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Total Commuting Newbie In Need of Advice

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Commuting Bicycle commuting is easier than you think, before you know it, you'll be hooked. Learn the tips, hints, equipment, safety requirements for safely riding your bike to work.

Total Commuting Newbie In Need of Advice

Old 12-28-15, 04:41 PM
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SnareSide
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Total Commuting Newbie In Need of Advice

Hello all,

I am a total newbie, and right now biking to work is still a concept. My experience is zero. So any and all advice is welcome!

My commute to work is 2 miles DOWNHILL, 500 ft decline. The commute back is just the opposite, 2 miles completely UPHILL, 500 ft incline. The terrain is urban streets.

(1) Where should I be looking for quality, yet affordable road bikes? I don't want to spend a fortune, but I need something that works too. I would love to keep the purchase price under $1000. Is this realistic?
(2) What makes / models? What specs do you recommend? I will only be using this bike for commuting. But keep in mind that my commute home is COMPLETELY UPHILL FOR 2 MILES. What type of bike makes sense for this type of commute?
(3) The reason I am planning to commute via bike: (a) fitness. I have been in the gym for a year now, ready to take it to the next level and drastically improve my stamina as well as reduce my bodyfat %. and (b) my car is the worst. My wife and I just bought a new family car. I'm using my old car as a commuter. I know it doesn't have many miles left and I only use for work commute. I'd rather get into good shape and start biking to work than buy a new car.

I am a male, age 32, 180lbs. In good physical shape, but could use a little work in the cardio and stamina departments. ALL YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOME AND VERY MUCH APPRECIATED. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR YOUR ASSISTANCE!
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Old 12-28-15, 05:07 PM
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I would not totally be against other types of bikes. I started with road went to a cross & now Im on a 29er. I would not trade the Cadillac ride of my 29 for any of the other bike while commuting. Your commute is short enough most bikes will work fine.
Go to a good shop & ride different bikes. You should be able to stay beneath your $1000 limit. Get a frame of good quality & upgrade as you go. Disc brakes if you plan on riding in any weather & a frame that will accept at least 32 size tires. This can be a hard to impossible thing on a road bike. Fender & rack mounts can be a plus. However the distance you describe a pack might work for you.

Dont get so caught up with what to buy. No further than your going I would encourage you to go used then if this bug bites hard get a better bike once you know its something your going to stick with....Jeff

Last edited by Kawriverrat; 12-28-15 at 05:15 PM.
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Old 12-28-15, 05:12 PM
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You can get a fine commuting bike for $1000. Find a bike shop you like and try out different bikes. A drop bar "racing style" bike would work, as well as a hybrid bike, and so would the "urban/city" style bikes. The only real critical thing is that it have a low gear for the climb home (and maybe a rack if you don't want to ride with a backpack), but other than that whatever kind of bike feels good will work. You might want to have a lower gearing modification by the bike shop so talk to them about that and factor that into the cost.
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Old 12-28-15, 05:35 PM
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Thanks @Kawriverrat... used was what I was thinking as well for the same reasoning. Do most bike shops sell used bikes too? I think I'll be starting with a pack, just to start out and see how comfortable it is. I'm in LA so not much weather to deal with.

Last edited by SnareSide; 12-28-15 at 07:09 PM.
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Old 12-28-15, 05:36 PM
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I suggest you look at google maps terrain feature for your area. A 500 foot climb isn't too bad, at least it not on your way into work so you can avoid being all sweaty when you arrive for work. Using google maps though, you can figure out the most direct or bike-friendly way into work (since it's downhill) and then optimize your route home to avoid the steeper sections of your return route if you wish. Obviously you don't need to take the same route there and back. For a two mile ride, almost any multi speed bike will do just fine. I suggest looking at stores like REI who have knowledgable staff and for which bikes are currently out of season (not their main focus). With multi sport stores you can often find better deals in the off season than you might find at a conventional bike shop whose sole business is bikes year round. $1000 is a very generous budget for a commuting bike. You should be able to get a good quality bike with locks and lights and all for around $700 new at a reputable bike shop. If you are willing to do a bit more digging you can score a great deal on craigslist for a used bike and save even more money. As far as the type of bike, flat-bar commuter hybrids are very popular. They are basically like a traditional road bike (lightweight and built for speed) but with features that most people find more comfortable (flat handlebars and wider tires). An example:

Scott Sub Speed 20 Bike - 2015 - REI.com

Or you could go for a typical road bike:

Scott Speedster 50 Bike - 2015 - REI.com

The Scott sub bike (or something like it) I used as an example above could be a good option. Fenders are generally important to have on a commuter if you or your employer cares about your appearance when you arrive. Even when it's dry out, fenders do a lot to keep you and your bike cleaner. The second bike I listed is also a typical style bike that is popular with commuters. In any case, I would recommend you not spend more than $700 on the bike itself and that you learn the very important nuances of how to properly lock up a bike. An expensive bike is a target for thieves and commuter bikes often must be left unattended for hours. Don't skimp on the lock, get a good u-lock. $60-90 sounds like a lot to pay for a lock but it's way better than having your bike lifted by an amateur thief. Make sure you lock it up properly every time! A good bike shop will help you choose an appropriate sized bike for yourself and equip you with helmet, lights, lock, etc as well as show you how to use everything properly.

Last edited by urbanescapee; 12-28-15 at 05:40 PM.
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Old 12-28-15, 05:37 PM
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What part of L.A. are you in, and what streets are you talking about?

Oh, and welcome to BF..!
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Old 12-28-15, 05:39 PM
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Thanks @tyrion. I'm happy to hear the my budget is realistic. What's the benefit of a drop bar racing style bike? What types of bikes or brands will have a low gear for my uphill commute?

Last edited by SnareSide; 12-28-15 at 07:09 PM.
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Old 12-28-15, 05:46 PM
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Hi @urbanescapee

Thanks so much for the advice. VERY VERY HELPFUL! Your time and assistance is very appreciated. I actually checked out Google Maps terrain feature before posting which is how I was able to figure out the incline of my commute. Super helpful. I also have planned out my to and from commutes through Google Maps. I know of a hand full of good bike shops around here. If I can get the bike + all the addons for under $1000, I will be stoked. I also am currently checking out REI and Craigslist right now for ideas. Thanks again!

Hi @rmfnla

Thank you! Glad to be here on the forums. Very helpful so far! I am from the northmost part of Los Angeles, by the foothills: Sunland-Tujunga. Heard of it? Most people haven't!

Last edited by SnareSide; 12-28-15 at 07:09 PM.
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Old 12-28-15, 05:56 PM
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Bike Shops are where you get Bikes ... so step 1 is find a Bike shop you like doing business with ..

can You bring a Nice bike into the Job Compound? If not get a heavy secure lock and a security Chain not a cable .
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Old 12-28-15, 06:22 PM
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Hi @fietsbob,

Thanks for the advice. I can take my bike into our building for safekeeping during the workday. I still plan on spending some money on a good lock anyway because I may end up using the bike for commutes to other places around town. Especially the gym, which I cannot bring the bike in.

Last edited by SnareSide; 12-28-15 at 07:10 PM.
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Old 12-28-15, 06:25 PM
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@SnareSide - Good for you for deciding to bike commute. I hope you will love it as much as those of us here on BF do. I would set aside at least $200-300 of your budget for accessories. You can still get a fine bike for $700-800, but you'll need to add a rack and some panniers (bags that hook on to the rack rail). I would also recommend fenders if you will ride in wet conditions, which includes if the pavement is wet after rain. Finally, get a decent set of lights. If you are riding on well-lit city streets you can get a basic set of blinkey lights (white for the front, red for the back).
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Old 12-28-15, 06:28 PM
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Welcome! Get some lights!
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Old 12-28-15, 07:16 PM
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Hi @Giant Doofus

Thanks for the welcome. Thanks for the heads up on the accessories budget. I didn't really consider this until people started mentioning it on this post. Much appreciated!

Hi @Darth Lefty - duly noted on the lights. Thank you so much!
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Old 12-28-15, 07:21 PM
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Drop bars as far as commuting goes can become a real benefit when traveling against the wind. Allowing you to be in a more aero position on your bike. For someone new or who has not been on a bike for some time they can be hard to adjust to. Proper fit with these bars for someone starting out is very important for comfort... I agree with the comments regarding lights. A rear red blinky & a front light. Even for use during daylight hours....."DO NOT" even consider riding about in traffic with out them!....Jeff

Last edited by Kawriverrat; 12-28-15 at 07:25 PM.
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Old 12-28-15, 07:24 PM
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Originally Posted by SnareSide View Post
Thanks @tyrion. I'm happy to hear the my budget is realistic. What's the benefit of a drop bar racing style bike? What types of bikes or brands will have a low gear for my uphill commute?
Drop bars give you more handhold positions (helps alleviate wrist soreness on longer rides) and let's you get down lower and more aerodynamic. Neither is important for a short commute but if you end up going on longer rides it might make sense. Most bikes that are advertised for commuting have flat bars, not drop bars.

There's no specific brand that has low gears, it's the type of bike that will determine that. Racing bikes usually don't have low gears, mountain bikes and touring bikes do. As a rule of thumb I'd want the smallest front sprocket to be smaller than the largest rear cog (sprocket). The smaller the front sprocket is in relation to the rear cog, the lower the gear (and vice-versa).
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Old 12-28-15, 09:38 PM
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For a 2-5 mile local ride, just about any style bike will do. The important issues are:

* Fit - You want a bike that fits you
* Reliable - A new bike from a bike store should be reliably built and correctly adjusted, and easy to get in your budget. It sounds like you don't have enough experience yet to have a strong preference.
If the bike is purely for local commuting and errands, used MTB bike are typically sturdy and cheap; this will depend local availability and your ability to judge condition/repairs needed.


I find the critical accessories are
* Lights - critical, especially if mild weather in LA makes it easy to bicycle even on short days in Dec and Jan. Get lights if you ride after dusk.

* Rack - Personally, I prefer a rack and saddlebag/panniers to a backpack. Either way, the bike will be much more useful if you can carry clothes for the gym or work, moderate amounts of groceries etc.
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Old 12-28-15, 10:26 PM
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500 feet in two miles is not a case of any bike will work, for a new commuter. I couldn't do it on my fixed gear bike for example, and it wouldn't be a piece of cake on my road bike either. You need to find something that is geared for climbs. Probably a hybrid with mtb gearing, or a mountain bike of course.

If you do want to go with a road bike look for something with a triple chainring or at least a compact double, and with big cogs in back.

I do not advise budgeting a significant amount for accessories - put it on a better bike and buy better accessories as and if you decide you need them. $20 for front light, $10 for back and you're set. I have a $13 rack from Amazon that's fine for me, but you might not even need that. It's better to have the bike that you'll ride, and you can always pick up the nice-to-have's later.

Last edited by wphamilton; 12-28-15 at 11:11 PM.
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Old 12-29-15, 12:35 AM
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Type of bike for you (this might help):

https://bike.bikegremlin.com/test/test.html


Size:
Correct frame size


For budget and reliability, I'd go for a 3x8 speed setup (or even less 3x6), with good quality brakes (whether rim or disc). Shimano Acera / Claris or higher (or a SRAM equivalent). Like my commuters to have room for mudguards and racks.
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Old 12-29-15, 01:45 AM
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Downhill to work and uphill home is a pretty good setup. I had something similar to yours when I lived in Switzerland. I could almost coast all the way to work in the morning, in my office attire, and barely break a sweat. For the ride home, I'd suit up, and get my daily workout (racing the bus uphill ). When I got home, it was Miller Time (or Mueller Zeit [oder Feierabend, as they say in German]... At least that makes sense where I was, in Baden, where the local brewery is Muellerbraeu).
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Old 12-29-15, 09:07 AM
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I agree...too early to worry about accessories, especially racks. Your downhill commute to work means a backpack will be fine for now.

Do consider a bike that CAN take a rack (and even fenders) in the future.

The advice above about a big gear range for your climb home is critical!

Test ride a lot of bikes at bike shops. Since you say you are a newb, it is hard to get a bike on Craigslist that will meet your needs unless you are willing to patiently wait a long time.

Are you SURE you are going to stick with it? If not, you may want to spend less than $1000...maybe $600? If you dig it, you step up to a better/funner bike later.
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Old 12-29-15, 09:19 AM
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Originally Posted by Hub Spanner View Post
I agree...too early to worry about accessories, especially racks. Your downhill commute to work means a backpack will be fine for now.
I strongly disagree.

How much does a rack cost? In stead of sweating all the way, you just put your backpack on the rack. I wouldn't ride a bicycle that doesn't have a rack unless no alternative was available. On a hot day, I often take my shirt off on climbs, and stuff it all in the backpack, so I sweat less.
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Old 12-29-15, 10:11 AM
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You can ride pretty much anything on a 2 mile commute. With the hilliness, you'd definitely want something with multiple gears...probably a triple crankset up front, with an 11-32 set in the back.

Talk to a bike shop. Entry-level hybrid shouldn't cost you more than $500 and it will let you find out if bike commuting is for you.
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Old 12-29-15, 10:31 AM
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Another thing to consider is what you intend to carry to and from work and how you want to do it, ie. a backpack or a bike rack. As an example, I have a mountain bike I commute on right now and my options for a rack are limited and frankly not optimal, as opposed to those road bikes that have connection points on the frame for a rack. Because of the heat we have here in Phoenix and because of my preferences, a backpack is out of the question. For some folks a backpack is just fine and if you are one of those, rack mounting is not an issue.
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Old 12-29-15, 12:04 PM
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Originally Posted by SnareSide View Post
Hi @urbanescapee

Thanks so much for the advice. VERY VERY HELPFUL! Your time and assistance is very appreciated. I actually checked out Google Maps terrain feature before posting which is how I was able to figure out the incline of my commute. Super helpful. I also have planned out my to and from commutes through Google Maps. I know of a hand full of good bike shops around here. If I can get the bike + all the addons for under $1000, I will be stoked. I also am currently checking out REI and Craigslist right now for ideas. Thanks again!

Hi @rmfnla

Thank you! Glad to be here on the forums. Very helpful so far! I am from the northmost part of Los Angeles, by the foothills: Sunland-Tujunga. Heard of it? Most people haven't!
I have not only heard of it I've been up that way a few times; yes, there are some serious hills up there.

BTW, hills are a PIA but wait until you encounter some of those winds that blow down the slopes as the sun starts to set; yeesh...
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Old 12-29-15, 01:08 PM
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@Kawriverrat & @tyrion - thanks for the info on the dropbars. Very helpful info!
@AngeloDolce thanks for those notes. Very helpful as well.
@Slaninar Those resources were awesome. I did the sliding scale test which was very cool and I am currently reading through frame size information to get a foundation on sizes. Great resources.
@wphamilton Yes the uphill climb is a definite concern of mine. I am in decent shape and I'm looking forward to the challenge... but I also want to make sure I get a bike that's going to allow me to make the climb without having to get off and walk it. As I understand it, a bike with bigger rear cogs is going to have a lower gear which should make the uphill climb more doable. I will be looking into that for sure.
@Hub Spanner @spivonious leaning more toward getting the bike from a shop at this point for those exact reasons. Thanks for your advice on this. My initial concern was that I wouldn't be able to afford a new bike from a bike shop, but it sounds like there are some decent options out there for around $600 or so, which is perfect.
@Slaninar @Hermes1 I'm also now leaning toward the idea of getting a rack because I know I will be biking from home to the gym, then to work on some days. So I'm going to need to bring a gym bag with me on my commute.
@old's'cool yup it's going to be pretty much coasting all the way down with the exception of right by my house there's a small hill I have to climb. Other than that, it's pretty much all coasting.
@rmfnla yeah we get some gnarly winds out here too. Excited for the challenge though.

You guys have all be incredibly helpful. Thank you for your advice and feedback. I will keep you updated on the progress and of course post additional questions that I have.
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