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  1. #1
    Blocking your fire exits coffeecake's Avatar
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    Purchasing advice for 14k commuter

    Hello everyone,

    I am in the market for a new commuter bike and would like to hear your thoughts. We do a round trip commute of about 14 km daily - road, paved path, and some dirt trails - as well as some grocery-getting and other errands. We're looking to do some light touring eventually, mostly day trips.

    I've been looking at the Surly LHT, Fuji Touring, Rocky Mountain Sherpa 30 ('08) as well as getting the LBS to build up a custom frame (Steelwool Tweed cro-mo, made in Quebec, with at minimum Tiagra components and Mavic wheels.) One LBS has an '08 Sherpa 30 in my size on sale. The main LBS that we frequent offers free lifetime labour BUT cannot bring in Surly completes - it would have to be built. We're in Canada, so a complete LHT runs about $1600 here (ouch, I know). I think the LHT is a good deal for 1200 or so, but 1600 is stretching our budget a bit. We are going to have these bikes for at least 10 years and pound the heck out of them in the meantime.

    So basically my question is - get the Sherpa 30 at a great deal from ($400 off) and upgrade as needed, or build from scratch with ideal components but pay a premium up front?

  2. #2
    Senior Member canyoneagle's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by coffeecake View Post
    Hello everyone,

    I am in the market for a new commuter bike and would like to hear your thoughts. We do a round trip commute of about 14 km daily - road, paved path, and some dirt trails - as well as some grocery-getting and other errands. We're looking to do some light touring eventually, mostly day trips.

    I've been looking at the Surly LHT, Fuji Touring, Rocky Mountain Sherpa 30 ('08) as well as getting the LBS to build up a custom frame (Steelwool Tweed cro-mo, made in Quebec, with at minimum Tiagra components and Mavic wheels.) One LBS has an '08 Sherpa 30 in my size on sale. The main LBS that we frequent offers free lifetime labour BUT cannot bring in Surly completes - it would have to be built. We're in Canada, so a complete LHT runs about $1600 here (ouch, I know). I think the LHT is a good deal for 1200 or so, but 1600 is stretching our budget a bit. We are going to have these bikes for at least 10 years and pound the heck out of them in the meantime.

    So basically my question is - get the Sherpa 30 at a great deal from ($400 off) and upgrade as needed, or build from scratch with ideal components but pay a premium up front?
    Personallt, I'd go with the build.

  3. #3
    Senior Member meanwhile's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by coffeecake View Post
    So basically my question is - get the Sherpa 30 at a great deal from ($400 off) and upgrade as needed, or build from scratch with ideal components but pay a premium up front?
    Upgrading commuter bikes is usually pointless. Mid-range stuff works almost as well as the bes.t. People normally skip the only really useful upgrades - better tyres and brake pads - because they aren't exciting enough. The Sherpa 30 looks like an excellent design. If it meets all your functional requirements then I say "Buy it!".

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    Senior Member d2create's Avatar
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    I would do a custom Surly build with good solid tried and true components.
    Look to www.rivbike.com for your parts. Lots of good descriptions of good solid parts that work and work well.
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    Quote Originally Posted by coffeecake View Post
    So basically my question is - get the Sherpa 30 at a great deal from ($400 off) and upgrade as needed, or build from scratch with ideal components but pay a premium up front?
    The Sherpa 30 is a very nice bike out of the box. As is, it's well-suited for what you want to do. And it's a completely reasonable platform for upgrading in the future.

    And the frame is made in Canada (in Quebec, I believe).

    You can put wide tires and fenders on the Sherpa. I have put 35mm cyclocross tires under P40 SKS fenders with no problems (and there is still a lot of clearance).

    The only bad thing about the Sherpa 30 (in the US), is that it's significantly more expensive than the LHT!

    The components on the '08 are solid if not exciting. Note that the Sherpa is geared higher than the LHT complete. This should not be a problem unless you are doing loaded touring up significant hills.

    Ricohman here uses one for commuting and touring. (Ricohman complained about the crank but I have had no problems with it).

    Buy the Sherpa and upgrade parts as they wear out or when you are clear that some fancy bit has some particular advantage to you.

    Quote Originally Posted by coffeecake View Post
    Surly LHT
    The LHT is a well-proven and inexpensive frame. The LHT complete (in the US) is a very reasonable price for a well-proven frame using well-proven components. But don't think that there is any special magic to the LHT. You would not go wrong with the LHT but there are lots of other very good bikes too.

    Quote Originally Posted by coffeecake View Post
    Fuji Touring
    The Fuji Touring would work for you too. I have heard of issues with the wheel-builds. I have no idea what the tire/fender clearances are. Unless the Fuji is a lot less expensive, I'd say go with the Sherpa.

    Quote Originally Posted by coffeecake View Post
    the LBS to build up a custom frame (Steelwool Tweed cro-mo, made in Quebec, with at minimum Tiagra components and Mavic wheels.
    That looks pretty nice! I wonder what the cost of the built-up bike would be.

    http://steelwoolbicycles.ca/bikes/tweed.html

    Keep in mind that it's just as easy to damage a custom bike in a crash. I doubt that you'd get any more performance or life out of the custom bike.

    Quote Originally Posted by meanwhile View Post
    Upgrading commuter bikes is usually pointless. Mid-range stuff works almost as well as the best. People normally skip the only really useful upgrades - better tyres and brake pads - because they aren't exciting enough. The Sherpa 30 looks like an excellent design. If it meets all your functional requirements then I say "Buy it!".
    Upgrading the Tektro pads is a good idea. Not only does "mid-range stuff" work almost as well, it's cheaper to replace if it gets damaged.
    Last edited by njkayaker; 08-31-09 at 01:29 PM.

  6. #6
    Blocking your fire exits coffeecake's Avatar
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    Thanks for all the advice so far!

    The LHT would be at least $400 more than the Rocky. I must admit I am kind of a sucker for the slick look of the Surly or Tweed. I'm getting some quotes on builds from the LBS this week, but I'll be surprised if they come in under $2000. I would build up an old frame and go all commando commuter, but we're in the great flat nowhere here and all there is for sale is clapped out BMX's and department store MTBs. Diehard bikers hang onto their bikes.

    I'm not too worried about gearing, we're about 800 km from any serious hills here and my knees still work (for now.)

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    Galveston County Texas 10 Wheels's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by coffeecake View Post
    Thanks for all the advice so far!

    The LHT would be at least $400 more than the Rocky. I must admit I am kind of a sucker for the slick look of the Surly or Tweed. I'm getting some quotes on builds from the LBS this week, but I'll be surprised if they come in under $2000. I would build up an old frame and go all commando commuter, but we're in the great flat nowhere here and all there is for sale is clapped out BMX's and department store MTBs. Diehard bikers hang onto their bikes.

    I'm not too worried about gearing, we're about 800 km from any serious hills here and my knees still work (for now.)
    http://www.jensonusa.com/store/produ...9.aspx?sc=FRGL

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  8. #8
    Blocking your fire exits coffeecake's Avatar
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    We're in Canada and about a 5 hour drive from the border. I'm tempted to go down and buy from the States as a last resort. No LBS here is going to sell us a complete LHT under $1600. Taxes, tariffs, shipping....

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    Galveston County Texas 10 Wheels's Avatar
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    I just finished The 42 Ride. 6 riders had the LHT and they were great bikes for 4,000 mile ride.
    A rider on a LHT was able to catch the horses and film this. (with one hand)


    http://mybagisbigger.blogspot.com/20...ld-horses.html
    Last edited by 10 Wheels; 08-31-09 at 01:32 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by coffeecake View Post
    The LHT would be at least $400 more than the Rocky.
    And the Sherpa is a nicer bike! And, if you have any "nutty" national loyalties, the frame is made in Canada!

    Quote Originally Posted by coffeecake View Post
    I must admit I am kind of a sucker for the slick look of the Surly or Tweed.
    The Tweed looks very nice but I can't imagine it would hit your budget (nor would a custom LHT build). The Sherpa is slicker looking than the LHT (though, I might be biased).

    Quote Originally Posted by coffeecake View Post
    I'm not too worried about gearing, we're about 800 km from any serious hills here and my knees still work (for now.)
    I didn't expect it would be a problem but I'm just making sure you were aware of the potential issue.

    Quote Originally Posted by coffeecake View Post
    We're in Canada and about a 5 hour drive from the border. I'm tempted to go down and buy from the States as a last resort. No LBS here is going to sell us a complete LHT under $1600. Taxes, tariffs, shipping....
    But the Sherpa isn't any sort of a compromise compared to an LHT.
    Last edited by njkayaker; 08-31-09 at 01:47 PM.

  11. #11
    Senior Member canyoneagle's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by coffeecake View Post
    We're in Canada and about a 5 hour drive from the border. I'm tempted to go down and buy from the States as a last resort. No LBS here is going to sell us a complete LHT under $1600. Taxes, tariffs, shipping....
    Hmmm, get a beater bike for $75, tuck it in your car and drive south. Clam it on your customs declaration as a "bicycle", pack some cycling clothers, etc. Buy your new LHT do some rides (preferably on rainy / muddy days to help 'break it in), leave the beater by a dumpster, then bring the LHT back across the border duty free..............

    NOT that I'd advise sidestepping the system!

  12. #12
    Senior Member meanwhile's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by njkayaker View Post
    And the Sherpa is a nicer bike!
    I'm guessing that the Sherpa is that Roadrat like tourer you ride - they do look like siblings, with th Rat being the sports version. If I had to choose based on what I've seen so far, no riding, I'd go for the Sherpa over the LHT - non-sloping top tubes have no function except nostalgia based marketing.

  13. #13
    Senior Member canyoneagle's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by meanwhile View Post
    non-sloping top tubes have no function except nostalgia based marketing.
    For tall folks, sloping top tube = ridiculously long seatpost. Just a thought.

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    Quote Originally Posted by meanwhile View Post
    I'm guessing that the Sherpa is that Roadrat like tourer you ride - they do look like siblings, with th Rat being the sports version. If I had to choose based on what I've seen so far, no riding, I'd go for the Sherpa over the LHT - non-sloping top tubes have no function except nostalgia based marketing.
    That would be a good guess. I try not to be overly dogmatic about things, which means I don't go on about what I happen to own. There are a lot of great bicycles. There's enough indication that the LHT is a very good bicycle (especially given it's price in the US), but it isn't the only one! (I don't think you can get the Roadrat easily in the US.)

    Quote Originally Posted by canyoneagle View Post
    For tall folks, sloping top tube = ridiculously long seatpost. Just a thought.
    That might be the case for people with proportionally longer legs. But long seatposts are pretty normal (even for racing).

    The Sherpa frame is designed a bit more like a mountain bike with lots of clearance between you and the bike.
    Last edited by njkayaker; 08-31-09 at 02:22 PM.

  15. #15
    Blocking your fire exits coffeecake's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by njkayaker View Post
    And the Sherpa is a nicer bike! And, if you have any "nutty" national loyalties, the frame is made in Canada!


    The Tweed looks very nice but I can't imagine it would hit your budget (nor would a custom LHT build). The Sherpa is slicker looking than the LHT (though, I might be biased).


    I didn't expect it would be a problem but I'm just making sure you were aware of the potential issue.


    But the Sherpa isn't any sort of a compromise compared to an LHT.
    Those are good points. Not necessarily "nutty", but I do prefer buying Canadian made if possible. This is the last year for true Made in Canada bikes by RM, though - the LBS that carries them here says that they're outsourcing their frames due to labour woes (welders are in high demand in the oilfields.)

    I see there are a lot of people on these forums who absolutely LOVE their Surlys and refuse to compromise. To me, well, I associate Rocky Mountains with the plethora of rusting out MTBs that all my friends rode in junior high (Not accurate, I know, just one of those stupid things that lurk in the back of your head.) However, anything I get will be an improvement over my poor comfort hybrid, getting abused on a daily basis because I'm asking it to do more than it was designed for.

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    Quote Originally Posted by coffeecake View Post
    Not necessarily "nutty", but I do prefer buying Canadian made if possible.
    I'm completely kidding by saying "nutty", by the way. I guessed that it might have had some value to you, which is why I mentioned the fact that the frames are made in Canada.

    Quote Originally Posted by coffeecake View Post
    This is the last year for true Made in Canada bikes by RM, though - the LBS that carries them here says that they're outsourcing their frames due to labour woes (welders are in high demand in the oilfields.)
    Cannondale is doing the same thing!

    Quote Originally Posted by coffeecake View Post
    I see there are a lot of people on these forums who absolutely LOVE their Surlys and refuse to compromise.
    I think the Surleys are fine and I like their approach to bicycle design. Also, the reputation of the LHT is excellent. The truth is, though, that there are lots of excellent bicycles. And there are other manufacturers with the same approach to bicycle design but Surley just happens to be better marketers!

    Quote Originally Posted by coffeecake View Post
    To me, well, I associate Rocky Mountains with the plethora of rusting out MTBs that all my friends rode in junior high (Not accurate, I know, just one of those stupid things that lurk in the back of your head.)
    Hah, that's funny! Note that any abused (steel) bike can rust!

    Quote Originally Posted by coffeecake View Post
    However, anything I get will be an improvement over my poor comfort hybrid, getting abused on a daily basis because I'm asking it to do more than it was designed for.
    Go search for "ricohman"'s posts (he's another Canadian) about the Sherpa. (But, in my opinion, ignore his complaints about the crank.)

    Quote Originally Posted by coffeecake View Post
    However, anything I get will be an improvement over my poor comfort hybrid, getting abused on a daily basis because I'm asking it to do more than it was designed for.
    It would be interesting to know what problems you are having with your hybrid.
    Last edited by njkayaker; 08-31-09 at 02:21 PM.

  17. #17
    Blocking your fire exits coffeecake's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by njkayaker View Post
    I'm completely kidding, by the way. I guessed that it might have had some value to you, which is why I mentioned the fact that the frames are made in Canada.


    Cannondale is doing the same thing!


    I think the Surleys are find and I like their approach to bicycle design. Also, the reputation of the LHT is excellent. The truth is, though, that there are lots of excellent bicycles. And there are other manufacturers with the same approach to bicycle design but Surley just happens to be better marketers!


    Hah, that's funny! Note that any abused (steel) bike can rust!


    Go search for "ricohman"'s posts (he's another Canadian) about the Sherpa. (But, in my opinion, ignore his complaints about the crank.)


    It would be interesting to know what problems you are having with your hybrid.
    Yeah, I talked to him about his bike and he gave a solid recommendation (aside from the crank.) I'm not offended by the "nutty" remark at all, far from it! We looked at a Cannondale t1, and while it was a very slick bike, it's still $1800. Also it is a little too name-brandy for my tastes - lots of bike thieves here. I like to think I still have my Opus 'cause nobody's heard of it. Anyways, I'd better get back to work before I get canned...there's a recession on out there....

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    Quote Originally Posted by coffeecake View Post
    Yeah, I talked to him about his bike and he gave a solid recommendation (aside from the crank.) I'm not offended by the "nutty" remark at all, far from it! We looked at a Cannondale t1, and while it was a very slick bike, it's still $1800. Also it is a little too name-brandy for my tastes - lots of bike thieves here. I like to think I still have my Opus 'cause nobody's heard of it. Anyways, I'd better get back to work before I get canned...there's a recession on out there....
    The Cannondale T1/T2 is another solid choice. If theft is a problem, maybe a "boring" black Sherpa is the thing! Everybody knows about the LHT. The Sherpa is a sleeper.

    I think the Jamis Aurora is pretty nice too.
    Last edited by njkayaker; 08-31-09 at 02:30 PM.

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    I bought the Sherpa 30 four months ago and have logged over 2000 kms. It's a great bike, and to me it's the easy choice over the bikes you listed. If no one has mentioned it yet, the stock tires (Kenda Kwests) are terrible for flats, but that's the only thing I've swapped so far.

    If the prices were balanced differently, as they seem to be in the states, then it might not be such an easy choice, but it's pretty easy up here.

    To add one more to the list though, the Devinci Cariboo is a pretty nice ride too, and still a Canadian brand if it matters. I would (and did) still go with the Sherpa though, because of the Reynolds 853 frame.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Just_Ryan View Post
    If no one has mentioned it yet, the stock tires (Kenda Kwests) are terrible for flats, but that's the only thing I've swapped so far.
    I've heard that too. I haven't used them because I went with cyclocross tires for the GAP/C&O and narrower tires for the road.

    Quote Originally Posted by Just_Ryan View Post
    To add one more to the list though, the Devinci Cariboo is a pretty nice ride too, and still a Canadian brand if it matters. I would (and did) still go with the Sherpa though, because of the Reynolds 853 frame.
    The Devincis look nice too. I wonder what the tire/fender clearance is.

    http://www.devinci.com/11630_an.html
    Last edited by njkayaker; 08-31-09 at 02:55 PM.

  21. #21
    Blocking your fire exits coffeecake's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by canyoneagle View Post
    Hmmm, get a beater bike for $75, tuck it in your car and drive south. Clam it on your customs declaration as a "bicycle", pack some cycling clothers, etc. Buy your new LHT do some rides (preferably on rainy / muddy days to help 'break it in), leave the beater by a dumpster, then bring the LHT back across the border duty free..............

    NOT that I'd advise sidestepping the system!
    Assuming we had somewhere in the US that we'd want to stay for a couple of days! (kidding, kidding). The boyfriend doesn't have a passport so it's not an option right now. But you sound pretty knowledgeable about getting things over the border undetected....

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    Senior Member cycle16v's Avatar
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    Can you do a Specialized up there? What about a Tricross ay?

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    Blocking your fire exits coffeecake's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cycle16v View Post
    Can you do a Specialized up there? What about a Tricross ay?
    Specialized and Devinci are sold at independent or small chain "sporting goods" stores here. (One describes themselves as a "fashion fitness lifestyle store", which makes me leery.) Both brands are targeted often by thieves as many people here bomb around on Devinci/Specialized MTBs. If it's flashy, it's gone.
    Last edited by coffeecake; 08-31-09 at 11:40 PM.

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    it's a long story...

    It would be interesting to know what problems you are having with your hybrid.[/QUOTE]

    I bought an '08 Opus Mondano http://www.opusbike.com/site_urbain.php?lang=en comfort hybrid last year. I used to ride a really old Norco Sasquatch (mid 80's at the latest) so I was used to banging over curbs, potholes, small animals etc. It was a total beast and bombproof but a hell of a thing to use as an efficient daily commuter. It was at the point where it needed an entire overhaul on the cassette etc. Also it was made for someone about 6' high - I'm 5'8" on a good day. (I have a long inseam but it was a nice stretch for the arms, let me tell you. It was a free bike, so I didn't complain.)

    The Mondano was comfortable and less "tippy" than the other Jamis Coda* hybrids the LBS had so I went with it. This was the first bike I bought with my own money, so $600 seemed like a decent price point. (Also I was in much worse shape physically.) Long story short, after two seasons of increasing intensity, the hybrid is too slow with it's upright position and front suspension. I've replaced the rear rim after breaking a spoke (pannier load plus poor decision to hop curb), destroyed the suspension seatpost, and went through two sets of pedals. I think I also will have to replace the chain soon. Basically I'm too hard on it - it's meant for more sedate riding than where I'm at now. (~100k per week, conservative estimate). So it's not necessarily the bike's fault - it's a decent build for the price and comfortable- but after looking at more expensive bikes I can see what they compromised.

    Now the boyfriend is in the market for a new commuting machine - his 14-year-old Norco Tango is going to cost more to fix than replace (dented frame, bent rim, awful gear wear - some are just nubs, it's incredible.) He snapped the handlebars off a couple weeks ago going through an intersection. The bolt holding the bracket on finally sheared off and he was left holding the bars connected only to the bike by the lines. Luckily he has decent reflexes and grabbed the stem in time. He's 6'3" with gorilla arms so it's going to be fun trying to find something for him. We started doing research, looking at road bikes, but we determined they would be too fragile for our mixed commute (glass, potholes, gophers, dirt, the occasional railway track.) He's tired of pushing a MTB to go traffic speed and we both like the idea of going on longer day trips out of town (partially to shock our relatives who think bikes are for kids - they're horrified by our 14 km round trip commute.) So we started looking and I found the Sherpa for a good deal...then I started thinking about how nice it would be to actually keep up with traffic with less effort...and here we are. Although it doesn't really help him cause the 30 doesn't come in a size big enough to fit him comfortably (he prefers to stretch right out - rides a 23" MTB frame.) So I guess that'll be my next new thread...


    *I don't consider these "tippy" now. Just seemed like it at the time...

  25. #25
    Senior Member meanwhile's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Just_Ryan View Post
    I would (and did) still go with the Sherpa though, because of the Reynolds 853 frame.
    Reynolds 853??? Then why are we still talking? That's a huge upgrade over the generic Taiwanese 4130 Surly use. From Argos, one of the UK's most respected custom frame builders, who charge 1200 for an 853 frame:

    The ultimate performance tube set ?. Maybe, the Reynolds 853 tube set has been our No 1 for the performance rider ever since it's launch in 1995. Reynolds 853 offers uncompromising performance combined with superb ride quality and excellent strength to weight ratio. The strength to weight ratio equals that of Titanium frames.

    After the frame is constructed, 853 actually increases in strength as the frame cools (air hardening).

    The unique air hardening properties of 853 provides additional stiffness through reduced micro yielding at the joints, allowing stiffer frames with higher fatigue strength.
    There's nothing wrong with the Surly's, but unless RM have done something terribly wrong (like forgetting to weld two of the tubes together or leaving the bearings out of the bottom bracket) it's not in this league.
    Last edited by meanwhile; 09-01-09 at 02:50 AM.

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