So, I need a bike
I'm starting grad school at University of Illinois, and, while I'll bring my car, it seems a shame to use it much when the city's so amenable to biking. And, you know, I could probably use the exercise.
Unfortunately, I don't think my current bike'll work, as it's about fifteen years old and has the sort of thick-tire, made-for-a-kid type thing going on. So...what do I need to be looking for in a bike, and how much is this going to hurt my wallet? I figure if anywhere has ideas on this, it'd be here :)
Also, I know this is about bags (shame!) but anyone have any experience riding with a Ristretto? Would the Q-AM strap work with it?
What ever you do, don't compromise on fit. REI has some good sales, and technicians to help you be fitted properly. And I preface the rest with saying I'm no cycling guru, but I decided to try to cycle more as a family recreation a few years ago.
I started with a heavy and old MTB that I got off freecycle (mistake because it didn't have adequate gearing so I was exhausted riding it). Then I found a more modern and lighter bike on Criagislist (also a mistake, too large and though better than the MTB, still uncomfortable to ride). Once I had a few years struggling with my less than perfect bikes I knew better what I was looking for I wanted certain features and function, combined with fit. Last year for mother's day dh got me a Small Specialized Ariel Sport Disc, mine is Berry/White if you couldn't tell that I may possibly along with everything else also, ahem, NEED a purple bike. It fits perfectly and when I ride, I feel like a kid again! I just wish the area I lived in was more bike friendly. We have to load up our bikes and take them to a greenway to ride safely.
Mid year, I found a vintage Mixte that I plan to restore and modify to be an alternate bike. The frame size is perfect, but I would like to change out just about everything. . . That is another route if you can determine your size and frame style that you are seeking properly, is to go used. . . Your Craigslist experience doesn't have to be as tragic/disastrous as mine, just make sure you know that the frame fits you before you buy.
In my experience with messenger bags, if it's not big enough to drape across your whole back, it'll slide around. Even with a cross strap. I switched to a backpack for that reason. As for a bike, go with something that fits and is fun to ride. If I were to get a new bike, I'd look at Torker. They're reasonably priced-$400 or so- and pretty zippy. Get at least a rear fender so you don't get to your destination with a wet butt. My current bike is a Surly Instigator with 9 speeds. It's a tank, totally not suitable for commuting, but i love it! I got it off craigslist from a bike mechanic. But go to a bike shop first to get an idea of what you want. I commute year round in Minnesota. I could talk about this for days!, so feel free to ask questions.
I second Dorayme, find a bike that fits you.
It can be used or new but you have more chance to keep (not have stolen) a beat up bike, as in one which is solid but looks old.
Bring your old bike and trade-in, you will save money that way. Buy a bike with multi speed and make sure you have adequate gear, like a water bottle holder, a pump, good lights and a bell.
A Mom and Pop shop is also good like Used Bikes - Baker's Bikes in Urbana.
Whatever you do, don't buy a bike at a big box store, they skimp on the quality of essential components, not something you want to see on a bike.
My husband and I are long time bike users.
I agree with the previous posts about buying quality and getting fitted correctly but I also want to point out that biking in Champaign-Urbana is not that difficult too.
It is what we refer to in the biking world as "Downhill both Ways"!
There is not a discernible hill or berm anywhere in the area and driveways do not count.
So I think the need for serious gearing there is minimal if you seek mere transportation?
On the other hand investing in a quality versatile bike can help you get in shape and be something you can ride for a long time.
Once you become a little more educated with the quality and performance options out there I always shop on Craigslist and also at Pawn Shops and you can get bikes for amazing low prices if you know what you are looking at.
I am in Florida right now and just picked up ANOTHER Ti Road bike(that I truly need)for 1/10 of its price when new. A few nights cleaning and tuning it up and it is another Prize to fill my crowded basement and take with me on the road too.
Like anything else the more you know the better you will do.
Assuming you don't bike much now, and assuming the old bike is usable, you might want to try the old bike first just to get a sense for what you need. Plus it would give you a chance to get to know a local bike store. Take it it for a tune up and give it a try. Retro bikes are in style now (just look at the posts where people are buying them used) and there is a lot to be said for the simplicity of the old bikes vs all the gears and such found in new bikes. The added benefit is that you won't feel too bad if someone were to steal the old bike. I do think one key component is the rear fender and maybe something for your pant leg so you don't end up soaking your clothes.
I don't have experience with messenger bags on bikes but I would agree that a backpack is probably best to make sure the load stays in the middle of the back. The Brain Bag might be best since it has straps to cinch down which would prevent the contents from sliding if you were to take a turn at high speed. You want that weight tight to your body to avoid it whipping you around.
Lights are a must! I forgot to mention that. They don't have to be super high powered, cheap ones will do. But you definitely need front and rear flashing lights. My favorite blinky (rear light) is Portland Design Works dangerzone. The Planet Bike Superflash is also really good. And get a U lock. Thieves will cut through cable locks. I know firsthand.
I was taking a moratorium from the forum but had to jump in here: I'm the semi-proud owner of a 1995 Mongoose Rockadile. (Yes. Rockadile.) And I have to agree with Rocks and pretzel: just get your current bike tuned up, assuming it still fits you. If it's been awhile since you've ridden, reacquainting yourself with the road on something familiar will help. And once you get a sense of what you like, don't like, and expect from your bike, your new bike store friends will be able to guide you when it's time to purchase a new bike. (FWIW, my once-local bike shop, Revolution Cycles in Madison, made my Rockadile into a fairly zippy single-speed but sold me nothing I didn't need.)
Rocks, does Surly still make the Instigator? I've gotta say, I'd really like a Necromancer Pug, but I'm too short for even the smallest frame. Those 29" tires are badass.
Badger, my beloved Instigator is practically an antique! I've had it for 6 years and it was 3-4 years old when I bought it. Surly stopped making that frame a few years ago and replaced it with the Troll (also very cool). I can't ride 29'er wheels either.
Originally Posted by Gabe
OOOH! What will you be studying?! I hear UIC is an absolutely wonderful school :).
I have an older Trek Clyde, which is essentially a beach cruiser with a 7 speed Shimano internal hub on it and coaster brakes. Love it. This is what I would have wanted in college. Unfortunately, they are not in production anymore.
I had my Ariel outfitted with 29'ers before I ever took her home :). I love them because I feel like I can ride anywhere (anywhere I actually want to ride that is).
Another reason to get the bike from a store local to the university is that most will offer free support if you buy from them. Nothing huge but it can be nice to get a free tune up.
UIUC, actually (Urbana-Champaign instead of Chicago) and I'll be studying Library and Information Science. Hoping to eventually go for the doctorate, but I'm starting my Master's now.
I might have to parlay this into an excuse to buy a Synapse ;-). Though the responsible thing to do would be to just get a Cache and throw it in my Smart Alec.
In terms of the bike I have...well, I barely rode it when I got it, and it's been shelved for years. I'm hoping it'll still be viable, though there's some surface rust. I didn't realize that the gears might not be necessary, seeing as Champaign-Urbana makes northern Illinois look downright rugged. But it turns out that I'm going to have to go to C-U on Wednesday to sign the lease, so maybe I'll throw it in the backseat and see if I can have the local shop I spied when I was down there before take a look at it. Using a local shop is a great idea guys; thanks!
I'll agree with others as above :)
Local is the way to go. Get to know them. If one shop sucks, find a better one. Find one that caters TO YOU. Remember, you are the customer - what services do THEY offer that want to make you shop there? It's like picking a good auto mechanic, or doctor. You can find one anywhere, but when you get a good one - life is so much better. Remember, they will be your lifeblood when you need service, advice, gear, everything. As a former bike-shop sales ninja, sales manager, bike-lover-of-all-types this is really key.
Surface rust on your chain is no good - always remember to keep it lubed, or it'll break when the fates decide it to be the least convenient.
Other advice: Plan on spending $75 for a light set (front/rear) so you can SEE. Forget about be seen, a $5 light can do that. Get gear so you can SEE. They make fantastic USB-rechargeable lights and when you consider that you'll be using these are your lifeblood for commuting at night, spending a little extra can save you lots of pain and anguish when you miss that thing your almost-bright-enough lights missed.
Don't skimp on locks either. Especially on campuses. Get rid of quick releases, go simple. Heck, if you don't have hills consider a single speed, or a bike with only a few gears. Saves on maintenance, easier to keep clean, and lighter too.
Some really fun websites for bike commuting:
Commute by Bike | Tips, Hints, Reviews and Safety for Bike Commuting
You can be as into it as you want. Go at your own pace. Get what you need/want, and have fun. Especially when seeing bikes used overseas for commuting, it's common to see Americans go overboard with something so simple. I'm definitely the overboard type. ;)
Cheers and good luck!!!