Commuter bike opinions - Marin Muirwoods v. Kona Dew Plus etc.
May 25, 2014 12:05 PM   Subscribe

I'm interested in getting a bike for rides around the neighborhood and occasional commuting (~4-5 mi). I'm pretty much a beginner rider, interested in comfort and safety more than high performance. I rode and enjoyed the Kona Dew Plus and Marin Muirwoods, and I'm also interested in the Fairdale Weekender and Origin8 Intersekt 7. I'd appreciate opinions on these bikes, comparable alternatives, or general wisdom. Snowflake details inside.

I'm interested in getting a bike for rides around the neighborhood and occasional commuting (~4-5 mi). I'm in central Austin which is relatively flat and dry.

I've barely ridden in the past few years, and never did any real riding on larger streets before. I'm 6'0, and I definitely prefer a more upright posture and straight handlebars.

I've been to a couple shops to ride bikes; I briefly rode and enjoyed the Dew Plus and Marin Muirwoods, and I'm going to be trying out the Weekender and Intersekt 7 later on this week.

I'd be interested in any opinions on any of these bikes, or other recommendations. It's important to me to buy through a local shop, so I'll probably limit myself to what thy stock or will order for me.

A couple things that I tried and didn't like so much are the Torker Graduate (I didn't really like the handbars and posture, it felt almost too relaxed to me) and a Masi (didn't like the road bike style shifters, or the multi-position grips). Just for aesthetic reasons, I'm also not real big on the stuff that l associate with beach cruisers like a built-in basket (I might come around to a chain guard and fenders, but I don't love how they look).

I want something that will stick around for a while and be pretty user friendly. I'm not real concerned with weight and don't want to spend more than I have too. I'm trying to keep everything under 800-1000 including accessories (light, helmet, back rack, pump, tools).

Any assistance is super appreciated.

Thank you!
posted by dredge to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Look for a used Surly Crosscheck and put upright bars on it. The bikes you are looking at are somewhat "entry level" which is appealing for the price, but plastic components and more weight than you need are going to bug you and have you leaving this in the garage. Get a good, used moderate quality bike instead. The Crosscheck is very adaptable; by changing the wheels, handlebars etc you can take it from a triathlon racer to a cross-country touring bike to a tricked out comfort rig with racks and bells and dynohub lights and fenders.

Since you are not claiming to be interested in racing, look for steel frames in general. Check out Velo Orange, Trek, Soma, Rawland, etc. Many of these are made in the same Taiwanese factories as Soma so it is just design and branding tweaks...
posted by mantid at 12:30 PM on May 25, 2014

Ignore all advice that you get to be fiddly about your first bike purchase (first as in hasn't ridden for years, that is). Buy something new and ready to go and with decent reviews and start riding!
posted by planetesimal at 12:59 PM on May 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Personally for what you are doing I would get a standard road bike and have the shop switch out the drop bars for something that will give you a more upright position before you take it home. The Crosscheck mantid mentions is a variation of what I would call a "touring bike", basically a bike that can do anything, which is what I usually recommend to friends who want to get into cycling and aren't really sure what they want or need (the bike can grow with you as your interests expand). I ride a Soma Saga, which is almost identical to Surly's Long Haul Trucker, just to throw two more model names out there as examples of what I'm talking about.

Really for a 4-5 mile commute and some rides around town, you can basically ride anything and you'll be fine, so I wouldn't sweat it too much. Get whatever feels and looks good to you.
posted by bradbane at 1:20 PM on May 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Forgot to mention above that if you do go for a decent-end used bike and it doesn't work out, it will be possible to sell it for exactly what you paid, or even more. On the other hand, if you buy a lower-end casual bike, it will be much harder to sell, and definitely impossible to get what you paid back.
posted by mantid at 2:58 PM on May 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think the bases are well covered above. But as an austinite I just wanted to invite you to try out some group rides. There are lots of beginner friendly groups and when you ride longer, if you like, most of them have longer/faster rides of all kinds.

I'm a member of Austin Cycling Association which has LOTS of rides every week ranging anywhere from 10 to 75 miles. I have ridden some with the Bicycle Sport Shop folks - they have many rides/week leaving from all of their locations, some of them are beginner type rides (say 20ish miles, relaxed pace). There's also Austin Cycling Meetup group which has lots of rides of all types. Those are the main groups I've ridden with, I'm sure there are others.

Summer is approaching and in austin that usually means pretty hot. I've found summer cycling OK as long as you get out there *early*, before it gets hot.
posted by RustyBrooks at 3:14 PM on May 25, 2014

I got good advice here to avoid any kind of shocks which my local bike shops did try to sell me. Besides that I agree: decide on your price range and within that most bikes are going to be of fairly similar quality, so choose the one you enjoy test riding most!
posted by latkes at 3:37 PM on May 25, 2014

The Dew Plus is a good choice for a "flat bar road bike" - mountain bike style brake levers & shifters but skinny tires & non suspended fork. Trying to swap drop bar for flat controls instead of buying a bike already set up the way you want is expensive. Also called hybrid (though some of those have suspension) or a fitness bike. Trek FX, Scott SUB, Jamis Allegro, Specialized Sirrus.

Disc brakes are overkill for flat & dry, however. Linear-pull (Shimano calls 'em V-brakes) brakes like on the regular Dew work great, are a bit easier to adjust and don't have rotors to bend when you jam the bike into a rack.

[this can come later] Fenders (mudguards) don't have to be big & cruiser-y or heavy and aren't only for rain. I have light plastic fenders on my bike in dry San Jose because it keeps sand & tar off me & the bike frame.

Aluminum's lighter and fine for a bike you aren't keeping forever. If you really want steel, the Jamis Coda is reasonably priced.

REI has repair classes. It's so nice to be able to do basic brake & derailleur adjustment yourself.

Helmet or glasses mirrors aren't fashionable, but riding on the street with one will let you know what's going on without turning your head away from what you're heading towards. Mirror on your head instead of bike lets you cover a wider swath of rear coverage with a small rotation.

Fatter, lower pressure tires with supple sidewalls have been measured as having less rolling resistance than skinny hard race tires, but can be more forgiving. I run 1.5" "commuter" tires (and weigh 220+), but even the 35mm on the Dew Plus requires less road debris vigilance than the 28mm on the Sirrus (or 23mm on a race bike).
posted by morganw at 5:02 PM on May 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Thanks for your thoughts, this is all really useful.

I have a quick follow up question, though. A couple folks suggested a used bike; I'd love to save the money, but I had figured it was a bad idea given how little I know about the components, maintenance etc. Is it pretty easy to tell if a used bike is in good condition? Is there anything specific I need to look out for?

Anyway, thanks again for the input, and RustyBrooks, I'll definitely check out some social rides once I get my bike, much appreciated dude!
posted by dredge at 5:46 PM on May 25, 2014

Here's a checklist for buying a used bike.

Austin Yellow Bike is a community-run bike fixit coop. If you buy a used bike from them, it's unlikely to be a lemon, and it's low-risk because they'll be easy-going if you decide after 2 weeks a different flavor of bike would be a better fit. And if you ask they can show you how to vet a prospective used bike.

Definitely get them or some other community bike class to teach you how to change a flat, adjust your derailers, and so on.
posted by sebastienbailard at 7:26 PM on May 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

I like those bikes (except the Intersekt), and I would say go for either the Muir Woods or the Dew Plus. Kona makes some solid bikes that are a good value.

I do like that Fairdale. I would honestly ride all 3 and go with whatever feels best to you.

That Intersekt's components are just not worth it, and to be honest the fame isn't that great. It's not a bad bike, but it's not nearly as good as the Kona, Fairdale, or Marin.

I've given some advice about buying used bikes in the past. While you can find a deal used, the bikes you're looking at are fine bikes, and you know you'd be getting something solid that will last you for years.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 7:28 PM on May 25, 2014

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