Old 10-23-15, 10:14 AM
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Winter Commuting- should I get a beater or a slightly nicer MTB?

Having just moved to Minnesota, I want to get set up with a dedicated winter commuter. My initial plan was to buy a super cheap 90s rigid mountain bike- think along the lines of a Specialized Hardrock, Raleigh M30 or Trek 800- basically, the cheapest thing I can find in decent working order. There are plenty of options in my area in the $75-$125 price range, which I'd be happy to pay.

However, I also stumbled across a (somewhat) newer Trek Navigator 300 for only about $25 more than most of the others I've been emailing about. I know this isn't a high end bike by any means, but it strikes me as a much better overall value. The frame is aluminum instead of steel and the seller claims its equipped with a shimano alivio groupset and specialized resolution tires, which are presumably better than whatever was considered passable in 1993.

My question is, is it worth it to invest even $25 in higher quality components and materials for a bike that will be dedicated to plowing through snow? If my cogs get covered in ice, will it make a difference that they're higher quality? If I'm always trying to ride slow and steady, will I notice a moderately lighter aluminum frame? The Navigator also has shocks on the fork and seatpost, which I assume won't help me out that much during the winter- will the be a liability?

Obviously, this particular bike might turn out to be a lemon. But generally, when scouring craigslist for winter commuters, should I be looking for good deals on decent mountain bikes, or constraining my search to rigid steel-framed beaters?
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