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Recommendation for a $200-400 commuter bike

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Recommendation for a $200-400 commuter bike

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Old 07-29-08, 09:51 PM
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klvanzu
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Recommendation for a $200-400 commuter bike

Hi everyone, I'm a college student looking for a good commuter bike for school/casual riding on paved trails and what not. What are some nice bikes for $200-400, used or new it doesn't matter but I would prefer to buy new. What dimensions should I be looking at? I'm 6'1 185lbs.
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Old 07-29-08, 10:05 PM
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First of all, good for you for being in the right weight range for your height. That's great.

Next, do NOT buy a bike at a superstore, department store, or major sporting goods store. Don't do it.

Find a good Local bike shop (LBS) that has a great service department. They will know the bikes and will service the bikes (some for free--mine offers lifetime brake and gear adjustment for free).

For 400 dollars you're just getting into the bottom range of local bike shops (and double what a superstore will sell you).

I love Treks. My new one was 699 out the door, but you could try the 7100. I just had it. Perfect for grass, hopping curbs, dirt, rough pavement, etc. They're going for 439 dollars, but you might be able to get them cheaper.

Remember, only buy used if you know what the heck you're doing mechanically. I recommend new from a local bike shop that is friendly. If someone acts like a snob and looks down on you or thinks you ask dumb questions, split. Walk right out the door.

But buy from a REAL bike shop.
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Old 07-29-08, 10:12 PM
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mondaycurse
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Do you have a bike-knowledgeable friend? He could help you find a quality used bike. If not, buy from a LBS like Fairmont recommended. Any walmart superstore bike will need adjustments right out the door and cost you more in the long run.
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Old 07-29-08, 10:24 PM
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90s mountain bike. Steel frame. Rigid fork. Possible horizontal drop-outs. Perfect all-around bike.

I have one, that I'm in the process of fitting with rack, fenders, and turning into single-speed. The problem is that mine didn't have horizontal drop-outs, so I have to use a tensioner most likely. Either way, this bike cost me.. I dont' know...

Bike: $110
Fenders: $20
Rack: $20
Ergonomic Grips: $20
Single speed conversion: $30
New pedals: $20
Slick tires: $15
Horn: $6

So... $241. For a full outfitted bike for commuting. That if I really wanted to turn back into a mountain bike, I'd just take off the fenders and rack and put on the knobby tires again.
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Old 07-29-08, 10:40 PM
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In that price range, you'll get a lot of recommendations to buy a used bike. That can be a great way to go if you know what to look for. Otherwise, here is a sampling of the kinds of bikes you might be able to get new in your price range:

http://konaworld.com/08_dew_w.htm

http://www.khsbicycles.com/06_urban_x_08.htm

http://www.performancebike.com/shop/...tegory_ID=3040

The KHS is particularly nice in as much as it has fenders and a rack included. If you buy a bike without those, you ought to budget them in. Keep in mind, for the same price you can get a used bike with better components than the new bikes above.
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Old 07-29-08, 10:55 PM
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Hmmm, well I can tell you that I got my first commuting bike to get back in the saddle about a week ago off craigslist.

$100=specialized rockhopper + helmet + rack + slick tires + trek cable bike lock

craigslist.com is a great place to find bikes at good prices.

DON'T BUY A HUFFY ON CRAIGSLIST. Huffy is walmart brand material. Go for name brand products such as Specialized, Trek, etc.
Also plan on spending at least $100, anything less and you risk getting a beat up or rusty bike that probably wasn't more than $200 to start and was badly mistreated.

Mind you, I had spent the better part of a month researching and finding what I needed. Also remember the market for bikes in a bigger city will be better on craiglist than in the country and don't expect to find anything right away. Check daily for new postings and you may just land a score like I did
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Old 07-29-08, 10:57 PM
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Thanks for the help guys! It looks like I should go with a new bike because I'm really not that knowledgeable when it comes to bikes and I don't have any friends that are frequent riders either. I think the bike shop route sounds like a good idea, and I had thought about it before, but I was under the impression that I should have some knowledge about what I'm looking for before looking around. Plus, most of the bikes are out of my price range. Those bike recommendations look pretty solid, but if you have any others, definitely let me know. Appreciate it!
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Old 07-29-08, 11:00 PM
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I have checked craigslist, but I'm not from a very large city (200,000 or so) and the school I go to is in a city around 125,000. Both are on craigslist actually but the bike selection is very slim, and the quality of bikes seems very walmart-like. Plus I really don't have much of an idea of what I'm looking for
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Old 07-29-08, 11:01 PM
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SoCal Commute
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Oh, so far the only thing I needed for it was a replacement saddle that fit me better, college student myself so I went cheap. Ran me $30+5 installed.
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Old 07-29-08, 11:04 PM
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SoCal Commute
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Originally Posted by klvanzu View Post
I have checked craigslist, but I'm not from a very large city (200,000 or so) and the school I go to is in a city around 125,000. Both are on craigslist actually but the bike selection is very slim, and the quality of bikes seems very walmart-like. Plus I really don't have much of an idea of what I'm looking for
Hey, no worries. A good LBS will do you wonders. Make sure to ride several models to find one you like and if you have more than one shop in town shop around. Find one with good service that doesn't try to push you into a sell. Make sure to post pics when you figure out what you want. We love bike pics

Good luck and happy riding.
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Old 07-29-08, 11:06 PM
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Diamond Back Transporter (Alivio gearing and steel frame). Kona Smoke (steel frame and a good buy). KHS Urban X (26" wheels, includes fenders, and a rear rack) and Urban Express (700 wheels, better gears, decent steel frame, but must add rack in rear and fenders).
REI has a few good ones to actually...look out for sales on some of the urban street and light trail use bikes (the Safari might be a good match).

Plan on spending $30 for a helmet, a hair under $50 for good lights from Planet Bike, and a bell. For being seen on the road I also recommend a lime green safety vest. $7 on eBay.

Test ride these and call us in the morning...
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Old 07-30-08, 01:48 AM
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I recently started commuting as well, with a $300 budget. I got a Giant Cypress ST, helmet and lights for $300 pretty much. The Cypress series is their comfort hybrids I think. It's great for getting to work so far, just need to get rack + panniers. It's not a road bike so it might be a more familiar posture from the get-go.

Only downside I can think of is steel frame, some componants on the bike aren't the best quality (mainly breaks and grip shifters come to mind) but it seemed the best start for my price point without riding some crap.
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Old 07-30-08, 02:04 AM
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Klvanzu,
SoCalCommute is right, It took me about a month of daily checking craig'slist in my smallish town (Lancaster/Palmdale.. about 300,000 or so) But yesterday for 35$ I purchsaed a Univega Alpina Sport, an early rigid mountain bike with a double lugged CrMo frame by Tange Prestige. 26" (knobbies, but I'll put commuter tires on for the road.) it only needed a bottom bracket which is another $25 for a cheap replacement at the local bike store..
I had the bike shop go over it standard tune up (true the wheels/tighten the spokes, adjust brakes, derailleurs, etc and install the new BB for 65$ so total for a roadworthy commuter about $125. I will replace the tires for antother $30 or so, but it already even has thicker tubes, and tire liners to boot... be patient, but look twice a day... until you find the perfect one.

BTW those old Univegas are highly regarded by many and they were value for money in their day so they often go for peanuts now....
good luck...

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Old 07-30-08, 04:55 AM
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Cayne Cykel available through the J&B catalog - this is a catalog every bike shop in the country uses for parts looks really good,

as does the Schwinn Coffee (I'm partial to 3 speeds)

To give you an idea of what used gets you for that kind of lucre, my personal commuter started as a Fuji frame, for which I built a generator hub front wheel, a rear wheel on a $10 Sturmey Archer hub, added fenders, rack, and lights (LED powered by the generator) and some reflective tape. I have around $250 in it.

You could ask this question over on C&V too and get some pretty serviceable answers. In general, a lugged frame with eyelets will work best.
The size... Rule of thumb used to be that you should be able to raise the front wheel 3-4 inches when you stood over the top tube.
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Old 07-30-08, 04:56 AM
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Performance has a lot in that price range right now. here is another one.



http://www.performancebike.com/shop/...tegory_ID=3060
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Old 07-30-08, 06:40 AM
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If you have a cycle spectrum nearby, go take a look. They are Bikesdirect.com's retail arm, I think. Anyway, they sold me a "Gazelle Dutch" hybrid for $200 flat that they said is made by Fuji. They also sold the Fuji Crosstown which were it in stock I probably would have got instead. They had quite a lot of bikes < 500.

Thinking back to college, however, I would probably go used or Walmart $100 and expect it to get stolen or trashed. Then again, i went to school in New Orleans.
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Old 07-30-08, 06:51 AM
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Go to the LBS. Many of them also sell used bikes on commission. It's a good way to get a used bike that's in reliable condition, with some good advice. Heck, if you were in my area I know where you could get a helluva good gently used roadie for $400 at the LBS...
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Old 07-30-08, 06:58 AM
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My favorite commuters to date were:

- A $100 used mid-90s Specialized Hardrock. Plenty fast on slicks, but short gearing got old for longer distances.
- A $130 mid-80s Puch road bike, used from a commuter-friendly LBS. Very comfortable and reliable.

At the moment my favorite inexpensive 'new' on-road commuters are the KHS Flite 200 and the Jamis Coda, but both will greatly exceed your $400 budget with accessories.
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Old 07-30-08, 07:31 AM
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In general, for a new, durable bike perfect for commuting and casually biking, you're going to spend about $400 bucks. While price isn't a perfect gage of quality, quality and price are strongly correlated in the sub $500 range (i.e. $400 bike is generally much better quality than $200 bike).

When looking at the bikes, keep it simple...don't worry about the frame being 4 ounces lighter, don't think you need to pay more to get the disc brakes over standard caliper brakes. Hit up more than one bike shop too (if there are several in your town)...they all tend to carry the same "big" brands (e.g. Trek, Specialized, Giant), but there are a lot of other companies that make good bikes out there, but not all shops carry them (e.g. Marin, Felt, Swobo, Surly).

Last edited by corripio; 07-30-08 at 07:44 AM.
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Old 07-30-08, 09:47 AM
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There are a lot of folks that buy good, brand name bikes that never use them, especially in college towns. I just bought a 2004 trek 4900 for $200 to use as a commuter bike. I threw some michelin transworld citys on for tires and a pan rack too. This thing looked brand new, with almost no wear on the tires. If you can find something like this, its pretty sweet.

You could post some flyers at the school too saying you are looking to buy a trek, giant, etc for under $200. Some cash strapped dude may take you up on it for beer/gas money.

I am of similar height (5' 12''), but a 32 inch inseam, and I've got a 19 and a 20.5 in framed moutain bike. Both work for me. If your inseam is longer than that, I would probably go with the larger frame.
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Old 07-30-08, 10:14 AM
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my recommendation: Dawes Lightning Sport, it is a "road bike", has a chro-molly frame (steel)... and
I have 1300 miles on mine with no problems. it cost me 240.00 (including shipping). it does have eyelets
for racks, fenders and its a pretty nice bike for the money...
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Old 07-30-08, 11:41 AM
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Originally Posted by LordBass View Post
- A $100 used mid-90s Specialized Hardrock. Plenty fast on slicks, but short gearing got old for longer distances.
+1

I'm the original owner and current user of a commuterized '92 Hard Rock and it... well... rocks. A while back I was in the same position as OP (similar budget) but quickly learned on this forum that I could turn my old Rock into a good commuter. And it is.
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Old 07-30-08, 11:44 AM
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Originally Posted by mwmcginn View Post
I am of similar height (5' 12''), but a 32 inch inseam...
In that case I'm 5' 13"
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Old 07-30-08, 11:51 AM
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Originally Posted by Nozzle View Post
+1

I'm the original owner and current user of a commuterized '92 Hard Rock and it... well... rocks. A while back I was in the same position as OP (similar budget) but quickly learned on this forum that I could turn my old Rock into a good commuter. And it is.
+2

Those 90's model Specialized Rockhopper and Hard Rock frames make great commuters, and are easy to find used on Craigslist. A good 80's model steel road frame would fit the bill as well.
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Old 07-30-08, 01:14 PM
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Originally Posted by Nozzle View Post
In that case I'm 5' 13"

Off topic, a girl asked me once if I was 6 foot tall, I told her I was 5'12''. Her response: "We'll, you are almost 6 foot." I said, "almost"
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