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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 02-13-05, 05:02 PM   #1
groove10
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This is my first post on these forums, so be gentle if I mess some of the protocols up a bit.

I am currently riding a 1996 Specialized Rockhopper A1 Comp with a rigid fork for my commuter. The only modification I've made to the bike to make it more commute friendly is that I've changed to semi-slick tires instead of the standard knobby MTB tires.

Currently my commute is about 3.5 miles each way, so this setup is fine for such a short ride. I don't get tired or sore, and the ride of the bike is fine. The only problem I have is that I'm at the top end of the gears the whole time. Only at one point in my commute do I have to go down off the top chain ring. Obviously the gearing on this bike is far too low for what I'm riding daily. I don't carry too much weight and don't use panniers (I ride with either a backback or messanger bag).

In the next few months it is likely that my commute will double or so and I'll be riding 7 to 8 miles each way. So instead of upgrading this existing bike to bigger gearing and all that, I thought I might as well get a whole new setup, one that is more suitable to this commute. I'm looking for something that will get me from point A to point B quickly while still being able to take a pounding from me daily including some rain riding. I am located in Atlanta, GA so the snow isn't a problem.

Looking at the bikes for sale, I noticed a type fo bike called a 'cyclocross' bike, which seems like it might be an ideal commuting bike. I'm 5'9", 165 lbs. and I grew up riding BMX bikes as a kid. Never really got into the MTB thing, but I do like to be able to hop over potholes and jump up onto the curb from time to time. I'm afraid if I get a full road bike setup with 23c tires, that I'm bound to thrash it a bit and break something with the way I ride (somewhat urban assualt, lane splitting, etc.).

So, my question is two-fold. First, is a cyclocross bike suitable for my commute and riding style? Second, if so (or not) what brand and model of bike should I be looking at? Any tips and suggestions are appreciated.
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Old 02-13-05, 05:11 PM   #2
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Hi,
yeah, a cross bike would be fine. Touring bikes also accomodate larger tires, they'd work too. You may need a special rack that lets you get the panniers further back than a typical rack would allow.
Don't skimp on lighting, if you need it. Tires are a tough call. People have very different ideas on tires. I classify them by weight, 200 gr tires, 300 gr tires, 600 gr tires. Heavier usually means a lot fewer flats, and more miles, but of course... slower.
I like a 300 gr tire.
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Old 02-13-05, 05:15 PM   #3
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Like I said, I don't ride with panniers as I prefer to carry the stuf on my back.

I like to have my bike light and nimble. Touring type setups don't really do it for me as they seem "sluggish", although I've only ridden one once and it was a heavy steel framed one.
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Old 02-13-05, 05:28 PM   #4
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Yes CX would work, to fit larger tires, and fenders, which you will want. You may be surprised how you don't need huge tires. I rode hybrids tricked into roadies, and cx bikes. I had 35mm and 38mm tires on them. I switched to a road frame and ride 25mm tires. I can't be sloppy, I had to invest in better rims because I am 6'3 and 250 lbs without gear, but I have never regretted it. One caveat, spend the money on tires now, so you don't spend time and more money on fixing flats. If you do go skinny look a Conti top touring 2000's they are 28mm, and I think they make on in the 30's as well. There are a few other bullet proof tires someone else will recommend. It will take a week or two for your legs to adjust to your larger chainring, but adjust they will and you will fly. Good luck!
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Old 02-14-05, 05:08 AM   #5
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I dont think you will gain that much in switching from a good roadified MTB to a cx/touring commuter.
Most of the comparisons between speeds on MTBs and road bikes are comparing to a roadbike shod with narrow tyres, not suitable for the urban jungle. If you compare a bike using 26"x1.5" and 700cx28mm, then the differences are marginal. You can always fit an even narrower 1" to 1.25" if you need more speed.
A racing cx bike is very light but the frame is clean of all threads and brazons that a commuter needs. Lower-end cx/touring style bikes do have all the waterbottle/rack/fender fitting you may need but they are not ultra-light. You are right in thinking that a cx/tourer is more agile than a full expedition tourer.
If you have some cash to spend then you may find that upgrading your wheels is more cost effective.
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Old 02-14-05, 06:05 AM   #6
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Yep. Got a Gunnar crosshairs cyclocross bike. Use it for commuting in London, and out of town, about 70miles a week. The bike is acceptably light, and it has all the bosses etc: you could need. I use a rack (Acts like a rear mudguard and lets you dump stuff that is too big to go in a back pack on it) though mostly use a backpack, lots of lights, water bottle, on board pump. Tires are 38x700c which seems good enough for everything, dropping off curbs, running drain covers. Never used a MTB for commuting so don't know what it would be like. Can't see the point of bigger tires and suspension for commuting though unless you're commute included a lot of offroad.

PS rode this bike through central and south america mainly on non tarmac roads. Had 50lb on the rack. It coped fine.

I'm 183cm and 85Kg if that makes any difference.
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Old 02-14-05, 06:43 AM   #7
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I got a cyclocross bike in December for my 9 mile (one way) commute. It handles potholes and crappy roads much better than my old road bike. The gearing is the same as my old road bike so I didn't have to learn new gearing or "when to shift" routine. The tires are 700x32 but they look like 700x28. The geometry and frame material (steel) provide a very comfortable ride. You can see a picture of my bike below, in my signature. I use panniers. That's why I have the rear rack.

Here is the website for more details on the bike.
You didn't mention what price range you're considering. If the Nova is too pricey, Jamis also makes the Aurora cyclocross bike.

The Nova comes with eggbeater pedals. I'd never tried them before but after 2 months I love them for commuting.
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Old 02-14-05, 07:11 AM   #8
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Yea there are a bunch of good bikes and CX bikes would be in there. Flatbar roadies and no suspension hybrids would be great too. I like my Marin (see sig) and my wife's Specialized Sirrus but in looking the Trek 7X00 FX line is VERY nice as well. Cannondale Road Warrior or Bad Boy would also bee good choices IMO. Some of these bikes have gearing like a touring bike, some like a road bike, you would have to choose what is best for the type of riding you will be doing but IMO any of them will be better than a MTB.
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Old 02-14-05, 08:33 AM   #9
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Cross bikes make great commuters.
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Old 02-14-05, 08:48 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by groove10
So, my question is two-fold. First, is a cyclocross bike suitable for my commute and riding style? Second, if so (or not) what brand and model of bike should I be looking at? Any tips and suggestions are appreciated.
Yes, and the Surly Cross Check. The Cross Check is my ride on a 14 mile one-way commute. Set up with rear rack and panniers, but would be great without them as well. I also sling a messenger bag to carry my laptop when I need it. The Cross Check is steel, stable, and rides beautifully, comparing to my last four or five bikes. As a commuter, it is by far the best bike I've used. I would disagree that you won't gain much in switching. I didn't gain in time, comparing between a mtb and cx, but I gained in ease, responsiveness and fun. You can buy it set up for multi-gear cross riding, but you may want to just buy the frame and build it up to get it dialed in for your specs, so that you don't have to spend extra later on adjusting stuff, like crank length and stem length.

Quote:
Originally Posted by groove10
I like to have my bike light and nimble. Touring type setups don't really do it for me as they seem "sluggish", although I've only ridden one once and it was a heavy steel framed one.
You might try a fixed gear setup. I set up my Cross Check fixed, and love it for its ease of maintenance, simple set up, and the road-bike-rider connection it gives me.
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Old 02-14-05, 09:41 AM   #11
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and if not fixed maybe just singlespeed with a freewheel; a lighter cheaper way to go especially if your commute is mostly flat!

you could get back to your bmx roots without gears....

i'd go with a cyclocross frame all the way. and don't be afraid to try some different setups (for example: i prefer bullhorn bars to the typical road drop bars).

for tires i would find something puncture resistant and slightly wider than your standard skinny road tire (tires made for touring seem to be pretty durable). i run continental toptouring 700x28 which are pretty good but.... specialized aramdillos seem to be the benchmark for nearly flat proof tires. getting a sturdy tire is one of the most important things in my opinion cause nothing sucks worse than fixing a flat tire in crappy weather.

finally; fenders rule if you plan on riding in all weather conditions.
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Old 02-14-05, 09:43 AM   #12
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I've commuted with a cx bike for the past year and have been happy with it. The benefit is lighter weight than mtnbike, you can gear it for the streets, and plus you have canti brakes for better braking and fits fat tires. The only drawback is perhaps lack of brazeons for racks, but I've gone with a Vaude backpack anyway, so not an issue for me. I have some knockoff Korean alum frame I built up, like Specialized S-works geometry.
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Old 02-14-05, 12:30 PM   #13
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Just built up a cycle cross machine. I have a hybrid as my primary winter bike, and I can tell you that the CX is much faster. The drop bars give you a big advantage especially with a headwind. Still, the difference in overall travel time compared to your current bike will probably be fairly small-a few minutes or so over 7 miles. Take some out for a test ride. If you think you will be comfortable on a cross, then go for it. They are very practical bikes.
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Old 02-14-05, 02:46 PM   #14
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Thanks for the tips guys. Maybe I'll give the single speed thing a try.

Not sure I want to go to a fixie just yet since I was never a good flat-land trickster in my day. I stuck to jumping curbs and building dirt tracks.

Anyway, one last question, since it looks like my thoughts on cyclocross bikes have been confirmed, Is there any reason to spend a boat load of money on a really nice frame or are some of the cheaper ones just as good for what I will be doing? I.e. shoudl I save my money and not go for a Lemond Propad?
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Old 02-14-05, 04:00 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by groove10
Anyway, one last question, since it looks like my thoughts on cyclocross bikes have been confirmed, Is there any reason to spend a boat load of money on a really nice frame ...
like this ?


Quote:
Originally Posted by groove10
... or are some of the cheaper ones just as good for what I will be doing? I.e. shoudl I save my money and not go for a Lemond Propad?
oh, like this !

I'm guessing that as a commuter (vs. racer/poser-racer) you'll want solid and dependable over bling-bling. I would (did, I guess) go for cheaper but well designed for all-around use. Steel is cheaper and heavier, but so what? My Surly and I won't win any races but I ain't racing.
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Old 02-14-05, 04:22 PM   #16
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the Poprad is not all that expensive considering you get a whole bike for $1,000, I just ordered one myself.

A cheap frame and fork is still $400 and then you have to suit it up to ride so unless you have a whole lot of spare parts lying around, you may need to buy components which add up when bought separately.
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Old 02-14-05, 05:14 PM   #17
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I have been thinking about your last question while working, and came up with; the cost issue should balance with your usage. Is it just to ride to school/work at this place is there a safe spot to stick it? Are you going to ride to the movies and to the store and errands? A real beater you will never worry about is quite nice to have, but there is an Happy medium like a Surly Pacer or Cross Check ( I ride and love my Pacer [with all the eyelet mounts but has road brakes]) that you can lock up and not worry too much about. A real nice 1000 dollar ride may make you hesitate riding everywhere. I do all errands on my "beater" and I bet it is worth around 800 dollars. I bring it in at night and double lock it if I have to leave it someplace like Midtown all day. If you are going to park it on the street I would chain the seat, take the quick releases off the hubs and possibly tape it up to sort of hide it and to lower the resale value if it is stolen. Good luck!
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Old 02-14-05, 09:42 PM   #18
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Thanks again guys. I'll have to check out those surly frames.

I'll be riding to and from work daily as well as some other shorter trips. I anticipate keeping my MTB as a quicky errand, beater, take it to bars and lock it up bike. Hell it only cost me $150 to begin with. The bike will be kept indoors both at my work site as well as at home. I doubt I'll do too much where it's locked up some place. Most of the time, I don't even ride with a lock since I'm just going to/from work/home.

I'd like to spend somwhere between $800 max and $600 for the bike, and honestly I'd prefer it to be used (but not damaged). I've been looking on craigslist.org for the last week or so I've been in San Francisco (live in ATL). Perhaps this weekend I'll cruise to some bike shops to take a test ride on some bikes. It's been years since I rode a drop handlebar bike, but I think I'm up for it.
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Old 02-14-05, 10:13 PM   #19
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It sounds like you are in a comfortable spot to get a cool bike. Check EBay, as annoying as it is, there are some good deals there. Are you able to build up a bike? Read: are you handy? You could save some dough and customize your components.
One thing a friend pointed out and I would recommend; always ride with some sort of lock, so if (and let's hope not) you get clipped somehow, you may have to leave the bike behind, then a little U-lock is worth the weight.
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Old 02-14-05, 10:26 PM   #20
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Yeah I'm pretty handy and have some bike tools already. I am a mechanical engineer by trade, although there are plenty MEs that aren't handy at all.

Are there any good sites besides craigslist and ebay for used bike parts? I wouldn't mind having one deraileur setup and one single speed setup.
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Old 02-14-05, 10:42 PM   #21
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My Poprad gets more use than the other two! I bought it specifically to commute on without sacrificing a fun ride. The center ridge of knobbies on the rear tire are just about worn off and I have nothing but thumbs up for the bike. My 15 mile commute on the Poprad is a breeze in all of the wide ranging southern California conditions . . . . I commute with a small backpack 4 days a week. The only accessories I've added are a Niterider Flamethrower and an LED taillight.

I went on a ride with my wife recently. She was riding her Teramo on asphalt and I was riding the Poprad on the adjacent dirt trail. I think she enjoyed watching me work so hard steering around puddles and bunny hopping erosion ditches. What a great time!

I have no experience with other cx bikes. But, I'm convinced that the Poprad is a great value given the frame quality and components included.
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Old 02-15-05, 11:32 AM   #22
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I found a guy selling a stock Poprad. How much do you think a 2001 Poprad with low miles in a stock configuration should go for?
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Old 02-15-05, 11:39 AM   #23
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Here's my two cents... and a pic of my CrossCheck.

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Old 02-15-05, 02:47 PM   #24
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Looks nice. Are those "mustache" bars?

How much did you pay for it? Did you build it from the frame up or buy it as a whole bike?

The guy with the 2001 Poprad wants $475 with original parts on it... seems like a good deal to me.

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Old 02-15-05, 07:02 PM   #25
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Quote:
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Looks nice. Are those "mustache" bars?

How much did you pay for it? Did you build it from the frame up or buy it as a whole bike?
I originally ordered it through WebCyclery of Bend, OR. They delivered it about 3/4 complete and I finished it. Many things have changed since. The original had drop bars and a Sram 7 speed internally geared hub in back. It is pictured with Mustache bars and a single speed drive train. I have since added a second chain ring up front along with a chain tensioner, front derailleur and friction shifter. But as is stands here’s about what it cost, er, about.

Surly CrossCheck - about $400

Winwood Carbon Cross Fork - about a $100 upgrade over the Surly steel fork that comes with the frame. I approached it with care at first, but now think nothing of dropping off curbs while commuting.

The wheels cost me about $300 from WebCyclery. They’re Mavic MA3’s, a surly hub in front, a Novatec single speed freewheel in the rear. You can surely buy cheaper machine built wheel sets, but these have endured a 1000 miles of commuting on crappy L.A. streets and are still true and straight as an arrow. Did I mention I’m 220 lbs? An experienced wheel builder with a good reputation makes a difference here.

Race Face Signature XS ISIS bottom bracket - $65. It’s a good bottom bracket and is supposed to be rebuildable. But I’m having trouble ordering the special tool and replacement bearings from Race Face dealers. I might try a less expensive ‘throw away’ BB.

FSA Carbon Cranks - about $270 at the time. These are totally over the top and even out of place on a bike like the CrossCheck. But then again they sure are pretty, light, and friggin’ stiff.

Spot 42 tooth single speed chain ring and bash ring - about $60 for the pair

Sram 8 speed chain - $15

I love Egg Beater pedals - $65

Cane Creek S2 head set - $25 or so

Salsa Chromoly stem - about $15 on ebay

I found the bars used at a local LBS, so I don’t know the maker. They’re MTB diameter, which is good because really cheap MTB levers fit right on. I paid $25 for both.

So what’s that, like $1300 without a seat? Damn that’s TOO MUCH! But like I said you can save about $300 by staying with Surly’s fork and buying a reasonable set of cranks. You can also save a bundle buying some things on Ebay. That’s what I do now that I’ve learned to do most of my own wrenching. If you decide to go the single speed or fixed gear route, riders on that forum can tell you a whole lot about putting together a low cost ride. Good luck.

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