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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 07-22-11, 01:45 PM   #1
TRH_42
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Suggestions for a 20mile all-weather, year round commuter?

I'm looking for a bike that I'd be using to commute to work 20 miles each way and school (a measly 3 miles each way). From looking around and reading as much as I can find, I've come up with a dream sheet of features and was wondering if anybody knew of a bike that fit them or a bike that could be modified to work. If it matters, I'm a big guy. I'm 6'3" and I weigh 250lbs (which is considerably less than I was a year ago, thanks to diet changes and biking)

Features and explanations of why I think I need them:

Internally geared hub: Will be riding in the snow, salt, and rain... Internally geared hubs are lower maintenance and reliable, or so I've read/heard

Belt drive system: Will be riding in the snow, salt, and rain... Belt drive systems are lower maintenance and reliable, or so I've read/heard

Fenders: Want to keep all the street crud from splashing up on my glasses and off my back while riding in the rain/snow/etc (doesn't have to come with as long as they can be added)

Rack and panniers: Will have to carry things to and from work/school/store, so I'll have be able to attach a rack and panniers. (doesn't have to come with as long as they can be added)

Disc brakes: better stopping power in wet conditions. I'm a big guy so I need decent stopping power.

I was going to choose the Trek Soho Deluxe but I've found out that it is no longer available/being made. Trek is supposedly making a very similar bike that will come at the end of September, but I figure it couldn't hurt to look around. Surely this isn't the only bike that fits the requirements...

Any help would be greatly appreciated. I'm not the most familiar with bike mechanics, but I am willing/wanting to learn.

EDIT: I've been looking around for a while and I'm not finding much for a decent price, thanks to the belt drive system. If I were to drop something from the list, I suppose that would be the first to go.

EDIT2: I have also considered having 2 sets of wheels (edit3: I meant tires, not wheels), one that is more of a road bike so I can go faster and one for the winter months with more traction.

EDIT4: I'm dropping the belt drive system because I'm not happy with the added cost for a bike that has it and the other features I'm looking for (I'm really liking the bryant belt alfine, but its almost $2000). I'm considering dropping the IGH too... I really like the idea behind the IGH but I'm not sure how practical it is in terms of cost/value. I am a college student with an $8.75/hour job after all. I do have money saved up, but I'm reconsidering using all of it on a bike.

Are derailleurs all THAT bad for winter commuting? I'm still worried about it freezing up, constantly having to wash everything off to get rid of the salt, etc.

Last edited by TRH_42; 07-22-11 at 09:38 PM.
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Old 07-22-11, 01:54 PM   #2
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Do you mean it's 20 miles to work one way, or 20 miles round trip?
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Old 07-22-11, 02:00 PM   #3
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i recently got a 2011 Scott Sub 10 Men that meets all of your requirements except for the belt drive. It's an aluminum hybrid with an alfine 8-speed IGH and hydraulic disc brakes. it's rack, fender, and wide winter tire compatible and it's beefy and strong, though a touch on the heavy side at 26 pounds naked, at least in my frame size (small). rear drop out is vertical and an eccentric bottom bracket is employed for chain tension.

i picked it up on sale at REI for $995 back in may (MSRP $1,150). no belt drive, but the price was right for having nearly everything i wanted in a 4-season beast. the belt drive seems to add to the sticker price on these types of bikes. my commute is 15 miles one way.



oh, and did i mention it's a pretty hot looking bike to boot! but perhaps orange ain't your color. (the wonky bar ends and adjustable stem are my own add-ons)


Last edited by Steely Dan; 07-22-11 at 02:14 PM.
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Old 07-22-11, 02:00 PM   #4
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20 miles one way to work, 3 miles one way to school.

Editing first post to make that clearer.
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Old 07-22-11, 02:18 PM   #5
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Unless you plan to ride on relatively flat terrain, I would pass on the IGH. The extra cost for limited benefit is not worth it. You have a much wider range of gears on a traditional geared bike and so many more options on bike choices. Belt drives are also not worth the money and limit your choices, because you need a special frame that opens for the belt. Everything else on your list is good. An extra wheelset is great if you want to use studded tires in the winter, but make sure the frame has clearance for the widest tire you expect to use.
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Old 07-22-11, 02:25 PM   #6
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Check out the Civia Bryant Alfine



You'd have to add your own rack and fenders, but it's well suited for that.
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Old 07-22-11, 02:26 PM   #7
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Unless you plan to ride on relatively flat terrain, I would pass on the IGH. The extra cost for limited benefit is not worth it. You have a much wider range of gears on a traditional geared bike and so many more options on bike choices.
i've really taken quite a liking to the IGH on my Scott (and i suspect i will come to love it this coming winter). the afline IGH has a ~300% gear range which is WAY more than anyone could ever need in a place like chicagoland.
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Old 07-22-11, 02:32 PM   #8
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i've really taken quite a liking to the IGH on my Scott (and i suspect i will come to love it this coming winter). the afline IGH has a ~300% gear range which is WAY more than anyone could ever need in a place like chicagoland.
I'm sure they are good, but it gets expensive to have a second wheelset with an IGH, and a little more difficult to change the rear wheel.
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Old 07-22-11, 02:35 PM   #9
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I'm sure they are good, but it gets a expensive to have a second wheelset with an IGH, and a little more difficult to change the rear wheel.
oh yeah, a second wheelset with IGH would be a fiscal deal killer for me. i plan to just switch out the tires with the seasons. slicks for spring/summer/fall, studs for winter.
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Old 07-22-11, 02:43 PM   #10
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I meant changing the tires, not the whole wheel... Hard to use the right terminology when you aren't familiar with it.
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Old 07-22-11, 02:48 PM   #11
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EDIT2: I have also considered having 2 sets of wheels, one that is more of a road bike so I can go faster and one for the winter months with more traction.
I don't think there's any reason to get 2 wheelsets for that reason. The speed difference between different wheelsets, even though 20 miles is a decent distance, is almost completely negligible. Wheelsets also usually support a wide range of tires sizes.

Point being that switching tires between seasons makes sense. But you don't need a second wheelset to do that. But switching wheels between seasons - not so much.

Winter riders do something keep different wheelsets for the same bike around, but for entirely different reasons. Different winter riding conditions benefit from different kinds of tires. A light studded tire often works most of the time, but isn't very good when there's a lot of snow. A studded tire with more tread works better when there's more snow, but it's noticeably slower. So they switch the wheelset based on the riding conditions.

However...in my opinion and experience, a 20 miles ride that would require the more aggressive tires would be a very, very, very long ride and I would just drive. Of course maybe in Indiana you don't have those conditions - but in that case you wouldn't need the more aggressive tire anyways.
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Old 07-22-11, 03:08 PM   #12
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However...in my opinion and experience, a 20 miles ride that would require the more aggressive tires would be a very, very, very long ride and I would just drive. Of course maybe in Indiana you don't have those conditions - but in that case you wouldn't need the more aggressive tire anyways.
I'm not going to have the option of driving. For the past year and a half I've been car-free and I'm enjoying it. I currently have an old mountain bike that I've been using to commute 3 miles to work, to get groceries, etc. The commute to work is becoming much longer because I'm moving closer to school. The closest alternative to a car would be to ride the city bus (which have bike racks on them).
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Old 07-22-11, 03:09 PM   #13
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I would drop the requirement for the belt drive. An IGH setup with a chaincase would be just as simple and reliable.
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Old 07-22-11, 03:13 PM   #14
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I would drop the requirement for the belt drive. An IGH setup with a chaincase would be just as simple and reliable.
lol, unfortunately, an IGH wiht a chaincase is even harder to find than a belt drive...I think Breezer bikes is the only one who sells anything other than a beach cruiser that has that here in the US.
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Old 07-22-11, 03:22 PM   #15
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Is a chaincase something that could be added to a bike or does it pretty much have to come with one?
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Old 07-22-11, 03:25 PM   #16
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I'm not going to have the option of driving. For the past year and a half I've been car-free and I'm enjoying it. I currently have an old mountain bike that I've been using to commute 3 miles to work, to get groceries, etc. The commute to work is becoming much longer because I'm moving closer to school. The closest alternative to a car would be to ride the city bus (which have bike racks on them).
Interesting...how's the snow in Indiana?

My apologies for not having a specific suggestion...there's not a lot of road bikes with disc brakes yet. I want to suggest a Surly Pugsley, but it doesn't come with disc brakes in it's stock setup. Honestly, it's not really cheap either, and I personally hate bar end shifters.

You need -
1. Clearance for bigger tires (which most road bikes don't have)
2. Disc brakes (which again most road bikes don't have)

I don't know, I guess it doesn't have to be a road bike, right? I think your original bike was a hybrid/rigid mountain bike frame...
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Old 07-22-11, 03:27 PM   #17
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Is a chaincase something that could be added to a bike or does it pretty much have to come with one?
The trick is mounting the chaincase to the frame. I've personally never heard of anyone adding a full chaincase aftermarket. There might be some chain guards available - they'll protect your pant leg, but not the chain. Well they might protect the chain a little, but certainly not as much as a chain guard.
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Old 07-22-11, 03:49 PM   #18
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If it was me, I would buy a Surly Troll frame and build it up with: 700cc wheels, drop bars and disc brakes. It's a very versatile frame, you can mount any type of racks you want, you can also run it as an IGH, deraileur or singlespeed. Frame has lot's of clearance for big tires and fenders. You can also run a 26" or 700cc wheels.
IMHO it's a perfect do it all frame.
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Old 07-22-11, 03:56 PM   #19
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In the case of an IG hub which you can tension the chain in the frame ,
a Hebie chain glider chain case covers the whole chain ,
to keep it out of the road grit
still have to lubricate it, but the chain wont pick up crud spray.
Hebie is a German Company , Aaron's bike repair in Seattle sells them.
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Old 07-22-11, 04:29 PM   #20
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Indianapolis? Not exactly hill country, yes? Try this one: http://www.bikesdirect.com/products/...kilott_wt5.htm It's got bosses for a rack, 2 wbs, fenders and a 5 sp IGH. If you order it on Wednesday you'll have it by Saturday. Add a rack, bags, framepump, multi-tool, tire levers, patch-kit, wb cages, lights, fenders and you're good to go. I noticed from the specs it'll take up to 45mm tires...good for winter. Don't let the self-assembly scare you off. One can always find a mechanic to assemble it for a reasonable price.

I got this one 3+ years ago from the same people and have more than 16,000 commuter/utilitarian miles on it w/just regular maintenance and lube, one rear wheel re-truing and one major repack of the bb and wheels. http://www.bikesdirect.com/products/..._cross_cx2.htm Changed out the stock tires for Schwalbe Marathon Plus after 2 weeks as the stock tires were cheap off-road cx tires...too soft for pavement.

Good luck!
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Old 07-22-11, 04:52 PM   #21
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18 responses before the Surly reared its head, amazing...

let me add my voice to the chorus of IGH/belt-drive haters. I have a Trek Soho that I thought would be the perfect commuter bike. but the IGH doesn't have much range for the hills, and the belt drive is fidgety and has been to the shop I don't know how many times for adjustment (or maybe they were adjusting the IGH, it's all together). I stopped riding it a long time ago.

oh, and the drum brakes sucked. at least they fixed that on the DLX model...ironic to hear they dropped it.
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Old 07-22-11, 05:19 PM   #22
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700c, disc brakes, drop bars and a rack. save money for studded tires if you're in a cold area.

In winter chains work fine if you keep them constantly oiled and replace when worn. It's the IGH and wheel hubs you have to worry about more than the chains.
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Old 07-22-11, 06:54 PM   #23
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Check out the Civia Bryant Alfine



You'd have to add your own rack and fenders, but it's well suited for that.
That looks great. Civia is making some really well thought out bikes now.
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Old 07-22-11, 07:10 PM   #24
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Good list to work from for your bike.

My commute is close to yours, direct mine is only 12 miles but I rarely go direct, it's more often 18-20 miles.

I started commuting on my CAAD8 road bike then wanted to something specifically for commuting, with "comfort" being different for everyone be sure to test ride as many bikes as you can. In the end I found a mostly flat bar with a slight rise that sits me up higher to be more comfy to me, I added bar ends to provide additional hand positions which are nice. For the past 9 months I have been commuting on my 2010 Gary Fisher Mendota and this summer have some some light touring with it now too having done some 50 and 60 mile rides...


Here are the specs for the Mendota...
2010 Specs
2011 Specs

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Old 07-22-11, 07:17 PM   #25
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For 20 miles you are getting to a distance where I think you would really benefit from a drop bar bike for the additional hand positions.

I don't know about the belt drive, I don't believe it's as reliable as a chain. I've heard of people having tons of trouble with it falling out of alignment and then changing a rear puncture can be a really big pain in the butt. I think it's a cool concept on paper, but it's very difficult to beat the reliability of a chain.

If you're worried about corrosion, they do make stainless steel or even titanium chains. The Alphine 11 and Rohloff 14 are said to be the best internal gear hubs, but they are pricey (especially the Rohloff).
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