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Old 02-13-14, 06:14 PM   #1
Ickyacky
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Set up for 25 mile college commute on a road bike?

Now that the weather is starting to get nice again I am wanting to commute to school a few days a week on my bike.
I ride a 54 cm Trek 1.5 with (I think) 23 mm tires.
I have about 50 lbs of books to carry, plus ~15-20 lbs for clothes, food, and laptop.
I'm already planning on putting 25 mm tires on to start, I just don't know much about hauling things with me!

I've looked at some racks and panniers and really didn't know what was good, so I figured is ask you guys an gals !
Which product would you recommend and why?
Should I look into a backpack that attaches to the rack or just stick with panniers and a book bag inside?
Are mudguards a good idea as well?

My price range is about $2-300 for the rack and whichever pack I choose.

Thanks in advance to everyone!
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Old 02-13-14, 06:39 PM   #2
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50# of books!

We just converted to all electronic and every student gets an iPad. We keep every single lecture slide for the whole programme online so the students can access any slide from any lecture from all 4 years at any time.

I understand that all places haven't converted but even when I was in undergrad a wee bit ago, I never had 50# of books and even when I had some books, I never carried them around ... I usually went to class with a few scraps of paper.

Why haul the books?

edit: FWIW, I fit all of my daily needs in a 20L rucksack which includes food, rMBP and change of clothes (wallet, passport, mobile phone, keys etc...) it just sounds like you're hauling too much stuff around?
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Old 02-13-14, 07:30 PM   #3
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Does your 1.5 have dropouts that will accommodate a rack? I have some Blackburn panniers that one side turns into a messenger bag. That may be a good option, something along those lines. Also 25mm tires with that much weight for that distance seems like it's gonna make for a miserable commute. I would opt for at least a 28mm, hope your roads are in good shape.
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Old 02-13-14, 07:39 PM   #4
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Sound like totally the wrong bike for the job, far too much weight for 23/25mm tires, even 28mm will be a little narrow, for the weight carried, would be looking at 37mm+ for comfort. Add to that, 25 miles is long way for any commute (even it that's the round trip, and not one way) Would be looking for a tourer / electronic books / only carrying what you need for the day.
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Old 02-13-14, 08:13 PM   #5
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If you really have to carry that much weight, consider a trailer. You can connect one to a racing bike without affecting handling. I've done this. It's easier to pull a trailer than to ride with the cargo on the bike, unless the trailer makes a lot of air drag. Headwinds can be bad.

Where are you that the weather is getting nicer now?
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Old 02-14-14, 03:32 AM   #6
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Can you carry around 80 pounds of crap on a racing bike? Yes, but it won't be pretty.

The reason is how weight distribution affects bike handling. Bikes are designed for the typical front/rear weight distributions that their intended use is going to exert. Yours is an extremely atypical weight distribution for that kind of bike.

All that weight in the back, with most of it behind the axle, is going to do two things. First, it will make the front end squirrley since there's not enough weight on it.

Second, at cruising speeds, bumps are going to make the tail wag the dog. The least little upset causes the rear end to sway, and with the front end already being squirrely, it sets off a little chain reaction and you weave your way down the street for a ways before you can settle things down. That's the reason why touring bikes have long chainstays in the back, and front racks in addtition to rear ones.

I routinely carry 60 pound loads of groceries on my bikes. One has short chainstays, like your bike. It will get me and the load from point A to point B. But it's not fun. And it's only a mile to the grocery store. I can't imagine 25 miles like that. My other bike is a light touring bike. Its chainstays are longer, but not quite as long as those on a heavy touring bike. The more I load on that bike, the more stable it becomes. It's a joy to ride loaded.

If you're going to use this bike, first listen to those who are telling you to lighten your load. I can't imagine you need to carry every textbook with you in both directions every single day. I work in a library, so I'm hardly anti-book. It just makes no sense to tote around a full semester's required reading every single day.

Second, listen to Tom and investigate a trailer. Something along the lines of a single-wheeled "Bob" trailer.

If you absolutely insist on using this bike, at the very least use a rear rack with dual siderails, and mount your panniers on the lower siderail. An example is the Tubus Cosmo. It's also probably the only dual siderail rack rated to carry the load you intend. In fact, very few are rated for that kind of load, period. Trek makes one similar, the Backrack Deluxe (or something like that), I have one, it's aluminum, not rated for that kind of capacity, and my panniers are wearing away the metal of the rack legs. Definately not a durable product.

And yes, you can carry that much weight on a 23mm tire, if you weigh only 110. However, I'm surprised that no-one has mentioned wheels yet. You'll have difficulty keeping your wheels true, and breaking spokes is bound to happen.

You have a nice bike intended for racing or all-day fast riding. It's certainly up to the daily distance. It can, in a pinch, carry modest loads--IME up to 20 pounds. But, you're asking far too much of this bike. Figure out something else.
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Old 02-14-14, 08:47 AM   #7
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50# of books!

We just converted to all electronic and every student gets an iPad. We keep every single lecture slide for the whole programme online so the students can access any slide from any lecture from all 4 years at any time.

I understand that all places haven't converted but even when I was in undergrad a wee bit ago, I never had 50# of books and even when I had some books, I never carried them around ... I usually went to class with a few scraps of paper.

Why haul the books?

edit: FWIW, I fit all of my daily needs in a 20L rucksack which includes food, rMBP and change of clothes (wallet, passport, mobile phone, keys etc...) it just sounds like you're hauling too much stuff around?
Going slightly off-topic: This can't happen soon enough. However, I'm sure that the uni's will form alliances with the various players in the game and prospective students may end up picking a school based upon what ecosystem and hardware the school is using. MS with the Surface Pro 2, Apple has the iPad, Google should try to move into this market with Nexus 10s (instead of chromebooks- which they are giving away to elementary school kids). Even Canonical will probably try to make a go of it with their Ubuntu powered devices*.

Back on topic: When I first started back to the local CC, I carried my heavy laptop, book, towel to wrap the laptop in, and any layers needed for the day. That last roughly two weeks after I discovered that the school library had a copy of the required text(s) in their reference section that could be had so long as it didn't leave the library and I discovered Google Docs and the joy of thumbdrives. Lightened up my load considerably. Plus, the computer labs wouldn't allow me access some of my favorite time wasting sites

*Whole communities in the EU (local governments/school districts) have switched from MS-based to Ubuntu-based systems.
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Old 02-14-14, 09:20 AM   #8
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Going slightly off-topic: This can't happen soon enough. However, I'm sure that the uni's will form alliances with the various players in the game and prospective students may end up picking a school based upon what ecosystem and hardware the school is using. MS with the Surface Pro 2, Apple has the iPad, Google should try to move into this market with Nexus 10s (instead of chromebooks- which they are giving away to elementary school kids). Even Canonical will probably try to make a go of it with their Ubuntu powered devices*.

Back on topic: When I first started back to the local CC, I carried my heavy laptop, book, towel to wrap the laptop in, and any layers needed for the day. That last roughly two weeks after I discovered that the school library had a copy of the required text(s) in their reference section that could be had so long as it didn't leave the library and I discovered Google Docs and the joy of thumbdrives. Lightened up my load considerably. Plus, the computer labs wouldn't allow me access some of my favorite time wasting sites

*Whole communities in the EU (local governments/school districts) have switched from MS-based to Ubuntu-based systems.
you don't need the school to being going digital either. I started at my local CC redoing my lifepath a while ago, I've managed to streamline my load down to one tablet for taking notes on, and a basic kindle tablet that I keep the ebook versions of my text books on. It's fairly nice adding maybe 2 lbs to your load and having all your needs for class covered. Also, a common practice in classrooms I'm seeing is taking pictures of overheads with cell phone cameras, I tried this out myself last semester and it added greatly to the value of my notes. Between this and a quick release saddle bag makes it easy to take any bike in the fleet for my 15 mile (one way) commute into class.

OP, is this 25 miles round trip? One way? Can you reduce your load? I wouldn't want to ride any of my 23/25mm tired bikes with 50+ lbs of gear that's for sure.
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Old 02-14-14, 09:23 AM   #9
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Now that the weather is starting to get nice again I am wanting to commute to school a few days a week on my bike.
I ride a 54 cm Trek 1.5 with (I think) 23 mm tires.
I have about 50 lbs of books to carry, plus ~15-20 lbs for clothes, food, and laptop.
I'm already planning on putting 25 mm tires on to start, I just don't know much about hauling things with me!


I've looked at some racks and panniers and really didn't know what was good, so I figured is ask you guys an gals !
Which product would you recommend and why?
Should I look into a backpack that attaches to the rack or just stick with panniers and a book bag inside?
Are mudguards a good idea as well?

My price range is about $2-300 for the rack and whichever pack I choose.

Thanks in advance to everyone!
I know this doesn't answer your question but I'd buy a scanner before trying to carry 50 pounds of books daily.

I have a feeling that it's too bulky to use only a rack, and if you use rack and panniers the weight is going to make handling a challenge eventually. I'd go with backpack in addition to a pack on the rack, you probably need one anyway to carry around on campus right?

It's not the weight per se that concerns me. Just look at any of the threads "how much does your commuter weigh?" that pop up from time to time, lots of them weigh more than your Trek plus 50 pounds. I'm worried about all of the weight on the rear, especially if it gets to swinging if you bungeed it on the rack for example.

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Old 02-14-14, 10:12 AM   #10
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you don't need the school to being going digital either. I started at my local CC redoing my lifepath a while ago, I've managed to streamline my load down to one tablet for taking notes on, and a basic kindle tablet that I keep the ebook versions of my text books on. It's fairly nice adding maybe 2 lbs to your load and having all your needs for class covered. Also, a common practice in classrooms I'm seeing is taking pictures of overheads with cell phone cameras, I tried this out myself last semester and it added greatly to the value of my notes. Between this and a quick release saddle bag makes it easy to take any bike in the fleet for my 15 mile (one way) commute into class.

OP, is this 25 miles round trip? One way? Can you reduce your load? I wouldn't want to ride any of my 23/25mm tired bikes with 50+ lbs of gear that's for sure.
How is that working out for you? I ask because my second semester back, we moved and the one book I really needed (the other classes I found that if I took good notes, I didn't need the books at all) was "misplaced" and I could not afford to replace it with another hardcopy (nor did I see the point, seeing as how I only needed the last 3 chapters) and so I scoured the net and found a DRM copy of the book and just downloaded the 3 chapters I needed... except it wasn't quite the same. It was the correct author/title/revision, but my CC was notorious for using custom editions- and the page numbers didn't match up and there was a slight difference in the format- which included key concepts were not always in the same sequence. Very frustrating. Then I did a semester of totally online/DL courses- I paid for the books and then discovered they were irrelevant- the pertinent info was in the Powerpoints and they based the tests on the Powerpoints, so the next semester I didn't bother with the books at all. Didn't miss them at all... but I got the final exam date deadline mixed up and got an incomplete in one course and failed the other . My appeal was denied .
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Old 02-14-14, 10:17 AM   #11
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How is that working out for you? I ask because my second semester back, we moved and the one book I really needed (the other classes I found that if I took good notes, I didn't need the books at all) was "misplaced" and I could not afford to replace it with another hardcopy (nor did I see the point, seeing as how I only needed the last 3 chapters) and so I scoured the net and found a DRM copy of the book... except it wasn't quite the same. It was the correct author/title/revision, but my CC was notorious for using custom editions- and the page numbers didn't match up and there was a slight difference in the format- which included key concepts were not always in the same sequence. Very frustrating. Then I did a semester of totally online/DL courses- I paid for the books and then discovered they were irrelevant- the pertinent info was in the Powerpoints and they based the tests on the Powerpoints, so the next semester I didn't bother with the books at all. Didn't miss them at all... but I got the final exam date deadline mixed up and got an incomplete in one course and failed the other . My appeal was denied .
It's been great but I've been lucky to date, I've been able to find exact editions of my text books. My one complaint would be the kindle screen itself can be a bit small when you're working with detailed schematics of plant organs etc, but I also keep the books on the note taking tablet as well so I can usually view those as needed in detail. I don't know if this would work for you, but I always wait to buy my books until after the first class, since my classes tend to meet once a week or once every two weeks so I can be sure I know exactly what the faculty wants you to have for the class. I have noticed though a lot of people in my classes with their laptops have ebook versions as well and when I ask where they got there's they tend to say from torrents.. I don't condone that but it's definitely out there for some very hard to find ones.

Oh and anyone who's wondering WTF is up with taking notes on a tablet... these are a god send.
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Old 02-14-14, 10:42 AM   #12
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Going slightly off-topic: This can't happen soon enough. However, I'm sure that the uni's will form alliances with the various players in the game and prospective students may end up picking a school based upon what ecosystem and hardware the school is using. MS with the Surface Pro 2, Apple has the iPad, Google should try to move into this market with Nexus 10s (instead of chromebooks- which they are giving away to elementary school kids). Even Canonical will probably try to make a go of it with their Ubuntu powered devices*.

Back on topic: When I first started back to the local CC, I carried my heavy laptop, book, towel to wrap the laptop in, and any layers needed for the day. That last roughly two weeks after I discovered that the school library had a copy of the required text(s) in their reference section that could be had so long as it didn't leave the library and I discovered Google Docs and the joy of thumbdrives. Lightened up my load considerably. Plus, the computer labs wouldn't allow me access some of my favorite time wasting sites

*Whole communities in the EU (local governments/school districts) have switched from MS-based to Ubuntu-based systems.
I'm actually shocked with how much information it is:

Students here do 3 10-week trimesters. (First two for study and the third for all exams ... in our programme they get one exam per year that is their entire grade).

Each week they get 10h or lecture and have roughly 20 to 30h of lab or other.

So, we now have 800 lectures online (4 year Masters programme, 20 weeks/year, 10hr lecture/week) of roughly 50 slides or 40000 handmade PPT slides! From of 13 faculty! That is nuts.
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Old 02-14-14, 10:46 AM   #13
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I'm actually shocked with how much information it is:

Students here do 3 10-week trimesters. (First two for study and the third for all exams ... in our programme they get one exam per year that is their entire grade).

Each week they get 10h or lecture and have roughly 20 to 30h of lab or other.

So, we now have 800 lectures online (4 year Masters programme, 20 weeks/year, 10hr lecture/week) of roughly 50 slides or 40000 handmade PPT slides! From of 13 faculty! That is nuts.
Impressive too, sounds like a good school.
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Old 02-14-14, 10:49 AM   #14
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Impressive too, sounds like a good school.
Personally, I think we pander a little to the students (compared to Germany), but we like to keep them happy.
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Old 02-14-14, 10:52 AM   #15
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Personally, I think we pander a little to the students (compared to Germany), but we like to keep them happy.
What was the class/study/lecture/lab ratio like in germany then? At the local CC it's safe to assume about 3 hours of study/paperwork for every hour or so of class time, I'm not currently in classes with labs though I think the ratio goes back down in those.
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Old 02-14-14, 11:25 AM   #16
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What was the class/study/lecture/lab ratio like in germany then? At the local CC it's safe to assume about 3 hours of study/paperwork for every hour or so of class time, I'm not currently in classes with labs though I think the ratio goes back down in those.
It's different in Germany as they don't have the BS/MS system really.

In Germany, the students had fewer classes but more intense practical experiments. Chemistry is particularly gruelling, where a student can expect to be in class from 9 to 12 and 1 to 5 every day M-F with between 2 and 3 hours work/evening every day, if in a good programme (TUM, ETHZ, etc...) During the semester breaks, the students would need to complete their Praktikum (working in a various lab around Germany or abroad).

The UK is easier, but it's a 4-year Masters programme. The curriculum is quite intense and we expect a lot. I think within the first month at the university, we expect complex biochemical equations to be derived from first mathematics principles (Michaelis-Menten, for example).

The quality of the students is extremely high (intellectually) and their background are quite strong ... they could all get the immersion oil objective lens to work in the first lab session of university.

The US was an interesting system, as the classtime was quite low and there are many general education requirements, resulting in a long programme.

Germany was hyper precise and the students were working 24h/day it seemed. The programmes are extremely focused and short.

UK is kind of in between (you pay tuition for example, but not as much as in the US) and in term you work like a German. Out of term, not so much.
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Old 02-14-14, 11:38 AM   #17
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50 lb + 15-20 lb has to be an incorrect estimate. The average person can't hump a 65-70 bp backpack. From my backpacking days, that is a full size backpack loaded with food, water and gear for a week.

No way the average student is carrying that load. OP doesn't need to and shouldn't carry his entire library to school every day.

Anyway, a standard bike with 65-70 lb of weight on the rear will handle like a live pig, doesn't matter what kind of tires, rack, etc.
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Old 02-14-14, 11:45 AM   #18
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Oh and anyone who's wondering WTF is up with taking notes on a tablet... these are a god send.
I have this exact keyboard case for my Nexus 7. I got it for $10 on amazon. It has held up remarkably well for the year that I have had it so far.
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Old 02-14-14, 12:10 PM   #19
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50# of books!
No kidding, that makes no sense at all with modern technology. I went to school between '74 & '80 (6 years for a 4 year degree---I majored in Student Union) and didn't carry any more than a book or two at a time.


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All that weight in the back, with most of it behind the axle, is going to do two things. First, it will make the front end squirrley since there's not enough weight on it.
With only the weight of groceries that I can fit into a pair of Wald folding baskets on back, my bike gets ill handling to the point of scary in side winds.

The mail lady just delivered a small front basket (Wald 1372) this morning. It holds a pair of Cheryl's 2ltr Mtn Dews perfectly. Moving that weight from behind the rear axle to almost directly over the front axle should help a lot in the handling department. It's going to be nice this afternoon and crappy tomorrow so I have overnight to think about it and light mounting.

I like the baskets because I don't have to push a sail sideways through the wind when empty or lightly loaded. I was surprised how much easier to move down the road they are than my panniers.
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Old 02-14-14, 12:27 PM   #20
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I'll have to check, I'm still relatively new to cycling. I was talking with one of the guys at my local bike shop and he was saying that 25 mm would probably be the max that my rims would be able to fit.
Not planning on starting to ride out until mid-March to give the trails enough time to clear.

EDIT
Realized that I should have weighed my books before I posted anything, was just in a hurry when I wrote it out. They weigh about 30 lbs, PC is 4 lbs, clothes(with boots) is about 8 lbs, 1 lb for food, so ~43 lbs total. Apologies for that grossly inaccurate guess.
I have considered e-text but it wouldn't work for me with the classes I'm taking. I'm a math/science major so I carry thick textbooks and lab manuals, plus I have lots of margin notes and highlighted pages that I constantly reference to so it wouldn't help me to switch to e-text with how I study.

Commute is 50 miles round trip.. I'm figuring 3-3.5 hours to do the ride as I can ride it now carrying nothing in 1 hr 5 min if I push it.

From what it's sounding like, everyone is more leaning towards me using a different bike. The only problem with that is that I would have to sell the Trek to be able to get a different bike as I'm on a strict budget.
I am completely open to this idea, just wondering thoughts on if that would be worth it in the long run. BTW, I'm by no means a racing cyclist, just really enjoy it. So I'm not deathly attached to my road bike.

I live in Des Moines, Iowa. Weather is starting to get in the high 30's low-mid 40's over the next couple weeks so I'm figuring by mid-March that the bike trails that I would be riding on would be clear enough by then.

IDK, I don't have an option of not bringing all my books because I have all my classes on those days. Can't commute on other days as other things in my schedule interfere.

And I weigh 145 lbs, don't know if that will help in any info haha.

Last edited by Ickyacky; 02-14-14 at 12:52 PM.
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Old 02-14-14, 01:29 PM   #21
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I ride 17 miles with a full change of clothes, Pants/belt/shirts/shoes/soap/towel + misc (charger/contacts/etc) basically everything needed for an overnight bag. Granted, I'm on a 63 cm touring bike, but the panniers act like a sail in big crosswinds. The geometry isn't a race geo, but the front still gets sketchy with just a rear load.
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Old 02-14-14, 02:06 PM   #22
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Make sure to invest in a good heavy lock no matter what bike you use! Especially on college campuses these days.
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Old 02-14-14, 02:34 PM   #23
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Originally Posted by eofelis View Post
I have this exact keyboard case for my Nexus 7. I got it for $10 on amazon. It has held up remarkably well for the year that I have had it so far.
Mine actually came free with my Kocaso,amazingly well built for such cheap things!
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Old 02-14-14, 02:34 PM   #24
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Taiwan has a few factories making bikes that are shipped around the world ..
so after a while the brand is irrelevant , as they may all come out of a handful of factories .

so what brands are in your favorite bike shop? that narrows down the field a bit ..
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Old 02-14-14, 02:36 PM   #25
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I think you'll try it once or twice and quickly learn what you need and what you can leave home.

Have you considered how it fits into your class and extracurricular schedule? Or social time? I can't imagine having lived 25 mi from college, I was a dorm rat.
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