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View Full Version : Commuter bike suggestions?



Diane Kean
03-05-2010, 10:18 AM
Hi, new to the forum. Thinking of getting a new bike this spring, any recommendations?

AJsinVA
03-05-2010, 10:44 AM
I also am new to the forum. Tomorrow I test ride a Cervelo S1. What type of bike are you looking for and what is your price range?

Diane Kean
03-05-2010, 10:48 AM
I am looking for an inexpensive bike for commuting. Something that will not fall apart and isn't too heavy. :-)

Joe Chapline
03-05-2010, 10:59 AM
Welcome to the forum, thanks for registering. (You too, AJ.) I'm going to try to move this thread to "Bikes and Equipment" and we can have a good discussion of what kind of bike you should get.

AJsinVA
03-05-2010, 11:08 AM
Here are a few questions that you should ask yourself or other might ask you.

1. What is your price range? Inexpensive means different things to different people. My new bike I will use to commute is around 2k.
2. Can you ride paved trails or road all the way? This may determine what type of bike you need.
3. Will you need to carry a lot of things with you on your commute?
4. Does speed matter?
5. Is the guy answering this making things more difficult than they need to be? Just Kidding.

Joe Chapline
03-05-2010, 11:32 AM
There ARE a lot of questions to ask to narrow it down. You already said "new," that narrows it down some, unless you mean "new to you." A lot of commuters ride "beaters" for their commute, but then a lot of them have other bikes at home.

I don't have room for a fleet of bikes; I have one all-purpose bike that cost about $600. In my opinion, you have a lot of good choices at that price point, but it won't be crushing if it gets stolen. (I leave it locked up at the Baltimore train station all day when I commute. I've had one stolen, but now I have bigger locks.)

If you're going with a new bike, I suggest seeing what bike stores are convenient to you, and what brands they sell. (Usually a given bike store will sell about 4 brands.) I like the fact that I can go back to a store I like and can get to easily, when the bike needs service. So picking a store or two might help narrow down the manufacturers you look at first. I would have looked at Breezers, but there wasn't a dealer around. I ended up with a Specialized, which I love.

consularrider
03-05-2010, 01:18 PM
Here are a few questions that you should ask yourself or other might ask you.

1. What is your price range? Inexpensive means different things to different people. My new bike I will use to commute is around 2k.
2. Can you ride paved trails or road all the way? This may determine what type of bike you need.
3. Will you need to carry a lot of things with you on your commute?
4. Does speed matter?
5. Is the guy answering this making things more difficult than they need to be? Just Kidding.

6. Are you going to be a year round/all weather commuter? If so, you should probably look at a bike that can take fenders and a rear rack.
7. Will this be your only bike that you will take on rides other than commuting?

jabberwocky
03-05-2010, 01:42 PM
Hi Diane-

A little more info would help. What does inexpensive mean to you? Whats your commute like? Is it all on pavement, is it partially off-road, is it hilly? How are you intending to carry any work stuff with you (or are you not intending to carry stuff at all)? EDIT: Also, do you have a place to bring the bike inside at work? If you have to lock it outside, you might be better off with an old beater than a new bike to lessen the chance of theft. If you have an indoor place to store the bike, thats not a concern.

My initial recommendation is to look at an entry level road bike. They can be had for $500-600. Components won't be high-end, but will be serviceable. If your commute is short and relatively flat (or you're a masochist ;) ), you could look at a single speed. I prefer carrying my stuff in a messenger bag so rack mounts aren't super important, but if you want to use panniers you'll need to look for models that have mounts or be prepared to purchase a rack that can attach in other ways (which tend to be expensive). If your commute includes gravel or off-road sections, you'll want to look for decent tire clearance (or perhaps step to a hybrid or mountainbike).

No matter what though, you need to get yourself to a few shops and test ride bikes to see what you like to ride. Theres a lot of personal preference in bike geometry. I'd recommend hitting at least 3 shops and test riding at least 2 bikes at each one to get a wide range of experience. Odds are that one or two will stand out as feeling better to you than the others.

Diane Kean
03-05-2010, 01:58 PM
Wow, thanks for all the feedback!

My commute is mainly roads or paved trail, depending on how fast I want to get to work. I have a space to park the bike in a parking garage that is relatively safe for the most part. I don't want to spend more than $500 or $600 dollars. I will need to carry a lot of things with me: change of clothes, shoes, make-up, etc so I would be interested in panniers or something so I won't have to rely on my backpack. Right now my bike is HEAVY, so I will definitely need to look for a lighter bike. Does the style of wheel make the bike heavier? Currently I have knobby mountain bike tires, thinking I would like something a little smoother but not the thin road tires.

Joe Chapline
03-05-2010, 02:18 PM
Diane, I agree with jabberwocky that you should ride a bunch of bikes. That's one reason I mentioned bike stores -- although I buy almost everything online, I don't recommend buying any bike without riding it. I wanted to add -- before you go out and do anything rash -- that you don't necessarily have to pick from what's in store. Although it might look like there's a lot of bikes in there, once you do narrow it down to the type of bike you're looking for and your price range, there probably won't be very many. But if you find out what brands the store sells, you can then look online at ALL of the models those manufacturers offer. (The bike store won't have them all.) Do some research online. All of the technical specifications will be there, and you can see the exact difference between models at different price points. If there's something you're interested in, or several, you can ask the dealer to get one in for you to look at. That's what I did.

jabberwocky
03-05-2010, 02:26 PM
My commute is mainly roads or paved trail, depending on how fast I want to get to work. I have a space to park the bike in a parking garage that is relatively safe for the most part. I don't want to spend more than $500 or $600 dollars.All this, to me, points to an entry level road bike of some sort.


I will need to carry a lot of things with me: change of clothes, shoes, make-up, etc so I would be interested in panniers or something so I won't have to rely on my backpack. Right now my bike is HEAVY, so I will definitely need to look for a lighter bike. Does the style of wheel make the bike heavier? Currently I have knobby mountain bike tires, thinking I would like something a little smoother but not the thin road tires.You have two options for carrying stuff. Panniers (bags that hang on a rack mounted to the bike, either over the rear wheel or alongside the front wheel) or a bag you carry on your back (either a backpack or messenger bag). They both have advantages and disadvantages, and choosing one over the other is largely personal preference. I've used both and for commuting loads I prefer the messenger bag. Many people prefer racks and panniers. I generally wouldn't recommend a backpack though; if you want to carry stuff on your person, get a good quality messenger bag. They are wide and flat and distribute the weight across your back, whereas backpacks tend to pull your shoulders backwards (which is not all that comfortable on the bike). I use a Chrome Metropolis, which is expensive but very durable, comfortable and large enough to hold all my stuff.

As for tires, skinny road tires are by far the most efficient thing to ride on pavement. They roll much, much quicker than knobby mtb tires on pavement (seriously, get on a road bike after riding a mtb on the road and you'll feel like your bike has a motor on it). Wider slick tires get you some comfort at the expense of speed (they run at a lower pressure that absorbs road chatter better, but at the expense of increased rolling resistance). My personal recommendation would be a dedicated road tire in a slightly wider width (28mm-32mm), unless you ride on seriously rough pavement.

Bike weight actually doesn't play a huge role in commuting speed unless your commute includes a lot of climbing. On pavement, rolling resistance is your primary enemy (and wind resistance is a close second, especially at higher speeds). Mountainbikes (which it sounds like you have) are poor choices in both departments; knobby tires are incredibly slow on pavement, and mountainbikes usually have a rather upright seating position which is highly un-aerodynamic.

consularrider
03-05-2010, 02:34 PM
Wow, thanks for all the feedback!

My commute is mainly roads or paved trail, depending on how fast I want to get to work. I have a space to park the bike in a parking garage that is relatively safe for the most part. I don't want to spend more than $500 or $600 dollars. I will need to carry a lot of things with me: change of clothes, shoes, make-up, etc so I would be interested in panniers or something so I won't have to rely on my backpack. Right now my bike is HEAVY, so I will definitely need to look for a lighter bike. Does the style of wheel make the bike heavier? Currently I have knobby mountain bike tires, thinking I would like something a little smoother but not the thin road tires.

Probably most of the weight in your bike is in the frame. That said, the wider tires and rims of a hybrid or mountain bike are generally heavier than a road bike. Also, if you have a suspension fork that will add weight.

I recently bought a 2009 Giant Transend LX for $450 at Papillion Bikes on Columbia Pike. It's a reasonably light 24 spd hybrid bike that comes with the base Shimano drive train components, mechanical disc brakes, fenders and a rack. I think Performance Bike had a GT or Schwinn with similar set up and there is the Trek Allant, but without disc brakes. My new bike really is for commuting since I have a vintage road bike I take for my longer weekend rides.

Joe Chapline
03-06-2010, 07:39 AM
Wow, thanks for all the feedback!

Does the style of wheel make the bike heavier? Currently I have knobby mountain bike tires, thinking I would like something a little smoother but not the thin road tires.

Diane, I agree with other posters that you don't want knobby tires for your commute, and that resistance is a bigger issue than weight. Something that hasn't been mentioned is wheel size. Your bike with the knobby tires probably has 26" wheels. Road bikes have larger-diameter wheels -- designated 700c, although I'm not clear what's being measured. Anyway, there are two common sizes of wheels, and you probably have the smaller one. I think you'll find a road bike or hybrid with the larger size wheels and road tires (not knobby, not too wide) will take much less effort to ride on pavement.

I also want to throw in here that it's very important that the bike fit you. You need to get the right frame size, for starters. Beyond that, the frame geometry and handlebar style will affect your riding position, and what works for you is a matter of preference. I don't know any way to test this out except to ride some bikes.

One more note, about budget -- make sure you figure in the cost of the accessories you want (lights, rack, maybe fenders, maybe kickstand). Some bike packages come with that stuff, some don't.

invisiblehand
03-09-2010, 04:58 PM
I have a space to park the bike in a parking garage that is relatively safe for the most part. I don't want to spend more than $500 or $600 dollars. I will need to carry a lot of things with me: change of clothes, shoes, make-up, etc so I would be interested in panniers or something so I won't have to rely on my backpack. Right now my bike is HEAVY, so I will definitely need to look for a lighter bike. Does the style of wheel make the bike heavier? Currently I have knobby mountain bike tires, thinking I would like something a little smoother but not the thin road tires.

At the $500-600 price point, at least with respect to value, I don't think that there is much practical difference between bike brands. So I wouldn't worry about getting a Trek, Giant, or whatever. There can be differences in bike geometries and specific offerings for women ... the idea being that the average woman is built differently enough than men such that they need a model designed for women.

In my opinion ...

You never mentioned the commute distance. But the longer the distance, the more you want to get the stuff off your back/body and onto the bike. A decent rack and pannier is worth every penny.

Suspension for road/path riding is a huge waste and completely unnecessary. Particularly if you get a bike that can fit wider road tires where you can adjust the pressure. If you rarely ride in wet weather, that standard rim brakes will be fine as opposed to disc brakes.

You sound like a hybrid-type of person. While the upright position is not particularly aerodynamic, you do have better visibility of your surroundings. Nevertheless, I would try as many bikes as you have patience. Make sure there are plenty of braze-ons for racks and eyelets for fenders ... you may not ride in the rain today, but as you get more experience you might decide that it isn't so bad. And experienced cyclists can stop pretty quick in wet weather with rim brakes.

At least by my quick interpretation, I'm going to agree with the comment about stubby tires but disagree somewhat with the general comments of jabberwocky below. The connection between rolling resistance and tire width is more complicated than (1) skinnier = less rolling resistance and (2) higher tire pressure = less rolling resistance. There is growing research that concludes that supple and wider tires -- at least over some range -- have less rolling resistance than the typical 23 mm road tire. Mind you, to gain less rolling resistance you might be increasing the likelihood of a flat. So there is no free lunch.

This is a podcast of Georgina Terry's interview with Jan Heine.
http://tinyurl.com/yec98ze

Another example with Jobst Brandt. Notice that the 28c Avocet racing tires have lower rolling resistance than their 25c counterparts.
http://tinyurl.com/ya5499t

Oh ... I would use a Panaracer Pasella Tourguard tire ... ~35 mm in width ... for touring/commuting/utility riding. Surprisingly low rolling resistance. Can support a wide range of tire pressures. Fairly durable, light for the width, and inexpensive. Now, I'm a realtively heavy guy. So you might get all of the benefits with the 28 or 32 mm size.

Before you buy a new bike. You might consider simply getting a more appropriate set of tires for your present MTB and trying it out. If it has braze-ons for a rack and has no suspension -- an older MTB -- it will probably make an effective commuter/utility bike.


As for tires, skinny road tires are by far the most efficient thing to ride on pavement. They roll much, much quicker than knobby mtb tires on pavement (seriously, get on a road bike after riding a mtb on the road and you'll feel like your bike has a motor on it). Wider slick tires get you some comfort at the expense of speed (they run at a lower pressure that absorbs road chatter better, but at the expense of increased rolling resistance). My personal recommendation would be a dedicated road tire in a slightly wider width (28mm-32mm), unless you ride on seriously rough pavement.

jabberwocky
03-11-2010, 12:40 PM
At least by my quick interpretation, I'm going to agree with the comment about stubby tires but disagree somewhat with the general comments of jabberwocky below. The connection between rolling resistance and tire width is more complicated than (1) skinnier = less rolling resistance and (2) higher tire pressure = less rolling resistance. There is growing research that concludes that supple and wider tires -- at least over some range -- have less rolling resistance than the typical 23 mm road tire. Mind you, to gain less rolling resistance you might be increasing the likelihood of a flat. So there is no free lunch.I definitely won't argue with you there. My comment was more a general rule, and depends heavily on the tire in question and the surface you're riding on. For instance, the wider tire would likely not be faster on an indoor track (which is very smooth). On very rough pavement, an even wider tire might actually be faster. At some point, the skinny, high pressure tire is giving up a lot of energy by bouncing over pavement imperfections rather than flexing and absorbing them. Which is why my recommendation was for a 28mm-32mm tire rather than a full-on road skinny (which are usually 23mm).

And my personal favorite commuter tire is the Pasela TG in 28mm. Its worth noting that the Paselas are actually quite fast for their size; most tires in that width are a bit slower rolling.

Mark Blacknell
03-17-2010, 02:34 PM
For ideas of the range of prices and options out there, check out http://bikesfortherestofus.blogspot.com/. (I love that site, and try to spread it around as much as possible.)

invisiblehand
03-19-2010, 04:21 PM
I definitely won't argue with you there. My comment was more a general rule, and depends heavily on the tire in question and the surface you're riding on. For instance, the wider tire would likely not be faster on an indoor track (which is very smooth). On very rough pavement, an even wider tire might actually be faster. At some point, the skinny, high pressure tire is giving up a lot of energy by bouncing over pavement imperfections rather than flexing and absorbing them. Which is why my recommendation was for a 28mm-32mm tire rather than a full-on road skinny (which are usually 23mm).

And my personal favorite commuter tire is the Pasela TG in 28mm. Its worth noting that the Paselas are actually quite fast for their size; most tires in that width are a bit slower rolling.

I thought that is what you intended. At least some of the language pointed in that direction. And I should clarify myself that optimal size and tire pressure also vary for the loads being carried as well as surface.

Have you seen the Bike Quarterly tires tests? Pasellas -- not tourguard -- do exceedingly well. From memory, tourguard was not tested. PM me if you want a PDF sent to an e-mail address.