The Chainlink

I need a new bike... not "would like" a new bike, I NEED a new bike.  I have for 4 years, but don't have the time or energy to research what to get.  I'm hoping the collective brains of Chainlink will help point me in the right direction, based on the following parameters:

1.  I commute 7 miles OT, year round, to the loop from Northcenter. 

2.  I've been riding a POS mountain bike on said commute for 5 years.  It can be my winter bike if needed.

3.  I haul my 7yo on a trail a bike 3.5 miles in the morning (so I need to have fenders)

4.  I have secure bike parking, so I feel comfortable spending up to $1k.

5.  I like deals, so usually wait for the end of the season then get busy and miss all the sales.

I've always thought I would get a cyclocross bike and just add fenders and racks.  But I don't know what's a good, quality brand to look for.  Any suggestions?  Even better, any particularly good end-of-season sales?

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Get a Surly Cross-Check or Long Haul Trucker. Stout steel frames that come in many sizes and will last a long time.

Build up frame typically sells for a bit over $1K, but you might find last years model for that. These bikes do not change form year-to-year beyond a new color scheme

Most other manufacturers make similar models, so you may look beyond Surly

Call me crazy but I like the Raleigh Port Townsend right now.  It's a steel bike with fenders.  Sizes run 50 cm - 59 cm.  How are you hauling your 7 year old?  I'm guessing you're using a Novara Afterburner type deal- - if you're hauling kids I recommend Everyday Cycles in Motion in Evanston - 

Yes, this (or something like it) "upright, city bike"! Upright is the safest commuter - you can see more and more drivers can see you than if you are hunched over hanging on to drop bars. 

$850 (the MSRP of the Port Townsend) is better than $1k. Even if you have secure bike parking, you might find yourself using the bike for errands and going out for entertainment and all that - you'll feel better about leaving it locked up outside occasionally if you have not spent a fortune on it.

I also personally would generally favor an upright bike over a cyclocross. If I didn't already have a number of bikes I would personally look into an Electra Loft or Townie, one of the ones that comes with more "fixins", gears, racks, generator lights. But I find them more comfortable and I'm more interested in comfort and convenience than speed and efficiency.

This is what I'm hauling the kid on:

In addition to that, we have a Yuba Mundo (best bike EVER), so the kids are taken care of.  That's actually the reason I've gone so long without getting the bike I really deserve.

I was leaning toward a cyclocross/drop bar bike because I could, theoretically, do cyclocross someday after the kids are grown (are old ladies allowed to do such things?).  I have an old Schwinn Suburban and the Yuba fit the cruiser category (and Divvy a fair amount, particularly in the winter).  Maybe I should try to commute on one of my road bikes for a week or so to see how I like the dropbars.

Someone suggested an All City or a Focus.  Any thoughts on those?

All-city, like Surly, and a bunch of other brands, is owned by QBP, a large bike parts distributor base in Bloomington, MN.
All their bikes are TIG-welded in Taiwan, and are indistinguishable in value for money, (i.e. a $1000 Surly will get yo very similar parts as a $1000 All-City). So it comes down to fit, geometry, and brand positioning. Look at both Surlys and All-Citys and see which one appeals most to you.

+1 on the Surly Crosscheck (or comparable All City), which is what I commute on. 

I think the plus with something like a Surly Crosscheck is that it can make a great commuter, especially if you ride at a faster pace, AND it can double as a road bike/cyclocross bike in the future if you do decide to get into longer rides outside of commuting.  If you already have the Yuba, which I assume is set up like an upright city bike, I'd personally go with something sportier that gives you a bit more range.  A crosscheck is basically the swiss army knife of bikes.    

One of the big deciding factors for me on bikes is the frame material. Lots of manufacturers like aluminum because it's a lot lighter (and doesn't rust) but you feel. every. bump. on. the. road.

I only ride steel bike frames (with the exception of the aluminum road bike I was gifted) and I feel like it makes a pretty big difference.

Also, consider bike touring instead cyclo-cross!

Kat - take a look at these Gazelle city bikes at JC Lind Bikes on Wells St: Upright positioning, come complete with fenders, racks for bags/baskets/cargo, chain guards, ring locks for rear wheels (such a convenient feature), bells, roller brakes in hubs (so wet roads do not affect their stopping power) and dynamo lights (Heavy Duty has dynamo front, battery powered rear light) - built for city riding (commuting, shopping, hauling kids): $1149 for the steel-framed Tour Populair, $749 (on sale) for the aluminum-framed Heavy Duty. Both models come in step-through and step-over models: (I have a WorkCycles GR8 that I absolutely love for my city riding and daily commuting). And Jon Lind is a great guy, with a great shop! Good luck!

If you're looking for comfort over speed then I fully endorse looking at these bikes. I sport the WorkCycle Secret Service for my daily 8 mile commute and absolutely love it. JC Lind is a great place to try out non-traditional commuter and family friendly bikes. And as Ken pointed out, Jon is super helpful and friendly.

I'd say the Surly Cross Check also, but the Surley Straggler is the same with disc brakes.  The disc brakes make the bike even more versatile because you can switch different sized wheels easily and have an even greater range of tire sizes available for different uses.


Here are a couple of bikes that I've been digging of late that could be good for your use.  When I commuted with kids on the back I tried both cross bikes and fast commuter bikes and I always gravitated towards bikes with a flat or riser bars so that I would feel more upright.  I also dug tires that were a little wider in front with traction for year round riding.  One of the bikes I dig is the Diamondback Haanjo and I'm also really digging the functional front basket and full fenders of the Raleigh Port Townsend.

Both of these options are inside your budget and will excel for year round commuting.  Best of Luck.


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