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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 07-06-12, 10:43 PM   #1
MerriwetherII
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Comments on new Bikes Direct cross commuter

Hi all,

So, I have a new commuting bike. I bought this:

http://www.bikesdirect.com/products/..._cross_cx3.htm

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.
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Old 07-06-12, 11:20 PM   #2
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nice bike for $600. the sora definitely gets a bad rap around here but as you said, "components wear out" and you can always upgrade the shifters when that happens. I love that lava red, is that the color you got? enjoy.
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Old 07-06-12, 11:54 PM   #3
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Nice bike for the price!

Oh, I never have any problem with Sora shifters. I don't race, so not being able to shift from the drops is not a concern to me.
BTW,The new Sora's are now the old Tiagra, so I maybe some people will stop hating on Sora's now.

I disagree with your opinion about disc brakes as "unnecessary complication", though.
Other than a little added weight, I think they are a great design improvement over other brake designs. But to each their own.

Last edited by DVC45; 07-06-12 at 11:59 PM.
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Old 07-09-12, 10:08 AM   #4
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For those that commute in the wet/snow, disc brakes are certainly more confidence inspiring.

Disc 700c wheels start at $99 per set. That's not bad.

The primary thing with disc brakes on road bikes is that it's really not worth getting anything but Avid BB7s, which very few bikes come with.
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Old 07-09-12, 10:57 AM   #5
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Congrats, and welcome to the forums. I agree that BD offers an excellent value to those who can do the setup, and have purchased two bikes from them with good experiences in both cases. That bike looks like a great value for the money, and an excellent commuter.
I disagree with your observations on discs, but no worries, to each their own. I do think that the cheapie cable discs that come on most premade bikes (BB7's excepted) are no better (I think they are far worse) than good quality rim brakes.

Last edited by canyoneagle; 07-09-12 at 11:07 AM.
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Old 07-09-12, 11:25 AM   #6
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Brand reputation is a commodity to re sell, with the name..
Just realize its not really a Motobecane any more , coming, not, from France.
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Old 07-09-12, 11:31 AM   #7
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Good job. So many controversial subjects in a single post.

Steel frames and forks rock. Carbon fiber comes in second. Ti is 3rd. Aluminum is OK for frames, but comes in 4th ahead of bamboo. Disc brakes are the best, hands down. Side pull, v-brakes, then cantilevers, again in 4th place. BD is OK, but I don't like their marketing, and prefer building my own bikes. Probably 4th place in the world of online retailers behind Performance, Nashbar and ??. Cross bikes are OK commuters, but not as good as rigid fork MTB hardtails, touring bikes, road bikes, so again, they come in 4th.
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Old 07-09-12, 11:33 AM   #8
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I have a Fantom CX with the compact double crankset instead of the triple. It is indeed a great bike. I didn't originally buy it for commuting, just for road rides with friends and as a backup once-in-a-while commuter. Well, I liked it so much (over my MTB with slicks) it ended up as my primary commuter and I bought a Fantom Cross UNO as a backup bike.

After 3000+ miles, the changes I've made (not related to falling off of a bike rack at 85MPH damage) have been a stem, rack, fenders, tires (Panaracer UrbanMax) and a set of old D/A bar-end shifters. Oh, and the 36t granny ring, I swapped out for a 34t.

I am thinking about a carbon CX fork for Christmas...
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Old 07-09-12, 11:38 AM   #9
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Good job. So many controversial subjects in a single post.

Steel frames and forks rock. Carbon fiber comes in second. Ti is 3rd. Aluminum is OK for frames, but comes in 4th ahead of bamboo. Disc brakes are the best, hands down. Side pull, v-brakes, then cantilevers, again in 4th place. BD is OK, but I don't like their marketing, and prefer building my own bikes. Probably 4th place in the world of online retailers behind Performance, Nashbar and ??. Cross bikes are OK commuters, but not as good as rigid fork MTB hardtails, touring bikes, road bikes, so again, they come in 4th.
you don't say.
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Old 07-09-12, 12:05 PM   #10
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in wet, sloppy weather, i've never used any style of rim brake (canti, V, caliper) that works as well as a hydraulic disc brake.

you are free to dislike them for whatever reason, but from my experiences, hydraulic disc brakes are the S-H-!-T for wet, messy riding.

my winter/foul-weather beast rolls with discs and i wouldn't do it any other way. it's a small weight penalty that is well worth the cost in inclement weather.

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i am a fan of BD.com. i got my road bike from them 2 years ago. a full ultegra Ti bike for 2 grand. yeah, i'd remake that same move all day long.

and their customer service is awesome. i snapped my rear ultegra derailleur last fall. it had to be manufacturer's defect as nothing had happened to the derailleur, it just fell apart in two pieces one day. BD.com had a brand new replacement derailleur shipped to me rush order within a day.

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Old 07-10-12, 02:01 AM   #11
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Purchased the 2x9 version of this bike in May of '08. Promptly changed out the stock tires for some 28mm Schwalbe Marathon Plus. Changed the 36t chainring to a 40t as the terrain in this area didn't call for it. The bike has over 23,000 commuter/utility/errand/touring miles on it w/one recent rebuild. Replaced the headset bearings, chain, bb, cassette, rear der(Ultegra 6700), brake pads, cables, saddle and hbr wrap. Got a Parallax rear hub and re-built the rear wheel as the stock generic one had worn out it's welcome. The front's still going strong. Replaced and packed the bearings. Have a Delta Universal Mega Rack, Jandd front bags on the rear and a Sunlite medium sized trunkbag. I'm on my 3d rear SMP while the front has plenty of tread left after 22,000 miles. My lighting consists of a Cycolite Hotshot under saddle surrounded by several Sette 316 PBSF knock-offs. The front has a NR Mi-Newt Cordless 150 w/ Sette Glo emergency backup. 32h 500 Alex rims, btw.

Solid, no frills, no snob appeal, low maintenance commuter. It's essentially the same bike as mine w/a triple. You'll get many years of satisfactory service from it.

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Old 07-10-12, 02:15 PM   #12
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Any idea of the weight of this bike?
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Old 07-11-12, 05:49 PM   #13
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Thanks all for the comments, in various directions.

Here are a couple of articles that have some more information on disk brakes for road bikes. The articles have been much discussed, so perhaps you’ve all seen at least one of them:

http://www.bikerumor.com/2012/02/14/...ill-they-work/

http://www.bikerumor.com/2012/02/23/...-about-wheels/


As I say, my preferences are pretty fixed here.



One thing I will predict is that hydraulic disks will not be popular among consumer road bikes, even if there are some riders who are going to want them. I don't think bleeding brakes on road bikes is going to catch on.


Even recognizing that some of you think there are significant advantages to the disks, cable or hydraulic, it does seem to me that at least part of what is going on now is an attempt by manufacturers to strong-arm roadies into buying new equipment. It is no coincidence, I would say, that the push for road disks is coming just as carbon fiber is maturing. Carbon fiber has been the primary technological selling point in new road bikes over the past decade. But CF is now about as refined as a frame material as it is going to be. It seems manufacturers suspect there are only diminishing margins available with existing designs and materials.

The fact that so much of the discussion in those articles focuses on UCI approval for disks seems to support this view. UCI can’t stop manufacturers from selling disk bikes, after all, so if the technology offers significant advantages manufacturers should be able to sell them in quantity, UCI approval or no.

Anyway, we’ll see. I’ll be interested to see whether disks catch on on the road. It does seem as if the manufacturers are going to give people the option to buy the equipment they want for a while.


BigBen and NashComm—I’m glad you’re happy with the bike. I hope to get good years of service out of it. So far, so good.


I replaced the stock tires with 28mm Gatorskins and I put a 36h wheel on the rear. I’ve put a black aluminum kickstand on, too. I’ve got a set of longboard SKS fenders, but I’m considering some quick release instead. I like the quickness of the bike and it would be nice to use it without fenders often. I’ve got an older HID light for the deep dark but I make do with a 4-aa Cateye light in town. Generic Bontrager blinkie for the rear.

BigBen, I’ve got a set of the DuraAce bar-ends, too. As I say, I might put one of them one on the front one of these days.

Catonec, yeah, it’s a good deal for six bills.

Good value in bikes is definitely available these days. It’s great.
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Old 07-11-12, 05:54 PM   #14
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Any idea of the weight of this bike?
It's a good question. I'm not sure. I'd guess with the pedals and kickstand, it's getting close to 25 lbs.
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