Advice on commuter bike?

pete6032

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Dec 3, 2010
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It has been about 10+ years since I owned a bike. I commute to work using bike share right now and its great but I want to get a reliable commuter bike. I don't need anything fancy and I'm happy to buy used. Not looking to break the bank. How much should I expect to pay for a used bike? Should I be buying from a bike shop or craigslist? Any brands recommended over others?
 

MrSquished

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Jan 14, 2013
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I'm an avid rider - best thing is to start with a budget. What's your budget? Bike prices have gone up significantly since Covid FYI. Also what will your commute be like, lots of hills or mostly flat?
 

pete6032

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Dec 3, 2010
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I'm an avid rider - best thing is to start with a budget. What's your budget? Bike prices have gone up significantly since Covid FYI. Also what will your commute be like, lots of hills or mostly flat?
Flat as a pancake. I have no idea what's realistic on budget. I can't imagine spending more than $500 but maybe that's really low?
 

Homerboy

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Start with a budget.
Go to local bike shop. They will help you and you need to sit/try a bike before you purchase.
 
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Captante

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Flat as a pancake. I have no idea what's realistic on budget. I can't imagine spending more than $500 but maybe that's really low?

For quality used bikes $500 is completely doable.... for new stuff however what it will get you is a glorified toy.

And as mentioned by Homer above, the MOST important thing about a bike is that it fits you properly... ideally get measured by a pro and at minimum be sure to try before you buy.
 
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gill77

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I put right at 50 miles a week on one of these:

https://www.specialized.com/us/en/shop/bikes/mountain-bikes/trail-bikes/stumpjumper/c/stumpjumper#/filter:productfamily:Stumpjumper

Mine is a lot older. Man, those prices are insane!

I prefer my road bike, but for surviving potholes, and dodging deer and drivers, I find a mountain bike to be safer. For my needs, a gravel bike might be even better suited.

If you are in the right market, you can find some spectacular deals on used bikes. Make sure the frame size is close. Unlikely it will be carbon fiber, but don't get stuck with an old steel frame. Make sure the tires are not not in need of immediate replacement, that could set you back almost as much as a used bike.

With a little bit of research and a bit of time, you should be able to set up the bike. With any luck, you should be able to be up and running for dirt cheap. At some point you may want to upgrade. It's all about components rather than brand. These folks have great prices:

http://www.bikesdirect.com/products/gravel-bikes.htm

Some assembly required. If you feel you have not gotten your setup just right, you probably will have saved enough to just take it to a good bike shop and pay them to assist and still come out ahead.

For new, the $500 you mentioned is probably a decent estimate of where diminishing returns start to set in. Good luck.
 

MrSquished

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Flat as a pancake. I have no idea what's realistic on budget. I can't imagine spending more than $500 but maybe that's really low?
Yeah the days of getting a respectable entry level new bike for $500 are gone now - and Covid has made it worse. Cannondale, Trek, Jamis - they used to all make a respectable hybrid bike for $55-$550.

But like Captante said you can get a nice used bike for $500. It can be tough not knowing anything about bikes and going on Craigslist and knowing who is trying to rob you blind or sell you crap, but that can work. But if you know a good Local Bicycle Shop (LBS), some of them have real bike enthusiasts running them, and they'll hunt down used frames and other parts and add some new parts and make a nice bike at various price points, including yours. Just, you know, like any industry there are shady bike shops and good bike shops. Maybe join a local cycling group or subreddit and seeing what shops are recommended the most for used bikes.

These are my two bikes. The bottom one is my everything from doing errands to doing 30 mile rides in the city. It's the one I can lock and keep out of sight for a bit and not cry if it's stolen. The top one, not so much. Anyway the frame is a Soma Double Cross - Soma is made in Taiwan and are known to make solid steel frames. Those were over 500 just for the frame new. But I got that whole bike built for $400 at my LBS, with tires I already had. I added the basket and a more comfy seat and upgraded the shifter. The bottom photo is teh $400 bike before my few upgrades.

It would be smart to get a bike with fender and rack eyelets so you can add fenders if you are going to ride if you might get sprinkled on, and for adding a rear rack or basket, if you think you might use one. I was not into front baskets, I always used a backpack. I finally gave in to the front basket and man oh man is it better than a backpack in any kind of warm weather.

You don't happen to live in NJ do you?

edit: btw since you live in a mostly flat area, you do NOT need more than a 1x9 setup. If it's flat as a pancake everywhere, a 1x8 would be fine. In other words you just need 1 ring in the front, not 2 or 3, so no front derailleur, and the 9 gears in the back. So you'd have 9 gears total. Or a 1x10 is even better, but you would save money with a 1x9. A 1x setup vs a 2x or 3x is less maintenance, less weight, and is plenty for riding in the flats plus can also handle some climbing quite well. Most gravel bikes are 1x10 and they ride some pretty serious terrain elevation wise. But those are usually 1x10 or now there is 1x11 as well, but you don't need to worry about that.

PXL_20210721_173257254 (1) (Medium).jpgPXL_20210309_212112050 (Medium).jpg
 
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Hans Gruber

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Dec 23, 2006
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Yeah the days of getting a respectable entry level new bike for $500 are gone now - and Covid has made it worse. Cannondale, Trek, Jamis - they used to all make a respectable hybrid bike for $55-$550.

But like Captante said you can get a nice used bike for $500. It can be tough not knowing anything about bikes and going on Craigslist and knowing who is trying to rob you blind or sell you crap, but that can work. But if you know a good Local Bicycle Shop (LBS), some of them have real bike enthusiasts running them, and they'll hunt down used frames and other parts and add some new parts and make a nice bike at various price points, including yours. Just, you know, like any industry there are shady bike shops and good bike shops. Maybe join a local cycling group or subreddit and seeing what shops are recommended the most for used bikes.

These are my two bikes. The bottom one is my everything from doing errands to doing 30 mile rides in the city. It's the one I can lock and keep out of sight for a bit and not cry if it's stolen. The top one, not so much. Anyway the frame is a Soma Double Cross - Soma is made in Taiwan and are known to make solid steel frames. Those were over 500 just for the frame new. But I got that whole bike built for $400 at my LBS, with tires I already had. I added the basket and a more comfy seat and upgraded the shifter. The bottom photo is teh $400 bike before my few upgrades.

It would be smart to get a bike with fender and rack eyelets so you can add fenders if you are going to ride if you might get sprinkled on, and for adding a rear rack or basket, if you think you might use one. I was not into front baskets, I always used a backpack. I finally gave in to the front basket and man oh man is it better than a backpack in any kind of warm weather.

You don't happen to live in NJ do you?

edit: btw since you live in a mostly flat area, you do NOT need more than a 1x9 setup. If it's flat as a pancake everywhere, a 1x8 would be fine. In other words you just need 1 ring in the front, not 2 or 3, so no front derailleur, and the 9 gears in the back. So you'd have 9 gears total. Or a 1x10 is even better, but you would save money with a 1x9. A 1x setup vs a 2x or 3x is less maintenance, less weight, and is plenty for riding in the flats plus can also handle some climbing quite well. Most gravel bikes are 1x10 and they ride some pretty serious terrain.

View attachment 63752View attachment 63753
I have never seen a mountain bike without shocks on the front fork since the late 80's early 90's. The Soma bike looks like you went back in a time machine and upgraded all the components to a modern bike. Do either of those bikes have quick releases on the wheels? I have a (2019) Cannondale as my junker bike. I have an old K2 from (2006) that has better components.

The OP should look into a 29er for speed.
 

Muse

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Jul 11, 2001
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It has been about 10+ years since I owned a bike. I commute to work using bike share right now and its great but I want to get a reliable commuter bike. I don't need anything fancy and I'm happy to buy used. Not looking to break the bank. How much should I expect to pay for a used bike? Should I be buying from a bike shop or craigslist? Any brands recommended over others?
Get a half decent bike. I've never bought a new bike, have bought around 3 used. Last one was a practically new used 12-speed road bike (Japanese Miyata) from a local bike shop, around $150 back around 1998. Still use it. Except for one time, I have always done all of my own bike maintenance.

I have a largish back galvanized steel wire basket I custom mounted on a Pletcher rack over the back tire. I can plop my backpack in there along with U-Lock + cable, and other stuff too. I have stretch-cables with hooks (i.e. bungee) that I keep attached to the bottom side of the basket for occasional use when I have unstable load in the basket.

I also have a super-cheap plastic tire pump duct-taped to the down-tube, just in case I get a flat out there miles from home, but haven't had to use it for over 20 years because I'm good at beating the flat-tire demon. For that, I have Urethane liners inserted into the tires. They prevent the lion's share of flats (probably well over 80%). I also carry a spare tube in my backpack just in case, tire irons too.

I have the thickest tires on my bike that it supports, 1 3/8", for a smoother ride on city streets (which are pretty rough around here). A lot of bikes nowadays feature much wider, cushier tires and I'm not against those, but I'm OK with what I'm riding, and getting another bike would be something of a project for me and I already have lots of projects, so another bike is right now low priority.

My physical therapist around 3 years ago talked me into wearing a bike helmet. I am super safe on a bike but a head injury could easily mess you up for life.

Edit: I bought a cheap but very effective, bright (settable) lithium battery rechargeable compact light off ebay that mounts to the handlebar. It came with a rear facing multiple-settings flasher light I have mounted to the seat post. As well, I have a mount for my android phone mounted to the handle bars. I use that if I'm wearing my heart rate monitor! As well, I have a bike computer with a handle bar mount which I use only occasionally so usually leave it at home, as I don't ride the hills these days.

Have a cheap tire pump you put one foot on and plunge-pump with both hands that I bought at local Ace hardware store decades ago, also a digital tire gauge I also use on my car tires (but to pump up the car tires I use an AC pump I picked up at Costco).
 
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JM Aggie08

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We've loved our hybrids - I've a TREK and wife has a Specialized. Super comfortable, great for some light trails but also roads.
 
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Red Squirrel

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Canadian Tire seems to sell bikes in the $500 range, but I presume these are mostly lower end bikes.

If you really want to have fun get an AMD bike. :p (no don't)

 
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Captante

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There's a website called Bikes Direct that's worth taking a look... per their advertising they are nearly ALWAYS having a "sale" however occasionally they actually are and then you might find a half-decent bike for around $500-$600.

Keep in mind however that the bike will arrive mostly un-assembled in a huge box so unless you're mechanically inclined you'll need to take it to a bike shop for assembly which isn't free.

I had a Windsor Knight from Bikes Direct a few years ago and it was a fantastic road-bike... back then I paid a little over $1000 then $75 to have it assembled. The only changes I made were a gel-seat and Schwalbe tires. (I ultimately sold it because I was scared to ride in traffic on a bike that might collapse under me jumping a curb)



(not mine but might as well be!)
 

MrSquished

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I have never seen a mountain bike without shocks on the front fork since the late 80's early 90's. The Soma bike looks like you went back in a time machine and upgraded all the components to a modern bike. Do either of those bikes have quick releases on the wheels? I have a (2019) Cannondale as my junker bike. I have an old K2 from (2006) that has better components.

The OP should look into a 29er for speed.
They are both Soma's but the Soma on top is not supposed to be a mountain bike. There is a class now called gravel bikes and they are not meant to do what mountain bikes do. Yes the wheels are 29er/700cc. This is a gravel bike/urban bike frame. It can take up to 45c tires so you can do some slightly rough but well defined gravel/dirt trails but nothing like a mountain bike trail. Gravel bikes do not have any suspension because they don't need them, they don't go to those type of trails. Most gravel bikes use drops for handlebars in fact, but I use mine more in NYC, so I like the flat bars for more control in city streets and changing direction quickly in traffic and other bike traffic. Any good gravel bike will use disc brakes as well. On that blue Soma I have 35c tires. Certainly not any tire to do any mountain biking on. It's perfect for city streets and normal gravel trails. I'd probably go to 42c tires if I was going to do some of the rougher gravel trails. So still nowhere near a mountain bike tire.

Yes the OP should look for a 700cc bike unless he is quite short then maybe a 650b.

As far as quick release, both my bikes are, I just have pitlocks on both of them as these get parked in the city. It's the most foolproof way to protect your tires, seat and headset, pretty much impossible to beat. There are a couple other skewer locking mechanisms like Pinhead and some others, but nothing comes close to the German engineering of Pitlocks.

Thru axle bikes are becoming more and more popular but I think QR is still the main way for entry level bikes. Thru axle starts at higher price points, from what I know.
 
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Captante

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Any bike with full suspension under 1k or even more is not worth it and janky. Plus he is riding on streets and flats, just extra weight and stuff to break that he doesn't need.
I'm sure the frame IS a little "janky" (at best!) for that price but most of the rest of the hardware on that bike looks pretty good actually plus it's most likely made on the same exact assembly-line as most of the trendy-hipster bike brands lower models.

You sound like the sales guys in the fancy/expensive bike shops in Westport and Darien CT when you mention Bikes Direct lol!

:p


Right up until I brought in my Windsor Knight to show them that is... then they were singing a different tune. I couldn't match what I got in a store without spending nearly twice as much.
 

MrSquished

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Finding a trustworthy LBS to sell you a used bike they fixed up, or finding a bike knowledgeable friend and having them help you on Craigslist is the way to go. Don't get any clunky mountain bike or super relaxed hybrid - they'll just ride too slow. If you have any questions feel free to DM me.
 

Hans Gruber

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Dec 23, 2006
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Finding a trustworthy LBS to sell you a used bike they fixed up, or finding a bike knowledgeable friend and having them help you on Craigslist is the way to go. Don't get any clunky mountain bike or super relaxed hybrid - they'll just ride too slow. If you have any questions feel free to DM me.
I have a clunky Cannondale with the same size tires as your city bikes. I swapped them out myself.
 
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Captante

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I have a clunky Cannondale with the same size tires as your city bikes. I swapped them out myself.

I have Schwalbe city-bike tires on my "clunky" 1985 Bianchi mountain bike which I ride to this day.... works great and I mounted them myself.
 

quikah

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Apr 7, 2003
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I would be careful about buying used as bike theft seems pretty common these days, especially in SF Bay area. Good chance you will be getting a stolen bike. Check serial number at bikeindex.org

FWIW I bought the entry level CO-OP CTY bike from REI a couple of years ago. It is $650 now. Works fine for me. I am no bike expert, maybe it is a piece of crap.
 

Scarpozzi

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I have a 2001 Raleigh M80 I used to off-road with a lot. It's a mountain bike that came with Velociraptor tires and a Manitou fork...a little heavy, but solid. I road that bike all over trails for years but turned it into a commuter by getting road slicks for it. The tires were 2" wide and I found some 1.5" road slicks that worked out for cheap. It made the bike handle much better at sustained 15-20mph speeds. My commute was only 3 miles, but you can convert a used mountain bike pretty easily with new tires, a comfort seat, and a tune-up. Typical saddles for performance can be hard to get adjusted to and are bad for your swimmers.
 

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