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  1. #1
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    Commuter Recommendation

    Heres the deal. I'd like to convert my Specialized back to a dedicated trail bike (right now it has "city" tires). In doing so, I'm thinking about picking up a second bike. B/c its a second bike, I'm not looking to spend a lot. With my schedule, I've only really been able to commute 2x per week; so it will see pretty light use. I'm primarily on the sidewalk, which can be rough in some spots and I take a very brief cut-through of some dirt and gravel.
    Basically I want to be able to improve my speed/time and the amount of effort it takes. The Specialized does lumber a little bit So I'd like to go lighter. I like the idea of a road bike, but the commute may be a bit to rough for that. Any ideas? Having a rack mount is necessary, no chunky tires, short travel or rigid fork would probably work. Eventually be able to support a kid carrier.
    Is this possible for $250?
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  2. #2
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    How rough is your short cut? I've seen people ride a local fire road on road bikes. Not a rock garden, but not baby's bottom-smooth either. 1.36 miles downhill. You could probably get an old road bike and try to squeeze some wider tires on it. I think I would be more inclined to get a used hybrid or mountain bike and run some 1.25-1.5" tires in your situation. If it's still not fast enough for you, you could add a road cassette or road rings.
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  3. #3
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    I wanted to try and avoid getting something, only to have to buy additional parts to customize it. Maybe I'll go $350ish and see if my LBS has anything in a Trek or Giant.
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  4. #4
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    For 250, I`d say keep watching Craigs List for a ~15 y.o. mtb, service all the bearings, replace the cables and housing, brake pads, new set of 26 x 1.5 tires, lights and rack if you want and you`re rolling. In my area, rigid mtbs GENERALLY run around $75- all that other stuff I mentioned seems to add up prety fast, but you`d still be able to stay within your budget.

  5. #5
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    Craigslist x2. For your budget that's the only way to go.
    You have no excuse for driving to work
    (unless you don't have studded tires)
    (no excuse for that either)

  6. #6
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    Craigslist a roadbike and get some cyclocross tires for it?

  7. #7
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    I got my commuter for $95 on Craigslist. I think it's the only way to go for a bike I lock outside in random neighborhoods.

    If you have a good balance and a light touch, 23mm tires will carry you through gravel and over rocks and roots. To make it more practical, any late-80's road bike should be compatible enough with new parts to make it relatively easy to maintain but also cheap and have clearance for bigger tires than a lot of newer bikes, which aren't necessarily faster but are made to look racier.
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  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom93R1
    Craigslist a roadbike and get some cyclocross tires for it?
    If one pops up, a crossbike or touring bike would probably do a good job, but way more deals on mtbs than road bikes in that price range. Around here, anyway.

  9. #9
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    KHS Urban X dedicated commuter. Cost $299 only with slick, fender and rack.

    Despite being rigid bike, it shall not have problem hitting light trail.

    With number of review claiming it a nimble and fast commuter...

  10. #10
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  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by 08HardRock
    Yes.

    I don't know what size bike you typically ride... If you ride a 17" Hardrock, even the largest Crosstown is going to have a shorter reach. You'll feel super-upright unless you do something weird to the bars and stem, and then you'll still feel cramped and you won't be able to ride that bike out of the saddle. It may even ride slower on roads because of how much more of your body you'll be showing to the wind.

    There are some exceptions out there, but in general hybrids suck. They tend to be targeted at someone who will ride only short distances at low speeds and prioritizes comfort for a short distance and at a low power output over performance, control, or comfort. Mountain bikes are generally performance bikes, although obviously in a different way than road bikes, and if you're used to riding performance bikes you'll be pretty unhappy on anything else.

    People put kid carriers and large loads on road bikes sometimes, but it can be kind of irritating. Especially with the weight and air resistance a kid will add to your bike. Touring bikes are typically built in a way that mitigates the handling problems associated with putting a bunch of weight behind the saddle, so look for an older touring or sport touring bike, or just go with a rigid mountain bike with slicks. The older mountain bike is an easier find on Craig's List in most cities, but a late-80's touring bike would be a great option as well.

    There are some things to watch out for on older touring bikes that can make them harder to maintain. 27" wheels were common in the early '80s, and while you can still get nice tires for them it's harder and replacing the wheel or rim is also harder. Dropout spacing and rear cog styles also changed a lot - in the '70's, a five-speed freewheel was common and by the end of the '80's or at least the early '90's, an 8-speed cassette became common on higher-end bikes. There were eight-speed freewheels for a little while and a lot of people had problems with bent axles. If you're thinking of putting a child directly over the rear dropout, you might want to avoid a model with that.

    I would consider a road bike with 700c rims and an 8-speed cassette to be a pretty kickass buy because almost all the parts on it are in current production and easily replaced and the dropout spacing should match the current standard. I wouldn't worry too much about 27" rims, as long as they're alloy, or a 5-7 speed freewheel.

    Unless the bike is steel, you're committed to keeping the same dropout spacing. That means you can't upgrade less than an 8-speed cassette to a modern drivetrain. Steel bikes can be respaced. Also watch out for stem shifters and "suicide" brake levers. Stem shifters are very awkward to use and point at your groin, so you may run into them climbing out of the saddle, crashing, or straddling your bike at an intersection. Suicide brake levers don't have enough mechanical advantage to apply much force at the brake and reduce the throw of the brake levers, which can make the brakes harder to tune so they work. Some 27" rims were made out of steel. Braking performance on a rainy day sucks - it takes a few revolutions to dry the rim enough for the brakes to work, and you already have rear-ended a bus by the time that happens (didn't quite happen to me, but it was terrifying.) Some steel rims didn't have a hooked bead seat, preventing the use of high-pressure tires. But you shouldn't buy a bike with steel rims in the first place.

    The compatibility and similarity in performance of 80's and early-90's bikes with today's gear is surprising. Without the rack and wire baskets, my cheap mid-80's aluminum commuter weighs less than my nice '99 steel road bike. But the resale value sucks, so you can pick them up for cheap and they're relatively unlikely to get stolen.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  12. #12
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    Wow. Thanks for the detailed info!!!
    I like the KHS mentioned, but seems they just put out the new model b/c the price went up $100+. Plus I'd have to see if there is a local dealer.
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  13. #13
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    How about a sub $400 commuter? Is that more realistic?
    I dont mind the idea of getting a used rigid mountain bike and building it up a bit; but I dont have much of the technical knowledge or tools to do much.
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    Quote Originally Posted by 08HardRock
    How about a sub $400 commuter? Is that more realistic?
    I dont mind the idea of getting a used rigid mountain bike and building it up a bit; but I dont have much of the technical knowledge or tools to do much.
    I don't know, from the sound of it you really do mind getting a used MTB and converting it, you seem to be all about something new.

    New is nice for about a month and then it's just the bike that's being beat up and isn't as good as the one you could've had for the same price or cheaper but without that new feeling.

    If you truly want the most for your money just buy an old MTB or roadie that is in a working state. At most you might need to change out tires, if you want fenders, it's not that hard to put those on. It's amazing how many people have old (10-15 years) mountain bikes in their garages with maybe 100 miles on them.

    Personally, I find it very rewarding sparing a bike from the landfill or a life of gathering dust. Plus, riding in on my 1988 Trek 830 gives something more relatable to my coworkers. A lot of them think I just own nice bikes and that is why I can ride all the time; they are more likely to try commuting themselves or just go for a ride if they see that I am riding the same or a very similar bike to what they have.

    My commuter from start to finish was pretty cheap:
    1988 trek 830 - $75 craigslist
    Indestructible Commuting tires - $70
    SRAM MRX Comp Grip Shifters - $22 (hated the friction thumb shifters it came with)
    Fenders - $28
    Rear rack - $15
    Rear trunk Bag - $12

    Grand total - $222

    Maintenance cost is low, new cables/housing once a year, a chain every few months, some grease and lube every now and then.

    If you can be patient you can find everything you need really cheap, just start gathering things as you encounter deals. Don't rush it, it took me a good 4-5 months to find a bike that was large enough for me and wasn't $250+ to start with. If you ride common frame sizes you've got a huge potential in craigslist.
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  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by 08HardRock
    How about a sub $400 commuter? Is that more realistic?
    I dont mind the idea of getting a used rigid mountain bike and building it up a bit; but I dont have much of the technical knowledge or tools to do much.
    I haven't ridden any of these, but...
    The Kona Worldbike looks like a good option.
    The base-model Kona Dew and the Kona Smoke also look like options.

    It's very difficult to get a new, inexpensive multispeed road bike because even Shimano Sora models tend to run more like $800. Unfortunately, not enough people are willing to use (or willing to sell, anyway) bikes with downtube or barend shifters for there to be a lot of models equipped that way, despite the much lower cost.

    There are tons of singlespeed road bikes available at that pricepoint. A lot of them are garbage targeted at hipsters who don't know what they're buying, but some are perfectly good bikes. I rode a singlespeed to commute in New York for a while; if your city is flat or very close to flat, they're a pretty good way to get around. However, if there are hills involved or you sometimes ride with a load on the bike, they're considerably less effective.

    Used bikes via Craig's List are a difficult option if you don't have pretty good technical knowledge - they can be in bad shape, and it can be hard to tell if something is expensively messed up from a quick inspection. Buying used bikes from a shop that sells used bikes is a better choice. I'd want a guarantee on a bike I bought used in a shop. For $250, my local used shop would have a few bikes for you, and for $400 I think they'd have some pretty nice ones.

    At $400, you're also into options like last year's Hardrock, and base model MTBs from other manufacturers.

    I think that being able to rebuild a bike is a very valuable skill, but it's a lot easier to learn to maintain a working bike and go from there. If you want to start commuting on a different bike right away, it's probably much more realistic to get a bike that already works as a commuter and maintain it; if you want to you can also get a project bike at a garage sale or swap meet for $20ish and learn on that.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  16. #16
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    Thanks for all the input everyone.
    I kind of like the idea of trying to build something up/maintain it myself, mainly to see if I can do it and learn. Does anything stand out in the following link? There is a Giant 760 that looks reasonable (the price would have to come down IMO) except I think the frame is too big. Despite what the person says, I dont think those are accurate heights for that bike, unless Giant sizes their bikes differently. I'm 5'9/10" and my current Hardrock is a 19. Whats the thinnest tires I could put on an old, rigid mountain bike? I'm trying to reduce my rolling resistence. Thanks again!
    http://washingtondc.craigslist.org/bik/
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    Quote Originally Posted by 08HardRock
    Thanks for all the input everyone.
    I kind of like the idea of trying to build something up/maintain it myself, mainly to see if I can do it and learn. Does anything stand out in the following link? There is a Giant 760 that looks reasonable (the price would have to come down IMO) except I think the frame is too big. Despite what the person says, I dont think those are accurate heights for that bike, unless Giant sizes their bikes differently. I'm 5'9/10" and my current Hardrock is a 19. Whats the thinnest tires I could put on an old, rigid mountain bike? I'm trying to reduce my rolling resistence. Thanks again!
    http://washingtondc.craigslist.org/bik/
    I assume this is the bike:
    http://washingtondc.craigslist.org/n...397761711.html

    That looks like a good option. As far as sizing, older bikes tended to have slightly shorter top tubes and shorter stems with more rise so the 21" will likely feel fine if you're on a 19" now.

    The bike looks in good condition from the pictures and the post seems as if it is written by someone knowledgeable about bikes to an extent, a good sign. It's just not clear if it has rack/fender mounts, but you can get by with p-clamps in most cases.

    I'd check it out, if it looks good offer the guy $100. If it's in working condition it will be a great bike to learn the basics of bike maintenance on as needed.

    If you want some faster rolling tires I'd go:
    http://www.performancebike.com/bikes...00_20000_50005
    they look and are sized just like the Schwalbes I have, roll fast and hopefully they have similar puncture resistance, and only $13 a tire!

    The 5'5" - 6'2" does seem wonky to me too, but I think at 5'9"-10" it would work just fine for you. I'm 6'1" on a bike with similar geometry that is a 21" and I had to get a much longer and lower stem to simulate my modern bike cockpit.

    Being a 7 speed rear you're at 130 or 135 mm rear spacing. You should be able to keep an eye out on craigslist for another cheap wheelset for the bike if you want to have a second set of wheels mounted up with ice studs ready to go at a moments notice. I've been running the double wheelset setup for 2 years now and can't praise it enough, so much better than swapping tires.
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  18. #18
    jrm
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    For that amount

    Quote Originally Posted by 08HardRock
    I wanted to try and avoid getting something, only to have to buy additional parts to customize it. Maybe I'll go $350ish and see if my LBS has anything in a Trek or Giant.
    look into a used Kona Smoke. Theyre avail in 26" and 700c. Good utility bike. heck you might even find one new for a little more.

    <img src=https://bikes.konaworld.com/09/09bikes/small/T2K9_SMOKE.jpg>

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by 08HardRock
    Whats the thinnest tires I could put on an old, rigid mountain bike? I'm trying to reduce my rolling resistence. Thanks again!
    Thinnest tires you can run (the thinnest available in that wheel size) is 1". You'll have to run narrow tubes as well.
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  20. #20
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    Yeah, mtb tires get down to a lot skinnier than I care to use. I have a pair of 26 x 1.25s and I rarely mount them anymore- too skinny for me most of the time, but some folks dig `em like that.

    I also think that for $350 to $400 you`d start getting into some decent new bikes (though personally I prefer old stuff). I don`t know what your local shops carry and wouldn`t recommend ordering without at least checking out one of that model, preferably the same size too. The suggestions above sound pretty reasonable to me. And whether you end up going new or used, I definitely recommend learning how to do your own basic maintenance.
    Recalculating....

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    cyclecross bike fits your bill. Road bike speed with tires that take a beating.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Frenzy808
    cyclecross bike fits your bill. Road bike speed with tires that take a beating.
    Price don't fit. Dropbar is bad for back and not responsive enough compare to straight bar when comes to traffic jam.

  23. #23
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    Thanks for the input all.
    I have a book on bike maintenance, so I've been trying to learn here and there.
    Sometimes I think that maybe I should put thinner tires on the my mtn bike. Right now I have (I think) 1.95 city tires; but it just feels heavy, maybe its the rolling resistence. Problem is that I'd like to just be able to hit the trails without having to worry about taking the rack off, swapping tires, etc. Then the question of "Do I even have time to go the trails" comes up; obviously a personal debate I'm having. I do this all the time when I'm considering a new toy.
    I didnt know I could go that thin with the tires, I'd probably stay with 1.5 to play it safe.
    Right now, I'm still looking on CL to see if something comes up that will allow me to save a couple bucks.
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    Came across a 1997 Gary Fisher Wahoo.
    Atlus/Acera components.
    Inlcudes a set of Panaracer Hi Road 1.5 tires.
    What are your thoughts? What is a reasonable amount to spend on this (if its any good)?
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  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by shimano4
    Price don't fit. Dropbar is bad for back and not responsive enough compare to straight bar when comes to traffic jam.
    Not true. They come in a lot of price ranges, dropbar is NOT bad for your back as long as its set up correctly for the rider (same goes for flatbars), and can be plenty responsive. Have you ever seen flatbars in a crit?
    Recalculating....

  26. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by 08HardRock
    Came across a 1997 Gary Fisher Wahoo.
    Atlus/Acera components.
    Inlcudes a set of Panaracer Hi Road 1.5 tires.
    What are your thoughts? What is a reasonable amount to spend on this (if its any good)?
    If it fits, it ought to be a good bike for commuting as long as you plan to stick with flatbars. In order to set up a Fisher with dropbars, you`d probably need about three sizes too small and leave a mile of seatpost showing. Price depends on the condition- since somebody has already slapped 1.5 tires on it, there`s a good chance it`s been overhauled recently. If it needs a "tune up", I`d say from 60 to 80. Everything in good shape (chain, tires, BB, cables and housing, etc), maybe as much as 150, 175. People will probably say that 175 is too much for an old rigid mtb with low end components, but if it`s ready to go you have the bike you were looking for, without going over your budget, and without having to dink around with anything. Remember that tires, brake pads, cables and housing will cost you at least 50 bucks if you have to replace it all- that`s with cheapo tires.
    Recalculating....

  27. #27
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    Seems to be in good shape. I would stick with flat bars (given the choice) b/c its what I've always known. It seems this will roll faster than my Specialized.
    Pretty tempting
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  28. #28
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    Are many of todays parts, derailleurs etc, compatible with mid-90s mtbs. Or will I have to search around in case some parts go bad, need replacing?
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  29. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by rodar y rodar
    Not true. They come in a lot of price ranges, dropbar is NOT bad for your back as long as its set up correctly for the rider (same goes for flatbars), and can be plenty responsive. Have you ever seen flatbars in a crit?
    Cross bikes are great but show me one for under 400 dollars.

  30. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by M_S
    Cross bikes are great but show me one for under 400 dollars.

    Motobecane Fantom Cross UNO - $399

    And a few slightly over $400, but geared...


    2010 Dawes Lightning Cross - $449


    Motobecane Fantom CX - $499
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  31. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by 08HardRock
    Are many of todays parts, derailleurs etc, compatible with mid-90s mtbs. Or will I have to search around in case some parts go bad, need replacing?
    The only parts on that bike that you may have trouble with are the cassette (or freewheel?) and stem.

    If it's a threaded headset, you'll need a stem with the same size quill to maintain compatibility. 1-1/8" quill stems are a little uncommon, but not impossible to find. In the picture on Bikepedia, it looks like the brake cable hanger is part of the spacer stack, so you don't need to worry about finding a stem that's also a cable hanger. If it's a threadless headset, you're golden - 1-1/8" is the most common size on bikes being produced this year.

    A new Shimano derailleur should be a perfectly good replacement for an old derailleur on that bike - the pull ratios haven't changed in ages, so as long as you match brand and purpose (stick with Shimano mountain front derailleurs; any Shimano rear derailleur ought to work) you should be fine. Monkeying with the number of speeds could introduce you to a world of frustration, though. If the bike has a seven-speed freewheel, you'll need to replace it with another seven-speed freewheel. They're not hugely difficult to find, but your LBS may not carry them either. They'd be happy to order one, though - those parts are still produced. There were also seven-speed cassettes. Sheldon Brown has a great article about these, including mention of some compatibility issues that can arise. If it's a freewheel, you'd need a whole new hub to switch to a cassette, and if the bike has 130mm spacing (I don't think it's likely, but it's possible) you'd need a road hub, or a MTB hub that can be respaced.

    So if you're planning to buy the bike and maintain it pretty much as-is, you shouldn't have much trouble finding parts. If you're going to get the upgrade bug, you'll get to learn about all sorts of weird standards. In your position, I think I'd make an offer - if it's all working, try for $100, and wiggle around from there. If it's not working, $20-$50.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  32. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by 08HardRock
    Seems to be in good shape. I would stick with flat bars (given the choice) b/c its what I've always known. It seems this will roll faster than my Specialized.
    Pretty tempting
    What is your current bike like? I`m assuming HT with suspension fork. You`ll save a little weight with a rigid fork and avoid any bobbing issues, skinny/skinnyish slicks or slickish tires will be much more efficient than knobbies, but since you`re already running some kind of city tires on your Specialized, you won`t see all that much speed increase. Unless you go to drop bars, your main advantantage will be having your mtb available and set up for the trail without having to change stuff around. Having a whole spare bike could be handy too, I suppose, but I`ve never had any sudden breakdown on my commuter other than flat tires, so whatever else has gone out I`ve been able to take care of when I got a chance.
    Recalculating....

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    Quote Originally Posted by rodar y rodar
    Not true. They come in a lot of price ranges,
    Ok, I agree.

    Quote Originally Posted by rodar y rodar
    dropbar is NOT bad for your back as long as its set up correctly for the rider (same goes for flatbars)
    If u get caught in a jam. What is the most important compornent u need to standby on yr bike? Brake.. Dropbar posture is to make u bend low so lower air resistance. To reach yr brake lever, u definitely need to bend low.

    Quote Originally Posted by rodar y rodar
    and can be plenty responsive. Have you ever seen flatbars in a crit?
    Have u seen any pro stunt bike setup with dropbar? As simple as that. Drop bar is not way going to match riser or straighbar responsiveness.

    People who go for cyclo cross usually prefer speed on rough road. It's fine as lone as u know what u want.

    For me, I too like speed but prefer abit of comfort and responsive as part of my commuting comes with heavy traffic. MTB or Hybrid is the way to go.

  34. #34
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    Shimano, there are advantages and disadvantages to either one. In both cases, a rider can be comfortable or uncomfortable, control the bike perfectly well or not be in control, and can reach the brake levers. I`m not going to argue every possibility.
    Recalculating....

  35. #35
    Fat-tired Roadie
    Reputation: AndrwSwitch's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
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    18,453
    How much time have you spent riding bikes with drop bars? Were any of them set up for you?

    Drop bars scared me the first time I tried a bike with them, and I commuted to and from High School on a hybrid. When I started riding longer distances in college, I revisited road bikes and found I was a lot less bothered, I think because I was more accustomed to riding bikes in general. Now, I can't imagine spending an extended period on the road on anything else. When one of my drop bar bikes is set up correctly, I feel centered, comfortable and efficient, and I can sprint at least as hard as I can on my mountain bike.

    While my drop bar bikes are all set up with the handlebar clamp below the saddle, there's no law that says they have to be there. A lot of touring and commuter bikes have longer head tubes and steeper-angle stems that put the handlebars above the saddle, and a lot of people tip their bars back to get more of a pistol grip feel from their brake hoods, rather than the horizontal tops that many racers prefer. Drop bars also come in lots of different sizes; if width is the concern, WTB's dirt drop bar is 600mm wide, which is more than my flat bars and a lot more than any of my road bars.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

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