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Old 08-05-07, 08:30 AM   #1
kelseycru
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Appropriate Bike for a City College Student?

I go to school in Washington DC, which has a very high crime rate. Bikes there, even on campus, are snatched up within minutes, if they aren't locked up.

I'm just a beginner at biking. I've only ever owned wal-mart mountain bikes (which I've nearly never used off a road). This year, I want to get a bike for riding around the city (for errands, for trips to a metro station, etc), and for exercise. Unfortunately, I don't know which bike to get.

I will be riding only on pavement, but the bike should be able to handle uneven pavement (there are a few cobblestoned roads nearby), sand (from sanding the streets in the winter), and whatever weather I happen to be riding in.

I've narrowed my search down to fitness/commuter bikes. (I'm reluctant to get a mountain bike, since I won't be doing any real mountain biking, and because they won't be the best for longer rides and exercise.) I like the idea of the straight handlebars, mostly because I've never used drop bars before, and because I hear you need to be mostly upright to keep a good eye on traffic. I am considering the Giant FCR3w, the Trek 7.3FX, and the Specialized Sirrus (possibly the women's model). These are at the upper limits of my price range. What do you think? Would these be good bikes for what I have described?

I am nervous about buying a new bike, because of how much theft goes on in the area (or in college campuses in general), and because they could be less expensive. I was considering looking at some used bikes (with Craigslist, probably), but I don't know which types are good, or how to check that they're in good condition. I don't really want to have to put in too much maintenance--that would just discourage me from riding, since classes don't give me much extra time. Should I still go for a used bike? How would I go about that?

I'm basically looking for any tips or advice anyone wants to give me. Thanks so much!
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Old 08-05-07, 09:08 AM   #2
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So, why not a foldable? you can carry them almost anywhere, they usually ride really well and you can find some really nice deals online. Dahon's would be your best bet, probably a Curve 16" or Speed or Vitesse 20"
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Old 08-05-07, 09:20 AM   #3
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I've seen 20+ Trek 7.3X or 7300's in one evening on my local bike path. Either there was a Trekkie convention nearby or they sell like hotcakes. The 7.3X seems to be a decent bike.

Have you test ridden the bikes you mentioned? It seems like you are correct in knowing what you want, and finding a bike you enjoy riding will seal the deal.
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Old 08-05-07, 09:32 AM   #4
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See if a bicycle maintenance course is given locally. Usually you bring your own beat up bike to work on. So if you bought a used beat up bike you could get it into working order.
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Old 08-05-07, 09:42 AM   #5
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Buy a 75.00 dollar beater bike from the 1970's and $200.00 dollars in locks. Leave those heavy locks at the college campus so you don't have to carry them. Oh yeah, don't even think about parking on a bike rack a brand new bike to school.
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Old 08-05-07, 11:20 AM   #6
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KHS Green is super cheap. Comes with a rack, fenders, a rear wheel lock, nexus 3 speed, ugly handlebars, and a heavy steel frame. But for under $300 it's really a pretty good deal. Especially if you suspect it might get stolen.

Other than that go for an old 10 speed from the 70's. Old Schwinn's go for under $100 easy but might need some work. I've seen a lot of Sears Free Spirit 10 speeds sell for really low prices on ebay and craigslist. This is probably because it's not to great of a bike, but most come with fenders and a rack, and if you suspect it might get stolen you don't want a really great bike.
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Old 08-05-07, 11:56 AM   #7
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Oh yeah, don't even think about parking on a bike rack a brand new bike to school.
Why would parking on a bike rack be bad (if I use a lock, shouldn't I be fine)? What should I do instead?
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Old 08-05-07, 02:08 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by kelseycru View Post
I go to school in Washington DC, which has a very high crime rate. Bikes there, even on campus, are snatched up within minutes, if they aren't locked up.

I'm just a beginner at biking. I've only ever owned wal-mart mountain bikes (which I've nearly never used off a road). This year, I want to get a bike for riding around the city (for errands, for trips to a metro station, etc), and for exercise. Unfortunately, I don't know which bike to get.

I will be riding only on pavement, but the bike should be able to handle uneven pavement (there are a few cobblestoned roads nearby), sand (from sanding the streets in the winter), and whatever weather I happen to be riding in.

I've narrowed my search down to fitness/commuter bikes. (I'm reluctant to get a mountain bike, since I won't be doing any real mountain biking, and because they won't be the best for longer rides and exercise.) I like the idea of the straight handlebars, mostly because I've never used drop bars before, and because I hear you need to be mostly upright to keep a good eye on traffic. I am considering the Giant FCR3w, the Trek 7.3FX, and the Specialized Sirrus (possibly the women's model). These are at the upper limits of my price range. What do you think? Would these be good bikes for what I have described?

I am nervous about buying a new bike, because of how much theft goes on in the area (or in college campuses in general), and because they could be less expensive. I was considering looking at some used bikes (with Craigslist, probably), but I don't know which types are good, or how to check that they're in good condition. I don't really want to have to put in too much maintenance--that would just discourage me from riding, since classes don't give me much extra time. Should I still go for a used bike? How would I go about that?

I'm basically looking for any tips or advice anyone wants to give me. Thanks so much!
I live in a very high crime area clogged with gangs. I used to use old used bikes picked up cheaply at yard sales and thrift stores. I even considered buying a department store cheapie since I thought that it would not hurt too much if it was stolen. I no longer even do that because any of those bikes would be taken just as quickly as a fancy new ultra expensive bike. My solution: Folding Bicycles. They come in a very wide range of styles, wheel sizes, and prices to fit almost any budget or need. I have 3 now and since I never leave it alone-even locked-for a second, I never have to worry about theft again. I no longer have a regular nonfolding bike except for my ancient Phillips 3 speed. So look at the Folding Bikes forum here and my own series of Web sites below:
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Old 08-05-07, 04:05 PM   #9
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I would just spend a couple hundred on some crappy old singlespeed from Craigslist.

That way, when you get your road bike, it can live safely in your apartment while your singlespeed takes the abuse.
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Old 08-05-07, 04:50 PM   #10
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Why would parking on a bike rack be bad (if I use a lock, shouldn't I be fine)? What should I do instead?
He meant don't park a brand new bike on the rack.

The bikes you mentioned would probably be fine for the job, but for a solid, bombproof, theft-deterrent commuter, you can do better.

Here's what you do:

1) Buy a used Trek mountain bike (make sure it's rigid, no shocks) in good condition. These can be had very cheaply, and they are practically bomb proof. Get commuter tires that can handle the weather conditions you'll be riding in. Add fenders for wet weather riding. Now you've got a solid commuter that doesn't have a lot of theft appeal. Figure the cost of a tune-up and bearing re-pack into your overall cost.

2) To make it more functional, add a rack and get some panniers to carry your books and things. Ortlieb makes some waterproof panniers that have backpack attachments so they can double as a pack. Riding with panniers, instead of a pack on your back, will be far more comfortable in your climate. You will also need a rear light, and front lights if you ride after dark. Here's more on lights: MechBgon's Info page on Cycling Visibility

The best thing you can do for conspicuity-- making sure that drivers see you-- is to use a combination of reflectors, lights, and hi-viz clothing-- that fluorescent yellow or fluorescent orange stuff you might have seen some cyclists wearing. Here's an example.

2) Your goal is to make your bike less worth it to steal to steal than other bikes around you. This means not having an expensive new bike, and it means having better security than other bikes around you. Buy the best locks you can. This will mean a u-lock. The best u-lock is the Kryptonite New York Fahgettaboudit. It's $90, but worth it if it saves you from having your bike stolen. You should also consider supplemental security. The best would be a Kryptonite New York Fahgettaboudit chain. This will give a thief two different types of lock to defeat, and will be a STRONG incentive for a thief to move on to another, easier bike to steal. Other supplemental options would be pitlock skewers on your wheels, or a cable lock. The cable lock can easily be cut, so it's not much in the way of supplemental security. Your bike is more secure with pitlock skewers and a u-lock, and most secure with the Kryptonite Fahgettaboudit chain and u-lock.

3) Learn how to secure your bike properly. Always lock it in a well-lit, well-traveled public place. Always lock to a secure rack. The rack should be sturdy, and set in concrete. Never lock to a rack that can be disassembled with common tools, such as a wrench. Never lock to a sign pole-- thieves have disassembled the signs at the top and slid the bike over the top. Sometimes, they disassemble the pole at the bottom, and lift the pole to steal the bike. These are called "sucker poles." Never lock to wooden railing or a tree, or chain link fencing-- these can be cut. Never leave your bike out overnight-- always bring it in.

Learn how to use your lock properly. The top three factors in bike theft are: 1) the bike was left unlocked for "just a minute"; 2) the bike was locked with a cable lock; 3) the bike was locked improperly. Here's how you use a u-lock:

Sheldon Brown's Lock Strategy

MechBgon's Bicycle Locking Ideas

Good luck!

Last edited by Blue Order; 08-05-07 at 07:31 PM.
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Old 08-05-07, 07:33 PM   #11
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a folder or a craigslist special plus all the advice in the above post followed would probably be your best bet

what school?
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Old 08-06-07, 09:57 AM   #12
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a folder or a craigslist special plus all the advice in the above post followed would probably be your best bet

what school?
My main problem with a craigslist bike is that I don't know which bikes are worth getting and which aren't. I'm brand new at this, so I have a feeling I'm going to be sold a crappy bike for too much money, and I'm going to end up either buying another or investing a lot in repairs. Is that a valid fear?

I'm going to Georgetown. That's one of my incentives to get a bike--there's no metro stop in my neighborhood.
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Old 08-06-07, 02:38 PM   #13
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IF there's a bike shoip in your area that sells used bikes, those will be ready to ride. Otherwise, if you look at a bike on craigslist, get one that works. That means the brakes work without any weird feeling when you squeeze the levers, aand the gears shift easily and precisely. Look for a brand name well known for quality. Also, look for a bike that looks like it hasn't been used much-- there are enough of them out there that it shouldn't be too hard to find. Also, use this board to ask questions. If you find a craigslist bike, ask people here about their opinions. They will quickly tell you if it's priced right, and if it looks to be in good condition.
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Old 08-06-07, 04:53 PM   #14
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Here are some examples of bikes that are *probably* in good condition on the DC craigslist (keep in mind I have no idea what size frame you need-- here's how you determine frame fit):

Trek 820

Trek

Schwinn hybrid

Trek WSD

Trek 8500

Trek

Trek 7300
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Old 08-06-07, 06:47 PM   #15
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Thanks so much. This is all very helpful, and that's a wonderful suggestion/offer--to ask here for help picking out a craigslist bike.

Thanks, Blue_Order, for that list. I'd looked at a couple of those, wondering if they were possibilities, so now I know a little more about what to look for.
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Old 08-06-07, 07:24 PM   #16
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here are a few others I found:

http://washingtondc.craigslist.org/d...390985666.html
http://washingtondc.craigslist.org/d...385066584.html
http://washingtondc.craigslist.org/m...390400701.html - this one looks REALLY good, you should check it out for sure

if you're going to school in the city proper you should DEFINITELY have the best possible locks. I recommend a Kryptonite Fuhgeddaboutit NY Lock or an Onguard Pitbull.
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