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  1. #1
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    Bike Suggestions for Student Commuter

    I'm starting graduate school in Iowa City, Iowa and would like recommendations from experienced bike commuters. I've known how to ride a bike since I was a kid, but this will be my first experience using biking as transportation. I'm a female in my early 20's.

    My commute to campus will be 1.5 miles on sidewalks. I may ride other places that are within 5 miles and have either bike paths, bike lanes, or sidewalks. The terrain is not necessarily flat, but inclines are gradual, not steep. I will usually be wearing a backpack when I commute carrying school work, books, a change of clothes, etc. I will have to park my bike outside all day while on campus and can store it in a garage each evening. Being in Iowa, there will be times when the weather is windy, rainy, icy, and snowy. There will be times when I need to wear snowboots. There will be times when I am riding home after dark. I might like a basket in the front or rear(preferably) to carry my lunch, groceries, books, etc. Occasionally I may like to ride somewhere with my 10lb dog so I would need a basket that can suite a dog, or a bike that a small "Pet Taxi" kennel can attach to.

    I don't know much about bikes yet, but I believe I would need a hybrid. I like the way some bikes look, but they may not be appropriate for my purpose, that's why I'm here. I don't know how much I should expect to spend for this bike.

    In extreme conditions or for longer distances, I could take the city bus instead of biking. I do have a car, and will not be using it to drive to campus. I do not envision a need to transport my bike via my car. I would really appreciate some feedback and suggestions from experienced commuters.

  2. #2
    Senior Member sonatageek's Avatar
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    Hybrid would be fine. Another option would be a non-suspension mountain bike. Full coverage fenders. Planet Bike Super Flash for the back. Not sure what front light is good and not too expensive.

    Old mountain bikes are great platforms and are really under-priced (compared to road bikes).

  3. #3
    Senior Member downtube42's Avatar
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    +1 on a mountain bike (non-suspension). You'll want one that has eyelets for racks and fenders, which is actually fairly common on decent mountain bikes. Replacing the MTB tires with 90 psi slicks makes it roll much easier, but you may want to switch back for winter riding. With platform pedals, boots are no problem. Used mountain bikes of decent quality, like a Specialized Hardrock, are usually available pretty reasonably.

    Another option, considering the weather situation, is to get an internally geared bike. You don't talk about budget, but considering you're leaving it outside in town an older 3-speed could be just right. There's almost nothing cheaper on the used bike market than a ladies-frame 3-speed bicycle. Some decent quality bikes from the '70's are hanging around, and would be perfect platforms for a flat-ish short commute in all weather.

    You might go to this place and talk to them about what you want. It doesn't look like they sell bikes, but I bet the advice is plentiful and free:

    http://www.bikelibrary.org/
    What is bicycle touring?
    "So I kept looking and eventually found that a spark plug had same threads. So I cycled next two days until I got to Jackson, MS with a spark plug instead of right pedal." - mev

  4. #4
    Senior Member downtube42's Avatar
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    This is likely not what you're looking for at all, but a vintage English 3-speed would be an awesome commuter. I'd try to talk the seller down a bit, then take this bike over to the bikelibrary folks and start a rebuild.

    http://iowacity.craigslist.org/bik/2937250365.html
    What is bicycle touring?
    "So I kept looking and eventually found that a spark plug had same threads. So I cycled next two days until I got to Jackson, MS with a spark plug instead of right pedal." - mev

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by downtube42 View Post
    This is likely not what you're looking for at all, but a vintage English 3-speed would be an awesome commuter. I'd try to talk the seller down a bit, then take this bike over to the bikelibrary folks and start a rebuild.

    http://iowacity.craigslist.org/bik/2937250365.html
    Thanks for all your input downtube42. The Bike Library looks like a good resource, and I'm looking into it more. The only problem is, I'm not in Iowa City yet and I wanted to get my bike situation set up before I move there. As for the craigslist post you found, Yikes look at that seat! haha It looks like a piece of leather attached over springs. It might be a good deal, but I don't know that I'm ready to build or re-build a bike yet. The Bike Library doesn't service bikes that are not from them, and I don't feel comfortable [yet] finding an old fixer upper mostly because I don't really know what I'm looking for, what things should cost, and have no experience working on a bike.

    It's interesting that you both mentioned a mountain bike. I had not considered this because I prefer the step-over bar and general geometry more common on functional styles like cruisers, hybrids and ladies bikes. It seems like this would be more manageable if I have a rear basket, a dog crate attached, snow boots on, etc.. But maybe a mountain bike would be better in the snow.

    I didn't mention money initially because I have no idea what a good bike-- for the purpose I need-- might cost. Used, rusty, or old bikes on craigslist are often a few hundred dollars so I thought I could only afford something used. Then I was at Wal-Mart yesterday and saw this bike for only $160 http://www.walmart.com/ip/Schwinn-Ad...-Bike/15711186 I like that it has fenders, the step-over bar, a rear rack, room for a basket, and is the right price. Any thought on this bike or bikes like it?

  6. #6
    Senior Member sonatageek's Avatar
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    Nashbar has a possible Mongoose model that could work for you and it is at a pretty low price point. It is $200 and is available in multiple frame sizes. I think it would be a better bet than the Schwinn model you linked to above.

    Target has a $200 Schwinn Tourist on sale this week for $205. I took a look at it over the weekend (friend is looking for an inexpensive bike) and it looked serviceable enough. That bike does not have multiple frame sizes, so it would only be an option if it fit you.

    http://www.nashbar.com/bikes/Product...88_-1___203491

    http://www.target.com/p/Schwinn-700c...i_detailbutton
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