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Old 08-22-13, 09:13 AM   #1
spivonious
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Low-end road bike suggestions

Yesterday was my one-year anniversary of bike commuting! I've gotten in much better shape, enjoy the freedom of not being in a car stuck in traffic, and have a much better attitude in general.

For Christmas, my wife got me a new Trek Allant to replace the Trek hybrid I was borrowing from my dad (an older 7300FX I think...). Comfortable to ride, upright position, came with fenders and a rack, seemed like a good choice.

After riding on it for the past 8 months, I've come to the conclusion that it's heavy, a nightmare in a headwind, and not the best choice for my hilly 14 mile roundtrip commute. What it is, is practical, durable, and reliable.

This all has me thinking about getting a road bike to use on the good weather days and save the Allant for shorter errands and rainy days. But I have a few questions:

1. I'm riding the whole way on asphalt, but I do hit the occasional pothole, piece of gravel, etc.. Will I damage lighter-weight road wheels? I'd probably be looking at 700x23 tires. My current bike is 700x32 inflated to 60-80psi and I haven't had any issues (although my front wheel could benefit from truing).

2. I'm not the "roadie" type. Will a dedicated road bike be too "aero" for me? Should I look at touring bikes instead? I tend to wear normal workout clothes and not Lycra. I find that my upright position helps cars see me better; my only close calls have been when I'm tucked coming down a hill.

3. Do all road bikes these days have rack mounts?

4. Do they still make brake levers that are usable in more than one drop bar position? It doesn't seem like you can get much brake leverage from the "hoods" position. On my downhills, I like to be in a "ready to slam on the brakes" position.

5. On my steepest hill, I drop into the smallest chainring (28). Are there road bikes with a triple chainring? It may be that the lighter weight/less rolling resistance eliminates the need for that, but I don't want to have to get off and walk.

5. Finally, any suggestions? Local dealers are Trek, Giant, Bianchi, and Jamis.

Last edited by spivonious; 08-22-13 at 10:23 AM.
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Old 08-22-13, 09:44 AM   #2
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In Trek the 1.1 is their basic Road Bike http://www.trekbikes.com/us/en/bikes...1_h2_compact/#

3, No

4, you have the cross-interruptor brake added if not standard.

5,a, yes

in Trek line New rim brake cross-rip
http://www.trekbikes.com/us/en/bikes...ssrip/crossrip

lose the need for drop bars and there are the Hybrids too,

google fu research the other brands ,DIY
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Old 08-22-13, 09:52 AM   #3
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You're probably going to see a pattern in my responses ...

1. It's possible you'd damage lighter wheels. My Kona Jake rolls 32h rims with 700X35 tires and I feel a lot less worried about such concerns than if I was commuting on my Trek roadie with 700X23s.
2. A roadie is as "aero" as you make it. Maybe it's just me, but I feel like I'm just as "upright" on my Jake (ostensibly a roadie with slight differences in geometry) than I would be on a hybrid. When I'm out of the drops and resting on the flat/top, I feel like I'm able to be seen very well, and as importantly, to be able to see.
3. No ... in fact, unless it's a "touring" bike or, most of the time these days a "CX" bike like my Jake, you won't find rack mounts on roadies.
4. To my knowledge no. You can get brake levers (interrupters I think they're called?" to put on the flats of the drop bar but they seem unnecessary to me. There's generally enough leverage from the "hoods" and you can adjust your bars/levers til you find your sweet spot. When I'm going downhill fast I'm in the drops, fingers on my levers.
5. Yes ... roadies can have triples. My Jake also has a triple though I don't envision using that small chainring really.
6. Not one brand over the other ... try them all. I own two Treks and now my Kona ... I'm not terribly loyal, especially when it comes to price.

From your questions it seems like you're looking for a touring bike or a cross bike. Either can be changed or adapted to your needs.

The problem is when you say "low-end" .... like anything, you get what you pay for. Low end implies low quality components. If your budget allows, stretch a little and get something with a little better mix of components. Commuting daily or several times a week can take a toll on parts, and it's best to have the best you can afford. They'll generally be more durable.

Hope that helps
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Old 08-22-13, 10:15 AM   #4
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I have a 2005 Specialized Allez Comp that I used to commute last year that I'm about to sell. Any interest?
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Old 08-22-13, 10:34 AM   #5
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Look at cyclocross bikes. They make great commuters.
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Old 08-22-13, 10:41 AM   #6
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I'd keep what you have..
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Old 08-22-13, 10:48 AM   #7
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Old used touring bikes are great... comfy, low gearing, built tough.
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Old 08-22-13, 11:08 AM   #8
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I'd keep what you have..
I've thought about this as well. Swap the handlebars for butterfly or drops, remove the rear fender (since the rack blocks any potential "skunk stripe"), and replace the tires with slicks. It makes me wonder if I'd be spending money that would be better spent on a new bike.

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Old 08-22-13, 11:26 AM   #9
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swapping the handlebars will require not only the bars, but new brake levers/shifters (I REFUSE to call them brifters) and possibly new cables. Possibly a new stem too and then a new fork.

New tires add to the cost.

Possibly a new saddle.
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Old 08-22-13, 11:28 AM   #10
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Pushes up the investment a bit , Alfine IGH + one of these http://www.sussex.com.tw/versa.html

and road cable pull disc Brakes .
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Old 08-22-13, 11:37 AM   #11
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Happy first anniversary. I would recommend an aluminum frame with an eight speed cassette. Brand of frame is the least important IMO. I have a favorite LBS and get my stuff there and go with what he sells. I have about 5500 miles on this, http://www.masibikes.com/bikes/perfo.../partenza-2013 , and the only reason I would have to upgrade is for the 105 groupset. I am incredibly happy with this bike YMMV

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Old 08-22-13, 12:34 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by spivonious View Post
Yesterday was my one-year anniversary of bike commuting! I've gotten in much better shape, enjoy the freedom of not being in a car stuck in traffic, and have a much better attitude in general.

For Christmas, my wife got me a new Trek Allant to replace the Trek hybrid I was borrowing from my dad (an older 7300FX I think...). Comfortable to ride, upright position, came with fenders and a rack, seemed like a good choice.

After riding on it for the past 8 months, I've come to the conclusion that it's heavy, a nightmare in a headwind, and not the best choice for my hilly 14 mile roundtrip commute. What it is, is practical, durable, and reliable.

This all has me thinking about getting a road bike to use on the good weather days and save the Allant for shorter errands and rainy days. But I have a few questions:

1. I'm riding the whole way on asphalt, but I do hit the occasional pothole, piece of gravel, etc.. Will I damage lighter-weight road wheels? I'd probably be looking at 700x23 tires. My current bike is 700x32 inflated to 60-80psi and I haven't had any issues (although my front wheel could benefit from truing).

2. I'm not the "roadie" type. Will a dedicated road bike be too "aero" for me? Should I look at touring bikes instead? I tend to wear normal workout clothes and not Lycra. I find that my upright position helps cars see me better; my only close calls have been when I'm tucked coming down a hill.

3. Do all road bikes these days have rack mounts?

4. Do they still make brake levers that are usable in more than one drop bar position? It doesn't seem like you can get much brake leverage from the "hoods" position. On my downhills, I like to be in a "ready to slam on the brakes" position.

5. On my steepest hill, I drop into the smallest chainring (28). Are there road bikes with a triple chainring? It may be that the lighter weight/less rolling resistance eliminates the need for that, but I don't want to have to get off and walk.

5. Finally, any suggestions? Local dealers are Trek, Giant, Bianchi, and Jamis.
1. You won't damage well made road wheels, particularly if you go with a traditional 32 spoke set up. 23 mm tires can take pot holes, train tracks, and gravel as long as you aren't plowing into them. (This question comes up often and always makes me chuckle since I race my "fragile" race bike on roads that are FAR worse than anything found in town.). But if you can fit something bigger, like a 25 or 28mm, you would be noticeably more comfortable.

2. There is no law that requires you to wear bibs and jersey on a road bike. Nor is there any law that requires a 10 cm saddle to bar drop. You can set up your bars even or higher than the saddle.

3. No. Some do but most don't.

4. Yes. Look for "cross levers" or "interrupter levers."

5. Triples are still available.

6. My suggestion is to visit all your local shops and tell them what you've told us.

good luck!
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Old 08-22-13, 12:55 PM   #13
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I've thought about this as well. Swap the handlebars for butterfly or drops, remove the rear fender (since the rack blocks any potential "skunk stripe"), and replace the tires with slicks. It makes me wonder if I'd be spending money that would be better spent on a new bike.
Ok lemme restate I'd keep the bike the way it is and ride it back and fourth to work.
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Old 08-22-13, 01:59 PM   #14
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If you go with trekking/butterfly bars the shifters/brakes will move right over. Having used trekking bars on my mountain bike all around bike for the past 11-12,000 miles they are quite versatile. Investment would be $20-25 from Nashbar.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ill.clyde View Post
swapping the handlebars will require not only the bars, but new brake levers/shifters (I REFUSE to call them brifters) and possibly new cables. Possibly a new stem too and then a new fork.

New tires add to the cost.

Possibly a new saddle.
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Old 08-22-13, 07:20 PM   #15
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What's the budget?

We can suggest stuff, but if it's outside your budget, it's a waste of everyone's time.

Generically, entry-level road bikes used to be good platforms for commuter conversion. Not so much any more. Rack and fender eyelets are disappearing, and it's really, really, really hard to find a triple.

I have a suggestion, but at $990, it may be out of your range.

This past winter I had to replace the frame of one of my commuters. We had been hit by a car a while back, and after three years and many thousands of miles, a crack suddenly appeared in the head tube.

I searched high and low for an aluminum road frameset-only with carbon fork, rack and fender eyelets and room for 25mm tires with full fenders. I found only one, the Ribble Winter/Audax. It was so cheap I figured it would be a POS, but I bought it anyway thinking I'd just replace it when I found something better. I moved the old bike's components over to it (Sora triple) and put it in the commuting rotation.

I love it. It's a positively delightful ride. I won't be replacing it with something "better" because I don't need to. In fact, I just sold another bike so I could buy it a $700 dynamo hub wheelset.

Using Ribble's Bike Builder tonight, I upgraded the default choices with a Tiagra triple, Shimano wheelset, and Continental Gatorskin tires to arrive at the $990 I quoted above, which includes full fenders (but not pedals). Shipping for my frameset was $80. The complete bike should ship for about the same.
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Old 08-22-13, 07:49 PM   #16
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Look at cyclocross bikes. They make great commuters.
This. Every time somebody tells me they want to get either a road bike or a hybrid for commuting, I tell them what they really want is a cyclocross bike.
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Old 08-22-13, 08:00 PM   #17
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Just a comment on 3 and 4.. Not all road bikes have rack mounts but lots of low end ones do. Trek's 1 series have fenders mounts as well. What they don't often have is lots of heel clearance so that may affect your rack/pannier choices.

As for 4 since no one mentioned it is that you can typically stop pretty well from the hoods with modern levers and brakes. A test ride will tell you what you need to know.
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Old 08-22-13, 08:15 PM   #18
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swapping the handlebars will require not only the bars, but new brake levers/shifters (I REFUSE to call them brifters) and possibly new cables. Possibly a new stem too and then a new fork.
Not if you go to trekking/butterfly bars - they are 22mm - a new stem may be required but you should be able to use existing shifters/brake levers.

You could try some "long" bar ends - they are relatively inexpensive, will give you more hand positions and if mounted fairly flat the ability to tuck down and be more aero in a head wind. * After Googling your bike I realized this might require going to a flat bar or slight riser, in which case the trekking bar would make more sense.

Last edited by GTryder; 08-22-13 at 08:26 PM. Reason: more info
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Old 08-22-13, 10:18 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by spivonious View Post
I've thought about this as well. Swap the handlebars for butterfly or drops, remove the rear fender (since the rack blocks any potential "skunk stripe"), and replace the tires with slicks. It makes me wonder if I'd be spending money that would be better spent on a new bike.
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Originally Posted by ill.clyde View Post
swapping the handlebars will require not only the bars, but new brake levers/shifters (I REFUSE to call them brifters) and possibly new cables. Possibly a new stem too and then a new fork.

New tires add to the cost.

Possibly a new saddle.
If you go with butterfly bars, you won't have to change your brake levers and/or shifters. When set up right the trekking bars will let you get aero enough to fight the wind by using the far bars, and let you stay upright as a prairie-dog on the near bars, while you spend most of your time between the near and far outside corners.

Even if you get a road bike, you may want to do this conversion to your trek, to make it a tad more comfortable to use, while not being at all expensive. My XLC trekking bars were less than $30 (US). You shouldn't even need to change your stem, since trekking bars are mostly the same diameter as MTB-style flat bars they replace.
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Old 08-23-13, 06:34 AM   #20
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BikesDirect.com if you want cheap and ok stuff.
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Old 08-23-13, 08:03 AM   #21
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I'd be tempted by the Nashbar Flat bar Road bike at $300, with lowest-end Shimano drive components. It won't be super light with the steel fork and heavy wheels, but the triple chainring, flat bars with more upright riding seems to fit the requirements. http://www.nashbar.com/bikes/Product...47_-1___202339
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Old 08-23-13, 09:46 AM   #22
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Thanks for all of the information, everyone.

I'm not a fan of flat bars. I like the Allant's swept bars but I can feel the wind slowing me down. Maybe trekking bars are the solution.

I hadn't thought of heel strike issues. The Allant's rack is positioned well back from the saddle, so I have no issues with it and the Avenir Metro bags (http://www.avenirusa.com/parts-and-a...-panniers.html).

I'd love to keep everything under $650, but would go up to $1k if the bike was perfect and I could convince my wife. She is not a cyclist and doesn't understand my reasoning for having more than one bike. Maybe I should keep an eye out for a newer used cross bike.

Then again, there's always my old Kia ten-speed. Replace everything but the steel frame?
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Old 08-23-13, 09:50 AM   #23
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I'd love to keep everything under $650, but would go up to $1k if the bike was perfect and I could convince my wife. She is not a cyclist and doesn't understand my reasoning for having more than one bike. Maybe I should keep an eye out for a newer used cross bike.

If you're going to do that, wait until the end of CX season ... late December early January depending on your local series.
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Old 08-23-13, 03:51 PM   #24
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You can get a lot of bike for a reasonable amount on Ebay. I would at least check them out. You might be surprised.
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Old 08-25-13, 03:26 AM   #25
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Then again, there's always my old Kia ten-speed. Replace everything but the steel frame?
I don't know anything about a Kia, but assuming it's a decent quality vintage bike, my recommendation would be to refurbish it the minimum amount necessary (tires, tune-up) to try it out on your commute for a while. That should allow you to judge the advantage of road style bike versus your current bike. Then, you can decide whether to sell the Kia and buy a road/cross/touring style bike equipped for your needs, or just do incremental upgrades on the Kia as you see fit.
A lot of serious commuters ride on vintage road bikes, suitably equipped and modernized for their needs. If you buy the upgrade parts on the used market, they can be purchased pretty cheaply.
FWIW, I have a fleet of vintage bikes that I commute on, and I don't find freewheels and 27" rims, vs. freehub & 700C rims, to be any particular limitation for my needs. As for derailleurs, shifters & brakes, it's down to preference how modern you want to go. The old stuff, above a certain quality level, works just fine for me. Index shifting is nice to have, and not an expensive upgrade, unless you insist on brifters.
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