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Suggestions wanted, NYC commuter build

Old 12-16-19, 05:37 PM
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Suggestions wanted, NYC commuter build

I'm not super excited about an upcoming move to Manhattan. To get myself psyched up, I want to modify one of my bikes into the "Ultimate City Commuter". A tough, fast, bad a$$, take no prisoners, urban jungle sled.

It will be vintage, and it will be fun. and it will have to carry a big U-lock and a Z-lock as I think that will keep my bike moderately safe on campus. Yes, this is for getting me to and from the Brooklyn college Campus or the HOSTOS campus.

I'd rather up my lock game then get a true beater, since I do want the ride to be fun.

The top contenders:

An '84 Miyata 610
A '91 Cannondale SM500 (drop conversation)
These are both have acres of tire clearence, are partially built and finishing one would be awesome. Plus if either grew legs I'd be bummed out, but they don't hold a special place in my herd.

Second Tier:
'79 Trek 510 (maybe too nice, but it hides it well under craptastic touch up paint)
'90 Cannondale ST600 (same deal, sweat bike, poor paint)

Finally,
An '84 Trek 520. This is a cool bike in pretty good shape. I picked this up before finding a 620 so it hasn't been ridden a whole lot, and it somehow seems like it wants to go to New York.
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Old 12-16-19, 05:47 PM
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The less of a drivetrain the easier to keep it running day in-out.

You should have good BF company in the M
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Old 12-16-19, 05:49 PM
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Once I’ve got the bike picked out, the plan is a French fit sit up-ish position, but still using drop bars. Barcon shifters so I can keep my hands on the bars in the crazy Manhattan traffic...

I want to mount the locks to the frame to streamline locking and unlocking

a rear rack with a folding basket on one side for a backpack, and a pannier on the other

and I’d like to try a front porter basket rack... something to put a six pack in.
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Old 12-16-19, 06:02 PM
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I am not in the city that often anymore, however, my two cents is that NYC bikes must be locked like Fort Knox and ugly. Use a chain to lock your seat. Remove any quick release skewers on your wheels and seat. Some people wrap the frame in tape. This does two things: 1. protects the frame from dings and dents from the locks and 2. hides the identity of the frame. Of course, NYC thieve might also think that if you hiding the identity of your bike, it must be good.

I think it might have been one of our bike Forum members that applied Huffy decals to his frame to throw thieves off the scent. New York, in my opinion, is more prone to bike theft or stealing parts of the bike and is more dangerous than other cities.

One guy I know uses a "Downtube" brand folding bike that he brings up to his office. He started off with a DaHon and went to the Downtube after putting many harsh NYC miles on it and getting some issues. He likes the Downtube and says it is holding up well.

Then watch out for the hacks (taxis), buses, delivery vehicles and everyone else on the street, even pedestrians. Pedestrians don't look and walk out into the street. I've seen some close call and know about bike/pedestrian collisions being an issue. Buses pull to the curb without looking. And then there are the car doors.

Good luck.

I am sure that someone with more NYC and Brooklyn experience will be able to give you more specific info.

Last edited by Velo Mule; 12-16-19 at 06:05 PM.
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Old 12-16-19, 06:17 PM
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My wife is out there all ready, and Saturday night was having dinner. She parked where she could see her bike through a window while eating, and was treated to a view of some drunk college kids fall into her locked bike and knock it too the ground.


Maybe I should tape or sticker bomb the Cannondale Mountain bike and use that as the base....

And I REMEMBER that "Huffy"! If I remember it was a really nice customer build!
I wonder if I can get some "Pacific Bicycles" decals... Or "Magna". I bet I could print my own, they don't have to be ligit!
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Old 12-16-19, 06:42 PM
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I have a friend that commutes to Manhattan from Jersey via ferry, then bike. He uses a total piece of crap bike. Someone stole his brake pads. Nothing is safe. And, he said it made the ride to his office very interesting.

By the way, I'm a Brooklyn College grad (1982). If you met me, you would go somewhere else.

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Old 12-16-19, 07:18 PM
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Security depends a lot on location. If you're locked up in a very public place that makes a positive difference. But don't skimp on locks. I live and work in Manhattan and commuted for a year on a PX-10, then switched to a 3-speed Raleigh Sports for the last 5. I love the Sports but I want something friskier. I recently got a new old frame for the rando-ish setup that was on my 71 International so I'm going to rebuild it with a 8-speed IGH, flat bars, fenders, sprung Brooks saddle (BRILLIANT for bad streets). I use Linus canvas roll-up bags on a basic rack, one side takes my backpack and the other holds my locks and junk. The whole thing snaps off and goes on my shoulder, or has a silly little padlock for quick pops into a shop. Each bag just fits a paper grocery bag if I wiggle it in. May add a front rack for extra hauling, I've learned it can be very useful.I had one on the PX-10.

My opinion (ATMO!) steel would be more forgiving on crappy streets than aluminum, but any of your candidates should work well so pick one and go for it, modify it as you figure out what's optimal for your situation. Barcons are a good idea, @noglider loves his moustache bars which may be an option to get you semi-upright while still kinda forward. If you'll be riding in the dark seriously consider a dynamo hub. I don't have one because I'm not that hardcore about night riding.

Keep us updated!
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Old 12-16-19, 07:33 PM
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Theft here is mostly opportunistic/ignorant of value, driven more by the need to make a quick street resale - a $200 chinese fixie in some rad "colorway" would be more of a target than a fine 80s tourer. But agree that streets here make steel an easy choice over aluminum, and totally agree on the spring saddle secret, even though i cant bring myself to find one.

So if Brooklyn College has secure parking, and the bike sleeps with you every night, then I would guess that lunch/dinner lockups are your primary source of worry? I find the easiest way to kill its theft appeal is make it super basic (no dynamo, no IGH, hell, no gears even) and make it beat to hell, and hopefully then only you will see the charm in it.
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Old 12-16-19, 07:51 PM
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Really, I’d suggest going with a bike share city bike, and then not having to worry about theft and damage. I’ve been thinking about doing that for my short commute to a college campus here in Boston, particularly on crappy weather days and I paid for an annual membership in our bike share program. I’ve been commuting through the winter for years, mostly on c&v bikes, and it’s really hard on a bike. Oh, and some nitwit stole my helmet a few weeks ago when my bike was parked on campus, so now I have to carry the new helmet with me.
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Old 12-16-19, 08:38 PM
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For what it's worth, I have a cheap, beat to hell, track bike with a Nexus 3-speed hub on the rear wheel. It gets the heaviest chain that Kryptonite makes wrapped around its seatpost if I''m planning on locking it up for more than a few minutes. The 3-speed hub drives me crazy on an open road, but for stop-and-start city traffic I've found that nothing works better.
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Old 12-16-19, 08:39 PM
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POS Wal-Mart cruiser lightened up with POS Wal-Mart rims, POS Wal-Mart saddle, and the cheapest smooth tires you can get. Then lock it up like you just parked a Confente in front of a bunch of rabid C&V'ers stripped of their morals. Instant NYC bike.

And if you want it to blend in with the other parked bikes, spraybomb it like this:


Or just rent the CitiBike.

Headpost's suggestion sounds good too; can't go wrong with a Nexus 3, and if it's stolen, it's not entirely irreplaceable.

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Old 12-16-19, 09:19 PM
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The commutes to Brooklyn College and Hostos from Manhattan sound long. I wouldn't want to do them on a single-speed. Build a bike out of an ugly frame. Don't clean it. I did this, but I kept it in top running condition. It was a sleeper bike. I was pleased when some kid from the neighborhood yelled out, "Cheap bike!"
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Old 12-16-19, 09:35 PM
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Fuji
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Old 12-16-19, 11:34 PM
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I will take the advice of signing up for the bike share program, it seems like to safest, most practical solution.

But! Until we move the bulk of our belongings in the spring, I still want one of my own bikes for weekend joyrides, exploration, and in case I lose all of my company's (and family's) savings in a risky business decision, become deflated and disenchanted with my profession as a floor trader, quit my job and become a bicycle messanger.Then along with the colorful characters that work with me, I save a troubled young woman named Terri from a gang!

So discussing it between my frames the Trek 520 is the most excited about visiting the Big Apple. I'm going to put some modern 700c rims on there to fit some fat rubber and fenders. Ditch the skewers for locking axles and wax BB's into the Allen heads. I might just leave the downshifters.

I have a Kryptonite Ulock, the orange evolution standard (8/10 security rating) for the rear wheel and seat tube, and I'll pair that with the Keeper 585 (5/10) for the main triangle and from wheel. I think that combined they'll be pretty solid. Especially if I use a bike share for campus commuting.
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Old 12-16-19, 11:42 PM
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This will be the basis, I think the old Treks fly under the radar (paint wise) unless you’re a bike thief who specializes in C&V collectibles.




I don't want to give up the joy I get from these old things because I'm too worried that someone will steal it.
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Old 12-17-19, 06:46 AM
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There are no CitiBike docking stations near Brooklyn College. My niece, who graduated a few years ago from Brooklyn College, says they still have protected area on the campus for locking up bikes.
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Old 12-17-19, 06:53 AM
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^^^^^ perfect!! he looks like a total NYC beater/runabout, and will blend in nicely. fitting a ratty-looking saddle (patches of duct tape?) and mismatched wheels will both help make it more 'repulsive'
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Old 12-17-19, 07:04 AM
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The Trek is too nice a bike to sacrifice.
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Old 12-17-19, 07:47 AM
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Originally Posted by Chr0m0ly View Post
This will be the basis, I think the old Treks fly under the radar (paint wise) unless you’re a bike thief who specializes in C&V collectibles.




I don't want to give up the joy I get from these old things because I'm too worried that someone will steal it.
I do think that your Trek is a great platform to start with. I have commuted for 8+ years give or take all over NYC, at first on a Cannondale hybrid but as of 2014 exclusively on vintage steel and nice vintage steel at that. Granted at work I bring it inside to a secure area but I do lock the bikes outside all the time. NEVER overnight though and almost never on a secluded street. Even my NYC Kryptonite lock which is truly heavy duty could fall victim then. On the campuses your bike should be fine but do lock both wheels and frame to a sturdy object/stand. I also had a couple of drunks trip over my locked bike on the UWS a few weeks ago as I was partaking in the festive atmosphere of a pub with friends. No harm done.

Welcome to NYC by the way. Perhaps a C&V ride come spring.

Here are my two commuters, the U08 from '14-earlier this year and the Fuji Ace since. Both have been ridden thousands of local miles and tweaked and changed with time and according to my preference.

Unless there is ice, snow or heavy rain I commute year round. Well not today since the the germ infestation led by a household kindergartner and coworkers finally caught up to me.

Untitled by irishbx4th, on Flickr


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Old 12-17-19, 07:52 AM
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I commute (too cold now) over the GWB to midtown oa '91 Trek 750 (520 geometry) with trekking/butterfly bars. Scwalbe Land Cruiser 38c tires.I bring my bike into my office so no lock.
Previously used a 7500FX (aluminum) that did not ride as comfortable.

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Old 12-17-19, 07:58 AM
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Gearing-wise, doesn't Manhattan have a bit of a slope?
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Old 12-17-19, 08:05 AM
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I run 50-34 compact and 11 speed rear on the Ace. Upper Manhattan is where the elevation increases. Midtown and south is pretty much flat in most places. Obviously crossing bridges to Brooklyn or the Bronx presents some climbing too.
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Old 12-17-19, 10:15 AM
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Originally Posted by greg3rd48 View Post
I do think that your Trek is a great platform to start with. I have commuted for 8+ years give or take all over NYC, at first on a Cannondale hybrid but as of 2014 exclusively on vintage steel and nice vintage steel at that. Granted at work I bring it inside to a secure area but I do lock the bikes outside all the time. NEVER overnight though and almost never on a secluded street. Even my NYC Kryptonite lock which is truly heavy duty could fall victim then. On the campuses your bike should be fine but do lock both wheels and frame to a sturdy object/stand. I also had a couple of drunks trip over my locked bike on the UWS a few weeks ago as I was partaking in the festive atmosphere of a pub with friends. No harm done.

Welcome to NYC by the way. Perhaps a C&V ride come spring.

Here are my two commuters, the U08 from '14-earlier this year and the Fuji Ace since. Both have been ridden thousands of local miles and tweaked and changed with time and according to my preference.

Unless there is ice, snow or heavy rain I commute year round. Well not today since the the germ infestation led by a household kindergartner and coworkers finally caught up to me.

Untitled by irishbx4th, on Flickr
I always like that green on '70s Pugs when I see it. Nice looking bike - even your top tube decals are intact. I have a red A08 from about 1975-1977 or so that I'm building into a good four-season commuter. It'll have alloy wheels and crank, a four-speed IGH, and dynamo LED lighting good for dark winter mornings. What I like about boom era steel bikes is their general availability, cheapness, and with a little knowledge of French bikes you can do whatever you want to them. It isn't very stealthy, but I have relatively secure bike parking at work. The Peugeots of this era ride really nicely. I"m looking forward to the change in mine once the alloy crank and wheelset are fitted. Here it is as it was several months ago. The saddle is way too forward - I hadn't adjusted it yet. The frame stands alone now, waiting for parts. There used to be a thread where folks posted rough-looking commuter bikes, but I couldn't find it for inspiration. Oh - what seat post is that? I'm thinking of replacing mine.

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Old 12-17-19, 12:26 PM
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Originally Posted by Headpost View Post
For what it's worth, I have a cheap, beat to hell, track bike with a Nexus 3-speed hub on the rear wheel. It gets the heaviest chain that Kryptonite makes wrapped around its seatpost if I''m planning on locking it up for more than a few minutes. The 3-speed hub drives me crazy on an open road, but for stop-and-start city traffic I've found that nothing works better.
This. A Sturmey or Nexus allows you to shift while sitting at a stoplight. Gear it low for strong starts.
Ditch the drop bars for some 3-4" risers, ATB style. That will keep your head up high on a swivel for traffic, instead of down in front.
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Old 12-17-19, 01:17 PM
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Op my suggestion is to get a Surly Cross Check or straggler , build out with a 1x10 drive train , add rear rack . Shod the wheels with Schwalbe Marathons, strip the decals and call it a day.

The cross check is one of the Gold Standards for commuting and will not let you down .

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