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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 12-24-10, 12:20 PM   #1
shakes00lude
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Starting to commute, needing bike choice advise.

Next month I'll be moving just shy of 5 miles from work and so I am planning to bike to work. It will be a whole new adventure for me.

I need some advise on a bike.

1 - Fix up my current MTB
2 - pick up a used road / hybrid from craigslist
3 - get a new low end road / hybrid.

I currently have a 1998 Specialized Rockhopper that it starting to show its age. It skips every now and then when going up a hill and ever since I had a tune up done the front fork seems softer and wont lock out.

My thoughts on the MTB are that it would take about $100 to fix up. Rigid fork, slick tires, new chain and possibly sprockets.



If I pick up a used bike from CL, the stuff that seems to be in the price range is anything from old old old that probably needs the same amount of work or will be heavier than my current MTB all the way to stuff that could be a really good deal.

The third is a new low end bike. I like new things but I like upper end things too. I'm not opposed to spending $250 on something like a schwinn prelude for a year and then upgrading if I really like the commute.


The commute parts such as lights and things I will get no matter what bike I choose so that's not a concern to me on this decision.
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Old 12-24-10, 12:28 PM   #2
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Fix the bike you now ride...
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Old 12-24-10, 12:33 PM   #3
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If you want new, take a look at bikesdirect.com under the road bikes. Touring bikes make great commuters. Single Speed and Track bikes come in at under $500. They are low maintenance but wouldn't be the best for a hilly commute.
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Old 12-24-10, 12:34 PM   #4
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Agree with 10 Wheels.

There appears to be little wrong with that bike and it's also a great model for commuting... although I personally wouldn't be in love with the suspension fork.

Your problem with chain skipping sounds like you need a new chain and probably a cassette as well.

You might also think about switching to skinnier, slick tires unless you are commuting in snow or quicksand.
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Old 12-24-10, 12:39 PM   #5
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Agree with 10 Wheels.

There appears to be little wrong with that bike and it's also a great model for commuting... although I personally wouldn't be in love with the suspension fork.

Your problem with chain skipping sounds like you need a new chain and probably a cassette as well.

You might also think about switching to skinnier, slick tires unless you are commuting in snow or quicksand.
+1 and good luck.
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Old 12-24-10, 12:42 PM   #6
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Fix the one you have. Any hybrid you buy will be no better than what you have, IMO. I rode a hybrid for commutes between 4 and 10 miles and it worked great but it wouldn't be any better than what you have.
Use the money you save by not buying a bike and put it into your lights. Good lights are worth the money.
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Old 12-24-10, 12:44 PM   #7
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I will be commuting in a fairly flat area of San Diego. A couple hills but nothing major. There are a couple of junk bikes out at a friends house I might be able to get a solid fork off of. How skinny of a tire could you fit onto a 1.95 rim? Maybe that's just the size of the tire on there now, sorry but I'm not good with this stuff yet. Until recently the bike has worked very well and needed no real attention.
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Old 12-24-10, 01:24 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by shakes00lude View Post

I need some advise on a bike.

1 - Fix up my current MTB
2 - pick up a used road / hybrid from craigslist
3 - get a new low end road / hybrid.
All of the above ;-).
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Old 12-24-10, 01:34 PM   #9
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All of the above ;-).
remember N+1
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Old 12-24-10, 01:41 PM   #10
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Half joking aside, fix up your MTB.

For 5 miles I don't think you will notice an appreciable difference in speed if you change the fork. Just adjust the tension on your fork the best you can or visit your LBS to get it as near to lockout as possible.

First thing I would do is change the tires to slicks. I have Specialized FatBoys on my hardtail (26*1.25 100psi) however there are many choices.

Your chain skipping could be from a lot of different things. Perhaps the derailleur needs some minor adjustment. Others have mentioned a worn chain or cassette. It doesn't sound like it would be to bad of a fix.

If you are bringing things to work you may want to look into a rack and/or panniers. For lighting it really depends. A good rear light like the PB SuperFlash and a reflective vest is a good start. Front lighting breaks down into "to see" & "to be seen" segments. "To See" lights run the gambit from Flashlights to Bike specific and can range from $30 to $300. "To be seen" lights usually have a flash mode and may or may not help illuminate your path. Also look into a good lock if you will be leaving your bike outside.

As long as the bike fits and you are comfortable don't change to much. As long as your three contact points (hands, feet, and butt) are fine you don't need much.
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Old 12-24-10, 02:07 PM   #11
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I agree with all of the above and will add that after a few weeks of regularly commuting on your mountain bike you will have a very good idea of what you want in your next bike.

I'm on bike number 5 (of commuters) and it's great. Each bike has been an evolutionary change from the last, each progressively more fun and satisfying to ride.

And, after riding what you have, ride what excites you. On the cold, rainy mornings sometimes it is just the thought of getting on MY bike that motivates me to leave the car keys at home.

Cheers and happy commuting!
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Old 12-24-10, 02:33 PM   #12
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+1 on lighting. Only thing more important than lights is a helmet.

IMHO these are the two best, sub $100, lights on the market. Especially the taillight, which blows its competition out of the water (superflash, mars 4.0). The front light while not the brightest is plenty bright to be seen when its flashing and has a LONG battery life. It can be a hassle and expensive to be replacing batteries every other week.

PDW danger zone
Blaze 1/2w
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Old 12-24-10, 02:41 PM   #13
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Tail lights... get two of these. Brighter then PBSF.


http://www.pricepoint.com/detail/193...fety-Light.htm
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Old 12-24-10, 02:42 PM   #14
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Run what ya brung...and keep an eye out for something else.

You might stumble across an old Raleigh 3 speed which would work great for that short a commute. I commuted 9 miles one way on a mountain bike for several years, I had a spare set of wheels with slicks on them, then swapped back to knobbies for trail riding on the weekends. You probably will want to look at getting a rack for carrying things on. Lights if you are riding after dark.

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Old 12-24-10, 02:49 PM   #15
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Another option: Invest in a folding bike .. and you may be able to bring it inside,
at work
and on the bus .. whether they have a rack on the front or not.
and since they rapidly adjust, it's a bike for a guest riding companion
of any size..
and N+ 1 doesn't take up much space..

Last edited by fietsbob; 12-24-10 at 02:54 PM.
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Old 12-24-10, 02:56 PM   #16
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Fix the bike you now ride...
Yep. And get rack, lights and fenders.
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Old 12-24-10, 03:18 PM   #17
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Yep. And get rack, lights and fenders.
+1 and alot of suggestions about riding the one you've got. The skipping sounds like a deraileur either bent or out of adjustment. It's amazing what a difference a new casstte, chain and set-up will make, though. That's a beautiful bike for commuting 5 miles.

Would recommend either a trunk bag or some panniers for hauling stuff. Saddle bag for tools, tubes, etc. For tires maybe 1.5 or 1.75 slicks w/Mr. Tuffy tire liners. That being said the ones that are on your bike now are fine for that distance. The main thing is to just get started. You'll make decisions in terms of gear/accessories needed as time goes on.

One more recommendation: For your frame pump get a Topeak Road Morph w/gauge. IMHO they're the best on the market for commuting. 35.00 w/free shipping from www.bikeisland.com
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Old 12-24-10, 03:26 PM   #18
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If you aren't sure that you will enjoy the commute, I would recommend fixing what you already have i.e. new driveline, slicks, rigid fork ect. Then if you find that you don't like it (not likely, I know, but it is a possibility), then you aren't out a lot of money. If you do like it (more likely, IMHO) then you will have a better idea of what you actually want or need in you next bicycle.

As they say around here "The purpose of your first bicycle is to show you what you want in your next one." Beware of N+1.
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Old 12-24-10, 06:02 PM   #19
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I'd also say ride what you have, at least for now. The rigid fork sounds like a great idea, but of course you could start without it if need be. The slicks/semi-slicks (I like Serfas Drifters) I would do immediately (depending on what you already have), as well as any repairs to the drivetrain.

One thing to be careful of: You'll probably want a rack. Make sure that you get a rack that will hold your panniers back far enough to prevent heel strike, if you use panniers. If you can get everything in a trunk-style bag, then it doesn't matter. Really the only major advantage my hybrid has over my old rigid Trek 850 is longer chainstays, to help prevent heel strike.
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Old 12-24-10, 08:08 PM   #20
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As is, your bike is ok for commuting, but I vote get a new bike. Why spend $400 on that and end up with a fugly "platypus".
Get something like a Windsor Tourist , if you still like derailers. They don't cost that much and you would have a multi-use bike. Its better to have a bike that is not so crampted.

I have a hybrid more or less like yours and ride it over 100 miles some days, but I would rather have something else.
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Old 12-25-10, 08:59 AM   #21
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Just put some slicks on your MTB and give it a try. I'm using a 1995 Trek 8000 fixed fork mtb with slicks on my 10 mile NYC commute and it is perfect for that use. You are unlikely to find anything better that doesn't cost a lot more money, and it isn't expensive to put slicks on. My slicks are WTB Slickosaurus 26x1.5 and they made commuting on this bike easy. You're not looking to win the TdeF on this. You'll be surprised by how much a difference slicks are over knobbies and you'll stop looking right there. Locking out the fork will help too, so maybe have someone look at that.
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Old 12-25-10, 10:13 AM   #22
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I also live in San Diego and have been commuting on a bicycle for several years. My commute now is about 6 miles. Used to commute 22 miles, but changed job locations about a year ago. I started with my mountain bike as a commuter for the first year. I did change the tires and bought some slicks. That worked well and I agree with the others that your bike will do great, plus give you time to figure out your next bike if you decide to get another. In the end, I decided I wanted a bike that was low maintenance. I bought the Giant Seek 1 (2009 Model) new as a Christmas present for myself in December 2008. I liked the Shimano Alfine internal 8 speed hub and the hydraulic disc brakes. I also changed over to Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires with liners and have gone over a year without a flat. The only repair other than regular maintenance items was replacement of the bottom bracket about a month ago. Shimano covered it under warranty. I also recommend finding a route off of the busy streets. May take a little longer but safety is key thing to consider. Last recommendation is a good set of lights. You will feel a lot safer with them. In the end, having 2 bikes will be nice so you can catch the San Diego trails on your MTB and not be beating up your commuter.
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Old 12-25-10, 11:14 AM   #23
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go to town fixing up the rockhopper, put on some 1.6 Continental Spot Contacts, new chain and cassette with 11-25 cogs, replace outer chainring with chainguard ring, light front fork and generator front hub.
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Old 12-25-10, 05:36 PM   #24
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Pay for a tune-up on your current ride if you're not comfortable doing a complete breakdown of the bike. Replace the chain, and other throwaway components associated with the drive train and replace bearings in both wheels. You could probably easily find a shop that can do that for $40. If you find a solid shop, they probably HAVE a solid fork from prior model years just sitting around that they could sell for cheap. Pepperoni, Karate monkey, nashbar - all sorts of varieties of new forks that won't cost you a fortune. Let them do the leg work because you don't want to get into the details unless that's your bag.

Lots of people will recommend you look like a Christmas tree with 500 lights blinking bright enough to have a black helicopter floating around above you trying to figure out where you escaped from, and where the mother ship is, be prudent and responsible - but figure out if you're going to be comfortable first.

Nothing turned away the group of co-workers I had convinced to start riding to work daily more than throwing 20 lbs. of reflective vests, warning signs and 4k watts of lighting faster than the above mentioned beliefs. I've since moved away from them toward "reasonable" and think you'll be able to adapt what you believe makes you safe to meet that apex of success.

Put some miles and good habits into order before you invest anything significant. If you can easily look down the road after a few months and see yourself regularly riding, then invest into a newer bike, slicks, etc to benefit from it in the long run. Buyers remorse always tends to piss me off to no end when it involves my money and my wife's "health kick for year 20xx." I assume if you're not regularly riding now, you're probably going to be happier putting a few toes in the water and going from there first.

Happy trails.
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Old 12-25-10, 06:11 PM   #25
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Unless there's something you specifically dislike about your current bike that can't be easily remedied (a significant fit problem, for instance), convert and ride it.
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