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Looking for the AK-47 of Hybrid Bikes

Old 08-28-15, 12:14 PM
  #1  
NCSUMike
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Looking for the AK-47 of Hybrid Bikes

Hey All,

Could you help a newbie out with some advice on finding a seriously tough commuter bike? It's been maybe 20 years since I bought my last cycle!

I'm a new graduate student, looking for a hybrid-style bike that can help get me from place to place on the sprawled-out NC State University campus. Most of my commutes will be about 1 or 2 miles in length, perhaps with a little bit of longer-distance riding around a fairly smooth lakeside trail on the weekends. The campus has a few hills, and slow changes in elevation from place to place, but nothing really steep (>10% grade) by any means. A light-er frame would be nice, as I do have a shoulder injury that keeps me from wrestling with 50+ pounds at the bike rack every day. I'll be on campus walkways and sidewalks, mixed grassy terrain, and traffic-heavy roads roads with speed humps, in that order of frequency. My budget is $300 +/- $100.

So here's what I'm thinking: I'm looking for the "AK-47" of hybrid bikes if you will. I'm sure you're all familiar with the legendary design (fan of guns or no)... it's perhaps one of the most reliable machines ever created, and what really made it great, was its relatively low production cost. Being a grad. student, I'll have little to no time for maintaining the bike (just the basics).

It will live in the exposed outdoors... get neglected... be frequently rained-on... beat up over bumps and in bike racks... get muddy... stay dirty... possibly stolen... ridden at any hour of the day or night, in any weather condition... and will still have to carry my 220lb. rear-end from point A to point B at any given time.

Also, it should be fairly non-descript to help thieves look at "shinier" targets while on the rack at 2AM, and have the option to be anti-theft modified (I'd imagine removing quick disconnects, etc).

I'm hoping to stay dry while commuting in the rain... so I'll need to invest in serious fenders, or have it come with some. Should I get any other helpful all-weather equipment? I could imagine riding in the rain is hazardous enough, even with the best bikes, so I'll take any advantage I can get. Also, are there any more permanent coatings or affordable corrosion-resistant parts that I could invest in?

Would a cargo rack be useful as well? I've never used one before... so I'm open to the idea. I'll wear a mid-sized backpack (and helmet) normally.

I'll need reliable front and rear lighting as well... but that's for another budget, and another post.


I've seen one bike that could be a good starting point, and potentially allow for mods:

https://www.amazon.com/Schwinn-Capito...ds=hybrid+bike


But then again, for $300, such qualities may be hard to find. I'd consider looking for a used bike, but as a busy student, I have very little to no time for canvassing craigslist and visiting sellers.

So to sum-up my requirements, I'm thinking the bike should be:
-Inexpensive (~$300)
-Rugged
-Reliable... through design and/or materials.
-Low-maintenance... I may only have time for infrequent chain lubes & air/basic checks.
-All-Weather
-Not too flashy
-New if possible

Does such an animal exist?


Many thanks in advance,

Mike
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Old 08-28-15, 12:20 PM
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Marin Muirwoods 29er checks your boxes.

If you need one do-it-all bike, its the ticket.

Simple, reliable and bombproof.

Can usually be had on eBay for around $350-400.

Not very flashy and its a bike you can ride on both potholed streets and dirt trails.
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Old 08-28-15, 12:22 PM
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Look for a used rigid or hard-tail MTB on C-List. Install mostly slick tires. Have fun.
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Old 08-28-15, 12:28 PM
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Originally Posted by dtrain View Post
Look for a used rigid or hard-tail MTB on C-List. Install mostly slick tires. Have fun.
++1

Do this. I have a rigid MTB from 1993 (which I actually bought in 2008 as NOS). Utterly bulletproof. I've got 1.75 100 psi slicks on it and it is an awesome workhorse bike. Only a little bit slower than my drop-bar bike.
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Old 08-28-15, 01:18 PM
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Yeah- rigid frame MTB. Don't get something with a suspension fork- it isn't needed, is heavier, and is just one more component that could break.
Slap a rack on the back, maybe some fenders, and some slicks.

You will have to suck it up and look thru craigslist. Itll take a few hours of your time in total- unless college has changed in the last decade, you should be able to somehow find the time.


If your shoulder is hurt- use a rack and lash the backpack/bag to it.

Good rack off Amazon- $30
Good fenders off Amazon- $40
Slick tires- $30-50
Bike- $75-150 depending on market and whats available right now. $150 should get you a good quality 90s mtb ready to ride.
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Old 08-28-15, 02:44 PM
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You might have missed the best window for this, but most college towns have a glut of used bikes for sale at the end of every school year...
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Old 08-28-15, 03:15 PM
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Another vote for an '80s or '90s rigid mountain bike with street tires.
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Old 08-28-15, 03:29 PM
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You mean something you can bury in the mud and it will still be a killer, when you take it out?

Sturmey Archer AW3 3 speed rear Hubs ..
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Old 08-28-15, 08:34 PM
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Originally Posted by NCSUMike View Post
Hey All,

Could you help a newbie out with some advice on finding a seriously tough commuter bike? It's been maybe 20 years since I bought my last cycle!

I'm a new graduate student, looking for a hybrid-style bike that can help get me from place to place on the sprawled-out NC State University campus. Most of my commutes will be about 1 or 2 miles in length, perhaps with a little bit of longer-distance riding around a fairly smooth lakeside trail on the weekends. The campus has a few hills, and slow changes in elevation from place to place, but nothing really steep (>10% grade) by any means. A light-er frame would be nice, as I do have a shoulder injury that keeps me from wrestling with 50+ pounds at the bike rack every day. I'll be on campus walkways and sidewalks, mixed grassy terrain, and traffic-heavy roads roads with speed humps, in that order of frequency. My budget is $300 +/- $100.

So here's what I'm thinking: I'm looking for the "AK-47" of hybrid bikes if you will. I'm sure you're all familiar with the legendary design (fan of guns or no)... it's perhaps one of the most reliable machines ever created, and what really made it great, was its relatively low production cost. Being a grad. student, I'll have little to no time for maintaining the bike (just the basics).

It will live in the exposed outdoors... get neglected... be frequently rained-on... beat up over bumps and in bike racks... get muddy... stay dirty... possibly stolen... ridden at any hour of the day or night, in any weather condition... and will still have to carry my 220lb. rear-end from point A to point B at any given time.

Also, it should be fairly non-descript to help thieves look at "shinier" targets while on the rack at 2AM, and have the option to be anti-theft modified (I'd imagine removing quick disconnects, etc).

I'm hoping to stay dry while commuting in the rain... so I'll need to invest in serious fenders, or have it come with some. Should I get any other helpful all-weather equipment? I could imagine riding in the rain is hazardous enough, even with the best bikes, so I'll take any advantage I can get. Also, are there any more permanent coatings or affordable corrosion-resistant parts that I could invest in?

Would a cargo rack be useful as well? I've never used one before... so I'm open to the idea. I'll wear a mid-sized backpack (and helmet) normally.

I'll need reliable front and rear lighting as well... but that's for another budget, and another post.


I've seen one bike that could be a good starting point, and potentially allow for mods:

https://www.amazon.com/Schwinn-Capito...ds=hybrid+bike


But then again, for $300, such qualities may be hard to find. I'd consider looking for a used bike, but as a busy student, I have very little to no time for canvassing craigslist and visiting sellers.

So to sum-up my requirements, I'm thinking the bike should be:
-Inexpensive (~$300)
-Rugged
-Reliable... through design and/or materials.
-Low-maintenance... I may only have time for infrequent chain lubes & air/basic checks.
-All-Weather
-Not too flashy
-New if possible

Does such an animal exist?


Many thanks in advance,

Mike
I've been to Raleigh and the hills there for a young whippersnapper like you should not be a big deal.

So get a single speed, no derailleur to get out of adjustment and not as attractive to thieves.

Don't get the Marin, it's a great bike but the thieves will feast on it because it's a good brand.
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Old 08-29-15, 05:46 PM
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BMX, or adult size equivalent. Mountain bikes have tough frames but I find the drive trains fussy. I tolerate mine since I want the huge gear range. But for your list a 1 or 3 speed with a coaster brake seems more natural.
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Old 08-29-15, 06:05 PM
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I'd think a rigid MTB converted to fixed-gear or single-speed would fit the bill -- rugged and reliable despite neglect...
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Old 08-29-15, 06:38 PM
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Novara Safari...the ultimate weapon. I got w 3-year old one used for $420.

Last edited by raceboy; 08-30-15 at 10:59 PM.
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Old 08-30-15, 05:45 AM
  #13  
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Originally Posted by ThermionicScott View Post
I'd think a rigid MTB converted to fixed-gear or single-speed would fit the bill -- rugged and reliable despite neglect...
+1 I agree.
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Old 08-30-15, 10:39 AM
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Light
Cheap
Reliable

Pick two.
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Old 08-30-15, 11:31 AM
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Don't know how tall you are, but these are priced right


Trek bike with Shimano brakes

Trek Multi-track 700 21 gear

Trek 7100 multitrack

2015 Trek 7.2 Fx 17.5" (5'8"-6')
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Old 08-31-15, 12:18 AM
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Originally Posted by mstateglfr View Post
Yeah- rigid frame MTB. Don't get something with a suspension fork- it isn't needed, is heavier, and is just one more component that could break.
Slap a rack on the back, maybe some fenders, and some slicks.

You will have to suck it up and look thru craigslist. Itll take a few hours of your time in total- unless college has changed in the last decade, you should be able to somehow find the time.


If your shoulder is hurt- use a rack and lash the backpack/bag to it.

Good rack off Amazon- $30
Good fenders off Amazon- $40
Slick tires- $30-50
Bike- $75-150 depending on market and whats available right now. $150 should get you a good quality 90s mtb ready to ride.
100% this. In my market, top notch ~20 year old rigid MTB's are 100-150 $ and are perfect for this. I use them for commuting and touring.
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Old 08-31-15, 11:27 AM
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Might wanna look for a new(er) Folding bikes with IGH hub. Very little maintenance, highly stowable, friendly with most public transportation. It's more like a micro UZI of commuting bikes.

But, yes, an old rigid Trek MTB is the AK.
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Old 08-31-15, 12:51 PM
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Originally Posted by dtrain View Post
Look for a used rigid or hard-tail MTB on C-List. Install mostly slick tires. Have fun.
Another vote for this path. Set a search for mountain bikes, capped at $200 or so, look at bikes with rigid forks. Since you are not interested in learning how do do your own wrenching, budget like $100-200 for
* shop tune-up ($50-75)
* slick tires (26x1.75 or so)
* decent lock
* maybe/eventually a rack, meanwhile backpack
* maybe/eventually lights, meanwhile daytime only

For budget lights, my recommendation is a zoomable-head cree xml-t6 flashlight that takes a single, rechargeable 18650 battery (or 3 AAAs). Like here's one (including battery and charger) for $10. Attach it extremely securely to your bars with two interlocked hose clamps, tightened down with a wrench. Expect to upgrade fairly soon to a decent battery from an american supplier (one option: batteryjunction.com). Tail lights are only "be seen", not "see by", so cheap options are fine.

I got no ideas for you wrt fenders/rain, I live in San Diego . Check that, one idea, instead of expensive cycle-branded rainwear, consider an Ikea Knalla poncho. And if you are really immune to embarassment (or proud of homebrew solutions, which it seems you might be), tie on plastic shopping bags as disposable shoe covers. (I guess that makes two ideas then...)

Minimal maintenance, you need to know how to repair a flat on the road, I recommend Pedro's tire levers and the Park VP-1 patch kit (don't waste your money on 'glueless' patches, they're just stickers and you'll be lucky if they get you home). You'll also need a portable pump, cheap ones are good enough, and it can serve as your home pump as well, until you get to hankering for a nice stand pump with a pressure gauge.

Lube your chain if it starts to squeak. As a low-maintenance guy with no desire for a showroom-shiny bike, I would recommend Chain-L.

Beyond that, you should be able to Just Ride.

Last edited by RubeRad; 08-31-15 at 12:55 PM.
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Old 08-31-15, 12:54 PM
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Originally Posted by ThermionicScott View Post
I'd think a rigid MTB converted to fixed-gear or single-speed would fit the bill -- rugged and reliable despite neglect...
+2

First thing I thought about when I saw the requirements. If you went fixed gear and were daring you could even go without brakes to remove even more points of mechanical failure. Myself, I'd run brakes.
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Old 08-31-15, 12:58 PM
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this is it right here

Originally Posted by Squeeze View Post
Another vote for an '80s or '90s rigid mountain bike with street tires.
Originally Posted by ThermionicScott View Post
I'd think a rigid MTB converted to fixed-gear or single-speed would fit the bill -- rugged and reliable despite neglect...
+1 and +1
except I might skip the fixed gear part of it. Gears are okay for the Raleigh area. I lived there for a while!
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Old 08-31-15, 01:02 PM
  #21  
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"Looking for the AK-47 of Hybrid Bikes"

- Chinese made
- All rattle and ill-fit together
- Works great in the mud

A Wal-Mart mountain bike?
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Old 08-31-15, 06:52 PM
  #22  
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AK47 of commuting bikes = fixed gear, 48spoke wheel, rigid 26er mountain bike conversion, full fenders and mud flaps, drops, toe clips & double straps. Done.

That's a Clist job for sure, but would be over 300. Could start at 300 and upgrade.
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Old 08-31-15, 06:54 PM
  #23  
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***To clarify, I am describing my winter commuter with the exception of FG and drops. Currently it is SS and flat bars.
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Old 08-31-15, 10:19 PM
  #24  
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Originally Posted by Phil_gretz View Post
"Looking for the AK-47 of Hybrid Bikes"

- Chinese made
- All rattle and ill-fit together
- Works great in the mud

A Wal-Mart mountain bike?
Mine is a Bulgarian SLR95. Very little rattle and fitted nicely.
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Old 09-03-15, 07:53 AM
  #25  
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Somebody mentioned the Novara Safari. It's a great bike; very rugged and reliable.
One more pro:
- Ugly as sin, which will deter theft
Con:
- Not so cheap (for a college commuter).

Absolutely, find a hardtail or no-suspension mountain bike, several years old but in good repair, and swap out its knobby tires for slicks. That's exactly what you want. A single-speed would be even lower maintenance but I couldn't do that myself - I need my choice of gears.
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