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  1.  
    It occurs to me that on this forum - the sdbike COMMUTER forum - we don't really have a thread for commuter rigs / set ups. After having experimented first with an xtracycle and a road bike, I think I've finally found my groove. (Thanks, Mark Phillips!) So, I thought I would start this thread so the folks who commute could add their input, advice, experience, etc. Suffice to say, I wish I would have converted to my current set-up quite some time ago. I'm going to follow-up shortly with some photos of my rig and set up, along with some thoughts.
  2.  
    So I bought the Miyata from Mark Phillips from this forum. I really wanted something akin to a Cross-Check for commuting and light dirt riding. The Miyata fit the bill (at a fraction of the cost). I like the xtracycle for picnics and family rides, but wasn't a big fan commuting. My road bike (a Jamis) is also a great bike, but I really dislike having to carry things on my back (primarily because of sweat).

    So I outfitted the Miyata with the Ortlieb Office Bag. The bag is great - big enough for computer, gym/spare clothes, lock, two small files, and lunch. Really perfect for my commute. I also purchased the Velo Orange Campagne bag for the front. I set on the front rack and attach to handlebars (so I can easily take it off the bike). Front bag fits camera and lock, along with spare shirt and food. Perfect for randos.

    Some photos and commentary:



    The rig.



    Bag with shoulder strap. Minor complaint: you really have to take the shoulder strap off the bike when you attach to bike. Note the material is not the typical Sony, plasticky, Ortlieb material - really can get away with this bag for a business meeting.



    Interior shot of bag. Roomy!



    Attachment system. I went with the outmoded QL2 for flexibility. But note that the clips rub against your back when carrying. Again, minor complaint.



    VO bag attached to bike. Pretty.



    Interior of VO bag. No compartments. Plenty big for most casual rides.

    The VO bag was $110 and the Ortlieb was $118.
  3.  
    Nice commuter setup. VeloCult will be proud. It is nice to have an all rounder and practical bike: Commuting, Touring, Rough-riding, Cyclo-cross, and more.
  4.  
    This was posted recently on LovelyBicycle.com. It might add to the discussion.

    Modified VO Handlebar/Camera Bag Setup, Sans Decaleur
    • CommentAuthoreaton
    • CommentTimeApr 4th 2013 edited
     
    Here's mine. 1999 Rivendell All-Rounder. I got it two years ago after a plumbing truck cut across two lanes, turned right in front of me and bent the frame on my new Cross Check.

    The front bag is a Banjo Brothers. The rear bag is a Zimbale.

    • CommentAuthorStephan
    • CommentTimeApr 4th 2013
     
    VO Polyvalent. Alfine 11 speed rear hub. Shimano dynohub and Lumotec lights front and rear. Panaracer Col de la Vie 650Bs. Nigel Smith bag in front and Zimbale in the back. Fenders by Grandprey. A cab driver's insurance company paid for this one.

    •  
      CommentAuthorSigurd
    • CommentTimeApr 5th 2013
     
    A good commuter bike depends on the character of your commute and is therefore pretty subjective, but I would like to see the following features on my going to work bike:

    - Pedals that can accommodate any shoe (cages and straps work for me).
    - Strong wheels and tires (I use 36 spoke, 3X wheels and 32mm tires, and have only had one flat [my fault - pinch flat from too low tire pressure] in several years of everyday commuting).
    - Good lights and reflectors.
    - Enough carrying capacity for tools/patch kit/tube/clothes/office materials/lunch/etc. (I use small saddle bag for repair stuff, and a large, easily removable [for when you can travel lightly] handlebar bag for clothes, lunch, office materials, etc.).
    • CommentAuthorPetteri
    • CommentTimeApr 5th 2013
     
    Agreed with Sigurd that different commutes need different bikes. Mine is long (17 miles each way) and infrequent (once or twice a week recently) and takes me from my front door to a dressing room which means I can (and want) to use dedicated cycling clothing, clipless pedals, etc.

    My approach is this:


    Surly Cross-Check built with Tiagra parts, including STIs (no barends for me!), mountain SPD pedals, fenders, wide tires on sturdy wheels, rack and a pannier. I've since added some serious lighting and am still looking for more... The single pannier setup gets a little unbalanced on days when I'm carrying a lot of stuff but is convenient.
  5.  
    Sigurd's comments are right on. I need a pannier that can double as a "briefcase" - or is at least professional looking. That is why the Ortlieb Office Bag was such a perfect fit for me. It really does look nice. And it holds my computer, lunch, extra clothes, bike tools, etc. My commute is short (no more than 5 miles typically, depending on the route) and I do it almost everyday. The balance is an issue - I have a lot of weight on the left side. But it is manageable.
  6.  
    I found this from one of the very early threads

    Hello, my name is Sky and wanted to start this forum to bring bike commuters together. I felt that new and experienced bike commuters needed a place where they could talk about routes, advocacy and gear. Bike commuting as many of you know is not as easy as just putting a bag on a bike. There's a lot of trial and error that goes into getting the correct route, the correct clothes, the correct bike, the correct bike fit and so on. So here you go, lets make this forum great and with any luck at all we can talk more and more people into joining this form of transportation!
    •  
      CommentAuthormarkphilips
    • CommentTimeJun 11th 2013 edited
     
    This has become my main commuter bike: easy to maneuver in tight spaces, trolley, bus, train, car rental, tight office space, restaurants and cafes. The Commuter bag looks decent enough as a laptop and tool bag. Front bag carries 35lbs. I can switch to a smaller bag, the bigger touring, or grocery bag as needed. I rarely carry a lock; it goes with me inside to any destinations with the help of the rain cover (aka invisibility cloak).

    Of course, this is specific to my needs and is not for everybody.

    Untitled IMG03997-20120810-0931.jpg
  7.  
    Here's my the 20-year-old Giant mountain bike that I got as a hand-me-down from my boyfriend last year when my bike was stolen. It has good components and was state of the art in its day, but I believe its day has passed. The brakes in particular are killing my hands. Question is, is this worth doing any more upgrades, or can I try to convince I really need to get a new bike (with my money, for my 30mi roundtrip commute) ?
    • CommentAuthorShady John
    • CommentTimeJul 29th 2013 edited
     
    Hi Ali,

    A 20 year old rigid mountain bike can be a wonderful thing! Or it can be a curse...

    Could you elaborate on the "killing my hands" issue? Is it from the effort required to brake? Or is it from vibration/hand position issues? If the latter, then some mundane mods could ease your hand pain.

    1) get some new grips
    2) wrap athletic tape around the junction of the bar ends and the bars
    3) get a fatter front tire and run at lower pressure

    I have two rigid fork MTBs, with the grips of both pictured below. The one with the tape is really ugly, but it's comfortable. The one without the tape is much less comfortable, and I do get hand pain sometimes with this bike, especially if I ride without gloves (but evidently not enough for me to do anything about it). On both bikes I have 1.5" tires that I run around 50-65 PSI. I used to run 1.25" tires at 85 PSI on the green bike, and the shock transfer to my hands and arms was horrible. (A 26" wheel is much stiffer than a 700c wheel.)

    • CommentAuthorShady John
    • CommentTimeJul 29th 2013
     
    Doh! "The brakes in particular are killing my hands." Now I remember the conversation from a few months ago. Sounds as if your hatred of the bike has withstood the test of time. I think you should get a new bike, or a new-used bike. I would stay away from discs for a commuter. Get something with V brakes and you'll be happy.
    •  
      CommentAuthorbikingbill
    • CommentTimeAug 7th 2013
     
    Hand numbness got me onto recliner bikes in 1994. The seat was not the issue.
    •  
      CommentAuthorHans
    • CommentTimeAug 8th 2013
     
    With the completion of the new terminal at the airport, now waiting for the existing terminals to begin being updated. I love this 3 mile commute along the harbor every day! Besides the fresh air and "preferred parking", I easily cart my compressor, airbrushes, buffers, paints, cods, etc. to where I'm working. With large, pneumatic tires getting me there easier than every other trade.

    Not to mention that I can leave my bike unlocked all day/night, next to the security shack.
  8.  
    Could you elaborate on the "killing my hands" issue? Is it from the effort required to brake? Or is it from vibration/hand position issues? If the latter, then some mundane mods could ease your hand pain.

    Effort required to brake, and I have seen unbiased bikeshop folk comment on how hard-pulling these brakes are even when well adjusted. No vibration at all..must admit this bike has no road vibration issues anywhere. Hand position issues not it either...I have felt a little worse for leaning on my hands lately on longer rides, but that happened after my last message. I really really want a new bike and just fear the unknown (and making an unwise investment). I would like to do the entire 26mi roundtrip commute all-bike without transit, which means I need a bike as follows:
    fast
    comfortable, particularly for the hand issues
    pannier/rack hauling friendly
    easy braking for lots of downhills with traffic stops
  9.  
    And the biggest priority--LOW MAINTENANCE. I tried but I realized a while ago that biking doesn't make me a bike mechanic. I think I need to buy new and see if I can get a service plan
  10.  
    Now I remember the conversation from a few months ago. Sounds as if your hatred of the bike has withstood the test of time.
    As you may be noticing, my preference is to whine and gripe about a problem if the solution requires a large purchase. I have no problem putting up to $800 into a bike (cutting the $72/month cost of a transit pass would make it pay for itself in under a year)---but I want to be 100% sure I know what I really need and get the right one. At 5'6" and 130 lbs I wouldn't expect any unusual fit problems. Other than hand issues, no physical problems or unusual vulnerabilities.

    I do have a couple other items on my "wishlist," since realistically I am likely to continue to do the bike-bus-bike combo commute at least some days for the 13mi trip to work, and sometimes bike in my work skirts/dresses. Bike needs to be LIGHT, because I have to lift it at least 3ft off the ground to get it on and off the front rack of MTS buses. And I would like a step-through, women's, or otherwise lower-bar frame so that I don't have to execute a potentially panties-baring level of high kick to get on and off the bike.

    With all these wishes, any more suggestions? The Transfer and Townies have been coming up a lot in my search so far, though I have yet to test ride anything.
    •  
      CommentAuthorKathy
    • CommentTimeAug 10th 2013
     
    I will put in a plug for Breezer commute bikes. I bought a Greenway back in the early 2000s and I love it. It has a fairly skirt-friendly step through frame, awesome gearing, came with lights, rack, and fenders. And the brakes are terrific. It is not very light (especially with full pannier) but the gearing is low enough that I can climb hills reasonably well. I lift it on and off the bike rack on my car without too much effort, but I usually take the pannier off first. Not many shops carry them - I got mine @ Adams Ave but not sure if they still carry them.
    • CommentAuthorShady John
    • CommentTimeAug 10th 2013
     
    Ali--

    I just got back from a trip on which I rented a 700C hybrid bike with 1.5" wide tires (622 x 37 to be precise). The bike was a 2000 Kona Yee Haw, which was a $350 bike when new, and had seen its share of New Hampshire weather. Even so, it was a good bike for riding on the sometimes-not-so-good New Hampshire pavement, as well as long stretches of dirt roads. I think a bike like this would be a good compromise for you. You can get hybrids in a women's/step-through design as well. You should be able to get something pretty decent for around $350-500.

    Here is one example for $439, a 2012 Specialized Globe at UC Cyclery:

    http://uccyclery.com/product/12globe-work-step-through-womens-131158-1.htm

    There are a few features that I like on this bike that are not necessarily standard on all hybrids:

    1) steel rigid fork (many will come with a suspension fork--not necessary on the road, will add weight and eventually will need service; and many others will come with an aluminum fork, which will not be as compliant as a steel fork)
    2) 1.5" (37 mm) wide tires (some might come with narrower tires, which might be faster on smooth roads but not quite as compliant)
    3) Has a step-through frame design (which you want)
    4) V-brakes (bulllet-proof, easy to adjust when necessary, good stopping ability. I wouldn't get disc brakes--too finicky)
    5) It's made as a "commuter" bike, so it has the mounts for fenders and racks

    Here's a Fuji at Performance for $359:

    http://www.performancebike.com/bikes/Product_10052_10551_1127122_-1_400001__400001

    More biased towards road performance than the Specialized above, but also looks pretty good. Narrower 32 mm tires, not sure whether the fork is steel or aluminum (take a magnet if you want to test it out).

    Here's a Giant for $335 at Bicycle Warehouse:

    http://www.bicyclewarehouse.com/product/13giant-escape-3-w-womens-177781-1.htm

    Definitely has a steel fork, 32mm wide tires, seems to have rack mounts, has all the other features you would want.

    If you spend more you might get somewhat better quality, but I don't think you need to for a nice ride. All of these should brake much better than your current bike, which seems to need new pads or steel wool on the rims. Kathy suggested Breezers--Performance carries them as well.
    • CommentAuthorStephan
    • CommentTimeAug 10th 2013
     
    The Civilian Corduroy Rebel is an awesome looking city bike. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to be in stock anywhere. Apparently it was selling in the $700 to $800 range.
  11.  
    Great tips on selecting an upright bike for comfort. TEST RIDE TEST RIDE TEST RIDE to find the perfect commuter for you

    http://momentummag.com/features/4-tips-for-selecting-and-upright-bike/
    •  
      CommentAuthormarkphilips
    • CommentTimeAug 13th 2013 edited
     
    Have you seen Esther ride around town on her Electra (pearl white) Ticino mixte.


  12.  
    Here's a Fuji at Performance for $359:

    http://www.performancebike.com/bikes/Product_10052_10551_1127122_-1_400001__400001

    More biased towards road performance than the Specialized above, but also looks pretty good. Narrower 32 mm tires, not sure whether the fork is steel or aluminum (take a magnet if you want to test it out).

    Here's a Giant for $335 at Bicycle Warehouse:

    http://www.bicyclewarehouse.com/product/13giant-escape-3-w-womens-177781-1.htm


    In last 3days I have tried out these, another couple Giant Escape models, and the Raleigh Alysa FT1. Every bike shop person presented with my commute conundrum (30mi roundtrip, hills, mix of bad pavement, must support rear rack) has suggested flatbar road bikes and indicated that under $800 was an OK budget for my situation. But on other bike sites, it starts to sound like anything under $1000 is subpar. Additional guidance would be appreciated.
    •  
      CommentAuthorPaul
    • CommentTimeAug 16th 2013 edited
     
    VirtualRoadKillAli:
    Here's a Fuji at Performance for $359:

    http://www.performancebike.com/bikes/Product_10052_10551_1127122_-1_400001__400001

    More biased towards road performance than the Specialized above, but also looks pretty good. Narrower 32 mm tires, not sure whether the fork is steel or aluminum (take a magnet if you want to test it out).

    Here's a Giant for $335 at Bicycle Warehouse:

    http://www.bicyclewarehouse.com/product/13giant-escape-3-w-womens-177781-1.htm


    In last 3days I have tried out these, another couple Giant Escape models, and the Raleigh Alysa FT1. Every bike shop person presented with my commute conundrum (30mi roundtrip, hills, mix of bad pavement, must support rear rack) has suggested flatbar road bikes and indicated that under $800 was an OK budget for my situation. But on other bike sites, it starts to sound like anything under $1000 is subpar. Additional guidance would be appreciated.


    Kind of a dead horse on this forum, but for your budget you can get so much more quality in a used bike. I disagree with the advice that a new bike will get you better service from a shop. A clunky aluminum bike is still a clunky aluminum bike. Steel will protect your extremities from vibration. A good shop mechanic will take good care of your bike regardless of where or how you purchased it. Those new bikes are full of budget components that all the service in the world can't improve and you're stuck with the frame. For instance, that Giant is full of low end Shimano components that are mostly plastic and it's an anchor of an aluminum frame that won't be fun getting up a hill.

    Find a good steel bike, either MTB or road and fit it with bars and brakes that make you comfortable.

    A friend of mine (and lurker on this forum) just grabbed an old Trek 520 from North Park bikes - something like that would be perfect for you and much better than a new bike that costs 5 times that much. Go check them out and tell Eddie what you need and he can put you on something with a future.
    • CommentAuthorShady John
    • CommentTimeAug 17th 2013
     
    Ali and Paul,

    Yes, the horse has been beaten, it is starting to smell a bit--but nevertheless I have some more comments...

    Ali, I think there is a continuum between "hybrid" and "flat bar road bike." Many of the bikes sold as flat bar road bikes could also be called hybrids, while at the other extreme, you would have a true road bike (dual pivot caliper brakes, carbon fork, 23 mm tires) that happens to have flat bars instead of drops. My recommendation would still be to go towards the "hybrid" end of things: Make sure you have all the rack mounts you need and definitely get V brakes (not road-bike style dual pivot calipers).

    I agree with Paul to a point. I like steel bikes--there are six steel bikes in my garage--but aluminum is fine as well. There are four aluminum bikes in the garage. Aluminum frames tend to be stiffer, no question--but if you have a steel (or carbon) fork AND if you are going to ride wider tires (especially 32mm or larger), and with 700c wheel size, I don't think the stiffness is a problem. Definitely not clunky or "boat anchor" unless it's a bad frame, and as long as you're a couple of rungs above the entry-level with a decent brand, you will likely be getting a decent frame. I will admit that I didn't carefully research the lower-price bikes that I linked to above--at the lower end, Al frames are often not butted, etc. But the technology for Al frame building seems pretty advanced these days--everything is hydroformed, most frames are now butted, even at a relatively low price point. Recall that most of the non-department store frames for the entire world market are built by a small number of manufacturers in Taiwan or China under contract to the "brands"--i.e. the marketers of bikes.

    As for components, my experience with Shimano (and to a lesser extent SRAM) has been that even at the low end the stuff works. Lower range Shimano parts are heavier and less durable, but they work fine. Even the low-end plasticy Shimano shifters work fine. I think you will find that some of the real "wear" parts will tend to go faster at the low-end, but it isn't the end of the world to replace rear derailleurs, bottom brackets, and cassettes. For a bike that will be exposed to theft and damage, I would probably not want to have too much invested. In some ways it definitely makes "sense" to spend $1000 and get a bike that will last better, but in another sense it's nicer to have less invested. So maybe a $350 bike is "too cheap"--but you could bump it up to $450 or $500 and get significantly better quality if you shop carefully.

    As for getting more for your money with used bikes, I tend to agree. There you have to buy old stuff that was high-quality when new, the simpler the better. Old rigid steel bikes with Ultegra or XT parts are good, because steel frame building was a mature art by the 1980s, as was the metallurgy that goes into high-quality forged aluminum alloy components. In contrast, aluminum framebuilding did not really come into it's own until the late 1990s--nobody in their right mind would want to buy and ride an old Vitus aluminum frame from the 1970s, and the early Cannondale and Klein aluminum frames from the 1980s and early 1990s were prone to breaking in half when pushed. (I have a vivid image in my mind from around 1990 of a guy I saw walking down the West Ridge fire road in the Santa Monica Mountains, carrying the two halves of his broken Cannondale MTB in his two hands.) Similarly, there is nothing sadder than an old MTB suspension fork, no longer serviceable because you can't even buy the bushings, etc to rebuild it.

    (continued next post)
    • CommentAuthorShady John
    • CommentTimeAug 17th 2013
     
    (continued from previous post)

    The problem with the used bike world is that you have to be willing to dig in and wallow in it to get the most out of it, and I personally believe it doesn't make sense unless you are willing to (and like to) work on bikes yourself. And in some instances buying used doesn't seem to make much sense at all. For example, I was shopping for a used hardtail mountain bike for my nephew. He needs a large bike, and because of the above-mentioned "old fork" issue, I didn't want anything too old. I couldn't find anything decent for less than around $350, and there you're still talking about a bike with a fork that has seen several years of use--at some point, no matter how good the fork, it will need expensive servicing, at the least (if parts are even available). And if the bike was ridden off-road, stuff tends to break or wear fast. And I had a hell of a time finding anything big enough. So I went to Performance and they have a DiamondBack 29er MTB for $375, size XL. This one is a couple of rungs above the entry level. It's discounted from $650 because it's "last year's model" (i.e. 2013). Yes, the fork is low end and won't last forever, nor will it even perform at an enthusiast's level even when new. But the components are decent, the frame is nice, and overall I'll be getting a hell of a lot more for my money than I would spending $300 for a 7 year old bike with a fork that needs a major service (or replacement for $150-200). Noteworthy is that I am able to get things in the new bike--XL size, 29er configuration, suspension fork that isn't already blown--that I have a hard time finding for a good price in the used market.

    I think in your case, from what I've seen you write, you would be better off with a new bike. Yes, a steel 1980s touring bike with cantilever brakes could work for you. But you basically have that already with your MTB. You're frustrated with "old". I think you would be pretty happy with a new bike with V brakes--but make sure you have a combination of fork (i.e. not aluminum) and tires that gives you a comfortable ride, while still being efficient. And buy a 2012 or 2013 model year bike on closeout--you will get way more for your money.
  13.  
    I caught a 30mi return of a 2013 Giant Escape 1 at Cal Coast for $512 yesterday.full warranty, lifetime service. Put down 20% for layaway to lock in price, have 30 days to buy or cancel. Thinking I was pretty smart, hit 2 more shops on Adams and had 1 ride on a very tempting women's steel frame KHS hybrid (Urban Xpress? ) at Brooklyn Bikes. Then realized this morning that Cal charged me the full price of the layaway bike...bad on me for not doublechecking numbers, but they definitely made the billing mistake.