So, I have a new commuting bike. I bought this:
I thought Iíd share some comments among other bike-obsessed people. Consider or ignore as you see fit.
I have been commuting and utility-biking, if thatís a word, for nearly twenty years. So, I have a pretty clear idea of what I want.
The last time I bought a new bicycling for commuting and errands, it was about ten years ago. Cyclocross was barely a thing. Touring bikes were the only practical option. I like touring bikes a lot for practical cycling, even still. I ride all year around, though, in the wet, the snow, and the slush. I havenít been able to keep a steel frame intact for more than five years or so. Sometimes my bike lasts less time than that. It doesn't matter what sort of frame preparation I do when the bike is new. Moisture gets in and the frame corrodes. Never fails.
I am not interested in disassembling a bike even every couple of years to update frame treatments. If I didnít mind completely disassembling a bike, after all, I would just buy a Trek 520 or something else with a lifetime warranty and exchange the frame when it corrodes. No thanks.
So, I wanted an aluminum frame. Something a bit quicker than a touring frame was welcome after the years on touring bikes, too. A cyclocross bike seemed to fit the bill perfectly.
I have been wrenching on my bikes for a long time, so setting one up is not a difficult proposition for me. Also, perhaps itís just me or perhaps itís just my location, but I donít believe LBS are what they used to be. There arenít that many knowledgeable bike mechanics around, much less knowledgeable sales people. There isnít much I canít do on my bike more quickly than it can be done in the shop. Usually, I can do it better, simply because I take more time to get it exactly right as compared to what the shop would do. My job keeps me very busy, but even still some time spent wrenching has marginal benefit to me simply because LBS are so inefficient at repair these days. I wasnít looking to spend a lot of dough on my commuter rig, either, and there isnít much difference among bikes of whatever brand at my desired price. Lower-end, but decent, bikes were especially appealing to me, because if one thing is true about commuting regularly in all weather itís that components wear out. Iíd prefer a rig with cheaper maintenance costs than a more expensive bike.
BikesDirect, Nashbar, or something like that made sense to me, in other words. In particular, seeing the change in BikesDirect over time has been very interesting. If youíre capable of setting a dealer-ready bike up yourself, and if you know the minimal amount necessary to check for spectacular defects in manufacturing, BD is a great bargain. I doubt the frames from LBS brands are any better than the BD ďmakesĒ up to thousands of dollars of price. And you can save some bread with the BD lines, certainly.
So, I got this Motobecane. I actually wanted this lower-end model, even apart from price, because I want to put a rack on the front and use a pair of panniers. I don't trust a carbon fork for that job. Iíd prefer the bike with the steel fork.
Also, I canít see buying a road bicycle with disk brakes. Who would do that? Yes, I get that the disks could provide some marginal benefit in wet conditions. In principle, you could also descend for a very long time riding the brakes without worrying about popping a tire from an overheated rimóassuming the disks were large enough to radiate heat properly.
However, thereís nothing wrong with rim brakes. I, and just about everyone else, have used rim brakes in all kinds of conditions forever. Theyíre fine. Iíve toured in mountainous areas and made long descents with rim brakes. Iíve ridden in winter for years with rim brakes. Iíve made more than my share of emergency stops with rim brakes. Iíve never had a tire explode, Iíve never had my bike shoot helplessly into traffic with wet or icy rims, and Iíve never just crashed because of inadequate stopping power. The U-style brakes on racing brakes are not the most amazing devices, but V-brakes or cantilevers just have to be set up properly. These brakes are more than adequate to their purpose.
The straight-wire cantilevers are particularly good, in my view. I like V-brakes, too, but Iíve always thought the cantis worked well.
Disk brakes seem to me an unnecessary complication for a commuter road bike. Theyíre going to be more complicated to work on than even cantilever brakesóand since there are now the commercial pre-harnessed wire dealies for cantilevers the cantilevers are even easier to work on. Iím not confident the disk technology has matured yet for the higher speeds of road cycling as compared to mountain biking, either. Perhaps most importantly, disks are significantly more expensive than rim brakes, too. I canít see that the disks would be worth the extra money and trouble, never mind the heavier brake parts and the beefier frame that would be required. The dished front wheels, which are going to be more expensive than generic symmetrical front wheels when it comes to replacement, are just another annoyance. So, a disk-braked bike was out.
So far, Iíve been pretty happy with the bike. It certainly feels faster, and in timed rides it is a bit faster, than my steel touring bikes. The lighter weight is nice when the bike needs to be picked up. I expected Iíd be indifferent to them, but I find that I dig the top bar housing-pushing brakes.
I have been pleasantly surprised by the Sora shifters. My reaction has undoubtedly been helped because these shifters have such a bad reputation. My gf bought a Trek 1000 when they came with Sora, and hers had no fine adjustment in the front derailleur back then. The set-up on this bike is fine, though. I was going to change out at least the front with a bar-end friction shifter, but the stock front shifter-derailleur works well enough. It has fine-adjustment on the lower two rings, too.
Here, too, is an area in which obsession far outstrips necessity for most cyclists, particularly commuters. Integrated brakes/shifters are fine, but they're hardly crucial. Plenty of still-awesome bikes were made with downtube shifters not all that long ago. One of my favorite bikes still has downtube shifters. Touring bikes get sold nowadays for good money with bar-end shifters. So, whether I could shift "in the drops" with Sora was a matter of minimal concern to me, though I see that issue generates a lot of keystrokes on this forum.
I would prefer that the bike had the bridge for a rear fender to attach between the stays, but some zip-ties to attach a fender to the kickstand mounting bracket would be an adequate work-around.
A cross bike makes a great commuter, and so far Iíve been pleased with this one. Weíll see what the miles bring.