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Commuting Bicycle commuting is easier than you think, before you know it, you'll be hooked. Learn the tips, hints, equipment, safety requirements for safely riding your bike to work.

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Old 05-25-14, 12:46 PM   #1
Andrew_Henry
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New to the forum and bike commuting world, help me get started!

I just introduced myself in the introductions thread, and I hate to be that guy who's first post is a question, but here goes!

My past biking experience is as follows, it's not much. A few years ago I assembled a 10 speed road bike from parts at the "Boise Bicycle Project." I got sick of the poor comfort factor of that particular road bike so I went to the opposite extreme and bought a nice electra cruiser which I am now wanting to sell because I am moving and need a faster commuter. I commute on paved roads, side walks, snow(sometimes), ice (sometimes), maybe even some dirt, and go over curbs, hills, and flats. Because of this I do not think a standard road bike is for me. I want something I can commute with in all seasons (reasonably fast), granted I might have to use studded tires. What is my best bet? I don't need suspension. Is it a good idea to use a suspensionless mountain bike frame and slap some street tires on it for speed? I am open/interested in 29 inch bikes as well as fat bikes (maybe, out of my price range probably) but I have a $500 or less budget. I can build or buy. I just want a dead reliable bike that I can knock around a bit. What say the experts?

Last edited by Andrew_Henry; 05-25-14 at 12:51 PM. Reason: clarity
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Old 05-25-14, 01:01 PM   #2
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While I own high performance road and track bikes, my commuter is a non-suspension mtn bike.

This allows me the use of wide tires which handle bad pavements, sewer grates and the seams on concrete roads better. I consider tires that are forgiving of road hazards paramount because I'm riding in heavier traffic which often doesn't afford freedom to move around problems. Also, my winter commute home is in the dark so I need a bike that can tolerate unseen hazards like new potholes.

The mtn platform also allows me a broad selection of smooth tread tires for 3 season use, and center ridge, or shallow tread with aggressive sides (had pack dirt tires) for use in the winter, plus studded tires when necessary.

Regardless of the basic platform you need to decide on seat and bars to suit our preference, and disc vs rim brakes (I prefer rim brakes).

There days there are also a wide range of touring, cross, or trekking bikes which afford most of the features I mentioned, but on a lighter 700c (29r) platform.

Do your homework, look a what's out there, and create a point system for what you consider important and what you don't so you can make a short list. Then it's about ride and fit.
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Old 05-25-14, 02:59 PM   #3
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Considering your budget, your best option would be to buy online. I'd recommend Performance, an online bicycle resource, where the bicycle will be sent to a brick & mortar bike shop and the customer picks up the already assembled bike. Test ride the bike and if you don't approve, you can either reorder, or get a refund. Call customer service for sizing guidance.

Just go to www.performancebike.com and checkout the "Commuter" bike called, the GT Zum Wheels4Life Flat Bar road bike @ $350, the "Fitness" bike called, the GT Traffic 2.0 road bike @ $500, and the "City" bike called, the Fuji Absolute 2.1 Flat Bar road bike @ $440 (only for cyclists < 5' 10"). The "Fitness" bike, called the Diamondback Insight 1 road bike @ $450.

Otherwise, I'd suggest the Giant Escape 3.
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Old 05-25-14, 03:59 PM   #4
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With respect, Online can be the worst way for newbs to buy. Online is a great resource for folks who know what they want, but offer little in the way of user qualification and guidance.

I try to stay neutral in the LBS vs. online debate, but a decent shop can povide serious value to a newbie, by working with him to qualify his deeds than advising the choices.

The pain of overpaying (if one does) goes away much faster than the pain of having a bike not suited to ones needs.

BTW- if the OP would list his place of residence, there's a good chance that a member could direct him to a shop with a proven, pro customer attitude.
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Old 05-25-14, 04:12 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by FBinNY View Post
While I own high performance road and track bikes, my commuter is a non-suspension mtn bike.

This allows me the use of wide tires which handle bad pavements, sewer grates and the seams on concrete roads better. I consider tires that are forgiving of road hazards paramount because I'm riding in heavier traffic which often doesn't afford freedom to move around problems. Also, my winter commute home is in the dark so I need a bike that can tolerate unseen hazards like new potholes.

The mtn platform also allows me a broad selection of smooth tread tires for 3 season use, and center ridge, or shallow tread with aggressive sides (had pack dirt tires) for use in the winter, plus studded tires when necessary.

Regardless of the basic platform you need to decide on seat and bars to suit our preference, and disc vs rim brakes (I prefer rim brakes).

There days there are also a wide range of touring, cross, or trekking bikes which afford most of the features I mentioned, but on a lighter 700c (29r) platform.

Do your homework, look a what's out there, and create a point system for what you consider important and what you don't so you can make a short list. Then it's about ride and fit.
This. A vintage rigid mtb is your best bet as a platform to build a quality commuter. Tire size really matters and a wide variety will work on a mtb.

Alternatively, if your focus is on speed, a cross bike will work well. That may be tough to do on a $500 budget.
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Old 05-25-14, 11:09 PM   #6
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Id say say you have 3 options here:

A cyclocross:
Pros- Speady, strudy frame, but lighter than a MTB
Cons- Expensive, not all take studded tires

A Hybrid:
Pros- Cheapest, often has a lower tier MTB frame, can take studded and smooth tires
Cons- Can't take as much abuse as a mountain bike, not as quick as a cyclocross

MTB (Hartail, FS isn't an option in your price range):
Pros- Can take pretty much anything, takes all types of tires, Large variety on the market
Cons- Heavy
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Old 05-25-14, 11:31 PM   #7
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I'd point you towards a hybrid. The MTB's tend to be very low geared reducing your road speed. The hybrids have a much wider gearing that works for varied terrain like you will have. The hybrids can also run a greater variety of tires that vary with the seasons. The other thing you will want is a bike that can take a conventional rack and bottle bosses for water. There's MTB's out there, older ones, that you might not even find any attachment points for anything on. And don't be so quick to dismiss suspension forks. I wasn't too keen on them until I found my bike at a pawn shop--with a suspension fork. I've grown to like that fork with the number of rain gutters in my town and the off road trails that I run the bike down. And if you want to buy used, look around at the pawn shops and garage sales. Lots of good buys with a bit of hunting.
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Old 05-25-14, 11:42 PM   #8
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Forum people are all zealots and will make stuff seem over-complicated, usually.

Here is a basic formula that has worked for me for years and years.

Old japanese steel from Craigslist - 125.00
Flat resistant tires - 100.00
Lights and a mirror - 75.00

300.00 will give you a nice, bombproof commuter. Also, a lot of the time, after miles and time accrue, people move on to something else when they are a little more comfortable with riding and their routine . . . You don't want to invest a lot on a bike there is a high probability will not suit you a year from now.

Be safe, have fun
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Old 05-25-14, 11:44 PM   #9
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I can only speak for myself- buying- riding a commuter bike is a highly personal choice. Good for you though!

This is mine. Got about 400 miles on it now.Save Up to 60% Off Road Bikes - Motobecane Mirage
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Old 05-25-14, 11:51 PM   #10
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My very first suggestion:

Breezer Bikes - Downtown EX - Bike Overview

Let me ponder a bit & get some more for you to look at.

- Andy
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Old 05-25-14, 11:57 PM   #11
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K here are some more:

Fuji Bikes | LIFESTYLE | PAVEMENT - CITY COMFORT | CROSSTOWN 2.5

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

FX - Trek Bicycle

Thanks for joining and good luck. Please do keep us posted on new developments and the like!

- Andy
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Old 05-25-14, 11:58 PM   #12
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Whatever you buy, sounds like you'll need fenders. Get the kind that wraps around the wheel properly, they do a better job.

You are going to need lights too. You'll notice the issue of battery lights vs. dynohub powered is almost as hotly debated as LBS vs. online shop, or alu vs. steel, or Campy vs. Shimano or... I've had both battery and dynohub lights and have gradually landed firmly in the dynohub camp myself. Enough light for my commuting use, plus simple and hassle free operation. That's for front light, for rear I still use battery operated blinkys. Dynohubs are more expensive upfront, but run the numbers and see if you can fit the higher initial cost in your budget.

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Old 05-26-14, 12:18 AM   #13
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Yea, commuting = fenders, unless you want stuff from the road on you. The more coverage of the tires the better in my opinion.

If you notice, all of my suggestions are fender compatible or have them stock.

Road bikes are fast, but they are for, in my opinion, the sport of bicycle racing and competitions.

Commuter bikes are much more practical & utility focused, with things like fender & rack mounting options, some have dyno hubs or the ability to add them. Many have a single ring and 5-8 gears in back, often internal hubs because road muck doesn't affect them as much as a cassette. Handle bars range from drop to flat to more "euro city". That particular aspect is something you need to figure out on your own because everyone has a different fit and preference.

There are tradeoffs for everything you choose. Some tradeoffs really get in the way if you don't get the right mix of things that suit you. Fir example, i'm 12 years on a coaster brake, now i have rim brakes. I'm still not as confident as i was with the coaster because i'm not 100% familiar with what the bike will do in certain situations.

Hope this helps!

- Andy
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Old 05-26-14, 12:42 AM   #14
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Wow! Thanks for all the great input everyone. I want to post a picture of a bike that I think is just awesome to look at, and probably to ride too judging by the way I hear people talk about this style. Sorry for the big pic! I would want mine to be single speed or maybe 3 speed or 10 speed.
I could build something like this I bet. Does anyone think this is a viable route? If I have just posted a picture of a trendy $2000 bike than excuse the newb. I'm still trying to figure this world out Keep the info coming! I am excited to build/ buy a new commuter. Would $300 be a good deal for a lightly used Raleigh talus sport? I was thinking I could switch out the fork and some of the components over time and end up with something comparable to above. I know... 29ers, love it or hate it but I'm just spitballing.

Last edited by Andrew_Henry; 05-26-14 at 12:46 AM. Reason: clarity
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Old 05-26-14, 01:35 AM   #15
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Wow! Thanks for all the great input everyone. I want to post a picture of a bike that I think is just awesome to look at, and probably to ride too judging by the way I hear people talk about this style. Sorry for the big pic! I would want mine to be single speed or maybe 3 speed or 10 speed.
I could build something like this I bet. Does anyone think this is a viable route? If I have just posted a picture of a trendy $2000 bike than excuse the newb. I'm still trying to figure this world out Keep the info coming! I am excited to build/ buy a new commuter. Would $300 be a good deal for a lightly used Raleigh talus sport? I was thinking I could switch out the fork and some of the components over time and end up with something comparable to above. I know... 29ers, love it or hate it but I'm just spitballing.

It's some offroad competition/recreation bike. Not an ideal commuter by any stretch of the imagination. There isn't even anywhere to mount anything, and the tires would be hard to live with on pavement. Just my 2 cent.

- Andy
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Old 05-26-14, 01:50 AM   #16
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It's some offroad competition/recreation bike. Not an ideal commuter by any stretch of the imagination. There isn't even anywhere to mount anything, and the tires would be hard to live with on pavement. Just my 2 cent.

- Andy
Ah very true. And no fenders! I'm learning. Thanks for the input. I'm starting to think I could be a little more lenient with my budget. Maybe 700 but we'll see. It all depends on what the extra money gets me. I'll keep investigating and get back to the thread. How do I know if a bike has good places to mount things? I can get a new 2011 Kona Kahuna for 799. Is that deal worth pursuing? Or is it too sport oriented to make a pleasant commuter?
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Old 05-26-14, 01:59 AM   #17
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By the way transit biker, I like the FX by trek that you linked, just not sure if it's got the potential for riding in wet/snowy/icy/gravely conditions. Correct me if I am wrong.
I just had a change of heart by the way. I'm over thinking things and jumping ahead of myself. I'm going to try and find a good older steel frame and build it up. Any advice you can offer me on what to look for as far as mounting holes go?

Last edited by Andrew_Henry; 05-26-14 at 02:08 AM.
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Old 05-26-14, 08:46 AM   #18
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I'm going to try and find a good older steel frame and build it up. Any advice you can offer me on what to look for as far as mounting holes go?
That's what I did and I couldn't be happier. I'm currently running 32's with full coverage fenders and have got plenty of room to size up if I needed. The frame pictured is over 30 years old and if you're comfortable working on bikes and can use this forum you should be able to build something like this up within your budget. Before this incarnation of the bike it had flat bars and trigger shifters; if that suits your riding style better it can easily be done. Plenty here will suggest an old mountain frame and I'd agree that would make an awesome commuting platform especially in an urban area. The bike pictured is of the "sport/touring" variety. Basically you'll need fender and rack mounts which are typically threaded holes attached to the dropouts.



I'd be lying if I said there weren't days I wish I had something like this, but that's what the n + 1 fomula is for.

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Old 05-26-14, 09:30 AM   #19
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If you are going to go with an older frame, make sure it will take a 700 tire. The old 27 inches are around and they can be a headache for someone new to build. Honestly, it's cheaper to buy a good used bike and adapt it to your satisfaction.
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Old 05-26-14, 09:48 AM   #20
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My very first suggestion:

Breezer Bikes - Downtown EX - Bike Overview

Let me ponder a bit & get some more for you to look at.



- Andy
Man I really like that one. Steel frame, fenders and rack... good price too.
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Old 05-26-14, 02:46 PM   #21
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+1 on the Fuji Crosstown 2.5. MY LBS had it on sale this week, $349 + tax. With a Topeak rack and Planet Bike fenders it came in at $460. I haven't taken it to work yet( just got it Saturday), but I've been bombing around on it all weekend, and I like it a lot.
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Old 06-10-14, 08:48 AM   #22
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Well I just want to update the thread with my recent developments. I have been commuting by bike for about 2 weeks now and it feels great. I got a grey with pink decals rockhoppeer from the 90's (maybe late 80's) off craigslist. This was the cheapest solution I could come up with. The bike needs a tune up but besides that, it'll be good enough for my purposes until I can score a deal on something else. I like the fuji and trek multi purpose bikes that were discussed in the thread earlier. Thanks for all your help everyone.
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Old 06-10-14, 11:57 AM   #23
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Id say say you have 3 options here:

A cyclocross:
Pros- Speady, strudy frame, but lighter than a MTB
Cons- Expensive, not all take studded tires

A Hybrid:
Pros- Cheapest, often has a lower tier MTB frame, can take studded and smooth tires
Cons- Can't take as much abuse as a mountain bike, not as quick as a cyclocross

MTB (Hartail, FS isn't an option in your price range):
Pros- Can take pretty much anything, takes all types of tires, Large variety on the market
Cons- Heavy
A fourth option is the country bike. This is an all-around bike built up with a tough frame, can accept fenders and wider tires, you can put a rack on it and is as capable on fire roads as on the city street. The Trek Crossrip, Salsa Vaya, Soma Saga, Novara Divano and Schwinn CX Sport typify a bike that looks like a road bike on the surface but in reality is a do it all bike. They will typically come with a sloping top tube for a relaxed frame geometry and an upright position even when riding in the drops, disk brakes for all weather-stopping power and an increased chainstay length for greater stability, both on rough roads and while turning. Grant Petersen of Rivendell is credited with introducing it in the A. Homer Hilsen but every bike manufacturer now seems to have a least one country bike in its lineup. Its both a solid commuter and adventuring bike.
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Old 06-10-14, 05:34 PM   #24
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Well I just want to update the thread with my recent developments. I have been commuting by bike for about 2 weeks now and it feels great. I got a grey with pink decals rockhoppeer from the 90's (maybe late 80's) off craigslist. This was the cheapest solution I could come up with. The bike needs a tune up but besides that, it'll be good enough for my purposes until I can score a deal on something else. I like the fuji and trek multi purpose bikes that were discussed in the thread earlier. Thanks for all your help everyone.
Nice score. That's just the kind of bike that many recommended!
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