Help me decide what do about my bike situation
May 21, 2014 11:43 AM   Subscribe

My once-loved 3 speed bike is no longer meeting my needs. Should I buy a brand new bike or try to upgrade what I have?

I currently have a Linus Mixte 3 speed, which I've been riding happily for about 4 years. This bike has been great for me, and it helped me to get into cycling again after a long hiatus, plus it's super cute (hey - style counts!). The step through frame is great for when I wear skirts, and I like being able to get my feet comfortably on the ground at red lights. However, I've recently started using it to commute to work 5 days a week, and since then I'm starting to think I've outgrown it. Three gears doesn't feel like enough, especially on hills, and it starts to get uncomfortable on longer rides. Also, the upright riding position is nice for shorter trips, but on longer rides I start to feel like I'm not pedaling as efficiently as I could be, and I get tired easily.

My budget is about $1,000, and these are my options:
1) Upgrade the Linus to 8 speeds and change the handlebars. This would probably cost a few hundred dollars, and I'm not sure if it would solve all my problems.
2) Sell the Linus and buy a new, more "serious" bike. If so, what?
3) Keep the Linus for short rides and buy a 2nd sportier bike for longer rides (this way lies bike hoarder crazytown, I know)

More about me:
- Female, 5'9", 160 lbs. Relatively fit but definitely not an athlete.
- I live in NYC and commute from Brooklyn to midtown Manhattan, 9 miles each way. It's mostly flat but there are a few hils, which is when I really feel like I need more gears. I also sometimes go for longer rides on the weekends, either around town or outside of the city.
- I have plenty of room for indoor bike storage at home, but minimal at work, so I usually lock up on the street there. I could fit a bike in my office at work but it would be a tight squeeze (folding bike would be great for this, but I have the same concerns about how a folding bike would be for long/hilly rides).
- Bike theft is obviously an issue in NYC, so I'm slightly nervous about spending a lot of money on an expensive bike that could be stolen.
posted by bobafet to Travel & Transportation (10 answers total)
3) Keep the Linus for short rides and buy a 2nd sportier bike for longer rides (this way lies bike hoarder crazytown, I know)

If you have the space for it, two isn't too crazy, especially if one is a comfier, upright commuter-bike and one is a distance/speed optimized model where you'd be more hunched-over as you shout "zoooooom!" while you pedal.

(that's how it works, trust me)
posted by Tomorrowful at 12:26 PM on May 21, 2014

This is exactly why I have two bikes: the heavy, upright, comfy "couch bike," and the lighter, speedy, drop-bars "fun bike." I think it's totally reasonable to have two. But then again I've told my beau he can have as many bikes as he wants as long as there are no bikes in the bed, so I might have the sickness. :]

(Oh, and they are both lugged steel mixtes that are older than me.)
posted by fiercecupcake at 12:36 PM on May 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you like the way the bike looks, feels, handles, etc, upgrading for more gears would be the way I would go; It's the most economical route, it's the easiest route. You might only need to actually change your shifters, not the whole handlebars, and given the parts, a bike shop could possibly do the switch in an afternoon. You could even look into getting an 'internal gear hub' which would retain much of the look of your bike too. I recently test drove a bike with internal hub that was progressive (i think that's the term?) so, there was no clunking of gears, it just shifted seamlessly. It was creepy, and really cool….but that's just an option. Bike shop will be able to tell you more of exactly what you'll be able to do with that particular bike.

Also if you go just the 'upgrade gears' route, for that budget, you could also get a nice saddle, nigh indestructible tires, and some panniers if you don't have them (and if you carry a backpack on your commute, panniers are the most beautiful realization ever).

If your comfort is compromised because of things other than your lack of gears, I would consider just getting a different roadbike.

I have a roadbike, and a longtail cargo bike to carry the kid on. I like riding and all, but if i'm carrying a backpack more than just across the neighborhood, I grab the cargo bike. Being more upright is really comfortable (for me) on city streets.
posted by furnace.heart at 12:37 PM on May 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yeah, you really want two bikes (I should know, I have five!). It doesn't count as hoarding if you actually use all your bikes, right? *thinks guiltily about how long it is has been since the mountain bike has come off the wall*
posted by rockindata at 1:10 PM on May 21, 2014

locking up outside - get two locks, a kryptonite chain and a u-lock. lock up in different spots every day and make sure what you're locking up to is solid. renters insurance also covers bike theft (usually a $500 deductible but if you have a $1500 bike it's worth it.)
posted by cristinacristinacristina at 1:16 PM on May 21, 2014

Hey fellow mixte rider!

My distance bike is a vintage racing mixte with all modern upgraded components. It's beautiful.

I'm 5'8" and very long legged so I probably ride the same size you do. It was a challenge to find a vintage mixte in my size, but we eventually found one. It's a perfect, super comfy geometry, Reynolds 531 frame. (It's also French so we needed to deal with everything being French threaded.)

I've ridden a half ironman on that mixte. It's my true love.

In your situation, I'd ride the Linus until a vintage mixte came available. I'd spend the money upgrading to higher end components.
posted by 26.2 at 1:23 PM on May 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'd go with option 3. For $1000 you can find a good quality second-hand 80's Japanese cromoly steel bike, have it fully tuned up, and still have about $600 leftover.
posted by jetsetsc at 1:47 PM on May 21, 2014

I'd keep the Mixte (neat bike!) and get some sort of road-derived commuter bike with more gears.

If you have to lock it outside at work it will almost inevitably get stolen unless you're willing to carry a hardware-store's worth of locks around with you. (And even then, it might still get stolen.) So I wouldn't buy anything particularly expensive. As others have suggested, buying an 80s road bike and then getting it fully tuned up can yield a nice commuter. If it were me, I'd want to get fenders put on it as well (no mud spray on your clothes). That may limit your choice of frames a bit, but should still leave some options.

Basically any 14- or 21-speed road bike (which really means 7 cogs in back and either a double or triple crank up front), with a steel frame should be fine.

The other alternative would be to get a nice folding bike that you can bring inside. There are folding bikes with very good gearing systems. However, they do tend to be quite expensive compared to a regular bike... so there's a significant tradeoff. I'd imagine it might be worth it just to never have to worry about the thing being stolen, but you could probably go through at least 2 standard steel-frame beaters for the price of a good folding bike, so I could see the other side of the argument too.
posted by Kadin2048 at 3:07 PM on May 21, 2014

I'd say two bikes is the way to go. I have a very similar commute to you, and I this is why I have a cruiser (also a Linus) that I ride most days to the city, plus a more aggressive road bike (KHS Urban Uno) for longer/faster rides.

All of that said, I'm not sure if you're going to buy that much with more gears in NYC. Our city is pretty flat, and I've always felt that three speeds is perfect for it.
posted by soy_renfield at 6:52 PM on May 21, 2014

If you want to pedal more efficiently you can swap out your platform pedals for clipless pedals. Yes I know it is a pain to change shoes at your destination, but clipless really helps when climbing hills. If you're OK wearing running shoes with your dresses while in transit (I am), you can pull off MTB shoes such as these ones. You can walk around in these at your destination if necessary. Shoes and pedals run $200.
posted by crazycanuck at 10:10 PM on May 21, 2014

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