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  1. #1
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    Time to upgrade to something suited for commuting?

    About a year ago my partner and I started commuting to work. When we started we lived about 3 miles away from work and didn't know anything about bikes. I ended up with a Specialized Hardrock and she got a Giant Boulder with slicks (otherwise they are stock). Since then we have started riding more often and have moved such that our commute is about 6-7 miles one way that takes 25-35 minutes depending on the weather. Also, I am hoping to avoid using the car more and starting to do more chores/shopping via bikes.

    The commute leads us through some traffic, stop signs and lights, plus the roads aren't the greatest. The city doesn't really keep the bike lane clean or take care of it at all. There are some hills, both gradual and steep.

    Recently, we have discussed upgrading to faster bikes more suited for commuting, but don't have a lot of money to spend (hopefully under $500 each). Ideally, we would sell our old bikes once we got our new ones. I have poked around on Craigslist, but our area isn't very active.

    I have done some searching online (going to the store this weekend) for bike recommendations, but figure I should ask here too. Not really limited by availability in town, because there isn't a huge variety, we can buy in Austin, Houston or Dallas. Please remember, at this point we haven't had a chance to test ride any of these, the focus is based purely on reading.

    Right now the front runners is the Kona Smoke because it seems to get great recommendations, but I have also read good things about the Insight 1 and the KHS Green. Any thoughts or other recommendations?

    Thanks

  2. #2
    Big Ol' Varmint nice_marmot's Avatar
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    A year ago, this bike got me into biking after a 10-year hiatus: http://www.konaworld.com/bike.cfm?content=dew. The Smoke will be similar, but the Dew's aluminum frame makes it lighter.

    By way of endorsement... the bike is my go-to to haul groceries, ride to and from work, and do long trips on weekends when I can. I am addicted.
    Last edited by nice_marmot; 07-21-10 at 09:13 AM. Reason: spelling and punctuation
    "Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race." - H.G. Wells

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  3. #3
    Team Water Andy_K's Avatar
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    How old are your Hard Rock and Boulder? Do they have rigid forks or suspension?

    I'm not sure something like the Kona Smoke will be significantly better than what you have.

  4. #4
    Kid A TurbineBlade's Avatar
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    I'm not sure something like the Kona Smoke will be significantly better than what you have.
    Ditto. Running slicks on a mountain bike will put you easily as fast you'll probably do it with even a road bike IMO. My commute is 14 miles one way and I'd use a mountain bike with slicks in a heart beat -- they're great commuters without the knobby tires. I am of the opinion that they're even better than most road bikes for it, because the bigger tires you can run at lower psi and they give a much more smooth ride over crappy roads. You can also usually install fenders too. And a rack and panniers.

    I'd keep what you have, maybe upgrade your tires (which makes a HUGE difference) and get some good lights if you ride after dark (or before light).

    The smoke is a good commuter, but it won't be any better than what you already have most likely.


    I commute on a steel touring bike and get passed by people on mountain bikes with slicks commonly.
    Cyclist, angler and aquarist

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by nice_marmot View Post
    A year ago, this bike got me into biking after a 10-year hiatus: http://www.konaworld.com/bike.cfm?content=dew. The Smoke will be similar, but the Dew's aluminum frame makes it lighter.

    By way of endorsement... the bike is my go-to to haul groceries, ride to and from work, and do long trips on weekends when I can. I am addicted.
    Thanks for the suggestion.

    Quote Originally Posted by Andy_K View Post
    How old are your Hard Rock and Boulder? Do they have rigid forks or suspension?

    I'm not sure something like the Kona Smoke will be significantly better than what you have.
    They are a little over a year old with suspensions. Fully stock, except we have hybrid tires, not slicks. I was mistaken earlier.

    Is there some bike in this range which would be a worthwhile upgrade?

    Quote Originally Posted by TurbineBlade View Post
    Ditto. Running slicks on a mountain bike will put you easily as fast you'll probably do it with even a road bike IMO. My commute is 14 miles one way and I'd use a mountain bike with slicks in a heart beat -- they're great commuters without the knobby tires. I am of the opinion that they're even better than most road bikes for it, because the bigger tires you can run at lower psi and they give a much more smooth ride over crappy roads. You can also usually install fenders too. And a rack and panniers.

    I'd keep what you have, maybe upgrade your tires (which makes a HUGE difference) and get some good lights if you ride after dark (or before light).

    The smoke is a good commuter, but it won't be any better than what you already have most likely.


    I commute on a steel touring bike and get passed by people on mountain bikes with slicks commonly.
    I always thought there would be some differences in gearing between the two types of bikes, guess not. We already have lights and such for night riding.

  6. #6
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    I commuted regularly on a MTB for a long time. Just put proper slicks on both bikes, something that can support a high pressure, and it should be "good enough." Also, adjust your suspension to be as stiff as it'll get, to keep it from eating too much energy.

    There are differences in gearing, but for regular road riding, I generally use a very high gear - usually the highest or second highest - on an MTB and a middle gear on my road bike. I haven't done tooth counts, let alone corrected for the different wheel diameter, but I'd guess that the gears I actually use on a regular basis are the same. Also, if you find you want higher gearing, replacing your cassette or chain ring is much cheaper than buying a new bike.

  7. #7
    Born Again Pagan irclean's Avatar
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    If money is an issue, then follow the above suggestions about souping up your MTBs. If you can afford it then my advice, FWIW, is to keep the MTBs for backup and go shopping! "Performance"-type hybrids like the Trek FX series won't be too much of a departure from what you're already used to, but you may also want to check out some more road-type of bikes. Your choices are somewhat limited in the price range you mentioned, but many LBSs often have discontinued, previous year's, or even used models for sale. If you do test ride a road bike (BTW cyclocross and touring bikes can make great commuters) and you find that you like it, reasonably-priced models can also be found online from places like Bikes Direct (but personally I prefer my LBS):

    http://www.bikesdirect.com/products/..._cross_cx3.htm

    http://www.bikesdirect.com/products/windsor/tourist.htm
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  8. #8
    Come here often? <wink> exile's Avatar
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    If money is that tight I would commuterize what you have now. Slicks would be my first choice to change over (I have Specialized Fatboys 26*1.25 100psi) which I have on my hardtail. A rear rack and fenders would be my next purchase since it sounds like you want to make it more utilitarian. Lights and reflective gear is also very useful.

    For relatively short distances (3-5 miles for me) my hardtail is fine. For distances over that I would need to make changes to my bike if I want to keep it comfortable. I am not sure if you are facing that problem as well. If so you may need to look into changing your saddle, pedals, grips, and/or handlebars to help. Hope this helps.
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  9. #9
    Super Moderator no1mad's Avatar
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    I've been pondering the Giant Escape City myself. Fenders, kickstand, rack (don't know about that one), and nice long chain stays. Longer chain stays will help avoid heel strike issues when using panniers.
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  10. #10
    Senior Member Grim's Avatar
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    Personally I think touring bikes are the way to go. More upright riding position's then a sport bike but you have the drops when you want to get out of the wind. Strong frames and mounts for racks and most will take a 35mm tire smoothing out the road and gearing for hills and hauling the groceries. Down side is a good NEW touring bike is about double what you are wanting to spend.

    Near a REI? see if they have any left over 09 Randonee's . Good bang for the buck.

    That Windsor linked above has decent parts (close to a Randonee) if the frame is decent thats a really good price.. Anybody actually have one that can comment?
    Last edited by Grim; 07-21-10 at 09:11 PM.
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  11. #11
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    Unless the suspension is bothering you, I'd stay with those bikes. As everyone says, put decent tires on, higher pressure, narrower ones, maybe 26x1.5 or so. I've been a roadie for a long time but I commute on my MTB, an older Trek 8000 with slicks. I can't keep up with guys on roadies when they push it, but I keep up with everyone else and usually make them push harder. I'm no youngster at 55 and I think it bothers the hipsters that I can ride faster than they can on their minimalist fixies on my MTB with pannier.

  12. #12
    Papaya King waynesworld's Avatar
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    I would suggest, well, a few things. Maybe. If you want drop bars, then that opens up lots of other possibilities. I'll speak toward the others.

    First of all, yours are fine, but probably waste a lot of energy. If you're ok with that, with the workout and all, then you are fine. But I would definitely get slicks or semi-slicks.

    Second, an older, non suspension mountain bike would seem perfect, with the same tires mentioned above.

    Third, someone mentioned the Trek FX series. That does seem perfect. If you really want to buy a new bike, something like that would be great. There are other manufacturers who make similar products, but I own a 7.3 FX, and it's great. I also own a Felt X City, 2009 model, which is a wonderful bike. The others I can't comment on.

    So, if you are itching for a new bike, I'd say a hybrid (like the FX series) would be a great choice. Still have pretty wide tires too. If you want something with drop bars though, I'll let the people with more experience offer their opinions.

    Good luck!
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  13. #13
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    Today during the commute I really paid attention to what I think is slowing me down and more about the ride in general. The ride there isn't too bad, a few hills, but nothing bad. The biggest problem is I normally max out my bikes gearing for a bit of the ride. The way back is a little different, most of the ride is into semi-strong wind because the buildings and houses creates a wind tunnel for about three quarters of the ride. The wind is strong enough that if I did stop peddling down hill, the wind will stop my momentum. Also, most of the steeper hills are on the ride home. Overall the ride home feels slower and is harder, but I think this is primarily due to the wind. My guess is something that allowed a more aggressive posture when riding into the wind would be beneficial.

    As far as roads go, most of the problem areas are older roads that are falling apart. The city is repairing the roads which coincidentally involves repairing the bike lane. I don't know if this further description helps with understanding my situation and if upgrading the current bikes or getting new bikes is better. Also, what kind of budget is necessary to make a worthwhile upgrade or is this unnecessary? Someone mentioned double, that isn't feasible, but we might be able to stretch a little.

  14. #14
    Senior Member crazybikerchick's Avatar
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    You could put clip-on aerobars on to the bikes you have now to be able to crouch out of the wind. I know some people have said not to bother upgrading, because you won't notice much speed difference. But if you notice an enjoyment difference, that's definitely worth it! Its good to have commuter bikes that make you smile. I'd test ride everything in your price range and see what feels good. (and can hopefully accomodate racks and fenders)

  15. #15
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    Something about internally geared hubs that makes them Ideal for Commuting, and now the manufacturers are competing to see who can pack the most gear ratios in there.

    3 speed is a hundred year old innovation, 5, 7, 8, 9, and Shimano is set to sell an 11 speed in a year..

    why so great for commuting ?, no deralleur to whack , and you can pick a gear when not moving much or at all.
    advantage when you hit a red light in too high a gear just downshift at a standstill while you are waiting for the light to change.

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    Quote Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
    Something about internally geared hubs that makes them Ideal for Commuting, and now the manufacturers are competing to see who can pack the most gear ratios in there.

    3 speed is a hundred year old innovation, 5, 7, 8, 9, and Shimano is set to sell an 11 speed in a year..

    why so great for commuting ?, no deralleur to whack , and you can pick a gear when not moving much or at all.
    advantage when you hit a red light in too high a gear just downshift at a standstill while you are waiting for the light to change.
    That sounds pretty interesting. Any specific recommendations?

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    I would put Trekking bars and some slicks on your current bikes.

    If you want a new bike, I would Strongly recommend the Kona Dew. I freaking love mine. Kona is also coming out with the Dew City for 2011, slightly more inexpensive version of the Dew..

  18. #18
    Come here often? <wink> exile's Avatar
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    Tell your partner they can't afford a new bike, but instead double the amount you would spend on yourself. However don't take that advice if you want to keep your partner.

    All kidding aside you might want to look into used road bikes. I think they would provide better gearing, multiple hand positions, a more aero position, a relatively faster ride, and depending on the bike, attachments for racks and fenders. I would probably stay away from the more racing oriented bikes but rather look at cross bikes, sports touring bikes, and the like. You mentioned some pretty large cities in your original post, but i'm confused as to why you think they won't have a good selection?

    For your current bike, new tires (slicks) will be around $20-30 a piece i suspect. A decent rear rack $25-45. Fenders $30 or so. Trekking bars about $30-40 if memory serves me correctly. Or perhaps you can get by with bar ends. These numbers are off the top of my head so if you look around you may get over or under that price, but i'm not sure by how much.
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  19. #19
    Team Water Andy_K's Avatar
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    A bike that used to get a lot of recommendations on this forum, but I haven't seen mentioned as much lately is the Jamis Coda. They sell for about $550. It's probably worth a test ride.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by exile View Post
    All kidding aside you might want to look into used road bikes. I think they would provide better gearing, multiple hand positions, a more aero position, a relatively faster ride, and depending on the bike, attachments for racks and fenders. I would probably stay away from the more racing oriented bikes but rather look at cross bikes, sports touring bikes, and the like. You mentioned some pretty large cities in your original post, but i'm confused as to why you think they won't have a good selection?
    The new bike selection will be great in the bigger cities locally the options are Trek, Specialized, Giant and Jamis, but the used market (at least person to person) seems to move to fast for our ability to make it to the larger cities. If we get lucky we might find the right bike on Craigslist, but locally that isn't happening, the CL here is very slow.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by TurbineBlade View Post
    Ditto. Running slicks on a mountain bike will put you easily as fast you'll probably do it with even a road bike IMO.
    That is indeed a matter of opinion. I was just reading a thread this morning about mountain/hybrid bikes and speed and tires, and the gist of what several people were saying was "I put 1.5" slicks on my mountain bike and it's a lot faster - though definitely not as fast as my road bike".

  22. #22
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    P.S. I would have to chime in with what other people have been saying - if you put decent slick tires on your mountain bike and either lock out the front shock or set it to it's least-bouncy setting, it's unlikely the new bike you linked to would be much of an improvement over what you already have.

    I think you would need to go to a road bike to get something substantially faster, and if there isn't anything on craigslist, entry level road bikes from a shop are more like $700-$900 for the bike. If you find an older model you might be able to bring that down a little, but it sounds way out of your price range.

    If you're looking for a specific tire recommendation, from reputation the cheapest-but-reliable-and-puncture-resistant tire I know of is the Panaracer Pasela TG:
    http://www.rei.com/product/764318

    (If you buy a Pasela, be sure it has Tourguard or TG in it's name or you'll get the non-flat-resistant one).

  23. #23
    Born Again Pagan irclean's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by avaserfi View Post
    That sounds pretty interesting. Any specific recommendations?
    Unfortunately, most new IGH-equipped bikes are well above your $500 budget. There are a few exceptions, but most of those are 3- or 5-speed bikes, and for the type of riding that you encounter you probably want more gear range than those can provide. Not to say that it can't be done - many posters here tackle all sorts of topography and headwinds on single-speed bikes! I just purchased a bike with an 8-speed Shimano Alfine hub and you would probably need to spend at least $700 for a decent bike with that hub. Someone mentioned aerobars for a flat bar bike. Two other choices for getting into a more aerodynamic riding position are drop bar ends, and my personal favourite, trekking bars. Finding a drop-bar bike with an IGH is an even greater challenge (although they do exist).

    IGH "performance hybrid", MSRP 1200!
    Budget IGH hybrid.
    Drop bar IGH road bike. Less than $500, but only 5 speeds.
    Drop Bar Ends.
    Trekking Bars.

    Quote Originally Posted by avaserfi View Post
    The new bike selection will be great in the bigger cities locally the options are Trek, Specialized, Giant and Jamis, but the used market (at least person to person) seems to move to fast for our ability to make it to the larger cities. If we get lucky we might find the right bike on Craigslist, but locally that isn't happening, the CL here is very slow.
    Since you have a Jamis dealer in your area I second the earlier poster's suggestion of the Coda. Jamis has a good reputation and the Coda is steel-framed, which often translates into smoother rides on rough city streets than their aluminum-framed counterparts. That is unless you add a carbon fork, but then you're getting into the big bucks again. The Coda even comes in a woman-specific model.
    Last edited by irclean; 07-22-10 at 10:59 PM.
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  24. #24
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    I own one, for winter riding (A Shimano Alfine, 8 speeds). And an IGH is:
    - More expensive than a regular derailler
    - Heavier than a regular derailler
    - Has wider spaces between the gears than a regular derailler, and also has the same or less total range over the gears
    - Slightly less efficient than a regular derailler

    IGH's are interesting. And if you combine an IGH with a belt drive, you have lower maintenance and that's pretty cool (also kind of expensive in upfront costs though).

    But, in my opinion, not the direction you want to be heading from your description.

  25. #25
    Super Moderator no1mad's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Junior88 View Post
    I would put Trekking bars and some slicks on your current bikes.

    If you want a new bike, I would Strongly recommend the Kona Dew. I freaking love mine. Kona is also coming out with the Dew City for 2011, slightly more inexpensive version of the Dew..
    Where'd you find the info on the new Dew?
    Quote Originally Posted by Cyril View Post
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