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Old 07-02-14, 11:55 PM   #1
Jas556
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looking to commute by bike, pricing out my options, and asking questions

Hey,
I'm looking at selling my car and am strongly considering bicycling full time. I'm sure many of these have been answered, but the answers might change often enough it might warrant a fresh asking. To give some background, my commute to work would be a touch over 7 miles by bicycle (each way) versus a touch over 5 by car/highway. There are some hills, but I'm in East-Central Texas, not Colorado.

I don't know much about bicycles, but I see myself on some sort of quick do-it-all bike outfitted with fenders and a rear rack/basket, trekking or drop bars, compact crank (I assume that means it's more efficient?,) and probably 10 speeds. 21+ speeds would be nice, but if I'm honest, I'd probably only end up using one set of the gears because of all the confusing overlap, so if I can simply and reduce risks, why not? I've looked at the "Civilian Bicycle Co. Vive Le Roi," but I don't think it comes with fender and rack mounts, Konas, Salsa Vaya 3, some of REI's options, and the Trek 520 but it's been reported to not be quick and responsive.

1.) This is probably going to be the most hotly contested, so why not ask it first?
How much do I need to spend to get a bike that will last, and be good? Sort of like, "How much do I have to spend, where the point of investment and tangible results cross?" Certainly there'd be a point where the results are less and less tangible the more you spend, and I need to try and figure out where the point is, considering that I don't make much more than minimum wage. All the options I listed aren't exactly comfortable for me, especially considering I'd have to spend money on a helmet and other stuff. I thought it'd be <750 to put myself on a good bike, but it's hard to find options around there, especially for a decent no-frills bike that doesn't try and pack a bunch of features and an alloy frame, but compromise on components and build quality. Of course the dollar is poor and I last priced bikes several years ago, which jades things.

2.) What's the difference between men's and women's bikes? I'm gender nonconforming, and it would mean a lot to me if I ended up on a woman's bike, but since I wasn't born female, how much does that reduce the bike fit for me?

3.) If I were to order a bicycle online, what is involved with assembly? How off would the fit be vs. going in store and assuming whatever the shop worker says is correct?

4.) Is it worth it to modify the bike much, where that money could have just been spent on a "higher end" bike? Like, if I were to buy a $1000 bike, change the handlebars, saddle, and wheels (for ones that would be less likely to damage in case I hit a bump,) would I just have been better going straight for the $1300 bike?

5.) Roughly how long would I need to condition myself for the 7/14 mile daily commute? I'm not heavy (127 pounds nude in the morning,) but I'm not perfectly fit either, even though if I try and exercise a few times each week by walking.

6.) Why are there so many variants for the same bike? It seems like some manufacturers try and stick 20 variants on the same frame and fork and charge a 200% price difference between the lowest and highest specs. Why not just go for a different bike instead of going with the lower spec frame and fork combo?

7.) Do I need specific shoes and pedals because of my commute length?

These are self measured using the competitive cyclist size guide, so they probably aren't the most accurate.
inseam - 32
trunk - 25
forearm - 12.5
arm - 25
thigh - 21.5
lower leg - 21
sternal notch - 57
total height - 66

What size frame would that put me on, 54cm? 56 for a "French Fit?," which seems to focus on long distance comfort, something I would like?
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Old 07-03-14, 01:07 AM   #2
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My advice would be to find a used bike, ANY bike, and ride it for awhile. Make a list of the things that you love and hate about it. That list will come in handy when you're shopping for your "real" bike.
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Old 07-03-14, 02:49 AM   #3
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1.) How much do I need to spend to get a bike that will last, and be good?
It depends. You can get decent quality used bicycles ... and how long they last is largely up to you.


2.) What's the difference between men's and women's bikes? I'm gender nonconforming, and it would mean a lot to me if I ended up on a woman's bike, but since I wasn't born female, how much does that reduce the bike fit for me?
Bicycles don't have genders.


3.) If I were to order a bicycle online, what is involved with assembly? How off would the fit be vs. going in store and assuming whatever the shop worker says is correct?
Do you currently have a bicycle, which you have ridden, which you can measure?


4.) Is it worth it to modify the bike much, where that money could have just been spent on a "higher end" bike? Like, if I were to buy a $1000 bike, change the handlebars, saddle, and wheels (for ones that would be less likely to damage in case I hit a bump,) would I just have been better going straight for the $1300 bike?
It depends.


5.) Roughly how long would I need to condition myself for the 7/14 mile daily commute? I'm not heavy (127 pounds nude in the morning,) but I'm not perfectly fit either, even though if I try and exercise a few times each week by walking.
I was in similar shape when I started cycling seriously ... it was about a month before I felt comfortable riding 7 miles.


6.) Why are there so many variants for the same bike? It seems like some manufacturers try and stick 20 variants on the same frame and fork and charge a 200% price difference between the lowest and highest specs. Why not just go for a different bike instead of going with the lower spec frame and fork combo?
Different bicycles for different purposes in different sizes with different components. And a bicycle is really just the frame ... everything else is added on. That's where your price variation will come, depending on the quality of the components.


7.) Do I need specific shoes and pedals because of my commute length?
Probably not to start with.


These are self measured using the competitive cyclist size guide, so they probably aren't the most accurate.
inseam - 32
trunk - 25
forearm - 12.5
arm - 25
thigh - 21.5
lower leg - 21
sternal notch - 57
total height - 66

What size frame would that put me on, 54cm? 56 for a "French Fit?," which seems to focus on long distance comfort, something I would like?
I am a similar height and inseam. I ride bicycles between 53 and 55. 55 is about as big as I'd want to go.
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Old 07-03-14, 02:49 AM   #4
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My advice would be to find a used bike, ANY bike, and ride it for awhile. Make a list of the things that you love and hate about it. That list will come in handy when you're shopping for your "real" bike.
+1
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Old 07-03-14, 04:30 AM   #5
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I agree, start used, upgrade as necessary. At bare minimum I would want fenders, rack(s)/basket(s), lights and a decent lock.

My favorite commuter bike and only bike for many years was a $25 Raleigh 3 speed that I picked up at a pawn shop. Still have the bike some 30+ years later. I have other bikes that get ridden more now, but my needs have changed.

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Old 07-03-14, 04:38 AM   #6
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2x7miles is a good distance and after 3 weeks will feel routine.
Any bike will do for this but a non-suspension bike is best. Specialized Sirrus/Vita style is good and other brands do similar. More niche styles like touring or cyclo-cross tend to be more expensive.
3x8 or 3x9 gearing is std so go with this. For 2x8 or 2x9 systems, the "compact" crankset (smaller rings) is also good.
You need eyelets on the frame for rack and fenders.
Disc rakes are really good if you ride in the wet.
Whole bikes are much better value than self-build or modified bikes.
the only mods that are worthwhile are premium, puncture resistant tyres and a saddle. If the stock saddle works, keep it.
You don't need special shoes/pedals or any other special clothing
M/F bikes often vary in the length/reach (for the same height) and in the saddle shape.
budget for lock, lights, repair kit, luggage, helmet, Insurance.
the optimum price/performance is midrange, $500-$1000.
How much does the alternative to a bike, cost?
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Old 07-03-14, 07:47 AM   #7
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Get a bike and start riding it instead of driving. Then after you've done that for a while decide if you're able to give up the car.
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Old 07-03-14, 07:52 AM   #8
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1.) Four to six hundred for an entry level road bike, less if you choose a hybrid. I'm still riding the bike I assembled for around $400, and then improved along the way, but that was after I used a mass produced bike for a while. I say go cheap until you get the experience to know what you really want.

2.) There is no difference except that women's bikes have the top tube out of the way (maybe less stout) and are usually the smaller frames.

3.) The assembly is a piece of cake, but it's better if you're experienced enough to be confident of wrenching everything on the bike. On fit, my opinion is the minority one but I think you're better off with online resources and doing it yourself than getting a shop guy involved.

4.)No, the sum of the parts is more than the whole. However if you're patient and flexible enough to grab good deals where you find them, you can come out ahead.

5.) It varies but that's a good commuting distance in my opinion.

6.) beats me.

7.) No.

8.) The French fit has a lot going for it.
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Old 07-06-14, 10:32 AM   #9
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I considered going motor vehicle free, but after further research decided to keep the vehicle, even though it gets less than 5K miles per year on it, including a 2K+ mile annual vacation trip. The kicker was automobile insurance - if you try to get it again later in life it is VERY difficult.

Regarding the 7 mile commute. That is a SHORT distance.

If this is close: go test ride it: Vintage Trek 750 Hybrid 19 inch frame The Trek 750 and 790 with lugged frames are VERY desirable.

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Old 07-06-14, 11:08 AM   #10
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My favorite commuter bike and only bike for many years was a $25 Raleigh 3 speed that I picked up at a pawn shop. Still have the bike some 30+ years later.
My commuter bike for a 7 mile each way commute still is a Raleigh 3-speed. If you have to lock up your bike outside, you don't want something that looks too new and flashy, attracting unwanted attention while you're working. A 7 mile walk home is a lot more work than a 7 mile ride on an old 35 pound 3-speed.
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Old 07-06-14, 11:38 AM   #11
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How many bike shops are there near you ?.. pick the shop first.

The internet wont do your repairs for you.
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Old 07-06-14, 03:34 PM   #12
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Thanks for the help guys (and gals)

So I take it this actually isn't that far of a commute? Google has it at 40 minutes for the 7 miles, but it doesn't say what it assumes the average speed would be.

So this should be my plan, correct?:
Find something used and inexpensive fairly close to what I'm looking for
ride that to get an idea what I really want
then make the more expensive purchase, if I'm not satisfied with the old bike

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How many bike shops are there near you ?.. pick the shop first.

The internet wont do your repairs for you.
There's a few. I've only been to one so far, but the sales people seemed to give rather canned responses and they wanted to stick me on a flat bar hybrid with a sprung front end. I guess that's what sells for the kids on campus. It was kind of disappointing, and that's not considering how bad I got lost on the way there. I'm leaning pretty heavily towards a steel road bike but they're primarily a Giant and Specialized place, neither of which make anything I'm significantly interested in. I did have them check their dealer/supplier though, and they would be able to get All City and Surly as a special order, with an assembly fee. That seems pretty lame considering that it's from the same dealer; I wouldn't think they charge the assembly fee for the Giant and Specialized cycles...

A couple random more questions, I hope y'all don't mind.
How is the Tiagra? I recollect someone online saying it's the old 105.

And I know this one is probably overhashed with the BD topics, but wouldn't I be the type of person that should be looking at the BD bikes? All I want is an old and classic steel framed bike, and it's not like the Chinese can't do that. I realized reading about the Raleigh Roper, that's made in China, that wouldn't this be what BD Bikes are for? No name, old steel frame design, and a name brand groupset? It's not like the Roper is 26 pounds or anything...

Who are Sunrace, and how do their components fair against the larger manufacturers?
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Old 07-07-14, 01:59 AM   #13
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Thanks for the help guys (and gals)

So I take it this actually isn't that far of a commute? Google has it at 40 minutes for the 7 miles, but it doesn't say what it assumes the average speed would be.

So this should be my plan, correct?:
Find something used and inexpensive fairly close to what I'm looking for
ride that to get an idea what I really want
then make the more expensive purchase, if I'm not satisfied with the old bike
Yes.
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Old 07-07-14, 02:03 AM   #14
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The Google time is a good place to start. Sounds like there are a few hills on the route, so you will want gears. You can verify how accurate this is by riding your route on a Saturday or Sunday after you get the bike. Don't push too hard, you want a maximum time, not a minimum. Get familiar with what the road conditions are.

My current commuter is a '88 Specialized Hard Rock, with street tires, fenders, lights and a rack. It was a freebie. I spent about $100 getting it on the road. Before then, it had been used briefly and then put in the garage so it was very good condition, and my money went into lights, fenders and a cheap rack. Over the years, I continued to put money into it. I wore out the knobbies and replaced them with street slicks, got a better rack, panniers, and a trailer. So it was a cheap but good foundation that I could build on.
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Old 07-07-14, 09:02 PM   #15
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........ Who are Sunrace, and how do their components fair against the larger manufacturers?
Sunrace is one of the larger manufacturers of bicycle components. My experience with their cassettes and freewheels is that they are better than low end Shimano, and up there with SRAM.
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Old 07-07-14, 09:38 PM   #16
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I'll take the hills in colorado over the humidity of Texas every single day of the week
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Old 07-07-14, 09:56 PM   #17
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Its my opinion that you shouldn't spend a lot of money when you first take up cycling. When I got back into cycling I didn't even know enough about the different kinds of bike to know what questions I should be asking my LBS. They kept steering me towards hybrids never once suggesting a bike with drop bars. As it stands now a hybrid would have no place in my collection of bikes as it wouldn't have been significantly different than my rigid mountain bike. I've seen so many new riders show up at our club rides with $600 comfort bikes that end up not being what they really wanted, and the following year they end up buying another bike that better suits them.

I ended up keeping my old rigid 21 speed mountain bike and have since put another 11,000 km on it. The money I would have spent on a new commuter went to my recreational bikes instead (which also serve as commuters).

I'd suggest a used LBS brand rigid mountain bike, rack, fenders, bar ends and some slicks. Something with decent quality components that is at least tuneable. Plenty of people have bought bikes only to use them a few times then sit in their garage for a decade. Let their loss be your gain. And if you aren't so diligent about ensuring it is properly locked, it will be a smaller loss.

Try and find a casual group ride as they usually attract a wide variety of bikes. Take a look at what's there and ask different people about their bikes. Then you can decide whether you want a higher quality hybrid, cross, road, touring, city, .... bike.
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Old 07-08-14, 12:08 PM   #18
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don't forget the cost of accessories and clothing, meaning lights, fenders, saddle, rain jacket, rain pants, gloves, goggles, helmet, etc etc etc etc etc ... it will take a year for you to accumulate everything you'll need after you buy the actual bike itself.

have you done any used bike shopping? and rentals?

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Old 07-08-14, 12:21 PM   #19
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Here's the list for Shimano road components and for MTB components:

Shimano Road Component Hierarchy | Derailleur | Crankset : ChooseMyBicycle.com
Shimano MTB Component Hierarchy | Derailleur | Crankset : ChooseMyBicycle.com
I have trikes with both Tiagara and Shimano 105. I like the 105 much better than Tiagara even though there is only one step between them. The 105 is a very nice mid-level component and in my experience will work well and last a very long time. I very rarely had to make any adjustments on the 105 components. The finish on them is first rate.

If you buy a used bike that is the proper frame size and it weighs less than 30 pounds you will rarely go wrong. The crap bikes are invariably heavy, usually much heavier than 30 pounds. It takes decent components and a decent frame to get the weight down below that point. The fact that the bike shop is steering you toward an inexpensive bike with front suspension tells me they are more interested in making a sale than in getting you on the right bike. Front suspensions add weight to the bike and they just aren't necessary for the type of riding you describe. They are a great selling point for the customer who knows little about what makes a decent bike. Try another bike shop.
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Old 07-08-14, 12:50 PM   #20
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...

A couple random more questions, I hope y'all don't mind.
How is the Tiagra? I recollect someone online saying it's the old 105.
...
Who are Sunrace, and how do their components fair against the larger manufacturers?
Nothing wrong with Tiagra for these purposes. Or Sora either for that matter.

At the low end, Shimano, SRAM, Sunrace, I feel like you'd have to be a purist to care.

If you're avoiding the low end or entry level that's a different story.
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Old 07-08-14, 05:46 PM   #21
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What will you do with your bike when you get where you're going? Do you have to lock it up outside? If you're lucky, a commuter bike will take a beating from the elements, bike racks, locks and chains, cargo, etc. If you're unlucky, you'll come out one day to find it stripped or gone completely. For those reasons, I try to keep my total investment (excluding consumables) in a commuter bike to under $100.

Not to mention that while a pure road bike may be the most fun to ride, they're typically the least practical in terms of commuting (especially with no car to fall back on). You probably need lights, fenders, racks, maybe even a trailer to carry stuff. There are "road bikes" that can handle all that, but they're the exception, not the rule, and generally more expensive/valuable.

Your commute is short enough you can do it on just about any type of bike. A late 80's / early 90's full-rigid mountain bike (with knobbies replaced with semi-slicks) makes a good commuter and can be had for between $50 and $100 depending on condition. They are reliable, not particularly attractive to thieves, can usually mount lots of accessories, and have a wide gearing range that will be good for someone in the early stages of building cycling fitness.

Older hybrids can work even better, but it's harder to find one with a steel frame and no suspension. My commuter/gravel grinder is a '92 Schwinn Crisscross that I picked up for $60 and didn't have to do anything except re-lube everything and give it new tires. Though I did opt to replace the trigger shifters with some old friction thumb shifters to make it even less attractive to any color-blind thieves that aren't repelled by the horrible '90s purple frame
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Old 07-08-14, 07:02 PM   #22
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There is some wisdom is starting with a cheap bike and riding for a while. Then again, I started on a cheap guitar and found no joy in it, left guitar alone for several years, and then found I loved it years later when I purchased a good one. YMMV.

Take a look at the Trek 520.
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Old 07-08-14, 08:41 PM   #23
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Alright, thanks again y'all
I think I'll hit up the pawn shops and see what's around. The local Craigslist isn't all that great.

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What will you do with your bike when you get where you're going?
I haven't talked it up with my manager's yet. I know one of them already rides a bike on occasion, and stores his bike in the back by our lockers, but I'm not sure that would go over well having an extra bike back there.

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Take a look at the Trek 520.
I did I'm concerned though, because I feel there'd be a better value if I found a bike that didn't come with accessories, and then adding them later. It's pretty much exactly what I'm looking for though - something road orientated (but still reasonably relaxed) with drop handlebars.

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Here's the list for Shimano road components and for MTB components:

Shimano Road Component Hierarchy | Derailleur | Crankset : ChooseMyBicycle.com
Shimano MTB Component Hierarchy | Derailleur | Crankset : ChooseMyBicycle.com
I have trikes with both Tiagara and Shimano 105. I like the 105 much better than Tiagara even though there is only one step between them. The 105 is a very nice mid-level component and in my experience will work well and last a very long time. I very rarely had to make any adjustments on the 105 components. The finish on them is first rate.
Thanks = ] They've got a pretty good comparison of the Sram offerings too.
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Old 07-08-14, 09:48 PM   #24
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I used to have an old 520 and really liked its ride. But I'm a big guy and I'm pretty sure that bike thought every trip around the block was a fully loaded tour. It might not be as fun for you if you're not also a big guy. And this can be an issue with any touring bike. They're designed to ride well under heavy loads.
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Old 07-11-14, 10:35 AM   #25
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So I went back to that bike shop, but I went to the other location this time. The staff was quite helpful, but we ran into the same problem where the manufacturers they stock don't really offer anything that I want.

We ran into two problems, that I didn't even knew were problems. O.O
How do bar end shifters work, and how difficult would it be to change? All he really said was that they were a little bit cheaper.
Do the Shimanos have more play in the brakes and shifters? I tried googling wiggle, but that didn't work. The salesman that helped me was a Sram fan, and said Apex is equivalent to 105, and he illustrated that the Shimano 105 shifters had some side to side play and "wiggle," where as the Sram offerings did not. Does that sound weird?
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