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How to build a bike for commuting/exercising?

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How to build a bike for commuting/exercising?

Old 02-03-22, 10:08 PM
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5h0m3d4m0n3y
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How to build a bike for commuting/exercising?

Hi there, I'm hoping to get some advice from you experienced bikers. I have an old Surly Steamroller that I haven't ridden for over ten years. I'm planning to rebuild it and start riding again.

I plan to mostly ride on pavement (95%) and some gravel (5%). It's mostly for exercise and some short commutes. What type of set up would you recommend for this? The bike is currently built as a fixed gear with short riser handle bars, toe clip peddles, and ten year old thin road tires (28mm in the front, 23mm in the back). I'm considering switching to single speed, adding a rear brake, and switching to platform peddles. I really like that the thin road tires go fast and don't take much effort. But should I switch to some wider tires to be more durable on gravel and offer some "forgiveness" when I go over bumps?

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Old 02-03-22, 10:19 PM
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First of all, tell us the size of the tires. For short errands and commutes the platform pedals would work well.

You said adding a rear brake, doesn't it already have a rear brake ?
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Old 02-03-22, 10:46 PM
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IIRC, the frame handles up to 38mm tires? Depending on what “gravel” means, I’d be looking at tires between 32mm and 38mm.

SS and platform pedals should work well.

Otto
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Old 02-03-22, 11:55 PM
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Originally Posted by frogman View Post
First of all, tell us the size of the tires. For short errands and commutes the platform pedals would work well.

You said adding a rear brake, doesn't it already have a rear brake ?
When I rode the bike 10+ years ago, I had 700x28c in the front, and 700x23c in the back. I rode it as a fixed gear so I only had front brakes.

If I want to do longer rides, what type of pedals would you recommend? I'm hoping to avoid clip in pedals.
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Old 02-04-22, 12:01 AM
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Originally Posted by ofajen View Post
IIRC, the frame handles up to 38mm tires? Depending on what “gravel” means, I’d be looking at tires between 32mm and 38mm.

SS and platform pedals should work well.

Otto
Sorry I didn't look up my old tire size earlier. I was riding 28mm in the front and 23mm in the back, exclusively on paved roads. I loved how nimble and light the bike felt. If I switch to 32mm tires, would those be significantly heavier and slower? I'll probably ride 95% paved and 5% gravel, if that makes a difference.
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Old 02-04-22, 12:44 AM
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Originally Posted by 5h0m3d4m0n3y View Post
When I rode the bike 10+ years ago, I had 700x28c in the front, and 700x23c in the back. I rode it as a fixed gear so I only had front brakes.

If I want to do longer rides, what type of pedals would you recommend? I'm hoping to avoid clip in pedals.
I wouldn't go any smaller than 700x28 for general riding. I have a "go to the store" bike I set up so I can jump on and go on an errand, etc.

I like these platform pedals, I can wear my tennis shoes or whatever and just hop on and go.
https://www.ebay.com/itm/30432448926...EAAOSwJ-xcgExg
They hold up very well compared to the other plastic body platform pedals and the bearings can be greased periodically.

Now for longer rides, a little more support and a compromise rather than going the clip pedal route I added these additions, they attach to the front of the pedal and your toe fits in nicely, easy to flip up and slide in. Feels great, holds your feet in position nicely, also easy to pull your foot out in an emergency. This can be a real issue with clip in pedals. Ask me how I know that
https://www.ebay.com/itm/36315243102...53.m1438.l2649

Throw on a rack on the back and you are good to go

For dedicated road biking, I have other road bikes with clip in pedals, takes shoes with matching cleats.

Also, you should install a rear brake too.
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Old 02-04-22, 12:47 AM
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Originally Posted by frogman View Post
I wouldn't go any smaller than 700x28 for general riding. I have a "go to the store" bike I set up so I can jump on and go on an errand, etc.

I like these platform pedals, I can wear my tennis shoes or whatever and just hop on and go.
https://www.ebay.com/itm/30432448926...EAAOSwJ-xcgExg
They hold up very well comapred to the other plastic body platform pedals and the bearings can be greased periodically.

Now for longer rides, a little bit more support and a compromise rather than going the clip pedal route I added these additions, they attach to the front of the pedal and your toe fits in nicely, easy to flip up and slide in. Feels great, holds your feet in position nicely, also easy to pull your foot out in an emergency. This can be a real issue with clip in pedals. Ask me how I know that
https://www.ebay.com/itm/36315243102...53.m1438.l2649

Throw on a rack on the back and you are good to go

For dedicated road biking, I have other road bikes with clip in pedals, takes shoes with matching cleats.

Also, you should install a rear brake too.
Thank you! I think I actually have those exact pedals and similar toe clips haha. I guess I can just keep those.
Just curious, why do you suggest 28+ tires? Initially I had 28 in the front, so if I go over bumps, it's more gentle on my body. I had 23s on the back and I felt they were light and fast.
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Old 02-04-22, 12:51 AM
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Originally Posted by 5h0m3d4m0n3y View Post
Thank you! I think I actually have those exact pedals and similar toe clips haha. I guess I can just keep those.
Just curious, why do you suggest 28+ tires? Initially I had 28 in the front, so if I go over bumps, it's more gentle on my body. I had 23s on the back and I felt they were light and fast.
You hit the nail on the head. The 23's were faster but too hard riding for my taste on our streets. I like the gentler ride with the 28's
Also I keep the pressure at around 70 psi. Seems to be a good compromise.
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Old 02-04-22, 08:30 AM
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My Steamroller is a single speed with front and rear brakes, 700 x 35 tires (puncture resistant), and a 4" rise flat handlebar (I find it more comfortable than a drop bar). Its used for riding on pavement of all qualities, from fresh new asphalt to potholed/cracked roadways.
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Old 02-04-22, 10:38 AM
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Originally Posted by skidder View Post
My Steamroller is a single speed with front and rear brakes, 700 x 35 tires (puncture resistant), and a 4" rise flat handlebar (I find it more comfortable than a drop bar). Its used for riding on pavement of all qualities, from fresh new asphalt to potholed/cracked roadways.

I like your 700 x 35's I have been thinking about going to larger tires than my 700 x 28's. Our streets are mostly in bad shape. The Trek 520, my hop on and go to the store bike, will accept larger tires.
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Old 02-04-22, 10:48 AM
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The specifics are up to you, but I'd get wider bars, wider tires, bmx platform pedals, brakes front and rear, and a gear ratio that works for your terrain and elevation change.
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Old 02-04-22, 11:12 AM
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Originally Posted by 5h0m3d4m0n3y View Post
I was riding 28mm in the front and 23mm in the back, exclusively on paved roads. I loved how nimble and light the bike felt.
That’s the thing. What you feel might not always mean what you think it does.
Originally Posted by 5h0m3d4m0n3y View Post
If I switch to 32mm tires, would those be significantly heavier and slower?.
A few of my (older) riding buddies eventually went for the wide(in comparison) road bike tires, and were quite upset with the results. Their experience was telling them they were riding slower, but their Strava logs, HRMs and wattmeters were telling them that they were going faster at the same effort.
Originally Posted by 5h0m3d4m0n3y View Post
I'll probably ride 95% paved and 5% gravel, if that makes a difference.
Well, not all gravel is the same. And a short enough stretch of almost any vaguely rideable surface can be negotiated with care. But I’d feel a lot more confident on a ride containing gravel with 32mm tires.
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Old 02-04-22, 12:52 PM
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Originally Posted by 5h0m3d4m0n3y View Post
Sorry I didn't look up my old tire size earlier. I was riding 28mm in the front and 23mm in the back, exclusively on paved roads. I loved how nimble and light the bike felt. If I switch to 32mm tires, would those be significantly heavier and slower? I'll probably ride 95% paved and 5% gravel, if that makes a difference.
For similar construction type, 32s shouldn’t be much heavier than 28s. You want tires with flexible casings, not stiff. Then use one of the new tire pressure calculators to get an idea of how much pressure to run them at and adjust based on your experiences (but not necessarily what you feel). 😊

Otto
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Old 02-04-22, 01:35 PM
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Commuting challenges include arriving on time, being presentable, bringing your stuff, darkness, inclement weather. Lots of this is independent of the particular bike you choose. The only special challenge of a single speed I can think of is making it up hills.

I have a single speed gravel bike with bigger tires, 43’s I think. I use it for commuting and like it well. I think the gearing 38-17 would feel pretty spun out for most people on the street with skinny slicks. With my bum ticker and the bigger treaded tires it’s about right for me. and I can do my one little ascent just fine.




5% gravel lol. Dog walking trails count, right? Alas, the sizzle of decomposed granite under my tires

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Old 02-04-22, 06:33 PM
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Originally Posted by Darth Lefty View Post


Quick thread hijack: DAYUM! That Stormchaser is too cool to be relegated to commuter duty!

What bar is that?
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Old 02-04-22, 06:51 PM
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Originally Posted by Rolla View Post
Quick thread hijack: DAYUM! That Stormchaser is too cool to be relegated to commuter duty!

What bar is that?

Yeah that is nice !!!!!!!
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Old 02-04-22, 10:51 PM
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Thanks. The handlebar is a Salsa Bend. I wanted something as reach-y as the original drops. It’s nearly.

The paint job makes me think of C-3PO. It’ll look better when the front tire gives up and is replaced with another gum wall.

I have opinions about “too cool…” I think Salsa’s marketing and build of this bike sells it short. It’s really versatile. A solid successor to the original aluminum Warbird. Putting it in a niche as the backup second gravel bike because your carbon one is too precious is dumb. But if they played it up it would eat sales from the top Journeyman and bottom Warbird which are both really popular.

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Old 02-04-22, 11:26 PM
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Thank you all. I ended up going with 28 tires. I was leaning towards the 32s, but the bike shop told me it'll be difficult to add fenders if I go above 28. So 28 it is!

The shop also recommended I switch from a fixed gear to single speed. What are your takes on this? I like the fixed gear because it's simple, gives me a better workout, and quite frankly what I'm used to. But I'm wondering if I should switch to a single speed and add a rear brake.
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Old 02-05-22, 12:07 AM
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Originally Posted by 5h0m3d4m0n3y View Post
The shop also recommended I switch from a fixed gear to single speed. What are your takes on this? I like the fixed gear because it's simple, gives me a better workout, and quite frankly what I'm used to. But I'm wondering if I should switch to a single speed and add a rear brake.
Why not both? Lots of SS hubs are threaded on both sides. You run a fixed driver on one side and a freewheel on the other. All you have to do is flip the wheel around.

If you’re intending to use the bike as a commuter, then single speed makes more sense than fixed gear. It just makes one less thing to manage.
Either way, I’d install a rear brake. That’s just a good safety practice.
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Old 02-05-22, 12:15 AM
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Originally Posted by Darth Lefty View Post
Putting it in a niche as the backup second gravel bike because your carbon one is too precious is dumb. But if they played it up it would eat sales from the top Journeyman and bottom Warbird which are both really popular.
I think its "niche" is that it's a singlespeed. As such, I don't really see it as competing for the Journeyman or Warbird customer. Personally, it's the first and only aluminum bike I've ever considered owning, but I wouldn't give it a second look if it had gears!
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Old 02-05-22, 12:25 AM
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Originally Posted by 5h0m3d4m0n3y View Post

The shop also recommended I switch from a fixed gear to single speed. What are your takes on this? I like the fixed gear because it's simple, gives me a better workout, and quite frankly what I'm used to. But I'm wondering if I should switch to a single speed and add a rear brake.
I rode exclusively fixed for years, but eventually went to singlespeed and have never looked back. Wider tires, two brakes, and a freewheel opened up a lot of terrain that used to be off limits, or at least not nearly as much fun.
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Old 02-05-22, 07:39 AM
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Originally Posted by 5h0m3d4m0n3y View Post

The shop also recommended I switch from a fixed gear to single speed. What are your takes on this?
My take on this is to ignore what the shop says and go with what you're feel comfortable with...If you are experienced riding fixed gear and you enjoy riding fixed gear then go with fixed gear.
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Old 02-05-22, 01:08 PM
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Originally Posted by Rolla View Post
I think its "niche" is that it's a singlespeed. As such, I don't really see it as competing for the Journeyman or Warbird customer. Personally, it's the first and only aluminum bike I've ever considered owning, but I wouldn't give it a second look if it had gears!
Right, sort of... It's only not competing as long as they don't do a geared build. But those dropout parts exist, and the build has a freehub and a NW chain ring. They're basically encouraging you to do. The natural thing would be Apex. But when they launched there was also an Apex Jo. and and Apex Warbird. There's the overlap.
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Old 02-05-22, 02:38 PM
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Originally Posted by 5h0m3d4m0n3y View Post
Thank you all. I ended up going with 28 tires. I was leaning towards the 32s, but the bike shop told me it'll be difficult to add fenders if I go above 28. So 28 it is!

The shop also recommended I switch from a fixed gear to single speed. What are your takes on this? I like the fixed gear because it's simple, gives me a better workout, and quite frankly what I'm used to. But I'm wondering if I should switch to a single speed and add a rear brake.
Interesting the shop said that. Surly specifically says clearance for 32s with fenders. Heck I’ve got 32s and have run fenders on my old Schwinn Sprint.

I’d second the option to get a flip/flop rear wheel so you can run fixed or SS. And a rear brake is a very good idea.

Otto
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Old 02-06-22, 03:11 PM
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Originally Posted by ofajen View Post
Interesting the shop said that. Surly specifically says clearance for 32s with fenders. Heck I’ve got 32s and have run fenders on my old Schwinn Sprint.

I’d second the option to get a flip/flop rear wheel so you can run fixed or SS. And a rear brake is a very good idea.

Otto
He told me while it's possible to add 32s, it'll be pretty tight with the fenders and it'll need adjusting/servicing if I ride it often.

My frame is also the older build, which doesn't have a place to naturally install the fender on to the frame. So they'll need to install a fender mount. I don't know if that makes any difference.

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