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  1. #1
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    $1,000 budget, 95% commuting, 5% touring

    Hello all.

    I've been lurking here the past few weeks trying to find objective research on bike choices, but decided to post and ask a question as it might have the most direct result.

    I'm currently riding a Specialized Sirrus Sport (2012) that I use to commute to work every day. The ride is about 5 miles each way. I'm looking for a second bike for Spring, Summer, and early Fall (in Boston) to replace it. My Specialized will be used in the Winter and as a backup. I ride with a European-style alpine pack (30L) so the need for panniers isn't immediately there, however as I get older I might switch, so having the option would be nice. I would put front and rear fenders on this new bike.

    I've narrowed my selection down to the Jamis Nova Sport and the Surly Cross-Check. I've also recently discovered the Kona Jake (from this forum) which looks really nice as well, though harder to find around here. I rode the Nova Sport and the Cross-Check this weekend and enjoyed the ride of them both very much. However, I feel that by choosing one over the other, I'd be making a sacrifice somewhere. For example, I really like the steel frame of the Surly and the simplicity of it. I know it'll probably last a good bit longer too. However, in Boston traffic, the bar-end shifters might be a little inconvenient. And I liked the disc brakes of the Nova Sport slightly better - they felt more effective, which could come in handy for the "Masshole" drivers around here. However, the canti's on the Cross-Check are simpler, less inclined for mechanical failure, and I could perform maintenance on them myself. I am also interested in a bike that has some longevity, both in parts and in quality. I don't want to feel like I have to upgrade parts or replace parts in a years' time, and I'd like this bike to last as long as possible.

    My budget is roughly $1,000. I can fudge a little if needed, but I'll pick up a set of fenders, and probably need to get some pedals too. My needs are 95% commuting with the occasional weekend tour. And I'll add as a side-note, that I'm considering the D2R2 dirt road "race" up in Vermont. Based on my budget and my needs, would the Nova Sport or Cross-Check (or Kona Jake) be best? Can the Nova Sport and Kona Jake be outfitted with racks if/when I ever go that route? Or is there another bike that might be better suited for the same or similar price range?

    For your quick reference:


    Thanks.
    Last edited by clrux; 12-22-13 at 07:18 AM. Reason: Commenter suggested an additional bike.

  2. #2
    Senior Member doublegg66's Avatar
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    Might I throw in the Salsa Vaya?-nice ride,good disc brakes and I got this years model for $1100

  3. #3
    Senior Member bikemig's Avatar
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    The retail on the salsa 3 is around $1500. You're not going to go wrong with any of the 3 bikes you're thinking about but I'd lean towards the Surly. The Jamis and Kona are designed to be race bikes; the Surly is more of an all rounder which is pretty much what you want the bike for.

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    With your budget and needs, I would recommend the Cross Check, and I say that as the owner of a Jake the Snake. One thing that Surly does very well is put the money towards the best value in components. If you are looking for reliability and durability, the Cross Check is your best bet.

    Call me a retrogrouch, but I'm not sold on discs. The amount of hassle that comes with braking improvement is not worth it in my opinion. I had a bike with them because I thought that I needed discs in rainy Portland, and sold it. All my bikes have rim brakes now, either cantis or mini-Vs.

  5. #5
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    Thanks for the recommendation doublegg66; I've added it to the running. Comparing it to the others though, it's the priciest.

  6. #6
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    I do like the Surly, but I'm concerned about the bar-ends in stop-and-go traffic, which is a daily thing here in Boston. I feel like I'd have a little less confidence if I had to brake and downshift suddenly. Do any of you guys ride in traffic and have bar-ends? Do you just get used to it?

  7. #7
    Senior Member bikemig's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by aggiegrads View Post
    With your budget and needs, I would recommend the Cross Check, and I say that as the owner of a Jake the Snake. One thing that Surly does very well is put the money towards the best value in components. If you are looking for reliability and durability, the Cross Check is your best bet.

    . . .
    No. 1. Surly is pretty conservative in spec'ing their bikes and that's not necessarily a bad thing esp. for an everyday bike like a commuter.

  8. #8
    Senior Member doublegg66's Avatar
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    bar ends are a cake walk after using down tube shifters for years-one gets used to it.

  9. #9
    Senior Member capejohn's Avatar
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    You really can't go wrong with any of your candidates. Take each one for a ride and buy the one you like the best and can afford.
    Bike riding New England gentleman.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by doublegg66 View Post
    bar ends are a cake walk after using down tube shifters for years-one gets used to it.
    But what about someone who's going from STI brifters to bar-ends? I feel like that's going the other direction... It just makes me nervous. I will say though, that the bar-ends shifted more smoothly than the STI of the Nova. I'm not sure if that's because of better components on the Surly, or if that's just the nature of bar-ends.

    Quote Originally Posted by capejohn View Post
    You really can't go wrong with any of your candidates. Take each one for a ride and buy the one you like the best and can afford.
    I test rode the Nova and the Cross-Check and liked the rides fairly equally. The steel of the Surly was just a hair smoother. It's really a very tough choice! I think though, that I want to go with whichever bike will last me the longest, and whichever bike I won't want to feel like upgrading, or replacing next year.

    Do you guys know if the Nova can be outfitted with a rack?
    Last edited by clrux; 12-22-13 at 08:22 AM. Reason: Adding context.

  11. #11
    johnliu@earthlink.net jyl's Avatar
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    Nova has no eyelets or mounts, so your choice of fenders will be quite limited, and racks will not be possible. That rules it out immediately, IMO. Kona Jake is not much better.

    Cross Check has plenty of eyelets plus mounts for fenders and front/rear racks. Big positive.

    Salsa Vaya 3 looks good too, in terms of eyelets and mounts. It is a more expensive bike, more comparable to Surly Disc Trucker.

    Brifters vs bar-ends - largely a matter of personal preference, both are equally easy to use.

    Disc vs rim brakes - for commuting in foul weather I'd like discs, but sounds like this will be a fair weather bike, with your other bike relegated to winter duty. So type of brakes would be a toss up for me.

    Gearing - compare, the stock Cross Check and the stock Vaya 3 are different, one being a double and one a triple.

    You should compare the geometry and ride both, multiple times. Proper fit will be the most important thing, and the frames are different enough (Surly is traditional horizontal toptube, Salsa is sloping top tube/short seat tube) that it is hard to compare geometry from the published specs. Learn up on what is a proper fit because the bike shop salesman may not know or care.
    Last edited by jyl; 12-22-13 at 10:49 AM.
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  12. #12
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    I'm with Bikemig on this: it sounds easy to rule out the Kona and Jamis based on described needs, so Salsa Vaya. I'd go this way just on styling alone, but that the Salsa has better spec in STI shifters, Avid discs, and wider and lighter rims (you save .5lb on the rims alone), it's a no-brainer for the $100 premium, in my mind.

    The Salsa frame is also probably better suited to loaded touring (e.g. see BB drop), though by other measures the Surly looks like it might be more spry; if you can ride them, you can get a better sense of character that way, than I can by guessing (I've never ridden either).

    But for me, even if my willingness to f^^k around with horizontal dropouts and canti brakes was still extant, which it ain't, in terms of modern design, modern equipment, and drivetrain performance, I'd go Salsa.
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  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by chaadster View Post
    But for me, even if my willingness to f^^k around with horizontal dropouts and canti brakes was still extant, which it ain't, in terms of modern design, modern equipment, and drivetrain performance, I'd go Salsa.
    So you're saying you prefer disc brakes to canti's?
    Last edited by clrux; 12-22-13 at 10:29 AM.

  14. #14
    bill nyecycles the sci guy's Avatar
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    I just bought a Cross-Check last weekend and I love it. Rides like a dream.
    It's my first road bike so I've never used brifters, but I found the bar-end shifters cake to use. I can see your trepidation about shifting in heavy traffic or a quick shift when needed, but I bet it won't be a huge problem and you'll get used to it fast. It's very easy to keep your left hand on the hood/brake and reach quickly with your right to shift. And the way you grab the shifter - or at least the way I do, my fingers are still wrapped around the bar end, and I use the under side of my index finger and palm or my thumb as the lever, so I am still kind of gripping the right side of the bar so I don't feel like I'm not in control of the bike.

    Another thought - if you're riding in heavy traffic, get used to anticipating when you'll need to shift ahead of time - like when approaching an intersection. If you get cut off by a car or have to brake suddenly I'm going to guess shifting gears is the last thing on your mind.

    I also don't really care about disc brakes. Too much hassle and added weight.
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  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by the sci guy View Post
    I just bought a Cross-Check last weekend and I love it. Rides like a dream.
    It's my first road bike so I've never used brifters, but I found the bar-end shifters cake to use. I can see your trepidation about shifting in heavy traffic or a quick shift when needed, but I bet it won't be a huge problem and you'll get used to it fast. It's very easy to keep your left hand on the hood/brake and reach quickly with your right to shift. And the way you grab the shifter - or at least the way I do, my fingers are still wrapped around the bar end, and I use the under side of my index finger and palm or my thumb as the lever, so I am still kind of gripping the right side of the bar so I don't feel like I'm not in control of the bike.

    Another thought - if you're riding in heavy traffic, get used to anticipating when you'll need to shift ahead of time - like when approaching an intersection. If you get cut off by a car or have to brake suddenly I'm going to guess shifting gears is the last thing on your mind.

    I also don't really care about disc brakes. Too much hassle and added weight.
    All good points, much thanks. Definitely leaning towards the Surly.

  16. #16
    Senior Member arsprod's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by clrux View Post
    But what about someone who's going from STI brifters to bar-ends?
    Bar-ends on my winter commuter, STI on road/summer bike. My commute is constant stop and go and in warmer weather I switch between bikes regularly - no issues
    I'm slow, go around

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    Up the budget slightly and have your shop put a set of brifters on the surly cc.or get a straggler.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by edsall78 View Post
    Up the budget slightly and have your shop put a set of brifters on the surly cc.or get a straggler.
    "Slightly" in regards to the straggler means another 800 clams. I can't do that, unfortunately. Though, the Straggler comes closets to "what I'm going for".

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    I was reading some articles on the Surly and the folks who make them are either extremely good at what they do, or pretty arrogant. At least that's the sense I get when they're quoted. One rep apparently said they refuse to use sloping head tubes... and I couldn't help but think "Apple". Are Surly's "trendy" or are they just really, really solid bikes? I ask because I've been reading up on geometry trying to curb my ignorance, and it seems that sloping top tubes do provide benefits to the riders.

    Or perhaps all this is moot, since after riding both the Nova and the CC yesterday, they were almost equally comfy...

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    Quote Originally Posted by clrux View Post
    So you're saying you prefer disc brakes to canti's?
    For sure. They're just so much easier to deal with; all you really need to do is turn a dial on those BB7s to set fixed pad distance from rotor, and that's it. There's no spring tension balance adjustment, no straddle cables, no cable stops, no allen wrenches needed, and you don't need to worry about angling the pads. In the wet, cantis make a mess, throwing dirty slop all over themselves, the tire, and the rim, whereas discs are totally clean. Removing wheels on discs is as quick and simple as undoing the quick release; no unhooking the straddle cable, no worry about pad/tire clearance...

    The topic of discs vs. cantis has been done lots, so I'll just say that I've never found a single argument in favor of cantis compelling, and some, like the weight issue noted above, when considered in the context of a CrossCheck, is almost laughable. I mean it's like an extra 1/2lb of non-rotating weight (well, there's the disc, but it's so close to the hub as to be negligible) on a, what, 26-28lb (stock build) bike? It's not as though you're going to be knocking off those shifts any too quick with the barcons, either, so...
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  21. #21
    bill nyecycles the sci guy's Avatar
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    personally i think the straight top tube looks better aesthetically.
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  22. #22
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    Disc brakes are super easy to adjust and the vaya is a sweet bike.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by clrux View Post
    I was reading some articles on the Surly and the folks who make them are either extremely good at what they do, or pretty arrogant. At least that's the sense I get when they're quoted. One rep apparently said they refuse to use sloping head tubes... and I couldn't help but think "Apple". Are Surly's "trendy" or are they just really, really solid bikes? I ask because I've been reading up on geometry trying to curb my ignorance, and it seems that sloping top tubes do provide benefits to the riders.

    Or perhaps all this is moot, since after riding both the Nova and the CC yesterday, they were almost equally comfy...
    I'm not sure what you're driving at by asking if Surlys are just "really, really solid," but they certainly don't appeal to the racer, weekend warrior, A group, crowds, so no chops there. I guess you could say they're solidly unambitious, which is not a slam, but is at the opposite end of trendy; their market is those who fancy themselves un-trendy, non-gimmicky, sensible types, and I think Surly has hit that segment damn squarely. No, it's no slam, but that they call what is essentially a disc equipped Cross Check the Straggler, says it all!

    Regarding the computer analogy, Apple’s share of the PC market may only be 10% or less, but the Mac owns 90% of the $1000+ segment in the US and enjoys a 25% to 35% profit margin, while the largest PC manufacturer, HP, reports a meagre 3% profit for it's PC group. I guess you troll where you want, but Apple has proven to be awfully well positioned.

    Not that I think Apple and Surly are aptly compared; Apple delivers a firmly progressive, high-end product, while Surly steers towards low-tech/mid-range, and even retro-tech/un-revolutionary, which appeals to a completely different market view.

    Anyway, yes the point is moot, because there are lots of options to suit just about every criteria from a multitude of bike brands.
    Chaad--'95 DeKerf Team SL, '02 Lemond Buenos Aires, '05 Novara Buzz, '73 Schwinn Collegiate, '06 Mountain Cycle Rumble, '09 Dahon Mariner D7, '12 Mercier Nano, '12 Breezer Venturi

  24. #24
    Sprinter linus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by the sci guy View Post
    personally i think the straight top tube looks better aesthetically.
    Not when you have a stack of spacers and angled up stem.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by the sci guy View Post
    personally i think the straight top tube looks better aesthetically.
    Quote Originally Posted by linus View Post
    Not when you have a stack of spacers and angled up stem.
    You mean level top tube?
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