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Old 09-02-06, 01:14 PM   #1
markjenn
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Recommendations for new commuter bike

Okay, I've looked through the forums and googled for hours. But I'm not finding the new commuter bike I'm looking for. Perhaps someone can help.

I've got a new job with reasonable flexible hours that I'd like to try commuting to, probably two or three days a week, 13 miles each way, in hilly Seattle terrain with a mix of dedicated bike paths and urban streets with heavy traffic. The weather will sometimes be inclement and windy and I may be riding occasionally in the dark. I need to carry some gear, but not a ton. I want something low-maintenance and rugged, but not too clunky - 26 miles is a fair amount, I'm not in great shape, and I hate going super slow. Cost is not a huge factor and the bike will be inside my office while at work.

I like the ride of steel and Ti. I like disc brakes. I don't like to do maintenance so an internal hub gearing sounds cool, but I've got to have something with low-enough gears to tackle a couple big hills each way.

My initial thoughts are for a steel-frame cross bike with disc brakes, flat bars, SRAM or Nexus shifting, 32c tires, with fenders and a rack. Anybody make such an animal? That doesn't weigh 35 lbs?

- Mark
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Old 09-02-06, 01:36 PM   #2
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I think your best bet would be to build up your own from the frame up. I built something similar to what you describe with a Kona Sutra frame, but I wouldn't recomend you get the same frame. I and others have had problems with the rear rack braze-ons cracking and the paint chipping very easily. Perhaps someone else is making a steel Cross or touring frame with disc brakes.
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Old 09-02-06, 06:21 PM   #3
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I have almost the same question...

I came here to do the "what bike for me" post and did a search for similar posts and found this one.

In my case, I'm in Portland, not Seattle, though the weather is about the same.
My commute will mostly be near rush hour and I have at least one good hill between home and work. It's probably 12 miles each way.

I'm also interested in an internal gear hub, probably the Nexus. I'm pretty mechanically inclined, but already have too much stuff to do. This bike will be my dedicated commuter. I have a moutnain bike for playing around on. I don't see a need for more than 8 speeds and like the idea of being able to run a chin guard. I'm sort of a gadget guy and am attracted to this gadget.

I need to carry a laptop and at times a fodler or two of work. Maybe a book here and there. I'll also carry some clothes with me (rain gear, gym clothes, possibly work clothes). I work at a place where shorts are OK, so I may get away without carrying work clothes other than a shirt.

I want disc brakes.


I've looked at the following new bikes:

Novara (REI) Fusion. Comes with the Nexus 8 speed rear hub. It comes pretty much outfitted for commuting. The 06 model that is on sale right now has caliper front brakes and a roller back. The 06 will have rollers in the front. I have read that they don't stop that great. I like the dynamo in the front hub for lighting purposes, though I will most likly run a battery light in the winter (Night Rider, etc). Nice as a backup though. I can also rig it to charge my cell phone/ipod.

Weighs in at about 34 pounds (seems heavy).

The 06 is one sale for $600 right now. The 07's will be $750.

Fenders. lights, rack are all included. I think if it had disc brakes, I'd probably be done.

Kona Dew Deluxe
Nice bike overall. Not set up for commuting, but that is just a matter of adding fenders, lights, and a rack.
No Nexus hubs, but comes with disc brakes.

I can get an 06 for $600. Add $150 for the rack , fenders, and some mediocre lights (probably as good as what the Fusion has).

Trek Portland
I liked this bike too.
No Nexus hubs, and has drop bars, which I'm not sure about.
I don't htink I want to spend $1400 for a commuter bike right now, so I'm ruling this one out.

Trek SOHO.
This one is really close to what I am looking for.
Missing fenders and lights and the Nexus hub, but it is a single speed with disc brakes.
Probable a better bike than the Fusion, but is $1150. probably more than I want to spend.

I'd consider building a bike, and even starting with a used bike and going from there, but that could be a hassle. If I have a bike built, I thinkg that would cost more in the end.

So right now, I am considering getting either the Kona or Novara and making some changes.

The Novara would require a change from the caliper to disc brakes in the front. I could leave the rear alone. I think there may be an adapter I can get to put a disk on the Nexus hub if the forks will allow it, otherwise I would have to live with the caliper brakes.

To make the Kona into what I want, I would have to swap out the rear hub for the Nexus. I think that's about $325 for a built wheel and shifter from Harris Cyclry. That puts me at about $900, though I could put that part off for a while...and maybe decided I don't need it.

When I first went down this path of coummting on a bike, I was thinking I'd get a commuter bike for about $500. It seems all my options are tkaing me past that mark.

Any suggestions?
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Old 09-02-06, 07:12 PM   #4
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You have a number of options:

1. A road bike with drop bars: either a racing bike (probably impractical), or a touring bike (can carry lots of stuff), but is a little slower and heavier than a racing bike) or a cyclo-cross style bike like the Surly Cross-Check which you can tweak to make either more road-biased or more trail-biased. Racing bikes generally aren't going to accept disc brakes; tourers and cross bikes often can. They can also take wider tires, fenders and racks. You lose some speed with the increased weight, but you gain versatility and toughness with cross-style bikes and tourers.

This option will probably start at about 700 dollars new.

2. A hybrid: most likely a "performance" hybrid with 700C wheels if you like to go faster. Many will be able to accept wider tires, fenders and racks (but some may not; check). The disadvantage is that you lose some of the riding hand positions, and these bikes are generally as heavy as (or heavier than) tourers and cross-style bikes. Componentry may be (but doesn't necessarily have to be) of a lower quality than road bikes.

This option (for reasonable quality) will probably start at about 500 new.

My advice is to ride as many options as you can and see how you feel on each. The more comfortable a bike is, the more you'll ride it. Then, once you've narrowed down the type, go test ride four or five different manufacturers' products at your price point.

I know this probably isn't as specific as you hope ... the trouble is, I can recommend something, but deep down, all I would be doing is telling you what works for me. There are as many opinions on what constitutes the perfect commuter as there are commuters.

Last edited by Canonet; 09-02-06 at 07:23 PM.
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Old 09-02-06, 07:58 PM   #5
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Okay, you're going to do your own thing here, but here is my recommendations. This is what I have done and am happy with.

The first thing I knew I wanted was a good comfortable FAST bike. I immediately ruled out the MTB and hybrid. I wanted to be relatively light and not low end. Well, that ruled out a ton of touring bikes. What do I have? I have a 1984 Ciocc racing bike. I bought the bike for $400. With the rack fitted, the bike weighed in at 22 lbs with all steel construction thanks to the light and strong Columbus SLX tubing. If you absolutely need disc brakes, you are a rarity. The Ciocc stops on a dime with the single pivot campy brakes, and now stops even better that I upgraded the calipers to dual pivot. The wheels are the old Mavic MA40 with Campy hubs. The hubs are smooth as glass and the rims are heavy but bombproof. The shifting is 6-speed Dura-Ace with downtube shifters. I find when I'm cruising I use gears, but really not that many. I could probably get away on a single speed bike, even with the hills I climb.

I fitted some panniers onto the rack and boom, commuter bike that doubles as an awesome century riding road bike if I take the panniers off.

Now, if you're looking into a good, new bike, I can help you there too. Cyclocross bikes have many great points. They're usually a semi-compact road geometry. They have the eyelets for fenders and a rack, they're pretty light, and they're rugged. The Fuji Cross Comp comes right in at about $800 or $900 I believe and is a good bike. The other cross bike Fuji has comes with Ultegra shifters and derailleurs and will cost you about $1400, excellent deal IMHO. There's also the Felt comfort road series. The SRD92 is about $750.

I have ridden hybrids and as a cruising all duty bike they're good, but for real speed and efficiency, I feel they're lacking. Riding my commuter road bike to work has made me faster on my recreational road bike as well.
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Old 09-02-06, 08:23 PM   #6
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I recently purchased a bike having some of the ones you mentioned in mind. I really liked the looks of the Trek Soho but the low spoke count ruled this bike out due to my riding style. I ended up with a Cannondale Bad Boy Ultra (+ fenders, rear rack and a nice lighting system). if that bike is out of your budget, do yourself a favor and ride a Bad Boy Disk. It's 800 bucks, comes with a mountain bike frame that you can throw new wheels and you have a nice off-road bike and, out of the box, is a fast machine.

Just my US$0.02

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Old 09-02-06, 11:25 PM   #7
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The REI Big Buzz is a nice fast commuter bike, rides pretty nice and has some good components on it and is fairly light. Would ride one myself, but I got to much wrapped up in my other 3 bikes.
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Old 09-03-06, 02:56 AM   #8
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The Orbit Orion has SRAM hub gears, flat bars, rack and mudguards (fenders) @ 32lbs - misses a number of your other criteria though.
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Old 09-03-06, 05:36 PM   #9
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Cannondale Bad Boy,Kona Dew Deluxe,and Novara Big Buzz are all good choices. I don't like the Soho;only one front ring and too pricey.

Schwinn makes the DBX,which is a road bike,but with discs and can take fenders and wider tires('07 model will come with fenders). Cyclocross bikes are nice,but be careful how they're geared. Quite a few run something like 39/46 on the front,which doesn't give you much range.

For internal geared hub + discs,check out the Burly( http://www.burley.com/products/commu...s/default.html ).
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Old 09-03-06, 11:56 PM   #10
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Thanks for all the great comments guys. I'm really taking a hard look at the Schwinn DBX. I like the bars, components, carbon fork, and disc brakes. I'd prefer a steel frame, but most of the steel bikes tend to come back to the loaded touring mold and I want something lighter and sportier. And while I like the concept of internal hub gearing, I've got some serious hills to climb everyday where the 27-speed conventional drivetrain might be a lot friendlier to my 53-yo knees.

The Bad Boy looks very interesting too.

We'll see...

- Mark
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Old 09-03-06, 11:59 PM   #11
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Yes, please keep us informed and let us know what helped with your final decision.
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Old 09-04-06, 11:13 AM   #12
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Hub gear, lightweight road/touring bikes are really a custom modification.
For some inspirations, check out
http://sheldonbrown.com/px7.html
and
http://www.thorncycles.co.uk/mercury.html
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Old 09-04-06, 11:17 PM   #13
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Went and saw/rode a DBX today. Okay, but it didn't blow me away. This was a 2006 model so it had the double in front and no fenders. The folks at the shop didn't seem to really know the bike and had no idea when the 2007's would appear.

I'm almost back to thinking I'll pour some more money in an old Trek 400 Reynolds 531 bike I've been using for nearly twenty years now as my secondary bike. Fit wider tires, add fenders. I think I like a more traditional bike.

- Mark
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Old 09-04-06, 11:33 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by markjenn
I like the ride of steel and Ti. I like disc brakes. I don't like to do maintenance so an internal hub gearing sounds cool, but I've got to have something with low-enough gears to tackle a couple big hills each way.

My initial thoughts are for a steel-frame cross bike with disc brakes, flat bars, SRAM or Nexus shifting, 32c tires, with fenders and a rack. Anybody make such an animal? That doesn't weigh 35 lbs?
How about the Bianchi Volpe? It's got cantis rather than discs, and 27-speed derailer gearing, but it's got STI and looks great and rides great for about $900. A very well-designed touring/cross bike for the price. A bike-smart coworker has one and loves it.
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Old 09-05-06, 07:39 AM   #15
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I'd build a CrossCheck with an 8-speed hub gear or a Rohloff if price was really no object. It would have everything you want except the disc brakes. Canti brakes should work just fine but if you really wanted discs you could replace the fork with a cyclocross fork with disc brake mounts and run a front disc.
Craig
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Old 09-05-06, 02:45 PM   #16
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i hope that this is not too late, but I tried many of the bikes that have been mentioned here. I went with the Specialized Sirrus Sport instead....it is way light, fast, and manueverable. It has great gears for the hills and you can easily mount a rack. I bought the regular brake model, but it comes in the disc brakes too. It is very good for regular commuting, low maintenance and has many features of the other bikes mentioned here without the price....or (in some cases) better componenents at a reasonable premium. I really, really like it.
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Old 09-05-06, 07:04 PM   #17
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I personally had really good experiences with both Specialized and their dealers. The Sirrus (top of the line, with disk brakes) was one of the bikes I had in mind when it came to decided between the Sirrus, the Sequoia or the Bad Boy Ultra. I ended up with the BBU because, by far, it was the best fit for me, the most confortable while riding and gave me that feeling of a strong bike, something that I did not feel with the Sirrus.

Again, go out there and ride the bikes you have in mind before making a decision. I would never consider buying the Cannondale I bought if I didn't have a chance to ride it and comapre with the others...
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Old 09-06-06, 08:44 PM   #18
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I think the Burley Runabout 7 answers all your requirements.

Quote:
Originally Posted by markjenn
Okay, I've looked through the forums and googled for hours. But I'm not finding the new commuter bike I'm looking for. Perhaps someone can help.... I want something low-maintenance and rugged, but not too clunky - 26 miles is a fair amount, I'm not in great shape, and I hate going super slow. Cost is not a huge factor and the bike will be inside my office while at work.

I like the bike a lot but it's beyond my means. The not-too-clunky requirement is a subjective judgement.


Quote:
Originally Posted by markjenn
I like the ride of steel and Ti. I like disc brakes. I don't like to do maintenance so an internal hub gearing sounds cool, but I've got to have something with low-enough gears to tackle a couple big hills each way.
If the gearing is not low enough, you can replace the rear chainring with one that will give you a satisfactory low gear. It will also lower all your other gears but it can be changed again if you wish.



Quote:
Originally Posted by markjenn
My initial thoughts are for a steel-frame cross bike with disc brakes, flat bars, SRAM or Nexus shifting, 32c tires, with fenders and a rack. Anybody make such an animal? That doesn't weigh 35 lbs?

- Mark
It has a rear drum brake (which I don't like because I can't spin the pedal back to about 2:00 while I'm stopped) but a front disc brake. You may be able to add fenders. Look in the specs for the other stuff--I don't recall seeing the weight anywhere. Burley calls this bike a commuter, not a cross
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Old 09-07-06, 01:50 AM   #19
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Again thanks for all the suggestions. It's really been a help to not just search blindly, but to have recommendations for specific bikes that you can ride, research, and find out what others are doing with them.

I've come around almost 180 degrees and am starting to think I'll look very seriously at a Poprad Disc.

After looking at tens of bikes, both in the flesh and on the web, I finally decided that two things I won't compromise on: a steel frame and disc brakes. I've always much preferred steel (and ti) from a ride standpoint. And I've ridden a lot of alum bikes that were both "dead" and "buzzy" at the same time. So steel it has to be. And after having disc brakes on my last mtn. bike, I'm just not going back to rim brakes, especially for rain riding.

Everything else can be compromised. And as I thought about it more, I concluded that virtually all the bikes with internal hub shift systems tended to be on very heavy urban bikes, stuff like the Novara Fusion. I'm sure they're great bikes and I'd love not to have to mess with derailleur maintenance, but I also don't want to push a 34-lb bike up three of four steep hills on my trek to work once or twice a week. I want the ride to be fun, not just slogging from A-B.

The Poprad Disc has the steel frame and disc brakes. And it seems to have mounts adequate for fenders, and perhaps small rack, something that is tricky on disc brake bikes. I orignally thought I'd like a flat bar, but after riding a few demo bikes, I've come around to thinking I need the extra hand positions of a drop bar. I really like the carbon fork - on my old Litespeed I upgraded from an alum fork to carbon and it transformed the bike. And I like the low-spoke-count wheels. I know some folks think they're fragile, but most have had great experiences with them. And I'm not going to thrash the bike or use it much off-road.

The final thing about the Poprad is that it's one of the few bikes that I've looked at with some sex appeal - I like the traditional lines, but it's got lots of shiny new technology. I've never owned a cross bike, so that will be fun territory to explore.

Heading out for a test ride this weekend if I can find a shop with one in a large frame....

Of course, I'll probably switch and think I need a Volpe or 520 tomorrow.

Again, thanks for the suggestions.

- Mark
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Old 09-07-06, 08:40 AM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by markjenn
Went and saw/rode a DBX today. Okay, but it didn't blow me away. This was a 2006 model so it had the double in front and no fenders. The folks at the shop didn't seem to really know the bike and had no idea when the 2007's would appear.

I'm almost back to thinking I'll pour some more money in an old Trek 400 Reynolds 531 bike I've been using for nearly twenty years now as my secondary bike. Fit wider tires, add fenders. I think I like a more traditional bike.

- Mark
I am doing the same thing with and old Schwinn Voyageur for my winter commuting bike. I cold set (spread) the frame to 132mm and am having a wheels builtfor a nexus 8 speed and schmidt generator hub.
This is a great way to go because you have a frame that would cost close to a $1000 (Steel, 531 hand made in USA, lugged brazed etc) and you could run drops or flat bars and most of the parts could easily be sourced on ebay. You also get a bike that has every thing YOU need. Disc brakes are nice ( i commuted w/ them) but salmon cool stop pads and Shimano dual caliper long reach brakes do just as good a job IMHO. PM me if you want more details, I can tell you everything I am doing and you can see if you are interested in building you own.
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