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  1. #1
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    Looking for best commuting bike for steep uphill and bad roads

    I am 5' 7" riding a 15" Specialized Rock Hopper with front and rear shocks which I bought used in a desperate moment a few years ago after my other MTB was stolen. I don't MTB, just commute and run errands. I want to buy a bike that fits me better and will make my commute easier. With my current small frame with the seat set way back (so I don't scrunch so much) and panniers on the back, I end up riding wheelies on my way home up my steep hill. The elevation gain is 1000 feet in 3 very curvy miles. This is after riding 3 miles on a slight incline to get to the bottom of the hill. Riding down to work is fast and fun. Going home can be drudgery. I rarely actually ride up the hill. Instead, I wait for the once an hour bus and begrudgingly fork over the 2 bucks to get me home or have my husband drive down to pick me up or leave a car at the bottom. The latter means no super fun bike ride downhill to wake me up, though.

    I want to be able to ride comfortably, bike up the hill, go fast off the hill and feel safe with the terrible Honolulu streets.

    I would love a road bike, but don't feel it would be safe for my commute. So I am thinking about a hybrid.

    Would love input on models (last year's preferably) that I can comfortably get up the hill and expect to ride faster in town. Also, what should I be looking for as far as components and design?

  2. #2
    kipuka explorer bkrownd's Avatar
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    Best way to start would be to get rid of the suspension (shocks), and probably the only way to do that is
    a whole new bike. That sounds like the worst hill-climbing bike possible. Fortunately this means that
    just about anything will be a vast improvement.

    What is your budget? One thing you need to do is look around and see what bike stores are in your
    area, and what brands they stock. No point in getting suggestions for bikes you can't find in your area.
    A good selection of bikes to test ride is very important. Most of the "name" brands are pretty similar
    in price and quality, but how they fit and feel when you ride them is the most important part. If you
    can test ride them all up a hill you'll get an even better idea of how they'll feel when you get to the
    important part of your ride. (It's amazing how much even a "little" hill/slope slows you down)

    Don't get too anti-roadbike just yet. Some of them are pretty sturdy. "Road bike" covers a lot of
    territory, and these bikes would be the easiest to ride up a big looooong hill.
    Last edited by bkrownd; 10-25-04 at 01:44 AM.
    --
    -=- '05 Jamis Nova -=- '04 Fuji Absolute -=- '94 Trek 820 -=- '77 Schwinn Scrambler 36/36 -=-
    Friends don't let friends use brifters.

  3. #3
    Mr. Cellophane RainmanP's Avatar
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    If you prefer the more upright position of a mtb you may prefer a "comfort" hybrid. Most of these bikes come with nice low gears which will get you up that hill. The only new bike I have bought is a Giant Cypress purchased 4 yrs ago after commuting for a couple of weeks on my daughter's old mtb. It was and remains a great bike. Comfortable ride, lots of adjustability. I got a model with suspension fork, but you don't need that. The basic Cypress is only about $250 so it is an easy bike to buy and can remain a good backup if you later "graduate" to something better. Most brands make similar bikes though the Giant is probably the least expensive. Although I have several other bikes now and the Cypress has been almost totally frankenbiked into a heavy duty commuter/tourer it maintains a special place in my heart as the bike that really got me hooked as a bicycle commuter. Oh, it has all the threaded eyelets and bosses for both front and rear racks.
    If it ain't broke, mess with it anyway!

  4. #4
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    A 1000 ft climb in 3 miles is a pretty big hill-- don't feel bad about not riding up it. I'd look for any hybrid without supsension, rear and front eyelets for racks and frenders and 3 chainrings in the frount. Count the number of teeth on the biggest gear in the back-- the bigger number, the lower the "granny" gear is. I'd stay away for bikes with a "granny" gear of 25-26. Ask about bikes with a "mega range" gear cluster (or cassette) in the back-- they have lower gearing for hills and also at least one gear suited for flying on flat ground.

    It's hard to beat a Trek 7000's FX bike but most shops don't carry the good, non-shock hybrid and stock the suspension models you don't want. This means you often end up ordering a bike and paying list price for a good bike.

    Kona makes a couple of good no-shock hybrids that sell for less than 500 bucks. I think the Smoke sells for around $350. I'd try that one.

  5. #5
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    I'm going to put in a word for a practical drop-bar bike. A cyclo-cross or touring bike can cope with rough roads, steep hills, luggage. The optional lower hand position gives you a lower centre of gravity for safer descending. You can fit the gearing of an MTB bike or a road triple.
    You may find both styles hard to view in bike shops, despite being excellent all round general purpose bikes they are regarded as specialist items.
    Flat-bar road bikes are probably easier to source. Something like a Specialized Sirrus or the Trek equivelent is light, tough, comfortable and practical. You have plenty of room for touring/commuting tyres, rack and fenders.

  6. #6
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    My budget is below $1000. Locally stocked brands that I know of in Honolulu: Specialized, Kona, Trek, Cannondale, Fuji and Gary Fisher.

    What would a sturdier road bike be? Would getting a road bike require that I trade in my panniers for a commuter bag?


    Quote Originally Posted by bkrownd
    Best way to start would be to get rid of the suspension (shocks), and probably the only way to do that is
    a whole new bike. That sounds like the worst hill-climbing bike possible. Fortunately this means that
    just about anything will be a vast improvement.

    What is your budget? One thing you need to do is look around and see what bike stores are in your
    area, and what brands they stock. No point in getting suggestions for bikes you can't find in your area.
    A good selection of bikes to test ride is very important. Most of the "name" brands are pretty similar
    in price and quality, but how they fit and feel when you ride them is the most important part. If you
    can test ride them all up a hill you'll get an even better idea of how they'll feel when you get to the
    important part of your ride. (It's amazing how much even a "little" hill/slope slows you down)

    Don't get too anti-roadbike just yet. Some of them are pretty sturdy. "Road bike" covers a lot of
    territory, and these bikes would be the easiest to ride up a big looooong hill.

  7. #7
    The Rabbi seely's Avatar
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    Rockhopper with front AND rear shocks? Are you sure? Their only full suspension lines have been the Stumpjumper, FSR, Enduro, Epic. All Rockhoppers have always been front suspension since I can remember (1989 or so).

  8. #8
    Senior Member ollo_ollo's Avatar
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    Any touring road bike will handle your panniers like they were made for it, (they were) plus the wheels & frame will be sturdy enough to handle commuting loads & the gearing is low enough to get you up that hill. Don
    visit my homebuilding blog: www.monoplanar.blogspot.com

  9. #9
    kipuka explorer bkrownd's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sandrala
    My budget is below $1000. Locally stocked brands that I know of in Honolulu: Specialized, Kona, Trek, Cannondale, Fuji and Gary Fisher.
    You should have a lot of choices below $1000 from that list, even out here in the middle of the big water. Start doing some test-rides, and
    see what feels right and how you like the people/service at these shops. If you tell them you want something that can handle
    potholes/sinkholes/broken pavement or whatever you're concerned about they should be able to give recommendations. I'm not sure
    what you're riding on - the pavement is pretty good here in Hilo. Just increasing the tire size from road size 23-25 to touring/cross
    sizes like 28-35 will take a lot of the bumps out of the road. (Wait, is it bad pavement you're worried about or bad street design/congestion?
    I'm a bit confused on that point I guess...) How about a Fuji "Touring"? Specialized "Sirrus"? Kona "Dew" or "Smoke"(w/ fenders!)?
    The "Dr. Dew" has disc brakes if you're worried about your brakes on that big hill. (discs might be a bit expensive)
    Try whatever they got in your size and see what works best. Also make sure the bike has threaded screw holes for mounting whatever racks or
    fenders you'll want to put on - not all of them do.
    Last edited by bkrownd; 10-26-04 at 01:00 AM.
    --
    -=- '05 Jamis Nova -=- '04 Fuji Absolute -=- '94 Trek 820 -=- '77 Schwinn Scrambler 36/36 -=-
    Friends don't let friends use brifters.

  10. #10
    Luggite bsyptak's Avatar
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    I always gotta throw in my vote for my road warrior, the Giant Cypress SX. As you can see from the pic below, it's set up for commuting, with fender braze-ons on the fork, rack AND fender braze-ons in the rear. 2004 list price was $599, In my lbs, it's $499 right now. No junk components.

  11. #11
    Ride the Road Daily Commute's Avatar
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    The Surly Cross-Check Complete comes in under your budget, but shipping to Hawaii may bump it just over $1K. You might also want to price a built-up Cross-Check or Surly Long Haul Trucker frame. If you have nasty bumpy roads, get fat tires, I'd say 32 minimum. 35 or higher would be better. I have 28's on my Cross Check, and they are too narrow for the worst roads. Get slicks as long as you don't have to go off road much. The slicks and the cross frame will also help you climb those big hills.

  12. #12
    courrier envy
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    Switching a front suspension bike to a rigid fork is not too difficult. I got a junker off ebay for $5, and I switch my it with boing-boing fork when I'm in the city. Also, since the rigid fork is shorter, it tips the geometry of the bike forward a smidge, giving me a more roady riding position.

    I'm a little wary of "hybrid" bikes. The term is vauge, but at least some of them tend to be low end, best-of-niether contraptions (like weak road wheels matched to a heavy suspension fork). The basic appeal of a "hybrid" is a road specific bike, but set up with a upright, traffic-friendly riding position. This can be achieved on a mountain or road bike with road tires and a new stem - no need to get a whole new bike.

    If I were in your place, I'd want a mountain frame tricked out for road riding, with slick tires, a rigid fork, rack mounts, and whatever fancy handlebars make you feel special. Which I suppose makes it a "hybrid".

    Actually, I lied. I just looked at the new Konas. I had a Kona, and it was the bomb. The "Jake" is a cyclocross bike (ie sturdy, skinny tire, drop bar bike without all the "comfort" crap attached), listed at $800.
    Last edited by metrometro; 10-26-04 at 07:32 PM.

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