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Commute: what would you do?

Old 02-25-11, 10:07 PM
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Commute: what would you do?

I've been using my Specialized Allez Double for the past few days to commute to work. It's ~8.3 miles one way, slightly uphill on the way to work. Well I've discovered what everyone here knows: that a racing bike isn't really the best choice for a commute. Sweaty back from backpack, rough pavement, getting off to carry the bike over a puddle...all the stuff you read about.

The general consensus seems to be that a touring bike is a good choice for commuting. Steel frame, 28 or 32 tires, rack mounts, fenders all come to mind. However, I was a little surprised looking at some of the models that the prices hover around $1100 for this type of bike. And that's without the rack, fenders and all of the other stuff you need. I guess it seems strange that a racing bike with carbon fiber parts can be had for ~$700 whereas an "old-tech" steel bike costs substantially more. Bikes I've looked at include the Surly LHT, Jamis Aurora, Bianchi Volpe, Salsa Casseroll. Am I missing something here?

To get to the point, I seem to have 4 options:

1. Put a rack on the Allez. It'll be a bit weird and it'll solve only the backpack problem but it's the cheapest option.

2. Get the touring bike. This is obviously more expensive but if I'll be putting ~3000 miles on this thing per year, it could easily be worth it. The money isn't really a big problem for me financially but I don't want to make a foolish decision either.

3. Try to find a suitable good-condition used road bike at an LBS and modify that as needed. Perhaps even start with a frame and build something up. I really don't know how much that will end up costing since I've never built up or modified a bike significantly. Lack of experience also might make it difficult to choose the right parts.

4. Something else?

So, what would you do in my place? Any advice or suggestions are appreciated.
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Old 02-25-11, 10:33 PM
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This probably won't specifically answer your question but part of the fun of commuting for me is being on a bike that i really enjoy riding and one that makes it easy to carry the stuff I need.

If it were me I would be leaning towards a bike that's more suitable for
commuting/touring. The options you listed are all great bikes and I don't think you could really go wrong with any of them. Just remember you'll need some money in addition to the cost of the bike for rack, fenders, lights, bell, bike computer, panniers and any number of things you will deem absolutely necessary once you've become hooked on commuting.

Have fun.
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Old 02-25-11, 11:53 PM
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If it were me, I would get a beam rack and trunk bag for the commute and use the Allez. Maybe add some clip on fenders too and run the widest tires it will take (25s? 28s?). When not commuting, you can take the beam rack off (it has a quick release) and the fenders too and have a more road-like bike.
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Old 02-26-11, 01:14 AM
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Don't know what you need to carry, but since you stated that finances aren't a major concern so long as you wouldn't regret the product, check out this beam rack and bag from Arkel. Additional cargo capacity could come from the use of a handlebar bag.
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Old 02-26-11, 01:19 AM
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Another option to explore would be that of a frame bag...
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Old 02-26-11, 02:32 AM
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Originally Posted by no1mad
Don't know what you need to carry, but since you stated that finances aren't a major concern so long as you wouldn't regret the product, check out this beam rack and bag from Arkel. Additional cargo capacity could come from the use of a handlebar bag.
If money matters, you can get a Topeak beam rack and trunk bag combo for $70 from Amazon. FWIW, I bought a Topeak beam rack and DX bag in 1998 and still use it every day for my commute. After 13 years, my bag has some wear, but I've never had a broken zipper nor a problem with their quick release system. It may not be the prettiest bag on the market, but it's durable and it works.
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Old 02-26-11, 03:55 AM
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A something else is possible if you have a locker or other storage space at work. Some folks drive their stuff in at the beginning of the week, then drive it home at the end. Or they'll drive in on the weekend to make the exchange.

I do something similar, but with bikes. On Mondays I use panniers to carry in the week's worth of work clothes, lunches and snacks (and library books). On Thursdays I use the panniers to haul home the laundry (and library books). On Tuesdays and Wednesdays I can ride any bike I want without having to haul anything.

Even if you have to haul stuff daily, a full blown tourer probably isn't necessary. Last I checked, all the entry-level road bikes from the major manufacturers had rack and fender mounts. They're perfectly fine for light-duty hauling on commutes, and a bit livelier than most touring bikes.

In the end, I still favor the multiple bike solution. It's nice having spare that can be pressed into service in either direction--on the commute, or on weekend rides.
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Old 02-26-11, 05:58 AM
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Don't forget about Carradice.
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Old 02-26-11, 06:10 AM
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The all-metal Allez frames can take rear racks. If you have this, the best option would be to fit a rack and bolt-on fenders and the widest tyres you can manage (25 or 28mm). This would be quite acceptable for a wet winter commuting bike.
One you know your route, you know where to place your wheels to avoid big potholes. Basically, the smarter you ride the lighter bike you can use.
If you wanted an "ultimate winter commuter" then a disc-braked cyclo-cross style road bike is probably as close as you can get BUT that's just my thinking.

Its always good to think about alternate uses of your commuter bike. If you want to load up and go touring then a touring bike is sensible. If you want to do long, fast endurance day rides, then a road bike is good. For off roading, a front-sus MTB works fine. One bike can cover several bases but over time most of us acquire several, a summer fun racer, a winter workhorse, a fancypants custom tourer. Its always a good idea to have a backup bike for when you have a major breakdown.
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Old 02-26-11, 06:53 AM
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craigslist is your friend... you can probably find a good used road bike with what you are looking for, and to boot, it gives you a 'rain bike' when you don't want to take the allez. Having said that, a colleague of mine has a waterproof bag--sort of like one you would take on a canoe--with the roll-type closure. It has foam with lots of furrows in it that keep the bag from being totally against your back. He rides with it on his racing bike year round and doesn't complain about a sweaty back.
The important thing is that you enjoy riding the bike--whichever it is-- because if you don't like the bike you won't ride it, and then you have one more excuse for why you drove in today instead of riding your bike...

train safe
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Old 02-26-11, 07:18 AM
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Get a used mountain bike and take of the fat knobbies, put 1.25s or 1.5s on it.

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Old 02-26-11, 08:20 AM
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Bikesdirect is another option. They have some touring bikes for alot less than $1000 and some nice cross bikes too. The link below is for the Windsor Tourist which is a popular suggestions. Its $599 with free shipping.

https://www.bikesdirect.com/products/windsor/tourist.htm
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Old 02-26-11, 08:52 AM
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A $700 road bike will certainly not have the level of components that the $1100 touring bike has. I commute 25m RTon a "racing" bike mostly. P clips for the rack on top, no fenders. When it's crummy out I take the Hybrid with fenders and 700X25's
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Old 02-26-11, 09:59 AM
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If your money situation allows it, I'd say get a dedicated commuter. In the long term I think you'll be happier with that. More space for the add-ons bicycle commuters typically want, a less aggressive riding position with better visibility, greater versatility and tolerance of bad roads.

Whether you convert a used hardtail mountain bike (which mostly involves swapping the tires), or buy a used or new touring or cyclocross bike, or buy a purpose-built flat-bar commuter, is a personal decision. They're all perfectly good options. Whatever you get doesn't necessarily have to be steel, BTW. Aluminum works fine as well.
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Old 02-26-11, 02:10 PM
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Thanks for all the replies. A few pieces of information that I wanted to add:

First off, I plan on doing this seriously. I mean rain-or-shine, car-free seriously. It doesn't have to happen overnight but that is the ultimate goal.

Second, I've been cautioned by an LBS mechanic and product packaging against putting a beam rack on a carbon fiber seat post. The Allez does have regular rack mounts though.

Finally, clearances on the tires seem really tight. It's running 23's right now but I don't think anything over 25's could fit.

Thoughts?
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Old 02-26-11, 02:17 PM
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I still say buy a bike that is suitable for commuting or touring. Keep the Allez for road races.

Part of the fun is building up and riding a bike you really enjoy.
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Old 02-26-11, 02:18 PM
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Originally Posted by dkrajisnik
Thanks for all the replies. A few pieces of information that I wanted to add:

First off, I plan on doing this seriously. I mean rain-or-shine, car-free seriously. It doesn't have to happen overnight but that is the ultimate goal.

Second, I've been cautioned by an LBS mechanic and product packaging against putting a beam rack on a carbon fiber seat post. The Allez does have regular rack mounts though.

Finally, clearances on the tires seem really tight. It's running 23's right now but I don't think anything over 25's could fit.

Thoughts?
Get a real commuter bike.

With a rack and panniers, you're really going to shift the weight on the Allez to put more on the rear wheel. With only 23s (and maybe even with 25s) you'll be in pinch-flat ****. Been there, done that. It's not fun when you have to fix a rear flat 2-3 times a week. Even then, I doubt your current rear wheel is designed for the extra load.

Because you won't want to stop at just a rack and panniers for a full-time commuter. You'll be adding fenders, lights, and who knows what else soon enough.
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Old 02-26-11, 02:27 PM
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Originally Posted by dkrajisnik
4. Something else?
Used bike on Craigslist.

I would only consider putting the rack on the road bike if you can also put wider tires on it as well. Skinny tires will just beat you up.
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Originally Posted by bragi "However, it's never a good idea to overgeneralize."
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Old 02-26-11, 02:28 PM
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Originally Posted by megalowmatt
This probably won't specifically answer your question but part of the fun of commuting for me is being on a bike that i really enjoy riding and one that makes it easy to carry the stuff I need.

If it were me I would be leaning towards a bike that's more suitable for
commuting/touring. The options you listed are all great bikes and I don't think you could really go wrong with any of them. Just remember you'll need some money in addition to the cost of the bike for rack, fenders, lights, bell,
bike computer, panniers and any number of things you will deem absolutely necessary once you've become hooked on commuting.

Have fun.
Why does someone need a bike computer for commuting?
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Originally Posted by bragi "However, it's never a good idea to overgeneralize."
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Old 02-26-11, 02:30 PM
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FWIW, I've been commuting on 23's for about 8 months now and only had a single pinch flat when I didn't have a gauge and has about 30 PSI in them (and even 2" tires will pinch flat with low PSI). And I've got about 12+ pounds of rack/pannier on it.

You can look at handlebar bags, or large seat bags (rivendell comes to mind, but looking at about $150-$200)

@doohickie, I bought one for $15 and found the clock function alone makes it worth the money. I don't wear a watch and being able to push a little more to be on time to work is nice
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Old 02-26-11, 03:06 PM
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Getting off the carry your bike over a puddle. Really?
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Old 02-26-11, 03:28 PM
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Originally Posted by Doohickie
Why does someone need a bike computer for commuting?
Why not?
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Old 02-26-11, 04:17 PM
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I have a dedicated commuter bike. It's set up with fenders and racks and semi knobby tires for the gravel and bumpy roads on my 4.5 mile commute. I also don't mind locking it up somewhere. I save my nice bikes for other rides. In the summer I may ride my one of my road bikes to work just for fun sometimes.

I'm acquiring parts to build a back-up commuter also (just for fun); I found a frame I liked on ebay for $50, just ordered some clearance sale wheels for it on gNashbar for $70.
My touring bike is also a back up commuter bike, but that's not the point.
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Old 02-26-11, 04:26 PM
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You can snag a decent used touring bike for $400-$500 online via ebay/craigslist if you are patient. That's how I got my 1988 Trek 520, and it has definitely not disappointed me as a commuter. The nice thing about a bike that's actually built as a touring bike is that it has a stable geometry (that will help you to ride in a straight line, even at slow speeds), a long chainstay length (which gives plenty of heel clearance if you decide to stick panniers on the rear rack), and has front fork eyelets so that you can also install a front rack if you want to.

A decent sport-touring bike will make a solid commuter on the cheap (I commuted on my Trek 400 Elance for 3 years--I also toured on it, as you can barely see from my profile picture of it fully loaded at the Kansas State Line) but it really doesn't cost too much more to get a full touring bike, which is a much better machine IMHO FWIW. If you just attempt to stick a rear rack on your racing bike, you may find that it doesn't handle quite the way you want it to.

Also, fenders and mud guards on a commuter depend on your climate and comfort level. Here in South Texas where it is dry, they are not really needed. If you don't mind riding while wet and changing clothes at your destination, they are not needed. I used to have an old one speed with fenders, and I found that they got to be a pain in the rear when uninstalling/reinstalling the wheel (such as when you get a flat)...the tires always seemed to rub the fenders unless you had the wheel in just perfect. These were fenders that were organic to the bike, mind you, not a jerry-rigged installation that some chucklehead came up with. Anyhow, they got to be so much of a pain that I ripped the fenders off. I'm not saying all fenders are like that, but they were a hassle in my own (limited) experience.

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Old 02-26-11, 04:38 PM
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At least do what ever is necessary to solve the issue of carrying a bike over a puddle.

I've ridden bikes across flooded roadways and MUPs before. I almost ran over a friggin fish once. Come on.
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