Need help with commuter selection- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    Need help with commuter selection

    Hi guys!

    I'd like to start commuting and need some help to point me in the right direction what bike to buy/build.
    The bike should be a fast one as I'm planning to use it for short and longer road trips as well.
    Enter confusion:
    - Bike type: MTB (not light and fast?), road bike (no fenders/lights), cross bike (never
    seen one), trekking bike (heavy?)
    - Wheel size: 28" vs 26" vs 29" ?
    - Width: narrow (fast, uncomfortabe, flats) vs wide (slow, comfortable)?
    - Bar: Drop vs. flat vs riser?
    - Gearing?
    And there's so much more, my head is spinning...

    Anyway, please say which choices you would make and why!

  2. #2
    weirdo
    Reputation: rodar y rodar's Avatar
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    Hi, KK. Welcome to the forum. First off, there is a huge amount of personal preference involved. Second, it gets complicated when you try to pin down perfection. If you get close enough and don`t worry about it (which does take a lot of the fun out of the quest) you can enjoy yourself and do what you need to on pretty much any bike.

    Bike type: I wouldn`t say that mtbs can`t be light and they don`t lose much speed to a road bike if you have the right tires for the situation. In some cases, they might even be faster than a road bike. For short distances, tires will make more difference than anything else. Many, but not all, road bikes can be fit with racks and fenders- the same goes for mountain bikes. Most of the "cross bikes" on the market are basically road bikes that fit fat tires. For actual cyclocross racing, they`re apparently very much speed oriented. That doesn`t help you much, does it?

    Wheel size: The numbering and naming system is kind of wierd here, but I think the 28" you`re talking about is the European name for what people call either 29" or 700c in North America. They`re the same rim diameter and interchangeable on the same bikes as long as the frame is wide enough for the tires (just so you know what you`re asking about). A lot of people claim that the bigger sizes roll more smoothy for than a smaller diameter of the same width. Personally, I can`t feel much difference, but their argument makes sense, so maybe I`m just insensitive. In my opinion, as long as your body is close enough to "average" size that the bike can be made to fit you, the wheel size is irrelevant. Again, a lot of people don`t see it that way and maybe they`re right.

    Width- you`re talking about tire width? That`s what starts to change your ride a lot. Wider tires will be smoother, narrower tires will require less energy to spin. That`s why skinnies usually thought of as being faster, but if you have to go slower over the rough parts, the fat tires might end up being faster on some roads. Fortunately, you can easilly switch tires for different rides or conditions- some people even keep different wheels made up so they can swap in a matter of seconds. If you get a road bike, I suggest making sure that you can get at least 32mm tires in the frame in case you decide you like them big. Most mountain bikes should accept any width you`ll ever want, so you don`t need to worry about that one. My preference is 28 to 32mm for my road bike and 1.5 to 1.75 inches for the mountain bike that I ride around town and on tours, but you might very well like something different. Besides width, I`d say to stay with smooth tires unless you plan to do a lot more off road riding than on roads.

    Drop V flat bars: Another can of worms. Drop bars are usually considered "faster" because they get you elbows out of the wind and make it easier to keep your head down. I like them because they`re more comfortable for me. But I think flat bars are probably the easiest for people to get accustomed to, and can be comfortable also, especially with short handles (bar ends) clamped to the ends. If you have a way to try different bars, by all means do it. If not, flat bars are probably a safer bet.

    Gearing- whew! What kind of loads do you plan to carry? How much climbing? How strong are your legs? To be safe, the lower the better. You can always go down, if you run out of gears going up, you might end up walking.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by kif_kroker
    Hi guys!

    I'd like to start commuting and need some help to point me in the right direction what bike to buy/build.
    The bike should be a fast one as I'm planning to use it for short and longer road trips as well.
    Enter confusion:
    - Bike type: MTB (not light and fast?), road bike (no fenders/lights), cross bike (never
    seen one), trekking bike (heavy?)
    - Wheel size: 28" vs 26" vs 29" ?
    - Width: narrow (fast, uncomfortabe, flats) vs wide (slow, comfortable)?
    - Bar: Drop vs. flat vs riser?
    - Gearing?
    And there's so much more, my head is spinning...

    Anyway, please say which choices you would make and why!
    If you have a bike right now.....ride it.

    If you don't have a bike, and havn't ridden in a while, go buy a low cost bike and start ridding....

    The bike does not matter nearly as much as the number of days and miles you ride.

  4. #4
    Fat-tired Roadie
    Reputation: AndrwSwitch's Avatar
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    I've used older road bikes as my commuters since college. But I commuted on hybrids for a couple of years when I first started riding bikes again. I have a rack and fenders on my current road bike. It's a little harder to find new ones that will accept those, but they're still out there, and depending on the level of theft where you live and where you'll be keeping your bike, you may not want to spend the money for a new bike anyway. If I put more than my lock and maybe something else lightweight on the rack, my bike develops some bad manners, a problem common to many sportier road bikes.

    If you live in a city, you're mostly going to be starting and stopping a lot. So flat bar bikes really don't give up that much to more traditional road bikes. The suspension on a MTB will be counterproductive, though. If you live somewhere where you'll get the opportunity to ride for several minutes at a time before the next traffic signal or stop sign, a true road bike will start to make a difference.

    I think that the differences between road bikes, even between my 25-year-old one and my good one, are a lot smaller than the differences between road bikes and bikes of other classes. A trekking bike, if you're talking about one with drop bars, isn't going to give up all that much to a lighter road bike, especially if you strip off racks and use lightweight tires when you're not using it for road trips.

    Here in the US, a lot of cyclocross bikes are sold to commuters in a similar way that SUVs are. They're basically road bikes with cantilever brakes and clearance for fat tires, and many of them will have the appropriate eyelets to mount fenders and a rack. So they're also kind of like sportier trekking bikes, although a lot less stable with a load. I think the popularity among commuters is that they're a road bike you can walk into a shop and buy new and mount a rack and fenders on, that's not as dowdy as a lot of the purpose-built commuters and trekking bikes on the market.

    When you say you want to do some road trips... are you planning to have panniers? If so, a traditional road or a 'cross bike is likely to develop bad manners. A purpose-built trekking bike or a mountain bike will have longer, stiffer chain stays, and should have better stability when there's extra weight in the back. But if you're talking about long, unladen rides, a traditional road bike is likely to be more fun.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  5. #5
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    Well, thanks to all for your advice. I think I see a little clearer now.
    I posted this in the commuter forum, but really this is going to be a multi-purpose bike.
    As I said I will be commuting (rather short ride) as well as longer trips (100 km or so) with some luggage, roads (mostly) as well as gravel, but no trails (I have a BMC superstroke for that).

    So, I'll probably end up with a cross bike with fat slick(y) tires and mounted racks and fenders.
    Would riding longer stretches of fire roads make sense with this setup or would I be begging for flats?
    And lastly what types of brakes would you recommend (right now I'm thinking V-brakes)?

  6. #6
    Fat-tired Roadie
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    Are you going to build a bike or buy one?

    If you buy, it's a lot easier to just get a complete 'cross bike and throw on the rack and fenders. Or get a trekking bike and do the same.

    Riding fire roads on a 'cross bike is fine. They're for racing on courses that, at least here in the US, often include singletrack. Taking a trekking bike on the same stuff is fine too - it's really tire selection that makes the difference.

    If you like STI shifters, you can't have V-brakes without an adapter. So most people just use cantilevers. Depending on what you're spending and what's available, you can also do discs, and supposedly there's a V-brake for road levers out there. If you don't care about STI shifters, use something else and then you can get an aero lever for a V-brake. I want to say it's Cane Creek, but it might be Tektro that makes it.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by kif_kroker
    ...Would riding longer stretches of fire roads make sense with this setup or would I be begging for flats?...
    I don't think you would necessarily have flats, but I'd be concerned about traction on any loose stuff with the slick tires if you are getting up any speed on the downhills. I can't say for sure because I have been too chicken to switch out my knobby WTB wolf 32's on my cross bike, even though only 1.3 mi of my commute is down a dirt road with a good hill and the rest is on pavement.

  8. #8
    weirdo
    Reputation: rodar y rodar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kif_kroker
    I posted this in the commuter forum, but really this is going to be a multi-purpose bike.

    Would riding longer stretches of fire roads make sense with this setup or would I be begging for flats?

    And lastly what types of brakes would you recommend (right now I'm thinking V-brakes)?
    Good. This is the multi-purpose subforum

    You should be okay. There`s only one way to know for sure.

    V-brakes are nice. Older style straddle cantis are what will probably come stock on a bike like you`re talking about and work very well also. It probably won`t be worth the trouble to change from one to the other unless you need to for cable routing issues or lever compatibility reasons. Or unless you get really bored and find a new brake set that you think would look great with your paint job.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by rodar y rodar
    Or unless you get really bored and find a new brake set that you think would look great with your paint job.
    Hey, that's half the fun, isn't it?

  10. #10
    weirdo
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    Only half???

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