Female beginner commuter, <$900

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Female beginner commuter, <$900

Postby tanna1 » Sat Mar 08, 2014 11:28 pm

Hi all,

So I've recently started commuting to work on an old Trek 7.1 FX, but my bike was sadly stolen ( :cry: ) and therefore I'm on the market again. I started out without much cycling knowledge (this bike was an inheritance in a sense) and in many respects I still don't know all that much. So I'm turning to you guys for advice - especially since you've all been so lovely and helpful here previously (I hope one day I'll learn enough to be useful and return the favour!)

Anyway, so the bike has to be less than a grand. But the cheaper the better, definitely. Ideally it'll be less than $600, but I know that might be tough. It's not imperative that the bike is brand new (will definitely consider a used bike in the Sydney area). I commute approx 14 km each way to work around 2-3 days a week. I also enjoy a longer ride on the weekend every once in a while. While commuting is obviously the main use for the bike, a more versatile bike would be best as it gives me more options in where I can take it on the weekends! The route I take is mostly sealed roads and bike paths though I do hop on the pavement for some stretches and ride through a park/grassy area. The route I take is also super hilly.

I'm still a beginner so really I'm looking for an entry level bike still. Obviously my old bike was a flat bar hybrid, so I'm either looking for a bike in that same category or a road bike with a more relaxed geometry (drop bars might be good to have I think).I've looked at a few cyclocross bikes which seems like an excellent option for a commuter but most are out of my price range. So far, I've considered the Kona Dew, Trek FX 7.3/4/5, several entry level Reid road bikes and the Specialized Sirrus. I've also looked at the Kona Honky Tonk, which is out of my price range but is such a beautiful bike (I'm a sucker for these things). I've only ridden the 7.4FX which I hired out from Clarence St Cyclery for a day which was a nice ride. Oh, and I'm a 155 cm female.

Do you guys have any suggestions/tips as to where I should be directing my attention?

Thanks in advance guys, I really appreciate it!
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by BNA » Sun Mar 09, 2014 6:23 am

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Re: Female beginner commuter, <$900

Postby Gsascha » Sun Mar 09, 2014 6:23 am

Sorry to hear about your stolen bike! It sounds like you are on the right track in looking for a replacement. If you want drop bars then you should go for it, however it becomes even more important that you get the right size bike. I would have a look in the local bike shops and test as many as you can. Make sure that when they are suggesting appropriate size bikes that you pay attention not just to the " stand over" height, as in can you comfortably stand over the bike, but even more importantly, the top tube length. If you can't comfortably reach the handlebars and brakes then you will be uncomfortable and unsafe. As I am roughly your height, I have personal experience of the lack of options and also of bike shops trying to sell you a bike that is the wrong size!

Entry level giants, specialised, trek etc should all be close to your price range, although for road bikes you will be really pushing it to get a new bike in that range. There wont be a lot of difference in the components at that level, so it will probably come down to size, and the all important aesthetics.

If you consider second hand then you won't obviously have the back up of a shop if anything goes wrong, and if you get a few free services from a bike shop, you have pretty much made up the difference in price anyway.

There are also lots of great flat bar bikes that you could get in your price range...have a look on
bikeexchange.com.au to get an idea.

Hope that's helpful, good luck.
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Re: Female beginner commuter, <$900

Postby queequeg » Sun Mar 09, 2014 10:30 am

You certainly won't go wrong with the Trek FX series. I commuter 22km each way, every day, for just over three years on a 7.5FX, with a rack/panniers and mudguards. It was a versatile bike. I switched to a drop bar CX bike in late 2011 when I moved house to the Hills and I was really struggling on the Hybrid with all the hills, mostly because doing a standing climb on a flat bar bike can be awkward, but I also found my avg speed a limiting factor.
I sold my almost brand new 7.5fx (warranty replacement) for $400, so you should be able to find something similar on the second hand market.
My CX bike was a massive upgrade for me and is now my workhorse. All weather and road conditions!
'11 Lynskey Cooper CX, '00 Hillbrick Steel Racing (Total Rebuild '10), '09 Electra Townie Original 21D
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Re: Female beginner commuter, <$900

Postby tanna1 » Mon Mar 17, 2014 9:09 pm

Thank you both for your replies (and sorry for my delay in thanking you)! They were both very helpful.

What I am grappling with is that, like you queequeg, my route is very hilly (coming in from Hills District as well) - so would it be worth it to adjust my budget to just 'skip a step' and purchase a road bike if it's that big of a difference? I certainly wouldn't mind a more comfortable commute and I'd be using it for a couple of mini tris in the future so the speed wouldn't go unnoticed. But while I could stretch the budget, I am certainly reluctant to spend more money. I guess what I'm trying to ask is at what point is upgrading not going to make much of a noticeable difference? I am sure a flat bar roadie would suffice for my needs, so maybe it's best to stick to that category of bikes...
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Re: Female beginner commuter, <$900

Postby queequeg » Mon Mar 17, 2014 10:31 pm

tanna1 wrote:Thank you both for your replies (and sorry for my delay in thanking you)! They were both very helpful.

What I am grappling with is that, like you queequeg, my route is very hilly (coming in from Hills District as well) - so would it be worth it to adjust my budget to just 'skip a step' and purchase a road bike if it's that big of a difference? I certainly wouldn't mind a more comfortable commute and I'd be using it for a couple of mini tris in the future so the speed wouldn't go unnoticed. But while I could stretch the budget, I am certainly reluctant to spend more money. I guess what I'm trying to ask is at what point is upgrading not going to make much of a noticeable difference? I am sure a flat bar roadie would suffice for my needs, so maybe it's best to stick to that category of bikes...


Can you be more specific about start/finish locations? Will you be using the M2?
Going from a Hybrid to a drop bar will give you a nice jump in speed and give you different riding positions. I mostly ride on the hoods or the flat top, and very rarely in the drops.

My flat bar did me well for three years. I did about 25,000km on it in that time. Without the M2, the commute on the Hybrid was getting uncomfortable. it was 32km each way on some truly nasty hills. I found shorter routes that demanded higher speeds, and my hybrid was a lot of effort. I finally decided on a robust lightweight CX bike, but my budget was something like 12 times yours, and that opened up a lot of options.

My advice is to get the best bike your budget will handle. A second hand bike might get you more for your money, but it is your choice as to what type of bike suits you best.
'11 Lynskey Cooper CX, '00 Hillbrick Steel Racing (Total Rebuild '10), '09 Electra Townie Original 21D
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Re: Female beginner commuter, <$900

Postby tanna1 » Tue Mar 18, 2014 7:11 am

queequeg wrote: Can you be more specific about start/finish locations? Will you be using the M2?
Going from a Hybrid to a drop bar will give you a nice jump in speed and give you different riding positions. I mostly ride on the hoods or the flat top, and very rarely in the drops.


West Pennant Hills to North Ryde - while I could take the m2, I usually take Sutherland Rd (similar route to you actually, albeit much much shorter - you helped me devise the route in a different thread).
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Re: Female beginner commuter, <$900

Postby queequeg » Tue Mar 18, 2014 7:21 am

tanna1 wrote:
queequeg wrote: Can you be more specific about start/finish locations? Will you be using the M2?
Going from a Hybrid to a drop bar will give you a nice jump in speed and give you different riding positions. I mostly ride on the hoods or the flat top, and very rarely in the drops.


West Pennant Hills to North Ryde - while I could take the m2, I usually take Sutherland Rd (similar route to you actually, albeit much much shorter - you helped me devise the route in a different thread).


Yeah, I take either Sutherland Rd or Beecroft Rd on the way in. Probably a 50/50 split.
The worst bit for me used to be Sutherland Rd coming home, followed by the climb up Cardinal Ave to Pennant Hills Rd.
Now on the way home I use the M2 as I can do North Ryde (Delhi Rd) to Pennant Hills Rd in a typical time of 16 to 18min, but I have done it under 15min. You can't do that on a Hybrid (well, you can...but it isn't easy!).
When I first moved to Dural I was riding the WPH valley and it was not sustainable. I ditched that route very quickly, taking 5km off my commute in the process.
The M2 gives me a 10km non-stop route in the afternoon, and I haven't done the old Sutherland Rd route since the M2 reopened westbound.
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Re: Female beginner commuter, <$900

Postby Lizzy » Tue Mar 18, 2014 12:55 pm

tanna1 wrote:Thank you both for your replies (and sorry for my delay in thanking you)! They were both very helpful.

What I am grappling with is that, like you queequeg, my route is very hilly (coming in from Hills District as well) - so would it be worth it to adjust my budget to just 'skip a step' and purchase a road bike if it's that big of a difference? I certainly wouldn't mind a more comfortable commute and I'd be using it for a couple of mini tris in the future so the speed wouldn't go unnoticed. But while I could stretch the budget, I am certainly reluctant to spend more money. I guess what I'm trying to ask is at what point is upgrading not going to make much of a noticeable difference? I am sure a flat bar roadie would suffice for my needs, so maybe it's best to stick to that category of bikes...


I vote yes - see if you can get a test ride on a Trek Lexa or something similar. I paid $700 for mine a year ago as a floor-stock runout so you may not need to stretch the budget all that far. I think you will also find other similar bikes around that price point too. I commuted happily for years on a 7.0FX but looked to upgrade when I moved and my distance nearly trebled. Never looked back - I am a total wuss about hills, well the ones I do have to deal with I find so much easier. The riding position is nice and easy, and really not a quantum leap from what I was used to. Good luck!
“Lexa”: 2012 Trek Lexa S; “Bluey”: 2006 Trek 7.0FX
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