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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 02-25-11, 11:59 PM   #1
Short Rider
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My first commuter bike

Good evening, guys n' gals!

Since I got my sweet..sweeet tax return in today and also motivated by my friend saying gas will go up to $5 by the end of Summer (), I'd like to spend it on a good "urban/city" bike! Now, all of my experience is with bmx bikes, I'm getting to know how to use multiple gears at the moment through some sites. I was hoping maybe someone could help me decide on these two bikes from REI. For the longest time, I wanted a Marin so this is definitely my top pick:

Marin Muirwoods 29er(2011-$650):


Second choice (great price @ $449.93)
Novara Big Buzz(Think it's a 2010):


Honestly, a lot of the specs go over my head hehe. I like that the Marin has 3 chainwheels at the pedals. Love the light weight of the Novara. I like the idea of having disc breaks this time around, so awesome! I intend on riding it to help me get to work but I also just love riding my bike around. I like doing sharp turns so hoping these two would be great for maneuverability. I couldn't test ride either of them today since it was raining but will try again on a dry day. The smallest frame the 29er comes in is 17". I'm 5'4 and it still looks like it'll be kind of hard to saddle up on to(really wish I didn't have to do that, will miss my bmx bike in that respect). Would love to have total control over my bike and toppling over while at a stand still wouldn't be very fun. Anyone have experience with a larger sized bike than them? Hope someone could help me out. Thanks for your time

Last edited by Short Rider; 02-26-11 at 12:33 AM. Reason: spell check
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Old 02-26-11, 12:17 AM   #2
jeffpoulin
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It's Marin, not Marlin. There are quite a few bikes in this category (flat bar city bikes with disc brakes in the $600 price range) such as the Giant Seek 2 or Trek PDX. Test ride as many as you can before buying. The Novara looks like it'll stretch you out a lot more than the Marin due to the top tube length, height of the bars, and length of the stem. You can't judge fit by the size of the frame alone. A good bike shop should get you properly fitted, though.
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Old 02-26-11, 12:39 AM   #3
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Oh haha, how embarrassing. I didn't realize I was adding an "l" to it, thanks. Thanks for those other two recommendations, I'll look into them. I'll try out the local bike shop as well. Like I said though,I was set on Marin so I should look into other brands as well. The Novara displayed was a 16 or 17" but I know on REI's website, I can get it in 15". Would I be limiting myself with the two chainwheels on the pedals? I do plan on going up some moderate to steep, long hills. The Muirwoods I'm sure I can ride, would just be cool if I could actually stand while on it as well haha. I tried getting on it in store but I wouldn't be able to stand with it. Oh and your right about just the frame size, that's all I could judge without riding them.
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Old 02-26-11, 08:44 PM   #4
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Think I'll take the 29er out of the equation because it's just too huge for me and check out the regular Muirwoods with a 15" frame. Will have to look into disc brakes to add on later if I go that route because I really like that Marlin. I'll be trying out the Trek PDX tomorrow, hopefully. Think I found a place that has it. The 15" Novara online has been sold, it seems =/ will have to see if REI has it in person or not.
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Old 02-26-11, 09:15 PM   #5
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I agree w/ Jeff about testing riding a lot of bikes. Since you are new to this, I also suggest you really think about your commute and what it is you need. As a commuting bike, you want it suit your needs, not your likes so much. Remember also that if you buy a bike with expensive parts, it will be expensive to fix if you dont have much experience.

I began with a real POS bike for commuting, and am still learning a lot. I finally got a nice commuter this past month, and am glad I learned a lot through having a bike that was not so great first, cause now I appreciate this one even more.

Tell us more about your commute, and maybe it'll help narrow things down a bit.
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Old 02-26-11, 10:08 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by derekthelion View Post
As a commuting bike, you want it suit your needs, not your likes so much. Remember also that if you buy a bike with expensive parts, it will be expensive to fix if you dont have much experience.
Yeah, that's true! My commute to work would be 6 miles there and back, mostly flat. Depending on which of the 3 streets I'd take, some have pretty rough streets(potholes, cracks, etc.) One street has no sidewalk at points so I'd be on asphalt with some rocks/pebbles on the road. One road would give me a long but relatively mellow incline, The two more common roads has a long and steep uphill so that's a big reason why I want gears. My only bike is a bmx variety, was built for dirt jumping but I changed out the rear tire with a street one:

It's still stock so it has a huge chain wheel which makes for great exercise but I don't like feeling exhausted going to work (Have tried the commute on a day off) or even just pedaling fast to a local community college (3 miles away). I remember on my way back going back down that big hill, my breaks weren't very responsive at all. There's an even steeper hill that goes into a shopping center that I did for fun, my brakes would be useless there haha so that's where the appeal to these disk brakes comes in. If it helps any, I also just love riding bikes! I like making sharp turns and I love uh.."carving" as well. I enjoy going fast and riding up and down banks like ones found under highway underpasses etc. I'd like to ride to other cities more often as well since the bike shown above makes it such a chore haha but a nice accomplishment. A neighboring city has some very nice long & steep hills that would be very fun to bomb!
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Old 02-26-11, 10:23 PM   #7
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One street has no sidewalk at points

You shouldn't be riding on the sidewalks in the first place. I don't have much knowledge on either bike, but I think you should really start by testing both bikes, and getting a feel for what is right. Some people can commute with a road racing bike (super thin tires, no racks, etc), while others love touring bikes for all that it offers. Shop around, ask a thousand questions, and just have fun.

You're doing the right thing in research first, then making purchases. Last thing you want is your first big purchase to be a mistake.
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Old 02-27-11, 12:31 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by derekthelion View Post
You shouldn't be riding on the sidewalks in the first place. I don't have much knowledge on either bike, but I think you should really start by testing both bikes, and getting a feel for what is right. Some people can commute with a road racing bike (super thin tires, no racks, etc), while others love touring bikes for all that it offers. Shop around, ask a thousand questions, and just have fun.

You're doing the right thing in research first, then making purchases. Last thing you want is your first big purchase to be a mistake.
I don't like that part of the street much. Let me explain: It's a 50mph lane street, very busy. There's a sliver of asphalt past the the far side of the lane where I can ride my bike. The rest is dirt with a ton of rocks, not ride-able with a road bike that's forsure hehe. Pretty dangerous but I guess it is fun when a semi passes by and you get hit by strong wind Oh yeah, definitely. These bikes costs a good chunk of change so I'd like for it to be perfect for me before committing. I love REI for their confidence in their return policy, though hehe. If I buy there and don't like it, it can go back. I'll be at two bike shops right after work, though. Hopefully they help fit me well and also give a quick lesson on gear shifting. Might I ask for anyone that's reading: Say I find a bike I like, everything checks out BUT they do not have my size. Maybe I'm liking the 17" model and would like the 15" but it's not in stock there. Would you order the 15" online?

Last edited by Short Rider; 02-27-11 at 12:40 AM.
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Old 02-27-11, 12:50 AM   #9
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Since your going from a BMX I'm thinking you might like something a bit more upright than the Big Buzz. Maybe something with an adjustable stem so you can experiment with differint positions. There are a lot of bikes in your price range. Some hybrids with mtn geometry and gearing and then flat bar roadies like the Big Buzz. I myself wouldn't go without the third chain ring as when I go on my long weekend rides and bonk, that small third ring guarantees I'll get all the way home in the saddle. I hardly use that small ring but there's been a very few times when I might not have gotten home without it. For myself I prefer full Mtn bike gearing in back, I run 11-32 8 speed. Those who like to ride at a specific cadence prefer closer road ratios. Since you're used to a single speed BMX, I assume you're used to varying your cadence and if so you might want the wide range cassette, as when on long rides and you bonk, there's no such thing as too low of gear.
I have a Novara Buzz V which I acquired in right after Christmas, and the quality is such I'd recomend REI to anyone. Before that I rode a Trek 7300 for a solid 8 years, still have it and I'll be tearing it down and keeping the good parts. I like Trek and I believe their 7300 still comes with an adjustable stem, but if you want rigid they have the same thing without suspension called the FX. I believe the low end of the FX series are running MTB cassettes with 48-38-28 chain rings. I know the suspended versions do have that gearing. Good luck and let us know what you get.

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Old 02-27-11, 01:06 PM   #10
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Having seen it recommended here before and having done it myself I'd suggest getting a good used hardtail/fork mtb off of CL or from a pawnshop. Having experience w/BMX you know the difference between **** and shinola, so you'll get a decent bike for around 200 I'd venture. That'll give you plenty of room for fenders/rack/bag/lights/tools/tubes/patchkit/tirelevers, etc. and all the other accessories one needs for ease of commuting.

A Specialized Hardrock is a pretty solid choice. Stay away from full suspension or forks as they slow one down. Older hybrids are cheap, too and faster than mtbs in general because of the 700 wheels. http://www.bikeisland.com has a real nice Park multi tool for 20.00 w/no shipping. Also, a Topeak Road Morph w/gauge frame pump for 35.00...again no tax, no shipping. Good luck, enjoy your search and ride the crap out of whatever you choose.
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Old 02-27-11, 10:35 PM   #11
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Thanks for the help guys and I will definitely ride the crap out of whatever I get
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Old 02-27-11, 11:52 PM   #12
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I'd recommend testing out different types of bikes to get a feel for what type suits your needs best. You may well be surprised by the bikes that you like the most. Try a road frame and a mountain frame. Try disc and rim brakes. Try flat and drop bars. Take them on long test rides to assess the merits of each type. After that, then you buy. You will probably be much more satisfied that way.

PS: It is worth noting that you may not need a triple ring up front. Test the bikes on hills similar to what you'll normally ride on. If you don't need the bottom or top gears, don't buy a bike with rings you don't need. Sometimes less is more.
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