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Seeking a new commuter

Old 09-24-10, 11:17 PM
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Seeking a new commuter

I know, I know. Every other day there's someone asking for advice on what makes a good commuter, or whether or not they should buy this bike or that. And I know that what makes a good commuter for one is not necessarily what makes a good commuter for another.

So I know I really shouldn't add to the mix, but I will anyway :-)

My former commuter (stolen earlier this week, and unlikely to come back to me, it seems) was a Kona Dew Plus. What I liked: Disc brakes, nimble yet durable feel, compact and flexible gearing, plenty of accessory attachments (braze-ons for racks, fenders, or just about anything else), . What I didn't: Flat-ish bars (I added drop bar ends which helped quite a bit, but always seemed like a compromise), slightly wider than necessary tires (42mm?) and that's about it.

Based on the past 4-5 months, then, I am pretty sure I want road style bars, but I'm pretty sure I don't want a true road bike. Some options I'm thinking about: Kona Dew Drop (leftover at LBS). Cyclocross bike (no specific contenders -- but as a genre they seem to fit many of my requirements). Touring bike (again, no specific contenders - not a genre that I have much familiarity with).

As to my present needs: I have options anywhere between 1.5 and 20 miles each way, depending on whether I use Metro or ride the whole distance. My norm is about 5-6 miles each way. While I presently commute with a backpack, I am beginning to understand the attraction of panniers for longer distances. As long as I commute using cycling and Metro, I think I'll stick to backpack, but if I begin to do a cycle exclusive commute, panniers would become preferable. Or at least a rack to put the backpack on :-)

First question: Does anyone have a Dew Drop that they use as a commuter, and have they identified any drawbacks or advantages? One big advantage for me is price - I think I can get into a Dew Drop for less than either of the others.

Second Question: For those of you who commute on CX bikes; How hard is it to mount racks, fenders, etc...? Are there any CX bikes that have disc brake options (I understand that they are not permitted for competition -- I have no plans to commute. For me, a CX bike is like the typical suburbanite who gets a Hummer or Jeep -- It isn't about going off-road; it's about knowing I could ;-)) What are the drawbacks to CX bikes for commuting (given that I'd probably change out the tires for a more road oriented tire.

Third Question: What are some affordable touring options that I might want to look at? It might be worth noting that my preferred LBS carries Bianchi, Kona, Soma and Redline bikes... not sure what other options they might have for special order. I am not averse to older bikes, though I admit to liking new things :-)

Fourth Question: Is there something else I should be considering? Other alternatives that sound like they might be what I want, even though I haven't considered them?

Last edited by CptjohnC; 09-24-10 at 11:55 PM. Reason: explaining loss of bike
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Old 09-24-10, 11:34 PM
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Why don't you just put drop bars and skinnier tires on your current bike?
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Old 09-24-10, 11:55 PM
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Originally Posted by tligman
Why don't you just put drop bars and skinnier tires on your current bike?
Sorry -- I should have mentioned in this post: My former bike was stolen earlier this week, and seems unlikely to be recovered.
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Old 09-25-10, 12:22 AM
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Originally Posted by CptjohnC
First question: Does anyone have a Dew Drop that they use as a commuter, and have they identified any drawbacks or advantages? One big advantage for me is price - I think I can get into a Dew Drop for less than either of the others.
Have you ridden the Dew Drop yet? I test rode a 2009 model and to me it felt more like a MTB with drop bars than a road bike (i.e., it wasn't crisp in its acceleration, handling, etc.). I also didn't care for its brifters (Shimano 2203). That being said it felt like a solid bike and I'm sure it would make a fine commuter for anyone who felt comfortable on it.

Originally Posted by CptjohnC
Second Question: For those of you who commute on CX bikes; How hard is it to mount racks, fenders, etc...? Are there any CX bikes that have disc brake options (I understand that they are not permitted for competition -- I have no plans to commute. For me, a CX bike is like the typical suburbanite who gets a Hummer or Jeep -- It isn't about going off-road; it's about knowing I could ;-)) What are the drawbacks to CX bikes for commuting (given that I'd probably change out the tires for a more road oriented tire.
I assume that's a typo and you mean you have no plans to compete. IMHO CX bikes make great commuters for drop-bar aficionados. Many posters here use and equip them with fenders, racks, and bags to increase their utility. Since you're already a fan of Kona products you might want to check out the Jake (although no disc brakes). If I was in the market for a similar bike (and they were sold in Canada) then I would set my sights on the Redline Conquest Classic.

Last edited by irclean; 09-25-10 at 12:25 AM.
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Old 09-25-10, 02:01 PM
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Most people like CX bikes as a jack of all trades. The Soma Double Cross DC is supposed to have a disc brake option. However doing a quick glance at some of the brands it doesn't look like many have them though I am sure there must be others.

What is affordable though is really relative on what you are willing to spend.

A list of bikes within a relative price range that might fit your purposes are the Surly LHT and CC, Specialized Tricross, Bianchi Volpe, Trek 520, Cannondale T2, Jamis Aurora, etc.
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Old 09-25-10, 02:25 PM
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You have a REI in your town. Have you checked out their house brand Novara Buzz road bike? It looks to have just about everything on your list covered.
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Old 09-26-10, 09:28 PM
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Originally Posted by irclean
I assume that's a typo and you mean you have no plans to compete. IMHO CX bikes make great commuters for drop-bar aficionados. If I was in the market for a similar bike (and they were sold in Canada) then I would set my sights on the Redline Conquest Classic.
You are, of course, correct in your assumption :-) I test rode a dew drop (2010 model, I think) but I had no basis for comparison, as of then. I found the brifters awkward, but I had NEVER used STI style shifters, so I attributed it to my own inexperience. MTB with drop bars doesn't bother me, but I think I'll ride a CX bike before I get too far down the road of choice. I'll definitely consider the Redline, and the Jake was, of course, already on my list of contenders :-)
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Old 09-26-10, 09:39 PM
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Originally Posted by no1mad
You have a REI in your town. Have you checked out their house brand Novara Buzz road bike? It looks to have just about everything on your list covered.
I hadn't yet, but I definitely will.
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Old 09-26-10, 09:40 PM
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Originally Posted by exile
Most people like CX bikes as a jack of all trades.
A list of bikes within a relative price range that might fit your purposes are the Surly LHT and CC, Specialized Tricross, Bianchi Volpe, Trek 520, Cannondale T2, Jamis Aurora, etc.
Thanks for the ideas -- I'll definitely give them a look.
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Old 09-26-10, 09:48 PM
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We have a humble core of year round commuters at our company. I choose from my several bikes for my commute, and I never miss a day, but a few of the guys/gals have some nimble looking CX bikes that look really nice. One guy has a Specialized CX that looks pretty nice, and another guy has a Salsa. A woman from work is having a carbon fiber Calfee made for her for winter commuting. Seems extravagant, but maybe not so much if you're a committed commuter. I kind of lust after a german made Tout Terrain for the ultimate commuter.
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Old 09-26-10, 09:51 PM
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One of my friends just picked up a Salsa Fargo, and that would seem to match your requirements also.

Not sure what he paid for it, but it's a lovely drop bar 29er with disc brakes that looks like It can do just about anything.
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Old 09-26-10, 09:56 PM
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The bikes suggested thus far are solid candidates. CX bikes seem to translate really well into commuters as can be seen in these forums, and for good reason - they offer a great blend of performance and utility.
"Randonneur" and touring style bikes offer more utility, at the expense of a smidge of performance, and numerous models have discs. Trek's Portland model comes to mind.

Another option in the cx vein: https://www.bikesdirect.com/products/...ane/outlaw.htm
Nice bike for the money. I'd lose the brifters and sell 'em as new and install bar-ends. Single eyelet in back means fenders and rack would both be mounted there with a little longer screw (rack first, then fenders).

What's the catch? You'll have to spend about 20-30 minutes assembling it, and it is a good idea to verify the spoke tension and grease in hubs/BB/headset. Though there are those who may argue the point, I've personally been satisfied with my BD purchases (2 bikes so far), but the tradeoffs are real. I've been wrenching on bikes (professionally for a while and as a hobby) since the 70's so it is a non-issue for me. YMMV.

With a clean slate and reasonable budget, there are many options. I'm partial to internally geared hubs but will not post a litany of options there. I've already done that elsewhere on these threads
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Old 09-26-10, 11:43 PM
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I'd get a Salsa Vaya. It has the relaxed commuter geometry you're looking for, is steel and can accept fatter tires and fenders. A road bike will never take those kind of changes and they don't have the stable handling a commuter bike does.
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Old 09-27-10, 11:59 AM
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Thanks for the info on CX bikes everyone. I'm finding it helpful.
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