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Recommendations/advice: Need a commuter bike for school

HamurabiHamurabi MiamiRegistered User regular
So initially I thought I could get by just walking everywhere, because this town is very pedestrian-friendly... but (shock of shocks) walking is tiresome and time-consuming. So now I'm looking for a bike.

I guess I need to take my height into account when looking for the right bike?
  • I'm 6'3".
  • I need the simplest, most durable, most maintenance-free style of bike I can possibly find.
  • I'm also a grad student, so carrying capacity is a big concern. I need a bike that can handle a front basket and "saddle" (is that what they're called?) for extra carrying capacity.
  • I'm a grad student, so I'm poor as fuck. I can part with an absolute max of like $200.
  • If weather is a consideration when purchasing a bike, I'll be riding it in New England mainly during the winter.

(Please lemme know if there's anything else I should be taking into account, or if there's any missing pertinent info.)

There seems to be a lively bike culture (and market for used bikes) here in Boston/Cambridge, so I don't suspect I'll have a hard time finding a solid used bike locally. I am however willing to buy new online, if it's really worth the investment to buy new.

Thanks for any help!

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    ThunderSaidThunderSaid Registered User regular
    I'm also a big dude, and I ride a Kona Smoke 2-9 (They switched to 29" tires that model year, so they designated it 2-9 to differentiate from the previous models. I think newer models were just called a Kona Smoke, but still have the 29" tires). Anyway, I really like it, and it would probably fit your needs. I don't think they make them anymore, but you could probably find a used one in your $200 range. Kona's other offerings might be worth looking into as well. My wife has a Kona Dew and really likes it.

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    Jebus314Jebus314 Registered User regular
    edited August 2013
    1) buying online is probably not worth it. You can find deals but it takes a lot of time and knowledge and isn't worth the hassle.
    2) buying at the local bike shop is generally great for 1st time bike owners for shear simplicity in going from no bike to fully setup bike, but there is a price premium and unless things are radically different in boston compared to seattle, $200 is too low to get pretty much anything.
    3) DO NOT BUY department store bikes. That means things like toys r us and wallmart. Not REI or actual bike stores like performance or your local bike shop.

    So basically you are looking at buying used. This is wear things get tricky. The 2 most important things when buying a used bike are that it fit you, and that it not be severely fucked. Turns out this is way harder to recognize than you think. For $200 you are looking at a steel or aluminum bike.

    You want to make absolutely sure there are no dings, bends, cracks, or anything outside of surface scrapes on the frame. That's rule #1. Walk away from any bike that looks like it has been in a serious crash or has weird holes or something. This is even more important for aluminum bikes, and absolutely critical if the aluminum bike has a carbon fork.

    At 6'3 you will actually have an advantage as bikes that size will be a little less expensive because they are hard to sell. 6'3 is probably looking at 60-62cm frames. Anything within a few cm is workable by exchanging things like the stem/handlebars/seat tube, but it's more work. There is actually a whole other world when it comes to bike sizing, but for cheap bikes you really don't get to be choosy. The best advice here is to take it for spin before you buy. If it feels super weird chances are it will be very difficult to change out parts to make it comfortable.

    You also want to think about riding position. Road bikes tend to have you leaning forward more and are meant to be ridden more aggressively (this means pedaling hard and putting your weight on your feet rather than your ass). These bikes will have the saddle above the handlebars. Hybrids and mountain bikes are less aggressive and give you a more upright position. The choice is basically all about how you want to ride. If you are going for relaxing commutes the very forward positioning of a road bike will be annoying. If you really want to push it, the relaxed style of hybrids will make it difficult to really lean into the riding. There's a huge range of variability for any bike but it's best to start out with a frame that matches what your going for.

    There's a lot of information about specific brands, models, parts, ect. Way to much to cover here. Generally speaking it's a good idea to just google whatever brand/model you find on craigslist to get an idea of it's workmanship/price before you buy. The only thing I can say for sure is do not ever by a department store bike. If the pedal bends as it goes into the bottom bracket (like this), then do not buy it. If you see any deals feel free to PM or post them here and I will give you my 2 cents on the make/model. I'm by no means an expert but I spent the last year or so reading up on this stuff for my own purchases so I have some insight.

    Steel bikes tend to be more durable in that they can take on heavier loads. Since it looks like you are looking for serious commuting make absolutely sure you have front and rear eyelets, preferably 2 rear ones. It is a pain in the ass to add fenders/racks without those.

    Saddle is the term for the seat. What you need is a rear rack, and some panniers. You can get a front rack too, and front panniers, but you can fit a lot into rear panniers. You can also get rear bag setups that have the panniers and a rack bag all in one, like this. It's a lot of bag space for commuting, but if it's still not enough by all means get the front rack as well. Probably you want a front rack rather than a basket, so you can do something like this. Keep in mind that if you are looking for weather proof panniers it will get expensive ($100-$200 for new panniers). Or you can go the kitty litter bucket route for cheap. Works surprisingly well.

    I'm sure I'll think of other things but that's it for now.

    Jebus314 on
    "The world is a mess, and I just need to rule it" - Dr Horrible
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    mtsmts Dr. Robot King Registered User regular
    just find a bike on craigslist and see if it fits you. you don't need a 600 dollar mountain bike to ride to class. any used name brand bike will be fine. you probably want a hard tail mountain bike over a road bike, but either will work

    then hit up craigslist for a rack etc.

    you don't want anything remotely expensive or it will likely get stolen

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    Jebus314Jebus314 Registered User regular
    mts wrote: »
    just find a bike on craigslist and see if it fits you. you don't need a 600 dollar mountain bike to ride to class. any used name brand bike will be fine. you probably want a hard tail mountain bike over a road bike, but either will work

    then hit up craigslist for a rack etc.

    you don't want anything remotely expensive or it will likely get stolen

    Even if your bike is a POS you absolutely need some sort of lock. Thin cable locks are basically worthless. Get some sort of Ulock.

    "The world is a mess, and I just need to rule it" - Dr Horrible
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    HamurabiHamurabi MiamiRegistered User regular
    Thanks for the advice, guys.

    Does something like this work?

    It looks a little dainty to my eyes. I'm a 6'4" 200 lb. dude who will also be hauling a backpack plus groceries sometimes. Will something like this handle that well?

    Also what exactly is a "tune up" in the context of bikes?

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    BlindZenDriverBlindZenDriver Registered User regular
    Hamurabi wrote: »
    Does something like this work?

    It looks a little dainty to my eyes. I'm a 6'4" 200 lb. dude who will also be hauling a backpack plus groceries sometimes. Will something like this handle that well?

    Also what exactly is a "tune up" in the context of bikes?

    That bike should work just fine and the frame looks to be the right size. You can go lower maintenance by picking one with gears inside a wheel hub or one with just one gear so there is no shifters to maintain + internal gears or just one gear usually means a rear brake that is inside the hub operated by your feet which also means less maintenance. Worth nothing is that one gear only works if the terrain is pretty flat and/or there is not too powerful winds. Also important is that there must be both a front and rear brake.

    Pretty much any bike will support 200 lb just fine unless it is abused like riding up and down curbs at speed without helping the bike by moving your weight when doing so.

    As for a "tune up" I would say it is lubing the moving parts, adjusting gears and brakes if needed, replacing worn out parts, making sure the wheel spokes have the right tension and that the wheels are true (straight and perfectly round). A "tune up" could also be inflating the tires, lube the chain, check the brakes and then ride to see if more is needed.

    Bones heal, glory is forever.
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    mtsmts Dr. Robot King Registered User regular
    That bike looks perfect
    Yea, basically what was said burthen can test the wheels also to make sure they are true.

    Also I wasn't saying to not get a lock, just that nicer bikes make bigger targets

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    hsuhsu Registered User regular
    edited August 2013
    Normally I would suggest a free wheel, single speed bike from either Bikes Not Bombs in Jamaica Plain near the Sam Adams brewery or Ace Wheelworks in Somerville near Davis Square, but I am not sure if either place has a bike in your price range.

    And I cannot talk about biking in New England without mentioning Boston Bike Party.

    hsu on
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    Eat it You Nasty Pig.Eat it You Nasty Pig. tell homeland security 'we are the bomb'Registered User regular
    a 'tune up' at a competent bike store typically means making sure the rims are straight and/or tightening them up, tightening/aligning the brakes, and doing general maintenance like checking tires, oiling the chain, etc.

    99% of beefing about brands and so on will be totally irrelevant to what you want, which is a bargain-basement road bike.

    before mucking around with craiglist I would go to whatever relatively reputable bike shop is near you and tell them basically what's in the OP: you want the cheapest commuter bike that they sell and options for carrying things. A lot of them are swimming in used/refurb/parts and will sell this kind of thing pretty cheap.

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    it was the smallest on the list but
    Pluto was a planet and I'll never forget
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    HamurabiHamurabi MiamiRegistered User regular
    Someone made a suggestion to me today of a place nearby that does repairs and stuff, so I'll go and check with them to see if there're any bikes in my price range.

    Waitin' on money to come in next week, so I won't be making the purchase immediately anyway.

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