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Commuting Bicycle commuting is easier than you think, before you know it, you'll be hooked. Learn the tips, hints, equipment, safety requirements for safely riding your bike to work.

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Old 07-21-10, 09:56 AM   #1
krapes
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Long Commuting Advice

I have a long commute- 50 miles round trip. The good thing is that it is usually only twice a week so it is actually not as bad as it sounds. I currently have a Trek Soho S with a flip-flop hub w/ a freewheel on one side and fixed on the other. I have been using the Soho S as a commuter. Lately, I've begun feeling that my current bike isn't really the best option for such riding. I was looking to pick up a road bike and the one that is looking most attractive to me right now is the Felt F95.

http://www.feltbicycles.com/USA/2010...eries/F95.aspx

The only issue is that I'm starting to have doubts about how appropriate a bike like the Felt would be for commuting. This was probably set off by the fact that the Felt looks so 'race-y', and kind of fragile to be quite honest. Would a road bike handle my kind of riding with curb hops, heavy loads, and bad streets? I'm open to other suggestions for a bike- I would like to keep it at about the price range of the Felt- which is about $800 because I wouldn't feel comfortable locking up a bike that is more expensive than that. Or if some people think I should just stick to what I have- I'm open to that opinion as well.
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Old 07-21-10, 10:01 AM   #2
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I'd (personally) not go with a racing / performance road bike given the urban conditions you describe (curb hopping, rough pavement).

A roadworthy but versatile bike such as http://www.raleighusa.com/bikes/road/clubman/ comes to mind as an option.......

Bumping the budget to $1000 or so opens numerous other possibilities, including the ubiquitous Surly offerings, plus Salsa and Soma.

The fact that you are managing with a singlespeed at the moment tells me that there are no significant hills to consider, so you really have alot of options.

If you like the Trek, consider building up a rear wheel with an internally geared hub - the complete conversion (rear wheel, shifter, cable) can be done for $250-$400 depending on choices and would be a sweet ride to boot.

Last edited by canyoneagle; 07-21-10 at 10:12 AM.
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Old 07-21-10, 10:10 AM   #3
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You can commute on whatever bike you like. Some are easier than others.

Personally, I would think about looking for a bike that has eyelets for a rack, and maybe some stronger wheels. Curb hops on those wheels would not inspire confidence.

Try looking at some cross bikes.

Good luck!
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Old 07-21-10, 10:29 AM   #4
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If you like the Trek, consider building up a rear wheel with an internally geared hub - the complete conversion (rear wheel, shifter, cable) can be done for $250-$400 depending on choices and would be a sweet ride to boot.

Adding gears is an interesting idea, and I do like my current bike. I'm interested as to why you suggested an internally geared hub versus regular gears. Why do you think an internal hub is right for me?
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Old 07-21-10, 10:40 AM   #5
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Kudos to you!
I wouldn't worry about the frame. Most bikes are built pretty good (lawsuit prevention specifications). With a bike in that price range, you may end up putting new wheel(s) on it. Curb hopping does that.
With that said, I would ask myself what is the primary/secondary purpose of the bike? Then I would work backwards from there with my budget.
Consider things like stowage, lighting, weather, road conditions, etc.
Those things will determine if you want lights, fenders, racks, panniers, the list goes on.
Once you have considered necessity vs. wants, then you can determine things; such as if fenders are required then will they fit on this bike?
If you fulfill the gotta-haves and add a few nice touches, you'll end up with something that will keep you happy for some time.


+1 on the geared hub if want to keep what you have.

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Old 07-21-10, 10:43 AM   #6
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Adding gears is an interesting idea, and I do like my current bike. I'm interested as to why you suggested an internally geared hub versus regular gears. Why do you think an internal hub is right for me?
It is an easy way to add gears to a singlespeed frame (no derailleur hanger), while preserving the clean driveline and simplicity of the singlespeed aesthetic.

Another option is to do a 1x9 conversion with the addition of a derailleur hanger
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Old 07-21-10, 10:53 AM   #7
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I like to keep it simple. I have a pack under my seat in case of flats, I have front and back lights for when it gets dark, a u-lock mounted to the frame, and I have a backpack on my back. I don't feel the need to install fenders. From browsing the forum I know a backpack and no-fenders is contrary to the opinions of many other commuters here, but it works for me.

Really it's just all about the speed. I feel like I'm losing a lot of time by not being able to change to a harder gear when at speed. I would actually be fine with my current gear being the easiest, as long as I could get one more gear for when going fast.
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Old 07-21-10, 10:59 AM   #8
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I like to keep it simple. I have a pack under my seat in case of flats, I have front and back lights for when it gets dark, a u-lock mounted to the frame, and I have a backpack on my back. I don't feel the need to install fenders. From browsing the forum I know a backpack and no-fenders is contrary to the opinions of many other commuters here, but it works for me.

Really it's just all about the speed. I feel like I'm losing a lot of time by not being able to change to a harder gear when at speed. I would actually be fine with my current gear being the easiest, as long as I could get one more gear for when going fast.
My $.02 would be to go with an IGH.
The simplest choice would be a 3 speed (such as the Sturmey Archer S3X) that you set up such that the lowest gear is your primary gear, leaving 2 "go faster" gears. The S3X offers 160% range.

If you want more variety, a 5 or 8 speed would work, but I'm not sure if the 8 speed would really be necessary given your posts.

.....OR, for a little more than the cost of converting your SS/FG, you could get http://bikesdirect.com/products/mercier/kilott_wt5.htm
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Old 07-21-10, 11:58 AM   #9
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My commuter is a Motobecane Fantom CX from that website that sells bikes. I dare not mention it's URL for fear of being labeled a shill. Mine has a rack, fenders and all the lights I could ever want. And the bike is $500. I have more expensive bikes that I sometimes ride to work, but that's my hauler and my daily ride. And I've ridden it in all weather.
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Old 07-21-10, 12:48 PM   #10
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My commuter is a Motobecane Fantom CX from that website that sells bikes. I dare not mention it's URL for fear of being labeled a shill. Mine has a rack, fenders and all the lights I could ever want. And the bike is $500. I have more expensive bikes that I sometimes ride to work, but that's my hauler and my daily ride. And I've ridden it in all weather.
Lemme guess.... it starts with the letter B.

OP should consider a CX bike like the Specialized Cross whatever or the very excellent Kona Jake. They have a racier profile than your current ride and are robust enough to take on the rough stuff. These bikes also come with eyelets. 50mile round trip is a serious commute on bicycle. Atleast in my books. Have you considered mixing it up with transit?
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Old 07-21-10, 12:51 PM   #11
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Lemme guess.... it starts with the letter B.

OP should consider a CX bike like the Specialized Cross whatever or the very excellent Kona Jake. They have a racier profile than your current ride and are robust enough to take on the rough stuff. These bikes also come with eyelets. 50mile round trip is a serious commute on bicycle. Atleast in my books. Have you considered mixing it up with transit?
It does, and if I had to do it all over again, I'd stick with what I have. Or maybe get a CrossCheck, I really like the way it rides. Ok....almost certainly get a CrossCheck. But given the budget needs of the OP, that might not be an option.
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Old 07-21-10, 01:10 PM   #12
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Really it's just all about the speed. I feel like I'm losing a lot of time by not being able to change to a harder gear when at speed. I would actually be fine with my current gear being the easiest, as long as I could get one more gear for when going fast.
Personally, I don't think you'll notice as much of a difference as you think. I commute on both my bikes, one a geared Jamis Aurora, the other my fixed Jamis Sputnik. It takes the same amount of time to ride my 13 miles with either bike, no matter how much I push myself. A lot of it is traffic lights though..

I do admit, I have been wondering how much difference a 'performance' road bike instead of my 'touring' road bike would make, if any. Lately it's been feeling heavy and sluggish every since I got my 20lb fixed bike.
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Old 07-21-10, 02:10 PM   #13
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I often commute 24 miles each way on my Look 585. Heavy load - I am 250 lbs. Sometimes with a light back pack. New York City streets for part of the ride, including one stretch of cobblestones. But, I do not hop curbs. Over the last seven years one broken spoke and a warranty repair on a cracked rim. In low light or wet conditions I take a Lynskey R230 that will clear 28 tires mounted on heavier wheels. But I much prefer the lightweight wheels with 25 tires I use on the Look. Until recently I rode 23s, but the rear was wearing too quickly.

I do have a couple of climbs and the variable direction of the wind along the Hudson River makes gearing a must for me. If it were flat the wheels and tires would make less of a difference. I can't imagine 50 miles on a single gear.

What you carry, if you ride in the rain, and if you have a secure place at work should all shape your decision.

Can you borrow or rent a road bike or cross for a trial commute? You may also find that a touring bike may work well. Only you can tell what works best for you. Try and get an extended demo ride. Some shops will allow this. Downside with conventional geared bikes will be more maintenance. Not a big deal if you can do it yourself. I haven't ridden a hub with internal gears in almost 50 years so no opinion on those.

Whatever you decide, the fit will be more important than a particular brand.
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Old 07-21-10, 02:48 PM   #14
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Here's your Soho S, if my search turned up the right bike -
http://www.trekbikes.com/us/en/bikes/urban/soho/sohos/

According to the page, it has 28c tires on it. If it has held up to whatever you put it through so far, I'm sure a road bike would be fine. The road bike frame isn't going to be a problem. One question is if it comes with less durable wheels than your soho - that's about the only place that causes "fragile" problems. The other question is if it has clearance for 28c tires - frankly though, pretty much all road bikes take 25c tires, and if you're happy with 28c tires if you had to go to 25c it probably wouldn't be that huge of a deal.

I own a bike with an IGH. I wouldn't get an IGH for your trip. And IGH is heavier, has larger gaps between the gears (not that that would be a big concern for you, though), is more expensive, and isn't as efficient as a derailler. I use it as my winter bike - I wanted it to be my summer commuter as well, but it just wasn't as sprightly as my regular road bike (a $800 bike). There's no way I would do a 50 mile trip with it unless time didn't matter (like on a weekend trip or something). It's not "terribly" different, but over 50 miles...it was enough that I bought a regular road bike for summer commuting.

One thing I don't like about the Felt is that there's a lot of drop between the seat and the handlebars (in the pic at least). Of course seat position depends on how tall you are, what size bike you get, etc, but I've found if there's a lot of drop it can make finding a comfortable seat a lot more...difficult. One where you don't have to worry about...numbness and rubbing. Of course I don't know it this would be a problem for you, but they do make nice road bikes with a less large drop between the saddle and the handlebars.
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Old 07-21-10, 03:15 PM   #15
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Wow. You guys are great. Thanks for all your suggestions.

I appreciate the advice from an earlier poster about getting an IGH, but as I'm looking for more performance- I wouldn't want to get something that adds considerable weight.

I think ultimately that I will be fine with a road bike. PaulRivers is right in that I basically have road tires as it is (28c). I'll look around more in the road bike category and find something along those lines.
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Old 07-22-10, 09:22 AM   #16
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Sounds like you're dialing it in!

To keep things simple, consider a 1x9 or 1x10 drivetrain. It does not sound like you need the gearing range for climbing, so perhaps a 48 up front with an 11-23 or 11-25 out back would get you sorted.

Doing so eliminates the cost and clutter of a front derailluer, front shifter, cable and a chainring.

You'd need a small chain guide (Paul Components makes a nice one) in lieu of the front derailluer to avoid dropping the chain in the top or bottom gears.
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Old 07-22-10, 11:12 PM   #17
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I like to keep it simple. I have a pack under my seat in case of flats, I have front and back lights for when it gets dark, a u-lock mounted to the frame, and I have a backpack on my back. I don't feel the need to install fenders. From browsing the forum I know a backpack and no-fenders is contrary to the opinions of many other commuters here, but it works for me.

Really it's just all about the speed. I feel like I'm losing a lot of time by not being able to change to a harder gear when at speed. I would actually be fine with my current gear being the easiest, as long as I could get one more gear for when going fast.
Another option is to install a chain tensioner, front derailleur, and a double crankset. That would give you the one extra gear you are looking for.
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Old 07-22-10, 11:36 PM   #18
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Get a cyclocross bike.
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Old 07-23-10, 12:03 AM   #19
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my IGH added barely any weight (converted from a 1x9), and the bonus in reliability more than offsets any conceivably penalty. it also shifts much faster than my derailleur, and makes stop-and-go riding a breeze. of course, i got mine to handle the long rides which it more than excels at. no hassles, no dirtiness, just pure lovin' bicycle riding.
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Old 07-23-10, 12:09 AM   #20
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+1 on the IGH... did this a friend's Marin Hamilton which is was a fixed/ss set up and now runs an Alfine 8 speed and trekking bars.

Is great for commuting and was also used for a little ride to Alaska and back.
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Old 07-23-10, 12:52 AM   #21
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my IGH added barely any weight (converted from a 1x9), and the bonus in reliability more than offsets any conceivably penalty. it also shifts much faster than my derailleur, and makes stop-and-go riding a breeze. of course, i got mine to handle the long rides which it more than excels at. no hassles, no dirtiness, just pure lovin' bicycle riding.
I can only say that I think mine weighs more (my mom even had the chance to try identical bikes, one with an IGH and one without, and commented about how it was easier to get up to speed with the derailler), there is no bonus in reliability - both an igh and a derailler are reliable. It doesn't shift any faster than a derailler. In fact, one aspect of igh shifting is that it's less predictable than an adjusted derailler (and contrary to the mythology, the igh does actually need to be adjusted for initial cable stretch just like a derailler).

It does let you shift at a complete stop which you cannot do with a derailler. The tradeoff is the unpredictability of shifts under load (they work, but you can't predict exactly how long they'll take).

If you have an igh with a belt you avoid a chain - that's great. If you have a chain, there's little or no benefit in maintenance or "less dirtiness" vs a derailler - the chain is the issue, not the derailler.

If you're unsure, please feel free to go ride one yourself. I'm sure you'll experience that the IGH "feels heavier and slower". After probably 500 miles on mine, the feeling doesn't go away. It's not a big deal if you're going 5-10 miles. It is a larger deal for 50.
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Old 07-23-10, 08:43 PM   #22
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I rode about 12 miles together with my friend today who has a road bike and I was embarrassed at how he seemed to be right on pace with me even though he is obviously less in shape than I am (I had to do an additional 25 miles right after though and he had a break). I don't mean to blame everything on the bike, but I do think that I could do much better with having a road bike myself. I have my current bike listed on Craigslist and am hoping to get a decent price so that I can upgrade to a road bike.

I'm not really sold on the IGH despite many of you advising me so. I have a feeling that PaulRivers is right in saying that the IGH would make a bigger difference for long rides. Though my commute is 50 miles round trip- I rode about 90 combining yesterday night and this morning and this is not particularly unusual. I like long rides.

Again, let me reiterate that I am really interested in performance. I like to ride fast and willingly sacrifice comfort/utility for speed.

Since you guys have been so great with these suggestions, I was wondering if anyone could suggest a road bike that has good clearance for winter tires (I've been car-free since May and I'm hoping to keep it that way through the winter).
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Old 07-23-10, 09:15 PM   #23
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Cyclocross bikes usually have good tire clearance with room for fenders. I've heard good things about the Kona Jake. Another BF member here just bought the Norco Vesta; a belt-driven, disc-braked single-speed with good tire clearance and provisions for fenders & rack. Hmm... sound like an ideal candidate for winter commuting! Norco is a Canadian company but their bikes can be found in the States - just search for dealers on their website. I just bought the Vesta's sister, the Ceres, a flat-bar bike with the Alfine 8-speed IGH.

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Old 07-23-10, 09:16 PM   #24
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I rode about 12 miles together with my friend today who has a road bike and I was embarrassed at how he seemed to be right on pace with me even though he is obviously less in shape than I am (I had to do an additional 25 miles right after though and he had a break). I don't mean to blame everything on the bike, but I do think that I could do much better with having a road bike myself. I have my current bike listed on Craigslist and am hoping to get a decent price so that I can upgrade to a road bike.

I'm not really sold on the IGH despite many of you advising me so. I have a feeling that PaulRivers is right in saying that the IGH would make a bigger difference for long rides. Though my commute is 50 miles round trip- I rode about 90 combining yesterday night and this morning and this is not particularly unusual. I like long rides.

Again, let me reiterate that I am really interested in performance. I like to ride fast and willingly sacrifice comfort/utility for speed.

Since you guys have been so great with these suggestions, I was wondering if anyone could suggest a road bike that has good clearance for winter tires (I've been car-free since May and I'm hoping to keep it that way through the winter).
Cyclocross bike with slick tires.

It is basically a road bike frame married to a MTB fork with cantilever brakes. This leaves room between the upper fork and stays, for bigger tires and fenders. And dont forget a rack, which has little to do with tire clearance, but without which no commuting bike should be without.
Cyclocross bikes also have a slightly looser geometry than a pure road bike, so they ride a bit easier. If you are planning to commute a long way, it is worth a look at the CX bike.

You may also wish to look at a dedicated touring bike. It has an even more forgiving geometry than the CX bike and often has a steel frame. This means it can handle heavy loads, and is smooth riding. It is not as sprinty as a road or CX bike, but it is a comfortable compromise. A decent example of the breed that comes to mind is the Windsor Tourist.
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Old 07-26-10, 12:48 PM   #25
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I can only say that I think mine weighs more (my mom even had the chance to try identical bikes, one with an IGH and one without, and commented about how it was easier to get up to speed with the derailler), there is no bonus in reliability - both an igh and a derailler are reliable. It doesn't shift any faster than a derailler. In fact, one aspect of igh shifting is that it's less predictable than an adjusted derailler (and contrary to the mythology, the igh does actually need to be adjusted for initial cable stretch just like a derailler).

It does let you shift at a complete stop which you cannot do with a derailler. The tradeoff is the unpredictability of shifts under load (they work, but you can't predict exactly how long they'll take).

If you have an igh with a belt you avoid a chain - that's great. If you have a chain, there's little or no benefit in maintenance or "less dirtiness" vs a derailler - the chain is the issue, not the derailler.

If you're unsure, please feel free to go ride one yourself. I'm sure you'll experience that the IGH "feels heavier and slower". After probably 500 miles on mine, the feeling doesn't go away. It's not a big deal if you're going 5-10 miles. It is a larger deal for 50.
1. an IGH can get up to speed as qucikly as any derailleur. i do it every day; shifting faster than my former Ultegra system does help. the trick about getting up to speed: it's 99% in the thighs, and *maybe* 1% the drivetrain. but one note: faster shifting is in learning how to use an IGH, which does not shift like a derailleur.
2. ask schleck about derailleur reliability! but in truth, IGHs and conventional drives are both reliable; an IGH is usually just a bit more problem free.
3. not all IGHs require cable stretch adjustment, so there's no mythology here; in any event, IGH cable adjustment is an, um, half-second operation.
4. there is no unpredictability of shifts under load. it shifts under load. it shifts under sprints under load. i do it daily. the shifting is instant.
5. my IGH with chain is easier to keep clean than my old 1x9 system because i never have need to de-grease/un-crap a cassette and derailleur. i service the chain less-frequently as well, because an IGH always has a perfect chainline, whereas my old derailleur setup would enhance grime-wear due to the angled chainline. this is especially noticeable as i ride in inclement weather; in perfect weather it's less of an issue. a gates-belt drive has its own set of issues, including off-center squeaking.
6. mine feels great; it certainly doesn't feel slower, though it does feel different (but nice different, as all of the planetary gears whirl along). it feels better each day that i'm away from my old derailleur, although with only a scant 800 miles. but i do know that the long miles on my IGH are in every way superior to my old derailleur.

i switched after test-riding one; though to be fair, the test ride (as all test rides) was nothing like my daily ride---it's hard to get a sense of an IGH (or any bike) with a 60-minute test ride. and inasmuch as an IGH is right for me, a derailleur system would work fine, too. the IGH is just a somewhat more elegant solution.


ps: i added an IGH to my cyclocross bike. dreamy.

Last edited by pwdeegan; 07-26-10 at 12:51 PM. Reason: added PS note
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