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  1. #1
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    Commuting through a Valley

    Hi everybody,

    Sorry if my post etiquette is wrong here, it's kind of late and I've been all over the Internet all weekend trying to find out about bikes, but the comparison for prices gets muddy for me because the Canadian prices are so different. I'd also like to buy local so I can try them. I only have until Monday, if that, to make my decision. So I'm hoping you'll forgive me this one time and help me out!

    My decision is between which bike to buy for my 14km (9mi) commute to work. I currently have a Sirrus Elite on hold for $700, but I'm wary about the unisex frame and 28mm wheels. I haven't rode in several years, so I'd like something that feels stable. When I was on the Sirrus, the seat was too high, and I didn't get to test it with the seat lowered. The valley has some rougher terrain and I don't know if I'd be stable (though truth be told it should mostly be paved now).

    Here's what I'm looking for so far:
    - a budget range of $400 - 700. I'd be open to push higher for the right reasons. Would consider used, but prefer new (Alberta area).
    - good for a relearner; used to bike a lot when I was younger on a cheap mountain bike, with most of my time spent out on the bike paths but haven't been on a bike in probably ten years. I know it's down to fit but I need to be confident on it right away.
    - can commute on roads, some with gravel; mostly bike path and pavement with a few unfinished dirt trails. Route is both flat and hilly: "The route has a total ascent of 18.0 m and has a maximum elevation of 1,115.0 m." Would be downtown city, though avoiding most roads. Might be raining, should be sunny - doubt I would ride in the winter snow.
    - prefer flat bar; don't have the experience to be comfortable with a drop bar, but I'd consider it.
    - I'm 5'4"; not sure on my leg length but I'd lean towards shorter as safer. Sometimes the small frame unisex bikes can seem too large for me, but it varies.
    - prefer 32 - 38mm wheels. I'm used to controlling a mountain bike, so I'm assuming that would feel the most familiar and stable. Yes/no?

    Like I said, I'm having trouble with Canadian prices. For reference, these are the bikes I wrote down as possibles to research (but I'm running out of time!):
    Specialized Ariel - 630 (Disc @ 690)
    Specialized Crossroads / Expedition Sport - 580
    Cannondale Quick 6 - 550
    Cannondale Althea - 630
    Kona Lanai 26 - 530
    Kona Dew - 500
    Norco Heart - 500
    Norco Storm - 445
    Trek 7.1 FX 2013 - 500
    Trek 7.2 FX 2013 - 590
    Trek 3500 - 450 (Disc @ 500)
    Trek 3700 Disc 3013 - 570
    Giant Revel 3 / Enchant - 400

    Any experience with any of these? How do they compare to the Sirrus Elite I have on hold, or would I be better off saving the $200 and investing in better locks/helmet/etc?
    I'm really sorry. I just don't know enough to make a great plan. I'm not even sure if I should consider the Disc's! The weather here is bad and all of the above are located at three different stores, all of which are in three different corners of the city. I could really use some advice to slim down my hunt, so I can focus more on what "fits" and saving money.

    Thanks,
    Last edited by Crowek; 05-04-14 at 03:25 AM.

  2. #2
    Senior Member TransitBiker's Avatar
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    This might be more fitting to your described terrain:

    Fuji Bikes | LIFESTYLE | PAVEMENT - ALL-TERRAIN | TRAVERSE 1.9 STAGGER

    Hope that helps!

    - Andy
    I can't wait for the next pint of good chocolate milk after a long ride.

  3. #3
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    Thanks,

    Any technical specifics as to why, or is it just the wheel base and fork? I'd like to be able to learn some more specifics about these things so I can understand their technicalities better. I doubt I'll be able to recognize parts by appearance when I browse, but it'd be nice to be able to get close.

    I did manage to find a shop in the city specializing in Fuji and Giant bikes thanks to that search though, so thank you. How does Fuji compare to some of the brands listed above (reputation, parts, etc) or are they all relatively similar? Specialized, Trek, Kona, Cannondale and Norco. More importantly, how does it compare to the Sirrus Elite I have on hold? Should I pass on it?

    Here's a clearer picture of the terrain; when the path is paved (the majority of the pathway), it will be similar to this:


    The unpaved pathways will be similar to this and only take up the first little bit of the ride (or last of the round back):


    And the above is primarily due to damage of the paved pathways nearby,
    damage-sue-higgins-park-pathway-305.jpg

  4. #4
    Prefers Cicero cooker's Avatar
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    Given your self imposed deadline you may already have bought, but here are some comments. 28 mm tires will work on smooth dirt or clay paths but they aren't ideal if you hit soft sand or a rock. Cyclocross racers use 30-33 mm tires, I believe. If you bought the Sirrus you can probably swap whatever tires you got for slightly fatter ones but ask the bike store what width of tire your bike wheel rims can accommodate.

    Since you're going a fair distance you don't want a bike where you sit too upright as the poor aerodynamics will make you work too hard, and I would avoid suspension (slows you down a bit).

    Drop bars are fine. The top level functions a lot like a flat bar and you can use the lower level when you want to get really low and aerodynamic.

    You may not get the perfect bike the first time.

    Did you really mean an 18m climb, or 180m? 18 m is not much to worry about and you can always get off and walk if it is too steep at first. 180m seems more likely and might take a few weeks to get really comfortable with.

    Allow well over an hour (maybe 75 minutes) for your commute at first, but you will whittle it down to probably under an hour in due course.

    Don't buy until you have done a test ride with the correct seat height.

    I would definitely not buy a fixed gear bike, like the Norco Heart, as a newbie commuter with a mixed surface, hilly path. That is a choice for later, once you are really back into biking.
    Last edited by cooker; 05-04-14 at 05:04 PM.

  5. #5
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    Crowek, I have a 2012 Sirrus Elite that I commute on in Atlanta and love it. From what I can tell from the Speh website, the 2012 and 2014 Elites have the same spec's so I'm pretty sure we are talking about the same bikes. Ok, the Elite is a pretty quick and smooth riding in the city and on light off road surfaces. The 28 mm Nimbus tires give a comfortable and speedy ride and reasonably flat proof. However, I swapped my 28mm Nimbus tires for 25mm Armadillo All Conditions. The 25mm tires perked up the handling a good bit and provide a more road bike feel although more harsh with the reduced air volume. I also swapped out the 11-32 cassette with a 12-23 cassette to better match the ratios on my Roubaix's 12-27 cassette. Basically I ride the middle ring most of the time; the big ring going down hill; and the small ring going up hill...big surprise, right? In any case, the 26x23 combination is enough to tackle a 7 percent grade with out killing me and the remaining ratios are good for keeping a relatively constant cadence. Depending upon the rider, the original 11-32 cassette works well also, personal preference is the main point.

    Ok, aside from that, you can adjust the stem angle with shims just as you can with a Specialized roadie. The Shimano components are not top shelf; however, they have proven durable and fuss free which is what you want for a commuter. I have outfitted my bike with bolt on fenders from REI, a kickstand, and a bunch of lights. There are also mounts for front and rear racks if you interested. My bike is an XL and weighs about 24 lbs according to the bathroom scale fully dressed. My only complaint early on was that the rear wheel would come out of true after 150 miles or so, and the final fix was the bike shop really taking some time to true the wheel and apply some thread locker to the nipples to keep them from turning - problem solved. The wheel are not the lightest, but once trued they are pretty tough. I jump on and off curbs regularly with no ill effects on the wheels. Overall, I enjoy the bike and love it for what it is...an all around good workhorse fitness/commuter bike. I hope this helps. If you have any specific questions lemme know and I'll do what I can to answer them.
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Last edited by eDuBB; 05-04-14 at 04:55 PM. Reason: Added a photo of the Grey Ghost

  6. #6
    Prefers Cicero cooker's Avatar
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    So here are my old man biases:

    Sirrus Elite – yes, but with slightly fatter tires for your dirt path
    Specialized Ariel - 630 (Disc @ 690) no: suspension
    Specialized Crossroads / Expedition Sport – 580 I see one called Crossroads Sport. no: It looks a little too upright for a longish commute.
    Cannondale Quick 6 – 550 yes
    Cannondale Althea – 630 no: suspension
    Kona Lanai 26 – 530 no: suspension
    Kona Dew – 500yes
    Norco Heart – 500 no: fixed gear
    Norco Storm – 445 no: suspension
    Trek 7.1 FX 2013 – 500 yes
    Trek 7.2 FX 2013 – 590 yes
    Trek 3500 - 450 (Disc @ 500) no: suspension
    Trek 3700 Disc 3013 – 570 no: suspension
    Giant Revel 3 / Enchant – 400 no: suspension
    Last edited by cooker; 05-04-14 at 05:07 PM.

  7. #7
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    Thank you! That go through narrows my list very well. I didn't realize most of them had suspension and I definitely didn't notice the Heart was a fixed gear. I'm sure I can recognize the fork suspension now after having that pointed out. Have not purchased yet because we had 8 inches of snow dumped on our heads this weekend. Tuesday at the latest probably, still aiming for Monday.

    The drop bars were okay, but I had trouble hitting the brakes and gear shifts from the top bar on the few I tried. Buying tires and paying for a swap on the elite might be too much for me, I was already wary of the 700 price tag. I can technically afford up to 1000, but I want to leave at least 200 room for accessories (helmet, bell, lights, lock, etc). My bank recently limited my account to 500, too, so if I don't have to pay the extra withdrawal rate on taking out two sets that is preferable. It seems like it'd be a better idea just to get a bike with the correct tires on already so that I can test how it feels.

    Regarding the crossroads and expedition sport bikes, you say they seem a little too upright. What's a good indicator of that? Seat to bar level, bend of bar?

    eDubb, thanks for the write up on the Elite. It's a really tempting buy -- they're normally 900+ where I live. I suppose my main question with the Sirrus would be... Would I notice the difference and be glad I paid 100-200 more versus the Trek 7, Quick 6 or Dew? I'm really looking to try/purchase from bowcycle.com, which limits me to the Quick 6 or Dew. I'll compare them to the sirrus when I get the chance and come back if I have any immediate questions.

    Thanks again for your help, all the information I can get is pretty imperative to me right now.

  8. #8
    Prefers Cicero cooker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Crowek View Post
    Regarding the crossroads and expedition sport bikes, you say they seem a little too upright. What's a good indicator of that? Seat to bar level, bend of bar?
    Okay, first remember this is just one old man's views and other people may disagree.

    There are some technical differences in the geometry of upright, versus utility, versus racing bikes, but there is a subtle and quick indicator bike companies seem to use to give you a heads up: If the handlebars in the promotional photo are noticeably higher than the seat, they intend it to be a more leisurely, upright ride. If they are well below the seat, they intend it for fast club rides, fitness and racing. If they are at exactly seat height, the bike is likely designed for utility purposes like longer commutes, or touring, or other all round usage. A leisurely rider sits upright, a commuter or tourer leans her torso forward at 45 degrees, and a racer gets his upper back almost horizontal.

    Of course. some young aggressive commuters and couriers prefer a racing style bike with the handlebars set lower than the seat, and you may prefer that once you get back into biking, but as a newly returning cyclist you may do best with the 45 degree position to start off. Somewhat aerodynamic but not too aggressive.

    Of course once you get the bike, you can make some modifications, changing the handlebar height or length of the stem (the central bar connecting the handlebars to the bike) or sliding the saddle back a bit using it's underside rails, so you can lean forward more, or sliding it forward and raising the handlebars to sit more upright.
    Last edited by cooker; 05-04-14 at 05:46 PM.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Crowek View Post
    Here's a clearer picture of the terrain; when the path is paved (the majority of the pathway), it will be similar to this:
    Well, that looks like that'd suck to ride on.

    The unpaved pathways will be similar to this and only take up the first little bit of the ride (or last of the round back):
    That's better.

  10. #10
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    Consider the Raleigh Misceo or the Cadent, the Kona Dew or the Dew Plus, the Giant Seek or the Escape, the Trek FX, and the Jamis Coda or Coda Comp.

  11. #11
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    If you want to get the Sirrus that's probably fine too! I don't commute off-road much but on some pretty rough, broken pavement full of potholes/manholes, other obstacles and one dirt road which is a shortcut to where I work and my Sirrus Sport with 700c x 28 tires holds up pretty well - you can swap out for 700c x 32 tires. I commute about 9 miles each way as well and that's probably as far as I would ride it each day as it's a flat bar vs. drop bar and doesn't offer as many hand positions. I think if you like the Sirrus Elite though that it's a solid option.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Crowek View Post
    Thanks,

    Any technical specifics as to why, or is it just the wheel base and fork? I'd like to be able to learn some more specifics about these things so I can understand their technicalities better. I doubt I'll be able to recognize parts by appearance when I browse, but it'd be nice to be able to get close.

    I did manage to find a shop in the city specializing in Fuji and Giant bikes thanks to that search though, so thank you. How does Fuji compare to some of the brands listed above (reputation, parts, etc) or are they all relatively similar? Specialized, Trek, Kona, Cannondale and Norco. More importantly, how does it compare to the Sirrus Elite I have on hold? Should I pass on it?

    Here's a clearer picture of the terrain; when the path is paved (the majority of the pathway), it will be similar to this:


    The unpaved pathways will be similar to this and only take up the first little bit of the ride (or last of the round back):


    And the above is primarily due to damage of the paved pathways nearby,
    damage-sue-higgins-park-pathway-305.jpg
    Photos help a lot. In PA we have begun a systematic bridge replacement program after an alarming number of even small local traffic spans have been deemed unsafe and weight restrictions put on them and whatnot, so i totally understand the awkward detour.

    As for brand comparison... Fuji is a brand that i have found that have models that more often may fit your specific needs out of the box. Breezer is like this as well. Both are owned by ASI, a company based in philadelphia. I have found that they have some very innovative minds that are allowed to experiment and try new things to deliver new and exciting products. It's why i have a breezer and not a trek or other, the others didn't have anything near what i needed.

    Insofar as quality of frames and parts, fuji is among the best, and since its rescue by ASI from bankruptcy has really come to mean reliable quality you can count on again and again with every model ranging from top professional to entry level. The one i recommended would get the job done and you'd probably like riding it.

    - Andy
    I can't wait for the next pint of good chocolate milk after a long ride.

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    Thanks for the advice, folks. I purchased a Kona Dew Plus this evening from the only store who seemed interested in serving me... Could've went with a Trek 7.1 earlier today, but for some reason I didn't come off as an approachable customer. Too meek to get their attention, I guess.

    The price tag was nearly identical to the Sirrus Elite, which I was hoping to shave some money off of, but I think I'll like the hydraulic brakes and the wider tire. It was the first bike I had seen that I actually liked to look at, too, and sit on. So there's that. What do you think? D-? C+? A? F because I should've gone Sirrus?

    Here is its temporary home. Mind the side-door mess. I'll wheel it away from the heat vent...

    RWuNorPl.jpg

  14. #14
    Senior Member raqball's Avatar
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    If YOU like the bike, and if YOU are comfortable on it, and if You are happy with it, then it's an A+

    What everyone else thinks is irrelevant as it's YOUR bike..

    Looks good! Enjoy it, ride it, be proud of it!

  15. #15
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    Looks good. Remember it will be a very tough commute at first - don't get too stressed if it is harder than you thought. You will get it under control before long.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by raqball View Post
    If YOU like the bike, and if YOU are comfortable on it, and if You are happy with it, then it's an A+

    What everyone else thinks is irrelevant as it's YOUR bike..

    Looks good! Enjoy it, ride it, be proud of it!
    +1

    Exactly what Raqball here says!

    Nice choice!

    You get an A+ for your excellent bike choice.

    The cat gets a "C" for cat!
    Last edited by WestPablo; 05-05-14 at 11:46 PM.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by cooker View Post
    Looks good. Remember it will be a very tough commute at first - don't get too stressed if it is harder than you thought. You will get it under control before long.
    +1. Sometimes rides are harder then they look. Just give yourself time and enjoy the ride. It will get easier as you go.
    12 Schwinn Tourist, 90 something Gary Fisher Marlin (Ss conversion), ?? Bike E RX

  18. #18
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    Oh, for sure. I'll be taking the bike on a few joy rides / chore jobs nearby before testing the route. Probably even take the route - or part of it - for a few days just to break it in. It's quite a long way and it'd be a disaster if I tried to go to work without knowing I could do the ride. My first test on the Dew outside the store was slightly more unexperienced than I was expecting, so I'll definitely take my time with a break in period.

    Threw the route onto an MMR if anyone was interested; the start and end points aren't exact, of course, but it's a rough idea. The 3d map view on the site is fun if you have that installed (can see the hills too and see what the elevation on it was; not 18, not quite 118).
    WC in Calgary, AB | MapMyRide
    Last edited by Crowek; 05-07-14 at 12:50 AM.

  19. #19
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    Are you going to get fenders.......?

    - Andy
    I can't wait for the next pint of good chocolate milk after a long ride.

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    Not right away, but yes, of course. It's super wet here in June

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