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Old 03-16-10, 11:39 PM   #1
cgrenier
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Noob needs serious commuting bike for under $500

I'm looking for advice on an entry level long-distance commuting bike. Let me first say that I know nothing about this sport and I haven't owned a decent bike in my life. But I've got to start somewhere.

Here is what I need. I plan to be riding it a LOT, maybe thirty miles every workday, fifteen each way. I'm not sure if I can handle this at the very moment given the shape that I am in, but I'm pretty determined to make it happen eventually. About a third of my route will be on Chicago's pothole-filled streets, and the rest on the smooth (but crowded) lakeshore path. I'd also like something reasonably fast and elegant, but flexible enough to ride around the city and explore with without being constantly on edge. Unfortunately, I have less than $500 to spend, and I also have to budget for accessories. I'm about 5'10-5'11".

Being a complete noob, I am not sure if I should start to look for used bikes, or whether anyone is familiar with a good shop in the Chicago area where I can find something new. Advice would be useful.

A hybrid is what I'm aiming for, since I've never ridden a road bike and I like the flexibility. From what I've gathered, good options are the Specialized Sirrus, the Trek FX series, the Giant FCR, the Marin Fairfax, and the Bianchi Torino and Iseo. What do you recommend?
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Old 03-17-10, 12:31 AM   #2
MikeWinVA
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I own a Specialized Sirrus and love it. The Trek FX is very similar, but I found the Sirrus handled and fit me better.

Both the Sirrus and the FX will accept fenders, but I think there is more clearance on the Sirrus. It is difficult to mount a kick stand on the Sirrus with fenders.
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Old 03-17-10, 02:58 AM   #3
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I ride this:
http://www.konaworld.com/bike.cfm?content=dewplus
One word; Excellent. Fast, light, comfortable, stable ride. Sipmly eats up the road, makes you want to ride it longer and harder. I think of it as something I should got a long time ago.
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Old 03-17-10, 02:41 PM   #4
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Find a really almost new Trek Soho. You can get one used if you look around. There's one for sale on CL in Atlanta that's almost new. One of the best commuting bikes ever.
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Old 03-17-10, 04:54 PM   #5
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Best solution for a newbie with a $500 budget in Chicago -
We have tons of reputable bike shops. Find a good local one (or a few - I live in Lakeview and there are at least 6 in a mile radius of my house). Go and expalin your needs and see what they offer, try them out to see what feels good to you. Screw the brand name. if you like it buy it. The LBS will service you better than trying to find someting on CL when you don't know what you're looking for and may buy something that doesn't work just because the price is right. $500 or less will get you a decent starting commuter bike. If you want some names of the shops I trust and don't drop me a personal message. See yo on the lakefront.
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Old 03-17-10, 05:02 PM   #6
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If you're set on a ~$500 entry level hybrid...there's not too much in the way of functional difference between the bunch. Pick the shop(s) you want to consider, test ride all of the options, and pick the one that is most comfortable and visually pleasing.

I was in your same position last summer. Bought a $500 hybrid for an 18 mi round trip commute (part path, part DC streets), and hadn't done any cycling since I was a kid. I didn't want to spend any more than that, and tried to keep accessory costs as reasonable as I could. I figured I would do a little fitness riding on the weekends as well.

If I could do it all over again with the knowledge I have now, I would have purchased a used, mechanically sound hybrid, had a basic tune up done, and new tires/tubes. $150 (max for bike) + $75 (max for tuneup) + $75 (max for tires/tubes) = $300 or so. The $200 you save will cover your accessories. Picking a used bike seemed too intimidating as a noob, but I was honestly it was a lack of patience that took me to the LBS.

If it turns out a hybrid really is the right bike for you...you can upgrade to something nicer later on. If not, then you can get a touring/cyclocross/80s steel/whatever road bike when you get in shape and realize your aspirations/goals are higher than you originally thought. I ended up being in the latter camp.
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Old 03-17-10, 05:21 PM   #7
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There are many bike shops in Chicago. Theres REI in the Lincolnwood area and they carry bikes that are reasonably priced under $500.00. Find the one that fit you best.
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Old 03-17-10, 05:50 PM   #8
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The Trek 7200 is a great bike. Very strong and durable and fun, but not as quick as any kind of road bike, of course.

How far are you traveling to work and back? If it's a short distance (under five miles each way), then almost anything will do. Once you pass five miles you have to really think about what's most important to you: speed, durability, comfort, etc.

I just bought a Trek Pure, but that's because my ride is just under four miles each way, and when the new bike paths are completed, it will decrease by a mile and skip two hills I currently have to climb.

Good luck and have fun.
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Old 03-17-10, 10:58 PM   #9
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Thank you all so much for being so quick to help me out. I'll start scouring the bike shops starting this Friday, who knows what I'll find. From what I've read I think a Kona Dew might be the perfect solution, given my budget, but I'll keep my eyes out for Sirruses and used Sohos too. Stay tuned...

Trinamous: I'm curious, what bike shops should I *not* trust? Private message me if you like...

Last edited by cgrenier; 03-17-10 at 11:36 PM.
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Old 03-18-10, 06:57 AM   #10
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You might be able to pick some good, old models, (PRIOR YEARS) yet, this spring. Don't overlook any models available in your price range, and ask, ask, ask. The dealer just might have one in the back room, that he's been trying to move for a couple years. Might even score a nice Trek FX, Specializes Sirrus, or any number of other offerings. And, buying new, means free adjustments, and a free tune up early next spring....... a nice saving, in itself.

Yesterday, I was in my ocal LBS, and spied a 58cm Crosstrail, an '08 (better geometry) which would be perfect for rough Chicago streets, for less tha $400. - If I was looking for a Crosstrail, this would be my choice ever a 10 model. This one is more performance slanted. Fat tires for a cushy ride, geared to go fast, etc, etc, etc.

It's only 40 miles west of you........ if you strike out in your neighborhood.

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Old 03-23-10, 09:27 AM   #11
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who knows, you might like this bike. just have a pro shop check the spokes; wheels; shifting and braking

http://www.target.com/Mens-Tourist-H.../dp/B00160JO4Q
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