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At the moment, I'm looking at the lower end Trek FX, Scott Sub, and the Fisher Monona (although I'm not sure the Monona comes in my size--my road bike is 61cm Trek Madone 5.2). I'm looking for something that I can ride to work carrying my trombone (professional musician...), run to the supermarket, ride with the family, attach the kids' tag-along and/or Burley, etc. Essentially, I'm tired of buying gas and want to get out of the car altogether! I want a decent ride without spending a whole lot in case of wreck/theft/whatever. I love my road bike, but throwing my horn on my back or attaching a Burley to my Madone aren't options for me. I am open to further suggestions as well. I am new to the commuting thing, so fire away. Thanks very much.
 

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I have no idea where you are, or what the local cycle community is like.

Here in Boston, there's a small but growing cadre of cyclists that ride older cycles, stripped down, no labels, and good, but older components. And many of the local commuters around here ride single speed, if not fixed gear. Traffic is reliably snarly in these parts, with a lot of traffic lights, and nothing moves very fast. So it can be a lot easier to manage if you don't have to shift all the time. As long as everything is in good repair, all that's left is adjustments, and it's easy to find yourself riding something that isn't thief bait, but still handles and feels remarkably sweet. Picture the normal elite cyclist lust for something new and shiny, and turn that on its head. Go for reliable, but dated, and don't worry about looks. You don't want attention, you want the bike to be there to take you back home again when you're through with whatever you're doing.

A commuter in my neck of the woods is something you can lock up in a public place, usually near a subway station, or near a building, or whatever. Chances are better that if it's locked up in a very public place, it won't get messed with. That said, this is Boston/Cambridge. I've heard stories on craigslist about thieves in DC who will steal brake pads. Ask around for local guidance on what is, or should be, local common sense.

Don't be afraid to go ugly. My commuter for a while was actually a converted nashbar steel MTB frame, with a 21 speed, road crank drivetrain. (Unlike many other MTB frames, that particular frame can fit road cranks.) I stripped all the paint off of the fork and frame, and hit it with some clear spray paint, after stenciling a skull and bones on the head tube. I put on a rigid steel fork, flat bars, a beefy, but affordable headset, and an 8" rotor front disc brake. I also used reflective sidewall road tires on MTB rims. It's since gone from iron grey to a more brownish color, but no serious rust is in evidence. Ugly as hell, and no thief would want it, even with the big rotor in evidence. But it was fast, solid, shifted quickly, and stopped my big ass on a dime. I use the past tense because the rear wheel got thumped at a light, and I need to build a new one. This bike was something of an extreme, but it served me very well for a long time... and I'm sure it will again.

Buy something decent, but don't buy new. You'll pay more than you'll want to lose if it gets stolen. And new cables and good adjustments will make an old bike handle like new, if it's in good shape.

Make sure it moves when you need it to move, and make sure it can stop faster and harder than you think is sane or reasonable... and learn to use those brakes to their capacity, without being thrown. Cyclocross bikes fit this bill remarkably well... they'll handle bigger tires, for potholey roads, and they have bosses for V brakes... and I've heard that some will use disc brakes, too. Cars are dumb, you NEED to be able to stop on a dime. No joke.

Get rid of quick releases, and buy bolt-on skewers, it makes locking the bike up much easier for short periods of time. And it means you can get away with carrying smaller u-locks if you don't have to lock up your wheels. Smaller locks are easier to carry on a regular commute. If you're leaving your bike somewhere all day, get the keyed security skewers. They work.

Get rid of labels, either using acetone, or naval jelly if you have to. No labels on the frame, no labels on the components. Anyone who knows bicycles will recognize a good bike, but if it's appearance is altered, if labels are not in evidence, etc, then he'll have a much harder time selling it, if that's his goal. And if he's looking or something for himself, chances are he'll find shinier fare elsewhere. It's possible to have an attractive paint job that's simple, but not marketable.

Serious road bike snobs might look down on you. It happens. But they look down on everyone, don't they? It's just as silly to ride a crit bike to work as it is to ride a high performance sports car in 20 mph traffic. But serious commuters will give you plenty of respect if you're riding something that looks like you're smart, and not just full of yourself. And if you don't feel compelled to spandex up, just to go get a gallon of milk, well... life's full of little luxuries, isn't it?
 

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great post uber!

city commuters that can't bring their bikes indoors need to city-fy. though sometimes an attempt to uglify you bike can backfire when thieves like kitsch!

http://gothamist.com/2008/05/28/thief_who_tried.php

My recommendation for an inexpensive SS commuter is the Trek Soho S (499). Though I'd recommend changing the saddle and handle bars. It rides nice and is super stealth.
 
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