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Living Car Free Do you live car free or car light? Do you prefer to use alternative transportation (bicycles, walking, other human-powered or public transportation) for everyday activities whenever possible? Discuss your lifestyle here.

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Old 09-11-15, 10:51 PM   #1
illumin8em
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Giving up cars, commiting to bicycle, have around $1,200 to spend

Howdy all!

I've thought it over for the past 2 years and I'm ready to make a change. I've decided to give up owning a car and relying on a bicycle as my main mode of transportation. I would have converted sooner, but my home town in WV is probably the least conducive to bicycle commuting than anywhere else I've ever been. So, I am also moving, yeah! I'll spare you the politics/reasons behind my decision, and just get to my question. I've been saving for the move for over two years and now feel that I can free up around a $1,000 maybe a bit more to equip myself with a new bicycle. Originally I was just going to dress up my only bike, an old Trek 400 Elance, for some light touring, but the bike has always felt a bit big for me. I like old bikes, but the more I'm learning about this life the more I may want something with better touring geometry and capabilities. I realize at this price point I'm not in the frame builder arena, but I thought suggestions from learned commuters would be valuable.

If I should've included other info to aid in the discussion, please let me know.

thanks for any help,
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Old 09-11-15, 11:09 PM   #2
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A lot of people hope to get just "the right bike", but it's a big gamble to spend that money and maybe not be happy. One option is to buy a cheaper used bike and fix it up a bit, and then you can have a bit left over to have a cheap used backup bike too, which is actually pretty important if you are solely dependent on bikes to get to work.
With the money you save not driving, if you still want to get a new bike, you can do it next year once you've been biking for a while and have a better idea of what you need/want.
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Old 09-12-15, 05:07 AM   #3
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I don't know if you have visited the C&V forum, but a used bike might be the ticket. Craig's list, yard sales and the metal pile at the dump are good places to look. But this means you have to learn how to restore and sometimes rebuild a bike.

For a couple of years I only rode bikes that I put together from parts from the dump, but then I began upgrading components. I still have bikes that cost me little or nothing that I ride to the T and leave mocked up for a few hours.

Car ownership costs around $8,156.37 a year in the US, so maybe in the future you'll have a little more money to spend on a bike.

As for new bikes, The Velo-orange Polyvalent might be good for you if it fits, but I don't know if you could get a complete bike for $1,200.
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Old 09-12-15, 05:09 AM   #4
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My recommendation is to find a bike you think you will like, test ride it. If it fits, buy it. Then get another one that you like, it can be the same as the first or different. I lived car free with two bikes, that way I always had a back up. My favorite bikes were the Raleigh 3 speeds, followed by sport touring bikes. Choose what works for you. I would not blow my entire budget on a single bike, but that is just me. FWIW when I bought my Raleigh Sports 3 speed, it was a necessity. The pawn shop had it priced at $50, I offered $25, which was all the money I had at that point. The took the money and I took the bike. I was literally hours away from being fired if I didn't show up to work on time. The bike made the difference. Rode it daily for 4 years, still have it today.

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Old 09-12-15, 06:08 AM   #5
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Spend you $1200 and buy two cheaper bikes instead of one expensive one. If you're going car-free and will be depending on bicycles as your mode of transportation, it's good to have more then one bike.
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Old 09-12-15, 07:17 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cooker View Post
A lot of people hope to get just "the right bike", but it's a big gamble to spend that money and maybe not be happy. One option is to buy a cheaper used bike and fix it up a bit, and then you can have a bit left over to have a cheap used backup bike too, which is actually pretty important if you are solely dependent on bikes to get to work.
With the money you save not driving, if you still want to get a new bike, you can do it next year once you've been biking for a while and have a better idea of what you need/want.
I think the main component to focus on is tires. A Walmart bike or used bike for $100-$200 will hold up mechanically for a while but putting touring tires (or at least good puncture-resistant tires that aren't necessarily for touring) will keep you from having to deal with flats on the way to work and appointments where time is of the essence.

If you are biking enough to experience mechanical failures on the bike, you can either begin replacing failed parts with better ones OR upgrade to a more expensive bike. Then you still have the cheap bike as backup for in the event the expensive one has a problem and needs down time.

I'm to the point where I use an old Huffy with half its gears working and good tires around town so I can save my touring bikes for long distance travel. I sort of wish I had yet another bike for getting better exercise when I'm not touring but since I tour every couple weeks, I end up taking it easy and just biking to work and shopping the rest of the time.

BTW, saving on auto expenses and headaches is peace of mind! I used to hate renewing my car registration every year knowing how little I drove and how little I wanted to drive when I did. Then I hated paying the car insurance knowing it was mandatory to maintain the registration. Then every time I would drive, I'd have some mechanical issue to deal with. I dislike working on cars but I end up doing it to save the money, but then the parts are so expensive; although they are also expensive for bike parts, but I usually buy high quality bike parts whereas I'd typically get the low end car parts. Then there's the cost of filling up the tank and watching the needle drop every time you drive it. Then there's the tires and roadside assistance if you pay for a club membership. Then there's the deductible you have to worry about if you have to file an insurance claim. Then there's the risk of getting ticketed, fined, and having insurance rates go up as a result. Then there's just the annoyance of sitting idle in a vehicle that's robbing you of activity time where the cost of the vehicle is adding insult to injury. Car free living is a blessing!
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Old 09-12-15, 07:25 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by illumin8em View Post
I'm learning about this life the more I may want something with better touring geometry and capabilities
I have a Surly Long Haul Trucker. It's a little heavy, but very sturdy, and very well equipped for the money. I have over 50,000 miles on the beast, and it still works great. Maintenance has been limited to chains, cassettes, a chain ring, brake pads and tires. In other words, it's never had an unusual failure or disappointment. I like 'Ruffy Tuffy' tires, which are smooth rolling, yet pretty puncture resistant. Fenders, racks, lights, some Ortlieb waterproof paniers, and you're good. If you want money left for all those accessories, you might consider buying one used.
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Old 09-12-15, 07:27 AM   #8
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I hadn't really thought about it until recently, being a minimalist kinda fella, but I do see the potential need for two bikes.

I definitely have no problem buying used and or vintage, I have decent mechanical skills and buckets of patience working with my hands, so I'm confident I could fix something up if need be. The problem with this is my limited knowledge of what's good and where to find it. Unfortunately living in WV there is very little available on craigslist, ebay and yard sales over the years have yielded one decent bike that fortunately fit my girlfriend. My current old Trek I now know I over paid for so I'm not looking to do that again, but after years of searching I may have been a bit desperate and thought I'd found something great.

This is how I bought it, only changes have been new tape, Brooks saddle, and I squeezed 35mm Vittoria Randos under it.

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Old 09-12-15, 07:51 AM   #9
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I have several commuter bicycles:
- 1987 Panasonic tourer... $175.. lovely commuter!!
- 2005 Bianchi hybrid winter commuter... $290
- 1987 Fuji something-or-other .. bought frame for $35 and moved over wheels, etc from another bike.

I can appreciate why people buy bikes > $1000... sometimes I think I might need one too :grin:
However, you can get by with less.
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Old 09-12-15, 10:36 AM   #10
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C'mon, everybody...what if he really is set on buying a $1200 bike? That isn't really so much in this day and age. I assume that he already has at least one "okay" bike. What is a fantastic one for the 1200?

I think I would look at some cyclocross bikes. I don't currently have a bike with drop bars, so that would make a good addition. They're sturdy and all, but still have a bit of sportiness. Another choice would be a hybrid (I know...dirty word) that's closer to a road bike than to comfort bike. But I think that what the OP really wants is a nice touring bike.

(Personally I'm a big cheapskate like the rest of you. But if I had $1200 just fall out of the sky on me and I absolutely had to spend it on a bike....)
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Old 09-12-15, 02:47 PM   #11
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You already have one bike, so keep that and use it as your backup bike. Take your time looking around, researching, and test riding whatever you can. One day you'll find a bike that captures your heart. I personally would not opt for two cheap bikes. I like quality, and quality costs money.

You will need at least one really good lock right away. Don't skimp on that! Also a good rack and panniers, or a good backpack if you prefer, and some rain gear, will make life a lot more pleasant.
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Old 09-12-15, 03:54 PM   #12
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That is a large bike. I'm guessing it's a 60-63 cm frame (ie. length of seat tube from centre of bottom bracket to top of top tube). How tall are you? Do you know how to measure your biking inseam? Stand in flat shoes and put a large text book as high as you can in your crotch as if you were straddling the top tube of a bike, with the top of the book level. Measure from the top of the book to the floor. It should come out to about 2" longer than your pant leg size. Use the chart on this page to estimate what size bike frame you need. For example if your biking inseam is 33", like me, you may need a 56 cm frame. However you still ought to test ride.

Roody has a point - your Trek will be your back-up bike, so perhaps you don't need to buy two more...yet

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My current old Trek I now know I over paid for so I'm not looking to do that again, but after years of searching I may have been a bit desperate and thought I'd found something great.
If that was the best you found after years of searching, then you didn't overpay - you paid what you needed to to get what you wanted. It sounds like it was in good shape.

Last edited by cooker; 09-12-15 at 04:04 PM.
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Old 09-16-15, 10:59 PM   #13
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Get a vintage steel bike and add a modern Shimano parts group (cheap if you shop at merlin) You can't beat the ride of vintage steel and you should be able to build somthing really nice for about half your budget.
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