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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 07-28-14, 02:38 PM   #1
Gatordw
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First time commuter bike??

I've been thinking about it for a while, and have finally decided to give bike commuting a shot! Less so for any kinda of cost savings (subsidized bus card is probably same price) but mainly to get active especially when I don't have time for a real workout.

My commute:
Around 3.5 miles each way to downtown
I live in Seattle, so I need to be prepared for rain daily
I live at the top of a fairly steep hill

The latter of the above is what has always concerned me, and because of the risk that I just won't be able to hack it I've pretty much decided that I either need an inexpensive used bike, or to buy from rei with their awesome return policy.

Here's where you guys come in, I'm obviously a novice and would appreciate any guidance you could offer. I'm thinking I need disc breaks for going down the hill in rain...is that a fair assessment? I want to keep price sub-750, and had narrowed rei's list to what I thought we're my top targets given the need for disc breaks.

I'm going this weekend to try them out, is there specific advice you guys have that I should watch out for, or positive/negative experience with any of these? Anything else I need to consider but might not be?

Thanks for your help!

Novara Big Buzz Bike - 2014 at REI.com
Cannondale Bad Boy 9 Bike - 2014 at REI.com
Cannondale Bad Boy Commuter Bike - 2014 at REI.com
Cannondale Quick CX4 Bike - 2014 at REI.com
Raleigh Misceo 3.0 Bike - 2014 at REI.com

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Old 07-28-14, 06:42 PM   #2
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Where the disc brakes really shine is in the rain. They stop just the same, wet or dry.

Those bikes are all so similar. The differences fall mainly in the domain of bike geeks. Ordinary humans in the real world couldn't tell the difference, so don't sweat the details. Just pick the one you like best. They'll all work just fine, not a one would be a mistake.

It's tough for me to tell from the pictures, so one thing to look for in real life is how well fenders would fit. You'll need eyelets for mounting them, and clearance under the fork and in the rear triangle for the fender over the tire.

Along with your bike and fenders, get a decent lock (not some cheesy cable thing) and decent lights (again, avoid cheesy--"super bright" is meaningless, go by how many lumens) and a floor pump for at home.

Even puncture-resistant tires can get a flat. To save yourself pushing the bike uphill, you'll eventually also need spare tubes, a patch kit, tire levers, and something to carry it all in, like a seat bag. Along with an air supply. The cool kids use CO2, we cheapskates use an onboard pump (like a Topeak Road Morph or Mountain Morph).

Don't forget some raingear for yourself too.

And have fun on your commute!

Last edited by tsl; 07-28-14 at 06:45 PM.
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Old 07-28-14, 08:29 PM   #3
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I'd go for the Bad Boy Commuter Bike.

The price is right and its exactly what you're looking for. REI could install a dynamo hub, headlamp and rear rack and you'd have a complete commuter bike for those daily rides where you live.
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Old 07-28-14, 11:13 PM   #4
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Cannondale Bad Boy Commuter Bike - 2014 at REI.com

That is my pick. it all ready has fenders & that means you can get other fenders that provide more coverage. It seems to have rack mounting points, as well as rim brake mounts should you ever chose to go that route.

Keep us posted!

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Old 07-28-14, 11:30 PM   #5
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Wow! You really did your homework. What tsl said! I agree that the disk brakes will be a good choice in Seattle on a hill. Most hybrids are geared like mountain bikes rather than road bikes, so you shouldn't have too much trouble on hills. If you want to compare bikes to see which one has the lowest gear, http://gear-calculator.com/# is a good gear calculator. You are looking for the bike that has the largest gear inches. Test rides should help you find the ones that fit best.
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Old 07-29-14, 12:11 AM   #6
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Thanks guys!

Any other tips/tricks to get up the hills? Should I worry much about tire width, the ones listed range from 28mm to 35mm...I'm not anticipating much off road, just pavement riding.

Based on what I've read I'm leaning toward either one of the Cannondale's (9 or the Commuter, probably not CX4 since it's all pavement and I'd probably rather save the weight) or the Novara. They're all around the same price, and willprobably just make the decision in the store based on what feels best.
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Old 07-29-14, 12:22 AM   #7
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Thanks guys!

Any other tips/tricks to get up the hills? Should I worry much about tire width, the ones listed range from 28mm to 35mm...I'm not anticipating much off road, just pavement riding.

Based on what I've read I'm leaning toward either one of the Cannondale's (9 or the Commuter, probably not CX4 since it's all pavement and I'd probably rather save the weight) or the Novara. They're all around the same price, and willprobably just make the decision in the store based on what feels best.
Ok. I recommend 35 C tires. I think they're the perfect all around commuting tire. Not too thick to slow you down and not too thin to make you feel like the road is eating you up alive. Go ride the bikes and find one that seems the best for you and your needs. Good luck!
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Old 07-29-14, 12:25 AM   #8
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Hills improve with riding. And, everyone gets off and walks them from time to time!

The tires.. in general, the wider the tire, the more comfortable. I miss my bike with 26x2.5 tires on bumpy roads! My bike with tires roughly 28mm is rough on cracked pavement. The 32s are very nice on most roads. And my fiancÚ likes his 35s for street riding.
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Old 07-29-14, 01:38 AM   #9
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First bike, go to recycled cycles and grab something used until you get a feel for what you really like.

Disc brakes are nice for Seattle, but not necessary unless you do plan to ride through the winter/rainy months. The Seattle hills aren't big enough where having disc brakes would be an advantage... they are steep in spots, but not long enough where you really get momentum. What part of town are you in?

I used a Kona Dew Deluxe while I was a UW student, it was a perfect commuter bike for Seattle and I picked it up off craigslist for $200 (meanwhile the brand new $800 bike that I bought two months earlier sat in the hallway and never saw use...). I eventually outgrew my Kona when I started to do more century rides (100miles) but by that point I was living int he midwest and needed drop bars to tuck out of the crazy Chicago wind.
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Old 07-29-14, 01:50 AM   #10
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I'd go for the Bad Boy Commuter Bike.

The price is right and its exactly what you're looking for. REI could install a dynamo hub, headlamp and rear rack and you'd have a complete commuter bike for those daily rides where you live.
and an empty wallet... REI is the last place I would outfit a bike. Good deals on their house brand, but the markup is insane on everything else; especially special order and a dynamo hub would be special order. A standard bike shop will charge about $40 to build a wheel, add $60-100 based on rim quality, and another $100 for a decent hub... so around $250; you'll pay double to get those parts through and REI and have them build a wheel. You could also just get a prebuilt wheel from QBP.

Either way, a dynamo setup is probably a bit above and beyond for a first commuter bike. A 350lumen USB rechargeable headlamp will be sufficient for a few hours a day.

rack and panniers are good to have, even via REI, but wait for a sale. (*edit* and use a book bag until you are sure that you will stick with it).

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Old 07-29-14, 02:04 AM   #11
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Any other tips/tricks to get up the hills? The way to get up hills is to ride up hills. One day, you will get to the top!! Should I worry much about tire width, the ones listed range from 28mm to 35mm...I'm not anticipating much off road, just pavement riding. Anything in that range will work fine.
You won't go wrong with a Bad Boy. It's all this and that, pick and nit. The bike, at any level, is spec'd as well as any of others and better than a lot!!!
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Old 07-29-14, 02:06 AM   #12
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Either way, a dynamo setup is probably a bit above and beyond for a first commuter bike. A 350lumen USB rechargeable headlamp will be sufficient for a few hours a day.
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Old 07-29-14, 08:48 AM   #13
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First bike, go to recycled cycles and grab something used until you get a feel for what you really like.

Disc brakes are nice for Seattle, but not necessary unless you do plan to ride through the winter/rainy months. The Seattle hills aren't big enough where having disc brakes would be an advantage... they are steep in spots, but not long enough where you really get momentum. What part of town are you in?

I used a Kona Dew Deluxe while I was a UW student, it was a perfect commuter bike for Seattle and I picked it up off craigslist for $200 (meanwhile the brand new $800 bike that I bought two months earlier sat in the hallway and never saw use...). I eventually outgrew my Kona when I started to do more century rides (100miles) but by that point I was living int he midwest and needed drop bars to tuck out of the crazy Chicago wind.
I'm in Upper Queen Anne, commuting to pioneer square. In my head I'll be commuting year round, but we'll see how well my resolve works out. That's the main reason I'm leaking towards buying from rei rather than a local store so I could return it if I decide in a couple months that I just can't hack it.
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Old 07-29-14, 01:52 PM   #14
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I'm in Upper Queen Anne, commuting to pioneer square. In my head I'll be commuting year round, but we'll see how well my resolve works out. That's the main reason I'm leaking towards buying from rei rather than a local store so I could return it if I decide in a couple months that I just can't hack it.
I'm slightly biased against REI because I had an issue at their Southcenter location and a bike wasn't put together very well... you'd think that being at the flagship store, or one of the closest satellites, the quality would be top notch but that wasn't really my experience. Then again, it's not an issue of quality but rather consistency as you don't know how knowledgeable/experienced the mechanic is. I would trust a mechanic at a different local shop above any at REI as a general rule (but, there are exceptions).

The one year return policy is definitely a plus (although I'm still bitter that they reduced it to one year, granted I understand why). It seems like a sensible approach. That said, The C'dales are nice bikes and at least you get the dividend. I'd likely get a Novara unless I grabbed something else during a sale. Either way, everything on your list is good and it comes down to what you want to pay for it. Did you check to see if the flagship store carries c'dale? They don't have them at all locations.

I suppose Queen Anne is a big enough of a hill to justify the discs, but standard rim brakes would be OK too, especially with a pad upgrade to Kool-stop salmon pads.

I wouldn't bother with the Raleigh, mechanical disc brakes are good. Hydraulic disc brakes are more trouble than they are worth (especially the lower level variety). I wouldn't even touch hydraulic disc brakes below XT level after the experience I've had on two bikes with intro level hydraulics.

The Novara has better components and you get more for the money... but, you have to test ride. I personally can't stand the Sram style of shifter (thumb-thumb) and would take the cheaper shimano trigger and thumb style. Not to mention, hydraulic discs (ewwwwww!). But it definitely has the best components out of the bikes you listed. I guess on second thought, the Raleigh is the second best bike, but you are still stuck with hydraulic discs (really wish they didn't do that). The Novara would probably be my preference.

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Old 07-29-14, 02:22 PM   #15
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Any other tips/tricks to get up the hills? Should I worry much about tire width, the ones listed range from 28mm to 35mm...I'm not anticipating much off road, just pavement riding.
No, don't worry much about tire width, but the most prevalent opinion is that mm widths in the 30's is kind of a minimum for comfort on lower-quality urban roads. What is more important than width is tread profile. You don't want mtb knobbies in the center of the tire where you do all your straight riding. Definite energy-suck.

Tips for hills: it will be hard at first, it will get easier (you will get stronger). You may have to walk sometimes. Traversing (zig-zagging) lets you go more sideways than up, but you have to be very careful about being in the way of cars, usually not a good option unless in the middle of nowhere.

I think my best tip is, be patient, ride slower. There are some hills that totally kill me when I ride myself, but when I take one of my boys out for a ride (I challenge them by making each local hill its own achievement: "OK, now you're ready to conquer Fanita!"), I go up the hill at like 3-4mph at their side, instead of 5-6mph, and it is super easy.

Shift early and often. If you're already mashing the pedals and shifting out of desperation, you waited too long, the shift will be difficult, and will contribute to wear on your chain, and may eventually break it (possibly in an exciting fashion). Use your granny gear if necessary of course, and if that is even maxing you out, try to keep constant pressure and smooth, continuous rotation of the pedals. It feels harder because the muscles are under constant tension, but it is actually more efficient than jerky stomp-left/stomp-right pedaling, which throws away momentum and has to re-add it each pedal stroke.
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Old 07-29-14, 04:40 PM   #16
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as well as rim brake mounts should you ever chose to go that route.
No,the fender mounting hole on the seatstay bridge doesn't go all the way through. And the rims are disc only,so you'd have to get new wheels as well.

My biggest issue with the BB Commuter is they decided to put form over function and mount fenders that only clear 28mm slicks. If you want to run anything wider(and I def would on a bike with a straight blade alloy fork),you need to replace the fenders.
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Old 07-29-14, 07:37 PM   #17
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No,the fender mounting hole on the seatstay bridge doesn't go all the way through. And the rims are disc only,so you'd have to get new wheels as well.
If you look closely, there are holes on the seatstay tubes where you would mount rim brakes if your wheel was for use with them. It does not look like the fork has them, however manufacturers can put a disc only fork on a frame that elsewhere in their product line or at one time had rim brakes. For example, my breezer's frame has the mount points for the wheel lock they used to use but no longer include. I could get a wheel lock & in theory and mount it there no problem. There are also mount points on other bikes i've test ridden recently that clearly indicate a range based on one frame, with different component sets aimed at different market segments and their correlating price points.

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My biggest issue with the BB Commuter is they decided to put form over function and mount fenders that only clear 28mm slicks. If you want to run anything wider(and I def would on a bike with a straight blade alloy fork),you need to replace the fenders.
Totally agree. Commuter models should always at the very least allow clearance for decent fenders if not come stock with them, and not just tiny little narrow metal/plastic strips that in reality do not cover nearly enough, especially on the back of the front wheel and the top and front of the back wheel.

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Old 07-30-14, 04:52 PM   #18
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If you look closely, there are holes on the seatstay tubes where you would mount rim brakes if your wheel was for use with them.
Wait,are you talking about mounting a caliper brake or canti/V's? Cuz you can't do either:


Pulled this off the web. There's no way you're going to mount canti or V brakes. Doing so would require modifying the frame like this:


You're also not going to mount a caliper brake. The hole doesn't go all the way through,to begin with,and drilling that out wouldn't be a good idea(it's aluminum,and there's not much metal there). The only way you'd mount a caliper on the front is if you used an older style,non-recessed mount brake.
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Old 07-30-14, 09:22 PM   #19
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Wait,are you talking about mounting a caliper brake or canti/V's? Cuz you can't do either:


Pulled this off the web. There's no way you're going to mount canti or V brakes. Doing so would require modifying the frame like this:


You're also not going to mount a caliper brake. The hole doesn't go all the way through,to begin with,and drilling that out wouldn't be a good idea(it's aluminum,and there's not much metal there). The only way you'd mount a caliper on the front is if you used an older style,non-recessed mount brake.
My sincere apologies. I was looking at another bike from another thread and must have clicked the wrong tab.

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