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  1. #1
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    Help with picking my commuter

    Hello everyone, I hope this is the correct forum (if not let me apologize up front).

    I am looking for a used bike (budget is $400 max) that I can commute to work (daily at just under 10 miles round trip and a few times a month at 23 miles round trip). I am in California so I don't have to worry about a real winter but there is rain (well most years anyway). I've been lurking on these (and a few other forums) and have some up with a few options and just wanted to get some feedback on the quality of the bike. I have visited a number of LBS and either I don't like what is in my range or if I do like it it's out of my range.

    I will be making some changes to make it a more comfortable upright commuter (spare my back). I do tend to like the '80's lugged steel but I'm open. Anyways here are the ones I am considering (all of these are in very good condition):

    Trek 400 Elance
    Schwinn Tempo (upgraded to Shimano 105)
    Schwinn Super Sport
    Trek 510
    Raleigh Competition
    Cannondale M500 (cheapest option)

    Any feedback will be greatly appreciated (thank you in advance).

  2. #2
    Fat-tired Roadie
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    After my last '80s bike, I'm done with them. I want at least an 8-speed cassette and contemporary wheel diameter and spacing.

    I preferred road bikes.

    Don't buy a bike that you have to make more changes to than maybe a stem. A touring-oriented road bike can let you have a pretty good position and good stability. Sit too upright on something sportier and the front wheel is all over the place.

    How do you plan to carry your stuff?

    Any dirt, or all roads on your routes? Have you ridden them yet?
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  3. #3
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    I vote for a hybrid type bike or a road bike with wider tires (1.5"), just for the wheel width. If you're not looking at going super fast, I like the control and little bit of cushion slightly wider tires give. I also like the newer bike concept. 8 or 9 speed will be fine for commuting, very reliable. Newer bikes can be repaired easily (mid 90s and later with a 1 1/8" headset), finding parts for older bikes can be a hassle. Also like disc brakes, because stopping on rainy roads with calipers can be a pain sometimes, especially if worn/old.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by AndrwSwitch View Post
    After my last '80s bike, I'm done with them. I want at least an 8-speed cassette and contemporary wheel diameter and spacing.

    I preferred road bikes.

    Don't buy a bike that you have to make more changes to than maybe a stem. A touring-oriented road bike can let you have a pretty good position and good stability. Sit too upright on something sportier and the front wheel is all over the place.

    How do you plan to carry your stuff?

    Any dirt, or all roads on your routes? Have you ridden them yet?
    I was keeping mods to stem and handle bars. I was going to add a rack and carry my stuff there. Its pretty much just paved roads although I may go occasionally to a gravel walking path.

    Any well respected bikes that have modern features?

  5. #5
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    Links to some of the bikes you're looking at will help the most. Too many model years they could be.

    I liked the cannondale you listed. Ultimately, go for a rigid fork or a good suspension fork. The cheap suspension is cheap for a reason. Based on your description, touring/hybrid bike with rigid fork and a 1.5" tire would work great. These tire widths should be able to fit on some of the bikes you listed. If the shifter is on the frame/headset, it's an easy swap to use whatever handlebar you want. Might need new brake levers. If shifters are on the handlebar, it can be a bit more complicated.

  6. #6
    Fat-tired Roadie
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    Re: Help with picking my commuter

    Putting flat handlebars on a road bike is an abomination. Also, it'll throw off the sizing and handling, and you open up a can of worms in terms of controls, especially if the bike is older. So, start by deciding what kind of handlebars you want.

    It sounds like you could do this commute on pretty much whatever. I'd probably choose a road bike for the efficiency, comfort, and because I think they're more fun if I don't get to ride trails.

    Look for a bike with mounting holes for a rack, preferably at both the dropouts and on the seat stays. They're not strictly necessary but throwing a few heavy things in a pannier, like books or groceries can cause the back end of a bike to do some unpleasant "wag the dog" stuff. A stiffer connection helps.

    Room for fenders and more forgiving tires is nice. My old commuter had a 28 in the back. The last bike I commuted on had 25 mm tires. I usually use 23s on the road, so that's still wider for me. Figuring out "your" tire width may take a little experimentation.

    For me, 5 miles is just starting to be enough that I want a bike that actually fits me. A 23 mile round trip is definitely enough. Have you ridden any of the bikes in your list? And, is it shorter if you cross off everything with a freewheel or the wrong handlebars?
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  7. #7
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    Help with picking my commuter

    Bikes direct has a good deal on Fuji cross/tour thing right now, sounds about like what your looking for.

    Edit: never mind, I thought it was cheaper when I saw it last week

  8. #8
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    Nevermind...missed the extremely low budget. My suggestion won't work.

  9. #9
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    I would compromise on nearly anything but fit. If you're not already familiar with bike fitting, an hour learning about that could help a lot.

    I'm not familiar with any of the ones listed, so not much help there.

    For $400 I would try to find a bike that was not ridden much (there are a lot of those), but more importantly stored somewhere dry. Depending on your area, either a fairly new bike that retailed for $800+, or an older bike that was more expensive may be possible. Like an old car, how it was used/maintained is more important than the original price.

    Do you know if your bike shops have a swap sale? People often unload bikes there at the "I want it gone" price rather than "I want top dollar" price.

  10. #10
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    I think that the OP needs to decide what type of bike they would like first, and then go from there. We can suggest a ton of bikes, but if the OP isn't sure what it will be used for the most, our help isn't going to be that great. I would suggest that the OP post their location and let us scour their local Craigslist or close by, and see what is available.

    Don't forget to budget in a helmet, lights, gear, bags etc. if you plan on commuting. These are things that add up quickly and are very important for your safety.
    '13 FELT TK3 / '09 Jamis Sonik
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  11. #11
    jrm
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    I prefer road bikes over hybrids myself. The key for me is setting it so thats versatile as well as comfy. Heres a place worth taking a look @. Saw a couple of 80s lugged bikes as well as some nice hybrids and SS's.

    Sellwood Cycle Repair Quality used bikes, new bikes, and accessories in the Sellwood neighborhood of Portland, OR

  12. #12
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    definitely keep an eye out for bike swaps. My city's road club just had their annual swap. It's really an all-bike swap meet, with a LOT of mountain bikers, too. There's a vintage bike club that makes an appearance.

    I definitely agree with AndrwSwitch about wheel diameter and hub spacing, particularly, and somewhat with the gearing options, too. Get a bike with a goofy diameter and narrow hub spacing, and your options are limited and can be difficult, limiting, and expensive when it comes to maintenance. Wacky wheel diameters will result in a crappy tire selection. Those old Schwinns are notorious for that. If the bike has narrow hub spacing, you can try spreading the dropouts, but that's an imperfect solution. Narrow spacing gives you poor selection for drivetrain upgrades when parts start wearing out. It's all around just very limiting.

    This is why so many of those old frames get turned into fixies. Hub spacing isn't a problem, because track hubs don't need the wider spacing, and you can easily enough switch to a modern wheel diameter, because the differences are small. This also means that used bikes in this type are in higher demand than you might suspect, driving costs up. A bare frame in rough shape will go for a couple hundred on ebay easily. More if it's a more desirable one.

    You'd honestly be better off with a 90's-era used road bike, if you want a road bike. I have some friends who wound up with great prices on those, because there's a very low demand for bikes of that time period.

  13. #13
    jrm
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    And police auctions. There great b/c the cops have no idea what the worth of any given bike is.

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