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  1. #1
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    Commuter bikes... Post your pics; advice on building

    My winter project is to put together a commuter bike and to be as "car-free" as possible beginning April 1st. I'm still trying to decide between building up an old steel MTB frame, find a retired steel cross bike, or spend the bucks building up something nice like a Surly Cross Check.

    To go cheap or spend some money for a sweet ride since I'll be doing a 10 mile RT commute each day? Not a roadie so a road frame is out of the question. I envision spending $300-500 on such a bike, including lights and fenders.

    I was also thinking of going with 9-1 drivetrain.

    Any pics or your commuter, or your suggestions?

    Thanks!

  2. #2
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    There's one basic thing that will guide the kind of bike you build up - will you park it outside? People who use bike to just commute to work and have secure storage can build up a nicer bike like a crosscheck or Jake the Snake. Since you're trying go car free, I'm guessing you'll need to park it outside while shopping etc.

    The other aspect is being able to easily see traffic. Flatbar road bikes and mtb's give you a more upright position than drop bars, and hence allow you to more easily watch the road.

    I bought an old 1990 steel mtb (if you do a seach on my user name you can find the pic) from the buy n sell and it's worked great for commuting. I use cheap panniers(I'm not excactly hauling 40lbs around on an expedition) on a rear rack. I can easily take panniers into store with me.

    Older mtb's are perfect for this application and you see them everywhere on the commuter lanes. They often have longer chainstays which are perfect for heel clearance on the panniers. Look for one with fender and/or rack mount eyelets to make your life easier. Look for rigid forkst too - again, keep the thieves away and requires less maintenance.

    Hope this helps!
    Mike

  3. #3
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    That's a good consideration regarding parking. I have the option to park inside or out, but most likely would park outside. Theft is not an issue where I live/work although the bike will definitely be locked during work hours. Flat bars with bar ends (cane creeks) would be my preference. I also use a messenger bag so panniers are not needed. I'll check out your pics. Thanks!

  4. #4
    ballbuster
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    Second what Islander says

    and think ugly. The more bling stuff you put on it, the more likely it is that you will come back to a busted open U-Lock and no bike.

    Here was my rig for a while:




    Even this was prolly too much bling to leave outside in Oakland, but I had secure bike parking at the time I was commuting on this bike. Also, the gearing was way too easy to spin out on the road. My top gear was 42*12 and running a 3*8 drivetrain. I would suggest taller gearing.

    I dunno where you are, but here in the SF Bay Area, craigslist is the shiznit. You can find tons of used early 90s rigid bikes for cheap... and probably pre-uglified. Put some good low key stuff on there, tune them up and you will be rolling big time for well within your budget.

  5. #5
    No Gansta Lean here.
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    Fenders....

    If you are going to be at it day in and day out, they're a must. I went with Planet Bike for my Cross Check. I also added extensions to the rubber flaps on them by cutting up an old bike water bottle. couple of holes and tiny wire (zip) ties. A good rear blinker is a must. I live in rural Lancaster County, PA. (about 5 miles from where Floyd Landis grew up.) We have a huge population of Amish and Mennonite folks here. LOTS of people use bikes for transportation, yet you'd still be surprised that people still don't see you a lot of the time. My advice, BE SEEN!
    That, and if you'll have to carry much, a good pack and bike panniers/bags. I use the ones from Soma. www.somafab.com They're foldable, easy on and off (they snap onto a standard rear rack) and you can pile a TON of groceries in them. They're designed to perfectly fit a stardard paper grocery bag. In fowl weather, I've just taken a plastic grocery bag and slid over the top and down the sides over the paper grocery bag & Soma bags and it has kept out any rain/snow.
    Gosh, there's a ton of places to look for tips. Rivendell has a lot of info. Yet, still, trial and error and posting places like this are great things!
    I have to park my rig outside. I'm in low crime though. I never leave home without at least one plastic grocery bag to cover my seat.
    Looking forward to seeing what other things people post. Enjoy it!

  6. #6
    jrm
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    Recently

    built up a on-one il pompino SS road bike with a flat bar, full v brakes, big 28c 700c tires, running a 42-16. its a blast. But i ride my roadie most of the time.
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  7. #7
    paintbucket
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    I ride a 1990 steel mtb with fenders and a rear rack, and put my daily use stuff in a messenger bag. With your short commute (mine is 3 miles each way) something like that would be fine. If I'm making a run to the grocery store I hang collapsible grocery bag holders from the rack. Nashbar and Performance both sell them for cheap. I also run a 1x drivetrain. Mine is 7sp, and I run it in friction mode to minimize maintenance; I think indexed shifting is more trouble than its worth on a daily driver.

    A blinkie on the seatpost and reflective tape on the crankarms (don't forget the sides) are your two most valuable saftey devices at night.
    When the going gets weird its bedtime.

  8. #8
    bike dork extraordinaire
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    Definitely an older mountain bike. I have an 89 rockhopper running 8 sp XT parts that I took off my mountain bike when I upgraded to 9 sp. I also run a 12-26 rear cassette and 1.5 nimbus slicks, which helps it fly down the road a bit faster. With a rack and some old cannondale panniers, it's the perfect commuter.

  9. #9
    Witty McWitterson
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    my commuter is probably my favorite bike. Sure doesn't hurt that I didn't pay for it(not stolen!)! Its an old trek roadie I had canti studs brazed onto for better braking. I also HIGHLY stress getting at least a flat bar so you're up and able to see all around you. Awareness is key to not getting klobbered by a car. I'm also a huge fan of fenders(mine are yellow now. Being seen is way to important!). So they're dorky. BFD. at least you won't have a mud stripe up your ass.
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    Just a regular guy.

  10. #10
    Occidental Tourist
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    my work rides.
    the fixie is gettin some cross tires this week
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    This is just need to know information: Am i supposed to enjoy the irony or pity the sincerity?

  11. #11
    I ride a Swarf
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    Another Il Pompino here. It's nice and quick, and nice and simple.

    Its a big photo so i just posted the link.

    http://www.stuart.w.brookes.dsl.pipex.com/DSCF1474.JPG

    I work on a secure site though so sometimes I use the stumpjumper instead. I don't have to worry too much about it getting nicked.
    What exactly is a rigid hard tail?

  12. #12
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    My old Schwinn

    I've had the Schwinn since new and still use it for commuting and running local errands to the store and such. The car comes out on special occasions or when I'm running late.
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  13. #13
    i worship Mr T
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    Quote Originally Posted by gard_nerd
    My winter project is to put together a commuter bike and to be as "car-free" as possible beginning April 1st. I'm still trying to decide between building up an old steel MTB frame, find a retired steel cross bike, or spend the bucks building up something nice like a Surly Cross Check.

    To go cheap or spend some money for a sweet ride since I'll be doing a 10 mile RT commute each day? Not a roadie so a road frame is out of the question. I envision spending $300-500 on such a bike, including lights and fenders.

    I was also thinking of going with 9-1 drivetrain.

    Any pics or your commuter, or your suggestions?

    Thanks!
    i'm in the process of building up a commuter from pieces-parts i have lying around. my thought on commuters is to go cheap. it's going to take some abuse riding in some non-ideal conditions and it will be sitting outside for all to see (and steal despite the fact that it is locked securly). i don't plan to spend more than $100 to buy what i don't already have. so far i have spent $25 on a Gussett 1er single speed conversion kit, $20 on a saddle (a friend was selling my absolute favorite & discontinued saddle so i had to buy it eventhough i have about 8 other saddles sitting around in my parts bin that i could have used), & $25 on a cane creek C2 headset. all i have left to buy is a set of brake calipers. i'd like to get a set of shimano 105 calipers but for $30 i might have to reconsider. ebay is good but not that good! (or maybe i'll get really lucky??)

    the final build will be a 3x1 (3 front, 1 rear) franken-commuter with a road bike frame/fork and a mix of mtb/road parts:

    frame: nashbar road frame (steel)
    fork: trek OCLV carbon fork w/alloy steerer tube
    headset: cane creek c2
    stem: titus 100mm, 5*
    handlebar: profile design carbon flat bar
    brake levers: sram 9.0
    brake calipers: (ideally) shimano 105
    shifters: xtr trigger (need shifters for front & rear even though the rear will only have 1 cog)
    grips: schwinn silver sparkle grips
    seatpost: syncros
    saddle: serfas arc dd pro
    cranks: truvativ stylo (mtb, triple)
    bb: UN72 (square taper)
    front der: xtr
    rear der: xtr
    chain: sram pc-69
    rims/hubs: ??? velocity (boat anchors)
    gussett 1er ss conversion for rear hub
    pedals: no-name cage pedals (though i might go with some crankbros pedals)
    tires: not sure yet - either cross tires (if i have clearance with my brake calipers) or 700x25s.

    no pictures till she's built up but suffice it to say she will not be pretty with a gun metal grey frame, a royal blue fork, and a bright yellow saddle. ouch!

    oh, and a thought on your drivetrain. a 1x9 is probably a good choice but make sure it is appropriate for the terrain you will be riding - as someone else mentioned you need to be sure that your gearing is tall enough for riding on the road. my commute is 12.5 miles and is rolling hills with a couple steep grunt climbs thrown in for good measure. with the mtb triple on the front i will be using a really small cog on the back (probably a 13 tooth) so that i don't completely spin out on the flats.

    rt
    Last edited by *rt*; 12-27-2005 at 07:50 AM.
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  14. #14
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    sorry i dont have a pic for you guys, but i had a 1990(ish) Spalding Blade as my commuter(to school that is) and if you tune it right you will also have a awsome rigid mountain bike too.

  15. #15
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    OK, this may be a bit of a naive question but what's the appeal of running a fixed gear or single speed as a commuter? Can someone please explain.

    Otherwise, thanks for the pics and suggestions.

  16. #16
    Te mortuo heres tibi sim?
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    Quote Originally Posted by gard_nerd
    OK, this may be a bit of a naive question but what's the appeal of running a fixed gear or single speed as a commuter? Can someone please explain.

    Otherwise, thanks for the pics and suggestions.

    simplicity. less crap to mess with. no worries of messed up drivetrains. and they are wonderful in ugly weather. grab it and go. far less work invovled to keep them rolling, other than the intitial setup to figure out what gear ratio you want to run. great in ice/snow, especially with some tires with tread rather than slicks.

    mine. getting the rack and fender treatment as soon as another bit of ugly weather comes through. just built it up, and can't bear to put that stuff on yet....yeah, it's a nice commuter, but i have nice secure spots for it at my work, and it'll get ugly quick as soon as some ugly weather rolls in.
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  17. #17
    i worship Mr T
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    Quote Originally Posted by gard_nerd
    OK, this may be a bit of a naive question but what's the appeal of running a fixed gear or single speed as a commuter? Can someone please explain.

    Otherwise, thanks for the pics and suggestions.
    agree with scrublover - the appeal of fixed/ss is simplicity. on the other hand, you have to take into account what you will be riding and whether you want to do that to your knees. fixed just scares me and riding single on the rollers that make up my commute sounded like a good way to blow out my knees so i opted for the 3x1. that and i happened to have an mtb crankset lying around collecting dust.

    rt
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  18. #18
    Ex-Clydesdale
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    Quote Originally Posted by *rt*
    shifters: xtr trigger (need shifters for front & rear even though the rear will only have 1 cog)
    rt, you can save yourself the hassle of using both shifters, you only need the front one. When you install your rear derailleur, use the set/limiting screws on the derailleur. Turn the low one as far in as you need to in order to get it to sit where you want without having to use a cable. You can set the high one in as well to keep the thing from going anywhere at all.
    '94 RSBikes Stampede (commuter), '05 Prophet, '09 Scattante XRL Team, '10 Slice 4
    Retired: 97 C-DaleSuper-V, 05 C-Dale R5000

  19. #19
    i worship Mr T
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dwayne
    rt, you can save yourself the hassle of using both shifters, you only need the front one. When you install your rear derailleur, use the set/limiting screws on the derailleur. Turn the low one as far in as you need to in order to get it to sit where you want without having to use a cable. You can set the high one in as well to keep the thing from going anywhere at all.
    cool. i'll do that. thanks!

    rt
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  20. #20
    I ride a Swarf
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    Quote Originally Posted by gard_nerd
    OK, this may be a bit of a naive question but what's the appeal of running a fixed gear or single speed as a commuter? Can someone please explain.

    Otherwise, thanks for the pics and suggestions.
    As has already been said, for the simplicity. It depnds on ow hilly your commute is I guess also, miine is moderately lumpy, no sustained climbs....but a couple are long enough to get the old lungs working as they require standing up and just pedalling as hard as you can. I am hoping this will ba a source of interval training to help my strength and lactic acid tollerance. The spinning on the flats will help supplness I hope also.

    I am pretty lucky that between work and home isn't majorly hilly, the area is a bit hilly, but my route is ok. Although it lies east west, so I do have the contend with wind sometimes, usually a head wind on the way home.

    Stu
    What exactly is a rigid hard tail?

  21. #21
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    I'm also building a Commuter Bike!!

    I have been riding my Mountain Bike to work For about a year now, and I love it! I just have one problem. I'm spending all my money on UST tubeless tires. So for a winter project I've decieded to build a commuter bike. I call a locate Mtn Bike frame builder and got an old frame from him. The frame had been cracked and he had repaired it. The welding repair cooked the paint job. So I have striped the paint and he is going to Power coat it for me. (Thank You 3D Racing, the frame builder). As for parts I hooked up with a Guy from Rifle, CO, this is one of those friend of a friend of a friend things. But I'm sure he would give anyone a sweet deal. This guy sold me everything and when I say everything I mean everything, from a wheelset, fork, crank, down to a seat post clamp for $225 (shipped), we are talking a mix of XT and XTR used parts. So if your look for a one stop build this is your guy. His name and email is:

    Andrew Legg, Colorado Custom Cycles.
    230 Railroad Ave.
    Rifle CO. 81650
    c3@coloradocustomcycles.com

    Sorry to stray,but I hope this info will help. I will post pictures as soon as I get this thing baby rolling.

  22. #22
    Uncle
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    Custom Corsa steed

    Novara Corsa specs:
    Tange Infinity tubing
    XT/LX 8 speed drivetrain
    SRAM 11x30 cassette
    PG58 chain

    Wheels:
    Salsa Delgado rims
    WTB Momentum Grease Guard hubs
    DT 14g spokes (32 hole)
    Panaracer Pasela TG (700x32) tires

    Controls:
    SRAM shifters
    Salsa stem
    Control Tech straight bar
    Spec. BG Pro saddle
    Alivio canti brakes
    Diacomp levers
    LowFat pedals (spds ready for touring needs)

    Planet Bike rear light & fenders with custom reflective flames (my touch)

    It's not the lightest rig around, but it's built like a Tonka Truck. I think I'm still sliding in just under $500 invested too, despite the $190 wheel build -- should get that out of it and then some.

    The other, an NOS Koga Miyata (triple butted splined tubes) will be my dry weather coffee commuter; just waiting on the 'stache bars to show up. Deserves a Brooks saddle, but I work for a California public school; IOW, can't afford one.
    Hopefully will be passing through your town during the summer.
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    Last edited by Entrenador; 01-08-2006 at 02:56 AM.
    Eat, ride, eat, rest, repeat.

  23. #23
    Bike Whore
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    Surly LHT

    I think the Surly Long Haul Trucking is a good commuter frame.

    It uses 26" tires, so the choices for a fat slick is plenty and more affordable than 700c tires. The frame has rack eyelets galore on the front and back.

    I'm an Inbred...29er that is.

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