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Trying to decide on shopping/town/commuting bike

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Trying to decide on shopping/town/commuting bike

Old 12-29-14, 11:06 PM
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Trying to decide on shopping/town/commuting bike

I'm ready to get the first real bike I've had since I was a kid and am having a hard time deciding on an approach.

Here's a little bit about me and what I would need the bike for (tl;dr: shopping, riding around suburban/town areas, short distance commuting, trips of probably 10 miles round trip or less, paved roads with some long but not steep hills).

I've spent a lot of time in the Netherlands and am happy to see that kind of old-world biking philosophy taking root here. That's kind of the biking experience I would be looking for at this point, not sport cycling or recreational, but more practical and everyday.

I'm hoping I can get a three-speed internal hub and a hub dynamo, plus the fenders and racks necessary to make a bike useful for the things I'll need to do. I'm not a super adept cyclist at this point, so I prefer an upright posture and would rather have a stable ride than a fast ride. I'm also hoping I can get one bike pretty much for life, provided that I don't pick up a love of road racing or long distance touring or something (unlikely).

So far, I figure these are my options:
  1. Find a cheap but good used steel bike like an old Raleigh or Schwinn and fix it up/put work and money into it to turn it into what I need. The problem is, used bikes tend to be expensive around here on CL. Raleigh Sprites, Schwinn Collegiates, etc. are usually at least $100, often in not really rideable condition. Vintage Raleigh IGH bikes are usually $250 and up. People are selling old Huffys for $200+. Plus, I'm a 5'2" woman, and it's not easy finding a bike that's a good fit or getting people on CL to measure their bikes in a way that makes sense to me.
  2. Invest in something new and very durable and well-constructed, like this lighter but still durable-looking Worksman and spring for fenders/rack and a front brake/dynamo hub but maybe forgo the IGH for now and install it at a later time (maybe I'll discover I won't need it?).
  3. Get something like this SE Tripel step-through which has a 3 speed IGH and goes for $339 online and add fenders/rack and dynamo/front brake. I'm assuming it's lower quality than the Worksman but good enough to last and might save me some money? Or does it actually risk being more of a money sink because of quality issues?

Maybe I'm overthinking this. I've been doing nothing but reading this and other forums/blogs/online magazines and have gone through most of Sheldon's bike pages and am starting to think in circles. The bikesdirect threads alone have me spinning, and I think I've developed a neurosis about ending up with a poor quality new bike or an updated/converted vintage bike that doesn't work for me.

This is where some good sense from you experienced bikers would help me out and get me focused. I'd appreciate it much.
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Old 12-30-14, 07:03 AM
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At 5'-2" you are going to want a 17" frame or smaller. My wife is a bit shorter than you are and rides a Raleigh Colt step through (17" frame), a Raleigh Twenty folder and when I get done with the build, a cruiser with 24" wheels.

Not sure which part of Philly you are in, some parts you can get away with a single speed, others need more gears. I agree that prices are a bit crazy, but look at what a new Breezer costs and the prices become a bit more believable. FWIW $100 for a basic Raleigh with all the parts isn't that outrageous anymore. The good news is, if you get something and it doesn't work for you, it should be pretty easy to resell it and get most if not all of your money back.

My go to bike for many years was a beat up Raleigh 3 speed. Still have it and still ride it occasionally, my current city bike is an upgraded Redline R530 (no longer made) that is similar to what you probably saw in the Netherlands.

Aaron
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Old 12-30-14, 02:24 PM
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Unless you're very handy around bikes or have a good relationship with a local bike shop, I would not go used. I almost bought my wife a Breezer Downtown, until deciding to do a full Surly Disc Trucker build, but otherwise, would have bought this:

Breezer Bikes - Downtown 3 - ST - Bike Overview

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Old 12-30-14, 05:46 PM
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2:01 beat me to it. I forgot to ask if you were doing your own work or paying someone else to do it for you.

I do all of my own work except frame brazing, and even take on some extra from my LBS on occasion when they get in a bind. Makes a difference in the cost of operating a bike.

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Old 12-30-14, 07:09 PM
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Thanks for the responses so far.

Originally Posted by wahoonc
At 5'-2" you are going to want a 17" frame or smaller.
The guy I spoke with at Worksman said that I had to have a 26" inseam minimum to use their 18" frame. Does that sound right? Would I be taking a chance of a bad fit? My inseam is just under 28".

Originally Posted by 2:01
Unless you're very handy around bikes or have a good relationship with a local bike shop, I would not go used.
Yeah, I worry about this. I'm very handy in general and really have never met a home maintenance task that was beyond me unless it involved complicated tools that require a high level of expertise, but I don't have much experience with bikes.

Originally Posted by wahoonc
2:01 beat me to it. I forgot to ask if you were doing your own work or paying someone else to do it for you.

I do all of my own work except frame brazing, and even take on some extra from my LBS on occasion when they get in a bind. Makes a difference in the cost of operating a bike.
Well, I'm willing to learn, and I'm generally pretty fearless at trying my hand at anything that requires handy work. But I'm not sure how wise that is with bicycles.

Originally Posted by 2:01
Breezer Downtown
Would there be a huge difference in quality between the Breezer and the SE Tripel?

What would be the advantage/disadvantage of the Breezer over the Worksman Dutchie Lite and vice versa?

Also, I found someone local selling this 3-speed vintage Raleigh (he doesn't seem to know what model, just says it's a "racer", which I'm not familiar with--it apparently has a decal that says "Made in England" in script on it) for $150. However, I've heard vintage Raleighs can be a little harder to do work on due to some proprietary parts.

I'd appreciate thoughts on any of the above.
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Old 12-30-14, 07:16 PM
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I highly recommend you consider the old Raleigh route. Read this excellent blog post: Lovely Bicycle!: Lovely Bicycles on a Budget: Vintage vs Modern
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Old 12-30-14, 07:20 PM
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Originally Posted by noglider
I highly recommend you consider the old Raleigh route. Read this excellent blog post: Lovely Bicycle!: Lovely Bicycles on a Budget: Vintage vs Modern
Thanks, Tom. Yes, I've read that post at Lovely Bicycle!, which convinced m to consider that option in the first place.

Do you think that that bike I posted, provided it checks out in person, might be a good buy at $150?
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Old 12-30-14, 07:31 PM
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If you can fix things around the house a bike is not a great leap forward in skills. There are lots of resources available, books, youtube, and bike forums.

The Breezer is a good bet it comes from a established company that should have some customer support, the SE Tripel... who knows, also the Tripel doesn't come with things like fenders and a rack.

I have ridden my fair share of Worksman bikes and trikes, they aren't bad, but they are HEAVY, built like a tank and last like one too. You won't go wrong with one. They also use some lower end parts, but the durability can't be beat.

Raleighs are probably one of my favorite vintage bikes, I have a bunch of them. Yes many of the parts are proprietary and have goofy threading, but parts are readily available. The common things like chains, tires and brake blocks are industry standard. It is the nuts bolts and other threaded parts that can be an issue.

Giant Via is another reputable brand and decent bike. Another one that I can recommend Torker T-800, it typically lists for around $650, but quite often can be gotten for a bit less. The Giant, Torker and Breezer come in smaller sizes.

The Raleigh you posted a picture of looks like a Colt, which is what my wife rides. If you are willing to try vintage I would try and ride that one and offer $75-$100 for it. I paid close to $200 for the last Colt I bought but it was in like new condition and the green matched my big Raleigh Superbe.

These are pictures of my bikes for comparison. The big city bike is a Redline which is a clone of Torker. The Raleighs are self explanatory. The smaller ones are Colts, the large one is my Superbe.

Aaron





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ISO: A late 1980's Giant Iguana MTB frameset (or complete bike) 23" Red with yellow graphics.

"Cycling should be a way of life, not a hobby.
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"Steel: nearly a thousand years of metallurgical development
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Which one would you rather have under your butt at 30mph?"
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Last edited by wahoonc; 12-30-14 at 07:40 PM.
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Old 12-30-14, 08:07 PM
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That red English bike at $150 looks very good. Nonsense about being hard to work on. I've been working on bikes for over 30 years, and they are some of my favorite bikes to work on. Some people are not familiar and may bad-mouth them, but that reflects the mechanic, not the bike. They are very well made. That's not the greatest picture, and we would need more pictures to do a good assessment, but so far, this one looks to be perfectly fine.
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Old 12-30-14, 08:47 PM
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Thanks for your help, Aaron, Tom, and 2:01. I've arranged to see the bike tomorrow. We'll see how it goes!
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Old 12-30-14, 09:18 PM
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Originally Posted by wahoonc
These are pictures of my bikes for comparison. The big city bike is a Redline which is a clone of Torker. The Raleighs are self explanatory. The smaller ones are Colts, the large one is my Superbe.
Those are some charming bikes, Aaron. Did the Redline come with that chaincase?

Last edited by short; 12-30-14 at 10:07 PM.
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Old 12-31-14, 05:27 AM
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Originally Posted by short
Those are some charming bikes, Aaron. Did the Redline come with that chaincase?
Yes

You can buy chaincases to add to a bicycle but they aren't an easy fit.

Aaron
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ISO: A late 1980's Giant Iguana MTB frameset (or complete bike) 23" Red with yellow graphics.

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RIDE, YOU FOOL, RIDE!"
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Aluminum: barely a hundred
Which one would you rather have under your butt at 30mph?"
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Old 12-31-14, 11:55 AM
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I would suggest that you check out the City bike offerings from bikesdirect.com :
City Bikes | Save Up To 60% Off Urban, Commuter, Dutch and Town Bicycles from bikesdirect.com Off List prices

I have and love a Windsor Kensington 8. I've had it for 2.5 years now and haven't had to do more than basic maintenance (brake pad replacement, chain lubrication, occasional screw tightening). While the price is higher than a used model, these come pre-fitted an matching fenders and racks.
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Old 12-31-14, 12:06 PM
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Bikes Direct is a good source for a new IGH bike. Agree with noglider in post no. 9 that old raleigh 3 speeds are a good choice as well.

Still for a commuter, there is something to be said about a modern bike. (1) You get alloy wheels which will break better in the wet. Raleighs come stock with steel. Still the Brits and the Dutch survive many a wet winter riding steel rims on their utility bikes. (2) It will be easier to find parts down the road.

An internally geared hub bike is a good choice for a commuter/town bike. Still my favorite town/utility bikes are converted vintage mountain bikes. They're stout bikes and readily available second hand at decent prices.
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Old 12-31-14, 01:06 PM
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But the BD shipping a Box to You , is Like having a Life raft but still in the Middle Of the Ocean .

If Not a Mechanic, You will still need the LBS if you dont Know how to take Care of issues and adjustments that come up .
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Old 12-31-14, 01:25 PM
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First of all, thanks to everyone who helped me out. I did get the vintage Raleigh. I'm trying to figure out what it is, exactly.

[UPDATE: I'm thinking early 70s LTD-3? If so, what's up with the AW hub? Some past owner's modifications?]

Here's the chainguard, which says it's an LTD-3.


The seller says almost all the parts are original. I don't know enough right now to confirm. The hub is a Sturmey Archer AW hub with no date, which Sheldon's site tells me is one of the older hubs.


The serial number is on the front of the seat lug, and, according to Kurt Kaminer, it dates it to 1951 OR 1970.

It has a raised head badge with NOTTINGHAM ENGLAND on it (sorry for crap photo).


There's some kind of decal on the front of the seat post under the saddle, but it's too degraded to make out:


Under it is this decal:


It seems to ride well. There is crud, surface rust, some minors scratches, and minor dents on fender and chain guard, but nothing serious from what I can tell. The chrome is a mess, but that's not a big deal to me, since I'm not treating this as a collector's item to be restored or anything. The only thing is, it might be a little too big for me. With the seat at its lowest, I can reach the ground on my toes in flat shoes, and when the pedal is at the bottom position, my knees are just very slightly bent. So according to most online sources, that's an appropriate frame height. So I'm not sure about that. The seller claimed it was 17", but it's definitely taller than that.

So I'm not really sure what I've got here or whether I should regret it. But it'll be rideable and durable, I think, as long as the size isn't uncomfortable. And maybe, if the size is uncomfortable, I can clean it up and sell it on and get some of my money back?

Last edited by short; 12-31-14 at 02:07 PM.
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Old 12-31-14, 04:09 PM
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If your leg is slightly bent, the seat tube isn't too long for you. These bikes have very short reaches (front to back), so you probably won't be bending forward excessively. I think you have a hit. I believe the LTD-3 was designed for juveniles, so this is perfect for you.

Perhaps you can have someone shoot a picture of you on the bike if you'd like further confirmation that the size is right.
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Old 12-31-14, 07:57 PM
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LTD-3 is a slightly down graded version of the Sports. I have a Sports Standard which was the early version of the LTD-3. Based on the color, decals and chain ring I am guessing it is around a 1974/1975 model. The AW hub is standard for that year of bike. Undated hubs are unusual but not rare. I have two, one is on a 1970ish Malaysian built Raleigh Sports Standard. The other on a 1974 Raleigh Twenty. Dating by serial numbers is not cut and dried with a Raleigh.

Clean it up and ride it. My Raleigh Sports Standard has been ridden well over 35,000 miles in the 30+ years I have had it. Still ride it on occasion.

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ISO: A late 1980's Giant Iguana MTB frameset (or complete bike) 23" Red with yellow graphics.

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RIDE, YOU FOOL, RIDE!"
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Old 12-31-14, 08:07 PM
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Originally Posted by noglider
If your leg is slightly bent, the seat tube isn't too long for you. These bikes have very short reaches (front to back), so you probably won't be bending forward excessively. I think you have a hit. I believe the LTD-3 was designed for juveniles, so this is perfect for you.
I hope so.

Originally Posted by noglider
Perhaps you can have someone shoot a picture of you on the bike if you'd like further confirmation that the size is right.
If I feel awkward on it after a week or two, I'll do that for sure.

Originally Posted by wahoonc
LTD-3 is a slightly down graded version of the Sports. I have a Sports Standard which was the early version of the LTD-3. Based on the color, decals and chain ring I am guessing it is around a 1974/1975 model. The AW hub is standard for that year of bike. Undated hubs are unusual but not rare.
Thanks for the info, Aaron. I've read online that AW hubs are considered pretty bulletproof and reliable. Do you know whether that's true for the 70's ones?

Originally Posted by wahoonc
Clean it up and ride it.
That's the plan! Since it's not a rare or collector's item and not in mint condition or anything, I feel like I can freely modify, play with it, upgrade, etc. without guilt and make it a bike to really learn on as well as ride and enjoy. So I'm actually glad it's not an older bike. I think I'll enjoy this bike, and I feel much more secure now about having gone this route.
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Old 01-01-15, 08:11 AM
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Originally Posted by short
I hope so.



If I feel awkward on it after a week or two, I'll do that for sure.



Thanks for the info, Aaron. I've read online that AW hubs are considered pretty bulletproof and reliable. Do you know whether that's true for the 70's ones?



That's the plan! Since it's not a rare or collector's item and not in mint condition or anything, I feel like I can freely modify, play with it, upgrade, etc. without guilt and make it a bike to really learn on as well as ride and enjoy. So I'm actually glad it's not an older bike. I think I'll enjoy this bike, and I feel much more secure now about having gone this route.
All AW hubs are bullet proof, except the ones they built wrong or someone messed with. The earlier ones from the 50's are probably a bit better, but don't let that stop you. The AW is probably the most popular 3 speed hub ever built and there are literally millions of them around. Parts are very easy to come by and there is plenty of information available on how to repair them.

The first step is to run a bit of cleaner, kerosene works well, through the hub, then add oil. The other first thing I would is swap the rear cog out for a 20 tooth, or possibly a 22 tooth to make the bike more user friendly.

The sky is the limit when it comes to upgrades and such. I just ordered new rims for two of our Raleighs. I am building up alloy rim wheels for the Superbe and the green Colt. My bride's bike is getting a AWC hub, she prefers coaster brakes. Mine is getting a NOS FW (four speed)

Good luck and get us pictures as you go along with it.

Here is a picture of my Sports Standard in it's current configuration, the only major part that has been replaced is the fork, that was after my brother ran into a parked car. I have had this bike since 1982 and it has been ridden very hard. It is now in semi-retirement as my beer bike (obviously)

Aaron

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ISO: A late 1980's Giant Iguana MTB frameset (or complete bike) 23" Red with yellow graphics.

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RIDE, YOU FOOL, RIDE!"
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Aluminum: barely a hundred
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Old 01-03-15, 07:14 AM
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Originally Posted by bikemig
An internally geared hub bike is a good choice for a commuter/town bike. Still my favorite town/utility bikes are converted vintage mountain bikes. They're stout bikes and readily available second hand at decent prices.
^^^^^THIS^^^^^

Fifty bucks for a CL bike and thirty bucks, or less, for two 26" street tires and you're on the road.

After all, the main function of the first bike is to tell you what you need in a bike. Invaluable knowledge that replaces what you think you need in a bike.
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