Perfect Commuter Bike?
I started commuting from Friendship to Downtown by bike three years ago, and bought the cheapest bike that Peformance Bikes sold to do it. I’m thinking about upgrading and wonder if anyone can make some recommendations. If it helps:
* I am terrible about maintenance and would rather do as little as possible;
* I sometimes get passed going uphill on Liberty out of the Strip, by guys who seem to be pedaling no harder than I am, so a bike that is relatively light/climbs well would be nice;
* I ride year-round but only on the trip to and from work (i.e., I am looking for a bike that can handle the potholes and glass on Liberty and in the Strip; I will never be riding on trails or in dirt or anything like that); and
* I usually carry a lunch and maybe some paperwork on a rear rack; I don’t need to haul all that much.
Any thoughts or suggestions would be very welcome. Assume that price is no object (it is, but for now I’m willing to consider anything).
All city nature boy. One gear, so low maintenance.. Options for a rack and fenders. Should be ok on liberty if that is your only hill. That is going to be my next bike.
If you still want gears, something with a belt drive and internally geared hub might be just the ticket, such as the Novara Gotham.
That one has a more upright position — would you want that, or a more racy, bent-over position?
Breezer also has some great commuting bikes.
Thick Bikes carries Breezer and All-City… you could have a gander at both, perhaps. Novara is REI’s house bike brand, so you could look there, too.
I think the answers you are going to get are just going to confuse you even more! There are so many different bikes/ styles and riders out there that there is no solid answer.
With that said, I got a Trek Soho DLX last year and I am pretty happy with it. It has a belt drive and internal hub, so there is little drivetrain maintenance, there are front disc and rear roller brakes, again lower maintenance. It comes with a rack and fenders so you are covered there and it is pretty light. I did have some initial problems with the rear spokes, but I am also over 300lbs, so I think that had something to do wth it It is on the pricier side though.
I haven’t ridden a Breezer, but their Uptown bikes, especially the Infinity with its fully enclosed chaincase, look pretty great for low maintenance commuters (internal gear hub, dynamo hubs and lights, fenders, rack) and are around $1000. http://www.breezerbikes.com/bikes/details/uptown_infinity
The Linus Roadster 8 also looks pretty sweet, and has the internal gear hub too, closer to $800. http://www.linusbike.com/models/roadster-8/
On the cheaper end of things, I just bought a Torker Graduate from Thick, which has a 5-speed internal hub and drum brakes, making it awesome in crappy weather like today, and it’s usually under $500. http://www.torkerusa.com/bikes/commute/2012-graduate
The internal gear hubs are definitely a great low maintenance option, but they do hurt you on weight (all the above bikes are around 30 lbs I think).
I haven’t ridden a Breezer, but their Uptown bikes, especially the Infinity with its fully enclosed chaincase, look pretty great for low maintenance commuters (internal gear hub, dynamo hubs and lights, fenders, rack) and are around $1000.
The Linus Roadster 8 also looks pretty sweet, and has the internal gear hub too, closer to $800.
On the cheaper end of things, I just bought a Torker Graduate from Thick, which has a 5-speed internal hub and drum brakes, making it awesome in crappy weather like today, and it’s usually under $500.
The internal gear hubs are definitely a great low maintenance option, but they do hurt you on weight (all the above bikes are around 30 lbs I think).
* Slightly wider tires (28-35mm) would be ideal. Wider is even better, and won’t make a huge difference in speed on your commute.
* Internally-geared rear hubs are low maintenance ’til you need to maintain them. They are heavy, and depending on design, can make replacing the rear tire or tube a pain in the arse. Yeah, a rear derailleur might require some maintenance, but it’s really not that hard.
* Friction shifting with regular derailleurs will be less troublesome than indexed shifting. I’m not being a total retro-grouch here (indexed is nice), but before I got my Kogswell, I hadn’t so much as even looked at the rear derailleur or shifter on my commuter (friction shifting).
* Be sure it can handle fenders.
I rode a Novara commuter for about a year or so–internally geared hub, rack, fenders, dynamo-driven lighting. It was pretty sweet, but it was heavy, and it got old riding up a hill every day on the way home from work. The bike just felt slow and heavy (which, I think, it was).
Getting a singlespeed or fixed gear takes the gear twiddling out of the equation and simplifies maintenance.
Stef, as much as I like to pressure people to join the All-City gang, I don’t think the Nature Boy has provisions for a rack. Fenders, yes, and you can put a rack on almost any bike if you’re sufficiently determined to do so (p-clamps, skewer mounts, etc.), but it would require a bit of fiddling to get a rack on that bike.
But ohhhh my gosh the green color it comes in if you buy the frameset alone… I’m obsessed with it.
Joe, I think it would help to know more about the bike you are riding now to know what an upgrade would look like.
In the mid range of things here: I was commuting from Regent Square (ish) to downtown year round on a KHS Urban Xpress. It’s not an expensive bike, but it has been low maintenance and takes racks n fenders fine & the gearing is good for hills. There is also a disk brake version, but I can’t tell you how that works out with panniers &tc.
[edit tp add] I have Vittoria Randonneur tires and have had no flats.
If you’re riding year round, I think the only way to avoid doing maintenance is to pay somebody else to do it or to or not ride your bike very much
Brake pads are still going to wear, shifting cables are still going to stretch, assuming you have gears
There have been lots of expensive wunderbikes touted around here, but I don’t see anybody saying “I don’t do maintenance” Little perhaps, but that’s subjective
As far as hills go, I imagine they’re just stronger climbers. I’ve passed carbon wheel guys on some of the steepest hills in the city (dirty dozen) on platform pedals, a steel frame, rear rack and carton of chocolate soymilk.
If you’re carrying anything, that’s quickly going outweigh whatever weight saving a new bike could provide. Keep going up the hills and maybe try harder each time. Eventually you’ll get better and your leg muscles will adapt and grow.
Any bike you get that’s commuter or touring friendly can handle the potholes. The thing to look at is the wheels. The bike shop should be able to advise you how well they’ll stand up to that kind of thing. I imagine any bike you buy in a finer bike shop around here will do okay with them.
As for the glass, I’d, and a decent amount of others on here, would recommending getting Panaracer RiBMOs.
Ah for some reason, I thought a rack could be mounted on the nature boy. Yeah, that awesome lime color didn’t impress me at first, but it is growing on me.
Thanks to everyone who has posted thus far, and please keep the suggestions coming. If it helps:
* I am riding a Kaldi Mongoose that I got on sale at Performance for a bit over $200; and
* I’ve been at this for about three years, so I think I’m decent on the hills; I pass people about as often as I get passed. But the guys who pass me are usually riding bikes with narrower tires or different frames (I’m usually too busy pedaling to notice much more), which makes me wonder if there is a bike that would be suited to bumpy urban conditions but lighter/faster than my current bike.
As for maintenance, I am content to pay a bike shop $50-$70 twice a year to overhaul things. What I would like to avoid is too much work in between those visits. I think part of the problem with the Kaldi is that the components are cheap, but I’m not sure.
Yeah, I’d say All-City Space Horse is more ultimate in terms of commuting in Pittsburgh.
Surly Cross-checks are also great. Ralleigh has a few that make me salivate, and Soma Double-Cross’ reputation is solid. Every company, though, has at least one model that would fit the bill. Trek Soho, Jamis Coda, Novara Randonee, Fuji… Best search terms are “urban” “commuter” “light touring” and “steel.” But that’s just me.
I’m going to go a different direction here.
Especially for bad weather, rain snow etc.
get a cruiser – an old (or new if you want) 26″ Schwinn style cruiser, something like this : <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cruiser_bicycle>
Go to Jerry, or hunt around online and find the following items:
Drum front brake
3 speed coaster brake
build wheels from these hubs.
You now have a bike no one is going to want to steal, has internal brakes so rain and snow don’t matter, and it has gears so you can get up and down the hills, should have fenders to avoid road mess, will accept both front and rear racks or baskets. Maintenance will basically be tires.
You can easily make your own studded tires (see thread on long winter commutes), for winter.
Additionally it will give you a serious work-out, the completed bike will probably weigh in around 50 pounds if you start with an older frame. — AND you can smile to yourself every time you pass *anyone*
The gearing you want will depend a lot on how much you like to stand up when climbing hills.
If you want to stay seated, you want a really low gear – you have to search for one low enough on a production bike for Pittsburgh hills.
If you like standing, you don’t need that.
I ride for transportation – even when other things have exhausted me, so I had about 22F/30B gearing.
Others don’t need that and some call it crazy.
Been looking at stuff on Craigslist, I want a classic frame and single speed.
If a bike is geared, how difficult/costly/possible? is it to convert to a single speed?
By a cyclocross bike. Fast, utility and fenders. IMHO that is the best commuter other than jumping into a fixed gear, but that isn’t for everyone and really I would never consider a fixed as the “best commuter”. There are some hills a fixed won’t go up and going down hill is slower. A single speed would solve the down hill issue, but still what if you want to ride up a dirty dozen hill?
Cyclocross would be a kick azz bike to run around on. Now which one? Steel is real, so keep that in mind. Enjoy.
Jamis Bosanova. Cyclocross-touring hybrid kinda. love this thing. Steel frame with fenders and disc brakes. Really versatile and can handle everything.Bicycle Times review can explain. However, I still believe in Craigslist if you are patient and do the homework, particularly for a commuter.
Oh and I need gears to ride around the city. THat is great to see fixie and single speeds, but I can’t do it in varying conditions. A lighter mountain bike frame with cyclocross tires, fenders and lights will have you safely and effectively anywhere in the city anytime of the day or year. I am sure there are people on this forum that have similar rigs and can help you.
Elmo, do you want a commuter bike or do you want a project (not being snarky, a sincere question). It is not difficult to convert geared to SS at all, but if you have to ask, it may be more of a pain than you want to delve into. Go to Thick and see what they have ready to roll. Highly recommend that Torker Graduate.
I am looking at a ’71 Schwinn Suburban right now. I’m pretty willing to make a project out of it, I know I’ll have some time on my hands in a few months, and I think it could be fun to SS and change some of the components on it.
I would not suggest a Suburban. It is overly heavy for what you are getting. – listen to me I was talking about a 50 lb bike…
The suburban, continental and varsitey frames are made from what seemed like pig iron. small diameter thick gauge low carbon steel tubes.
If you look at the catalog for ’73 it shows you the original weight 39 to 41 lb.
If you are going to get that much weight, get something with fat tires, a cruiser; or keep the skinny tires and find something 10-15 lb lighter.
A suburban is going to give you all the down sides of BOTH a cruiser AND a road bike in inclement weather. Thin tires with small contact patch in rain and snow, rim brakes which will fade in rain or fail in snow, exposed gearing which can freeze in the winter. Massive weight, before adding racks or baskets to carry your commuting gear.
CCS has 2 bikes for sale, either of which would make a good commuter. Fat, or fatter, tires and disk brakes. The Ute even comes with a rack and panniers!
CCS – I want commission just kidding.
I am completely in love with my Torker Graduate. Does seem to fit your criteria, as someone mentioned above. Got a year-old model at Thick for $429.
Thanks for the recommendations, all.
I think what I’m going to do is get the Suburban as more of a project and less of a utility bike.
The Torker Graduate does look like a great choice, I’ll probably head down to Thick soon to see what they have going on.
unless you really want a project (including spending more money), i would make sure whatever you buy to convert has horizontal dropouts in the rear.
I’ve been thinking about getting a decent winter bike. I used to have a ’97 Diamondback w/ 26′ wheels (and 1.5″ tires) that seemed to handle (almost all of) the Pittsburgh winter. Alas it’s gone, and I’d like to get a replacement.
Anyway, the mention of the Torker Graduate made me go check it out on their website. I really like the Sturmey Archer 5-speed and the drum brakes. The caged pedals is exactly the right thing (for variably bulky footwear). On the other hand, their spec sheet is really opaque; not a good sign.
I have a couple of question (I guess maybe for @jude). What size tire does it come with? It’s hard to tell from the pic, looks like a 28mm). This may be superstition but it seems like a 35mm+ mildly knobby is what you’d like for a winter bike. No, studs is not what I want; you can hear those guys coming from a half-block away, and I’m never sure about the amount of surface-contact you actually have (at a bike+rider weight, I doubt you’re actually gripping pavement which would be most of your riding). Anyway, I’ll mostly ride in daylight (or along reasonably well-traveled roads). If there’s ice I just keep pedaling and don’t do turns. Otherwise you should just ask your favorite deity for advice.
How’s the climbing? For calibration, is it easy to make it up 18th? How about then doing Beltzhoover? “Easy” means being able to keep up a reasonable cadence, without heroics. Or, how about Liberty up to Bloomfield? (I know that you can always change the chainring; I’m curious about the default configuration). Maybe this question has to do with the gear-inch range…
The Graduate comes with Tioga City Gripper tires, which are 32mm and very slightly treaded. They seem like a wide 32 to me, or at least wider than my 32mm Vittoria Randonneurs (which are amazing, if anyone’s looking for a good flat resistant tire). I think for snow riding you might want something a bit knobbier, and also with better flat protection since taking the wheels off to change a tire is a pain.
As far as climbing goes, most of my experience with this bike is in going up the various streets between Butler and Penn in Lawrenceville, and the gearing is sufficient for that so far. You definitely have to press a little bit, but you don’t have to stand up, so unless you’re climbing super steep hills, the stock gearing is probably okay (especially if you want to be able to maintain higher speeds in your top gear).
In general, the parts aren’t super high quality (it’s less than $500 after all), but it feels solid, and the drum brake and internal hub really are great for nasty weather (so far at least, we’ll see what happens once it starts snowing). Hope that helps.
@ahlir Maybe this question has to do with the gear-inch range…
I picked up a copy of Bicycle Times recently. I was impressed that in all their bike reviews, they showed a graphic of the gear-inch range of the bike, along with those for a mountain bike and a road bike for reference.
I found the Bicycle Times review of the Graduate.
I don’t see the graphic there, but the site tells me I have an unsupported browser. There’s a pretty good range of cogs for it and they give the impression they are easy to switch out.
For me, a 256% gear range would not be near enough to comfortably pedal up and down 18th street (Do I really NEED to pedal going down?). I’m guessing that the right cog would make it only slightly uncomfortable each way going up or down Fifth from the Birmingham Bridge – that strikes me as the typical hill.
My experience on my ride yesterday caused me to sit down and figure out the gearing on some of my bikes with Sheldon Browns calculator. My crappy $50 converted mtn bike commuter, which I love, has a low gear of 21 gear inches. Mick, something you said elsewhere makes me think you have something in the neighborhood of 20″. My very expensive fair weather bike, which I am in meh with, has a low gear of 31″. It blows. My legs are sore from a stupid 40 mile ride, ridiculous. My old-ass Bottecchia has a low of 26″, which is still reasonable.
How are you arriving at the “range”? High – low/High? I’m missing something.
My “range” was hightest gear inches over lowest.
I jsut got a new cog, so I’m not sure exactly what I have now.
I uses to have the largest cog is about 30 teeth and the smallest 11, the large chain ring has about 48 teeth and the smallest about 22.
(48/11) / (22/30)
That gives me about a 595% range.
Multiply either of those ratios by 27 will give you gear inches
Not sure of my current range. I go up Robinson St to Tree hall two or three times a week. My lowest gear is good for that, but would be inadequate for something steeper, so I’m thinking about 21 or 22 gear inches and the top end is still about 110 gear inches or so.
mick, do you mind discussing how much you and your bike weigh? for me, the two of us total are probably about 250 lbs on average. or thereabouts. my current lowest gear is 34×28, and i go up the hill from lower lawrenceville (usually fisk street) at about 80 rpms.
so, in general, it’s about perfect, but i can’t say i would mind having a lower gear, though, for those days when i just don’t feel like it.
My bike and I together, loaded are probably about 225 or so.
If you have 28 in front and 34 in back, then the lowest gear you have is right in the range I would want.
I’m guessing you have the opposite 34F/28B? (roughly 33 gear inches)
I wouldn’t tolerate that for Pittburgh riding. Other folks can and do disagree with me, I’m just saying FOR ME.
I suspect that if you got a lower gear, you would enjoy riding a little more and have much greater tolerance for riding when other activities have physically tired you out.
On the other hand, if nothing makes you feel alive like standing up and mashing on the pedals, I’d be dead wrong. There are folks like that here. I suspect that few of them are transportation riders.
It’s way different if you only ride when you feel like riding.
Been looking at the Raleigh Furley. Love the drop bars, frame, and it has provisions for a rack and fenders.
Anyone have experience with it?
We had a thread about the Furley a few months back, search for it on Google with “site:bike-pgh.org” in the search, the built-in search is awful.
Was looking at a review of the Roper (geared cousin of the Furley), and it looks like this photo was taken right outside of 3PNC Plaza in Downtown.
Looking back on that thread, I’m amused that at the time I had “no experience” with steel bikes. I now own three! :p and… I LOVE them. I really don’t think Elmo can go wrong with the Furley. The only steel Raleigh that I’ve played with is the Clubman and I would buy that one in an instant if I was still looking.
Lowest gear on the Raleigh Roper is about 33″ gear inches.
To summarize what other people have said about that,
HiddenVariable thinks it’s fine, but “can’t say i would mind having a lower gear.”
Edmunds says “meh” about his lower 31 gear-inches.
If I had it, my first trip would be to the bike store to get a smaller chain ring.
I’m definitely going with a lower ratio on this bike than my fixed gear. I’ll stick with the stock for now, might increase a little, but not until I get the hang of carrying bigger loads.
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