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Help choosing a commuter (Surly, Gunnar, etc.)

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Help choosing a commuter (Surly, Gunnar, etc.)

Old 03-17-10, 05:07 PM
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Help choosing a commuter (Surly, Gunnar, etc.)

Hi all,

I've been looking at getting back into cycling for the last few months now, and largely thanks to this forum, I think I have a decent idea what I am looking for. I really wanted a nice older touring bike to use as a commuter, but even after hours upon hours spent combing ebay and craigslist, I haven't found anything appropriate or affordable in my size. So now I'm thinking something new off the rack. I wanted to stay around a 1000, though I can maybe go to 1400 or 1500. The easiest thing would be the Surly Crosscheck, but I was really hoping to buy something not made in China or Taiwan. I don't want to start a big argument, that's just my preference. So I'd really like to go with something like the Gunnar Crosshairs, but it seems it is sold only as a frame+fork, and building up a bike seems much more expensive than buying a complete bike. So basically I'm just looking for advice. Is there a cheap donor bike out there from some online retailer which I could use to build up the Crosshairs without getting too close to 2k, or should I just swallow my pride and get the Surly? Or feel free to suggest any other steel touring or cyclocross bikes. Thanks.

Cheers,
James
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Old 03-17-10, 05:21 PM
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You'll probably get better parts if you buy the Surly.

The Gunnar frame with fork will be near $1100; if you shop carefully or find a deal on a donor you may stay under $2000 to build the Gunnar, but a $900 donor bike is going to have relatively "meh" components. If you need someone else to do the work for you, your donor budget goes down to $600-700, probably not too different if you have to buy your own tools.
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Old 03-17-10, 05:24 PM
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I could give some advice but since I don't know where the bikes I would recommend are made... I hesitate. I know that Cannondale was known for being made in the U.S.A. but I'm not sure that their bikes are still made here. I know my Cannondale carbon bicycle was not made in the U.S.A. I had no idea that Surly's were made in China or Taiwan. Good luck with your search. Maybe custom is the way to go. It will be built by someone you trust... however, the tubing may come from China or Taiwan.
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Old 03-17-10, 05:58 PM
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Originally Posted by CharmCityCycle
I was really hoping to buy something not made in China or Taiwan. I don't want to start a big argument, that's just my preference.
Regardless of where the frame was welded, basically all of the other parts will still come from Asia....its unavoidable. Get the Surly and use the money you save by not driving to support the local economy.
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Old 03-17-10, 07:26 PM
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Originally Posted by mihlbach
Regardless of where the frame was welded, basically all of the other parts will still come from Asia....its unavoidable. Get the Surly and use the money you save by not driving to support the local economy.
This is the crux of the issue. If you're buying off the shelf, then you face a choice: you can stick within your budget, or you can stay away from goods made in Asia. Maybe it will help to nudge you toward the Cross-Check (of which I'm a delighted owner) if I point out that Grant Petersen himself, whose company sells nothing made in China (with the exception of a tape measure that they mistakenly supposed was made in the USA), has in various places lavished praise on Surly's stuff.
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Old 03-17-10, 07:30 PM
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I'm totally sympathetic to your goals; however, I'm surprised you haven't been able to find a suitable vintage bike. I'd suggest you post your desires regarding a C&V based commuter on the C&V forum; you'll get plenty of good tips from C&V commuters and some in your area may even have a direct lead on a bike for you.
I'd suggest you have another go at getting a C&V bike for your commuter; you will save a lot of money, keep the money in the country, and end up with an entirely suitable and satisfying commuter.
You're on the right track looking for a touring bike; my latest is a 1982 Univega Viva Touring (frankenbike), which leaves nothing to be desired as a commuter. A decent entry level C&V 10 speed (Schwinn, Peugeot, any Japanese brand) will also make a very servicable commuter. The money you save on initial purchase you can spend on refreshing the mechanicals and optimizing things like saddle, gearing, etc. Unlike a "turn-key" new bike, you can customize it without considering the unwanted components you remove a waste of money, assuming you didn't pay that much for the whole bike in the first place.
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Old 03-17-10, 07:30 PM
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Originally Posted by mihlbach
Regardless of where the frame was welded, basically all of the other parts will still come from Asia....its unavoidable. Get the Surly and use the money you save by not driving to support the local economy.
If you buy used, the Asia portion of the bicycle has already been paid off, so all the funds you pay stay in the local economy... at least until the seller buys some new parts for her own bike.
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Old 03-18-10, 07:52 AM
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I've ridden a Surly Cross-Check as my all-around commuter and utility bike for the past two years, and have been extremely happy with it. Sadly, it went to Bike Heaven when a drunk driver hit me a couple of weeks ago. I just replaced it with a Surly Long Haul Trucker, pretty much the same set-up.

Go with the Surly... you won't regret it. Steel is Real.
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Old 03-18-10, 10:41 AM
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I have a Cross Check as my commuter & brevet bike. I've replaced most of the stock parts in the couple years I've owned it (upgrades for randonneuring), but it's a good, solid bike right off the shelf.
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Old 03-19-10, 05:57 AM
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Thanks everyone for the advice. I think I'm going to keep looking for a nice old touring bike for another month or so, and if I'm still coming up short at the end of that time, I'll probably go with the Cross Check. Seems like the best bike for my needs that stays inside my budget.

As an aside, it's almost impossible for me to believe that no one can build a decent steel bike domestically at a lower price point. Cannondale seemed to do it with aluminum for years after all the other big players gave up. I know they've recently moved overseas, but I'm guessing that it wasn't so much a necessity, as a matter of maximizing profit. Of course I don't think the Gunnar is unreasonably expensive (just beyond my means at the moment). It would help if they sold their frames as complete bikes. I can't believe how much more it costs to buy wheels, a groupset, etc, separately as opposed to buying a complete bike. Ah well. The more I read about bike manufacturing, the more it seems rather unsavory to me. What with almost all the companies selling products made in the same handful of factories. Also, I don't understand why aluminum is so ubiquitous, when it seems that commuters prefer steel, and racers have all moved on to CF. Call me paranoid, but I feel certain that has more to do with what is cheapest and most profitable, than with demand. That said, it's definitely better to ride a bike (any bike), than to drive.
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Old 03-19-10, 07:04 AM
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Leaving aside the material debate, even a bike welded and assembled in the US is made of tubes and parts made in Asia. What you should be concerned about is not where an item was made, but where the profits from its sale go. The days of homespun tales about "Made in America" have been over for a few decades at least.

Look up the domestic parts content of an "American" car sometime.
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Old 03-19-10, 07:56 AM
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A fair point for sure, though you don't have to tell me that. Living in Baltimore, a city with an economy which once revolved almost entirely around steel, I see every day the consequences of our having allowed that industry to be packed up and shipped overseas. That said, I'd rather have something welded here with Chinese steel, than something made there from start to finish. I think we often make the mistake of thinking that because we can't achieve the perfect, that we shouldn't even do what we can.

And before anyone goes off on a tirade, and asks me why I hate the Chinese or the Taiwanese, I should say that I don't. And I have nothing against trade. I just think that we ought to trade with other countries with similar labor and environmental standards. Otherwise all we are doing is creating "efficiencies" for corporations, while supporting substandard working conditions abroad, depressing wages here, and in many cases despoiling large swaths of various ecosystems. For all this the consumer gets a marginally lower price, but more often than not, lower quality as well.
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Old 03-19-10, 10:54 AM
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Originally Posted by CharmCityCycle
For all this the consumer gets a marginally lower price, but more often than not, lower quality as well.
The "made in" debate is fine, but this point is utterly false. See electronics, the car industry in the 1970s (and today, other than the Toyota flap), and so on and so on.

As far as Baltimore goes, it and similar cities are more of an excellent example of the effects of industrial monoculture than industries being "shipped overseas." Expecting a resource-intense industry to stay both economically viable and geographically fixed is silly.
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Old 03-19-10, 01:22 PM
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I don't see what your pride has to do with picking a bike that meets your needs. If you want a bike that is made totally with domestic labor you can find it. It'll only cost $4000-$5000 once you find the domestic component manufacturers. Same thing with finding anything that is made entirely with domestic labor.

Now if you don't want to spend that much but want to be involved in the bikes construction it won't cost an arm and a leg AS LONG AS YOU ALREADY HAVE MOST OF THE PARTS. If you're willing to hunt around I bet there's a frame builder somewhere in Maryland who's built a few dozen frames and has the process dialed down and won't charge top dollar. All it takes is some footwork to find that builder and wait the few months to a year for him to build it. I've had two custom frames built, one was stolen after a few months of ownership and the other I've had for 15yrs. Both built by local builders where I lived in Ca.

Your idea of getting a "donor bike" for parts to put on the Gunnar won't pan out for all kinds of reasons. When you get the Gunnar there's one stem length you'll prefer, you donor bike may or may not have the right size or fit, so on down the line for seat post diameter and other parts. It would make more sense just to get a donor bike and ride it. Think of the money you'd save.

BTW, what is your size? You might check around more. I've got a 56cm Bottechia I've been trying to unload. Not a commuter with eyelets but it would make a hell of a road bike.

There are lots of reasons to not get a Cross-Check, or to get one. I've got one and I think it's effing great. It's a hunk of iron. If you want a light bike it's not that. If you want a light bike that can do what the CrossCheck can look at a Specialized Tri-Cross. They've got two models between $900-$1200 Those are very nice bikes suitable for a range of uses.

Something to suggest for your commuter, just fit it out with a single front chainring and rear cassette.

Last edited by LeeG; 03-19-10 at 01:38 PM.
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Old 03-24-10, 08:34 PM
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I have a Gunnar Sport and a Surly Pacer. The Gunnar is a very nice True Temper OS Platinum frameset. Light(ish), responsive, and comfortable. It's equipped with fenders and a rack/panniers. It was expensive to build with quality parts. I'm going to say the whole bike cost upwards of $3000.

The Surly Pacer was built with an older Shimano 105 group donated from an ill-fitting Schwinn Peloton, which was scavenged from an old KHS road race bike. Frameset cost $450 or so. So much less expensive. The ride is so similar I can't really pick a favorite. The Pacer is fenderable, but only with 700x25 tires(max). I think I'd probably choose the Cross Hairs , if I had it to do all over again. More versatile frameset.
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