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    • CommentAuthorslobiker
    • CommentTimeSep 28th 2010
     
    Well, this is after all the San Diego Bike Commuter Forum. Thus, I think it only appropriate to take a little time to discuss commuter bikes. As in: what are your favorites? What distinguishes a good commuter bike from a bad one? Where does one look to obtain said commuter bike? As a girlfriend used to say: stuff like that.
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      CommentAuthorVelo Cult
    • CommentTimeSep 28th 2010 edited
     
    Commuter bikes are a fun subject since there are SO many different styles and types since commutes can so varied from person to person. We try to carry every style of commuter bike out there at Velo Cult. That's actually the only type of bikes we carry as of yet.

    My personal favorite upright city bikes for small trips around town and a touring bike for all the longer distance rides.
    • CommentAuthorslobiker
    • CommentTimeSep 28th 2010
     
    My perspective: I like commuting. I like riding bikes in general. I don't care to race or to compete. I've never been a sports fan and competing feels too much like when I was a kid and my brother challenged me on every goddam little thing. It drove me crazy but it also cultivated a sense of contentment at being left alone.

    So I ride because I enjoy riding... existentially and as a matter of utility.

    I only started commuting a year ago. At that time - hard as it is to believe - I knew even less about bikes than I do now, which is still damn little. I wanted a commuter bike; a guy I worked with said go to Trek. I was like Spongebob: "Tre-e-e-e-k-k-k-k...."

    They at least were honest with me. They didn't try selling me some carbon framed racing monstrosity or convince me to dress like Lance Armstrong. Instead they directed me to their most popular commuter/hybrid. $850.00 later and I was happily pedaling to work on something that resembled a refined mountain bike. Aluminum frame (nothing too heavy, now), carbon front fork ("O-o-o-o-o-o.... "), rapid fire shifters ("Clicky!.... o-o-o-o..."). All in all truly not a bad bike. But what the hell did I know?
    • CommentAuthorslobiker
    • CommentTimeSep 28th 2010
     
    Con't

    As the months went by I began adding and replacing things. I started by adding a rack and fenders. I put on a front basket (I'm a big believer in baskets). I replaced the "mountain bar" with an alloy Northern touring bar. I eventually changed out the rear gearing after having to walk up Hill St. during a group ride, much to my embarrassment. I've added mounts for lights, a bike computer (a simple one), a Brooks saddle to emphasize an upright sitting position. I step back and look and realize I've created a townie. That's the bike I want. Not some space-age hybrid.

    Here it is a year later and I find myself yearning for a steel frame commuter. Not just a townie, but a cool townie. Like a Rivendell Sam Hilborne. I think that's probably the penultimate in commuter bikes... but at over $3,000 for a complete build (I don't have a bunch of good components laying around that I could slap together something of my own creation)... hmmm, Slo not sure. Slo thinkum: where get money? Or, for that matter, why Slo want steel townie so bad?

    I've ridden a few Downtownies and I notice all the cool steel bikes. Beautiful bikes, really. And I think that's what influenced my thinking. Everyone looks so tranquil, so regal, when pedaling leisurely on a steel townie, or mixte as the case may be. Chatting happily. The beautiful people. And along comes Slo, pedaling furiously on his aluminum frame hybrid... is Slo truly the brown pair of shoes in the tuxedo closet?

    Here's the long and short of it: I want to get a least another year out of that hybrid so I at feel I got my money's worth before shopping for a steel townie. It's got some components I could transfer over to a steel frame but not too many. The wheels - a Trek minimal spoke space-age marvel - would look ridiculous on a steel townie.

    So there you have it. I've used up 3 posts and I don't even know anything. You guys and gals with all the knowledge, I eagerly await to hear your thoughts and impressions regarding your bikes, your future bikes, what you look for in bikes, why you love bikes.... you know the drill.

    Thanks.
    • CommentAuthorslobiker
    • CommentTimeSep 28th 2010
     
    Velo Cult:Commuter bikes are a fun subject since there are SO many different styles and types since commutes can so varied from person to person. We try to carry every style of commuter bike out there at Velo Cult. That's actually the only type of bikes we carry as of yet.

    My personal favorite upright city bikes for small trips around town and a touring bike for all the longer distance rides.


    Whenever I go to Velo Cult... I drool. Very unseemly. Another topic I'll belabor: friction shifting. Pros and cons. And why aren't there respectable-looking friction shifters rather than those red/black Suntour shifters?
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      CommentAuthorbatmick
    • CommentTimeSep 28th 2010
     
    Indeed a fun subject.

    I'm with Sky here, depends a lot on the commute and also on the season. If I had the funds I'd probably have a collection of several different bikes and then in the morning go into the garage and pick the one for the day. Right now I use my road bike for an 18 mile one way commute. Since I like to carry my clothes and water in my backpack that works fine. In winter I sometimes wish I had a rear rack, waterproof panniers and fenders but I just can't bring myself to install such ballast on my road bike or my mountain bike. Unfortunately those are my only two bikes at the moment.

    My ideal commuter bike would be a road frame with relaxed geometry, ideally titanium. I would want drop bars and clip on aero bars because I feel very comfortable with that combo. The bike would have disc brakes and either the Nuvinci or the Rohloff multi-gear rear hub. No front derailleur. It would have clip on fenders but a solid permanent rack (Tubus). Hope they finally draw the right numbers for a change so I can make this dream a reality.
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      CommentAuthorVelo Cult
    • CommentTimeSep 28th 2010
     
    slobiker:
    Velo Cult:Commuter bikes are a fun subject since there are SO many different styles and types since commutes can so varied from person to person. We try to carry every style of commuter bike out there at Velo Cult. That's actually the only type of bikes we carry as of yet.

    My personal favorite upright city bikes for small trips around town and a touring bike for all the longer distance rides.


    Whenever I go to Velo Cult... I drool. Very unseemly. Another topic I'll belabor: friction shifting. Pros and cons. And why aren't there respectable-looking friction shifters rather than those red/black Suntour shifters?


    Those old Suntour Barcon shifters have what's called "micro friction action" which happens to be the highest quality friction shifters ever made. They had stem shifters, bar end shifters, thumb shifters and down tube shifters all with that micro friction action. Not all Suntour shifters had it but the one's that did worked amazing. To date nobody has ever made a shifter half as good.

    Now if you are wondering why friction here's the short of it. With commuter bikes and touring bikes you want to most reliable system out there which is friction. You are not shifting on the quick in sprints so friction works just fine in this instance. A commuter can honestly go either way in my mind. A touring bike should have friction because it's more reliable and if you ever need to change a derailleur mid tour the friction shifter will work with any derailleur you can find. That's handy when you are on the road, especially if you are in third world countries.
    • CommentAuthorslobiker
    • CommentTimeSep 28th 2010
     
    batmick:...If I had the funds I'd probably have a collection of several different bikes and then in the morning go into the garage and pick the one for the day. ...


    Hahaha. I'd do the same thing with this little "twist." I'd wear a monocle and I'd always say out loud, "I wonder what the poor people are doing today?"


    Velo Cult:...A touring bike should have friction because it's more reliable and if you ever need to change a derailleur mid tour the friction shifter will work with any derailleur you can find. That's handy when you are on the road, especially if you are in third world countries.


    My reason is even more basic than that. I have a mental block about index shifters... the few times I tried adjusting a derailer with index shifters I started to panic... nothing would work right... I wound up limping along in the one gear that would work and got it to a bike shop - watching helplessly as some tech put it right. And that's here in the "first world."

    I like the idea that with a friction shifter you only need to check the cable tension. Provided it has the "range" you can always find your gears. Eminently practical. And as I recall from the early 70s, my Schwinn Varsity had friction shifters and I was fine with it. We all were. Because that was the technology of the times... and we hadn't yet been spoiled by index shifters.
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      CommentAuthorbikingbill
    • CommentTimeSep 28th 2010
     
    I think my recumbent is a excellent commuter bike. Very visible (it's a 'high-racer'), fast, comfy and it can carry a good amount of cargo. It also fits the AmTrak racks and works well on the Coaster and Metrolink (a prime reason I got this model).



    The next step will be to swap in a steel front fork (the frame is steel, current fork is aluminum) and then add barcons.

    I'm running 559x32 tires, want to go wider.
    • CommentAuthorthom
    • CommentTimeSep 28th 2010
     
    This happens to be a subject to which I've been giving substantial thought over the last year or so, during some of that time I actually thought I might have a job to commute to, so I was all excited about building a commuter. That has since become much less likely, but I still want a bike that is more versatile than my restored old three-speeds, which have been great for utility riding around town (and, in all fairness to them, one almost-50 miler out to El Cajon and back), but which are not the best climbers, and are pretty darn heavy. The ultimate result of a "commuter" build for me would be a bike that is equally at home running around town, or going out on longer rides.

    I found a very clean early 1980s Peugeot lugged steel road bike on Craigslist for $75, and that is going to be the basis for my build. It has down tube mounted friction shifters (Simplex) and although I'm not sure of the exact gearing, it looks like mid-range 12-speed road gearing. I'll keep that for now, until I figure out whether I like it or not. I'm adding the parts I want in several phases: the first changes will be upright bars and new brake levers, and a Brooks B17 to replace the moulded plastic monstrosity that was on there. The next phase will be fenders, then racks, with some saddle or handlebar bags thrown in there as well. As I ride more, I'll also replace the road tires that are on there with heartier commuting or touring tires.

    For lighting, I really like the thought of generating my own light, which means either a hub generator or a fork-mounted dynamo. The dynohubs are too expensive for me, so I might go with the fork-mounted generator. This would be for the front light, as I prefer the battery-driven red blinkies on the back.

    So for me, that's just about ideal. I'm enamored with the idea of a bike that can perform multiple purposes, something that is equally suited to utility *and* recreational riding.
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      CommentAuthorHans
    • CommentTimeSep 28th 2010
     
    I have two distinctly different commutes, so I have two commuters. An old French tourer w/barcons, and a stainless folder w/16" wheels and a 3spd.
    The commuter bike varies as much as the commute. Ultimately, the right tool for the job, nothing more, nothing less.
    You don't need a swiss army knife to cut your sandwich in half, but don't use a spoon. However, both work.
    The main concerns for me, are
    Gearing. Low enough to get through climbs without breaking a sweat, and creeping through high density areas while minimizing complete (inertia killing)stops. High enough to get to appointments on time.
    Shifting. With friction shifting, you adjust only your derailleurs. Done deal. Cables do stretch, it's a fact of life. Friction shifters don't care. With the new range of dependable, internally geared hubs, I may make the switch. You can change gears while sitting still (no downshifting before stopping).
    Portability & storage/parking. Folding bikes are great if you park-n-ride or use mass transit, or feel better taking your bike into work with you. Don't let their circus-bike looks fool you. Markphilips used his Brompton at Critical Mass and Taco runs! My DaHon folds up in 20 seconds, and fits with rack/panniers into a regular size suitcase (my commute requires air travel occasionally).
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      CommentAuthorbatmick
    • CommentTimeSep 28th 2010
     
    Hans:... Don't let their circus-bike looks fool you...


    No kidding! I learned that the hard way back in Munich when I tried to casually zip by a guy on a Moulton. He sped up and quickly taught me a lesson about size and looks not being everything... Damn, that guy was fast!
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      CommentAuthorbikingbill
    • CommentTimeSep 28th 2010
     
    I'd consider the Shimano Afine 11 IGH, if it is as good as the reviews indicate. Would make for a simpler bike.

    Maybe put a Schlumpf crank on the bike as well.
    • CommentAuthorWilliam.
    • CommentTimeSep 28th 2010
     
    I started on an alum cannondale r600. It was a good bike for road stuff. But, over time, revealed it was an average commuter. It got me out there, and there is some love for that. In 2002, I wanted to try a fixed gear bike for the purpose of "fixing my cadence". Which I did, and bought a frame way to small for me. Later, I found the Bianchi. Suddenly, riding was fun. It's a tank, a hodge-podge of mismatched parts and the idea of a million directions I wanted to go at once. But I've ridden it back and forth to work about 7 years now. Went from minimal skinny tire imgonnagosofast no brake strait fixie to moderate rider, to; now a fat(er) tire, with a rack and nearly permanent light. I had a custom frame made for me, a thylacine out of Australia. All steel, twitch, nearly track geom., tight, stiff and fit to me. I ride it about 30 percent of the time. In my garage, there is a townie project bike, waiting for upright bars and a basket/rack and a few other modifications.

    I'm now flip flopping on a cargo bike or a road bike with gears.

    The point, as I point out how wishy washy I am on bikes. It matters what you ride insomuch as you're happy with it. You'll only ride what makes you happy. What I often encourage people to do is to get a bike that no one recommends, but that they get on, and are happy when they ride. If you get on it, and you smile, that's the bike to ride. I like old/used bikes, because, and this sounds silly, they seem to have imparted on them a certain degree of soul from previous riders that makes them, in a way, an entity that becomes an important part of your bike. It takes years for a new bike to get that feel.
    • CommentAuthorslobiker
    • CommentTimeSep 28th 2010
     
    thom:... I found a very clean early 1980s Peugeot lugged steel road bike on Craigslist for $75, and that is going to be the basis for my build. ...So for me, that's just about ideal. I'm enamored with the idea of a bike that can perform multiple purposes, something that is equally suited to utility *and* recreational riding.


    Thom, it sounds like the same type of bike appeals to both of us. Like everyone else I pour over Craigslist (why is there no committed bike section in Backpage.com?) but my concern about an older bike is I'm not sure if I could deal with the older technology. Although considering I know nothing about bikes I could be completely wrong.

    Freewheels instead of cassettes. What happens if you want to change out the rear gears... how many freewheels are there on the open market these days? Grease packed spindles and ball bearings instead of clean sealed bottom bracket cartridges? Fussy cantilever brakes rather than "V" brakes? Even I can adjust those on the road. Quill stems instead of modern headsets allowing you to remove handlebars without stripping away all the stuff?

    I worry that owning an older bike would be like owning a British sports car... you spend all your time fussing with it.
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      CommentAuthorbikingbill
    • CommentTimeSep 28th 2010 edited
     
    The freewheels are more of an issue if you weigh more than say 200lbs (or are carrying) a lot of cargo. I was always replacing bent axels "back in the day". You can find new freewheels.

    The rest? Pretty easy to work on.
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      CommentAuthorVelo Cult
    • CommentTimeSep 28th 2010 edited
     
    High quality freewheels are available today from IRD components. It is true though that cassettes are more common to find in stores and the axle arrangement on cassette hubs are stronger.

    Loose ball bottom brackets can last longer, spin smoother and are rebuildable but cartridge bottom brackets are a lot easier being they are disposable.

    Cantilever brakes are better in many ways. Cantilever's can be just as strong and always win the best modulation. Today's cantilever brakes are just as easy to work on as V's, in the past they did take a little more skill to adjust but not today. Canti's allow more room for fenders. Old style Canti's have thicker pads so they can last a lot longer. Tandem users still prefer cantilever brakes for their power and long lasting pads. V-pads on a tandem can be worn down in one ride. Not only that but v-brakes and disc brakes are not strong enough for tandems are are too un-reliable. For those same reason's canti's are best for commuters. That's not to say other kinds of brakes can work out good too but I think Canti's nudge out the competition.

    Quill stems with the easy up and down adjustment are great. Threadless stems are great for their re-movable faceplates. A quill with a removable faceplate would be the ultimate (Salsa SUL stem had this).
    • CommentAuthorthom
    • CommentTimeSep 28th 2010
     
    slobiker:my concern about an older bike is I'm not sure if I could deal with the older technology. Freewheels instead of cassettes. What happens if you want to change out the rear gears... how many freewheels are there on the open market these days? Grease packed spindles and ball bearings instead of clean sealed bottom bracket cartridges? Fussy cantilever brakes rather than "V" brakes? Even I can adjust those on the road. Quill stems instead of modern headsets allowing you to remove handlebars without stripping away all the stuff?

    I worry that owning an older bike would be like owning a British sports car... you spend all your time fussing with it.


    In my experience, old bikes are not as delicate and fussy as all that, assuming you can find a quality bike to begin with, the stock stuff (refurbished, sure) will usually last a good long time yet, and when you need to replace or upgrade the mechanics, such things are quite possible, either DIY or having a good shop do the work. I wouldn't let concerns about maintenance keep you from an older bike.
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      CommentAuthorbikingbill
    • CommentTimeSep 28th 2010
     
    You know, since I have to replace the brakes on my bike (switching from dual pivot on the front when I get the new fork) ... maybe I should just go to Canti's. Never considered it.

    Thanks.
    • CommentAuthorslobiker
    • CommentTimeOct 1st 2010
     
    Velo Cult:... A quill with a removable faceplate would be the ultimate (Salsa SUL stem had this).


    Here's one possibility:

    VO Threadless Stem Adapter



    ... and thank you, guys, for all your comments. I think maybe I worry too much:face-plain:
    • CommentAuthort.e.d
    • CommentTimeOct 1st 2010
     
    That's the setup I have. I think it's awesome. You can keep instant height adjustment and you can adjust reach by getting different stems. VC has these adapters too. The long one is REALLY long. I cut about 6" off of mine and still have a ton of adjustment.
    • CommentAuthorevster
    • CommentTimeOct 1st 2010
     
    Hey guys. Don't post too often here but I figured I'd throw in my 2 cents, for what it's worth.

    On the subject of index vs. friction... Yesterday I finally had a chance to work on one of my bikes (which is rare in the first place). It's an old steel-framed mountain bike with thumb shifters that I'm going to turn into more of a commuter. I spent about 45 minutes making barrel adjustments to the rear derailleur and doing quick test rides to cycle through all the gears, but could never get the action perfect on the index shifting. It was very close, but always hanging up on 1 gear change no matter what I did.

    I'm sure like many of you on this forum, I'm one of those guys where everything on my bike has to work perfectly or else it drives me nuts. So to make a long story short, after all that I decided to set the shifter to friction mode and what do you know - perfection! It's actually way better than I think I could have gotten in the index mode if I had fussed around with it for another hour (or 3).

    From my limited experience with this stuff, I have to agree that friction is definitely easier to work with and more bomb-proof than index shifting.

    And as for the topic of commuter bikes in general... I've found that I prefer using single-speeds even if that means walking up the occasional hill. I love the simplicity of it. It's one less thing to go wrong and make me late to where I'm going, and it eliminates distractions of wondering what gearing I'm in so that I can concentrate on the road. Fortunately my commute is pretty flat so it works out nicely, but I'd probably stick with the single-speed even if there was a big hill to climb. I know that might sound weird or counter-intuitive, but as someone who has a few different bikes to choose from I find myself always going with the single speed when I need to do some serious commuting.

    I'm also a big-time user of racks/baskets. I hate backpacks and bags. On a 1 or 2 mile commute they would be alright, but anything more and I start sweating if it's not cold out.
    • CommentAuthort.e.d
    • CommentTimeOct 1st 2010
     
    If my commute was flatter and shorter, I'd prolly rock the SS as well, but it's not. I'm with you on the backpack thing... I hate having stuff on my back.

    Friction shifting is like anything. After practice, it gets better. At first, you'll miss some shifts... remember learning a stick on a car? But after a while, it becomes muscle memory and you'll nail shifts without even thinking about it.
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      CommentAuthorbatmick
    • CommentTimeOct 1st 2010
     
    I'm of the opposite camp re. backpacks. For the few things I need to carry plus my water it is more convenient I think. I also hate any form of extra ballast on my bike and a rack destroys the visuals of almost any bike I like.
    However, I also don't like getting hot so I searched a long time for a back that works and hit gold with the Deuter Air Comfort packs. Check it out online. Ventilation is actually so good that some days in winter I stuff it so I don't get too cold on the back.
    • CommentAuthort.e.d
    • CommentTimeOct 1st 2010
     
    I really like braze-ons for that very reason. For my commute and general riding, I just have my seat bag and roly poly. When I need to go grocery shopping, it takes 2 minutes to throw on the rack and bags, and I'm off to the store.
    • CommentAuthorAlanKHG
    • CommentTimeOct 1st 2010
     
    Velo Cult:
    Quill stems with the easy up and down adjustment are great. Threadless stems are great for their re-movable faceplates. A quill with a removable faceplate would be the ultimate (Salsa SUL stem had this).


    There's some Taiwanese stem that used to be on a lot of Fujis & still on some cheaper ones like that. My Touring has it, and was on the Touring until this year. I haven't seen it anywhere aftermarket, though.
  1.  
    Entertaining video on the best way to ride to work.