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Old 03-18-12, 06:10 PM   #1
swoody
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Suggestions for a Touring / Road bike for commuting

Hello world!

I'm hoping to find some suggestions for a new commuter bike. Thus far I have been using a commuter-ified Trek mountain bike and it has worked out pretty well. My main concerns at this point are the weight, the lack of good aerodynamics, and it just being less than efficient in general.

Where I live there are a lot of gusting winds... all year round. The mountain bike's posture is decent for seeing traffic around me, but with my work schedule and the roads I ride on, I encounter very few vehicles on my rides. My job also has me on my feet a lot and I usually walk ~5 miles per day, so the last thing I want to do is work harder than I need to during my commutes.

Now then, I was looking to get either a road or touring bike for commuting. It will have to be able to accept fenders as I commute in any weather in this wonderful Chicago climate. I also want something light as possible while still being durable enough to handle my ~200lb self and whatever few pounds of clothing or water I might have on me. A steel frame sounds much nicer to me than aluminum or carbon. As far as the ergonomics, I'd prefer something more bent over and racy than something more upright. Again, the wind is the single most detrimental factor on my commutes. My full distance is only 2 miles each way, so long-term comfort won't be an issue. Lastly, I will NOT consider a single-speed bike, the area isn't overly hilly, but there are a couple longer inclines which are not fun while riding into a gusting headwind. Other than that, I'm pretty open to ideas. I'd like to keep the price low as this will be a daily workhorse, and not a weekend warrior or garage queen. If I find something worth it, I'd probably go up to $750 at the most.

Any ideas or opinions would be greatly appreciated!

Thanks everyone!

- Woody
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Old 03-18-12, 06:31 PM   #2
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I'm also in a Great Lakes city. Our weather is similar to yours. The winds are the whole reason why I ditched my hybrid and switched to a drop bar bike for commuting. So I think it's a reasonable decision.

For a two-mile commute and your budget, your best bet is going to be something second-hand. Any touring bike takes a rack and fenders. Most cyclocross bikes do too. Entry-level roadies by the big three have eyelets and will fit fenders if you stick to 23 or 25mm tires.

If new is what you're looking for, you're pretty much restricted to entry-level. Each of the entry-level roadies by the big three have eyelets for a rack and fenders. The Trek 1.1 would work, but its $659 price just about shoots your budget. That's why I'm saying second-hand is your best bet.

Others are more familiar with second-tier makers. I'm sure there are a few jewels in there.

If you know your size and how to fit the bike yourself, there's the online option too.
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Old 03-18-12, 06:39 PM   #3
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Thanks for the fast reply. Which companies are the big 3 you're referring to? Trek, Specialized, ...? As far as the pricing goes, the Trek 1.1 doesn't sound too bad. Most of my accessories can just transfer over from my current commuter. The only things I'd really be buying would be a set of fenders (~$50 PB?) and a decent kickstand if the bike doesn't come with one. I have been using a backpack for my gear needs, and I'll probably stick with it to take every chance to minimize wind resistance as possible
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Old 03-18-12, 06:56 PM   #4
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The big three are Trek, Specialized, and Giant. Depending on your preference on tire size, the Jamis Satellite Sport satisfies everything on your list within budget.
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Old 03-18-12, 07:00 PM   #5
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I don't know if you will really see that much of a difference if your commute is just 2 miles each way. Of course that shouldn't stop you from getting a new bike if you want. = ) There are numerous options out there. My vote would be something from Bikesdirect.com if you have the skills to put it together and all that jazz.
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Old 03-18-12, 07:04 PM   #6
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You could also put some clip on aero bars on what you already have...
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Old 03-18-12, 07:17 PM   #7
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Not meaning to be rude or dismissive, but for a two mile commute I would just get some MTB compatible drop bars. At 200lbs you aren't going to gain much from having a lighter bike (at most you could reduce the bike weight by ~10lbs for $750).
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Old 03-18-12, 08:02 PM   #8
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On the occasions that I only had a two mile commute I just walked to work. It's not far enough to get a workout on a bike, nor is it worth the hassles of a bike, to me. I caught where the O.P. walks 5 miles at work, but that wouldn't be a problem either. I would still need to do something for a cardio workout.
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Old 03-18-12, 08:20 PM   #9
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2 miles? For that kind of distance you should be discussing hiking shoes, not bikes.
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Old 03-18-12, 08:40 PM   #10
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On the occasions that I only had a two mile commute I just walked to work. It's not far enough to get a workout on a bike, nor is it worth the hassles of a bike, to me. I caught where the O.P. walks 5 miles at work, but that wouldn't be a problem either. I would still need to do something for a cardio workout.
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2 miles? For that kind of distance you should be discussing hiking shoes, not bikes.
Well, there are quite a few times I walk into work, but after spending all day at work, a 45 min walk in blowing wind or rain is not as fun as a 10 minute bike ride Also, I've found that my legs are much more sore and tired from walking than even a hearty ride. I don't do this for a workout, but I am pretty active in all aspects of my life. I don't own a car, so everything I do from commuting, to picking up groceries, to meeting up with friends is all done on bike. My main concern is making getting around as enjoyable and efficient as possible. Even on my 'slower days' I'm off doing something or riding longer into neighboring towns to shop.

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The big three are Trek, Specialized, and Giant. Depending on your preference on tire size, the Jamis Satellite Sport satisfies everything on your list within budget.
That Janis looks really nice. I really like the 2011 model's blue / white color scheme

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I don't know if you will really see that much of a difference if your commute is just 2 miles each way. Of course that shouldn't stop you from getting a new bike if you want. = ) There are numerous options out there. My vote would be something from Bikesdirect.com if you have the skills to put it together and all that jazz.
Well, I will admit that a small part of this is to just buy a new bike I have had my current Trek for many a year now, and while it's done it's job decently, I want to find something which is more suited to the way I currently ride and the conditions I'll be experiencing. As I stated above, I use my bike for anything people would typically use a car for, so I'm interested in making my experience as efficient as possible.

Thanks for all the replies, everyone! Keep the ideas flowing
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Old 03-18-12, 08:45 PM   #11
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You can do whatever you want with your money, but I agree with the comments above that for a two mile ride the bike you choose is not going to make much of a measurable difference. If you just want to try out something different than a mtn bike or like the aesthetics of the road bike, well to me those are good enough reasons to getting something new to you if you have the means.

You might see if you can find something on Craigslist, but there are not a ton of touring bikes on the Chicago craigslist that I have noticed. The Bikesdirect route could be a more cost effective solution if you don't want to invest too much until you know you will like the new type of bike long term.
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Old 03-18-12, 09:06 PM   #12
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Get the Jamis Satellite Sport and be done with it! It fits the exact description of bike for which you were looking.

- Slim

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Old 03-18-12, 09:24 PM   #13
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Ah you are car free well then you are using your bike alot more than I thought at first. It certainly time to buy something new if you like.

Here is my suggestion I have one of these Windsor Tourists I haven't gotten to ride it much yet I like it so far.

http://www.bikesdirect.com/products/windsor/tourist.htm
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Old 03-18-12, 09:29 PM   #14
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Another possible route would be a fitness/performance hybrid/ flat bar road bike. Don't laugh. BF user Steely Dan has a Scott Sub 10 that he set up to help him cheat those winds. I'll see if I can dig up the thread about it so you can take a look.
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Old 03-18-12, 09:42 PM   #15
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Okay, I found a thread that he started about setting up his cockpit. There is a pic of his rig prior to the final modifications on the first page- notice how much saddle to bar drop he has? With a flat bar cut to fit your shoulder width, plus some Ergon grips and longish bar ends, you can get achieve a pretty aerodynamic posture. http://www.bikeforums.net/showthread...t=scott+sub+10
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Old 03-18-12, 09:45 PM   #16
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Ah you are car free well then you are using your bike alot more than I thought at first. It certainly time to buy something new if you like.

Here is my suggestion I have one of these Windsor Tourists I haven't gotten to ride it much yet I like it so far.

http://www.bikesdirect.com/products/windsor/tourist.htm
+1 ^ This ^ Is an excellent candidate, as well!
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Old 03-18-12, 10:03 PM   #17
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+1 ^ This ^ Is an excellent candidate, as well!
Those Schwinn Le Tour Legacy road bikes you had posted are so pretty. I loved the Blue ones they had last year. I wanted one so bad. Its probably good I didn't sell my Lemond till they were sold. LOL
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Old 03-18-12, 10:18 PM   #18
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Surly Cross Check! Used or save $250 more
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Old 03-18-12, 10:39 PM   #19
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Those Schwinn Le Tour Legacy road bikes you had posted are so pretty. I loved the Blue ones they had last year. I wanted one so bad. Its probably good I didn't sell my Lemond till they were sold. LOL

Yes! How true! If I didn't already have too many bikes, boy I'll tell ya!
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Old 03-19-12, 02:33 AM   #20
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As an example of what you can get in the used-bike market, I picked up my 1983 Nishiki Cresta for $275 and use it for my 6-mile round trip commute everyday. Good solid bike, but I have needed to replace several parts along the way. The stock seat is terrible and toe clips are tiny. The Suntour derailleur will "complain" when shifting to several gears, but is solid for the most part. Handlebars are a bit narrow for my frame, 6'0 180 lbs.

However as a hauler, the thing is a beast. No braze-ons for a front rack but I can easily carry a change of clothes, lunch, a laptop, patch kit + spare tube + spare tire levers + a heavy lock. If money is an issue and you end up on craigslist, I'd recommend checking it out!
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Old 03-19-12, 04:35 AM   #21
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for $750 max, go bikesdirect and find a co-op to help you put it together.
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Old 03-19-12, 07:31 AM   #22
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A disc-brake cyclo-cross style bike is probably best for Chicago winter conditions.
Over 2 miles you wont see much advantage over a modified MTB.
Consider:
swapping sus forks for chromoly (Kona Project 2 disc)
Changing bars to trekking/butterfly or adding clip-on aerobars.
Make sure you have suitable tyres. 1.5" slicks are about as narrow as you need.
People do centuries and triathlon races using this kind of modification.
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Old 03-19-12, 11:28 AM   #23
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for $750 max, go bikesdirect and find a co-op to help you put it together.
+1 http://www.bikesdirect.com/products/..._cross_cx2.htm 550.00USD w/no shipping. 22,000 commuter/utility miles w/regular maintenance/lubing. 1 mild rear wheel truing and replaced the bb 3 weeks ago. Everything else is original comps. Except for the tires...cx tires are too soft for pavement, so I got some Schwalbe Marathon Plus.
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Old 03-19-12, 12:30 PM   #24
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swoody - Where in Chicagoland is your home? How tall are you, and what is your inseam?

I'm in the far north suburbs, but if you're willing to drive up or take Metra, you're welcome to try my Specialized TriCross Sport. (cyclocross bike) It may be just what you're looking for. I'm sure you could find something like this used for $750. I think I paid $1200 for mine new, but it is two models up from entry level.

I'm 5'8", 30" inseam, 180 lbs. (yep, I can afford to lose 20-30 lbs...)

I used to commute on a hybrid bike too. I think it had 38 width tires, slicks. I find that moving to the TriCross made hills notably easier, and my average speed is now at least 3 mph faster, with no change in effort on my part. The tires are notably thinner than those of a MTB, but not as thin as a road bike's. They're either 28s or 32s, I don't recall which right now. I thought this was a great way to go, because I have pretty racy posture and tucked-in arms that makes me more aerodynamic, but the tires are not crazy thin like the road bikes. It is reasonably durable too. I have it all set up for commuting and touring. Brooks saddle, full fenders, a stout rack, lights, computer.

A touring bike will give up a bit of ruggedness for lower gearing and a more upright riding position.

I also have an urban bike on the way, A Schwinn Coffee that would be more aerodynamic than a MTB, even if you have slicks on the MTB. Narrower arm spread and tires makes it better. Not as fast as the TriCross, but over a 2-mile commute it won't make much of a difference; maybe one minute faster? This comes with fenders and a rack, and was only $360 OTD.

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Old 03-19-12, 03:11 PM   #25
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Get the Jamis Satellite Sport and be done with it! It fits the exact description of bike for which you were looking.
The more I'm looking into what's available, the more I'm leaning towards that Jamis. Like you said, it's basically everything I'm looking for, is relatively inexpensive, and is from a quality mfg.

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Okay, I found a thread that he started about setting up his cockpit. There is a pic of his rig prior to the final modifications on the first page- notice how much saddle to bar drop he has? With a flat bar cut to fit your shoulder width, plus some Ergon grips and longish bar ends, you can get achieve a pretty aerodynamic posture.
I had tried setting up something similar on my current mtb. I already have a few inches drop from my seat to my bars, and I have narrowed my bars quite a bit. However, in my particular situation my bike's geometry still makes me feel like a sail on top of a ship in any amount of wind. Thanks for the link though, after looking at my bike for a bit I decided to try and flip the stem over so it's angled down instead of up. I'm going to try this out the next couple days to see how it feels. It definitely dropped down the bars quite a few inches, so it should give me a better riding position than before.

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A disc-brake cyclo-cross style bike is probably best for Chicago winter conditions.
Over 2 miles you wont see much advantage over a modified MTB.
Consider: ...
People do centuries and triathlon races using this kind of modification.
Thanks for the suggestion. I have always considered getting something with disc brakes, but after having gone through an entire year of commuting with my current setup I don't think the extra cost and weight would be worth it to me. Surprisingly, I have never found my brakes to feel lacking or inadequate for what I'm using them for. Also, my mtb is a hardtail, I replaced the front fork with a steel Surly 1x1 (which has slightly lowered the front of my bike), I have narrowed my bars as far as I can to still allow for the brakes and grips, and my tires are 1.25" wide street tires running at 100PSI

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+1 http://www.bikesdirect.com/products/..._cross_cx2.htm 550.00USD w/no shipping. 22,000 commuter/utility miles w/regular maintenance/lubing. 1 mild rear wheel truing and replaced the bb 3 weeks ago. Everything else is original comps. Except for the tires...cx tires are too soft for pavement, so I got some Schwalbe Marathon Plus.
I haven't liked a lot of the links / bikes on BikesDirect, but that is one nice looking ride, especially in that matte titanium color. However, it is an aluminum frame. It would be nice for speed, but with my current commuter I know how sharp bumps in the road can be There's a couple railroad crossings I go over on longer stretches of road, and I have to drop quite a bit of speed before coming to them. I'll have to take that into consideration against the price.

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Where in Chicagoland is your home? How tall are you, and what is your inseam? ... if you're willing to drive up or take Metra, you're welcome to try my Specialized TriCross Sport. (cyclocross bike) It may be just what you're looking for. I'm sure you could find something like this used for $750.
I really appreciate the info and your offer, but I don't think I could take you up on that. I'm in the west burbs, between O'hare and Schaumburg, work nights, and don't have access to public transportation or a car I'm 6'4", ~200lbs, and wear a 36" inseam. This is one more reason I'm looking for a new bike. When I bought my current ride many years ago I didn't have a solid grasp on properly fitting a bike to a rider, the sales guy seemed a bit of a pushover to make a sale, and on top of that I bought my mtb for the offroad riding I did at that time, so the frame is considerably smaller than something I would prefer for someone my size riding on nothing but pavement. Now that I'm armed with all the extra knowledge I've gained in the past few years, and know exactly what I'll be using the bike for, I'm trying to use this opportunity to find a bike which precisely fits me and my requirements.

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