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Thinking About Building Up a Commuter

Old 01-11-14, 01:27 PM
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Thinking About Building Up a Commuter

My daughter just moved to San Francisco and since she can now commute to work on her bike, I thought it would be fun to build her a decent (if not totally sick) commuter bike and leave the road bike tuned up for the daytrips.

So, I don't know much about commuters, but am thinking about starting with a Surly Long Haul Trucker frame and most of the components off a fairly new Motobecane Fly MTB. Everything hung on it seems similar to what you'd want on a commuter, I think, right down to the disc brakes. Pretty decent components on a suspect frame. I'm not thrilled with the drop handlebars on the stock Surly LHT, so the MTB handlebars might even work.

Top it off with a Thompson seatpost, Brooks saddle and Psimet custom wheelset.

To me, that looks like a pretty sick commuter for around $1K out of pocket.

Sound reasonable? Other ideas?
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Old 01-11-14, 01:31 PM
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Probably closer to $1,500 when you add it all up.
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Old 01-11-14, 03:25 PM
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Sounds like a great idea. I'm curious where she would commute to/from since the terrain can be pretty uncompromising around here - I like commuting on my road bike as I appreciate the responsiveness on climbs and descents and we never need to deal with snow/real winters. Your build might be perfect as is, but it might also be a bit on the bulky/unwieldy slide if she has lots of vertical to gain/lose on her way to work.
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Old 01-11-14, 03:59 PM
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Originally Posted by Beaker View Post
Your build might be perfect as is, but it might also be a bit on the bulky/unwieldy slide if she has lots of vertical to gain/lose on her way to work.
My first thought about a commute in SF with a LHT.

Will she have a very secure place to lock it??? Might be better off with slicks on the Moto.
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Old 01-11-14, 04:14 PM
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Originally Posted by Daytrip View Post
I'm not thrilled with the drop handlebars on the stock Surly LHT
Why not?
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Old 01-11-14, 04:38 PM
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Nice build ... but a "sick" build it is not ... seems just like a laundry list of solid but not interesting parts.

Perhaps, we have different definitions of "sick", but this just doesn't interest me.
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Old 01-11-14, 04:46 PM
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The bike thieves will appreciate your selection of parts...
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Old 01-11-14, 04:49 PM
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Originally Posted by Sixty Fiver View Post
The bike thieves will appreciate your selection of parts...
+1
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Old 01-11-14, 06:27 PM
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How far is her commute? Hills? Lots of traffic or mostly segregated paths?
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Old 01-11-14, 06:39 PM
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Might want the disc trucker for disc brakes.
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Old 01-12-14, 07:40 AM
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Originally Posted by acidfast7 View Post
Nice build ... but a "sick" build it is not ... seems just like a laundry list of solid but not interesting parts.

Perhaps, we have different definitions of "sick", but this just doesn't interest me.
Busted!

Maybe the best approach would be to let her spec. a bike.
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Old 01-12-14, 09:18 AM
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Two points. One: Does she have a secure lock-up location at work and home? Two: what about two bikes, one being a cheap beater/sacraficial lamb for less secure excursions.
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Old 01-12-14, 12:38 PM
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As others have already mentioned, theft is a real problem round these parts. Unless your daughter has secure parking at both ends of the commute, I wouldn't recommend a $1000+ bike for this purpose. As far as the frame goes, I prefer the Cross Check for commuting since it provides a livelier ride compared to the Trucker, but it can still be a solid workhorse with front and rear rack mounting options. Two scenarios where I would choose the Trucker would be if the rider planned to do some real touring at some point, or if it was being built for a smaller rider, in which case the 26" wheel option might be preferable.
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Old 01-14-14, 02:55 PM
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I think key factors are where is she commuting to/from and what is the parking/storage situation. You would not want to lock up that bike outside, so if no secure storage/parking at work and home a old used junker might be a better option.

I think a LHT will be just fine in most SF commutes, so would the Crosscheck or many other bikes. Depending on the route, hills are less of an issue then most people think in SF (though some areas they are unavoidable and basically unrideable). I would recommend slick tires, and something wider then a road tire. People commute on all types of bikes in SF from high end carbon TT bikes to beat up old mountain bikes. Really comes down to preferences and details of your commute.
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Old 01-14-14, 03:27 PM
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That sounds expensive to me for a commuting bike. But hey, if she's living in San Francisco it's easy to assume that $1,500 isn't as expensive to you as it is to me. I personally like risers on a commuter. One, because it's more comfortable, and two, because it works better if you ever want to carry front loads on a rack or basket.

I would think any cyclocross/touring bike w/risers and a wide cassette would be a good option. For commuting, especially in cities where theft can be a problem, I'd think the cheaper the option, the better.

Having said that, if my dad bought me a commuter like that I'd be forever grateful.
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Old 01-14-14, 03:29 PM
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Originally Posted by Daytrip View Post
My daughter just moved to San Francisco and since she can now commute to work on her bike, I thought it would be fun to build her a decent (if not totally sick) commuter bike and leave the road bike tuned up for the daytrips.

So, I don't know much about commuters, but am thinking about starting with a Surly Long Haul Trucker frame and most of the components off a fairly new Motobecane Fly MTB. Everything hung on it seems similar to what you'd want on a commuter, I think, right down to the disc brakes. Pretty decent components on a suspect frame. I'm not thrilled with the drop handlebars on the stock Surly LHT, so the MTB handlebars might even work.

Top it off with a Thompson seatpost, Brooks saddle and Psimet custom wheelset.

To me, that looks like a pretty sick commuter for around $1K out of pocket.

Sound reasonable? Other ideas?
As long as you can address possible security issues, your idea a good one. Make sure that you get the proper size frame for your daughter, however. It would be best to involve her in the process because, while some surprises are nice, a surprise bike that is the wrong size isn't.

And pay no attention to naysayers who wouldn't know a good component or bike if it bit them.
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Old 01-14-14, 03:43 PM
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My nephew uses a bike share program in SF. It is pretty cheap and no security worries. His commute is short, however, so a basic bike works fine. Probably wouldn't work for a very long commute.
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Old 01-14-14, 03:49 PM
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We'd need to know more about your daughter and her riding style and her needs and her interests to know what style bike would suit her. I sent my daughter -- also in San Francisco -- a nice Cannondale hybrid bike for commuting. She sold it and bought herself a Cannondale Synapse! And considering how hilly it is there, it's not a bad idea. It turns out she's not interested in commuting, just weekend riding, so this is a great bike for her.
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Old 01-14-14, 03:59 PM
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I'd ride it. You might also think about selling the Moto mtb and using the funds for a complete bike. You'll avoid some possible headaches along the way and it might drop your costs below the $1k which appears to be your budget.
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Old 01-15-14, 09:23 AM
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Thanks for all the good suggestions. Right now, she rides her road bike to the 22nd St. train station from her house, which is about a mile. Then, from the train station in San Mateo another 3 miles to work. I have no idea of the terrain. So, yeah, there's a secure place to park the bike at each end. Nice bike--Trek frame with a 105 group and Psimet a wheelset. That's a great bike for weekend riding, but I'm thinking something with panniers and fenders and disc brakes would be nicer for her commuting needs. I think she already has a shared dbeater bike for just getting around the neighborhood.

My beef with the drops on the LTH is purely aesthetic and probably misplaced, since that's basically a touring bike, as I understand it, where drop bars make sense. For whatever reason, my vision of a proper commuter is a bike with straight bars. I know--aesthetics and notions of fashion "rights" and "wrongs" are not a big part of the bicycling world, but I know what I like. My budget is probably around $1,500, but I'd rather get some use out of the Moto and I enjoy building bikes and hopefully (though doubtful) save some cash in the process.

As far as "generosity" to ones children goes, I guess I'd rather be buying her a bike than a car, for a multitude of reasons. (She sold her car to help finance the move to SF). I consider myself lucky to have a daughter who appreciates the true value of a nice bicycle. Pretty small investment by that measure.
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Old 01-15-14, 10:09 AM
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Originally Posted by Daytrip View Post
....but I know what I like.
If you want her to have a great commuter FOR HER, ask her what she likes. I've had 3 dedicated commuters over the years. All drop bars. My 20-something sons also prefer to commute with drop bars. Doesn't make it "right" or "wrong", just our preference. Talk to your daughter and see what is important to her.
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Old 01-15-14, 10:15 AM
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Of course. I'm going to let her spec it, and I'll build it. If she wants drop bars, then I'm blaming her mother.

She works in Menlo Park, BTW, not San Mateo.

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Old 01-15-14, 11:05 AM
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Originally Posted by CACycling View Post
My nephew uses a bike share program in SF. It is pretty cheap and no security worries. His commute is short, however, so a basic bike works fine. Probably wouldn't work for a very long commute.
I belong to the bike share in SF as well. It is not the normal way I commute (I commute from Marin County into SF on my own bike), but on days that I take the bus I will typically ride the bike share bikes from the bus to the office. I also occasionally use them mid day to run an errand.

The main problem with the bike share system in SF is they really only have stations in one area of the city, so it only works if all your trips an within that area AND less then 30 minutes. Unless you live and work where there are a few stations near by this is not a possible way to work. Most of SF does not have bike stations they could use to commute from.
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Old 01-15-14, 11:21 AM
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Originally Posted by noglider View Post
We'd need to know more about your daughter and her riding style and her needs and her interests to know what style bike would suit her. I sent my daughter -- also in San Francisco -- a nice Cannondale hybrid bike for commuting. She sold it and bought herself a Cannondale Synapse! And considering how hilly it is there, it's not a bad idea. It turns out she's not interested in commuting, just weekend riding, so this is a great bike for her.
A good percentage of people in SF commute on road bikes (may older ones) so having a roadbike isn't a reason not to commute in SF. It really comes down to where you commute to and from, and if you have a place to lock up your bike at work. Either way, good that she rides - the SF Bay area is a great place to bike!
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Old 01-15-14, 01:48 PM
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I lived in SF in the 80's most important part is the locks to have it there when you have to ride home.
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