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  1. #1
    Biking 4 Life vja4Him's Avatar
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    Lightweight Bike for Commuting, Shopping, Camping

    I've decided to abort my plan of installing an electric motor on my Townie, and save up for a better bicycle. I've come to realize that I can get around just fine with only pedal power ... !!! I've increased my average speed from only 6mph to about 10mph in about five months of casual riding to work, running errands and shopping.

    With all my health problems, I'm making very good progress. I never thought I'd be able to do this much on my bicycle! Since I quit drinking coffee, my stamina has increased considerably, and haven't had any chest pains for several weeks now. I feel like the weight is slowing me down though, and so I'd like to go lighter, if possible, much lighter.

    After reading through thousands of posts on many bicycle forums, and finding out what so many people are doing with their bicycles, I am absolutely amazed ... !!! And encouraged with hope that I can make the best of going green all the way, and enjoy riding much more ... !!!

    I need a good quality, strong bicycle, that is light, smooth-riding with little resistance, but yet will still be able to carry front and rear racks with panniers (both rear and front) for when I go shopping, or camping. Most of my riding will be commuting to work, and then picking up a few groceries after work, which will mean that I can get by with carrying fewer groceries each trip. I'd like to travel as light as possible, for a much quicker and smoother ride .... I'm hoping that I can get my average speed up to 15mph or more with a better bicycle.

    One problem I have is my back, and so I need to be able to sit up pretty much straight. If I lean down, my back hurts too much. I'd like to be able to stand up and pedal too. I've tried standing up pedaling on my Townie, but it just doesn't work!

    I won't be doing any long distance touring, mostly riding to work (maximum 20 miles round trip), running errands and shopping several times a week for myself and my two boys. I plan on camping several times a year at our local campgrounds, Caswell Memorial State Park, which is about 40 miles round trip.

    My long-term goal is to someday be able to handle the ride up to Yosemite from Modesto, which is about 115 miles each way, with a hotel at about half way, 66 miles from our home!

    I'm not sure just how much I will have to spend on a new bicycle until I get my tax return. I'm hoping that I can spend at least $1,000.00 for just the bike, and add racks/panniers later. I'd like to spend more though. I want to have a bike that has many possibilities for attaching racks and panniers, water bottles, etc.

  2. #2
    Senior Member mijome07's Avatar
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    I'm waiting for all the LHT recommendations to pour in.

  3. #3
    Biking 4 Life vja4Him's Avatar
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    What is LHT ?

    Quote Originally Posted by mijome07 View Post
    I'm waiting for all the LHT recommendations to pour in.
    What is LHT ?

  4. #4
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by vja4Him View Post
    What is LHT ?
    Surly Long Haul Trucker (LHT). A steel framed touring bike.

    My suggestion would be a Cannondale T2. A bit more expensive than the LHT but a bit lighter. Surly already has the market cornered on touring bikes, why be like the rest of the herd?
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  5. #5
    Senior Member mijome07's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
    my suggestion would be a cannondale t2. A bit more expensive than the lht but a bit lighter. Surly already has the market cornered on touring bikes, why be like the rest of the herd?
    +1

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    if you really want light and fast you could try a cyclocross bike. you may need to replace the front fork to get rack mounts though. but you can get an entry level bike at ~20lbs.

  7. #7
    Senior Member bedian's Avatar
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    Check out the Jamis Aurora Elite

  8. #8
    Biking 4 Life vja4Him's Avatar
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    Thanks for the suggestion. I have the page saved and added to my list of choices.

  9. #9
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    I use a cyclocross bike for commuting and 60 mile day rides at the weekend. It is not as heavy as a touring bike like the LHT, but with light loads handles nicely. Drop bars are comfy if you dont set them agressively. Back pain can be reduced by improving your core body strength (exercises for stomach muscles and shoulders) which many cyclists overlook.

  10. #10
    Senior Member mijome07's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AndrewP View Post
    I use a cyclocross bike for commuting and 60 mile day rides at the weekend. It is not as heavy as a touring bike like the LHT, but with light loads handles nicely. Drop bars are comfy if you dont set them agressively. Back pain can be reduced by improving your core body strength (exercises for stomach muscles and shoulders) which many cyclists overlook.
    What's the make/model?

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    How much coffee were you drinking so that it noticeably effected your stamina?

    Although I don't tour, I'd like too, and I've seen the LHT recommended a lot

  12. #12
    Senior Member td.tony's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bedian View Post
    Check out the Jamis Aurora Elite
    i hardly ever see anyone recomend the aurora elite, good to see someone who does. i guess its overshadowed by all the LHT talk on this forum.

    i own an 08' aurora elite and love it. at first 26lbs sounded heavy, but after having the bike for a month i realized its a lot lighter than it looks on paper, you really cant tell. im sure you would be able to average way above 10mph very soon with a new bike.

  13. #13
    Bicycle Student bokerfest's Avatar
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    I am not going to suggest a certain bike, but what I do advise if you are shopping with this bike, is that I would want something that I could shop for a while and not worry about the bike being locked up outside and it magically disappearing. Hopefully theft and Modesto do not go together, but I know it too well and for that reason I would keep an eye on craigslist so I can find something cheap and still be light enough.

  14. #14
    Biking 4 Life vja4Him's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by starseeka View Post
    How much coffee were you drinking so that it noticeably effected your stamina?

    Although I don't tour, I'd like too, and I've seen the LHT recommended a lot
    I've drank coffee most of my life, but have quit numerous times. The past two years I was drinking two cups a day. I must be allergic to coffee, because I get addicted to the stuff very quickly, and have very painful headaches when I miss a cup.

    I'm ok now, no more headaches, and sleeping much better, and the prostate medicine has kicked in, so I'm only getting up to use the bathroom usually twice each night now, a coupld nights had to get up three times, and several nights only once!!!

    Anyone with prostate problems should not drink coffee, becauase the coffee keeps the prostate from shrinking, even with medicine (coffee inhibits the prostate medicine from working).

    There must be some connection with coffee and the chest pains that I was having, because I haven't had anymore chest pains since I quit drinking coffee. Now I can push myself a little harder ....

  15. #15
    Biking 4 Life vja4Him's Avatar
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    Bicycle Theft ....

    Quote Originally Posted by bokerfest View Post
    I am not going to suggest a certain bike, but what I do advise if you are shopping with this bike, is that I would want something that I could shop for a while and not worry about the bike being locked up outside and it magically disappearing. Hopefully theft and Modesto do not go together, but I know it too well and for that reason I would keep an eye on craigslist so I can find something cheap and still be light enough.
    You bring up a very good point ... And theft in Modesto in very high, one of the highest in the nation! Not good .... I try to get in and out of the store quickly. I have the extra-heavy duty Kryptonite lock (cost me $150.00!!!). I also have a heavy cable lock (extra long). I would probably use both to lock up a more expensive bike. Or I could just have one of my boys tag along, and stay outside to watch the bikes (still locked up).

  16. #16
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by crocodilefundy View Post
    if you really want light and fast you could try a cyclocross bike. you may need to replace the front fork to get rack mounts though. but you can get an entry level bike at ~20lbs.
    A 20 lb cyclocross bike is going to be a dedicated cyclocross bike with few of the amenities that you need for making it a touring bike. If you want one that can be used for touring, it's weight is going to be pretty close to that of a full on touring bike. I have a Salsa La Cruces and while it is lighter than my T800, it's only slightly lighter owing most of that weight savings to the carbon fork (completely inappropriate for touring) All of the other components on the two bikes are pretty well matched in weight and quality.
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  17. #17
    Biking 4 Life vja4Him's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
    A 20 lb cyclocross bike is going to be a dedicated cyclocross bike with few of the amenities that you need for making it a touring bike. If you want one that can be used for touring, it's weight is going to be pretty close to that of a full on touring bike. I have a Salsa La Cruces and while it is lighter than my T800, it's only slightly lighter owing most of that weight savings to the carbon fork (completely inappropriate for touring) All of the other components on the two bikes are pretty well matched in weight and quality.
    Would a cyclocross be good for my needs? Riding from Modesto to Yosemite, about 115 miles each way, plus another 30-40 miles riding around the park? That's about the farthest that I would be riding. I would need to carry enough supplies for about one week, with tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, stove.

    What exactly are the advantages/disadvantages of carbon components?

  18. #18
    Senior Member Nigeyy's Avatar
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    With this restriction, I'm not sure some of the bikes mentioned are a good idea -well at least probably not without changing the handlebars and stem. Given what you posted about your back, I'd say consider a hybrid or a comfort bike, probably leaning more to a good quality hybrid. The best thing you can do is try it for yourself.

    Another thing to consider might be to get a trailer, but that might not be practical if you can't leave it outside the store without fear of it being stolen. It would however, give you potentially more choices of a lightweight bike while still providing touring capability.

    Thinking about it, I can't help wondering if the solution is a two bike solution; a cheap beater bike (or your current bike?) for that grocery shopping trip, and then a nicer lightweight bike for pleasure tripping/touring/commuting.

    Quote Originally Posted by vja4Him View Post
    One problem I have is my back, and so I need to be able to sit up pretty much straight.

  19. #19
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    Which Townie do you have?

    Quote Originally Posted by vja4Him View Post
    I need a good quality, strong bicycle, that is light, smooth-riding with little resistance, but yet will still be able to carry front and rear racks with panniers (both rear and front) for when I go shopping, or camping. Most of my riding will be commuting to work, and then picking up a few groceries after work, which will mean that I can get by with carrying fewer groceries each trip. I'd like to travel as light as possible, for a much quicker and smoother ride .... I'm hoping that I can get my average speed up to 15mph or more with a better bicycle.
    You want a lot of stuff. You may be looking for a "magic" bicycle.

    Most of doing "15 mph" isn't going to be the bicycle. It's going to be you. Probably, the biggest contribution to speed (outside of you) is the tires and wheels. The LHT is one of many bicycles that would work well for what you list. It's not terribly light (but it isn't overly heavy for what it is) but that isn't likely to be a problem (unless you are dealing with killer hills). Note that "light" often equates to "expensive".

    Quote Originally Posted by vja4Him View Post
    Would a cyclocross be good for my needs? Riding from Modesto to Yosemite, about 115 miles each way, plus another 30-40 miles riding around the park? That's about the farthest that I would be riding. I would need to carry enough supplies for about one week, with tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, stove.
    A cyclocross bike would be fine for that. The Specialized Tricross is intended for that (in addition to cyclocross).

    Quote Originally Posted by vja4Him View Post
    What exactly are the advantages/disadvantages of carbon components?
    Mostly, they are lighter. Carbon frames might be more comfortable but not well suited for utility (eg, carrrying lots of stuff (execpt, maybe, with a trailer). Carbon tends to be much more expensive. If you have a limited budget, carbon is probably out.

    ==============

    Quote Originally Posted by Nigeyy View Post
    Another thing to consider might be to get a trailer, but that might not be practical if you can't leave it outside the store without fear of it being stolen. It would however, give you potentially more choices of a lightweight bike while still providing touring capability.
    A trailer is a good idea (I keep forgetting about them).

    Quote Originally Posted by Nigeyy View Post
    With this restriction, I'm not sure some of the bikes mentioned are a good idea -well at least probably not without changing the handlebars and stem. Given what you posted about your back, I'd say consider a hybrid or a comfort bike, probably leaning more to a good quality hybrid. The best thing you can do is try it for yourself.
    This is important advice. If dropped (ie, "racing") bars won't work for you, you should realize that, while it's possible, it would be expensive to change the handle bars on a bicycle. There are some nice "high performance" non-drop bar bikes (eg, from Jamis and Cannondale) that you might want to concider. Note that you can adjust the height of the handle bars (higher is common for touring even with drop bars). You have to figure out if the bar problem is a height one or a bar style one (or both).
    Last edited by njkayaker; 01-22-09 at 10:42 AM.

  20. #20
    ROM 6:23 flipped4bikes's Avatar
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    I love my Tricross. Definitely some compromises for touring, but for commuting it's great. For shopping, it'll scream steal me!

    I'm assuming that you've been to Yosemite. I love the place, but not the best for bike touring unless you stay out of the Valley. Yeah right, and miss all the best. The climbing can be PITA especially if you are leaving the Valley and trying to get to the Route 120 entrance. IIRC entering the Park from Crane Flat is steep too. Be sure to have a nice low, triple gearing on your bike. The Park roads are narrow too so it could be a bit dicey battling the RVs.

    I would also stay with drop bars, more hand positions as you ride. Test a lot of touring bikes so that fit is good for your back.
    Every time we let a vehicle pass there is a little bit of compromise. But compromise allows the city to function and allows cyclists to function in the city. The trick is not to eliminate compromise but to learn how to work safely within it.

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  21. #21
    your nightmare gal chipcom's Avatar
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    Think outside the box, folks. My Big Dummy can do all that and more (OK, not exactly light, but 15mph average unloaded isn't a problem). Of course my BD wasn't cheap, but when you start talking about LHTs and T2s, building an Xtracycle...or just buying a Radish or Kona Ute or similar should be considered.
    "Let us hope our weapons are never needed --but do not forget what the common people knew when they demanded the Bill of Rights: An armed citizenry is the first defense, the best defense, and the final defense against tyranny. If guns are outlawed, only the government will have guns. Only the police, the secret police, the military, the hired servants of our rulers. Only the government -- and a few outlaws. I intend to be among the outlaws" - Edward Abbey

  22. #22
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by vja4Him View Post
    Would a cyclocross be good for my needs? Riding from Modesto to Yosemite, about 115 miles each way, plus another 30-40 miles riding around the park? That's about the farthest that I would be riding. I would need to carry enough supplies for about one week, with tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, stove.

    What exactly are the advantages/disadvantages of carbon components?
    I tend to shy away from 'cross bikes for touring because of the short wheelbase/chainstays. If you have small feet you may not have to worry about clearance problems with the rear panniers but you won't know until you've purchased the bike and tried to put bags on it. Then it's too late to do much about it. Trailers solve some of those problems but trailers open up a whole other can of worms.

    Short bikes with a load (or pulling a trailer) can have other handling issues. They tend to be skittish. The same qualities that make them fun to ride...quick steering, fast acceleration, responsiveness, etc...are magnified when loaded. Not in a good way either.

    Carbon components are light and relatively strong but most of them haven't been designed with the loads that touring puts on them in mind. The fork that my Las Cruces has on it may be strong but it's not designed to take a rack (I wouldn't tour without fork mounts for a rack). Trying to clamp one onto the fork would be difficult because of the shape and would probably damage the fork and compromise its strength if I tried.

    Rereading you original post, you may not want to go with a cross or touring bike anyway. Most of those are made with drop bars which could cause you back problems. There are many hybrid (flat bar) bikes out there that would probably be a better match.

    The Cannondale Road Warrior (2008 models) was a T2 frame with a flat bar. Trek's 7.2 and 7.3 Fx bikes look very touring worthy. Component spec is a little low (heavier) but not too bad for the price. The Specialized Sirrus and Sirrus Sport would be worth a look too. None of them are particularly expensive and they might require a little tweeking but they are a good place to start looking.
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  23. #23
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    In a high crime area I think a two bike solution might be best. Get a cheap 25 year old steel bike from craigslist that you can uglify with Huffy or banana stickers and kitch plastic flowers for decoration. Add lights, fenders, rear rack and folding wald baskets, maybe a tall Nitto technomic or dirt drop stem to raise the handlebars and give you an upright riding position. Sell the current bike and use the proceeds from that and the rest of your budget to get a nicer touring bike and have the handlebars set as high as possible.

    I really don't think a light bike should be your priority. For someone just getting started with biking, I think comfort is more important as that will help you to spend more time in the saddle. You'd probably find light bikes uncomfortable and totally lacking in the utility functions you desire for commuting, shopping and touring and thus you'd probably ride less.

  24. #24
    D.G.W Hedges mrhedges's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by IceNine View Post
    In a high crime area I think a two bike solution might be best. Get a cheap 25 year old steel bike from craigslist that you can uglify with Huffy or banana stickers and kitch plastic flowers for decoration. Add lights, fenders, rear rack and folding wald baskets, maybe a tall Nitto technomic or dirt drop stem to raise the handlebars and give you an upright riding position. Sell the current bike and use the proceeds from that and the rest of your budget to get a nicer touring bike and have the handlebars set as high as possible.

    I really don't think a light bike should be your priority. For someone just getting started with biking, I think comfort is more important as that will help you to spend more time in the saddle. You'd probably find light bikes uncomfortable and totally lacking in the utility functions you desire for commuting, shopping and touring and thus you'd probably ride less.

    +1 I was about to say the same thing. want to add that being atleast alittle handy with bikes will save you a lot of money. I don't know what the used bike market is like where you live but there are still alot of 80s road bikes sitting around that could do what you want with little modification.
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  25. #25
    Senior Member BigBlueToe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by vja4Him View Post
    Would a cyclocross be good for my needs? Riding from Modesto to Yosemite, about 115 miles each way, plus another 30-40 miles riding around the park? That's about the farthest that I would be riding. I would need to carry enough supplies for about one week, with tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, stove.

    What exactly are the advantages/disadvantages of carbon components?
    There is already a lot of good information here. I'll add my 2 cents. My packing list isn't much different whether I go for a weekend or a month. (There's another thread open on the packing list difference between short and long tours. You might want to check it out.) If I'll be camping, I'll need my camping stuff. If I'll be cooking, I'll need my cooking stuff. I'll need my tools in case of mechanical issues. About the only difference is that I don't bring many clothes for a weekend trip. I've gone without the tent before for short trips where I felt certain it wouldn't rain, and when I knew there wouldn't be mosquitoes. I never carry much food if there will be grocery stores along the route.

    My choice to carry my camping gear, cooking gear, clothes, tools, and miscellaneous items is a dedicated touring bike with front and rear panniers and a handlebar bag. The touring bike is strong, has braze-ons for racks and fenders, room for not-so-narrow tires (I like 700X32), has long chainstays so my big feet don't hit my panniers, and stretched out handling which is beneficial when carrying a load.

    Other bikes can work well for touring, particularly rigid mountain bikes or hybrids. I've toured on my old Stumpjumper and it worked fine - no heel strike on the panniers, although it was close. One thing you want for loaded touring, especially in the mountains, is low gears. A mountain bike usually has these.

    Carbon fiber usually equates to lightness, and it's said to dampen vibrations as well. I've heard many cautions against using carbon for mounting racks or trailers. I'm not sure it would hold up. But I'm only reporting what I've read. I have no experience with carbon, other than the fork on my new "fast" road bike, which I've only ridden a couple of times. So far, I haven't noticed a difference due to the carbon fork. Steel is the most common frame material of touring bikes, but the aluminum models from Cannondale have received excellent reviews as well.

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