch, I suppose, but the point is, a clean break on the frame is nowhere NEAR the end of the bike.
    I know you're responding to a different post, but in the guys particular case I don't know that either opinion is relevant. The bike frame has broken 3 times. This suggests an unsound frame. There's plenty of people here who have ridden their steel bikes for 20-30 years and never had any part of the frame itself break or get visibly bent - that's still a decent frame. It doesn't even matter if the repair point is done 100% correctly and is now twice as strong as it was when new - with so many breaks it's only a matter of time until another point on the frame breaks.

    If you have the frame break while you're riding there's a slight chance of being killed, and a decent chance (if you're going fast) of breaking something like a collarbone. My uncle, in his late 50's, had his bike go down and he broke his hip so badly he required hip replacement surgery. It was a long, extremely painful, and expensive procedure, even with his insurance.

    There's *NO* reason to take the risk of severe bodily harm in order to save several hundred or even a thousand dollars. The frame is shot - it's time to buy a new one.

  13. #13
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ItsJustMe View Post
    Really? 5 minutes with an angle grinder, slap a sleeve on it, break out the torch, sweat some brazing in there, cool, clean, paint. Maybe 90 minutes, $10 cost. Way stronger than new.

    Probably a lot more expensive if you don't have a torch, I suppose, but the point is, a clean break on the frame is nowhere NEAR the end of the bike.
    From this statement

    Last week the top tube snapped just below the head tube. The pictures are too sad to send.
    I'd assume that the frame either broke at the lug or very near it. That wouldn't be a simple fix. It could have even broken the lug which would necessitate complete replacement of the lug which would mean much more work and not necessarily something that just anyone with a torch could do.

    Additionally, 'just slapping a sleeve on it' assumes that you can find a sleeve of the proper diameter to fit over the old tube. Where do you get that? Sleeve-R-Us? "Serving all your bicycle frame repair needs since 1894." And it'd have to be a step sleeve, i.e. two different diameters, if the frame broke near the lug.

    Frame breakage is relatively uncommon (I've broken 4 frames out of 27). If a frame breaks, I'd want far more study of the frame then it is worth to find out why before I'd trust the bike to be safe to ride.
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  14. #14
    Older than dirt CCrew's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ItsJustMe View Post
    Really? 5 minutes with an angle grinder, slap a sleeve on it, break out the torch, sweat some brazing in there, cool, clean, paint. Maybe 90 minutes, $10 cost. Way stronger than new.

    Probably a lot more expensive if you don't have a torch, I suppose, but the point is, a clean break on the frame is nowhere NEAR the end of the bike.
    Until you get stress risers on both sides of the repair.

    It broke for a reason. Probably fatigue. There's no such thing as a "clean" break. Time for new.

  15. #15
    Senior Member nkfrench's Avatar
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    I'm > 50 and Clyde-class Athena. I liked my 30-year old steel Schwinn (mid-range price) but it was not ridden much. I decided to buy a new CF bike this year as a "reward" and have really enjoyed it. The new bike fits better (I am 5'6" and the old bike was a 58cm frame), I enjoy not having to worry about some frayed cables breaking, the shifting with the brifters is smooth instead of requiring constant tinkering to keep adjusted and having to move my hands to the downtube to shift, it climbs hills easier since it's over 10# lighter. The clipless pedals are much easier for me than the toe clips on the old bike and I haven't slipped off the pedals (ow) like I used to with the rattraps on a humid ride. I kept the old Schwinn but find I just don't like riding it and it's gotten 0 miles in the past half year where the new bike has about 2400. I wouldn't object to a steel bike as long as I could get one in the right size with the geometry I prefer and a reasonable weight.

    I've been told that aggressively ridden bikes may only have 7 years before metal fatigue causes frame failure. Perhaps this is more applicable to aluminum bikes.

  16. #16
    Aging bike commuter DESchindel's Avatar
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    OK, lots of good advice, thanks. Here's where things stand now:

    I've decided to refurbish the broken Raleigh but not to use it for commuting. I found a TIG welder who repaired the break and I'll give it a thorough rehab, new paint, even new decals from Raleigh to replace the originals. I'll figure out later if I want to keep it as a spare, sell it, or give it away.

    I plunked down $80 for entry level Shimano shoes and pedals to try clipless riding on the 12-speed steel 19802 Miyata. I'll commute on that while shopping for something newer.

    I'm making the rounds of local bike shops, taking notes and thinking about what to road-test. The REI store was quickly scratched off my list. They had lots of bikes but didn't seem to know much about them. Performance Bicycle impressed me. They spent a lot of time teaching me about clipless system and talking my bike options. Two of the salesmen race their bikes and seemed to enjoy the challenge of finding the perfect bike.

    First critical variable: bikes with attachment points for a rack. Few of the road bikes had them so they suggested a cyclocross. I definitely want something with drop bars so I can stretch out on the bike and use different hand positions. Is there a down-side to cyclocross bikes? Is the center-pull brake inferior to side-pulls? I like the idea of being able to go with a slightly wider tire.

    My commute is 20 miles a day over asphalt (some of it bumpy from tree roots), some hills, and about a mile of very busy streets at one end.

    Thanks again for all your good comments!

  17. #17
    Senior Member meanwhile's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DESchindel View Post
    First critical variable: bikes with attachment points for a rack. Few of the road bikes had them so they suggested a cyclocross. I definitely want something with drop bars so I can stretch out on the bike and use different hand positions. Is there a down-side to cyclocross bikes? Is the center-pull brake inferior to side-pulls? I like the idea of being able to go with a slightly wider tire.
    You'll benefit greatly from a wider tyre if it is high quality - say a Conti Sports Contact. The only downside to a decent cross bike is having to learn to tune cantilever brakes - look at Sheldon Brown's site: if you have even a little aptitude you'll be fine. Obvious bikes to look at are the Surly Crosscheck, the Kona Jake (check the rack options), Specialized Tricross (ditto), and Cotic Roadrat (you'd have to order a frame and order it built up, but great reputation and maximum versatility). A Cotic could even be built as a disc or v-brake machine with hub gears and a JTEK bar end shifter.

  18. #18
    Senior Member Grim's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jyossarian View Post
    Steel bikes today are usually lighter than steel bikes of yesteryear. Get a new steel tourer!
    Not necessarily. My 84 Fuji Touring III in a 56cm size was listed as 26lb. My Aluminum 1998 T700 is 26lb. The better bikes have had light frames well into the past. The weight penalties have always come with the components. Most manufactures will build several models of bikes on the same frame and you may see a 3-4lb difference from the top of the line to the bottom model even through they shared EXACTLY the same frame.

    To the OP if I was in the market for "New" the LHT and cross check are very attractive as is similar bikes by Jamis and I like the Fuji touring as well.

    I gravitate towards "Touring" style bikes. The triple cranks for the gearing, long wheel base and wider tires for ride quality. BIG Canti brakes to handle the weight and plenty of Braze-on's They are built for hauling and they haul my 210lb no problem.

    You have no problem with vintage bikes after holding onto that 83 that long I would say keep an eye on Craigslist and local yard sales for a while and see what you find. I got my 84 Fuji Touring III 63cm frame 48 spoke rear wheel for $8 at a yard sale in my neighborhood and it was in ride able condition as bought once I pumped the tires back up.

    Both my T700's were Craighslist finds I upgraded to 9 speed Brifters that again were Craigslist finds for $150 including the 105 derailleurs.

    Too bad you are so far away. I have a 60CM early 70's Grand Prix that the frame is in wonderful condition that I will be selling soon. Picked it up missing the seat and seat post and the Simplex RD is bent. I have round up some parts to fix it and a decent Suntour 7 RD. Put the newer parts off your 83 on it and you would be pretty close to having your old friend back.
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    I haven't heard good things about the brakes that come on cross bikes.

    I'd put a little more effort into finding a road bike that comes with rack mounts. I know both the Specialized Allez (a road race bike) and the Specialized Sequoia (an "endurance" relaxed geometry road bike) come with rack mounts - though not necessarily the tire clearance needed for fenders, I guess that it one plus of a cross bike.

    Just fyi, there are several rack options available for bikes without rack mounts, as well. Just fyi.

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    Senior Member meanwhile's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PaulRivers View Post
    I haven't heard good things about the brakes that come on cross bikes.
    Most come with cantilevers. These have potentially enormous stopping power and great modulation, but if you're an utter mechanical idiot *and* can't be bothered to read a how-to, then you'll mess setting them up. If you're this sort of person and don't have a competent LBS, then you'd have a problem with a typical cross bike.

  21. #21
    Senior Member Kimmitt's Avatar
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    I would be hesitant about getting a road bike if I were a Clyde that put serious miles on. A tourer seems like a stronger choice.
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    DES, we're pretty much the same. Close in age, close in size. And I still have the bike that I bought in high school, maybe '75 or so. Just had it powdercoated and re-built, but it's not a daily rider anymore. I also have several Raleighs and love everyone of them. Several years back I took a bike-sellers advice and got clipless pedals and bike specific shoes. About the same time, I stopped riding, in part because I didn't like having to worry about my "kit" and the bike-specific gear needed to ride. I always thought- and still think- if someone wants me to wear their logo, they need to pay me for it. Once I put platform pedals back on my bike, I started riding again, and have been ever since. One advantage of platform pedals if you've got old knees, you can move your foot around. A serious advantage. Sure, you might not be as efficient, but I'm not a racer and don't pretend to be. Comfort over speed, and the more comfortable, the more you ride.

    I ride a Surly Long Haul Trucker. It's not perfect, but it's a good bike. Great for touring, great for a long-ish commute like yours. Built for racks and fenders. Nice long wheelbase, it rides like an old Lincoln Continental. No, it's not fast, but it's also not twitchy. It's a solid touring bike. It can also accomodate wide tires, which also makes for a comfortable ride. Just recently I bought a Rivendell Atlantis. Don't have it built up yet, but it promises to be at least as good as the Surly, most likely even better. Either way, I don't think you can lose. Keep the Grand Prix for sentimental reasons, but get yourself a new touring/commuting bike. I don't think you'll regret it!

    Fifteen or so bikes, all of them steel. For my money, it's the only way to go.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kimmitt View Post
    I would be hesitant about getting a road bike if I were a Clyde that put serious miles on. A tourer seems like a stronger choice.
    I think that's kind of silly, especially for the OP. Most of the mid to high end bikes are designed to accommodate racers. We're talking the kind of bikers who go up the side of a mountain at 15kph. The kind of bikers who bike every single day to stay in shape. The kind of bikers who come screaming down the side of the mountain at 60mph - on their bike.

    They may not weigh as much as you, but they're putting waaaaaaay more pressure on their bike just from the muscles in their legs than you'll ever come close to!

    It's only racers who live in their own little world who think that 235 pounds is somehow "heavy". That's probably the weight of your average american male. I've no doubt modern bikes are designed to handle it.

    ...assuming, that is, that you aren't carrying a *ton* of extra weight like 2 little kids plus gear with you on your bike.

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