Help me build the ideal commuter bike.- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    Help me build the ideal commuter bike.

    My situation:

    I live in NYC and am looking to build myself a commuter. I am fortunate enough that I can walk to work, so this will not be a commuter in the strict sense of the word, but I will take it uptown, across town, etc. Whenever I have to go somewhere and the weather is good, I plan on taking it. I am sure I will just go on rides with this also. I have not ridden since I moved here. I grew up riding MTB's, and have no experience with road bikes.


    I would like suggestions on the ideal bike for my situation. I am open to anything.


    I have sold all my MTB's but one. I still have a 96/97 GT Timberline which I could put slick tires on and ride. But I am not sure about a lot of things. Is a 1x7/8/9 better than a singlespeed? Should I pick up a used road bike instead? I was also playing with the idea of going with some 700c tires on a MTB frame. I almost picked up a 99 Cannondale F1000 yesterday (if only the ebay seller had told me the size of the frame. It went for 250+ shipping, which seems to be a good deal to me. ) which I could put discs on and 700c road tires. I see some of those setups floating around here, and it seems like that would be pretty good for what I need. My older Timberline is Cro moly, and pretty heavy, which will probably get old carrying it up and down stairs. There are a lot of different ways I can go with this.


    Any and all suggestions are appreciated and encouraged. Ideally this thread would be a discussion debating the pro's and cons of the different decisions I have to make.

  2. #2
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    Why not just ride the Timberline for a while and see what you think? There are a million different approaches to a good commuter. I liked my singlespeed road bike, but I didn't have something suitable already when I bought it. Try to avoid spending a lot of money on a errand bike that will be locked outside in NYC. You're more likely to keep it, and you'll be less bummed out when it gets vandalized.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by AndrwSwitch
    Why not just ride the Timberline for a while and see what you think? There are a million different approaches to a good commuter. I liked my singlespeed road bike, but I didn't have something suitable already when I bought it. Try to avoid spending a lot of money on a errand bike that will be locked outside in NYC. You're more likely to keep it, and you'll be less bummed out when it gets vandalized.

    Thanks for the response.


    My plan is to ride the Timberline and then build something else I will enjoy a little more, so I was hoping to get a bunch of suggestions.


    I guess this part of the forum is pretty slow.



    I see people on mtb frames, I see people on singlespeeds, I see people on road frames with 2 x 10's, I see people on drop bars, I see people on bullhorns, I see people on cut flat bars.... I just don't know where to start.

  4. #4
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    Having lived in NYC for a while, the best suggestion is if you are going to leave your bike outside anywhere, keep it as cheep as possible. The potential of theft or vandalism it too hight to invest in something slick (looking, not a tire reference). So far as gearing and bars and... etc. if it's comfortable to ride, you are good to go. Since you mention fair-weather only, then fenders are not an issue (unless the weather changes on you while out), so all I would suggest is removable front and rear lights and a super-duper chain for locking it up. As time goes by, you may find something isn't working for you, so at that point you can address it.

  5. #5
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    AndrwSwitch: There are a million different approaches to a good commuter.

    I think that is an UNDERestimate.

    I think there are trends (the following is my synopsis and prone to error and open to disagreement, don't take it overly seriously).

    SInglespeed/fixie. Besides those who think the messenger bike look is cool, there are those who love the back to the begiinings aspect. Low maintenance and less stuff to steal in areas with snow and theft issues are plusses of this approach. Those who can commute light with a backpack or messenger bag can go this route more easily that others. These range from track bike frames, purpose built new bikes, through recycled classic era Cromoly framed bikes, to old coaster bikes, cruisers, and mountain bikes. Since the 26er mountain bike was derived from the 26" coaster bike, if the frame is rigid (no front or rear suspension) it is really a full circle reinvention into a light weight go anywhere urban/trails update to the bike that I and many others grew up with.

    Big fat (but relatively light for their size) tires. Fat 650 B conversions of road racing bikes and 26" mountain bikes. Conversions of touring 27" frames to handle 32-40 mm 700c tires. Rigid 29'ers with 2.35" Big Apples. I am running 300 gm 32mm tires as big a 700C as I can stuff in with fenders. This is counter to the race bike 23 mm and smaller trend. You can be about as fast, and way more comfortable and better handling if less responsive.

    Cross bikes. Can fit fatter tires at least 32 with fenders, often 35 or 40mm. A bit heavier frame than a road bike and capable of off-roading though not what an FS bike is meant for. Often the basis (with discs) for a City bike or commuter model. The does it all fairly well, and CX really well, bike. The addition of discs to the racers means daily use bikes based on theis idiom are likely to become a strong segment.

    City/Country bikes combine fairly big tires 32-42 mm with fenders, and gearing, and a either a quite erect flat style bar (City Bike) or a shallow drop high positioned drop bar or mustache bar with some outward angle to the drops. Fenders required, racks highly likely, though large saddle and handle bar bags will suffice.

    Full touring bikes like the Raleigh Sojourn, fall into several of these groups, City/country /commuting/touring, so the designations are not definitive nor distinct.

    Commuter bikes which overlap with City Bikes but I see as having disc brakes to handle rainy descents in hilly places, or icy braking that some winter commuters face.

    Cargo bikes for dropping kids off at daycare, shopping on the way home, or to carry the tools of your trade. Also known as long bikes they either have a rear wheel moved aft or a front wheel moved forward. What to get when a trailer no longer works for you.

    Snow/sand REALLY fat tired bikes. Pugsley for one. Alaska and beach commuters extroardinaire.

    Then the large group of 'ride what you have already/can afford'. Here anything on two or three wheels gathering dust or picked up from arelative or garage sale is trotted out and set to work. Some are good for demonstrating what is really needed, some are really adequate to outstanding in the new role, especially with some well-chosen mods/updates.

    All can have a set of winter studded tires, or one or more wheelsets to alter their nature to the weather/task.

    Factors:

    1. Money.
    2. What you are used to.
    3. What a friend or co-worker rides.
    4. What peers think is cool whether it really "works" for you or not.
    5. What weather/road/trail/parking conditions dictate.
    6. Whether you have to carry the bike up 5 fllights or stuff it in a small elevator, fit it in a storage locker, car trunk, airline baggage, etc.
    7. Health, fitness, age. (Horsepower and endurance.)
    8. Money.

    I've likely missed some, but 'ideal bike' for us in your situation will not likely be the ideal bike for you in your situation. Chances are if we told you exactly what bike to get, you'd hate it. Or if it cost a bit and you DID love it, then being in NYC, it'd be stolen within the week or wouldn't fit your storage locker (and be stolen sooner).
    Last edited by BrianMc; 09-13-2010 at 06:16 AM.

  6. #6
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    It's not that this forum is slow - it's that you're asking a question that already has an entire thread dedicated to it.

    http://forums.mtbr.com/showthread.php?t=399153

    I'd say each of those bikes is someone's idea of the ideal commuter. I added my NYC commuter to the end, since I'd actually never posted it here, or at least not in that thread. I'm presently using a pretty conventional road bike with a 2x6 drivetrain, downtube shifters, a rack and fenders.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  7. #7
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    you're tron, why don't you just ride this?


  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by AndrwSwitch
    It's not that this forum is slow .
    +1. We try to help and you asked a Duesey.

    Quote Originally Posted by AndrwSwitch
    - it's that you're asking a question that already has an entire thread dedicated to it.

    http://forums.mtbr.com/showthread.php?t=399153

    I'd say each of those bikes is someone's idea of the ideal commuter. .
    + 0.5. Mine is my ideal for here and now within my constraints. Mostly $$. Sure I'd love a custom stainless frame with disconnects, Rohloff and Schmidt hubs, disks, big tires, costing upwards from $8000, and likely could keep it safe, but like that's going to happen!

    Some have a winter and a summer bike. Says a lot about an 'ideal bike' right there.

    It isn't that the question is invalid, it is that it's a bit like 'What's the meaning of life?"

    +1 The posts in the quoted thread are all answers to the question within their owners' currrent constraints/needs.

    Quote Originally Posted by AndrwSwitch
    I added my NYC commuter to the end, since I'd actually never posted it here, or at least not in that thread. I'm presently using a pretty conventional road bike with a 2x6 drivetrain, downtube shifters, a rack and fenders.
    I like the camouflage 'junk bike' paint scheme as a theft anti-magnet though it needs more primer red 'rust' patches and the chainwheel is too shiny. Some rust red paint here to make it look like cheap steel, and the chian should look unoiled, possibly with frozen links. They make painted chains. I wonder if you could get one in rust color for that truly 'POS' look to fend off the light fingered?

    Unfortunately posting successful camouflage of a nice bike here would likely get the disguise penetrated by theives.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by ///tron\\\
    I see people on mtb frames, I see people on singlespeeds, I see people on road frames with 2 x 10's, I see people on drop bars, I see people on bullhorns, I see people on cut flat bars.... I just don't know where to start.
    Exactly. So what would be comfortable for you to ride? Where I live, our weather is pretty mild - sometimes it's windy. My commute to work is almost entirely on a beautifully paved MUP and the bike rack at my office is in a secure area monitored by guards and cameras 24/7. So a commuter for me is probably a lot different than the commuter for you, living in a more extreme climate, with more risk for theft.

    FWIW, until ... uh this week, I've commuted on a carbon bike with an expensive wheelset. I just bought a new bike for commuting that is steel framed, has a rack and a pannier on it. If I were in your situation, I'd figure out what would be comfortable for me to ride, and to pay for, and to risk losing if some prick steals it. Probably something older and steel framed, that had rack mounts, could run 28c tires minimum and looked like a bag of ass to help prevent theft.
    :wq

  10. #10
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    Ride the GT!

    Sorry I'm late to the Party,
    Tron, my first MTB was a 96 GT Timberline that was bought for me brand new.... It got plenty of use but then eventually was retired for a more modern MTB. after years of collecting dust I decided to resurrect it into an urban commuter/cruiser...
    This is what I did. Just thought I'd share since we have the same bike.

    I replaced almost everything! This is not the most cost effective way to go, But i feel like I saved a bike that meant a lot to me, and I learned a lot about building a bike at the same time. New wheels, tires, Complete drivetrain, pedals, upgraded to V-Brakes (highly recommend), brake levers, shifter (just rear), rear derailer, handlebar, stem, seatpost, saddle, fenders, rack (Everything NEW except Frame/Fork.)
    You mentioned drivetrain. I decided against singlespeed and went with a 1X9 setup instead. I gotta say Tron, It was a Fun Project and I love riding my new/old GT!
    Pics.
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  11. #11
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    To keep it from being stolen, load it up with racks and cover fancy decals with electrical tape and let the dust and mud cover it.

    Few bike thieves will give your steed a second look.

  12. #12
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    I too cannot bring myself to get a true road bike to commute. I was thinking about making my Cannondale 29er HT into a commuter bike but then I saw the 2010 GT Traffic 1.0. I have rode it several times at Performance Bike Shop. It looks like GT did an outstanding job designing this bike for commuting and it is retailing for $599 + tax. I was looking at Specailized (Sirrus) and Cannondale (Quick) but was hesitant because none of thier models come with hydrolic disk brakes. I then saw the GT Traffic 1.0 at Performance and notice how nice of components the bike has for the price compared to the Specialized and Cannondale. The Sirrus Disk Elite (the only model out of the Cannondale or Specialized that has disk in the Sirrus and Quick line) comes with disk brake but its a cable system. My first bike was cable V brake and bought a new bike with hydraulic disk and I'll never go back. GT even put a specail Key lock on the seat post, front and back wheels and the stem (kinda like a lugnut key for a car tire). The fame tube even has plastic strip running down the tube so you can lean the bike against wall, trees, etc without scratching the frame. I've gone back to look and ride the bike a couple more times and everytime I ride it, I am liking it more and more. It seems like the designers at GT are commuters, because it has everything I am looking for in a commuter. I don't need the locking key for the wheels, seat and stem because I just ride to work and the gym, so security is not that important to me. I would definaley recommend checking this bike out for daily commuting for the price.

    http://www.performancebike.com/bikes..._400001_400001

  13. #13
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    My Duluth Winter Commuter.... Help with the Build.

    Man oh day, what a collective source of knowledge. Would greatly appreciate some help designing my winter commuter.

    Mileau: Duluth Minnesota Hillside, About 600 foot vewrtical drop over six miles to work and a 6 - 15 mile ride home depending on my workout mode etc. On city paved road, at least 50% or more with bike lane and about 50% dancing with the college kids and car commuters on the city streets.

    Weather: Cold Rain and Snow..... Ice. It is winter in Duluth.

    Currently commuting on my Specialized Cyclocross and love it but don't want to put it through the snow, salt and ice. Occasionally ride my 1988 M-cycle rigid frame 26" MTB but not really my favorite street ride and I love the bike for the single track so I don't want to change it. I have an 1970's CCM 531 frame that I am making into a single speed fixie with 42/19 gear ratio that I am considering useing or changing for my winter bike but I am not solid on that yet.

    ....
    So recommendations on my winter steed?
    I am thinking I would like it to be simple and easy to maintain but my 52 yo needs might like some gears for the climb. A internal hub system maybe?

    I am thinking disc brakes would be good especially on the wet and warmer side of winter and spring.

    I am thinking I would like a cross style frame in steel. Surly steamroller or the like.. a search for a good second hand frame I am willing to undertake. Recommendations appreciatied.

    As far as asthetics, I like the vintage retro, english touring simplistic look.

    So if any of you folks enjoy the challenge of design, please offer me some ideas.

    Thank you
    Cwolfe

  14. #14
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    I rode my Bianchi Axis in Maine during the winter. Now I got Planet Bikes longest fenders (Acadians I think) and they did I good job keeping the crud off my bike. I have a full Campy drivetrain, and the Ultra-torque BB cups resisted corrosion much better than expected. I also used Schwalbe Marathon Winters for tires.

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