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Discussion Starter #1
Hello all,

Thanks for your patience and expertise in helping with my next bike choice.

I bought a cheap hard tail 26" mtb to test whether I would actually ride and commute. 420 miles in 6 weeks, 14 lb lighter bike engine, I am ready to upgrade. I ride long flats with big hills at either end with my groceries/ text books etc. in my panniers 4 miles each way for grad school, hoping to include some twice weekly or so 13 mile each way to work. Most of my miles are "just because I can trips" to the liquor store and other points of interest within 25 miles of home.

I'm looking to spend no more than $1000 for my "land canoe." Speed is a great bonus, efficiency is key. My top contenders from the LBSs are Cannondale Bad Boy 9, Quick 4, Kona Rove AL, and if they still can get one, last year's Jamis Bosanova. Split between drop and flat bars, I have never used drops but see the logic. Is there a disadvantage to the drop bars, or to the bikes which have them?

Thanks for any advice.
 

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Road or off road/trail/dirt road?
 

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disadvantages to drops? no major ones that I can describe. One minor one is that hydro brakes for drop bar bikes are still quite expensive. You can get hydros easily enough for a flat bar bike at the upper end of your budget. And they are an easy upgrade later if you want (and the bike is compatible with them - the Quick 4 is not). I like hydros when I can get them because of the light touch to use them compared to cable brakes. That said, I have cable brakes on my Vaya because I'm not about to throw down the kind of coin drop bar hydros require.

All of the bikes you mentioned are great bikes. 4 miles each way counts as a pretty short trip, doable on just about anything with wheels and pedals. 13 mile one way trips and you will appreciate the more comfortable riding positions a drop bar will provide.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Road, some bike trails. Mostly paved with some occasional gravel or packed dirt. Tried a Quick CX3 on the typical stuff and felt stable enough, but too upright and I couldn't stand the paint job. Thanks.
 

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bar ends are one option to get a different hand position. I find that when riding into a headwind, though, I like being able to get really low. Can't do that with bar ends so easily. With drops, absolutely.
 

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I think you'd like a steel frame road bike. Steel isn't as light as aluminum, but it sure is a lot more stable and durable. Maybe a touring-oriented frame. Because you never know when you'll want to strap a bunch of stuff to it. If your budget allows for it, get a rack, panniers, and bungee cords and you're set.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Thanks again Natehawk. A friend is lending me a Cannondale CX bike rigged as a commuter to see if I can manage the drops and different lever positions, I'll let you know how I get on in a few days.

In the meantime, Cannondale has responded to my inquiry and claims that a 2014 Bad Boy 9 will take up to 2.25" tires on a 700c wheel. Does anyone know what kind of clearance the Kona Rove AL will have?

Wider/ studded tires might give me the confidence to ride later into Michigan's seasons. Is this confidence misplaced, am I too used to wide tires?
 

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Discussion Starter #9
NDD- Thanks for the input. I want to go lighter than my current rig (38 pounds with empty panniers), Jamis Bosanova and a few others should do that nicely in steel.

The Alu frames I am looking at are much cheaper from the two local shops I would like to support, than comparable steel (unless I get paid before the 2014s are all bought up from their distributers). Raleigh Roper, the Surlys, and several kona and Jamis bikes have been on my watch list but rarely in my price range. I can get a good deal on a Raleigh Sojourn, but it seems like a lot more bike than I need/ might discourage my buying a second bike for touring next year.

As a grad student, the budget is tight for the next two years or so, I would rather spend a little more now than upgrade again in the summer. Either the Rove AL or the BB9 leave me funds for better racks and panniers and fenders than what I have now on my Raleigh Talus 2.0. In short, if i get the Alu bikes I have listed, I can also afford a 12" sliding compound miter saw, or I can get a steel bike. Priorities are a pain.

Can anyone quantify the "betterness" of ride on steel frame? Are we talking F-350 vs Crown Vic, or Crown Vic vs Taurus? Does the frame material make as much difference as the tire size (for ride quality)? I hope to answer some of these questions this weekend while borrowing an aluminum CX bike (alu, narrow tires, etc), but I have a limited frame of reference.

Thanks again all for the helpful suggestions.
 

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You can get studded tires in the 700x38 range, so if that's your biggest concern regarding tire size, you don't need to be TOO picky. I find that size is still big enough to drop the pressure for bump absorption. Last winter I did a ride on a MUP in the wintertime where part of the trail was covered with that re-frozen slush from folks running/riding when it was thawing. I was able to drop my tire pressure into the 30's, and I wasn't even using studs for traction.

Grad school - ah, the memories. As a grad student, I bought an On-One Pompetamine. The rear dropouts were annoying and the ultimate reason I sold the frame and bolted the parts onto a Salsa Vaya after I finished school and could afford something nicer. But the price was right and it did the job pretty well. On-One bikes are a pretty good value, and they have a number of affordable steel offerings. The steel is similar to what Surly uses. Salsa uses a nicer steel and it feels much better, though I'm sure part of that better ride feel has to do with the frame geometry, too.

Larger tires do something a little different for your ride quality than the frame material. Think of bigger tires as being more like absorption for discrete bumps in the pavement. A good, compliant frame material doesn't really do much for that. What steel does well and aluminum does poorly is to absorb the high frequency vibrations that even voluminous tires don't do terribly well to minimize. Carbon and titanium also absorb high frequency vibrations well, but are more expensive than even steel.

You could think of it more like this:
race geometry road bike - sports car
endurance geometry road bike - sporty sedan
touring bike - comfy sedan
hybrid - econobox
cross bike - street-friendly SUV
mountain bike - off road SUV
cargo bike - pickup truck/van
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Thanks all. I just got the loaner Cyclocross bike fitted, at least I think I did. The hand/ shifter/ brake positions are different enough I'll have to do a short run tomorrow evening and a few longer ones this weekend before I can say anything intelligent. This one does have extra brake levers on the top bar, so I'll have to play with them too.

Always exciting to try something new with wheels on it.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
After a short ride this evening, the integrated brakes and shifters felt surprisingly normal. Position was reasonable, but toe overlap is serious and I need to change out the pedals as I don't have shoes to clip in. Thanks again for all the suggestions.
 

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How bout a hybrid or sport fitness bike with road aero bars/triathalon bars? With a hybrid you get a suspension fork which ads comfort if you have uneven surfaces to ride on. What ever you get I suggest a rear rack and pannier/s and fenders.

You did it right by investing in a cheap bike first. That is what I did, otherwise its money wasted.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
I have seen the Amish just south of here running this combination, aero bars on a Quick CX or Raleigh Misceo. If the Local Amish are using the setup, there must be something to recommend it in terms of cost and efficiency. I haven't found a bike with a suspension fork that spoke to me, most of them ride more upright than I have found comfortable beyond 10 miles on asphalt.

I am still open to suggestions if you, or anyone else here, knows of a suspension fork bike with specs similar to Kona Rove AL, Jamis Bosanova, or Cannondale Bad Boy 9. I don't think I want the suspension, but if I can find the right bike with it, I will happily give it a test ride.

I have a rear rack, fenders and panniers, will not consider a commuter without them here in MI. Just in the last few days, it has become clear that a porteur rack on the front fork could be very useful. If anyone has a resource for finding the best rack for a specific bike, I would love to hear it, I will look more at axiom in the coming days.

As for cheap bikes, I couldn't agree more Snailspace. I hadn't been on two wheels without an engine in at least fifteen years prior to this bike and I was extremely skeptical that I would ride any distance/ incline/ road over 25MPH speed limit. My experience with really cheap bikes from Wally-World had me convinced that I would be fiddling and repairing all the time, a cheap Raleigh with good low end parts has opened my eyes and mind. My heavy, fat tired monster has gone a long way toward building confidence and getting into shape enough to see a benefit from a faster bike.

When the new bike comes in, whatever I chose in the end, the old one will be going to one of my foreign colleagues at the university on the condition that he clean it up and pass it on to another foreign graduate student when he finishes his degree.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
The LBS dealing in Kona and Jamis has just emailed, stating that a Rove ALuminum is coming in in my size. Other than fit, which we will see in the test ride, does anyone have a good argument against this bike as an all weather commuter once it is fendered and racked? Any thoughts on the relative advantage of a 2014 Jamis Bosanova (more gears and a Reynolds frame= slightly more money)?

Consensus seems to be that drop bars are better on a road commuter bike. I have been pleasantly surprised by how intuitive integrated shifters have become in less than 15 miles on the loaner bike. Any thoughts on bar end shifters as opposed to integrated "brifters?" I am hearing that bar ends are tougher and more easily used to limp home in friction mode, but dislike the idea of reaching all over the place to shift gears.

In fairness, I haven't yet found a bike to test with bar end shifters and I was highly skeptical of integrated shifters and drop bars which I now like.
 

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Soma Double Cross or Surly crosscheck - would be just the ticket for you. I have the non disc version of the Doublecross. I can run it as an out an out road bike which it is at the moment (Ultegra 6700, CX70 canti brakes and a roadie wheel set with 23mm GP4000s tires) with that set up, in the more enthusiasm than skill category of road riding that I have always been in, I can keep up with all the guys and girls in the group on their 3,4 or 5K carbon, power tap, lightweight roadies. But I have the advantage of being able to stick another wheel set on running and 11/28 cassette and 35mm XR's , flip the stem to make the position a bit more comfy and off I can go on or off road touring or commuting.
You can pick up a cross check for about $1k I think.
I like Integrated brake shifters compared to down tube or bar end to be honest, not all traditional stuff is better. There is nothing wrong them but STI's or SRAM double tap are definitely more convenient
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Thanks SimpleJon, I will look at Soma's double cross. Is there something about the Cross Check that truly outperforms the Jamis Bosanova, or is it just a matter of the Surly being a beloved brand? I'm VW for cars and Ford for trucks in the US market, I understand brand loyalty and the blinders it applies. I have had some great Chevy's but won't usually admit that.

Most bicycle discussions I have had in the last year have included some discussion of the Surly Cross Check. I tried one two years ago (before I had any belief in bicycles) when a friend asked me to cut and steam bend some white oak fenders for his. The bike was beautiful, but I had no frame of reference for how it rode.

As I read the specs and geometry, the Jamis Bosanova is nearly identical to the Cross Check except for the disk brakes and carbon fork on the Jamis. A LBS can get the Jamis (2014) for right around 1k, Surly is a bit more. I'm not overly taken by the in stock color on either bike (black or cream), the Cross Check I built fenders for was a stunning deep green, for which I might pay a little more.

Would you mind comparing the Cross Check and Bosanova for specs and geometry? If the Surly is truly better, I will consider ordering one. $200 difference in price will get me much better rack and panniers than what I have currently. The Kona Rove AL is $900 MSRP, a little less in the flesh, I see that it has 2x8 gearing instead of 3x10 and an aluminum frame/ fork with STI rather than bar end shifters. Kona's longer wheelbase is intriguing and looks like it would give me less toe overlap in regular shoes.

Thanks again. I am learning something useful from every response so far.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
I'm not finding a Soma dealer in my part of the country. Double cross is enticing, but, then cost of tune ups etc with no local dealer is a deal breaker. Similarly, Trek has some great bikes but the dealer here is not convenient (17 miles away vs 3 for Cannondale/ Raleigh/ Kona/ Jamis), nobody in the shop seemed familiar with the 520 or touring bikes in general.

Surly is no problem as far as dealers go, but the LBSs all suggest last years' model of their preference brand instead. Does Surly do discounts for model year changes? If so, any thoughts on the Straggler?
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Natehawk, Thanks for the detailed explanation of frame and tire distinctions. Using Kona as an example, would the ride quality be worth the cost difference between the Rove (steel) and Rove AL (Aluminum) for an everyday 15-30 mile per day road and gravel road bike?

Would i save much money by buying a Rove AL and upgrading components to match the steel standard, or am I underestimating the cost of components?
 
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