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Help choosing budget commuter

Old 09-02-21, 12:23 PM
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ddan49
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Help choosing budget commuter

I am a grad student with a really limited budget and need a budget commuter bike. I’ve been looking at used bikes on fb marketplace/CL for a full month and any decent bike (or even frame, happy to refurbish/upgrade components) in my size is at or above retail. As a result, I think my best option is actually to go new. I commute for about 5 miles each way mostly on a dirt path, but would like to commute most days of the year so am looking for something similar to a gravel bike. My budget is $600, there’s no way I can stretch to 800-900 where the decent gravel bikes are. The bikes I am now choosing between are:

REI CTY 1.1 - $540 w/ dividend

Motobecane Strada Express X4 - $500

Motobecane Strada Express 24 - $600

Motobecane Gravel X2 - $600

I am pretty handy and can assemble the bike well enough if it’s from BD, and I might take it to the LBS to check wheel tuning, derailleurs, etc.

Would appreciate some input or leads on other bike. Since I’m biking through all conditions, I thought disc brakes might be helpful, but I’m not attached (I’ve always used rim brakes and they’d work fine 99% of the time).
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Old 09-02-21, 12:39 PM
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If you're located close to an REI store I'd go with the REI, hands down. They have great service, free tune up after break-in, and their house brand is always good value. Plus you have a year to return it if the fit just isn't working out for you.

Bikesdirect is good value, but if something is wrong the service is via mail.

If you don't live near an REI store then all those bikes are roughly equal value, but still I'd lean towards the REI (you could still return it, but you might have to do it by mail).
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Old 09-02-21, 11:42 PM
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I think any of those look fine. Availability is the problem this year. I would point you at the salsa journeyman flat bar, which a couple years ago was not very expensive due to a mid year price drop and sold at REI, but I have no idea what the availability is like right now. Priority is a good mail order brand that prioritizes low maintenance in their designs. Diamondback, Polygon, and Canyon are some other brands to order. Most brands have a bike like these. There is a specialized Sirrus and the trek FX and the giant escape.

Better bikes are better, obviously. With a bike at this price level you might find after a thousand miles that some components are giving out that you would not have expected. The component materials are not as nice, being painted rather than plated, and seals are poorer. The build quality on the rear wheel is always a problem. But if you stick with this you are going to be willing to pay more for nicer stuff on the next go round and have some idea what you want and it will be OK.

If you are going on a gravel road in the winter remember that you need fenders and lights come November

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Old 09-03-21, 12:25 AM
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REI, of those, if it fits.

Where do you live? Is there any kind of bike co-op? Next Q would be, is it open?

I live in the rainy PNW, and definitely like discs on my commuter.
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Old 09-03-21, 08:13 AM
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I remembered REI carries Cannondale Quick, which is a little more road-bikey, 32mm tires but also generally in this category. It looks like they have mostly dropped Salsa but still have a lot of Cannondales.

Also this Electra which echoes an old Schwinn Suburban, it comes with fenders but doesn't have the deep gear range of a hybrid
https://www.rei.com/product/100808/electra-loft-7d-bike
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Old 09-07-21, 12:45 AM
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I agree with the above posters who recommend the REI bike for the in-person service.

As for other bike models, the Trek FX line tends to be a good bang for the buck. I am also partial to the Fuji Absolute lineup, Giant Escape, or Cannondale Quick.

As for the brakes, I have some non-conventional views: at your price range, you can get much better performance and reliability from decent V-brakes than budget mechanical disc brakes. I have disc and V-brakes across several bikes and my commuter has V-brakes. I've only ever commuter in rainy areas (PNW and now Norway) and I stand by the fact that a well tuned V-brake is up there with a mechanical disc brake, and is a LOT less hassle (no rotor rub, better tolerances, less susceptible to road grime...)
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Old 09-07-21, 03:47 AM
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Originally Posted by tyrion View Post
…free tune up after break-in,…
I have 2 REI bikes; good value. You should negotiate up-front for one-day service on the tune-up. When I took my ADV1.1 in for the tune-up, they said I had to leave it for a week. Not practical for a commuter.

City 1.1 looks reasonable, I thought their urban bikes came with fenders and a rack but I see that’s not currently true.

IMO a 30 year old steel rigid mountain bike, covered with dust in a garage, $50 plus $150 for tires, chain, rubber goods etc is the ticket for your application if you can do basic maintenance. Problem is finding one.

Last edited by flangehead; 09-07-21 at 03:58 AM.
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Old 09-07-21, 02:38 PM
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I'll second flangehead's suggestion of an old rigid mountain bike. Well, except for the $50; no one sells for $50 anymore. But find one for $150-$200, put in the $ to get it running, and if you like it you can upgrade as your budget permits. I've put $800 into mine, but it's a better bike than you can buy new for the price.


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Old 09-07-21, 05:30 PM
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Originally Posted by Korina View Post
…. no one sells for $50 anymore….
Depends on market. I paid $40 last year:



All rubber usable. New chain and pedals. I added rack, lights and mirror.
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Old 09-07-21, 06:20 PM
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Originally Posted by flangehead View Post
Depends on market. I paid $40 last year:



All rubber usable. New chain and pedals. I added rack, lights and mirror.
Well of course you did. You live in Houston! I live in the backside of the beyond, aka behind the Redwood Curtain; vintage steel is hard to come by and sells for $200 - $300.
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Old 09-08-21, 06:47 PM
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Originally Posted by Korina View Post
Well of course you did. You live in Houston! I live in the backside of the beyond, aka behind the Redwood Curtain; vintage steel is hard to come by and sells for $200 - $300.
I'm here in Portland, OR trying to sell my Priority Eight - IGH, Belt drive, dyno lights, hydraulic discs, fenders, and an hardly getting nibbles at $500. Shrug
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Old 09-10-21, 04:18 PM
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Originally Posted by downtube42 View Post
I'm here in Portland, OR trying to sell my Priority Eight - IGH, Belt drive, dyno lights, hydraulic discs, fenders, and an hardly getting nibbles at $500. Shrug
Feeling like you are daring us, I looked; your main photo is focused on the garage door and not the bike, and the dirty BB area isn't doing you any favors.

You could tag it AS SEEN IN ZOOM COMMERCIALS maybe...
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Old 09-11-21, 11:40 AM
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Originally Posted by Darth Lefty View Post

REI It looks like they have mostly dropped Salsa
No, REI They have not dropped Salsa. Salsa bikes are sold faster than they become available. Some cutthroat and warbird became available this past summer and they were all sold, all gone quickly in about a week.Shortage of bikes,

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Old 09-11-21, 02:05 PM
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You might be right. But they’re not showing sold out on the website. They’re not listed any more.
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Old 09-11-21, 05:11 PM
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Originally Posted by Darth Lefty View Post
You might be right. But they’re not showing sold out on the website. They’re not listed any more.
Sold Out, non available, we don't have any. whats the point of putting that on website? .... : - ) If it becomes available for your area, You'll see it on website,

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Old 09-12-21, 09:17 AM
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Used and modded MTB is great for the 5 mile dirt path commute.
if you plan to take longer commutes on pavement in the future, spend the money you budgeted for a newer commuter with narrower tires.
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Old 09-30-21, 11:12 AM
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No reason not to buy a cheap used road bike if you can find one in a size you can ride. It may need new tires and brake pads but that is about all to worry about for commuting. A cheap bike is less likely to get stolen and less of a loss if it is stolen. You may want to add fenders and a rear rack and LED front and rear lights, but these can be moved to your next bike and continue to be used.
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Old 09-30-21, 11:56 AM
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school commute? locked up outside a school? new bike? here's hoping the school has an indoor bike cage!
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Old 10-04-21, 05:41 AM
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Go with the bike that fits you the best as you will be spending a lot of time on the bicycle. Good luck to you.
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Old 10-04-21, 07:52 AM
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Originally Posted by Darth Lefty View Post
You might be right. But they’re not showing sold out on the website. They’re not listed any more.
REI does that when they're out of stock. We've had a few panics of the "They've discontinued the Randonee!" variety over the past few years; March rolls around and it shows back up.
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