Recommend a new commuter bike for me!
May 11, 2020 11:24 AM   Subscribe

My old Raleigh that I used to commute for the last 12 years was totaled in a car crash this weekend (I wasn't riding it). I need to buy a new one, would you have any recommendations based on my snowflake details inside?

My Raleigh was a beater, it looked pretty junky but rode well (if a bit slowly, given its 35-year old steel frame). It looked a lot like this one, except--crucially--the drop bars had been swapped out for riser bars, giving me a more upright posture. I found this gave me good comfort and visibility in city traffic but still allow me to get some speed and dig deep. Now that it's gone, I need to replace it.

What would you recommend? More parameters below:

*My budget is flexible, but I'd like to spend less than about $750, ideally around $500.
*I live in Brooklyn and lock the bike outside except in the winter. My commute is 5 miles each way, over the Manhattan bridge and some hills in Brooklyn. I like having my bike out on the street and just being able to walk outside and hop on it.
*Generally, lower maintenance is better, since I leave it outside all day. I'd looked into single speeds before but didn't like them--too much effort on the inclines makes me sweat more, tougher once i get to the office. I also rode this affordable carbon belt/internal hub bike for a couple weeks last year. I was attracted to the carbon belt/internal combo for the maintenance prospects. There was a lot to like, but it has a more aggressive posture than my bike and I didn't like the ride as much. In the end, I decided my old Raleigh was was worth more trips to the bike shop.
*I use a rear rack for a pannier. At some point in the next year or so, I'd like to be able to add a child seat.
*Is this Jamis Coda what I'm looking for? What else should I look at?
posted by benbenson to Travel & Transportation (5 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I'm a crazy road cyclist person, so I know almost nothing about the lower end of bikes, but I did happen to notice that The Wirecutter has a guide to hybrid bikes up this morning.

Their pick is a Marin at $450, but the "also great" is a Jamis Coda variant. Their "upgrade"option is a bike from a brand I don't know (Priority) that uses an internally geared hub, which are popular in some quarters for their sealed nature. But it's $1100.

Generally, I'd stay with the tried-and-true normal chain-and-derailleur drivetrain. It's highly fault tolerant with a moderate amount of maintenance, and every bike shop on the planet will be able to work on it.
posted by uberchet at 11:53 AM on May 11, 2020

The Priority Continuum? That bike checks all my boxes. CVT is really fun to ride, belt drive is low maintenance, it has a generator so you never worry about charged lights. But yeah, it's a bit spendy.

You can't go wrong with the correctly sized Coda though, but really, any bike shop bike in that range is decent choice. If you can ride a few, you'll get a sense of what feels right to you. Small differences in proportions make some bikes more suited to some people and it's really hard to predict. Jamis, Marin, Giant, and Raleigh have some great bikes, but not the big brand names of Trek and Specialized. Any of those are fine.
posted by advicepig at 12:03 PM on May 11, 2020

I've got an older model of Priority and swapped out the handlebars, making it a much more comfortable ride. (Also the saddle, but that may go without saying.) Given your use case and plan to lock outside, belt drive + internal hub is a good way to go, though you'll want to do a very good job locking it. I really wish Priority would produce a great step-through design so that it'd be easier to deal with taller rear loads like a child seat. Not sure how they'd handle a top tube-mounted child seat, but probably about as well as anything else does.

Anyway, Priority have a bunch of matching options for racks and fenders and such, as well as other handlebar options. And if it's at all in your budget, they've got options with dynamo lights now, which add a lot of just-get-on-and-ride simplicity. No lube and no chain or cassette rust are awesome if your bike's in the elements, and I've put a few thousand miles a year on mine without the drivetrain parts needing any maintenance at all. Also, much less of a hassle than the very occasional clean-and-lube an enclosed chain case needs. Internal-gear hubs are fantastic for riding in places where you're likely to have to stop often, and they're required if you want multiple gear options on a belt drive bike.
posted by asperity at 12:06 PM on May 11, 2020

Since you're planning on leaving it outside, your inclination towards belt and internal geared hub is a good one. I'll echo what Asperity said: if you like the Priority, just swap out the handlebars, that'll change the posture dramatically (but even at its base, it's more than your state budget). I functionally have the same geometry of bike, and have this style of handlebar attached. As a kid I had bullhorns on it, and it was a really aggressive posture. Old man me much appriciates the swept back bars.

If you're comfortable doing the work yourself, Universal Cycles has a lot of options; I personally like Nitto bars, but I would find the place that has the most stock that will let you get your hands on some to at least hold and try.

But none of this style of bike is going to be good for mounting a childs seat to. If that's in your plan, you might want to start looking at longtail cargo bikes now instead of later. They're bananas more useful than regular bikes. I ride an xtracycle as basically my daily driver and its fantastic. Just hauled two entire loads of free paving stones 4 miles down the way with the kid perched on top.
posted by furnace.heart at 12:40 PM on May 11, 2020 [2 favorites]

I came here to recommend the Jamis Coda, which ticks most of your boxes. If you add fenders, you'll extend your drivetrain's life by quite a bit, especially if your front fender is long enough and you add a mudflap at the bottom. That will keep crud and road salt from being kicked up onto your chainrings and chain.
posted by brianogilvie at 2:48 PM on May 11, 2020 [1 favorite]

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