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  1. #1
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    Picking a bike -- 2 mile hilly commute.

    Short version: Considering a $200 bike from Craigslist or Target vs. a $500 bike from LBS.

    Long version: I'm a graduate student in North Carolina with a 2-mile (each way) commute that is almost all sidewalk and has two big hills. Also, I'd like to have a bike that gives me the option of casual rides around local parks and paved -- or mostly paved -- trails. I'm considering bikes at a couple price points and mainly want to know what it is I'll regret if I go for one of the cheaper options. There's a Trek bike shop a block away from where I live, and they think for what I'm doing the Trek fx 7.2 is what I need, and their price is about $500 -- also, they will do all maintenance and tuning for one year for no additional cost.

    After shopping, here are the other options I'm considering:



    After looking at these forums, it seems like the main disadvantage of not buying from an LBS is that I'll be on my own for tuning it initially. Also, the Target bike is likely to be lower quality. I'm on a student budget, but a yearly parking pass on campus for my car is $500, so a bike will be saving me that much anyway (In fact, it will save me multiples of that amount over the next few years if commuting on a bike works out for me).

    My questions for you:
    1. Will the initial work and parts required for one of the $200-ish bikes make me end up at the $500 price point, anyway?
    2. Is the experience of riding the $500 bike and having the 1 year of maintenance from the bike shop enough to move to the $500 bike?
    3. At each price point, which of the bikes I'm looking at is the one to choose? (Particularly, if I spend the extra money, are there any advantages to the Allant over the 7.2?)
    4. Is there anything else you think I should think about?

  2. #2
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    Ask your faculty advisor..

  3. #3
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    His advice went something like "Why are you thinking about this so much? Just get something from a garage sale."

  4. #4
    ♋ ☮♂ ☭ ☯ -=(8)=-'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Versking View Post
    Short version: Considering a $200 bike from Craigslist or Target vs. a $500 bike from LBS.

    I have a formula that has worked for me for years. The only hard part about it is, the time involved in finding the right bike.
    My go-to tools for commuting are 70's-80's era japanese steel. I have found fabulous specimens for 125.00 or so. Craigslist, yard sales etc . . . They are there. After that, a commuter bike needs good, flat-resistant tires, lights and a mirror. All that costs me 300.00 dollars when its all said and done. If you have the patience to find the right starting platform, you can make a bombproof commuter for 300 or so dollars. ~ Happy hunting !

  5. #5
    Junior Member Hub Spanner's Avatar
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    I recommend a $200-ish Craigslist bike, steel preferred, with eyelets, etc.

    You gotta prove to yourself that you will stick with commuting...there are a lot of brand-new $500+ LBS bikes gathering dust.

    After a while, once you've determined that you enjoy commuting and cycling in general, you'll know more about what's important to you and you may choose to upgrade. You may well be able to re-sell your CL bike for about the same price you paid.

    Do you have any grad school buddies who have bikes that you could borrow for test rides? That way you might get a handle on the type of bike that you'll enjoy.

    -Hub
    t: HubSpanner

  6. #6
    Senior Member gregjones's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hub Spanner View Post
    I recommend a $200-ish Craigslist bike, steel preferred, with eyelets, etc.

    You gotta prove to yourself that you will stick with commuting...there are a lot of brand-new $500+ LBS bikes gathering dust.
    That's where a lot of $200 CL bikes come from. Dusty $500 bikes with less than 100 miles on them that the owner is tired of moving around to get to anything in the garage.

  7. #7
    Senior Member MRT2's Avatar
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    The 7.2 is a solid choice, but once you add rack and fenders, you wind up paying about what the Allant costs, maybe more.

    The used 730 multitrack is very old, maybe 15 to 18 years old, so I wouldn't pay more than $100 or $125. It appears to be substantially modified. That may or may not be a good thing. Also, it looks fairly big. Make sure it fits before buying.

  8. #8
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    Craigslist bikes can be great but a lot of the guys who are fond of them also have a decent selection of tools and a grab box of old parts that might or might not work as a replacement if something needs to be changed. That can really help keep the price of Craigslist bikes down. If you end up having to rely on your LBS to do a lot of work on the Craigslist bike your savings can evaporate pretty quickly. Buying used is also difficult for a newcomer as defects and damage may not be readily apparent to you like they are to somebody who glances at a bike and immediately notices a bent fork.

    I don't really see any advantage with the Allant over the Fx 7.2. I think your LBS gives good advice here and the Fx series is plenty popular on this forum. The Allant is a bit more stylish. If that's your cup of tea go for it.

    If you do go used put some effort into finding a bike that fits you right. No price is right on a bike that doesn't fit.

  9. #9
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    I have an awesome 80s Japanese steel road bike. Paid $300 on Craigslist replaced cables and tires with ones I had laying around and it's great. I'd imagine same bike on your local craigslist would run $150. Figure $100 at most for tune up and maybe new tires and tubes if you find an old bike in good shape. Maybe $50 if it doesn't need tires. If you have bike coop in your area you can do the work yourself and learn. That is your cheap option. Target, department store or big box sporting good store bikes suck. $500 for the trek is good if your comfortable spending that much. The trek will do everything you want. Confirm the free after sales service includes a one year tune up. That's what will cost money
    http://www.pedalroom.com/members/rms13

  10. #10
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    There are three reasons you should buy the Allant rather than the FX 7.2 if you decide to buy new:

    1) You think it's a beautiful bike;
    2) If you're serious about year-round commuting, you'll need fenders, a rack, and (possibly) a kick stand -- buying them for the 7.2 will make it almost as expensive as the Allant, which comes with them standard;
    3) You think it's a beautiful bike.

    Now get back to thinking about your thesis topic.

  11. #11
    Senior Member MRT2's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mcmoose View Post
    There are three reasons you should buy the Allant rather than the FX 7.2 if you decide to buy new:

    1) You think it's a beautiful bike;
    2) If you're serious about year-round commuting, you'll need fenders, a rack, and (possibly) a kick stand -- buying them for the 7.2 will make it almost as expensive as the Allant, which comes with them standard;
    3) You think it's a beautiful bike.

    Now get back to thinking about your thesis topic.
    The Allant also has a chain guard.

  12. #12
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    I'd go for the Trek Allant. Its a high quality city bike made to last. If you must have only ONE bike in your budget, that's it.

    The reason you want to spend more is that a bike shop bike is light in weight, better built with high quality parts and comes in the correct size.

    None of that is true of big box store bikes. What you save in money is poor economy. You're buying a bike that's heavier than it needs to be, that has substandard parts and comes in only one size. Bike shop mechanics won't even work on them. They're not worth the parts or the labor.

    Buy a bike shop bike and it will last you a lifetime. You'll be getting real value for your money.

  13. #13
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    I should add the best thing about the Trek Allant is it has a mega range cassette. That means it can tackle the hills where you live.

    Big box store bikes don't usually have wide range gearing and they're meant for strictly casual riding on pavement. The true city bike on the other hand is a versatile all rounder bicycle.

  14. #14
    Keepin it Wheel RubeRad's Avatar
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    Personally I would go for that 730 you linked. But if you have leather elbow patches on your tweed jacket, then probably the Allant is more your style.

    And no, if you buy a bike from CL, if you test-ride it and it fits you comfortably, and shifts through the gears, and stops with the brakes, then you may be able to just keep it as-is, or, if you get a bike shop tune-up that should be maybe in the $50-100 range, depending on your local market and how intensive of a tune-up the bike guy sells to you.

  15. #15
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    anorher advantage of going LBS route is proper fit and sizing of your bike, even though you are just riding a few miles a day, and it may not matter that much for now for your verry short commute, , but it should give you an idea for your next bike purchase in terms of better sizing next time if you decide to continue commuting longer distances in years to come.

    also, not knowing how tall you are, that 20" trek 730 seem a bit big a frame for a good bit taller person

  16. #16
    Senior Member FlatSix911's Avatar
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    Take a look online for some nice bikes ... no tax and free shipping
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    2014 Windsor Kensington $499
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    Save Up to 60% Off Town Bikes | Windsor Kensington 8

    You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich.
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  17. #17
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    I would go with a used bike. The maintenance the bike shop will provide is minimal and it will be tasks you need to be familiar with in any case.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Versking View Post
    4. Is there anything else you think I should think about?
    Take your time and test the bike thoroughly before you buy it.

    Get a good lock. Get a good tire pump and patch kit. Get rain gear so you stay dry on rainy days. Get some good gear oil.

    Learn to fix a flat. Learn to keep the chain lubed.

    Keep coming back with your questions and comments. Provide a picture of the bike you buy.
    "He who serves all, best serves himself" Jack London

    Quote Originally Posted by Bjforrestal View Post
    I don't care if you are on a unicycle, as long as you're not using a motor to get places you get props from me. We're here to support each other. Share ideas, and motivate one another to actually keep doing it.

  19. #19
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    Thanks for all the advice so far. After reading what you've written, I've taken a closer look at the Allant, and I'm not sure I need the fenders and rack initially. The research I do is computational, so I pretty much never have to take anything physical to or from my lab, and in inclement weather, I can remote in and work from my apartment, so I'll likely not be riding in anything but great conditions, and if I do end up needing those features, I can add them to the 7.2. Also, I'm not so sure about the handlebars on the Allant. What's the difference in experience between the flat, straight bars on the other bikes and the swept-back ones on the Allant?

    Based on your advice, I've eliminated the Target bike and the Mongoose Alta. At the moment, I'm leaning toward the fx 7.2 for the reasons given above.

    Since many of you have asked about my height, I'm 5'11, and the bike store suggested I try out things in the 19''-21'' range.

  20. #20
    Senior Member bikemig's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Versking View Post
    Thanks for all the advice so far. After reading what you've written, I've taken a closer look at the Allant, and I'm not sure I need the fenders and rack initially. The research I do is computational, so I pretty much never have to take anything physical to or from my lab, and in inclement weather, I can remote in and work from my apartment, so I'll likely not be riding in anything but great conditions, and if I do end up needing those features, I can add them to the 7.2. Also, I'm not so sure about the handlebars on the Allant. What's the difference in experience between the flat, straight bars on the other bikes and the swept-back ones on the Allant?

    Based on your advice, I've eliminated the Target bike and the Mongoose Alta. At the moment, I'm leaning toward the fx 7.2 for the reasons given above.

    Since many of you have asked about my height, I'm 5'11, and the bike store suggested I try out things in the 19''-21'' range.

    It was probably a good idea not to ask your faculty advisor about which bike to buy . . .

  21. #21
    Senior Member MRT2's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Versking View Post
    Thanks for all the advice so far. After reading what you've written, I've taken a closer look at the Allant, and I'm not sure I need the fenders and rack initially. The research I do is computational, so I pretty much never have to take anything physical to or from my lab, and in inclement weather, I can remote in and work from my apartment, so I'll likely not be riding in anything but great conditions, and if I do end up needing those features, I can add them to the 7.2. Also, I'm not so sure about the handlebars on the Allant. What's the difference in experience between the flat, straight bars on the other bikes and the swept-back ones on the Allant?

    Based on your advice, I've eliminated the Target bike and the Mongoose Alta. At the moment, I'm leaning toward the fx 7.2 for the reasons given above.

    Since many of you have asked about my height, I'm 5'11, and the bike store suggested I try out things in the 19''-21'' range.
    Rack is useful for commuting, or even just riding around. I put basic racks on most of my bikes. Think about all of the little stuff you might need to take with you like a jacket, change of clothes, some food, laptop, phone, keys,, tire levers, spare tube, pump or CO2, mini tool, and tire levers. It is much more handy to mount a basic trunk bag to a rack than to carry all that stuff around in a backpack. Your choice, though.

    advantage of swept back bars is they put your wrist in a neutral position compared to flat bars. You really need to test ride both to know what feels best for you.
    Last edited by MRT2; 06-22-14 at 11:10 AM.

  22. #22
    Senior Member puckett129's Avatar
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    If the 730 fits I'd go with that. You may want to swap out tires for some more street friendly types, but otherwise I think It'd be perfect. 1000 times better than that same money spent new at X-mart. The 7.2 is a nice bike too.

  23. #23
    Prefers Cicero cooker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Versking View Post
    After looking at these forums, it seems like the main disadvantage of not buying from an LBS is that I'll be on my own for tuning it initially. Also, the Target bike is likely to be lower quality. I'm on a student budget, but a yearly parking pass on campus for my car is $500, so a bike will be saving me that much anyway (In fact, it will save me multiples of that amount over the next few years if commuting on a bike works out for me).
    I've bought several used bikes and it usually cost me about $100 to get them in good shape. But even if it cost $300, to fix up a $200 bike, if you end up with a much better bike than the $500 one, it is worth it.

    if it's really hilly, I would try to go for the lightest bike and/or one with the lowest gears.

  24. #24
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    2 miles and hilly? I'd find an old 90's mountain bike without suspension, like a Trek 820 or a Rockhopper. Even in the crazy bike market here in Austin, you can still pick one up for $100, so probably $50 in NC. Then you can afford a lock, helmet, patch kit, pump, rack, panniers and still have a few shekels in the pocket for a beer or two. If you really like it, then get a pair of slicks.

    Heck, 2 miles I'd walk it.

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