Help me buy a new bike!
September 22, 2014 2:17 PM   Subscribe

I'm buying a new bike. I know, You Are Not My Bike Guru. But maybe you are. Help?

My bike got stolen recently (boo!), but the insurance came through quickly without a hitch (yay!), so now I have a budget. I have a max of $1500 to spend, on a bike that I would like to do the following:

1. Get me to and from work every day year round (in Portland, where rain is a thing)
2. Get me 100 miles in a day at least once (and usually twice) a year
3. Last a good long while
4. Be relatively easy to maintain (not a lot of exotic hard-to-find componentry)

I'm 6'2", and about 245 lb, so I'm not that bothered about buying a bike that's ultralight, or getting aftermarket components that are 10 grams lighter than stock, because I'm substantially more than 10 grams heavier than stock. I'm also not necessarily looking for a racing bike - I like going fast, but I'm not about to enter a crit or anything.

So far, in all the looking I've done, I really, really want a Surly. I'm trying to decide between the Long Haul Trucker and the Pacer, and if I go the LHT route I'm trying to determine whether it's worth it to get the disc brakes. I fear in my Surly obsession, though, I may be missing other answers to the "what's the right bike for me" question - are there other bike brands I'm forgetting about that would fit my requirements in my price range?
posted by pdb to Health & Fitness (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
A Surly with disc brakes would be a pretty solid option for you -- if you're commuting every day year round with lots of rain, I think the discs are worth it. Other options like Trek will give you more economies of scale and some would argue more bang for your buck, but if I were in your shoes I'd probably get a LHT disc.
posted by craven_morhead at 2:27 PM on September 22, 2014

I have a Cross-Check and love it. I would get the disc brakes on the LHT because the cantilever brakes on the Cross-Check are a pain in the ass to adjust and get running without squeaking. Maybe you should consider the Cross-Check too, though, since it's a Surly bike that's pretty much partway between the Pacer and the LHT.
posted by Aizkolari at 2:49 PM on September 22, 2014

Before I even finished reading your question, I was going to suggest a LHT or a Cross Check, either with disc brakes. Stepping up to disc brakes has been HUGE for me here in town. I didn't think it was going to make such a difference in the rain, but sweeeeeet jesus.

Dont' be afraid to go used. Get sized down at one of the shops that sells Surely bikes, and buy one on craigslist (if your size is around). You can sometimes find bare frames pretty cheap on craigslist here in the city, and then send it to the shop that sized to to build out. SO MANY good frames and decent bikes end up used on craigslist around here that it is a bit crazy. Just call the police department to run the Serial No before you purchase.
posted by furnace.heart at 2:51 PM on September 22, 2014

Go test ride some Surlys and anything else that looks appealing at all your local shops. Think about which aspects of each bike you like and don't like as you go. Figure out what the best size is for you. Make sure whatever you end up buying has clearance for full fenders and that you can set up a rack and planners in a way that doesn't give you heel strike problems. (Back sweat and mud stripes are for chumps.) Buy the bike that makes you happiest!
posted by asperity at 2:55 PM on September 22, 2014

At your weight, I really would advise against the Pacer. In Portland, you want fenders, but with them, the maximum tire width the Pacer can take is 28 mm. Trust me, you want wider tires so you can run them at a lower pressure and feel comfy.

When I was 220 lb., I rode my Long Haul Trucker everywhere, including rides up to 200 km (125 miles). The low gearing was nice on hills. It's not a sprightly bike, unlike my Boulder All Road, but it will get the job done, it's fun to ride, and it stands up to abuse from a heavier rider. The components are well chosen and stand up to wear and tear well.

I would strongly suggest, though, that you replace the stock tires with wide tires with supple casings. Panaracer Paselas in 35-622 size are great on the LHT, and they work well with the 50 mm Gilles Berthoud stainless steel fenders that I mounted. If your tire budget stretches a little further, consider the 35 or 38 mm tires from Compass Bicycles. Or if you go for a 26"-wheeled LHT, you could get the Compass 26" x 1.75" tires, which would be really nice on that sized wheel.
posted by brianogilvie at 4:45 PM on September 22, 2014

Some days, I think I'm the only person on the Internet that doesn't like Surly bikes. I find them over priced, heavy, and overdone. Maybe the overdone part is because I live in their backyard.

If you can find a Norco Indie Drop or Search, they are some sweet steel bikes with integrated shifting, disc brakes, and a better price point. If you don't need disc brakes, the Bianchi Volpe is pretty great as is REI's Novara Veritas. Raleigh makes a couple I like and can't remember the names of.

I'm also a fan of All City, a sister brand so Surly, but better spec and more fun to ride. Mrs. Advicepig just got a Macho Man Disc and it's pretty fun to ride. It's a little above your price point, but maybe you can find a deal.
posted by advicepig at 6:08 PM on September 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Also count me in to the club of people befuddled by how constantly surly gets recommended. You really pay a lot for what you get there, and while there's nothing particularly wrong with them or any negative reason against it, the markup just bugs me.(and i'm a bit of a go-against-the-grain) sort of person.

The bianchi volpe advicepig mentioned is what my coworker, who i went to high school with, has ridden since high school. I've ridden it, and generally think it's just great. It's stood up to the weather in seattle and plenty of outside lockup and abuse really really well(and when he somehow managed to crack the frame after years, they shipped him out a new one in like... a day, and paid to get all the components swapped).

At that price point, i'd also look at a redline conquest pro. There's a disc version, and a not disc version. I think both have Real Life prices in your range.

No one i know rides discs in seattle, and i know more than a couple all weather cyclists. I wouldn't worry about it.

That said, if you want a surly, get a surly. Everyone i know who has one likes it. I just think you pay a lot for what you get.

There's also a good point above about buying used. There's so much churn and stock on the local craigslist(s) that you really don't need to spend much more than $5-800. $1500 is like, pinarello hoverbike territory around here. You could get a steel davidson for $800 or less. $1500 would probably get you a hand built bike from a local building like rodriguez/davidson/etc(shit, i almost bought a davidson challenger for $550 a while back). Buy new if you want, but finding out what measurements you need and just buying a used bike and maybe swapping a few bits could get you something much nicer than what you're setting up to get here. My last $500 bike had full ultegra, and my last $900 bike had dura ace and completely maxed out everything. Both were not stolen and in great condition, and just from disinterested rich older dudes.

If your target is "ride to work every day", go buy a cheap conquest pro or something else with discs if you want them.

Hell, i saw an upgrade bianchi volpe for $380 at a pawn shop recently(they're ~$800 new and usually closer to $500 used). Think outside the box.

Another random thought, you could buy something that can take discs and add them later if you want. Especially if it's a particularly juicy deal.
posted by emptythought at 6:32 PM on September 22, 2014

I love my All City Space Horse.

It's zippy and light (for a steel bike), yet comfortable and sturdy, lots of braze-ons for fenders (rain) and racks (for your panniers or whatnot), and a fetching cerulean blue. No super special, obscure parts - my first tune up was totally reasonable in price.

Incidentally, Surly and All City are both owned by the same large conglomerate.
posted by latkes at 12:35 PM on September 23, 2014

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