Any bicycle enthusiasts on here? Deciding on a cheap commuter bike?

Jonathan F/2

Top Veteran
Location
Los Angeles, USA
I'm debating on what bike to get? I don't want to spend too much money, because I want to take into account it might get stolen and I just want something that's easy to maintain. I've been considering single speed bikes, but I'm also open to bikes with gears. My current bike is an old 20+ year old mountain bike that's been thrashed and I swapped the mountain bike tires with some urban slick tires. I want something that can ride on various terrains, but with an emphasis on street use. I'm also open to the idea of a geared road bike with all-terrain tires as well! Any recommendations would be welcomed!

I've been looking at this write-up:
 

Richard

All-Pro
Location
Marlow, UK
Have you looked at a hybrid bike? I'm not sure if the name is the same everywhere - a hybrid bike to me is halfway between a commuter / road bike and a hardtail mountain bike. It's fair to say that a hybrid is a Jack of all trades but a master of none, as a road bike will be faster and less effort to ride on hard surfaces, and a mountain bike will be tougher and better set up for off-road use. But for someone who who wants to ride the same bike over a variety of everyday terrains, a hybrid may suit. Some have suspension forks and some do not, and some have chunkier tyres than others. From what you say, I would probably be looking at suspension forks, but avoid very chunky tyres.

-R
 

tonyturley

Legend
Location
Scott Depot, WV, USA
Real Name
Tony
Lots of cyclists on these forums. I have a hybrid Trek Verve 3. It was designed as a 27-speed commuter type. They are no longer made, but I got mine used for about $350. I converted mine to 9-speed and put 700c x 50mm gravel tires on it, but it would easily hold 54mm slicks or semi-slicks.
 

Derek

Rookie
Location
Minneapolis
I ride a Redline 925 as my around-town bike. Everything is bolted on so it takes work to pull stuff off, steel frame, flip-flop single-speed hub, fenders, and chain guard. I love it. And yes, I said "chain guard." No banana seat, though. Oh, did I mention that it cost less money new than a DIY version would have cost me? I don't think they sell them new anymore, but they should be inexpensive on the used market, and I imagine you can find a few in LA.... Unless you were to put some knobbier tires on, though, you're likely not likely to do a ton of off-roading; rails-to-trails stuff would be fine, though. That said, it's single speed, so it'll never be a cyclocross bike even with knobbies. Well, unless you start monkeying with gears, that is. In any case, I'd recommend looking at something else if you're looking to off-road with whatever you purchase. Single-speeds and fixies are fun!
 

donlaw

Hall of Famer
Location
Texas
Real Name
Don
I have a 2015 Trek DS 8.6 Hybrid with some 700c x 45mm Schwalbe tires . Fantastic bike. Not sure if you can find one used but if you see one grab it,
If not, the newer Trek Hybrids are just as nice.
 
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Atom Ant

Regular
Location
Melbourne, VIC, Australia
Real Name
Adam
I have four commuter bikes - a basic steel single speed, a modified road bike (the frame is a Giant OCR Zero from ~2005, almost everything else has been changed over the years), my Cannondale Hooligan (now discontinued 'urban' bike with 20" wheels), and my Brompton (how a folding bike should be designed).

Which I use depends on my commuting use - e.g., if I want to multi-mode then I'll choose the Brompton, if I'm worried about theft then I'll choose the SS, if I'm in a hurry then I'll choose the OCR.

None of these bikes have suspension forks. Budget forks on inexpensive bikes tend to add unnecessary mass and are more likely to provide sponginess rather than useful suspension. Decent forks tend to be too expensive for a commuter bike.

As a general purpose commuter, I'd look at some of the flat-bar road bikes with decent tyre clearance rather than at hybrids which often have horrible forks.

I'm a big fan of hydraulic disc brakes on commuter bikes (despite only one of my four commuters having them).

I acknowledge that mudguards don't look cool, but they are practical for commuting in dodgy weather.

A rack gets your luggage off your back. I hope I don't have to explain why that's a good thing.
 

mnhoj

gee aahrr
Location
Los Angeles
Real Name
John
I have a Trek FX 7.2.
It's a nice commuter but overkill for the use I was giving it - four mile round to work and back.

If I was looking now I'd probably get something like this one.

6KU HYDE COASTER BRAKE CITY BIKE. $179
Looks fun, comfortable and affordable.
 

Jonathan F/2

Top Veteran
Location
Los Angeles, USA
Thanks for all the replies! I think I'm set on a single gear bike both for simplicity and to get more of workout! I've doing a ton of research, and I think this is the one I'll go with based on price and features:


From what i read, the frame is the most important thing and it seems chromoly steel is the way to go with a street-oriented bike. Also I prefer disc brakes to minimize wear on the wheels. This bike comes with wide tires making it a bit more versatile for both the road and dirt/gravel roads. Also I'm too old to care what's cool, so I'll probably add mudguards and a rear (or front) rack...I have kids and need to haul stuff on our family bike rides! Also I like the idea of drop bars, it reminds me of riding a road bike when I was a kid in the 80s!

Unfortunately the bike is out of stock, if anyone has recommendations of a similar bike at the $300 USD price point, I'm open to more suggestions! 👍
 
Mostly flat terrain with just some gradual hills, but I like hitting some of the dirt trails around my area with my mountain bike, so a single speed that's gravel/dirt capable does appeal to me.

When I was bike shopping, the bikes that visually appealed to me were single speed bikes. I don't know why single speed bicycles were more likely to involve an interesting design. Some had interesting shaped handle bars, etc.

I have tried single speed bikes before and they FRUSTRATED me. I'd get up to a certain speed and I instinctively want to change gears so I can take advantage of the speed and momentum I've worked for... only to realise I can't.

I'd love to own a single speed but dammit they're frustrating.
 

Jonathan F/2

Top Veteran
Location
Los Angeles, USA
I have another question, the bike I'm looking at is a bit bigger at 54cm, I'm usually a 52cm rider based on the color I want. The stem for the 52cm is 90mm and the stem for the 54cm is 105mm. If I adjust the stem and seating position of the 54cm, should I be able to get away with a slight increase in size?
 

Jonathan F/2

Top Veteran
Location
Los Angeles, USA
When I was bike shopping, the bikes that visually appealed to me were single speed bikes. I don't know why single speed bicycles were more likely to involve an interesting design. Some had interesting shaped handle bars, etc.

I have tried single speed bikes before and they FRUSTRATED me. I'd get up to a certain speed and I instinctively want to change gears so I can take advantage of the speed and momentum I've worked for... only to realise I can't.

I'd love to own a single speed but dammit they're frustrating.
I usually don't ride very fast with my kids and I want the additional workout since gyms are closed in our city! Plus I'm not the best at bike maintenance, so I figure a single speed will be easier to deal with. :D
 

donlaw

Hall of Famer
Location
Texas
Real Name
Don
I haven't had a single speed bike since I was a child. But they do see interesting for workouts. However if you are going to add weight with a rack or fenders plus carrying stuff, the ability to switch gears might be a real advantage. Minor adjustments on most derailleurs are rather simple. But they do require more lubrication and cleaning.
 

Jonathan F/2

Top Veteran
Location
Los Angeles, USA
Most the areas we ride are rather flat mainly because my son's bike is also a single speed! Also the most I'll be carrying are snacks and or picnic blankets, so nothing too heavy. I also remember riding single speed as a kid and we lived at the bottom of a hill. I'd ride to the top almost everyday during the summer just so I could cruise down hill and I rarely used my brakes because I only had coaster brakes! No helmet, no parental supervision and I rode on the main street. I'm surprised I survived without getting hit by a car!

Some of the areas we ride:

- Rose Bowl paved road loop
Screen Shot 2020-12-03 at 9.33.40 AM.png

- State Park gravel trail loop
Screen Shot 2020-12-03 at 9.34.41 AM.png
 

Richard

All-Pro
Location
Marlow, UK
I just remember how much better (easier, faster) it was when I graduated from a child's bike with a single gear, to a teenager's bike with five (count 'em) gears. So for me there's no going back.

I was so intrigued by the action of the derailleur mechanism that I used to keep looking down at it to see which gear I was using. That's how I cycled straight into the back of a parked car, bent the frame of my new bike and nearly broke my neck.

-R
 

Derek

Rookie
Location
Minneapolis
I have another question, the bike I'm looking at is a bit bigger at 54cm, I'm usually a 52cm rider based on the color I want. The stem for the 52cm is 90mm and the stem for the 54cm is 105mm. If I adjust the stem and seating position of the 54cm, should I be able to get away with a slight increase in size?
Hard to say, as other parts of the geometry, like top-tube length and handlebar shape, can have a big effect on riding position comfort. Can you check out the 54 cm model and potentially make some adjustments when you do? Also, make sure you've got adequate stand-over height; inadequate height = pain at some point.
 

Jonathan F/2

Top Veteran
Location
Los Angeles, USA
Thanks for all the advice so far! The bike world is similar to the camera world, with many niche groups amongst various cyclists. It's bit overwhelming, but I guess that's how people who are new to photography must feel! Anyways, I decided to pull the trigger on the 52cm single speed gravel road bike with chromoly frame, drop bars and disc brakes. It comes with wide 700 x 38c all-terrain tires making it flexible for various urban terrain. I priced out how much it'd cost to get a cheaper SS straight bar bike with caliper brakes, cost-wise I'd still be spending at least $100-150 USD in upgraded parts and I still wouldn't get all the components I wanted. I guess it's like camera gear, spend more now, spend less in the long run!

I also did get the bike in midnight purple, since I realized the other colors weren't all that appealing either and I want a bike that's appropriately sized. Also the stem is reversible and comes with spacers, so I can really tweak the angle geometry to my liking. I'll post photos once it arrives. I already have some customizing parts sitting in my Amazon cart that'll I'll buy once the bike ships! 🚴‍♂️
 

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