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commuter bike recomndations

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commuter bike recomndations

Old 09-05-10, 07:42 PM
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uvbears
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commuter bike recomndations

hi all, i am planning on getting a commuting bike for this upcoming winter. i live in chicago and i dont want my other rides to get beat up with the salt, snow etc. i will be riding about 10-15 miles each day on roads and bike paths.

I have been going back on forth in terms of the various features that i want on this commuting bike as well as the amount of $ that I am willing to spend. I think my max would be $1k but I would prefer to spend much less.

i really like the idea of having a IGH(3-9 speed) with disc or drum brakes. I have also thought of a singel speed(mercier kilo wt perhaps) but I think i am fairly settled on a IGH bike.

i need to have some tire clearance for wide tires(studded tires too), rack/renders .

a few models that I have been thinking of...

Torker graduate ($500) drum brakes and IGH - comes with wide tires and fenders igh and drum brakes
mercier kilo wt5 just under $500 but I would need a rack and fenders but i am unclear of i can have a rack and fender on the rear wheel and still have 32mm tires and this does not have drum or disc brakes
swobo dixon / otis -$1k both look nice but is the extra $$ worth it compared to the graduate?
scott sub 10 - dont know much about it.

for $500 the torker graduate comes with fenders. is this a good value compared to my other options listed? or what would be some better alternatives?


any thoughts are appreciated
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Old 09-05-10, 08:16 PM
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from what you say, the torker sounds like a great deal/ideal. my Soho is an internal gear with drum brakes, and it is an absolute champ in lousy weather. I rode it home in what we got of Earl on Friday and it was *great* to have full braking power in the rain. and for a commuter with all those stops and starts, you can't beat the convenient of an IGH.

I paid $720 for my Soho, so if you take away the belt drive and a few gears then $500 for the Graduate sounds quite reasonable. go for it!
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Old 09-05-10, 08:27 PM
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how do you like the drum brakes on the soho? do you think disc brakes are a big upgrade over drum brakes?

thx
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Old 09-05-10, 08:39 PM
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a lot of people told me the drum brakes would be a disaster, but I haven't found that to be the case and I weighed 300# when I bought the bike so I really tax them. they work at least as well as rim brakes in dry conditions, and in the rain there's no comparison. I also like the fact that I can ride them down the hill without worrying much about overheating etc (they are also called "roller" brakes I think for this reason.)

that said, I haven't had a bike with disc brakes. and there is a new "DLX" version of the Soho this year that has a disc brake on the front wheel (though still a drum brake on the rear). I can only assume they did that in response to requests for more stopping power, but I"m not sure.

for what it's worth, I haven't touched either of the drum brakes in 1300 miles of commuting. for $500 I think it would be hard to beat that Torker unless you can find a 2009 Giant TranSend EX - I saw one for $650 or so and it has an 8-speed IGH with disc brakes. I really wanted the belt drive though so I paid the extra $70 for the Soho.

good luck
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Old 09-05-10, 08:57 PM
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ya it seems like drum brakes are pretty harshly reviewed by most but i am intrigued by the idea of them (little maintenance , good in weather etc). also, for some reason i think disc brakes are really cool. on the other hand i have rim brakes on my other bikes and i have never had a problem with them, even in rain...so i wonder if disc brakes are over kill for me?

i have heard the belt drive in the soho is loud? is that accurate?

the graduate seems like a steal for $500 when looking at other options....can anyone really say anything bad about it, point out any flaws?

thx for the info on the soho etc
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Old 09-06-10, 01:18 AM
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most people who criticize drum brakes have never ridden them. again, I haven't had disc brakes so maybe they are considerably better, I dunno. but if the drum brakes can stop a bike with some as hefty as me on it, I think they are probably sufficient. again, talk to someone who has discs.

whoever told you the belt drive on the soho is loud is in error. the bike is whisper quiet, and I am not exaggerating. every now and then I look down to make sure I'm really on a bike and not a magic carpet. it is SILENT. the only way you can get the belt drive to make a small clicking sound is by backpedaling. More importantly, the belt drive is maintenance-free: no oiling, cleaning, etc. And it is said to have a life of 30,000 miles or so. I have literally not touched it in 1300 miles, whereas I replaced the chain on my road bike twice this season!

that said, the Soho MSRP is $1100 or so - Trek inexplicably jacked up the price by $200 last year without changing the specs - probably not worth the $$. As long as you don't have many hills to worry about and need more gears, I think the Graduate is a steal.
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Old 09-06-10, 10:23 AM
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Are you going to be parking your bike outside at all? If so, don't spend anymore than $150 on a commuter. Find a 20-year old MTB with no suspension on craigslist, put some slicks on it, and it probably won't get stolen.
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Old 09-06-10, 12:26 PM
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If you're doing a relatively short commute over fairly flat ground then the Graduate is a good bike to have, but otherwise I'd consider something else. The five gear Sturmey Archer hub isn't geared high enough or low enough to handle steep hills. The geometry of the bike is very compact and for a long ride it isn't particularly comfortable, although most of that may be correctable. Before you order one compare your inseam with the stand over height of the bike. I bought a frame size larger then what I would have expected to use and it still feels somewhat cramped when I ride. Replacing the mustache handlebars with a flat bar and maybe swapping for a different stem would certainly give a rider a couple of more inches. I haven't tried it yet, but I'll probably go with a flat bar for mine eventually. The bike has a very up-right ride position, and while doable I find it oddly unsettling. The stock tires that come with the Graduate aren't bad, but they're thin walled. If you're the type, like me, who tends to brush up against curbs while riding expect to be replacing them fairly quickly. Flat proofing the Graduate after you get it is the best advice I could give to a new owner, install or have installed thorn resistant tubes and tire liners. Because of the S/A hub, the rear wheel is time consuming to take off the bike, time consuming to put back on, and a real pain in the a** if you don't reinstall the it exactly as it came off and have to adjust the gears. Finding an LBS with some experience with S/A gears is a worth while pursuit. There is another BF poster who did a review of the Graduate and apparently had a problem find a rear rack that would fit it, but this wasn't a problem for me. I had a Jandd rack from an old Raleigh F500 that worked perfectly.

All of that being said, for a commuter bike at an entry level price the thing is just about bomb proof. The drum brakes, which I was very concerned about before I bought the bike, may be the best thing about it. Crossing intersections with six inches of localized flooding during a harsh thunderstorm, the drum brakes worked as well as they did when it was dry. I wasn't doing very well at all that day, but the bike worked great! My total maintenance recovery from that day was spraying more oil on the chain. Because of the S/A hubs, it isn't the fastest commuter bike in the world, but it steers like a race horse. Avoiding pot holes is easy. I think it might be more suited for an apartment dweller who commutes over flat city blocks then the surburban riding I'm doing with it, but it's a good little bike.
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Old 09-06-10, 05:14 PM
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thx for the help here! very much appreciated.

i will be locking up out side but it is a relatively safe area and i have locked up my bike plenty there....generally speaking i am not too worried about thieves. Also i dont want to go the CL beater route because I really want a bike that will last me and be a quality ride. I would rather by 1 nice bike that really lasts (and that I will get great enjoyment out of) over a fleet of CL beaters over the next 10 yrs.

grillparzer, thx for the detailed info on the graduate. i am definitely that apartment dweller that commutes around in a flat city environment. however i can see my self moving somewhere with more hills in the next 2 years. so if the IGH of the graduate isnt too versatile then i may have to look at some other options.

as I have been doing more searching it seems like there are not many bikes within the price range of $500-$800. there is the graduate at $500...and the swobo (dixon and baxter), soho and Kona dr fine rides at $1k. cant seem to find any thing at $800...any recommendations (keeping in mind that i need fenders / rack mounts, disc or drum brakes and a IGH of at least 5 speeds)

also does anyone have personal experience with Swobo's baxter and dixon?

another thing i have been thinking of is using my surly cross check for this winter. i would have to get some fenders but besides that i have some 32mm tires(may also get studs) and a rack. i use this bike for longer distance rides around the city / suburbs. i am worried about damaging the bike during the winter due to salt / weather etc. also the lack of drum/disc brakes makes me question if the cross check really would be a good winter commuter? and if it is would i have to spend some $$ in the spring to get it back and in working order? dont mind doing a basic tune up, but would i have to replace anything substantial?

thanks!
,
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Old 09-06-10, 06:57 PM
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Originally Posted by uvbears View Post
thx for the help here! very much appreciated.


another thing i have been thinking of is using my surly cross check for this winter. i would have to get some fenders but besides that i have some 32mm tires(may also get studs) and a rack. i use this bike for longer distance rides around the city / suburbs. i am worried about damaging the bike during the winter due to salt / weather etc. also the lack of drum/disc brakes makes me question if the cross check really would be a good winter commuter? and if it is would i have to spend some $$ in the spring to get it back and in working order? dont mind doing a basic tune up, but would i have to replace anything substantial?

thanks!
,
Personally, I think the damage winter grunge does to bikes is a bit overstated. I live in Albany, NY which isn't quite Chicago, but we also get a fair amount of snow and a LOT of salt. I think you can safely use your cross check. The frame shouldn't rust if your paint is in good shape. Fenders with long mud flaps help keep some of the crude off you drive train. I put a narrow extension on the front of the back fender of my Surly Long Haul Trucker as well. Most days a quick wipe with a dry rag is sufficient. Occasionally I rinse the worst of it with warm water from a gallon jug, and then wipe dry. Keep things oiled, but not excessively so. Your chain and rear d will take the worst of the grunge, but even so they can handle it. In urban areas that have severe winters, they tend to be pretty good at keeping the streets clear, so there are surprisingly few days where it is really sloppy. Those are actually usually the warmer day when stuff is melting. This year I put together a beater for those few days, and the LHT will get the bulk of the winter miles.
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Old 09-06-10, 07:19 PM
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IMHO you should use the surley, Make sure to pull the bottom bracket and clean the salt out of there. Pulling the bottom bracket only takes 20min and is where most of the crud lives.
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Old 09-06-10, 07:52 PM
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I'd be remiss if, given the nature of your thread, I didn't recommend the Norco Ceres. This bike is awesome! After commuting through last winter on my derailleur-equipped, v-braked Schwinn I decided I wanted something more suited to winter commuting. IGH, belt-drive, and disc brakes seemed to fit the bill perfectly. Not only that but it has lots of room for full-coverage fenders, studded tires, and has the necessary mounting points. So far my impressions have been very positive and I really look forward to every opportunity I have to ride this bike. It is fast, light, responsive, and handles like it's on rails.

It's a little over your price range, and finding a Norco dealer close by may be a challenge, so my recommendation may be moot. That being said I think you would be hard pressed to find a bike that is better suited to winter commuting in this price range. The only Michigan Norco dealer I could find is The Bike Shop in Houghton, but that's quite a hike from Chicago. So if you don't personally benefit from my reply hopefully another interested reader will.

In any case, here is some info on my experience with the bike so far. My two runners up included another Canadian bike; the MEC Hold Steady and the value-priced and very well-equipped 2010 Raleigh Detour Deluxe. REI has them on sale right now for less than $700! If you do consider the Raleigh note that the 2009 and 2011 versions are substantially different than the 2010.
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Old 09-06-10, 11:32 PM
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I've ridden several winters with rim brakes and derailleurs and that's what I'll probably use for the upcoming one as well. I don't consider it ideal though. Winter does take it's toll, especially on chains, cables, and the derailleurs. A good cleanup usually is all it takes to get things functioning correctly again, but an IGH would avoid a lot of problems.
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Old 09-07-10, 02:04 AM
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You could split the difference and just get an IGH rear hub built up for the cross-check...
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Old 09-07-10, 06:06 PM
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what do you guys think about

the swobo dixon http://www.swobo.com/catalog/product...Path=2448_2455 vs the Kona dr fine http://www.konaworld.com/bike.cfm?content=dr_fine

I can get the dixon for $800 or so and the dr. fine would be right around $1k

does one bike have better components, or would one be better for a winter commuter?

thx
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Old 09-07-10, 07:04 PM
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Originally Posted by z90 View Post
Personally, I think the damage winter grunge does to bikes is a bit overstated. I live in Albany, NY which isn't quite Chicago, but we also get a fair amount of snow and a LOT of salt.
I'm the other way around. I was very surprised how much damage one winter did to my bike. It looked like it aged 15 years. I think getting a dedicated winter beater is a good idea.

Of course, wiping down your bike here is futile because the temp drops below freezing at the end of November and generally doesn't pop back above that until late March. So you're trying to wipe layers of frozen muck off your bike. By February my bike was a single speed because both the front and rear deraileurs were so ice caked they would no longer shift. I think the bike weighed about 10 extra pounds with all the ice hanging off of it. And bringing the bike inside to clean it off was completely vetoed by the wife. She wasn't too sure about letting me in the house after riding through some of the ice storms.

By spring when I finally was able to wash my bike all of the exposed aluminum was pitted and ugly. The paint was still nice though. No sense making it look pretty though, I just tuned it up and then hung it on the wall until the snow flies next year. I've got other pretty bikes to ride during nice weather.
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Old 09-07-10, 10:48 PM
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Originally Posted by uvbears View Post
what do you guys think about

the swobo dixon http://www.swobo.com/catalog/product...Path=2448_2455 vs the Kona dr fine http://www.konaworld.com/bike.cfm?content=dr_fine

I can get the dixon for $800 or so and the dr. fine would be right around $1k

does one bike have better components, or would one be better for a winter commuter?

thx
I considered both of those bikes while shopping for mine. On paper I like the Kona better (hydraulic brakes, 700c wheels, CF fork) and I love the Alfine 8 hub that I have on my bike. The Swobo has its appeal, too; to me it's more like an IGH-equipped MTB with its relaxed geometry and 26" wheels. It would probably make a great, durable commuter. I can't speak for the SRAM i-motion 9 but I've read that it's a good hub. I've also read that those Avid discs are the best choice among mechanicals. The Swobo will probably accept fatter tires, which do help in some winter conditions especially since the more aggressive studded tires out there are only available in 26" tires. That being said, my experience has been that my 35 mm studded Schwalbes are more than adequate for the vast majority of winter commutes. My advice, FWIW, is to test-ride the hell out of both bikes and go with the one that speaks to you the loudest (or seduces you quietly ).
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Old 09-08-10, 08:41 AM
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thanks irclean!

I have heard that mechanical disc brakes are better for colder climates compared to hydraulic, is that accurate?

there is also the swobo baxter that has 700c wheels and a CF fork. I kind of like the idea of 700c wheels because I already have some decent winter tires (700 x 32) and I would just have to get a set of studded tires for those few icey days...

there are no local bike shops that have any of the konas or swobos in right now so test riding is not easy. i am just going to have to buy one, test drive it and if i dont like it return it. not ideal, but dont have many other options.

thx !
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Old 09-08-10, 09:31 AM
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From what I understand it has to be pretty friggin' cold for hydraulic fluid to start becoming sluggish. Of course, mechanical cables can ice up, but a coating of grease on the cable itself and a drop or two of oil in the housing goes a long way toward preventative maintenance.
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Old 09-08-10, 10:07 AM
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Ive been using Sturmey Archer 'elite' alloy shell drum brakes .. for 20 years.
my Winter bike always stops, never needs pads or rims replaced ..

the cable housing runs the entire distance from lever to brake ..

For a little more snappy return I added a coil spring between the actuating arm
and the stop and adjuster ... cable housing stop.

For Chicago a drum Brake/3 speed rear would be great, seek out a used 3 speed?
upgrade the wheels..

now they make a combination Drum Dynamo front hub.

If my front hub didn't work so well, I'd replace it.
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Old 09-08-10, 10:30 AM
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Originally Posted by Tundra_Man View Post
Of course, wiping down your bike here is futile because the temp drops below freezing at the end of November and generally doesn't pop back above that until late March. So you're trying to wipe layers of frozen muck off your bike.
I hook up a hose to the bottom of my hot water heater and rinse outside when needed in the winter. As long as I get the bike indoors quickly, the water doesn't freeze. After that, a little chain lube keeps it running like new.
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Old 09-08-10, 01:44 PM
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you guys really have been very helpful. today i came to the conclusion for my winter commuting and at the end of the day i think i made the right choice for me.

I decided to add fenders to my surly cross check and use that for this winter. only thing left to figure out is if i should try the continental touring plus tires 700x28 that already are on the bike. the manager of my LBS uses these to commute during the winter and likes them alot.

I have concerns that they dont have enough tread and are too thin for me. this is my first winter commuting so I dont have the experience to figure this one out on my own. I have a set of rictchey tires that came with the cross check in 700 x32 and are more nobbie. they are basically brand new as i switched them out within the first week of owning the cross check. would i be better off with the ritchey 700x32 or the conti's tour plus 700 x 28?

I would probably switch out my slicks from my SS and us the conti's if i was too put in the ritcheys in the CC (confusing right...) that way I would also have more treads in my SS and I could use that on those nice and dry fall / winter days.

otherwise I am considering getting a pair of studs for the CC. do they make studs 700x32? i dont think i want to get too wide of a tire. are studs needed in chicago? is it a hassle to run studs when the conditions dont really warrant them? i dont want to have to change the tires too often this winter.

thx for the help!
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Old 09-08-10, 05:26 PM
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Knobbies are useful for reaching through loose material to grab what's underneath. Therefore, they will help find the pavement under a covering of snow. Nothing, however, will help you on ice... except studs. We get a lot of Great Lake effect weather here and I find my Schwalbe Marathon Winter tires (700*35) to be adequate for 95% of my winter commuting needs. For the other 5% I wish I had a dedicated SS or 3-speed with some single-track studded tires like the Ice Spiker Pro, but until such time as I can afford such a specific, limited-use 2nd (or 3rd or 4th) bike I will make do with my current winter setup. Admittedly, even the Marathon Winters are overkill on the majority of winter days, but it's nice to know the studs are there should I encounter any ice (which likes to hide under innocent-looking blankets of snow).

The only 32 mm studded tires that I know of are the Nokian A10s which can be found here: http://www.peterwhitecycles.com/studdedtires.asp. That being said, IMHO I think they are too mild for serious winter use. There's some good info there on Peter White's page on studded tires.
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Old 09-09-10, 03:35 AM
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Originally Posted by uvbears View Post

I decided to add fenders to my surly cross check and use that for this winter. only thing left to figure out is if i should try the continental touring plus tires 700x28 that already are on the bike. the manager of my LBS uses these to commute during the winter and likes them alot.
I've used conti touring plus last winter on my fixed gear bike, they were 700x32 size. I like those tires a lot. I plan on getting another set of the same tires but in 700x37 size, I've noticed that contis always run a little smaller then advertised.
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