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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 03-04-12, 01:48 PM   #1
Archae0pteryx
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Please advise a total newbie - TIA

I only live about a mile from my office, and I've decided to start commuting by bike. I've walked a few times, but I also go home for lunch, and walking doesn't leave me with much time to eat. Because of that, and the fact that I like exercising and being outdoors, riding a bike seems like the perfect option. The problem is, I don't know anything about bikes. Any advice (what type of bike to use, where to buy, should I get fitted, or any tips at all) would be greatly appreciated.

- I'm about 5'10" and 150 lbs
- I'm fairly athletic, run 2-3 miles 2-3 times per week
- This commute will be on asphalt/concrete only
- The parking lot at work is gated with security guards, so no major theft issue there (There are places to lock up bike outside)
- I live in a 3rd floor apt, so a lighter bike would be tremendous
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Old 03-04-12, 01:56 PM   #2
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To Bike Forums, Archae0pteryx!

We will try to answer all of your questions to the best of our abilities!

Just a couple of questions for you presently, though:

Are there any hills that you plan on traversing?

What's your upper cash limit?

- Slim
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Old 03-04-12, 01:59 PM   #3
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Thanks for the help!

No hills. A slight incline from work to home, but not much. Maybe a 20ft total elevation increase that's fairly evenly spread out over the whole distance.
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Old 03-04-12, 02:06 PM   #4
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That qualifies as flat around here. 2 miles r/t on flat land... just about any bike will do.

You have a budget set aside for this? And does that amount include just the bike or bike plus the 'essentials'?
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Old 03-04-12, 02:12 PM   #5
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My budget is $400, which includes bike and the 'essentials.' Which brings up another question: what are the essentials? I know helmet, but what else should I get in the beginning. Pump? Spare tubes? Lock? Bike tool?

Thanks for the reply.
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Old 03-04-12, 02:12 PM   #6
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For short trips like that, pretty much any bike would suffice. As chances are you will find out you like it and start riding even more frequently, I suggest you look at a commuter, hybrid, or fitness bike from a real bike store. If you think you might be interested in even more serious cycling at some point, a road bike designed for light touring (with points to attach racks for carrying things) or even a cyclocross style bike (which make very tough commuters) might be to your liking. Mountain bikes can make good commuters with a few minor modifications, but are usually fairly heavy by comparison. To stay in budget, don't be afraid of looking at used bikes sold by a reputable local bike shop. A good used Trek, Surly, Specialized, Giant, Fuji etc. is a better bet than the nicest brand new Huffy or Roadmaster. Buying used from Craigs List or private individuals is a buyer beware situation and best left to those with more experience unless you really know and trust the seller.

Please stay out of WalMart, Target or other department stores and go to a local bike shop that specializes in outdoor sporting goods. The <$300 bikes at the big box stores might look attractive, and might even be adequate for short commutes, but you will be disappointed in the long run. Another advantage of the LBS is people who can fit and service your bike and will give you knowledgeable advice. Avoid racing bikes which are very light weight but have aggressive geometries, no place to attach fenders or racks, and IMHO are great for what they were designed for, but make less than ideal commuters. I also don't recommend fixed gear "fixies" for newbies. True, they are extremely simple, durable, and fairly inexpensive but you need to know that you cannot coast. This means that any time the bike is moving you must be pedaling. The cousin to the fixie is the single-speed freewheel which also has just one "gear" so no shifting is required, but it allows you to coast.

Most bike shops will allow you to take a good test ride if you leave behind your drivers license. A good test ride should take at least 10-15 minutes of real world riding, not just once around the parking lot. Try several bikes from several dealers before making your decision. Bikes are not a good thing to buy on impulse. You should get a helmet first as many bike shops require that you wear one on a test ride and may have you sign a waiver in case of injury.

Make sure you also buy a good helmet. It doesn't have to be expensive, there are a lot of good commuter helmets on the market for <$50. With the security you have available, you should be able to get by with a mid-range cable lock for at work and those times when you want to leave your bike outside for a few minutes to run in for a cup of coffee or to pick up a few groceries. For short commutes and pleasure rides, that's really all you need. If you get hooked on riding, you will pick things up as you go along.

$400 is really the minimum you could expect to get an entry level quality bike and helmet for, but looking at used bikes could help get the quality up without raising the price tag.

Last edited by Myosmith; 03-04-12 at 02:30 PM.
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Old 03-04-12, 02:18 PM   #7
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Thanks Myosmith. There are 3-4 bike shops within 10 or so miles from my place, and I plan on checking them out. I would be doing that today, but I'm stuck at work. And getting very little accomplished.
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Old 03-04-12, 03:01 PM   #8
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My budget is $400, which includes bike and the 'essentials.' Which brings up another question: what are the essentials? I know helmet, but what else should I get in the beginning. Pump? Spare tubes? Lock? Bike tool?

Thanks for the reply.
Pump, spare tubes and bike tool are not necessary for a 1 mile commute. If you get a flat, you can push your bike home faster than you can fix a roadside flat.

If I were you, I'd get a cheap second (or third) hand bike, preferably with fenders, chainguard, and a rack or basket to put your stuff while you're riding. Something you might find for $40 at a yard sale. The fenders and chainguard will keep you clean when the ground is wet, which is important if you don't want to change your clothes after riding your bike. I wouldn't tote it up to your 3rd floor apartment, I'd just leave it locked outside. As it's only a mile, there's no need for anything high end. Even a heavy bike will be about 4 times faster than walking (about 5 minutes per mile on the bike versus 20 walking). So that's about 30 minutes saved on your lunch break. A high end bike may cut your commute down to 3 or 4 minutes each way, so you'd only save an additional 2 to 4 minutes on your round trip. Not really worth the extra expense, IMO. A cheap bike and a decent lock is about all you need. A helmet too if you want. I always ride with a helmet, but it's a personal thing. As a kid, I rode my bike to school every day and never used a helmet because nobody did back then. In most parts of the world, people still ride without them.
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Old 03-04-12, 03:08 PM   #9
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Thanks Jeff! I think I'm gonna buy a used bike. I'm seeing a lot for sale on craigslist, but I'm really not sure which ones are decent bikes... If I get one without the rack/fenders, would they be easy to add later on?
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Old 03-04-12, 03:32 PM   #10
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drop by the nearest bike shop.. see what sorts of bike types they sell
and the wheel tire choices and what size is appropriate..

if you Do go to CL the shop will still help you fix the things that need repairing,
but you dont know how to fix.

and sell you a good lock so it might be there when you finish work.
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Old 03-04-12, 03:46 PM   #11
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drop by the nearest bike shop.. see what sorts of bike types they sell
and the wheel tire choices and what size is appropriate..

if you Do go to CL the shop will still help you fix the things that need repairing,
but you dont know how to fix.

and sell you a good lock so it might be there when you finish work.
Thanks, I'll do that.
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Old 03-04-12, 03:51 PM   #12
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Welcome!!!

1 mile isn't far so you have a number of options IMO. If you will hate dragging your bike up and down stairs since you live on the 3rd floor maybe a smaller bike like a folding bike would be something to consider. Heck you could just do a BMX bike at that distance, but you would probably outgrow riding that pretty quick. Have fun picking something out. =)
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Old 03-04-12, 04:00 PM   #13
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Welcome!!!

1 mile isn't far so you have a number of options IMO. If you will hate dragging your bike up and down stairs since you live on the 3rd floor maybe a smaller bike like a folding bike would be something to consider. Heck you could just do a BMX bike at that distance, but you would probably outgrow riding that pretty quick. Have fun picking something out. =)
Actually, come to think of it, a minivelo would make a pretty good fit. Only downside is that after BD's first batch sold out, the pickings are kinda scarce and used are rarer still.
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Old 03-04-12, 05:00 PM   #14
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Hi there Archae0pteryx!

I have two suggestions and four brand new recommendations for you.

I would first suggest that you patiently search your local Craigslist for a used chromoly-steel bicycle. The year won't matter. As long as there are no rust or weld issues, you'll be just fine. That said! You should still have an "expert" or someone who knows bikes, accompany you when you go to make your purchase. You should have your expert inspect the bike before you test ride it. If the bike feels comfortable and is the right fit, then and only then do you hand over the cash.

Once you've purchased your bicycle, I would further suggest that you locate and contact your local bicycle co-op, called BICI. Go to BICI and have a bicycle mechanic go over your newly acquired bicycle with you, in order to check the condition and the operation of your brakes, derailleurs, and shifters. Make certain that you either volunteer to become a member, or pay for your membership. This will entitle you to work on your bicycle whenever it's needed. You'll save much cash by attending the co-op and working on your own bike under the watchful eyes of genuine bicycle mechanics.

Also, sometimes co-ops have frames available, where you can build your own bike from the frame up. They will either have components there, or you can purchase your own components and just install them onto your frame, at the co-op.

Finally, if you should decide to purchase the Nashbar Hounder, you can get some pointers as to which size bicycle to order, right there at the co-op. Once you order the bicycle, when it arrives, you can just take it to the co-op, and assemble it right there under the guidance of a professional bike mechanic. Even if you purchase a new bicycle, you should still become a member of the co-op, so that you will eventually become independent in most matters with regards to the repair of your bicycle.

Here are my recommendations for new bicycles that are currently being sold in Birmingham:

1) The Giant Via 3 ~ $410
www.giant-bicycles.com/en-us/bikes/model/via.3.silver.black/9017/48864/


2) The Giant Cypress.St ~ $350
www.giant-bicycles.com/en-us/bikes/model/cypress.st/9019/48871/


3) The Giant Sedona.St ~ $350
www.giant-bicycles.com/en-us/bikes/model/sedona.st/9025/48885/


4) The Nashbar Hounder Single Speed ~ $225
www.nashbar.com/bikes/Product_10053_100532_504148_-1_202650_10000_202339

Good Luck!

- Slim

PS.

* It's always best to buy new whenever you can, unless the frame is made of chromoly steel.

Last edited by SlimRider; 03-05-12 at 02:48 PM.
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Old 03-04-12, 05:13 PM   #15
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If you have a bike co-op in town they usually have some bikes they have rebuilt for cheap. Join up with them and have them help you fix stuff when needed and for advice locally. A very good way to learn what needs to be known.
The co-op in this city will charge non members $5 an hour to show you how to do stuff and supply all the tools you need. Even sells new and good used parts.
The first place id be going if i was a newb.
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Old 03-04-12, 05:19 PM   #16
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Wow, SlimRider, thanks for the info! One question though, how can I tell if a bike is chromoly-steel?

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If you have a bike co-op in town they usually have some bikes they have rebuilt for cheap. Join up with them and have them help you fix stuff when needed and for advice locally. A very good way to learn what needs to be known.
The co-op in this city will charge non members $5 an hour to show you how to do stuff and supply all the tools you need. Even sells new and good used parts.
The first place id be going if i was a newb.
Thank both of you for suggesting the BICI coop. Turns out, there is one right around the corner. Excellent!
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Old 03-04-12, 05:32 PM   #17
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Wow, SlimRider, thanks for the info! One question though, how can I tell if a bike is chromoly-steel?



Thank both of you for suggesting the BICI coop. Turns out, there is one right around the corner. Excellent!
A simple magnet will let you know if it's steel or not. However, distinguishing chromoly steel from the cheaper hi-tensile steel would require that either the bike be labeled, or you'd have to do a Google search through Bikepedia.com.

If its an old hi-tensle steel bike, sometimes all you have to do is pick it up. Those things are heavy!

- Slim

PS.

Yes. Go to the BICI co-op, first!

* Before you buy anything, go to as many bike shops as possible. Mount and ride as many bikes that you can. Only then will you truly know what "comfortable" really is!

Last edited by SlimRider; 03-04-12 at 06:04 PM.
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Old 03-04-12, 05:56 PM   #18
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A simple magnet will let you know if it's steel or not. However, distinguishing chromoly steel from the cheaper hi-tensile steel would require that either the bike be labeled, or you'd have to do a Google search through Bikepedia.com.

If its an old hi-tensle steel bike, sometimes all you have to do is pick it up. Those things are heavy!

- Slim

PS.

Yes. Go to the BICI co-op, first!
I'll be here: http://bicicoop.org/ tomorrow night!

And here's a video for all. It's in good fun, hope you enjoy.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V3nMnr8ZirI
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Old 03-04-12, 06:15 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by Archae0pteryx View Post
I'll be here: http://bicicoop.org/ tomorrow night!

And here's a video for all. It's in good fun, hope you enjoy.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V3nMnr8ZirI

That's Great News!

Thanx Ddez!
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Old 03-05-12, 11:23 AM   #20
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Good advice so far, I'd ad getting something you're going to enjoy riding when you're not going to work. Going farther than the mile to work will help with the exercise you've mentioned, and most of us end up riding other places than to work and back after a while.
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Old 03-05-12, 12:18 PM   #21
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I just took a look at Birmingham, AL CL and you seem to have a lot of bikes on the used market down there. I saw a few pretty nice looking bikes in the $250 range and down. For a one mile commute once you figure out the type of bike you might like and if you might end up using it more than just the commute pick one up on CL. There were a few $50 and down bikes that didn’t look so bad ether for a mile ride and one of them will let you know if you want to keep doing it. Traffic etc. and if you step up you can flip it for what you paid back on CL.
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Old 03-05-12, 02:39 PM   #22
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Hi there Archae0pteryx!

Here are just a few more recommendations, should you decide to use your co-op friends to help you make better online decisions:

1) The Gravity Liberty Cyclocross ~ $400
www.bikesdirect.com/products/gravity/liberty_cx.htm

2) The Motobecane Cafe Latte ~ $400
www.bikesdirect.com/products/motobecane/cafe_latte_x.htm

3) The Motobecane Single Speed Track ~ $280
www.bikesdirect.com/products/motobecane/track.htm

4) The Windsor Timeline Single Speed ~ $300
www.bikesdirect.com/products/windsor/timeline.htm

* All of these bicycles are designed more for distance travel than a few of the comfort bikes earlier suggested, due to geometry. To some greater degree, all of the above recommended bikes will place you in a more aggressive riding position. You will also have more riding and hand positions available to you with drop handlebars.

- Slim

PS.

www.bikesdirect.com/instructionhelp.htm
(Watch the video as many times as necessary to assist you in the assembly)

* Single Speed bikes generally require less maintenance

Last edited by SlimRider; 03-05-12 at 02:52 PM.
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Old 03-05-12, 03:08 PM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Archae0pteryx View Post
I only live about a mile from my office, and I've decided to start commuting by bike. I've walked a few times, but I also go home for lunch, and walking doesn't leave me with much time to eat. Because of that, and the fact that I like exercising and being outdoors, riding a bike seems like the perfect option. The problem is, I don't know anything about bikes. Any advice (what type of bike to use, where to buy, should I get fitted, or any tips at all) would be greatly appreciated.

- I'm about 5'10" and 150 lbs
- I'm fairly athletic, run 2-3 miles 2-3 times per week
- This commute will be on asphalt/concrete only
- The parking lot at work is gated with security guards, so no major theft issue there (There are places to lock up bike outside)
- I live in a 3rd floor apt, so a lighter bike would be tremendous
So, you can't bring your lunch to work?
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Old 03-05-12, 03:18 PM   #24
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Originally Posted by bud16415 View Post
I just took a look at Birmingham, AL CL and you seem to have a lot of bikes on the used market down there. I saw a few pretty nice looking bikes in the $250 range and down. For a one mile commute once you figure out the type of bike you might like and if you might end up using it more than just the commute pick one up on CL. There were a few $50 and down bikes that didn’t look so bad ether for a mile ride and one of them will let you know if you want to keep doing it. Traffic etc. and if you step up you can flip it for what you paid back on CL.
Thanks, that's what I'm leaning towards doing right now. If they don't have any for sale at the co-op.


Quote:
Originally Posted by SlimRider View Post
Hi there Archae0pteryx!

Here are just a few more recommendations, should you decide to use your co-op friends to help you make better online decisions:

1) The Gravity Liberty Cyclocross ~ $400
www.bikesdirect.com/products/gravity/liberty_cx.htm

2) The Motobecane Cafe Latte ~ $400
www.bikesdirect.com/products/motobecane/cafe_latte_x.htm

3) The Motobecane Single Speed Track ~ $280
www.bikesdirect.com/products/motobecane/track.htm

4) The Windsor Timeline Single Speed ~ $300
www.bikesdirect.com/products/windsor/timeline.htm

* All of these bicycles are designed more for distance travel than a few of the comfort bikes earlier suggested, due to geometry. To some greater degree, all of the above recommended bikes will place you in a more aggressive riding position. You will also have more riding and hand positions available to you with drop handlebars.

- Slim

PS.

www.bikesdirect.com/instructionhelp.htm
(Watch the video as many times as necessary to assist you in the assembly)

* Single Speed bikes generally require less maintenance
Thanks again! I think a single speed bike would be great to start with. I'll check out those links.


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So, you can't bring your lunch to work?
I can, but I prefer to make my meals at home just before I eat. I also let my dog out for a few minutes so she's not locked up for 8-9 hours at a time.
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