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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 08-25-07, 09:10 AM   #1
I922sParkCir
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Going Car-Free, College Student Who Wants Speed.

Hi, my transmission just died, and I'm sick of the total cost of owning a car. I am planing to go car free.
Here's some facts:
  • I live in Orange County, California and the roads aren't too bike friendly.
  • School is 14 miles away, and there are a few hills.
  • After school I have work 2 hours later, which is 12 miles away. Speed is very important.
  • I need a back tire rack to hold at least 50 lbs.
  • Budget ~ $700
  • My local bike shop sells Trek, and I want to support them. Trek is my preference but not absolute.

I am without a vehical now so I hope to buy it soon. I'm currently looking at the Trek fx 7.5, fx 7.3 and the Trek 1.2. Also any other advice will be appreciated. Thank you.

-Jai
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Old 08-25-07, 10:40 AM   #2
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Congrats and good luck on your car-free mission

The FX series are faves for commuting. The 1.2 will likely be a tad faster with it's roadie ergos.

Especially since this will be a beast of burden, I'd suggest one of the FX bikes. They have uber-strong v-brakes and lots of tire clearance. with the 1.2 tire size will be limited. Particularly with you+50lb load, I think you will much appreciate a slightly fatter tire than what road bikes can handle.

Cheers
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Old 08-25-07, 11:12 AM   #3
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Don't worry too much about speed; in traffic and under load, your commute time will be the same (within a few minutes) on almost any decent bike. So pick the one you enjoy riding the most. (And you'll have no trouble making that 12-mile commute from school to work on time. Once you get accustomed to riding, it will probably take you 45 minutes (if traffic is light and there aren't many stoplights) to an hour (heavier traffic and/or more lights.) It's good that you've got the extra time, though, while you're still learning your way around by bike. You don't want your boss to associate your change of transportation with a sudden rash of lateness to work.

As for the bike choice...

A road bike (like the 1.2) might not handle well with a 50-lb load on the back. See if the shop will let you buy a rack, then attach it to the bike and load it up with heavy stuff for a test ride. (I was surprised to find that one of my LBSs actively encouraged me to attach a rack and test their bikes under load...that's one of the reasons they're my favorite shop now.)

If you're going to go with a hybrid, the fx line (with no suspension) is a good idea. I used to own a 7500fx (the old name for the fx 7.5). People will tell you to avoid hybrids, but that one was actually quite a decent commuting bike. It's essentially a road bike with a more relaxed geometry (good for handling under heavy loads) and flat bars (which are a decent idea for riding in heavy traffic.)

If you can extend the budget and live frugally for a while, though, the best commuting bike that Trek makes is their touring model, the 520. It's steel-framed and heavier than the others, but that should make little difference; once you add up the weight of the bike, the rider, and the load you plan to carry, a few extra pounds hardly matter at all. As a touring bike, it's made to handle under loads, and does this job beautifully; the more weight you put on the rack, the more stable the bike feels.

The 520 would be about $500 over your budget, but since the bike is going to be your main vehicle, it's worth the investment (and still costs way less than even a cheap junker of a car.) I would suggest test riding the 520 (along with as many other bikes as possible) if your LBS stocks it, and then spending what it takes to get a bike that fits your needs. In a couple of years the extra cost will be a vague memory, but the bike will still be something you use everyday.
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Old 08-25-07, 11:31 AM   #4
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you could also look into something like a specialized sirrus... fairly decent bike for just a bit under 600. but you will prob need to make sure you budget an extra 150 for accessories, lights and rack and such...

there are some FG/SS bikes that allow for racks too, but if you are constantly carrying a heavy load that could be annoying after a while.

how much stuff do you plan to carry on the bike, anyways?
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Old 08-25-07, 12:12 PM   #5
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Where in OC are you? I suggest looking for an older Trek tourer. They can be had in immaculate condition for way less than the MSRP of a new bike. Also, budget a set of clipless pedals/footwearz in.
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Old 08-25-07, 12:19 PM   #6
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Have you seen the new '08 Treks yet? I'm not sure if the shops have them in yet, but here are some web shots.
The Soho is really nice. The 1.0 is 700$
http://www.trekbikes.com/us/en/bikes...n/soho/soho10/

Theres a single speed version too(I love this model):
http://www.trekbikes.com/us/en/bikes...an/soho/sohos/

Both have mounting points on the front and rear. So your cargo should be taken care of.

And kinda bypassing all this info too, you could just try to find an old road frame somewhere and restore it for your budget. That would also give you the benefit of learning how to work on your bike. I find that if you learn how to do repairs and fixes early, you're more likely to stick with riding as your first transportation option instead of having to check back into "autoholics anonymous".

Also mind the fact (like gregtheripper said) that you will need to save some part of your budget for light(s), bag, tubes, rack, and other accessories.
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Old 08-25-07, 01:21 PM   #7
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Your ride is quite long, it will not be that easy to do it - but motivation is very powerful.

I would try it without the 50lb load first, see how it feels and then go from there...


If the bike doesn't work out, you can always get a 50cc scooter on craigslist - but you'll need a license and gas !! AAAAHHH !!!


Good luck !
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Old 08-25-07, 04:08 PM   #8
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Thank you all, you've helped me a bunch. So I followed the suggestion to look for a used Trek 520. I pulled up craigslist and there was 1997 Trek 520 with all Shimano components for $250. I took it for a test ride and it was great. The only thing was the back derailer makes a clicking noise in some gears, and where the gear wires are the paint is worn and there is a little rust. What do you guys think?
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Old 08-25-07, 04:36 PM   #9
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good find. I'd take it. The clicking is probably the result of the derailleur being slightly out of alignment on some gears. Basically, the clicking is caused by your chain preparing to jump sprockets. If you have lever shifters, adjust them ever so slightly once you get to a gear you like. a little oiling would'nt hurt either. I don't think you have anything to worry about with the rust.

Also, 50lbs is really, really hard to carry on a rear rack. Putting some of that load in a backpack will take less stress directly off your back wheel, but when you start pumping up hills, it will get annoying.
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Old 08-25-07, 04:45 PM   #10
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I will get it. Thank you. Do you know any guides on bike maintinance? Thanks.

-Jai
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Old 08-25-07, 05:15 PM   #11
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Hey dude, I've lived in Orange County my whole life, so if you need any tips on cycling in traffic or on specific streets around here, go ahead and throw some PM's my way. I'm moving out soon (it sucks to live in the SAME PLACE your entire life when you're the type to want to EXPLORE), but I can still help.

That bike's a good find.
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Old 08-25-07, 05:32 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by I922sParkCir View Post
I will get it. Thank you. Do you know any guides on bike maintinance? Thanks.

-Jai
http://parktool.com/repair/

And Seldon's site http://sheldonbrown.com/
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Old 08-26-07, 12:05 AM   #13
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I am now the proud owner of a 1998 Trek 520. Thank you all for your help, this is a great community, and I sure will be sticking around.

-Jai
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Old 08-26-07, 03:13 AM   #14
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The Surly Nice Rack is rated to 80 lbs and can be found cheap (relatively) at bicycleisland. Have fun on your ride!
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Old 08-26-07, 12:45 PM   #15
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Congratulations! You made an excellent choice, and I'm jealous of the deal you got on it!

The two sites that bhchdh recommended are both great places to learn about bike maintenance. (And Sheldon's site is a hell of a lot of fun as well.) If you want a reference book as well, Lennard Zinn's "Zinn and the Art of Road Bike Maintenance" is a good one, as is Park Tools' "Big Blue Book of Bicycle Repair". And of course, the "Bicycle Mechanics" subforum right here at bikeforums is a great resource. (You might also check out the "Commuting" and "Utility Cycling" forums; lots of good advice there about racks, bags, lights, and the other accessories you'll be choosing soon.)

You didn't mention whether you've got a lot of experience riding in traffic or not. A really good online reference is John Allen's "Bicycling Street Smarts". A good book on the topic is Robert Hurst's "The Art of Urban Cycling". You can also try the "Advocacy and Safety" subforum here, but it can be hard to wade through the endless bickering there in search of actual useful material.

Have fun out there, and let us know how the commute is going!
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Old 08-26-07, 02:05 PM   #16
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How come you need to carry 50 lbs. to work? That's a pretty extreme load for a commuter. I'm having trouble picturing a need to take so much crap to work.
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Old 08-26-07, 03:49 PM   #17
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I922sParkCir, I replied to your PM. With a few traffic cycling tips of my own added in
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Old 08-26-07, 07:28 PM   #18
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How come you need to carry 50 lbs. to work? That's a pretty extreme load for a commuter. I'm having trouble picturing a need to take so much crap to work.
Well the 50lbs. takes groceries into consideration. This will be my only transport. Speaking of which, what would be best? Should I get panniers? Should I something that is mountable on my rear rack? What about these or this(I think with this last one I can still have another pack on the rack)? Thank you guys.

-Jai
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Old 08-26-07, 07:53 PM   #19
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Nice find.

The 520 is an excellent bike. One of these day I am going to try and snag one used as a workhorse bike.

and $250 was an excellent price.

-D
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Old 08-27-07, 10:35 AM   #20
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Well the 50lbs. takes groceries into consideration. This will be my only transport. Speaking of which, what would be best? Should I get panniers? Should I something that is mountable on my rear rack? What about these or this(I think with this last one I can still have another pack on the rack)? Thank you guys.

-Jai
Definitely pick up some panniers for grocery shopping. Not only do they have tons of space, the weight is carried lower which helps with balance.
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Old 08-27-07, 01:37 PM   #21
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Before you even buy a bike I would urge you to take "Road 1" from the league of american bicyclists.
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Old 08-28-07, 08:42 PM   #22
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Before you even buy a bike I would urge you to take "Road 1" from the league of american bicyclists.
Thank You. I'm looking into it. Saddly there are no classes in my area, and the closest instructor is still pretty far.

Thank you,
-Jai
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Old 08-29-07, 06:07 AM   #23
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If you love Trek so much check out the Trek Interchange line of racks and bags. The Interchange rear rack holds 50lbs (I've put more on it) and the paniers, trunk, etc all clip in to place very nicely. They cost a little more than some of the cheaper counterparts but I think they work great for a urban commuting situation.

Also since you have a 520 don't forget you can carry a load on the front of the bike (fork) too. When you have 50lbs all over the back tire the bike can ride kind of weird. By distributing the weight it can make for a much smother ride and more weight that can be carried. Some people split weight 50/50 and some even split 60/40 (more in front). If you get you weight ratio just right it will feel like your bike is riding on rails as you go down the road.
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