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Commuter Bicycle Buying Advice

Old 07-09-10, 10:47 PM
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Commuter Bicycle Buying Advice

Greetings all!

I stumbled upon this great website in my search for a perfect commuter bike. I need some help with which one I should go for though!

I'll be mainly using this bike to commute to work (roughly 5-6 miles one way, depending on the route I use), for grocery getting, and for general use around Portland (grabbing a brew, food, fun ride around town). I obviously need something that'll accept fenders and a rear rack at the very least.

I would prefer to buy from a LBS, but am also not opposed to buying online from BD. I am not familiar with the bikes on BD, so I have not listed those as possibilities below. If you feel there are similar bikes compared to what I have listed or if you feel a certain bike or bikes are the better buy from BD, please let me know.

I began with a price range goal of $500-$600 USD. One of the bikes below is priced at $775 and am willing to go there if it is truly worth it!

'09 Kona Dew Drop SE $600 (Seems to be well worth the price for the parts on it. One LBS encouraged disc brakes on a commuter bike, while another felt it was overkill. I do live in Portland, Oregon where it rains often in the winter, and occasionally it does snow too)

'10 Kona Dew Plus $490 (V-brakes felt more responsive to me than the disc brakes on the Dew Drop, I liked that. Straight bar was comforting because I come from a history of mountain bikes. I am not opposed to drop bars and would probably prefer that route for future-proofing)

Trek PDX $549 (I did not test ride this bike another than sitting on it at a stationary station. I cannot really comment on it beyond this. They didn't have the proper size.)

Trek Valencia $749 (This felt okay to me. I felt the Dew Drop was a better ride.)

Jamis Coda $500 / Jamis Coda $650 (Test rode the base model Coda only. The steel frame was very comforting. Again, straight bars were nice based on past experience. If I go with a straight bar bike, I'd probably immediately add bar ends for hand position options. I'm not sure I'd be getting as much "bang for the buck" though with Jamis compared to Kona.)

I went back to the first LBS because they were finishing building a '09 Kona ***** Tonk that I wanted to ride.

'09 Kona ***** Tonk $775 (Steel frame, downtube shifters, V-brakes. This is over what I was hoping to spend, but it was the best ride of them all. The comfort of the steel. The responsiveness of the V-brakes. The DT shifters were a little awkward to me, but I think with time it'll be okay. I was told there are less parts for these shifters making it less likely to break. It definitely had some get-up-and-go, which was awesome. $775 is a lot, but I want to spend my money on a good bike. My next choice would be the Dew Drop SE, $175 less.)

Is the ***** Tonk worth it? Are there other bikes or BD bikes I should look at?
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Old 07-09-10, 11:04 PM
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Shifters rarely break, so that's not a serious concern.

Is this your only bike? Have you ridden recently? The reason I bring this up is that people often change what they like after a few months of riding.

It sounds like you're doing the right thing, going around to the stores and checking out a bunch of bikes. So my only other piece of advice is that you should relax after you pull the trigger, whatever you end up getting, because it will probably be great for what you're doing.
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Old 07-09-10, 11:14 PM
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This will be my only bike. I've ridden recently. I had a used 90's Norco, more of a MTB but used it on the road. Also have a 80s piece of crap Schwinn road bike that I will be selling on craigslist. But both have not been desirable enough for me to want to commute to work with. The Norco was heavy, the Schwinn I don't completely trust as it is in need of some tender loving care.
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Old 07-10-10, 12:26 AM
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The ***** tonk is a great bike. I've always thought of the Dew Drop as a hybrid bike that they put drop handle bars on. Another bike to consider is citybikes khs urban xpress city bike https://citybikes.coop/citybike.html.

I would say the big question is if you want drop bars. If you want the drop bars the ***** tonk is a solid commuter that's a quick road bike. If you don't care for the drop bars one of the Dews, the khs, or even the Kona Smoke are all decent options.

As to the disc brakes it's a tough call. Living in Portland I've never felt the need for disc brakes for stopping power, but I come down pill hill each day and the slowly wearing out my rims makes me think disc brakes could be nice.
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Old 07-10-10, 12:40 AM
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Thanks, ratell. I've been looking around the 'net in regards to these bikes tonight. I'm pretty much sold on the ***** Tonk. I am not use to drop bars, but I think if I don't go that route I will regret it. I think it's cool that the designer of it also owns Sellwood Cycle Repair. I'm going back there first thing in the morning!
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Old 07-10-10, 12:54 AM
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That is a nice looking bike. And if you like the way it rides, it'll be worth your money. If I were in the market, that would be on my list too.
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Old 07-10-10, 01:29 AM
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My experience is for commuting you want fat tyres if your roads are bad, drop bars for the inevitable head wind, and disc brakes if it rains a lot. I have my bike set up like this and it works perfectly. Disc brakes probably felt less responsive because they hadn't bedded in yet, they are more consistent in rain and they don't ruin your rim if you get bits of gravel stuck in the pad.

I would go with the Kona Dew Drop.
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Old 07-10-10, 03:16 AM
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One of the bad things about inconvenient shifters is that it makes riding in traffic more difficult. I have barcons, so they aren't even off of the handlebars, but they are still inconvenient. I find myself not shifting sometimes when I need to because I can't move my hands around while going through certain intersections. (Maybe this is a personal problem, but I'm guessing a lot of people share the same personal problem.) If the people at the shop will let you, try that ***** Tonk at a high-stress intersection where you have to get up to speed and get through fast while holding a perfectly straight line (ideally you would also be going over railroad tracks). I love my barcons in almost every other way, but they are the upper-end of inconvenient shifting for me. DT shifters would be a dealbreaker for me unless it were cheap and easy to convert them to handlebar-mounted shifters. Why on earth did they put downtube shifters on that bike?! The new (red) model has STI so I guess they changed their mind.

Sorry to anyone who is a DT shifter lover. The ***** Tonk looks great otherwise, though.
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Old 07-10-10, 04:13 AM
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I had barend shifters (cheap drop bar conversion) but I switched to campy shifters as I found them too inconvenient (as wild animals said above). Wouldn't have them on any commuting bike - touring is a different beast as you aren't shifting as much nor under as much pressure from traffic etc.
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Old 07-10-10, 04:42 AM
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The DT shifters are somewhat of a concern for me. Although my form may improve with use, I was definitely not going in a straight line as I was shifting gears. That would obviously not be good if I'm riding next to a car.

Is the weight difference between the ***** Tonk and Dew Drop huge? I'll likely add fenders, rear rack, and water bottle cage to whichever bike I choose at the very least.

And as said above... will disc brakes feel more responsive with use?
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Old 07-10-10, 09:31 AM
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Discs will "pad in" and feel less grabby in time, but they always stop great, which is most important, IMO, especially on an urban commuter, and especially on the streets.

I think that the Dew Drop would make a better commuter for hilly Portland given the setup (triple rings; discs; dual braze-ons @ dropouts), but the ***** Tonk is definitely sportier and better looking. Still, for the money differential, you could get the DD set up with rack, fenders, lights, bag, and lube right out the door. If you've got to stretch the wallet to get into the base HT, you'll want to keep accessory cost in mind, too.

Whether or not the HT is worth it depends on your riding style. If you're into a sportier, more aggressive ride that demands a little more rider attention and rewards with a dialed-in feel, then go for it. It's definitely cooler!
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Old 07-10-10, 09:45 AM
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If I were to choose between the ***** Tonk or the Dew Drop- gimme the Dew! The disc brakes will work better in all-weather conditions. The Dew has a longer chainstay (17.3" vs 16.1" on the HT), which will help in avoiding heel strike. The Dew sits a bit more upright for riding in traffic, but allows you to duck down while encountering a headwind. The aluminum will have less rust issues than the steel framed HT.

Get the Dew, take the savings from not getting the HT, and buy yourself a nice waterproof Ortlieb bag.
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Old 07-10-10, 10:02 AM
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There are different ways to mount the shifters..thumbies etc. I have barend shifters and I have no prob shifting, it becomes second nature. You may be able to get the lbs to change the shifters for a small price if you ask. I have a steel frame and love the ride, my only concern would be using panniers with the compact rear triangle but I also wear size 14's. Get what you like...the ***** tonk looks like a really nice bike.
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Old 07-10-10, 11:20 AM
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That ***** tonk looks sweet. Are those cantis or vbrakes?
Why not go with that one and buy some barend pods at rivbike.com and convert those dt shifters to barcons...if you find dt challenging.
As far as the bars are concerned, why not get some midge on ones or salsa bell laps...they have flared drops that alot swear by (even mtn bike riders)..




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Old 07-10-10, 11:48 AM
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Since you live in Portland you should make a visit to Joe Bike. Their whole focus is on commuting and cycling lifestyle. They carry bikes from some major manufacturers, including Norco - my little plug for Canada, Torker, and their own line of commuter-specific bikes.
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Old 07-10-10, 01:02 PM
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Originally Posted by bluenote157
That ***** tonk looks sweet. Are those cantis or vbrakes?
Why not go with that one and buy some barend pods at rivbike.com and convert those dt shifters to barcons...if you find dt challenging.
As far as the bars are concerned, why not get some midge on ones or salsa bell laps...they have flared drops that alot swear by (even mtn bike riders)..



Those are cool!
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Old 07-10-10, 01:07 PM
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I'd try and go for a decent length ride in traffic with barend / dt shifters before considering them. I won't have them again on a commuting bike. As mentioned above, accessory cost can mount up to quite a bit (easily a few hundred £s/$s) so go for the bike you can happily afford and spend the rest on gear (clothes, accessories, helmet, lights etc.)

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Old 07-10-10, 01:23 PM
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After discussing the main points brought up in here with the LBS and test riding both bikes again, I opted for the ***** Tonk. Pics soon!
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