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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 07-28-10, 01:57 PM   #1
shawnshank
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Looking for a commuter bike - suggestions please.

I want a purchase a bike for commuting to and from work. I live just outside (pothole riddled) Boston and have an 8 mile commute each way. I'd like something with tires that won't slow me down too much yet can take a hit every now and again also.
Here is the real challenge...I don't want to pay more than $400.00
Any suggestions or should I start searching craigs list?
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Old 07-28-10, 02:06 PM   #2
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I think Craig and his list are in your future. Not that there isn't anything available new for $400, but you'll probably get more value for your money if it's been ridden around the block a few times.
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Old 07-28-10, 02:26 PM   #3
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I think Craig and his list are in your future. Not that there isn't anything available new for $400, but you'll probably get more value for your money if it's been ridden around the block a few times.
+1
With your budget you can do far better buying a good used bike than a crappy new bike (sadly, most new bikes below $400 are pretty crappy, with the exception of Bikesdirect.com and super simple fixies/cruisers).

If you are knowledgeable about bikes, you know what to look for. If not, there are plenty of folks around here that can give their (often diverse) opinions.

It will help to know your level of experience with bikes, frame sizing needs (inseam and height helps here), terrain and level of fitness.

Any bicycle can be used for the purpose of commuting, but some tend to offer functionality that most commuters appreciate having.
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Old 07-28-10, 02:32 PM   #4
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I'm commuting in the Boston suburbs, as well, on a hybrid bike. I really like my bike for my commute, but if I had to buy a new one I'd probably look at a road bike and get some solid puncture-resistant tires. I've been keeping an eye on the Boston C-list lately and I know that you could find a good commuter bike for under $400. There are plenty of people dumping their not-too-old bikes when they upgrade to the latest and greatest.
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Old 07-28-10, 02:44 PM   #5
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you'll probably get more value for your money if it's been ridden around the block a few times.

Yes, great advice for MANY things on craigslist. wink wink nudge nudge
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Old 07-28-10, 03:05 PM   #6
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I'd suggest getting the galaxy steel for $395 including shipping from bikesdirect: http://bikesdirect.com/products/mercier/galaxy.htm

It is a steel road bike with wide range of gears, a place to mount a rear rack, and integrated shifting/braking.

If you can afford to go a little over the $400 mark, the Kilo WT5 for $479 has internal braking and shifting for lower maintenance. It also has space for adding a rear rack: http://bikesdirect.com/products/mercier/kilott_wt5.htm

If you can afford to go up in price a bit more, the Tourist is perhaps the most versatile bike that bikesdirect offers for $599: http://bikesdirect.com/products/windsor/tourist.htm It comes with a rack and has room to add front and rear fenders.

I own the Tourist. I don't work for bikesdirect. They do offer NEW quality bikes at prices that a local bike shop likely can't match. The only problem with buying used, is that you have to search and be lucky to snap up a bike in the size you need. Also, ebay is overpriced for used bikes. You can be lucky to find deals on craigslist, but you really have to be lucky.
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Old 07-28-10, 03:25 PM   #7
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the Kilo WT5 for $479 has internal braking and shifting
Internal shifting, yes. Internal braking, no.

Still, I feel the WT5 is one of the best deals out there for a sporty commuter.
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Old 07-28-10, 03:29 PM   #8
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Internal shifting, yes. Internal braking, no.

Still, I feel the WT5 is one of the best deals out there for a sporty commuter.
Thanks for the correction. I didn't look very carefully before posting.
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Old 07-28-10, 03:31 PM   #9
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Thanks for the correction. I didn't look very carefully before posting.
Yeah, just be sure it doesn't happen again.
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Old 07-28-10, 07:51 PM   #10
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Another option you may want to consider is going for last year's closeout specials. Call around and see what you can find. A lot of people seem to like Jamis, Kona, Trek, Giants, Globe/Specialized which all have bikes that can be had for around $400. I (briefly) road a torker graduate ($500) but like the globe I ended up with a lot better.

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Old 07-28-10, 08:51 PM   #11
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Drum brakes [and shimano's 'roller brakes'] will always work in any weather

rim brakes have much longer stopping distances

when they have to scrape the rims clear and dry first.

I have 20 year old sturmey archer drum hubs , never need servicing .

I have 26" studded tires for when the road ices over . [also offered in 700-35]

suggest a 3 speed with drum brakes on both wheels , get the nwe ones for the front it has a Dynamo in it too for light each time you ride , it's there.
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Old 07-28-10, 09:17 PM   #12
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I built up a commuter for under $400 - got an old 3 speed in rough shape with a good frame, stripped it and repainted (spray painted in my back yard), got new 650B wheels made up (w/velocity blunt rims), sturmey archer drum brake in front, 3 speed with drum brake in the rear (cheap from niagra cycle), nice Nitto Albatross handlebars, going for the vintage city bike vibe, rides great. biggest thing i learned was to get a 22 tooth cog for the rear to gear it down. I realize that the drum brakes have their detractors but they work great for me, never squeal, dont stop as quick as high end disc brakes but do fine for me. And the 3-spd hub is on the heavy side, but part of my reason for commuting is exercise, so I figure I am just getting a little more exercise with a heavier bike.

You will find craigs list addictive, a couple of months later a Bridgestone Xo-3 came up that I just couldnt resist for the price, its a nice hybrid, has 21 speeds. If I had to do it over again I would probably pick the hybrid with 21 speeds, but I have a real attachment to my "hot rod" I built up myself.
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Old 07-28-10, 09:59 PM   #13
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I've always admired Jamis bikes. If you feel that you can get away with a 3-speed on your commute you could do a lot worse than the Commuter 1. This is a nice entry-level IGH bike and it already comes with fenders. All you have to add is some lights and a rack. If you're willing to stretch your budget, Jamis also offers the Coda which would be more nimble than the Commuter and has far more gear range (not to mention coolness factor). The steel frame would compensate for the narrower tires by helping to soak up the bumps.
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Old 07-29-10, 11:00 AM   #14
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Thanks for all the great suggestions. I really appreciate it.
I have a used 18 speed Fuji America I just bought off craigslist for $200 which is in mint condition. I was looking at having some of the parts replaced (switching out the road bike handlebars to straight bars, converting the end bar shifters to thumb shifters, swapping out the tires for a little wider / tougher set and two finger trigger style brake levers - bmx bike style - to replace the road bike brake levers.
I was given a conservative estimate of $70 in parts and around $30 in labor if I want the shop to do the work which would bring the total invested to $300.00 but I will find out the actual cost in a few days.
I'm not sure if I should go for it or spend $400+ on something new. The vision I had for the Fuji was something semi custom, fast with a slightly more upright riding position than a road bike. When I was younger I did the same to a Shogun I had and I loved it except for the constant warped rims from all the potholes......although....I rode a lot more aggressively back then. I don't think I ever even used the brakes...lol

Last edited by shawnshank; 07-29-10 at 11:53 AM.
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Old 07-29-10, 12:25 PM   #15
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My suggestion would be to ride it. If it is in your size, you're very lucky to find a mint road/touring bike for $200.. Just start commuting on it and see what you need to replace.

For me, I'd never swap out the drop bars, but to each his own. Drop bars are useful for longer rides. They give you more hand positions and help you drop drown to more easily ride into a headwind.

If it were me, I'd just start riding it and see what works best. You may find more important things may need replacing before the handlebars and shifters, like a more comfortable saddle, tires, brake pads, etc.
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Old 07-29-10, 12:59 PM   #16
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Thanks for the suggestion. I rode and it rides as smooth as ice and stops on a dime. I'm having the shop take a closer look at it because I have no idea how to check the rest of it.
I am planning on keeping all of the original parts that come off should I decide to go forward with the build.
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Old 07-29-10, 01:21 PM   #17
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The Fuju America was a great mid-end bike in its day. I remember when they were new, and they were quite poplular.

I'd say it is a great platform to work with for your commuter.
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Old 07-29-10, 03:09 PM   #18
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Yeah, you're on a good path.
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Old 07-30-10, 11:26 AM   #19
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I agree with steel frame suggestion. I recently bought a new $1500 commuter bike and opted for steel, and love it, this after some 20 years of thinking I'd never ride steel again. Don't feel like you need to get an aluminum bike, steel is a great frame material.

Road, hybrid, mountain, touring bike... all can work just fine as commuters. I'd personally recommend a touring bike as my #1 choice for a commuter, but most true touring bikes are probably over your $400 limit though.

Make sure that whatever you get can accept a rack. You may not want/need a rack for now, but sooner later you probably will (and then you'll kick yourself for not getting it sooner). Dual-suspension bikes generally don't accept racks very well (and any $400 dual suspension bike will be a real turd anyway, best avoided).

I personally recommend against used bikes, there's nothing like a new bike. But that's just me. If you get a used bike, make sure you thoroughly check it out or have someone else check it out. And ride it before you buy it, make sure the gearing is all smooth, everything's quiet, etc.
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