Friday, December 11, 2009

A New Bike for My Commute, Part 2

In Part 1 I talked about the type of bike I think I want to get for a commuter. In general I'm thinking about a drop-bar road bike. Probably a touring or cyclocross frame. Probably steel.

I have researched extensively about the Surly Cross-Check and Long Haul Trucker. I'll assume everyone knows about these bikes. There's nothing I could really add as I've never ridden one. Consensus seems to be these are great bikes for commuting and both come in around $1100 for a complete bike. I would lean toward the Cross-Check between the two; in fact, for awhile I was convinced this was the bike I wanted to get. There are some other bikes that have caught my interest more recently, though.

A funny anecdote I will share is about when I went to a San Diego-area bike shop (let's just say it's on Adams Avenue) and was talking to one of the shop guys about a getting a more road-oriented bike to supplant my mountain bike for commuting to work. I asked about the LHT, which they had on display. The guy helping me told me frankly that the LHT was "too much bike" to just use for commuting. I do understand the LHT was designed for loaded touring, so there is truth to that statement [Incidentally, over at Commute By Bike, the voting did end up with the LHT as the bike of choice for their "Perfect Commuter Bike"]. The thing was that I felt that he kept talking me off $1000 bikes (I asked about the Bianchi Valle, which they didn't have, and he also reluctantly pointed out a Raleigh Clubman, which they did have) and steered me toward a ~$600 Specialized/Globe Vienna. Maybe he felt he was doing me a favor recommending the cheaper bike based on the impression I was giving him. I took it for a test ride anyway. It was decent, a nice bike actually, but it wasn't the bike for me.

Now that I think about it, I went to the other bike shop on Adams Ave. on a different occassion (where I bought the touring tires I'm currently riding) and had a somewhat similar experience. There I actually did throw a leg over a Cross-Check (or was it an LHT?) and began probing the shop dude about his opinion on steel road bikes. He also ended up pointing me to an aluminum-framed, flat-bar hybrid. As I've stated,this is just not the type of bike I am after.

Since I'm now talking bike shops...I made a trip down to Velo Cult one time, as well. Really cool shop (not that the other two shops weren't cool). I explained what I was looking for there and was shown a couple different bikes. Guess what? This was the first shop where they didn't try to sell me on an aluminum hybrid! Well, the fact that they only sell steel bikes may have something to do with it, but, whatever. Score one for Velo Cult! I also asked about Xtracycles. They actually have an Xtracycle built up at the shop, which they'll apparently loan out for extended test riding. It's the only shop that I've ever visited where I've seen an Xtracycle. I've always been afraid to ask "regular" bike shops about Xtracycles for fear they'd have absolutely no clue what I was talking about.

Next post: less bike shop anecdotes, more bikes...


  1. :-) I use an Xtracycle Radish for bike commuting. I'm sure it's not the ideal commuter for many, but it works for me. It *is* heavy, but I go only a little over 2 miles each way, on fairly flat terrain. And I use it to haul kids, groceries, and other things as part of my commute. I guess your bike shop people don't really get that not everyone uses their bike in the same way. I'm lucky to be in Portland, OR, where many of the bike shops DO get it.

  2. @Kathleen,
    From all I hear of Portland it surely elicits some envy from me. Not that San Diego is such a bad place ;-) My neighborhood is a little hilly and there's a big hill between my home and work, about 16 miles. For now, when I ride I drive part way and ride in the final 6 miles.