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  1. #1
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    A commuting-road bike? Looking for the best of both words

    Hello all. I'm looking for a bike that can be used during the week to get to and from work/school (only about a 10 mile round trip) AND do a decent job of keeping up on shop rides. Ideally it would be steel, have eyelets for racks and fenders, and be able to not only withstand a 30 - 40 lb load, but will also handle well enough to take fast turns and bomb hills (when unloaded, of course).

    I currently ride a 2009 Bianchi Pista, which is great and worked well enough for long rides back home in Southern California, but it's WAY hillier out here and my first shop ride almost killed me. I kept feeling like I was going to fly over my handlebars going downhill! I guess I've never experienced that before, but I would regularly take her out for 25-30 mile rides with groups. Another impracticality of the Pista is that I can't mount racks and fenders on her. I also can't add a rear brake on her and swap to a freewheel which would let me handle those downhills better (the 2010s and later come with the rear brake-hole already drilled for an easier switch). Before this, I rode a 1988 Centurion Lemans RS, so I've always been a skinny tire guy.

    So with that in mind, here are some bikes I thought might do a good job (keep in mind, that I might be flat out wrong about some of these, haha):
    Masi Bikes - Steel - Speciale Strada
    EcoVelo Blog Archive First Look: 2010 Civia Bryant
    Imola | Bianchi USA (not sure about the triple-chain ring...)
    Lupo | Bianchi USA (not sure about getting a Cx, never ridden one)
    Pacer | Bikes | Surly Bikes
    Straggler | Bikes | Surly Bikes
    Raleigh Sojourn Bike - 2014 at REI.com

    I'm also open to any suggestions! My main concerns with the Cx bikes are that (1) I'm not sure they'll keep up on weekends that well and (2) How well do they handle hills? I'm also worried about swaying too far in either the commuting or road categories with the steel road bikes and the Civia.

    Any thoughts?

    Thanks!

  2. #2
    Senior Member tjspiel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by huizar View Post
    Hello all. I'm looking for a bike that can be used during the week to get to and from work/school (only about a 10 mile round trip) AND do a decent job of keeping up on shop rides. Ideally it would be steel, have eyelets for racks and fenders, and be able to not only withstand a 30 - 40 lb load, but will also handle well enough to take fast turns and bomb hills (when unloaded, of course).

    I currently ride a 2009 Bianchi Pista, which is great and worked well enough for long rides back home in Southern California, but it's WAY hillier out here and my first shop ride almost killed me. I kept feeling like I was going to fly over my handlebars going downhill! I guess I've never experienced that before, but I would regularly take her out for 25-30 mile rides with groups. Another impracticality of the Pista is that I can't mount racks and fenders on her. I also can't add a rear brake on her and swap to a freewheel which would let me handle those downhills better (the 2010s and later come with the rear brake-hole already drilled for an easier switch). Before this, I rode a 1988 Centurion Lemans RS, so I've always been a skinny tire guy.

    So with that in mind, here are some bikes I thought might do a good job (keep in mind, that I might be flat out wrong about some of these, haha):
    Masi Bikes - Steel - Speciale Strada
    EcoVelo Blog Archive First Look: 2010 Civia Bryant
    Imola | Bianchi USA (not sure about the triple-chain ring...)
    Lupo | Bianchi USA (not sure about getting a Cx, never ridden one)
    Pacer | Bikes | Surly Bikes
    Straggler | Bikes | Surly Bikes
    Raleigh Sojourn Bike - 2014 at REI.com

    I'm also open to any suggestions! My main concerns with the Cx bikes are that (1) I'm not sure they'll keep up on weekends that well and (2) How well do they handle hills? I'm also worried about swaying too far in either the commuting or road categories with the steel road bikes and the Civia.

    Any thoughts?

    Thanks!
    I don't see anything wrong with any of the bikes you've listed but yeah, I'd much prefer a standard or compact double over a triple for group rides. I've also grown fond of carbon forks.

    If you're not married to the idea of a steel frame that opens up a lot more possibilities. Lots of lower end road bikes have mounts for racks and fenders. Might be worth a least going for a test ride.

    A CX bike shouldn't have any trouble on the hills. It's really a matter of weight and gearing. Genuine CX bikes are geared lower anyway but sometimes they go with a single chainring. Make sure you replace the CX tires with road tires.

    For several years I used a basic Specialized Allez (Aluminum/Carbon version) for commuting, group rides, and triathlons. It has mounts for a racks but not tons of heel clearance. Fenders were a challenge due to minimum tire clearance but there are workable options now. Getting a good set of tires can make a difference but mostly keeping up on group rides is about being a strong enough rider and drafting. Having low enough gearing and lighter weight will help some on the hills.

    Group rides on a single speed or a track bike can be a challenge because you don't have the benefits of gearing to help you maintain a comfortable cadence while keeping pace with the other riders and drafting correctly. Any decent geared road bike will make things easier.

    Over the years we had several people riding fixies join us on our group rides. Most of them managed just fine but they suffered on the hills more than the rest of us, - both going up and down.
    Last edited by tjspiel; 04-16-14 at 10:31 AM.
    If you're not riding with a psychedelic gecko on your shirt, you ARE having a substandard experience.

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    The minuteness of differences in handling and speed between your average steel cyclocross bike and road bike are more about personal preference than actual speed. Throw good road tires on the bike and I'm sure your individual times, if you too each out for a long ride, would be separated by very little.

    I lean more towards cyclocross, just because I hate the whole "every bike needs to be a specific racing bike" I don't race. I want to go on a long road ride, and then decide to explore a gravel trail, or take a dirt path shortcut on my commute. And the versatility of larger tires alone on a road bike make them tremendous machines.

    There's no reason a cyclocross bike can't climb like a road bike, once again this is much more about the rider than the bike. Cyclocross gearing isn't particularly suited for long climbs (though I love it for commuting), but many so called cyclocross bikes come equipped with compact chainrings, which are great.

    My only advice on what to pick would be something from a local shop with good support.

  4. #4
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    They may all be on the same boat in a container being imported ..

    think about what wheel and tire capacity you need ... Road race designs with short reach brakes wont take wider tires .

    and mudguards are hard to fit.

  5. #5
    Senior Member tjspiel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AlTheKiller View Post
    The minuteness of differences in handling and speed between your average steel cyclocross bike and road bike are more about personal preference than actual speed. Throw good road tires on the bike and I'm sure your individual times, if you too each out for a long ride, would be separated by very little.

    I lean more towards cyclocross, just because I hate the whole "every bike needs to be a specific racing bike" I don't race. I want to go on a long road ride, and then decide to explore a gravel trail, or take a dirt path shortcut on my commute. And the versatility of larger tires alone on a road bike make them tremendous machines.

    There's no reason a cyclocross bike can't climb like a road bike, once again this is much more about the rider than the bike. Cyclocross gearing isn't particularly suited for long climbs (though I love it for commuting), but many so called cyclocross bikes come equipped with compact chainrings, which are great.

    My only advice on what to pick would be something from a local shop with good support.
    Group rides are one place where an otherwise insignificant difference in speed can make all the difference. Like you've said, it's mostly about how strong a rider you are. However, if you're riding with a group that really has you pushing your limits, having a little extra bit of acceleration in order to catch on to the rider in front of you, or being able to hang on with a little bit less effort might be the difference in being able to stay in the pack or getting left behind.

    It's surprising how quickly a group riding 1/2 mph faster than you can leave you in the dust.
    Last edited by tjspiel; 04-16-14 at 11:06 AM.
    If you're not riding with a psychedelic gecko on your shirt, you ARE having a substandard experience.

  6. #6
    Senior Member alan s's Avatar
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    For group rides I've been on, anything less than a pure race bike means I'll be dropped quickly. Talking about rides that average 24-25 mph, with the flat cruising speed of 26-27+ mph. I fall in the camp that you really need two bikes, unless you want to commute on a race bike using a backpack.

  7. #7
    Packfodding 3 caloso's Avatar
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    I would add the Soma Smoothie to your list.
    Cyclists of the world, unite! You have nothing to lube but your chains!

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    Quote Originally Posted by AlTheKiller View Post
    The minuteness of differences in handling and speed between your average steel cyclocross bike and road bike are more about personal preference than actual speed. Throw good road tires on the bike and I'm sure your individual times, if you too each out for a long ride, would be separated by very little.

    I lean more towards cyclocross, just because I hate the whole "every bike needs to be a specific racing bike" I don't race. I want to go on a long road ride, and then decide to explore a gravel trail, or take a dirt path shortcut on my commute. And the versatility of larger tires alone on a road bike make them tremendous machines.

    There's no reason a cyclocross bike can't climb like a road bike, once again this is much more about the rider than the bike. Cyclocross gearing isn't particularly suited for long climbs (though I love it for commuting), but many so called cyclocross bikes come equipped with compact chainrings, which are great.

    My only advice on what to pick would be something from a local shop with good support.
    I agree wholeheartedly with just about all of this. Especially the sentiment that the rider more than any other parameter determines the performance of a given bike in a given situation. There are riders who are capable of riding a track bike offroad. With the skinny tires! Just saying. And also saying at the same time that that wouldn't be me. I'm a horses for courses kind of cyclist and I have two different tandems for different kinds of road riding. Two different folders for short hop and multi-modal commuting, Two different large wheel commuters for long haul commuting and a vintage road racer for summer club riding. Not saying I don't occasionally use the road racer to commute with on nice summer days but I wouldn't think of taking it out on a wet day and I wouldn't (but have) use one of my 700C commuters on a group ride. All that said, I would not pooh pooh a CX bike for the use the o.p. has in mind. FWIW.

    H

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    Yeah- sounds like two bikes needed. The steel commute/touring bike that can take a load, has low gearing and can tolerate potholes and all the other commuting stuff, and the carbon go-fast bike for weekend rides.

  10. #10
    Senior Member tjspiel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by alan s View Post
    For group rides I've been on, anything less than a pure race bike means I'll be dropped quickly. Talking about rides that average 24-25 mph, with the flat cruising speed of 26-27+ mph. I fall in the camp that you really need two bikes, unless you want to commute on a race bike using a backpack.
    Yeah, it really depends on the ride. If it's only a moderately fast pace then you have a better chance of being able to compensate for whatever slight disadvantage your bike may have. But the faster the group, the harder that's going to be.
    If you're not riding with a psychedelic gecko on your shirt, you ARE having a substandard experience.

  11. #11
    Senior Member tjspiel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by caloso View Post
    I would add the Soma Smoothie to your list.
    +1

    If you want a steel performance bike with rack mount options this a very good choice.
    If you're not riding with a psychedelic gecko on your shirt, you ARE having a substandard experience.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by huizar View Post
    I currently ride a 2009 Bianchi Pista, which is great and worked well enough for long rides back home in Southern California, but it's WAY hillier out here and my first shop ride almost killed me. I kept feeling like I was going to fly over my handlebars going downhill!
    I want to mention this, it does bring to mind that the #1 mistake I see people buying a new bike make is buying the wrong size of bike. Be sure to buy the right size frame - it's far more important than which of those several bikes you end up choosing. :-)

  13. #13
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    If I were going to buy a non-custom built steel bike it would be a waterford:

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    Any bike will have tradeoffs, You can get a "jack of all trades, but master of none" or you will likely have to look at a bike that leans a bit one way or the other, or two bikes. I think you need to decide what tradeoffs you want, depending on what is important for commuting and how fast these group rides are. Some thoughts.

    1) You say you want rack and fenders for commuting, but do you really want rack and fenders on a bike that you plan to use for group rides? Taking them on and off for the weekend doesn't sound fun to me.

    2) How fast are these group rides? If they are really fast paced, you may just need a regular old performance oriented road bike, and use clip on fenders or something like SKS Road fenders plus maybe a backpack for commuting. Potentially a seat post rack, but would limit carrying weight. If they are not that fast, I don't see why a cyclocross bike with road tires, and maybe different gearing, couldn't keep up.

    3) Some cross bikes are not intended for cyclocross racing, but just have a more relaxed geometry, clearence for large tires, maybe rack/fender attachments. Many manufactures have something like this that could be a good option for you. Something like a Specialized Tricross or Trek Crossrip - both of which are aluminum.

    4) Do you need steel? I decided I wanted steal for my commuter as I also wanted to use it for touring and I liked the smoother ride, but I also have a racing oriented road bike. If you look at aluminum, many options open up. I know I looked at a Specialized Secture as it allowed to attach rack/fenders, slightly larger tires, etc, but was still a road bike that was pretty quick (though not an ultra-light race bike at all).

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    Check out some of the Jamis steel bikes.

  16. #16
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    IMG1316.jpg

    Thats what I use for fast commuting. Seatpost rack gives me lots of space with a QR. Entry level bike gives me a liwer value so I don't stress about parking it while I'm working. Its running 53-39 11-34 8 speed so the shifting has some largish gaps but I hate pacelines anyway. Rather ride alone than chase another wheel. Strip off the rack ane its plenty fast. No fenders but I carry a change of clothes so I care not if I get wet. Got a rain bike if its pours down.

  17. #17
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    Hey Everyone,

    Thanks for all the replies and input! After reading what you've guys have had to offer, I think I'm leaning a bit more toward the cyclocross style bikes. I like the clearance you get with the cantilever brakes to add the fenders in (which I'd keep on seasonally) and think if I put the right tires on it (maybe some vittoria randoneurs?) I could eek out a little more speed, while still getting a somewhat cushy city ride. I do want to stick with steel, can't beat the smoothness or the style in my opinion.

    I'm still looking at the options from Bianchi and Surly and have added some room on my list for Jamis and Soma as well. That Waterford frame is gorgeous, but might be a little out of my price range. I'll probably be buying within a month, so I'll update you guys with some pics of my new hog!

    Thanks!

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    Checkout the Soma Double Cross!

  19. #19
    ride for a change modernjess's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by huizar View Post
    Hey Everyone,

    Thanks for all the replies and input! After reading what you've guys have had to offer, I think I'm leaning a bit more toward the cyclocross style bikes. I like the clearance you get with the cantilever brakes to add the fenders in (which I'd keep on seasonally) and think if I put the right tires on it (maybe some vittoria randoneurs?) I could eek out a little more speed, while still getting a somewhat cushy city ride. I do want to stick with steel, can't beat the smoothness or the style in my opinion.

    I'm still looking at the options from Bianchi and Surly and have added some room on my list for Jamis and Soma as well. That Waterford frame is gorgeous, but might be a little out of my price range. I'll probably be buying within a month, so I'll update you guys with some pics of my new hog!

    Thanks!
    Yes, "Steel is real" as some say and I understand the allure of steel. Hell, I own 3 steel bikes.

    I have been riding my Cross Check as a commuter for about 8 years now. But the CC is not a fast road ripper even on it's best day. Sure it's comfortable, it's a swiss army knife of function, but the amount of power loss from frame flex is astonishing in comparison to my CF road bike or my Alu CX race bike, and about 2x as heavy. In short, and in my experience, it's slow and soft and heavy. But it's an amazing commuter, it's not a fast road bike. Of course the engine is a big part of that, YMMV, but I'll admit I'm getting old and need all the advantages I can afford, literally.

    So to your original question, i wouldn't say the cross check (or straggler) is the really best of both worlds you want to cover. I'd say an light weight aluminum CX race bike is closer but maybe not have the functionality of options you are looking for. It's n+1 time my friend.
    Last edited by modernjess; 04-17-14 at 10:44 AM.

  20. #20
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    I have a pacer that works great for group rides, it has plenty of room for 28 or 32c tires and fenders. I would highly recommend looking at it as it was designed pretty much for the purpose you stated in your original post.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by nyrikki View Post
    I have a pacer that works great for group rides, it has plenty of room for 28 or 32c tires and fenders. I would highly recommend looking at it as it was designed pretty much for the purpose you stated in your original post.

    Yeah, I'm feeling pretty good about this one. Seems to cover A LOT of my bases. Anyone on here ride a Velo Orange? I've had my eye on them for a while too, but think they might be more of a touring bike than a commuting/occasionally fun bike.

  22. #22
    Senior Member tarwheel's Avatar
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    Gunnar Sport is a good option.
    Attached Images Attached Images

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    I was kind of in your same boat. Wanted a speedy steel road bike for commuting 30 miles round trip. The Bianchi Lupo is the little brother of the Volpe, which is a great bike. Very comfy but a bit more touring than racy. In steps the Jamis Quest Comp. Steel frame with carbon fork so very smooth. 9 speed sora shifters. Mounts for rack and/or fenders. Can take up to 32 tires. I went with 28's (Vittoria Randonneurs). Just bought it yesterday after 9 months of deciding. I'd suggest taking one for a spin!

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    Hey guys, not sure if anyone is still checking in on this thread, but I've narrowed it down to three bikes! After your input, and my realization that I want this next bike to built for life, I've upped my budget a bit and broadened out. So here are my top three (with my thoughts on them), looking to put a deposit down in the next two weeks:

    Co-Motion Nor?Wester - my only real problem here is that I'm not a super big fan of their styling. I think I could very easily love this bike and set it up the way I want (rack and fenders), but still have a decent amount of speed and comfort to handle a fondo or century with friends from time to time. I also like that you have the option of ordering a complete bike, with two options for build kits.

    Gunnar Sport ? Long distance riding in comfort from Gunnar Cycles USA - again, I have somewhat of an aesthetic issue with this bike. Both gunnar and co-motion charge a lot ($225) to add panels. Aside from the looks, again, this bike could get me to and from work while having enough get-up-and-go to handle a mid-level shop ride. I've had a few options for builds put together for me from my LBS and this looks like the most affordable option.

    Sportif Classic ? Cielo Cycles - This one has that style I'm looking for. Classic logo, etched in on the seatstays, metal headbadge. Plus, it's got that cool factor of having been designed by Chris King. I LOVE this bike, but at the same time it doesn't have the clearance for racks (418 mm chainstays mean I'd probably kick any bags I put on), but it's so gorgeous – and I've heard nothing but good things about the ride quality – that makes it me almost want to just get a more comfortable backpack and call it a day.

    Part of me feels like the Cielo would be impractical and that I should go with either the Gunnar or the Co-Motion, which have a lot of the same features, plus a little more utility. Any input or experience you guys have with these bikes would be greatly appreciated!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ebubar View Post
    I was kind of in your same boat. Wanted a speedy steel road bike for commuting 30 miles round trip. The Bianchi Lupo is the little brother of the Volpe, which is a great bike. Very comfy but a bit more touring than racy. In steps the Jamis Quest Comp. Steel frame with carbon fork so very smooth. 9 speed sora shifters. Mounts for rack and/or fenders. Can take up to 32 tires. I went with 28's (Vittoria Randonneurs). Just bought it yesterday after 9 months of deciding. I'd suggest taking one for a spin!
    I tried looking at the Jamis, but none of the dealers out here stock the Quest! They can order it, but not sure what to think without the test ride, or at least seeing in person first.

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