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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 07-10-12, 10:54 AM   #1
keystothekid
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New Bike for GF

I wasn't quite sure if anyone would get bent out of shape that I'm posting this in the commuter area, it's just where I feel most at home.

Ok, here's the nitty gritty. My girlfriend is currently riding a year or two old schwinn from a big box store. It's dutch style and weighs a whopping 42lbs (not counting her rack/milk crate full of art supplies). The big box store employee who put it together for her did not do a very good job, surprise, surprise! Anyway, I've wrenched away on it almost every weekend for the last month or so just trying to iron out the kinks. For example, the front fender is a bit wonky so the front wheel rubs. For the life of me I can't get her brakes set properly. They last about a day of light riding before they start rubbing the untrueable wheels. The paint is chipped all over, and, did I mention, it weighs 42+ pounds?! So, the situation is, I'm riding my cheap BD fixie more and more (other than my usual commute). We both go to different gyms (I have one at work she has one at school). And she's wanting to start riding more with me. And obviously I'm wanting to share the religious experience that is cruising around in the early morning when the only things awake are the geese and bunnies and the sun is still rubbing the sleep from his eyes.

The ultimatum: We could take the heap in to a lbs mechanic and have him work on it, and most likely upgrade some crucial things. Labor and parts, I'm sure would be $200.
We could piece/component it up into a decent ride, but it's still going to be a dutch monster. And I'm not sure the frame would be worth putting anything nice on.
What I think the best solution happens to be is, looking for a low end cheap roadie on BD. The thing is, she still needs to be able to haul a bit of cargo to and from school (about 1 1/2 miles) 5 or so days a week. Another caveat is that she said she wouldn't be able to mount a straight top tubed roadie in some of the clothes she wears to work/school. So that would limit the new bike to an awkward slanted top tube...and throwing the rack she has now onto the new bike.

I want to tell her to get the cheapest roadie she can find on BD and just keep her clunker for beating around and hauling things to school. I mean, if she's riding it daily now...she can keep riding it for her daily sidewalk/pothole/drunken frat boy dodging commute right? And keep the roadie clean and ready for the leisure/fun/distance rides.

Am I being silly? I don't want to push her too much. She's kind of reserved about things and wouldn't necessarily be completely upfront if I was being too pushy (we're still talking about buying a bike here! I swear!) I figured the combined wisdom of the magical commuting thread could offer me some great help!

TL;DR: Girlfriend needs to either A) fix her monster scwhinn with new parts/lots of tinkering B) get a cheap BD roadie
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Old 07-10-12, 11:03 AM   #2
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Look for used on CL. You can later resell and break even if things don't work out.
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Old 07-10-12, 11:33 AM   #3
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Look for used on CL. You can later resell and break even if things don't work out.
+1
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Old 07-10-12, 11:36 AM   #4
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Do you have hilly terrain? If not, a single speed could be an option. Generally, a CX bike or a "sport-touring" bike might fit the bill. Less aggressive than a full-on road bike, with rack mounts, etc. and the capacity for 28-35mm tires that offer more comfort and stability than the 23-25c tires on most racing-oriented road bikes.

Have her test ride some LBS bikes of various styles to see what she feels the most comfortable on. Check out local sales - who knows, perhaps there is a great deal out there.
Craigslist is good if you really know what you are after (size, style, quality), but is a real crap shoot if you are unsure.
BikesDirect is a great way to save some money, but their lower priced bikes typically have horrible saddles, so plan to spend $50-100 for a good quality female-specific saddle (Terry, Specialized BodyGeometry, etc), which will make a tremendous difference in her enjoyment of the bike.

I'd recommend against a racing bike (short wheelbase, steep geometry, aggressive rider position), at least initially, as they tend to be less comfortable and stable for new folks.

This would be a nice start. http://www.bikesdirect.com/products/dawes/ltcross_x.htm
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Old 07-10-12, 11:52 AM   #5
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It's not very hilly here. We're in Columbus, Oh. There's a slight incline going north/south (uphill both ways if you travel long enough ) but it's nothing serious. Good tip on the saddle, I hadn't thought about that. I always just assumed it would naturally be more comfy for a woman. Yeah, I had her roll around on my bike (a little fake motobecane fix/ss with drop bars) and she said she loved how easy it was but that she didn't feel comfortable with where the brakes were and she had trouble getting on and off. I think the easy thing was because she's used to her tire rubbing a brake or fender or...something :-/ So I don't want to push her towards racing geometry but she did e-mail me this link saying she likes this bike but her friend just got it and she doesn't want to have the same one.
http://www.bikesdirect.com/products/...rt_al_xiii.htm So, hrmmm.
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Old 07-10-12, 11:59 AM   #6
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It's not very hilly here. We're in Columbus, Oh. There's a slight incline going north/south (uphill both ways if you travel long enough ) but it's nothing serious. Good tip on the saddle, I hadn't thought about that. I always just assumed it would naturally be more comfy for a woman. Yeah, I had her roll around on my bike (a little fake motobecane fix/ss with drop bars) and she said she loved how easy it was but that she didn't feel comfortable with where the brakes were and she had trouble getting on and off. I think the easy thing was because she's used to her tire rubbing a brake or fender or...something :-/ So I don't want to push her towards racing geometry but she did e-mail me this link saying she likes this bike but her friend just got it and she doesn't want to have the same one.
http://www.bikesdirect.com/products/...rt_al_xiii.htm So, hrmmm.
That looks like a great option! It would be quite easy and relatively affordable to convert the stem-mounted shifters to bar ends (like a touring bike) if she finds them annoying (hitting her knee when climbing, etc).

At the "affordable" price range, I would recommend avoiding bikes with integrated brake/shifter ("brifters") combo levers. These tend to be pretty expensive, and sacrifices need to be made in the other components to keep the costs reasonable.
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Old 07-10-12, 12:50 PM   #7
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Ah, good tip about the "brifters" (first time I've heard that term and I'm diggin' it!). Yeah, I'd like her to be on something a bit nicer but anything is a step up from what she's got now and I've always figured it's better to go with a cheaper entry level bike and if the rider loves it enough to upgrade, go for it! There's nothing worse than little kid christmas toy syndrome. Thanks for the tips canyoneagle. We'll probably go around to a few used bike stores and see if she sees anything she wants to hop on for a spin around the block. Side story, a bit ago I stopped into a thrifty/resell store just to glance at their sidewalk bikes. Some guy came out claiming to be a bike mechanic and asked me what I ride. At the time I was riding an old Trek 1000 from 87 or 88 and he proceeded to make fun of me and tell me a trek had no personality. I was fuming! That bike is almost as me, it has tons of character! Thanks again for all the help! I'll let you all know what/if she decides on something.
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Old 07-10-12, 12:53 PM   #8
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If you want to replace that Schwinn: These look fantastic: http://www.bikesdirect.com/products/city_bikes.htm Something with the internal gears will be less maintenance, chain cases so she doesn't get gunk on her clothes, loop frame/ mixte for easy-on easy-off. Prices look pretty decent.

If she is wanting to keep the Schwinn for commute duties and add something more road-ish, then possibly look into a nice older mixte on craigslist. If you can find a nice CroMo frame, it won't weigh a ton, and should be relatively cheap. Depending on what you end up with, she can either ride it as-is and replace parts as they break, or you can spruce it up right from the start and she will have a nice "fast" bike to ride with you. It would be something you two could work on together.
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Old 07-10-12, 12:57 PM   #9
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If they made those Kensingtons even close to my size, I would have a hard time not buying one.
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Old 07-10-12, 01:01 PM   #10
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If you want to replace that Schwinn: These look fantastic: http://www.bikesdirect.com/products/city_bikes.htm Something with the internal gears will be less maintenance, chain cases so she doesn't get gunk on her clothes, loop frame/ mixte for easy-on easy-off. Prices look pretty decent.

If she is wanting to keep the Schwinn for commute duties and add something more road-ish, then possibly look into a nice older mixte on craigslist. If you can find a nice CroMo frame, it won't weigh a ton, and should be relatively cheap. Depending on what you end up with, she can either ride it as-is and replace parts as they break, or you can spruce it up right from the start and she will have a nice "fast" bike to ride with you. It would be something you two could work on together.
I know of at least two forum members who have purchased those, and quite enjoy them. These are great looking bikes. I'm like you, if they had a 60-62 cm I would have a really hard time not getting one.
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Old 07-10-12, 01:07 PM   #11
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They are sharp looking bikes. Classy style. I'll propose this. I'd love to have one myself for just milling around the city. Thanks!
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