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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 04-29-08, 09:22 PM   #1
likegluelikecre
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Any advice for a person that wants to go car free?

Want to ditch my car and just use my bike as my only source of transportation. I live in Gainesville Fl, which is a pretty bike friendly city and not too hilly. I've been riding a mountain bike for years but now I want to switch to something that's fast and good for all around transportation/commuting to work (probably around 7 miles each way for me). I'd also like to get a bike trailer for toting around my kids on the weekends.

I'm looking to spend $500-$700, nothing too crazy.

Here's my question... what kind of bike/style/brand would y'all recommend?
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Old 04-29-08, 09:30 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by likegluelikecre View Post
Want to ditch my car and just use my bike as my only source of transportation. I live in Gainesville Fl, which is a pretty bike friendly city and not too hilly. I've been riding a mountain bike for years but now I want to switch to something that's fast and good for all around transportation/commuting to work (probably around 7 miles each way for me). I'd also like to get a bike trailer for toting around my kids on the weekends.

I'm looking to spend $500-$700, nothing too crazy.

Here's my question... what kind of bike/style/brand would y'all recommend?
The big thing about using your bike for transportation is that you need to feel comfortable leaving it locked up outside. I personally would recommend a commuter type bike or maybe a tourer for the job, but I'm not sure I would like to leave an $800 bike outside the grocery store. Therefore, I would recommend a good, cheap, dependable utility bike. Your mountain bike might just fit the bill.
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Old 04-29-08, 09:49 PM   #3
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...now I want to switch to something that's fast...
You might be able to tweak your existing mountain bike for better efficiency on the road. Narrower slicker tires, higher tire pressure, cleaning and lubricating the drive train (crank, chain, hubs, etc.), making adjustments to improve the fit of the bike, those are things that can potentially make a big difference, and they all add up.
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Old 04-29-08, 09:54 PM   #4
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If you like to ride, I'd look for a nice touring bike with fenders, a rack, and drop handlebars. For riding around town, you don't need shocks, and MTB tires are, in the true sense of the word, a drag on paved roads. Fenders are a Godsend for inclement weather. The rack is nice if you want to haul stuff, and who knows, you may decide that panniers are a practical way to go. The drop handlebars will come in handy if you like to ride fast or have to ride into a headwind while carrying a lot of stuff.

That said, for the last four years I've been riding an old hard-tail MTB with road tires, riser handle bars, trigger shifters, fenders, a rack, and panniers. I like to ride upright most of the time, and comfort and utility are more important to me than speed. With this setup, I can easily do 15-18 mph on flat ground all day long with both panniers packed with food and beer. (When I get a new rig, though, it's going to be a touring bike, with racks front and back.)

Whatever you do depends on your riding style and what you want to do on the bike. At the minimum, I'd get fenders and a rack, though, if you're going to go totally car-free. And, once again, avoid shocks and MTB tires like the plague if you'll be riding primarily on paved roads.
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Old 04-29-08, 10:56 PM   #5
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You might want to try car-lite for a while. Sort of work your way into it. Initially it helps to have the back up of a car while you sort out the kinks of trying to do everything by bike.

I am car lite and use a road bike. If you want to go fully car-free then I would suggest either paniers, a trailer (one wheel, two wheel depending upon usage and need) or an extracycle. I'll be the first to say that I don't like slinging forty pounds of stuff on my back when I have to carry home groceries for the week.

Also work out what tools you need on the road while you still have access to a car. That way you can lock your bike up in the field, get a lift home, get your car and get the bike home when your repair involves the tool you didn't bring with you. Know how to use your tools in the field. Make sure you know how to dismount the (flat) rear tire when the bike is fully loaded.

The bike itself:
Fenders are a god-send, front and rear.
Bike rack, paniers, basket: Something to carry stuff so you aren't hanging bags off your handlebars like that guy who just rode by looking like a vagrant.
Smooth touring tires: they have a high endurance and puncture resistance.
Get a real lock. Kryptonite U-locks never go out of style. Learn to lock your bike properly.

Personal gear:
Bike shorts- You may look like a spandax dweeb, but they work well and don't get sucked into your chain line. It also doesn't screw up the clothing you will be wearing at work.
Bike jersey-not as needed but useful.
Bike bag - I use a well worn bike messenger bag. The current on an old Timbuktu bag, we also have one of the big insulated Kozmo bags from Chrome. I also have a bigger bag on order from ReLoad.
Full rain gear. Make sure you understand the differences when riding with it.

Adjust the fit on your bike regularly until you get it right. Then adjust it some more to get it better.
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Old 05-03-08, 07:55 PM   #6
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I myself am gearing up for the 'car lite' experiment. (I've got an '06 Kona Smoke in layaway at the LBS.) I looked at all different types of bikes: touring, cyclocross, road, mtb, and hybrid. Did you include the cost of the trailer into your budget? If not, then you're looking at either fixing up your current ride or a new mtb/hybrid. You might look at the Specialized Globe or the Kona Smoke 2-9. Also, I have no experience w/either trailer or xtracycle, but I would probably go with xtra option, so you don't have to lock up both your bike and your trailer at the store.
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Old 05-03-08, 08:51 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by likegluelikecre View Post
Want to ditch my car and just use my bike as my only source of transportation. I live in Gainesville Fl, which is a pretty bike friendly city and not too hilly. I've been riding a mountain bike for years but now I want to switch to something that's fast and good for all around transportation/commuting to work (probably around 7 miles each way for me). I'd also like to get a bike trailer for toting around my kids on the weekends.

I'm looking to spend $500-$700, nothing too crazy.

Here's my question... what kind of bike/style/brand would y'all recommend?
Before you go crazy getting a new bike, look at slick/semislick/urban tires for your mtb; you can do a decent bike trailer for less than $100. Get some new parts for the mtb, like maybe a gear cluster or new cables(!), and it'll FEEL like a new bike.
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Old 05-03-08, 11:05 PM   #8
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I would recommend buying spare tires and tubes in advance. If you ever ruin a tire on a weekend you will have a spare handy. It is probable that your favorite tire won't be in stock all the time at the local bike shops.

Decide whether puncture resistant tires and liners are better than light weight fast rolling tires. Since I don't ride fast anyway, puncture resistance is more valuable to me. I don't like stopping to repair flat tires. Repairs take a long time to complete.

Start collecting basic tools that will help with bicycle repairs.
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Old 05-03-08, 11:38 PM   #9
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Examine first your reasons for going car-ownership-free. For most, it is financial... the cost of running a motor vehicle is a primary reason. If that's the case, don't think that running a bicycle is as cheap as it's portrayed. It's not by the time you take into account replacements such as drivetrain and tyres, wheels if they aren't of good enough quality initially, and clothing, both for comfort and protection from the elements.

One advantage is, however, that you can "grow into" using a bicycle or bicycles as your primary transport. That means you can acquire stuff as you go along and find that you need it. Think of it as buying something tangible using the money you would refuel your car with.

Then examine your other transport options in your area when you don't have access to a bike or just don't want to ride. How philosophically resistant are you to using a motor vehicle again (such as hiring or using taxis and buses)? Are they even available conveniently where you live?

What is the standard of roads in your area and those you might ride in? Potholed, smooth, littered with glass, clean, lots of roadworks with trenches with sharp edges, high traffic volumes or low? Do you have an idea of how to plan routes that have a high cycling amenity? If you ride MUPs, how patient are you with pedestrians or other cyclists who may block your way when you are hurrying to work/school?

What are your grocery needs every week? Do you own a pet like a dog or cat (because it seems bulk litter seems to be the major item carried by utility cyclists these days!!)? How far is your market away from home? How would you plan to carry stuff on the bike and is that part of your budgets (coz if it is, your base bike with be little more than the cheapest and nastiest model from your local bike shop)? What about the lock or locks -- in the budget too?

How close are the services you expect to use? How far away is your family? Your work? Venues for your other pursuits? How much bike parking is there at each location? Does you work have undercover bike parking and change facilities?

While it might seem odd asking you these questions when all you want to know is what type of bike... the answers may well decide the type of bike you wish to run with.

For example, you might do well just to keep going with your MTB, but if you have been riding it for years, have you maintained it adequately. In other words, will it be reliable enough to get you to work/school on time and home again? The cost of replacing items on the bike and upgrading it to a reliable machine, with labour and things like a rear rack thrown in, might be as much as a new bike. You also will be spending more and more time on the bike, so does it really fit and feel comfortable for anything over 5 or 10 miles?

Is there a chance you will expand your cycling horizons and maybe do some touring? Touring bikes have a well-founded reputation, in my opinion, of being excellent all-round bikes for commuting, utility cycling, and touring. Fuji makes a cheap model, and I think Jamis does too. You might consider a cyclocross bike with a high bottom bracket if you are thinking of riding off road occasionally. That doesn't mean to say MTBs don't have a role, either, because they do with their inherent toughness in frame and wheels, but as pointed out by others, you really do need to get smooth, thinner tyres. Personally, I would steer clear of hybrids especially cheap ones which, in my experience, are just too unreliable.
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Old 05-07-08, 12:21 PM   #10
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Do you own a pet like a dog or cat (because it seems bulk litter seems to be the major item carried by utility cyclists these days!!)?


Just a couple years ago, the big topic here was "I would be carfree but I can't get the kitty litter home." Now it's flipped, and like you say, carrying kitty litter is now what gives the utility riders some street cred. I love seeing this change!

But to the OP: You can choose whether or not to carry heavy loads on a bike. I'm in the minority here because I usually choose not to. There are many ways to get your stuff home from the store if you don't want a trailer or Xtracycle.

My main advice is to just get off your butt and do it. As long as you have the carfree basics covered (work commute and grocery shopping), everything else will soon fall into place.
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Old 05-07-08, 12:45 PM   #11
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But to the OP: You can choose whether or not to carry heavy loads on a bike. I'm in the minority here because I usually choose not to.

If you have a large/heavy/bulky item to transport it, how do you do so without either a car or a bike? A little red wagon?
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Old 05-07-08, 01:04 PM   #12
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If you have a large/heavy/bulky item to transport it, how do you do so without either a car or a bike? A little red wagon?
A little red wagon would be nice, but i don't have one of those either. I will gladly carry 30 or more pounds on my back on a bike. Usually I walk with bulky items, or take a bus. I have used a taxi or a friend's car--very rarely. Delivery is another option.

I just don't have much occasion to carry heavy stuff. It wouldn't be economical for me to buy a trailer for the rare occasions that I would use it. I wish I had more carfree friends who would be interested in sharing a trailer.

The point is that there are many approaches to carfree cycling. Here we get a chance to read about all of them, and then make intelligent choices that fit our individual circumstances.
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Old 05-07-08, 01:26 PM   #13
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You might be able to tweak your existing mountain bike for better efficiency on the road. Narrower slicker tires, higher tire pressure, cleaning and lubricating the drive train (crank, chain, hubs, etc.), making adjustments to improve the fit of the bike, those are things that can potentially make a big difference, and they all add up.
+1

Try slick tires first. They really make a MTB good on the road. A change in gearing can help speed you up
and you wont have to spend a lot on a new bike either.
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Old 05-07-08, 02:31 PM   #14
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1. Slick tires, don't have to be skinny, but no aggressive tread if you're riding on pavement or a smoothish surface

2. Racks front and rear with lots of storage, nothing worse then buying too much stuff at the store and not having enough room. You CAN plan ahead by making multiple trips or bring a trailer, but like having a car, sometimes you don't want to think and just want to buy what you need. Nice to ride home from work and pick up whatever you need for the next week and not need to make a special trip.

3. Good lights, front and rear

4. Learn to fix things on your own, or biking can get real expensive real fast


Check out touring bikes. I have the bikesdirect.com Windsor tourist, but I was very close to buying the Sury LHT. The LHT is probably the better quality bike, but for me the major plus on the Windsor was the brifters (the shifters), good for every day use and overall the bike is still great. If I had to redo it, I'd probably buy a LHT or Nashbar touring frame (finally instock last I checked), and build up my own with brifters and a little better components than the Windsor.
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Old 05-07-08, 02:44 PM   #15
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My main steed is a Specialized Hard Rock that has been streetified with slicks, fenders, a rack and lights. It handles the rough streets and hills of Little Rock fine. I can keep up with people on road bikes though I have to work a little harder. I get compliments on it all the time, despite its age.

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