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  1. #1
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    Tips on building a commuter

    I'm thinking of getting a commuter bike. I like the Trex FX and Specialized Sirrus, they seem like really nice bikes. But I'm thinking of maybe building one up, trolling Craigslist and the local coops for a good frame and going from there. I was hoping for any recommendations on a bike or frame from the 90's or 2000's that while not originally marketed as a 'commuter' would be a good fit. I'd like to have the ability to install a pannier on the back and possibly fenders (however I doubt I'd ride in the rain). Lightweight enough to pick up and carry on my shoulders would be nice.
    Also, what would be the ideal wheel sizing? I've thought 700C, but my current road bike has 700 x 25 tires and those don't seem to be up to the task of potholes, curbs, etc.
    While the Trek and Specialized bikes seem affordable enough, I thought if I looked for a suitable steel frame bike 10 years old or so, I might not only get the pleasure of building it up, but might also come out under $200.
    Thanks,
    Jon

  2. #2
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    Can't help you find bikes, remotely, can critique your choice after the fact.

    $200 is a pretty tiny budget , now, 1953 it would have gone further.

    best to find someone more familiar with bicycles and their mechanics ,
    to inspect the Craig's list finds, to go with you.

  3. #3
    7-speed doomsday prepper ThermionicScott's Avatar
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    If you're up for using not only a used frame, but used components like handlebars, brake calipers, shifters, and whatnot, you could indeed put one together for very cheap. Broaden your search to the 70's and 80's and you may find plenty of stuff (read: touring frames) with room for bigger tires and fenders and braze-ons for racks.
    Quote Originally Posted by chandltp View Post
    There's no such thing as too far.. just lack of time
    RUSA #7498

  4. #4
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    Here's a pitch for my favorite commuter, a late 80's/ early 90's mountian bike with no suspension. They are pretty comfortable with commute-freidnly gearing. Throw a pair of slicks on them & you're good to go. My first commuter was a Rockhopper & I loved it. And they are pretty cheap, you shoul dbe able to find one on CL for $100 or so (dpening on where you live & the condition).

  5. #5
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    Around me, old steel mtn bikes are super common and they make fantastic pack mules, IMO. You can almost always find nice old Trek, Giant, and Specialized for $100-$150 in pretty decent shape.

    Check garage sales for the absolute best prices. Another great source: Call up your local scrapyards and ask if they'll sell you bikes that have been brought in. You can almost always get a frame for $5-$10, or sometimes a complete bike for under $20. Even if you have to replace most everything on it, you can still get it done cheaply, if you do the work yourself.


    An example: A couple of months ago, I picked up a Trek 820 at a yard sale for $15/$20 (I don't remember, now). I sold the surprisingly decent knobby tires for $5 each. I splurged on some fat Michelin slicks for it, got lucky with a $10 saddle from a discount store, and ditched the crappy grip shifters for a stem shifter set I had laying around. After all that, I cleaned the crap out of it. It turned out to be about the most-comfortable riding bike I've got in my collection, and is going to be my heavy-hauler "work truck" bike. I am very tall, and was initially wondering how I would feel about the 26" tires, but I've got no complaints whatsoever. Fairly fat tires at 1.85", they absorb potholes, cracks, and debris with aplomb, yet they don't feel sluggish.

  6. #6
    Fat Guy on a Little Bike KonAaron Snake's Avatar
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    This was a Litespeed frame...I used a rigid fork and tossed in parts from a MTB I had laying around. The only things I specifically bought were the drops, tires, Suntour commands (which i don't recommend), the rack and the Tektros. I have under $400, complete, into the build.



    Pre-rack:











    Pre camoflauge




    Old ti MTB frames go surprisingly low, and they're relatively light and tough. This thing is a BEAST as an all purpose bike.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by MK313 View Post
    Here's a pitch for my favorite commuter, a late 80's/ early 90's mountian bike with no suspension.

    +1 on the no suspension. In the OP's price range, they won't be good. Unnecessary expense and weight, and dubious value. Best thing is to skip 'em.

  8. #8
    Senior Member DVC45's Avatar
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    Less than $400 for this build. Disc brake and all.
    I enjoyed every moment of the build process.


    But, yes, rigid fork 90's MTB's is the best route.

  9. #9
    Fat Guy on a Little Bike KonAaron Snake's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DVC45 View Post
    Less than $400 for this build. Disc brake and all.
    I enjoyed every moment of the build process.


    But, yes, rigid fork 90's MTB's is the best route.
    DIGGING this build!

  10. #10
    Senior Member DVC45's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KonAaron Snake View Post
    DIGGING this build!
    Thanks!
    It now has full disc brakes, so it is over $400 on the cost. I still feel it was worth it.

  11. #11
    Senior Member DVC45's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KonAaron Snake View Post
    This was a Litespeed frame...I used a rigid fork and tossed in parts from a MTB I had laying around. The only things I specifically bought were the drops, tires, Suntour commands (which i don't recommend), the rack and the Tektros. I have under $400, complete, into the build.


    Where did you buy the Huffy Stickers?
    ' want some too.

  12. #12
    Senior Member rumrunn6's Avatar
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    hunt for an '80s era Schwinn cromoly road bike. lighter than the '70s era heavy steel bikes
    cycling is like baseball ~ it doesn't take much to make it interesting

  13. #13
    Fat Guy on a Little Bike KonAaron Snake's Avatar
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    eBay! Of course! I think I spent $12 for them. They really look natural with the titanium.

  14. #14
    7-speed doomsday prepper ThermionicScott's Avatar
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    One more tip on building a commuter: if you like fixed-gear/single-speed, you can save money, weight, and complexity by leaving off those derailleurs and shifters. Only downside is that you'll need to build/buy an FG/SS rear wheel.
    Quote Originally Posted by chandltp View Post
    There's no such thing as too far.. just lack of time
    RUSA #7498

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by KonAaron Snake View Post
    eBay! Of course! I think I spent $12 for them. They really look natural with the titanium.
    Before I noticed you had written "pre-camoflage", I was thinking to myself, "since when did Huffy start making Litespeed bikes?"

    It is a perfect cover-up!

  16. #16
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    Thanks all, I love those builds!
    I just saw this on CL : http://atlanta.craigslist.org/atl/bik/3122657752.html
    This seems to be more of a road bike with more substantial front forks. Colors are ugly
    There are RockHoppers listed in the $200 - $400 range and I've seen some hard rocks close to $100.
    The pawn shop down the street has a Trek 560 with straight handlebars, they are asking $175, not sure what they would take, never bought from a pawn shop (I always wonder if it's stolen)

  17. #17
    Senior Member
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    So mountain bike handle bars and forks are compatible with most road bike frames?

  18. #18
    7-speed doomsday prepper ThermionicScott's Avatar
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    Color can be fixed easily enough.

    Making sure it fits and doesn't have any major issues is the important thing.

    I never get tired of posting this guy. One of those MTB-turned-dropbar-fixed-gear-commuter bikes.
    Last edited by ThermionicScott; 07-12-12 at 02:49 PM. Reason: BF ate my formatting.
    Quote Originally Posted by chandltp View Post
    There's no such thing as too far.. just lack of time
    RUSA #7498

  19. #19
    Team Water Andy_K's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MK313 View Post
    Here's a pitch for my favorite commuter, a late 80's/ early 90's mountian bike with no suspension. They are pretty comfortable with commute-freidnly gearing. Throw a pair of slicks on them & you're good to go. My first commuter was a Rockhopper & I loved it. And they are pretty cheap, you shoul dbe able to find one on CL for $100 or so (dpening on where you live & the condition).
    +2

    I've got a few bikes that I spent a bunch of money on, but my 1989 Rockhopper beater build is one of my favorites:



    I've got about $600 in this and most of that was for the wheels and tires. With 26x1.25" Panaracer TServ tires it's fast on good pavement, but I could put fairly fat tires on there if I wanted to prioritize comfort.

  20. #20
    Senior Member DVC45's Avatar
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    That Specialized will do, and so as this Fuji http://atlanta.craigslist.org/atl/bik/3132866145.html
    And this Fuji. http://atlanta.craigslist.org/atl/bik/3131598805.html (I think even at $200, it's still a good deal).

    Just make sure it fits

  21. #21
    Team Water Andy_K's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by byrd48 View Post
    So mountain bike handle bars and forks are compatible with most road bike frames?
    That's a more compilcated question than you might think.

    You can put a mountain bike handlebar on any frame. It may require a change of stem also (though not the fork). The potential problem is with geometry. A hybrid frame will typically have a similar top tube length to a road bike, but will be built so the bar is higher, for a more upright comfortable position. If you just put a MTB bar on a road bike, you may find it is lower than you would like and feels awkward to ride. To some extent that can be fixed with the stem, but there are limitation.

  22. #22
    Fat Guy on a Little Bike KonAaron Snake's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wolfwerx View Post
    Before I noticed you had written "pre-camoflage", I was thinking to myself, "since when did Huffy start making Litespeed bikes?"

    It is a perfect cover-up!
    I really like how it worked out! The bike folks usually stare for a moment and look confused, while the mongol hordes look right past it in favor of wal-mart Schwinns. After all, Schwinn is a quality American brand!

    I'm having this bonded to the front


  23. #23
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    Thanks, I saw those. I was looking at the cheaper one and wondering if the downtube shifters would present any problems if I wanted to install handlebar mounted shifters. I suppose that would be the advantage of starting with a mountain bike since most of those already have the thumb shifters

  24. #24
    The Rock Cycle eofelis's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KonAaron Snake View Post
    This was a Litespeed frame...I used a rigid fork and tossed in parts from a MTB I had laying around.

    Old ti MTB frames go surprisingly low, and they're relatively light and tough. This thing is a BEAST as an all purpose bike.
    I saw a older ti Litespeed hardtail bike at a yard sale last year. It had old LX/XT on it, rim brakes. It was $300. I passed on it but later I wished I had bought it. Never mind that I already have plenty of commuter bikes. It would have been pretty nice as a commuter/towner bike.
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  25. #25
    Fat Guy on a Little Bike KonAaron Snake's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by eofelis View Post
    I saw a older ti Litespeed hardtail bike at a yard sale last year. It had old LX/XT on it, rim brakes. It was $300. I passed on it but later I wished I had bought it. Never mind that I already have plenty of commuter bikes. It would have been pretty nice as a commuter/towner bike.
    No scratches during parking! Impervious to corrosion (though the parts aren't).

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