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Help choosing a commuter bike

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Help choosing a commuter bike

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Old 08-30-01, 08:54 PM
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epicycle
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Help choosing a commuter bike

I am interested in getting some feedback from others in the forum on a commuter bike. My LBS has a decent selection though some of their other stores have more. I have kind of nailed it down to a few but wanted to get some input and/or other recommendations for bikes from others.

I am looking at the following:

Trek 7700FX (new for 2002, simular to the current 7500FX)
Trek XO1
Lemond Poprad

I am looking for something I can ride 60 miles (25-30 each way) for my commute. I am currently a MTN bike rider so I am not that sure about the road bike handle bars but since I used to ride one as a kid and since I want to get a road bike some day anyhow I figure it should be good. Anyhow have any preferences on handlebars. Also, these bikes don't have the most ideal configuration for a rear panier mount. They have holes near the rear derailleur but none near the seat post but since most racks come with mounts you can attach to the frame I didn't think this was to big of a deal. Any opinions on that? What about the whole cyclocross vs hybrid debate ... comments/suggestions.

I am open to looking at other bikes in the class of these. Realize I am a heavy guy so I need a frame and components that can handle a beating ... also the long commute each day is going to tax the bike a bit as well. Please, any help or insight you can provide is appreciated.

Thanks again everyone ...

Sean

P.S. Don't you just love that exhaustion after a ride full of hills? That feeling throughout your entire body of relaxation and at ease ... knowing you worked you ars off. I had that today after my 30 mile ride. I love biking ...
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Old 08-30-01, 09:31 PM
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what about this one?

http://209.217.20.46/sections/bikes/...ada/index.html


Or the Brava would also make a good commuter.

http://209.217.20.46/sections/bikes/...ava/index.html

Of course, I wouldn't want to leave that nice of a bike locked up outside. You've got a long commute so You'll definitely benefit from a skinny tired bike.
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Old 08-31-01, 12:51 AM
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Why not consider a recumbent? I started out riding an upright but due to various aches and pains switched to a bent and never looked back. They are excellent for long commutes and very comfortable for bigger riders.
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Old 08-31-01, 02:02 AM
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The only thing that worries me about a recumbent is being seen by motorists, many of whom don't bother to even watch where they are going at the best of times. Now, people have explained to me the novelty factor, and that drivers will give you a wide berth on a recumbent because they don't see them very often, but the way people around here drive, the assumption they will see you in time to do that is a very nervous one to say the least.

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Old 08-31-01, 02:04 AM
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At least you don't have as far to fall.
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Old 08-31-01, 02:16 AM
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Allister, one of my friends down here actually managed to crash a recumbent once. I'm not quite sure how, but I think he hit a rock or something and flipped it. Of course, this happened just as one of those big groups of road bikes was coming around the corner, which added to his embarrassment!

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Old 08-31-01, 05:39 AM
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The 'bent suggestion is worth some thought, if you have a long commute on the open road.

For a standard bike, as a long distance commuter, give some though to how much tyre /fender clearance you need. I would suggest that a minimum of 28mm tyres + fender clearance is what you need, even if you run thinner tyres without fenders. It depends how far into winter you want to ride.

Get a bike with luggage attatchment at the frame and fender eyelets. 4-point luggage racks are far stronger, lighter and sturdier than those stupid seatpost mounting racks.

What you really need is a fast /light touring bike, rather than a competition racer. Forget about hybrid bikes. The modern breed of cyclo-cross touring bikes are good. You can run them with thinner tyres and they seem to have all the braze-ons you need. Check out Jamis Aurora/Bianchi Volpe for this style.

Avoid those fancy wheels like Rolfs. You need some well built 36 spoke standard wheels, with a quality hub and a thick rim.

You also need a sound lighting system with multiple batteries/chargers at each end.

Dont just accept the gearing you are given. You can customise it, with a single, double, or triple chainset to give the required range and ratios for your journey. Check out what size crank is on the bike, and make sure it is big enough for you.

Look for components of Shimano 105 (or better) or any Campanolo. Mid-range stuff is good quality and value.

The perfect commuting bike is usually heavily customised for each rider. You may want to swap stem length, change saddles or pedals. Make sure the bike fits you well, and you are comfortable on it. You don't have to ride road bikes looking like a pro-racer. You can set them up for a touring style position with a more upright back if you want to.
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Old 08-31-01, 06:17 AM
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Keep in mind that a 60 mile commute means 4 hours a day in the saddle. That's a LOT of miles. You should definately go for something comfortable (like a touring bike, or a 'bent), and you must get good componentry. I would suggest 105Veloce level, at the very least. A really comfortable saddle (like a brooks B17 champion, or a B72) will be important, too.
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Old 08-31-01, 07:26 AM
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I have been starting to research a bent but I am not sure that is something I would want to commute on until I did it a few times on a normal bike. I am not against owning 5 bike if I have to ... one for a different mood/condition of the road. I am a bit concerned about hand numbness and long term effects at having the right ergonomic position on the bike given the length of my commute.

I have a few options for my commute:

1. Half path Half road ... the path is crushed limestone and would be about 10 miles in length. I would then transfer onto 10-15 mile worth of Chicago roads heading into downtown. For those of you who haven't had the pleasure of riding in a huge metropolois lets just say ALL of the rules of the road we talk about have to be obeyed and performed pretty seamlessly else you get angry mobs of Chicagoans in their 2 ton chariots breathing down your neck.

2. All Road ... easily said, all road the whole 20-30 miles. Now, like the road above, I have the option to do a 6 lane (3 each way), 4 lane (2 each way), and 2 lane (1 each way). The more lanes I think the more room cars will have to pass me and the more safety I will have and since I will be riding straight the whole way (literally) I don't have to worry about any weird turns.

Ok, with that said, and with the knowledge that Chicago roads are not the "best" maintained roads (potholes, cracks, etc) ... do any of your bikle choices change? Other suggestions? My LBS doesn't carry Bianchi but I can ask them if one of their sister stores does, I am sure it does.

Any more comments, questions, or suggestions?

Sean
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Old 08-31-01, 07:39 AM
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epicycle>
Before buying a new bike, I'd suggest, cycling to the Loop on some weekend and seeing what the conditions are going to be like on the roads you'll be using. And now onto the list...

1. Due to the potholes and unevenness of some roads leading into the Loop, I personally don't like the thought of using ultra-skinny road bike tires. (This is part of why you may see bike messengers with road bikes with non-road bike tires.) I get good results with cross-train tires or mountain bike tires. (I've never gotten a flat in or near the Loop yet.) But check out the routes you'll be using. You may get different results.

2. Those darned bridges with the metal grating as their only surface have traction quite different from pavement. If you've never cycled on one before, slow down slightly before you cross over one. I've never actually lost control on one, but I plan to be extra cautious if I ever cross one in snowy, icy, or rainy conditions.

3. By chance, when you get to work, do you have a place where you can secure your bike indoors? (Company garage, stairwell in a secure building, etc.) I have a friend who leaves a relatively unimpressive looking bike locked outdoors for weeks at a time unattended in the Loop. And it hasn't been stolen yet. On the other hand, if if looked like a $2000 bike, it would have probably been pilfered long before now.

Ive never had my bike or any of my bike components stolen in the Loop, but here's what I do when I park outdoors in the Loop: (a) I strip my bike of air pump, odometer, repair kit, etc. (I leave behind my really crappy light, in the hopes that someone will steal it and I'll be forced to buy a new one. But no one ever does. (b)I use more than one lock and try to park the bike in a public place. While a professional thief who is really determined to get my bike could still manage to get my bike, it's worked so far. (knock on wood.)

The one time where it seems safe to keep your bike unlocked while in the Loop is at the gathering prior to the monthly Critical Mass ride. You might see 300 or 400 bicycles about, but theft isn't a problem, as the people in the crowd watch out for one another.
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Old 08-31-01, 08:56 AM
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crushed limestone will really slow your commute, and the dust will gum up derailleurs very quickly. Your tyres will wear fast, too. Skinny tyres will be a REAL handful on crushed stone.
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Old 08-31-01, 11:52 AM
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Epicycle,

For a 60-mi round trip, you definitely want the drop-style handlebars, so that you can shift your hands around to various places.

You also want something comfortable for 2 hours at a time. This is a personal preference, but I'd be looking for a steel or titanium frame, not aluminium. If you're going to ride no matter the weather conditions, strongly consider fitting fenders -- this means you'll need enough clearance, especially in the rear triangle, to fit them.

The next thing to consider is carrying things. While some people don't mind using a backpack, I do -- especially when the weather's hot! I throw a rear rack on my bike for commuting, and either strap a small pack on top or hook on a pair of small panniers. So, I'd make sure the frame and fork have eyelets and braze-ons for rack and fender mounting.

In general, I think you'll find that these days, a cyclocross frame fitted with a road-triple groupo for touring will come closest to filling these requirements.

Speaking of groupos, I noticed that some of the bikes you listed are fitted with Shimano's Sora groupo. Now, there's nothing wrong with Sora for an entry-level bike, but for your purposes you should really consider stepping up a rung or two to Tiagra or 105. These should be more durable and reliable in the long run.

You've got a good start on a short-list. If you want to consider a titanium frame, check out the Airborne Carpe Diem at www.airborne.net. With some vigorous price-watching, you can spec a Tiagra-equipped bike for about $1500, or get the 105 group for about $200 more.

Now this all assumes that you've got a secure place at work to store the bike. Secure in this case means out of sight -- inside your building or in a bike locker. If you'll have to leave it outside in a bike rack, don't buy something new and expensive! Shop used instead -- look for an older-model touring or light-touring bike where you won't be overly heart-broken if it's stolen.

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Old 08-31-01, 10:54 PM
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I've been comuting on a Trek XO-1 for two years now and I love it. The drop handle bars provide plenty of flexibility. The bike seems very efficient but at the same time very rugged. I'm also a big guy, (6'1" and 260 lbs) and I think the aluminum frame is fine. I guess the x-tra weight makes it flex a little. The bike came with Rolf wheels and I've had no trouble on the crappy downtown Cleveland streets. Previous to this bike, I rode a Huffy MTB. What a great improvement! I got used to the riding position very easily. Although they do'nt seem well liked, I use a seat post mount rear rack. I don't carry to much junk with me but it has plenty of room. I use the Topeak Quick Release Beam rack. The whole thing can be put on or taken off in seconds. And the bag has an integrated system to slide onto the rack and lock in place, Great for taking it off @ your destination and carrying it around. I work in a factiry and can bring my bike in and keep it within eyesight @ all times.
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Old 09-02-01, 11:10 AM
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What you really need is a fast /light touring bike, rather than a competition racer. Forget about hybrid bikes. The modern breed of cyclo-cross touring bikes are good. You can run them with thinner tyres and they seem to have all the braze-ons you need. Check out Jamis Aurora/Bianchi Volpe for this style.
This is what I have and I am very happy with it. I do like road bikes myself but a light road bike is not optimal for commuting. A light touring bike is indeed much better. It is more versatile (cope well with different terrain) and handle some load.

However, 60 miles is a hell of a lot to commute every day. I think that for that reason, a bent is a good think to consider although, like somebody else said I would be very concerned about visibility.

So it depends on your commute.

If you commute that much I would definetly say: invest in a good lighting system.
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Old 09-02-01, 11:14 AM
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Now this all assumes that you've got a secure place at work to store the bike. Secure in this case means out of sight -- inside your building or in a bike locker. If you'll have to leave it outside in a bike rack, don't buy something new and expensive! Shop used instead -- look for an older-model touring or light-touring bike where you won't be overly heart-broken if it's stolen.
Or else buy a NYCity Krytonite lock ($80 though). They seems pretty safe and come with a one year (I think) extensible guarantee on the bike. This is what I have. I am careful locking my bike to poles (not bike rack as many are insecure IMHO) though. Unfortunately, I work around university and apparently the University removes bikes that are not locked on their insecure bike racks (At least if they try they will have a hard time...). Only problem with it: it is so HEAVY.
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Old 09-02-01, 11:45 AM
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Not all poles are created equally. I've seen some around here that are pretty flimsy and/or can slide right out of their hole. Some poles also, if their signs are taken off, the bike and lock and can be slid right up over the top and taken away. Parking meters are great for locking bikes, my second choice. My first choice is one of the really good bike racks, the thick wavy kind that are set right into the concrete. The main thing is to pick something that isn't going anywhere, not without heavy equipment. I don't know, even with the heaviest lock kryptonite makes, I don't think I'd lock a really expensive bike outside in the Loop all day. You could come back and find all those lovely shimano 105 components stolen right off the bike.
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Old 09-04-01, 07:40 AM
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Originally posted by HillaryRose
I don't think I'd lock a really expensive bike outside in the Loop all day. You could come back and find all those lovely shimano 105 components stolen right off the bike.
Yeah bikes are very vulnerable to vandalism also. There are cities where I lived where I would not have left a nice bike. This place is safe enough for me to take the risk. Besides I can see my bike from my office window most of the time.
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Old 09-04-01, 09:30 PM
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After a bit more research I found that I can't bring my bike into my building but there is a parking garage in the basement of the building (entrance from lower wacker). Anyhow, they rent out a bike storage area that is "secure" for $20 a month. Not a bad price for that little bit of security. The guard I spoke with is looking into whether or not they have insurance etc. Anyhow have any experience with these type storage locations in large cities? Any other suggestions on storage? I was thinking of maybe just commuting to "near the city", locking it up in a safe neighborhood, and then taking a train into work to shower etc. Not quite the same effect but could ease that 60 mile per day commute and may ease my worries of a stolen bike.

Other then the bike suggested (Bianchi, Trek, and Lemond) are there any recommended frames (preferably reynolds 853 for strength) that are reasonable for commuting, have eylets for rack mounts, are reasonably priced, and are from a trusted company. I think I may just buy the components I want this winter and put this baby together myself.
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Old 09-05-01, 05:50 AM
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Yes-check to make sure that your bike will fit in it. In my city, the local govt. bought quite a few of those things back in the early 80's. The only problem was that they were designed for ROAD bikes only, and being of European manufacture, were made for SMALL road bikes. No flat-bar bikes would fit inside the doors, and if your frame was larger than 58cm, neither would your road bike. Those things have now sat essentially unused for 15 years.
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Old 09-05-01, 06:19 AM
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I'd go for a Reynolds framed bike, both of mine are 531, one the now recently defunct ( and much missed )531c tubeset. I find some non steel frames too harsh.

The 531c is a custom built and a nice vivid ride. I had braze-ons for a rear rack fitted, campag gear changers and an internal dynamo cable guide (no longer used).

One of my bikes has 36 spoke wheels, the other 40 rear.

I would suggest drop bars as you can change wrist positions a lot and get on the drops to stretch your back, and you can mount the brakes high enough to ride on the hoods. I have randonneur bars on one bike(they rise from the stem to the forward curve )and Maes pattern on the other. The randonneurs are more comfortable.

As to gearchanging, I use downtube mounted levers, but if you're not on for that, try ergopower brake mounted ones.

Go for a good comfy saddle and get reliable changers, BB etc. I swear by my blackburn rack too. Sachs or sks chromoplastic guards will take a knock or two and are reflective, and strong enough to mount a light blinkie on.
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Old 09-05-01, 07:27 AM
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$20 a month for bicycle storage is cheap compared to car parking. In many Loop parking lots, you'd be lucky if $20 covers the full cost of 2 or 3 days for a car. But continue to do your homework into seeing how secure it is, etc.

Although you're probably used to the Metra, if you're going to cycle close to the city, and then take the train the rest of the way in, you may want to look into the El. Unlike the Metra, the El has a train going through every few minutes, so you don't have to deal with the panic of "Am I about to miss my train?" which can happen when you experience delays when bicycling towards a Metra stop. There are El stops in Forest Park and Oak Park; some of these stops have a lot of bicycles parked nearby; others generally don't have bicycles parked nearby. (Some stops must be perceived as safer than others for bikes.)

Another possibility would be to take the Metra line in to a Metra station where you have stashed your bicycle, and then bicycle into the Loop. But if you're going to leave a bike overnight at any station, it should be a real beater bike so that you won't be devastated if it gets vandalized or stolen. (Also, if you leave a bike parked outdoors overnight, you should: (A) carry rags and chain lube with you since dew, rain, etc. can cause chain problems. (B) Have locks that appear to exceed the value of the bike. $60 worth of locks on a $30 bike won't guarantee freedom from thievery, but it doesn't exactly make the bike seem that appealing to go to the effort of stealing.)
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Old 09-05-01, 08:09 AM
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Beater bikes dont have to be bad bikes. An decent old road frame handpainted in an ugly colour, with some good-enough components can ride well. For flatlands, you can make it a single speed, or a 5(to 8) speed, or hub-geared. Put some fenders and rack on and a heavy duty cable lock, and no one will bother stealing it. If you use one each end of the train journey, you have a pretty good solution when you dont want to ride the whole way.

For a high quality commuter, check out some of the Rivendell bikes (Heron and Atlantis). These are made with an eye to practicality, but are superbly made high-performance bikes.

There are a lot of good steel tubes around. 853 is probably the toughest metal, but ride quality depends more on the builder than the tubes. Dont be put off by a bike built with Columbus or Tange or a lower Reynolds tubeset. For forks, good old Reynolds 531 is still the best metal.
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Old 09-05-01, 10:15 AM
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Originally posted by epicycle
AAnyhow, they rent out a bike storage area that is "secure" for $20 a month. Not a bad price for that little bit of security. The guard I spoke with is looking into whether or not they have insurance etc. Anyhow have any experience with these type storage locations in large cities?
I don't know about "storage areas". The parking structure next to our office has clusters of individual bike lockers tucked away into the corners of the structure where cars won't fit. These seem to be quite sturdy; I've used these both where I work now and at a previous job with no problems so far.

The nice things about bike lockers:
- They are opaque; unless someone actually observes you placing a bike in the locker, there's no way to tell if there's one inside.
- Even if they did see you park your bike, it would take a lot of work to break into one; the walls are quite sturdy as are the locks they use.
- It's "covered parking"; the bike doesn't get wet even if the locker is outdoors.
- There's usually enough room to store things like an extra floor pump and small tool kit, in case some unplanned maintenance needs spring up.

By all means, check on the "security" of this bike storage area, and liability if one is stolen from there.

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Old 09-05-01, 10:33 AM
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I got my NEW commute bike last weekend. I was looking at Trek, Bianchi, Giant, and some no-names... I am riding a 4 yearold Specialize Hardrock mountain bike, and I was getting sick and tired of its 50 lb waight and the way it rolled like a brick.

My short list was a Bianchi Strada ($699), and a Giant OCR1 ($1100).. I was looking at the Strada bacause it is a roadbike (frame, wheels, gearing) but with a flat handle bar which was similar riding possition as my mountain bike. However, The OCR1 has an adjastable stem where I could raise the handle bar to start with, and then over time ( 0.5cm a week) lower it to where it should be.

So I got the Giant OCR1 (aluminum frame, Cfiber fork, Shimano 105 all around). I am still getting use to it, but what a difference from my old rolling brick..

My commute is ~ 9 miles each way, and this is a perfect bike for me...


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