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  1. #1
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    Hi, New to Bike Forums and Commuting. Any advice on what makes a good commuter bike?

    Thanks in advance for looking!

    I am 20, 5'2", and I will be commuting 30 miles daily at my max (all flat terrain). Lots of my friends call me crazy, but I remind them that people have paddled around the world, run across the country, and landed on the moon... this is just another small step for me.

    Currently deciding between purchasing three bikes (Are touring bikes a subset of road bikes?), hopefully this is the appropriate forum for this...it seems to be scattered everywhere.

    Miyata - Miyata 52" road bike
    GT Series 4 - *** MINT GT GTR W 4 SERIES ROAD BIKE 44CM SMALL MAVIC WOMENS ***
    Cannondale - Cannondale road bike

    Besides, a basket, and water pack what other equipment/knowledge will I need for a daily 30 mile commute? Which bike is best suited for these needs?


    ------------------------------------


    Community,
    I wanted to thank all of you for your comments and expert advice. I successfully competed my 30 MILES RT without breaking a sweat or getting bullied into the gutter.

    My back is killer right now, since the cheap backpack I strapped on was flopping all over the place. So that is next on my list, it may also be my never being on a road bike before.

    Going on another 30 today. Happy riding!
    Last edited by speedndistance; 05-07-14 at 11:23 AM. Reason: UPDATE!

  2. #2
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    Is that 30 miles one way, or 30 miles round trip?

    Most people who commute by bicycle live somewhat near their daily destinations. That makes hybrids most useful as the average urban commuter. Of course, just about any bike can be used to commute. Touring bikes (subsets of road bikes) often make great commuters too. If I were to use a touring bike for commuting, I would install interrupter brakes so that I could assume a more upright, hybrid-like position, while cycling in the city for better viewing of city traffic.

    * IMHO, most bonafide commuter bikes have both rack and fender mounts...

    When buying a bike, fit is the most important factor. Make certain that you also test ride the bike in order to check for both proper fit and operation. You shouldn't hear any noises and shifting should be smooth. It would be advisable to take some bike savvy person with you when making your purchase.
    Last edited by WestPablo; 05-04-14 at 07:00 AM.

  3. #3
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    Not sure what model the Miyata is from the pic, but of the three it will be the only steel one (the other two being aluminum. Looks like the Giant has a carbon fork, and the C'Dale has a steel fork). In my experience steel is the better ride.

    I've ridden carbon and aluminum (with all the mixes of seat and chain stays and forks), and I feel that steel just offers the better ride. Fit, however, is paramount, and a 52cm (not inch) Miyata may still be too large for you.

    Also depends on where you like your shifters and what kind of levers you prefer for hand position. The Giant has shifters integrated with the brake levers, the C'Dale and Miyata have shifters on the downtube. Some really, really like the "brifters" on the Giant, but if you're 5'2" you might have smaller hands, and people with smaller hands sometimes struggle with the bulkiness of brifters.

    I would say test ride all three and take the one that fits the best. I agree that it would be well to have rack mounts on the seat stay and the rear dropouts (and it looks like the Miyata may be the only one of the three that has those), but if you're a "light" commuter you could buy with a seatpost rack. That's assuming by "basket" you mean rack and possibly pannier?
    "Foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds." Emerson

  4. #4
    Senior Member metz1295's Avatar
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    if i had to guess, you'll get 1000 answers from 1000 replies. go to your local bike shop (LBS) and work with them. not only will they help you with comfort level and budget, but they'll probably be familiar enough with your route that they can help select a trim/component levels that will be durable over the long haul.

    when i was shopping, i went in with a bike in mind. it was a little more race oriented, but i knew i wanted a carbon fork on an aluminum frame as i wanted a commuter that would also serve as a long distance road rider. though i had chosen a great bike, my LBS convinced me that the bike i had chosen had a racy stance that would not be comfortable for commuting with extra loads. in the end, he had just the model in mind and saved me about $300. money better served for shoes, pedals, lights, etc. as i was diving in with nothing.

  5. #5
    Senior Member alan s's Avatar
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    I'd look at buying a used bike on CL, at your local bike coop, or a garage sale. More bang for the buck, and if you later decide you want something different, you can sell at not much loss.
    Last edited by alan s; 05-04-14 at 09:10 AM.

  6. #6
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    As cute as baskets are, they are for picnics. You need a rack and something that attaches to it. Also, what is your riding experience prior to this? Many people get a bike they do not have the experience to ride and end up very unhappy, thats why i ask. Your friends say you are crazy, but in reality they wish they could get over their reservations and do something like you are.

    You can get new bikes with modern fresh new parts in the 400-600 dollar range that will do the job, just go to manufacturer sites & see what you like & call shops till you find one that has the thing you're looking for or at least something similar so you know what to expect....

    Good luck & welcome to the forums.

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

  7. #7
    Senior Member BobbyG's Avatar
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    Helmet Mirror and Airzound horn. Plus, I agree with "interrupters" or "chicken brakes". When I commute on my road bike, I spend a lot of time on the uppers in order to see.
    "When life hands you lumens, make lumen-aide!"

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by alan s View Post
    I'd look at buying a used bike on CL, at your local bike coop, or a garage sale. More bang for the buck, and if you later decide you want something different, you can sell at not much loss.
    I guess you didn't look at the links. They were all CL bikes.

  9. #9
    johnliu@earthlink.net jyl's Avatar
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    On bike fit: at 5' 2", finding a bike that fits will be a challenge. Do you know how to judge bike fit? Basically, when seated with pedal at its lowest point and the ball of your foot on the pedal, your knee should be bent less than 25 degrees (it will feel pretty close to straight). When on the saddle, you will not be able to put both feet on the ground. When off the saddle, you want to be able to stand over the top tube with both feet on the ground and at least a finger of clearance between tube and crotch.

    On the bikes: The GT (the second bike you listed) is sized correctly for you and has the most modern components including brifters (integrated brake shift levers) which are easiest to use; the problem is it lacks eyelets. You can still install good fenders without eyelets, and even a rack using P-clamps, it is just a bit more complicated. The Miyata is too large for you, do not get it. The Cannondale is sized correctly (if not a hair small even) and has eyelets for easy installation of fenders and rack. It is older and could need a tune-up. The downtube shifters will take some getting used to, and personally I don't like the looks of the head tube (done to accommodate such a small frame).

    The GT is so much newer, tuned up, better looking, and would definitely be my first choice. I commute with a backpack anyway. But even if you plan to use a rack, I'd make the GT my first choice. The Cannondale would be a little more straightforward to set up. The prices asked are decent. Budget $100 for a tuneup by a local bike shop, which could prove necessary (although the GT sounds like it won't need it).

    By the way, you are looking at road bikes, which is exactly the right kind of bike for your needs. Do not get a "hybrid" or "city" bike with upright handlebars - too slow, too inefficient for the distance you are talking about.

    Add to the bike: rechargeable lights - for the summer, at least a bright rear blinky $30, if you ride into winter then you'll need a headlight too. Fenders $80 if you plan to commute year-round. A rack ? and panniers ?, or wear a backpack. A basic flat repair kit $15 w/ spare tube, pump, patches, tire levers, latex gloves, hand wipes. And practice dismounting a tire and replacing a tube at home, before you have to do it on the road. No real need for interrupter brake levers, since riding on the hoods is nearly as upright, but you can certainly add them $50.

    Add to you: helmet $30-40 with mirror $10 added. Sunglasses and sunscreen. Good shoes (cycling shoes or something else with a stiff, non-squishy sole). Thin gloves which needn't be cycling gloves $20. A cycling rain shell, doesn't need to be a fancy one $50. Some tights or other snug fitting clothes - it is for reduced aerodynamic drag, not for looks. 30 miles is about 2 hours of pretty intent riding at 15 mph average, and aero drag will be the biggest thing you're fighting. Be prepared to adjust the saddle (height and angle) which means you'll want a $10 set of metric Allen wrenches. Big smile! Killer fitness!

    To learn: need a good route to work, that is reasonably safe. You may choose a longer but safer route. Do you know how to ride on the street, in traffic? It is as much of a skill as driving in traffic is. You can learn "on the job" and most do, but finding a local bike safety class would be useful too. Ride the route on a weekend before doing the commute. Start out with just 1-2 days riding a week.

    (Edit: I added some rough prices.)
    Last edited by jyl; 05-04-14 at 10:20 AM.
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  10. #10
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    As for the three bikes, I don't think they're suitable. They either are meant for road riding and lack any attachments, too old as with the downtube shifters, or too big. It all depends on what you really want, but I myself would stay with an upright bike. My guess is you have set in your mind you want drops though. Find one that has eyelets, and is your size, and no older than about 10 years. That C'dale must be 20 years old, if not older.

  11. #11
    RIP Sonny RaleighSport's Avatar
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    @speedndistance There's a lot more to it than just that... what are your roads like(torn up? smooth? gravel? chipseal?), is that distance round trip or one way, how much load do you need to carry and how bulky, what's your parking situation at both ends, what type of bike are you comfortable on if you know?

    I'll give you some anecdotal advice real quick though:
    My main commute is 30 miles RT, minimal ascents, mostly good smooth road with decent bike lanes no less, my load needs are minimal at most I need to bring a laptop.. and that's not often. More often I can just bring a small kindle tablet and a home made document tube, I'm a road biker by nature (don't tell the 41 that), so usually I am able to take a "fast" road bike (fast meaning, the geometry, and gearing of the bike are meant for riding quicker, the limiting factor=engine engine=me), I am able to park my bike directly in the classroom at the end of my commute in so theft prevention isn't a factor to be concerned about there (but it is in general), there's also bike lockers available for a minimal fee and they probably beat locking a beater to the bike parking outside... despite many security cams in all those spots there's still rampant bicycle theft on campus. But this combination allows me to take out a road race bike, or for instance my track bike and achieve my commute in 45 minutes or less on a good morning.
    "Seriously is what I want to be, so I put on spandex and show off my gear, my junk, my thing, yes my ding-a-ling."

  12. #12
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    Thank you for writing such a detailed and intuitive post. It answered questions I didnt't ask, but should have (I am Newb so the terms gave me lots to research ^.^) made me think of. I had my heart set on the Miyata for some reason. It's become clear thanks to your post that I will have no clearance since my inseam is 28 inches and the bike is 29 3/4" inches tall
    Won't trade wedgies for style, but...ouch..my heart.

    Thank again for the enlightening post! I'll try a backpack for now. The city will teach me how to ride, I've been hit by a car before so I am going to be on residential road as much as possible, or on sidewalk (I feel this is annoying and more dangerous).

    (The estimated prices were the cherry on top ty ^.^)

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by jyl View Post
    On bike fit: at 5' 2", finding a bike that fits will be a challenge. Do you know how to judge bike fit?
    (Edit: I added some rough prices.)
    Thank you for writing such a detailed and intuitive post. It answered questions I didnt't ask, but should have (I am Newb so the terms gave me lots to research ^.^) made me think of. I had my heart set on the Miyata for some reason. It's become clear thanks to your post that I will have no clearance since my inseam is 28 inches and the bike is 29 3/4" inches tall
    Won't trade wedgies for style, but...ouch..my heart.

    Thanks again for the enlightening post! I'll try a backpack for now. The city will teach me how to ride, I've been hit by a car before so I am going to be on residential road as much as possible, or on sidewalk (I feel this is annoying and more dangerous).

    (The estimated prices were the cherry on top ty ^.^)

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    @RaleighSport I have not yet planned my route, and to be honest I may wing it a little bit. In miami, bike lanes are a rarerity, streets are mainly asphalt (all mainroads) with endless number of drivers going +40-50MPH, cracks and chipseal can be found in some residential areas where the city has yet to perform maintenance. I won't be riding on gravel, but I will have to an incline caused by short bridges over the waterway.

    Parking on campus is just a simple bike rack, but I doubt that I will have a problem bringing my bike with me into class. Any other place, I'll be forced to carry it with me or put it in a lock.

  15. #15
    RIP Sonny RaleighSport's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jyl View Post
    On bike fit: at 5' 2", finding a bike that fits will be a challenge. Do you know how to judge bike fit? Basically, when seated with pedal at its lowest point and the ball of your foot on the pedal, your knee should be bent less than 25 degrees (it will feel pretty close to straight). When on the saddle, you will not be able to put both feet on the ground. When off the saddle, you want to be able to stand over the top tube with both feet on the ground and at least a finger of clearance between tube and crotch.

    On the bikes: The GT (the second bike you listed) is sized correctly for you and has the most modern components including brifters (integrated brake shift levers) which are easiest to use; the problem is it lacks eyelets. You can still install good fenders without eyelets, and even a rack using P-clamps, it is just a bit more complicated. The Miyata is too large for you, do not get it. The Cannondale is sized correctly (if not a hair small even) and has eyelets for easy installation of fenders and rack. It is older and could need a tune-up. The downtube shifters will take some getting used to, and personally I don't like the looks of the head tube (done to accommodate such a small frame).

    The GT is so much newer, tuned up, better looking, and would definitely be my first choice. I commute with a backpack anyway. But even if you plan to use a rack, I'd make the GT my first choice. The Cannondale would be a little more straightforward to set up. The prices asked are decent. Budget $100 for a tuneup by a local bike shop, which could prove necessary (although the GT sounds like it won't need it).

    By the way, you are looking at road bikes, which is exactly the right kind of bike for your needs. Do not get a "hybrid" or "city" bike with upright handlebars - too slow, too inefficient for the distance you are talking about.

    Add to the bike: rechargeable lights - for the summer, at least a bright rear blinky $30, if you ride into winter then you'll need a headlight too. Fenders $80 if you plan to commute year-round. A rack ? and panniers ?, or wear a backpack. A basic flat repair kit $15 w/ spare tube, pump, patches, tire levers, latex gloves, hand wipes. And practice dismounting a tire and replacing a tube at home, before you have to do it on the road. No real need for interrupter brake levers, since riding on the hoods is nearly as upright, but you can certainly add them $50.

    Add to you: helmet $30-40 with mirror $10 added. Sunglasses and sunscreen. Good shoes (cycling shoes or something else with a stiff, non-squishy sole). Thin gloves which needn't be cycling gloves $20. A cycling rain shell, doesn't need to be a fancy one $50. Some tights or other snug fitting clothes - it is for reduced aerodynamic drag, not for looks. 30 miles is about 2 hours of pretty intent riding at 15 mph average, and aero drag will be the biggest thing you're fighting. Be prepared to adjust the saddle (height and angle) which means you'll want a $10 set of metric Allen wrenches. Big smile! Killer fitness!

    To learn: need a good route to work, that is reasonably safe. You may choose a longer but safer route. Do you know how to ride on the street, in traffic? It is as much of a skill as driving in traffic is. You can learn "on the job" and most do, but finding a local bike safety class would be useful too. Ride the route on a weekend before doing the commute. Start out with just 1-2 days riding a week.

    (Edit: I added some rough prices.)
    You should rewrite that response more generically and then we can all just C&P it as a response whenever these threads pop up Well done.

    Quote Originally Posted by speedndistance View Post
    @RaleighSport I have not yet planned my route, and to be honest I may wing it a little bit. In miami, bike lanes are a rarerity, streets are mainly asphalt (all mainroads) with endless number of drivers going +40-50MPH, cracks and chipseal can be found in some residential areas where the city has yet to perform maintenance. I won't be riding on gravel, but I will have to an incline caused by short bridges over the waterway.

    Parking on campus is just a simple bike rack, but I doubt that I will have a problem bringing my bike with me into class. Any other place, I'll be forced to carry it with me or put it in a lock.
    Then I'd say JYL's response is spot on for your needs. Although, fenders are optional depending on your other gear.. I can bypass that thanks to a full rainsuit that just goes over my other clothes, but that's still another added expense. You'll also find out backpack or rack is just personal preference, same for tire size and frame material. Best of luck to you with the commuting!
    Last edited by RaleighSport; 05-04-14 at 01:47 PM.
    "Seriously is what I want to be, so I put on spandex and show off my gear, my junk, my thing, yes my ding-a-ling."

  16. #16
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    30 miles each way Id consider A MULTI mode plan .. ride to the place where you meet the Bus, put the bike on the bus ,

    get off near enough and ride to the door of your job , .. IMO, adding 3 hours to the 8 for the job would be wearing.


    Oh, not a Job, ..

    As this is a college as the destination , The bike on campus may be handy .

    maybe you just need it there, to get to classes on a sprawling campus , IDK ..

    Maybe a cheap Beater locked in the rack, on both ends and a Bus to get to school and back .
    Last edited by fietsbob; 05-04-14 at 02:38 PM.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by TransitBiker View Post
    As cute as baskets are, they are for picnics. You need a rack and something that attaches to it. Also, what is your riding experience prior to this? Many people get a bike they do not have the experience to ride and end up very unhappy, thats why i ask. Your friends say you are crazy, but in reality they wish they could get over their reservations and do something like you are.

    You can get new bikes with modern fresh new parts in the 400-600 dollar range that will do the job, just go to manufacturer sites & see what you like & call shops till you find one that has the thing you're looking for or at least something similar so you know what to expect....

    Good luck & welcome to the forums.

    - Andy
    @TransitBiker
    Thank you for your reply!
    I took my training wheels off at age 8. Since then I do a monthly ride with thousands of cyclists where we blackout the roads, called Critical Mass. The distance is usually 13 miles total in 2 hours at a slow pace. My trip is 30 miles RT so it isn't so crazy.

    About the basket: lmao. If I have a picnic what then?
    Thanks to you I am now looking into fenders and racks. Any further specifications about where I can find these cheaply, or if quality matters feel free to let me know.

  18. #18
    johnliu@earthlink.net jyl's Avatar
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    Bikes disappear on college campuses, so you'll need a good U-lock $50 and to use it correctly
    Lock Strategy
    Sheldon Brown - U-Lock Technique
    Last edited by jyl; 05-04-14 at 02:54 PM.
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  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
    30 miles each way Id consider A MULTI mode plan .. ride to the place where you meet the Bus, put the bike on the bus ,

    get off near enough and ride to the door of your job , .. IMO, adding 3 hours to the 8 for the job would be wearing.


    Oh, not a Job, ..

    As this is a college as the destination , The bike on campus may be handy .

    maybe you just need it there, to get to classes on a sprawling campus , IDK ..

    Maybe a cheap Beater locked in the rack, on both ends and a Bus to get to school and back .

    I will be replacing my car with the bike as often as possible, and so I will build up to ride distances of 60miles RT. Multiway sounds tempting, but I want to discipline myself to ride back home each time I take out the bike.

  20. #20
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    sounds like putting in 6 hours a day on the bike + classes, and No social life , can't you move closer to campus?

    Its not what I wanted for my time at Uni (before your birth) .. but knock your self out.
    Last edited by fietsbob; 05-04-14 at 03:11 PM.

  21. #21
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    The best bike of those choices - is that one that fits you. Seriously, it's the #1 mistake people make when buying a new bike.

    If those choices were all the same size, I'd go with the "MINT GT GTR" because I don't like having shifters on the downtube. But even that's not as important as fit.

    Usually you don't need to spend the money on a camelback for water - one can just put 2 water bottle cages on their bike and carry 2 water bottles.

  22. #22
    Senior Member TransitBiker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by speedndistance View Post
    @TransitBiker
    Thank you for your reply!
    I took my training wheels off at age 8. Since then I do a monthly ride with thousands of cyclists where we blackout the roads, called Critical Mass. The distance is usually 13 miles total in 2 hours at a slow pace. My trip is 30 miles RT so it isn't so crazy.

    About the basket: lmao. If I have a picnic what then?
    Thanks to you I am now looking into fenders and racks. Any further specifications about where I can find these cheaply, or if quality matters feel free to let me know.
    Yea, i agree with paulrivers, you dont need a water pack for that unless you really need to stay hydrated. Water seems like a good idea, but a gallon weighs 10 lbs, so for smaller amounts just do the math, one bottle should last you one way on a hot day. Also how you fit on the seat, pedals, arm position, all matters a lot, especially on those days when you just wanna go back to sleep. Replacing a car means you definitely want to look into a rack and a top mount bag of some sort, and probably at least one larger pannier. make sure you can secure them closed AND secure them to bike or easily detach & take with. For picnic, you can use that top mount bag, especially if it has a big main bay with velcro dividers. Some camera bags have this, so maybe look into those as well as traditional commuter rack packs. JYL mentioned a U-lock, i suggest getting two if your budget allows, because this is your ride home after all and an investment aside. In most situations using two i'd put one on frame and rear wheel, and one to a fixed sturdy railing or light pole etc, if two lock points are available, you could lock the stem and seatpost or such.

    Also, register bike with campus security and local law enforcement, so if it is stolen, you have a better chance of recovery.

    Critical mass sounds so cool, i've heard of it, just could never attend due to my sole bike being a broken cruiser. Now that i have a long distance and very capable bike, might look into participating.

    One last thing, is definitly hop around to bike shops, because even if you dont order directly through them, its nice to stay connected to cycling community & build relationships, and maybe they have that part or accessory you want/need in stock vs online photo.

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

  23. #23
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    My partner is approx your size & often commuted with the same model GT, commute was about 20 mi rt.
    The bike worked very well for my partner, suggest 25 mm tires - if it doesn't already have them. My partner used a saddle bag, tried a backpack - not the most comfortable for that length commute.
    ride long & prosper

  24. #24
    Senior Member TransitBiker's Avatar
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    Oh, I just made a curb find, wald wire frame basket. You want it?? Jus pay shipping & it's yours. Has twin handlebar mounts, and a padded stem rest. The basket itself looks in perfect "shape" no bent stuff, but the stem rest looks like it's "seen things, man" but still totally 100% functional.

    let me know!!

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

  25. #25
    Senior Member tjspiel's Avatar
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    We all bring our biases to our replies (including me) so keep that in mind. Personally I'd tell you to ignore half of what's been posted for that reason but that wouldn't be that helpful.

    Like others have said, fit is very important. And since you intend to ride about 15 miles each way (if I understand correctly), I think a road bike makes a lot of sense. Further, while some people really like steel bikes, others are less religious about frame material. I wouldn't pass up an aluminum bike that you like and that fits, especially if it's got a steel or carbon fork. The important thing is that you feel comfortable on it, not what somebody else's personal preference is.

    Fenders and a Rack

    Fenders and a rack can be fitted to just about any bike, but some are a lot easier than others. How important a rack and fenders are depend on what you intend to carry and your local weather. Since you mentioned a basket, I'm assuming you would like to carry something. A rack isn't the only option though. Some people find carradice bags work well. They don't require a rack but can be kind of expensive.

    Fenders help a lot in the rain. You are better off if your bike can take standard fenders but depending on how often it rains in your area, and how often you intend to ride in the rain, they may not be as high a priority as some other things.

    Above all remember that this will be your bike that you will be using for your commute. Ultimately it's got to be something that you'll be happy with so don't get too hung up on all the recommendations here if they run counter to your instincts. Also remember that it's OK if this first bike turns out to have some shortcomings you did't think about. That's OK. Ride it awhile anyway if you can. Then you'll have a better idea of what exactly you want in your next bike.
    Last edited by tjspiel; 05-05-14 at 08:42 PM.
    If you're not riding with a psychedelic gecko on your shirt, you ARE having a substandard experience.

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