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I want to bike to work each day, but I'm feeling a little overwhelmed with my options

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I want to bike to work each day, but I'm feeling a little overwhelmed with my options

Old 11-16-11, 07:29 PM
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courageousrobot
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I want to bike to work each day, but I'm feeling a little overwhelmed with my options

First off, I'm sure there's a million posts like this scattered throughout the forums. I really hope that I choose the right subforum to post this, but please let me know if I'm in the wrong place or should be looking elsewhere.

I've been reading the recommendations and advice posted here and on the biking sub****** for about a month, and it's gotten to the point where there are so many bikes I think I like/want that I no longer like or want any of them! Maybe you all can help point me in the right direction?

I'm relatively new to biking. Aside from my stationary bike, the only biking I've done since childhood has been short rides on bikes borrowed from roommates or friends. I live in Northern Virginia and used to work in Washington DC. Recently, I switched companies and am now working a short 10 miles down the road. I've been trying to lose a bit of weight and get in much better shape, and I did pretty well, losing twenty pounds or so by just dieting and stationary bike, but I want to take the next step and start commuting to the office as much as possible. When I worked in DC I was on my feet a fair bit and walked around the city to get food. Here, aside from walking from my car to my office, I'm completely stationary and there's really good pizza next door, and deli, and chinese food, and pho, and you get the picture... it's time to start biking.

The main road between my house and the office isn't the most biker friendly, it crosses over I-66, has exit ramps, and stretches of road with no real shoulder/sidewalk/bike path and cars that go 55 give or take. Looking at Google Maps, there are some back roads and bike trails that I can take, meaning most of my commute will be on pavement, bike paths, and perhaps the occasional gravel. Based on what I'm reading here, I'm thinking that a touring bike or cyclo-cross is the way to go?
I've heard very good things about the Surly Cross Check and the Salsa Vaya those would count as touring bikes yeah? I feel like the Vaya might be a little overkill, maybe leaning a bit too much towards the MTB side of the spectrum... plus there's three different models, the Vaya TI, the Vaya 2, and the Vaya 3. That's confusing.

The Cross Check seems highly recommended, but I've heard that Surly mixes good components with bad, and that the Alex rims aren't the greatest. Also, no disc brakes. I've heard disc brakes are awesome. My car has disc brakes. I like that. Is this a legitimate make it or break it?

What about the Salsa Chile Con Crosso? That's a cyclo-cross bike, but I haven't heard it mentioned around here much. Or the Jamis Bossanova or Aurora Elite? Are Jamis bikes as good as Salsa? Or Surly? Another concern is steel. I've read that steel frames ride smooth, but is steel too heavy? My roommate has a Kona something or other and it's pretty light Aluminum. I'm guessing that a heavier steel bike is not a huge deal and that a steel touring bike still doesn't weigh as much as a mountain bike.
And that's just the beginning, there are so many other bikes out there and I really don't know where they begin. I haven't started looking at Trek, or Specialized, or Cannondale. Should I? Which ones? I'm looking to spend under two grand. Another thing to consider is that since I'm going to be commuting, I'll probably want to have the ability to put a pack on the bike.

Please please please help point me in the right direction.

Great, before posting this, I read a review of the Kona Sutra. That's got BB7s instead of the Vaya's BB5s. Or maybe I should get a Vaya and buy the components separately? Is that something I can do myself? I doubt it right?

Edit: I highlighted the bikes I'm looking at in bold because I realize I just posted a massive wall of text.
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Old 11-16-11, 07:58 PM
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Test ride, test ride, test ride. Go to your local bike shops and give everything a ride. Pick the one you like the most.
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Old 11-16-11, 08:01 PM
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I actually went to a Spokes Etc. yesterday and while they had a TON of Trek, they only had one or two Salsa and Surly bikes. Idealy yeah, I'd want to test ride each of these. The closest Jamis dealer that has either the Bossanova or the Aurora Elite is in the middle of DC (more than an hour away). I'm going to keep looking around shops because you're absolutely right.
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Old 11-16-11, 08:04 PM
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Any of the bikes you mentioned would be great for commuting if they fit you and feel comfortable to you. It looks like the Chile Con Crosso doesn't have rack mounts on the rear, so I would focus on the others. The best thing you can do is to just get on them and test ride to see what feels the best to you. Slight modifications can and usually are made to bikes to make them a perfect, or as close to perfect fit as possible. It really comes down to which one feels the best to you. I would not consider any of those bikes better or inferior to any of the others.
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Old 11-16-11, 09:06 PM
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Originally Posted by Ciufalon View Post
Any of the bikes you mentioned would be great for commuting if they fit you and feel comfortable to you. It looks like the Chile Con Crosso doesn't have rack mounts on the rear, so I would focus on the others. The best thing you can do is to just get on them and test ride to see what feels the best to you. Slight modifications can and usually are made to bikes to make them a perfect, or as close to perfect fit as possible. It really comes down to which one feels the best to you. I would not consider any of those bikes better or inferior to any of the others.
As I have come to learn, the lack of rack lugs isn't the killer of the bike as a candidate for a commute bike. P-clamps, used to attach wire or conduit to flat surfaces, can be used to attach the rack to the chainstays and/or seatstays. Their use allowed me to mount my slightly misfit rack onto my CX bike, and since the clamps can be had with rubber covering, they won't damage your frame finish. Cheap, too, and even available in stainless. So, again, the issue is fit, fit, fit. And what you want to ride!
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Old 11-16-11, 09:12 PM
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One thing I noticed, which I really didn't think about before, is brifters vs bar end...

The Jamis Aurora Elite has bar end shifters. I'm thinking, based on what I've read about the two options, that for commuting like I am, brifters make more sense.

The 2011 model of the Aurora Elite, unlike the 2012, has brifters, but the rest of the components are different too. I'd have to get SRAM Apex instead of Shimano 105. I've hard that Shimano 105s are kind of the bees knees. Am I really hurting going with the Apex instead (assuming I go the Jamis route).
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Old 11-16-11, 09:13 PM
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I have several bikes, most of which I've commuted on. I love my Crosscheck and think it's an excellent bike.

That being said, I have an odd-ball suggestion for you: a Bike Friday Pocket Companion. You'll get it properly sized, they're well made, and you can travel with them. Reportedly they ride like a full-sized bike. The Pocket Companion would be about the same cost as a Crosscheck complete. It would make an excellent commuting bike.
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Old 11-16-11, 09:15 PM
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I was in your shoes, more or less, in May. I realized I didn't know what I needed well enough for test riding to do much for me at the time-- so many bikes, so little time... :-)

I decided to get a decent, not top of the line commuter bike to ride for a year and then decide on upgrades with some experience under my belt. I ended up getting a Trek Allant, which is a commuter hybrid with a rack and fenders. I've since cycled over 1900 miles, nearly all commuting, and have added a dyno hub and just this week studded tires.

And I'm thinking about my next bike. I'm way fitter and a lot lighter and, as I expected, my experience has helped.

Many of your options are on my list, but I think I know enough now about my own situation, abilities, and preferences to narrow the field in about three test rides. Everyone needs to make their own choices, and having some miles under your belt will really help.

Last edited by FanaticMN; 11-16-11 at 09:22 PM.
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Old 11-16-11, 09:18 PM
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Originally Posted by hopperja View Post
I have several bikes, most of which I've commuted on. I love my Crosscheck and think it's an excellent bike.

That being said, I have an odd-ball suggestion for you: a Bike Friday Pocket Companion. You'll get it properly sized, they're well made, and you can travel with them. Reportedly they ride like a full-sized bike. The Pocket Companion would be about the same cost as a Crosscheck complete. It would make an excellent commuting bike.
Yup, that is a bit oddball! I saw a few folding bikes like that around the city when I was still working in DC. I think if I was still taking the metro in the mornings, something like that would be great (you can't take bikes on the train during peak hours). In fact, I was actually thinking about something like that before I changed jobs.

I'm not sure it's really necessary for me at the moment though. I work on the ground floor of a small office park and have my own office, so storage isn't really an issue.
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Old 11-16-11, 11:14 PM
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Yes, there are almost too many choices but I think you're on the right track. A touring or a cyclocross bike (one that has mounts for a rack) make good commuters.

I think disc brakes are nice but personally not a deal breaker for me. Same with bar-ends vs brifters. For racing or hard-charging group rides, I'd definitely want brifters but for commuting, bar-ends are fine. I have bikes with both.

Apex vs 105: From what I hear, Apex compares pretty favorably. Apex has better reach adjustment and you may prefer how SRAM shifters work over Shimano. Or not. That's where test riding becomes important.

Aluminum vs steel: Test ride the bikes, choose based on what feels right. Don't worry about the material so much. Weight may make a difference if you need to carry the bike up some stairs or have lots of hills.

A 10 mile commute means you're going to be spending anywhere from 40 minutes to an hour in the saddle each way. You really, really want a bike that fits right. Since you're new to cycling choosing the right bike shop/sales person may be more important than which of the above bikes you choose. In fact there are a number of people in the DC area that participate on this forum. You might want to post a question about which shops people have had good experience with. There are regional forums too but I don't know have active the one most relevant to your location is.
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Old 11-16-11, 11:41 PM
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The more and more I read, the more I'm thinking that the Kona Sutra is probably a good first bike for me, and that you're right - for commuting bar end shifters should be just fine. The Kona has a Shimano Tiagra groupset which is probably good enough for me . I doubt I could tell the difference between the Tiagra and the 105. On top of that, it's got the Avid BB7 instead of the BB5, which I'm reading to be a huge improvement.

Originally Posted by tjspiel View Post
Since you're new to cycling choosing the right bike shop/sales person may be more important than which of the above bikes you choose.
There's a independent bike shop (a real rarity around here in the land of chains and retail giants) right down the street that seems pretty well reviewed. They seem to really push Kona products and make a decent effort towards community relations: https://www.facebook.com/oasisbikeworks

I think I'll go in this weekend and see if they have the Sutra for me to test ride.

Thanks!
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Old 11-17-11, 08:18 AM
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Let's be honest; you can commute on almost any bike. Some have features that will make it easier, for example the ones with racks for panniers.

Ditto from me on the idea of picking the bike you like. If you don't want to ride a bike, it'll collect dust and take up space.

Balance that with the idea that, as a beginning bicycle commuter, you're also buying a shop. Stuff is going to happen. You'll learn to fix flats soon enough, but how soon do you want to deal with adjusting a derailer or changing a chain? If the bike shop is too far away (and you sound like an hour is too far away), you'll soon find yourself riding in the car, because it's no fun driving the bike when the gears don't shift right, or it'll turn out to be too expensive to buy a new chain and cassette, because the chain stretched and ruined the cogs.

So my advice would be to forget the model names and numbers. (I know that's hard!) Look for a bike shop that's close enough that when something's not right, you can ride the car to work with the bike on the back, nip out and take it to the bike shop when it opens, and stop and pick it up on the way home.

(And BTW, Trek makes the Portland, Alland, and 520; if the Trek shop has the 520, it's an awesome tourer, and I'd love to have one for my commute, too!)
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Old 11-17-11, 08:24 AM
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You have no experience on which to base your decision.
The style of bike you are looking at, disc/cx-touring style is an excellent choice BUT there are no cheap options and you need to know what you want. Most users of this style are experienced riders who understand their own needs.
Hybrid style bikes are good enough and widely available in the used market.
Maybe you should buy a used, midrange hybrid style of bike (similar to Specialized Sirrus). The aim would be to get started in commuting as quickly and cheaply as possible and to learn what kind of bike suits you best.
When you decide what size and features you want, you will be able to sell the hybrid for pretty much what you paid or better still, keep it as your backup bike.
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Old 11-17-11, 09:33 AM
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Find a bike that fits. That's what is most important. You are fortunate to have (IMO) a very generous budget. You need to find a bike that catches your eye and fits your rump, then sort out the fine points as you go. No offense, but you seem to have too much internet facts and not enough saddle time.

I'm sure everybody with a few miles under their pedals can tell you stories of some piece of equipment that they "had to get" and ended up not liking it, or finding it not appropriate for them. Your "needs" will change over time. Don't think you are going to get it all perfect right out of the gate. It would be nice if you could, but the odds are against it. On the other side of that same coin, don't get discouraged if something doesn't work out as planned. We all have boxes of "spare parts" from things that didn't work (or active Craigslist/eBay sales, haha).



For what it's worth, I like the Tiagra level stuff a lot, I'm never going to make it to The Tour, so Dura Ace is probably not going to be in my future. I'm a huge guy that rides a big, old, steel road bikes, and I love them. I thought I would love brifters, but I learned that I could take 'em or leave 'em. I thought I would hate going to drop handlebars from the flat bars that I grew up with, but I find that I love them.



In the end, it's probably best to learn from other people's experiences, but form your own opinions.
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Old 11-17-11, 11:15 AM
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Originally Posted by pdlamb View Post
Let's be honest; you can commute on almost any bike. Some have features that will make it easier, for example the ones with racks for panniers...
I disagree that racks make commuting easier. I have used a Carradice Nelson Longflap saddlebag for thousands of miles over hundreds of commutes with no problems whatsoever. I even used it on a bike that had a rack and eventually took the rack off because it was pointless. If you're suggesting getting the bag off your body (ie, using panniers instead of a backpack), I agree.

Originally Posted by courageousrobot View Post
Yup, that is a bit oddball! I saw a few folding bikes like that around the city when I was still working in DC. I think if I was still taking the metro in the mornings, something like that would be great (you can't take bikes on the train during peak hours). In fact, I was actually thinking about something like that before I changed jobs.

I'm not sure it's really necessary for me at the moment though. I work on the ground floor of a small office park and have my own office, so storage isn't really an issue.
Yes, folding bikes are excellent for multi-modal commutes. They are also easier to store, easier to put into a vehicle, and easier to travel with. If you work in a building, you might even be able to fold it up and bring it inside with you for easier, more secure storage. Heinz Stucke rode a folding bike all over the world. Any bike that can accomodate touring would make a decent commuter, in my opinion.

Originally Posted by MichaelW View Post
You have no experience on which to base your decision... Maybe you should buy a used, midrange hybrid style of bike (similar to Specialized Sirrus). The aim would be to get started in commuting as quickly and cheaply as possible and to learn what kind of bike suits you best. When you decide what size and features you want, you will be able to sell the hybrid for pretty much what you paid or better still, keep it as your backup bike.
Agreed. With little or no experience, unless you have money to burn, I'd start with a decent used bike. I've seen outstanding bikes on Craigslist for very good prices. An easy place to start is to search for a late-80s to mid-90s name-brand (Specialized, Gary Fisher, Trek, etc) rigid steel mountain bike. In very good shape, they won't cost more than $200. My friend picked up a 1985 Stumpjumper for $200 in excellent shape. The earlier mountain bikes were based on touring geometry, so they have a laid back, upright feel to them. The components are typically durable (something you probably want in a commuting bike). The bike + a tune-up + commuting tires + comfortable handlebars + fenders = a good commuter for $300 - $400. Mind you, you don't need commuting tires, new handlebars, or fenders to get started commuting.

Originally Posted by courageousrobot View Post
The more and more I read, the more I'm thinking that the Kona Sutra...On top of that, it's got the Avid BB7 instead of the BB5, which I'm reading to be a huge improvement...
The Kona Sutra would probably make an excellent commuting bike. However, I believe it's made of aluminum, so the ride will be a little harsher than a similar, all-steel bike.

Also, you don't need disc brakes on a commuter. Yes, properly set up/adjusted disc brakes will stop better than properly set up/adjusted rim brakes, generally speaking. My experience has been that either work fine for commuting. The only times when disc brakes would be a noticeable, desireable improvement over rim brakes would be : 1- if you're hauling a lot of weight with your bike (ie, 200+ pounds on the trailer you're pulling; I've had 500+ pounds behind me and the disc brakes were appreciated); 2- if you're mountain biking; 3- if you're a very large person who requires the extra stopping power.

Last edited by hopperja; 11-17-11 at 11:32 AM.
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Old 11-17-11, 12:21 PM
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Like others said, bike fit is the most important factor. To determine what fits, you need to test ride some bikes and ideally have a professional fitting done. Some bike shops will do a fitting for free (or deduct the cost) if you buy a bike from them. The style of bike you buy (touring, cyclocross, road, etc.) depends on what sort of riding you plan to do. If you are mainly planning to commute, you will be much happier in the long run if you buy one with fittings for fenders and racks. You will end up riding in the rain and wet roads if you commute regularly, even if you try to avoid it because of afternoon storms that pop up.

Disc brakes are not important unless you ride in rain a lot, and even then not necessary. A good set of KoolStop pads will make any sort of brakes rainworthy. Likewise, you don't need racks if you carry gear in a backpack or Carradice bag (my choice), but it's nice to have that option if you decide to use panniers.

My advice would be to either buy a used bike to use until you figure out what style of bike is best for you, or buy something versatile like a cross or sport touring bike. I have commuted on road, touring, mountain and sport touring bikes and my preference is sport touring. My main commuter is a Salsa Casseroll and it is fantastic for commuting as well as recreational riding and light touring. The Vaya would be a better choice if you want the flexibility to ride off road or loaded touring.
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Old 11-17-11, 12:21 PM
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I'm going to address items other than bikes, seeing as how we're semi-neighbors (I have a 10-12 mile commute parallel to the Centerville Rd/Rt 28 corridor Herndon-Chantilly).
Local information - WABA, BikeWashingtonDC, FABB, and the Washington Area Bike Forum are all good places for local info. Several local commuters post here and in the Southeast and Northeast regional forums (Metro DC crosses the forum boundary). If you can provide a general idea of your start/end points and proposed route, folks with 1st-hand local knowledge can suggest feasibility & alternatives.

Crossing big roads like 66 and the Beltway is a hassel. Look for side roads, paths, sometimes a detour of a mile or less can put you on a better route. Use google maps/google earth/bing's aerial photos and zoom to spot pedestrian paths and walks connecting adjacent subdivisions as a means to bypass busier roads (example from one of my commute options - not my neighborhhod).

Look at going bike-bus-bike to cover longer distances (10 miles 1-way may feel like a lot when starting out). Every bus route in your area (Fairfax Connector, Metro, Arlington, CUE) has a 2-bike front rack. Or bus/drive 1-way and bike the other. If you use Metrorail, get a folding bike (Bikes@Vienna or Mt Airy/College Park Bikes).

This time of year you NEED lights (and more than a minimal "be seen" blinky). And some cold/wet weather gear. Watch for sales at REI, HTO, and Performance, and use house-brand stuff at Kohls & Target (and even Wal-Mart!) for base layers and such. For me at least, extremities (hands, head, feet), followed by core, followed by arms are most critical. Leg warmers are enough for me down to about 32 deg, as the legs are producing all the heat!

The major bike trail (W&OD) may not be plowed after snow storms (NVRPA did do a scraping after some of last winter's big storms) and the road crossings can be a problem after snows. I used 32mm studded tires and side streets for a shorter (4 mile) commute last winter. No major problems, but rutted or soft snow was difficult for me to navigate. I may wimp out this winter, depending on how well (or not) particular parts of my route are maintained. A friend commuted all winter from Herndon - McLean using an MTB, fat tires, and low inflation pressure. He also used the Rt 7 shoulder (he *is* crazy) when the W&OD was impassable (NOT recommended)! A general problem around here is the poor maintenance of shoulders, side paths, and trails (and you though "they" did a lousy job just on the roads).

Gear - I leave toiletries, shoes, bulky items @ work (we have a shower and day-use lockers). Other folks bird-bath or ride slow in the AM to avoid sweating. I prefer panniers over a backpack, but I prefer my road bike (on dry days) to my commuter, so ride with a commuting backpack (REI Novarra) a lot. Large zip lok bags to keep clothes dry is cheaper than waterproof panniers. I also leave my lock (U-lock & cable) on the rack at work. I don't worry about leaving patch kit, lights, computer on the bike, but that will depend on the specifics at your work site.

Bike selection (I couldn't resist) - anything will do; make sure it's comfortable and you can carry whatever you need to bring or have with you. I've gone through several different iterations (starting with a hard-tail MTB in 2002-2003), currently have my "nice" road bike, it's predecessor (rainy day road bike?) and a cross bike (Bianchi Castro Valley frame, cantilever brakes) outfitted as a commuter (fenders, racks, lights). Whatever you get now, assume you will replace it with something "better" after you have been commuting a while.

Good luck!
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Old 11-17-11, 02:04 PM
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While I don't commute everyday I do have a 21 mile commute when I ride. That is 21 miles one-way so I am on the bike about 90 minutes.

My current bike is a Schwinn Voyageur 7 to which I have added a rear racks and SKS fenders. It is considered a "comfort" bike but I can tell you that the 36.6lbs of bike with 10lbs of panniers and such is not all that comfortable on a commute that includes headwinds and rough chip-seal roads. However, the weight and upright position of this bike is making me a stronger cyclist! My average commute speed has rise from 12.5mph to just above 15.25mph in a couple months of commuting.

Come February or so I am planning on buying a 2012 Jamis Aurora Elite. I have looked at the Salsa Vaya 3 (means its a triple crank) and it is an excellent bike but it is geared to handle more off-raoding than I intend to ride. I drool over the Salsa Vaya Ti but at a minimum of $3,000 it is over my budget. The Kona Sutra is a steel frame and a touring beast that is a heavy bike meant to haul a lot of weight. I really love the way the Kona looks and how it is equipped but it is heavier than I want. This is also true for the Raleigh Sojourn and the Surly LHT.

The Jamis Bossanova is a hard bike for me to eliminate because of the steel frame, carbon forks, and brifters. In fact, being that it is less expensive than the Aurora Elite it might be a good starting place for you. It is really a cross bike set up for light touring.

The Aurora Elite appears to be the perfect balance for budget, build, and equipment for me.
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Old 11-17-11, 02:40 PM
  #19  
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In my opinion, you need to ride awhile before deciding what to get. I like semi-upright position rather than a full road position; that is going to vary a lot between riders.

I'd buy a basic used mountain bike in about your size--something like this Trek 700. I'd put road tires, lights, a saddle you think you like, and so forth on it. Ride for a month, and you'll have some more improvements you'd like. Make them. Ride for another month.

By now you've spent $300 or so, and you have some idea what you like and dislike. If you like road position, get a cheap decent road bike like this Nishiki. The tires, lights, and saddle can move over. Ride for another month.

Now you have enough idea what is/isn't important, what is going to aggravate you and what isn't, and so forth to buy a bike that actually suits you. (If you like road position and controls, start with the road bike).
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Old 11-17-11, 03:16 PM
  #20  
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Originally Posted by SamChevre View Post
I'd buy a basic used mountain bike in about your size--something like this Trek 700. I'd put road tires, lights, a saddle you think you like, and so forth on it. Ride for a month, and you'll have some more improvements you'd like. Make them. Ride for another month.

By now you've spent $300 or so, and you have some idea what you like and dislike. If you like road position, get a cheap decent road bike like this Nishiki. The tires, lights, and saddle can move over. Ride for another month.

Now you have enough idea what is/isn't important, what is going to aggravate you and what isn't, and so forth to buy a bike that actually suits you. (If you like road position and controls, start with the road bike).
Problem is that road bike controls have changed quite a bit in the last 20 or 30 years and continue to evolve. A road bike from the 80's, even a good one, is going to have stem or down tube shifters.

I don't have a problem with the basic premise, - finding an inexpensive used bike and riding it until he has a better idea of what he'd like. Except that he's not riding 3 to 5 miles, he's riding 10. It's not an extreme distance but it's long enough that bike choice and fit start to make a difference.

Plus, he's new to cycling and may not know what to look for in terms of a good fit.
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Old 11-17-11, 03:21 PM
  #21  
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PS - my final point about the OP's listed bikes is that these bikes are not typically available to test ride. All of these touring/commuter bikes are typically special order bikes and not available to test drive. The Touring/Randonneuring/Commuter market appears to be a niche market where you have to special order the bikes. Except for the Trek 520 which most dedicated Trek stores will keep in stock (but is IMHO overpriced but you pay for convenience).

Therefore, I agree with the other poster who are saying to buy a used bike or a relatively inexpensive bike from a LBS and spend some time riding. If I had not spent time laboring on the $300 Schwinn then I would not have known that I most certainly want a steel frame, disc brakes, fenders, racks, and drop bars. You will not really know what you want until you get out there and ride! So, go cheap and ride.

Yes, I hated spending the money for inferior bikes, one from Craiglist and one from the LBS but I will keep both of those bikes and know the the Aurora Elite is the bike that best fits me (I am 95% confident and that's pretty good statistical speaking).
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Old 11-17-11, 04:32 PM
  #22  
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Originally Posted by ks1g View Post
If you can provide a general idea of your start/end points and proposed route, folks with 1st-hand local knowledge can suggest feasibility & alternatives.
It looks to me like we're commuting to the same area, just from different directions. I'm starting in the neighborhoods between GMU and where 29 and 50 split and ending right around 50 and Centreville Road in Chantilly. Google Maps has me routing through some neighborhoods and then jumping on the Rocky Run Trail for a bit and then cutting up Stringfellow and Lees Corner Road. That looks a lot safer than how I drive, just jumping on 50 and driving straight up.

---

As for the other points brought up. You're all absolutely right about finding a good LBS, and it looks like there's a really nice locally owned one right down the street (walking distance) from where I live. My roommate bought his bike there (a Kona Dew Plus) after visiting Performance and Spokes Etc. and said that he felt like they were really trying to help him, rather than just sell him a bike. I'm going to swing by there this weekend.

I think that you might be right about the fact that a lot of the bikes I'm looking for are hard to find and have to be special ordered. I'm going to go into the shop and talk to the guys there and see what they have to say.
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Old 11-17-11, 04:50 PM
  #23  
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Originally Posted by courageousrobot View Post
The more and more I read, the more I'm thinking that the Kona Sutra is probably a good first bike for me, and that you're right - for commuting bar end shifters should be just fine. The Kona has a Shimano Tiagra groupset which is probably good enough for me . I doubt I could tell the difference between the Tiagra and the 105. On top of that, it's got the Avid BB7 instead of the BB5, which I'm reading to be a huge improvement.

There's a independent bike shop (a real rarity around here in the land of chains and retail giants) right down the street that seems pretty well reviewed. They seem to really push Kona products and make a decent effort towards community relations: https://www.facebook.com/oasisbikeworks

I think I'll go in this weekend and see if they have the Sutra for me to test ride.
At the risk of re-introducing the choice-overload feeling, I'd suggest that you try out a Kona Jake too while you're there. The Sutra is a nice bike, and if you like the Cadillac-like ride of a touring bike it's a good choice. The Jake also makes a nice commuter and will have a bit sportier feel, though it doesn't have disc brakes. If you ride both of these bikes, you'll probably have a strong preference for one or the other and that can guide your search even if you decide neither one is exactly what you want.
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Old 11-17-11, 04:51 PM
  #24  
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I know it's common opinion to start with a used bike, but for someone who is already having trouble deciding what to buy, the used market just makes it even harder as there are many more options. I like the suggestion to keep the bike shop you will be dealing with for the bike in mind. Both it's proximity to where you live and you're general perception of the shop. The other two biggest factors would be the bikes fit and how much you like the way the bike looks. I know factoring in looks seems shallow, but really a lot of these bikes are going to be only very slightly different otherwise. I would probably axe the disc brakes idea as it really increases the price of the bike and limits your choices. There definitely is not a unanimous opinion on disc brakes being "awesome" (at least not mechanical road style discs). I probably wouldn't base my decision on what shifting system (brifters vs. bar ends) I like based on a few test rides. I also wouldn't get too caught up on triple vs. double cranks or the level of components on the bike (assuming that we're not talking walmart no-name components). Price should also play a factor. Typically with steel bikes, higher prices are going to mean better componentry. Frame material is almost always going to be basic double butted Cro-Mo until the prices start nearing $2000 or more.

Since I like steel bikes, I will give you a list here to make your decision even harder (mind you other frame materials are fine too, but typically the bikes that use steel are less racing oriented and better all arounders). There are no touring bikes on this list, though they could make fine commuters also, but are overkill for the most part.

Surly Cross-Check
Salsa Casseroll
All-City Space Horse (I'm pretty sure it's not out until spring, though)
Raleigh Port Townsend
Raleigh Clubman
Jamis Sattelite Sport
Jamis Sattelite Comp
Civia Prospect
Masi Strada
Bianchi Brava
Bianchi Volpe
Bianchi Imola
Brodie Remus
Brodie Romulus
Brodie Remo
Kona ***** Tonk

Beyond the bike, I would highly suggest fenders, some sort of luggage carrying system, and lighting system (dynamo powered ideally).
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Old 11-17-11, 06:36 PM
  #25  
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Originally Posted by weshigh View Post
Test ride, test ride, test ride. Go to your local bike shops and give everything a ride. Pick the one you like the most.
+1 My situation was completely different, but if I'd had the option this would've been my approach.
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