Ask the Blargosphere
HERE WE HAVE a reverse advice column, where instead of readers writing in for answers to all of their lives problems, we’re going to try something completely different. I will ask you for advice. This one and only installment of Ask the Blargosphere will deal with bicycle commuting.
Summer is a short lived affair here in Maine, but there are a few months when the weather is warm enough to cycle to work. And with gasoline prices and my waistline being what they are, I plan on cycling, at least over the summer. I am looking at just under a 9 mile ride each way over non-flat terrain. (You know, a lot of ups and downs, strikes and gutters.)
Anyway, here is the dilemma: I don’t have a bike set up for commuting. And I don’t have $500 to purchase a new one. I could spend $150 or so to pick one up second hand, but have been having a difficult time finding the right bike that’s my size. I do have a couple of bikes though, that I could put the $150 (the less the better) into to modify one to commute on. This is where I could use some advice.
The bikes (don’t laugh!):
Motobecane Nomade road bike, circa 1985.
Pros: faster tires, geared better for road riding, light weight, awesome retro styling.
Cons: needs new tires, handlebars too narrow for comfort (I have wide shoulders,) have to take hands off bars to operate old style shifters, dust and grime from 16 years of storage, and let’s just say you have to plan ahead if you want to use the brakes to stop. Also, despite awesome retro styling, the pedals look dorky.
Trek 820 mountain bike, circa 1996.
Pros: more comfortable handle bar configuration, twist-type shifters on the grips, superior brakes, is newer/needs less tune-up work to be roadworthy.
Cons: gearing makes for arduous road cycling, heavy weight, aggressive off-road tires sluggish on-the-road.
OPTION 1: Outfit the road bike with straight handlebars, twist-style shifters, and maybe better brakes. Could all of this be done for $150, considering I will need new tires and a pretty comprehensive tune-up as well. This is the preferred option in my view. Is this something a novice could do at home, or is it something better left to the pros. Also, how to respond to bike shop mechanic elitism? Self deprecation? Snarkasm?
OPTION 2: Get smoother, less aggressive tires for the mountain bike. Can the gears also be replaced to get more high end? Can this be done within my budget? And will this leave me still with a bike too heavy and slow to commute comfortably?
OPTION 3: Frankenstein the two bikes together into one super bike. I know this could be done on a budget, and would probably have to be done at home. But I’d rather not, as having the spare bike around often comes in handy.
So tell me, Blargospheric Bike Commuters, what can a brother do to get rolling on the cheap? Any suggestions or advice will be much appreciated.
More pictures of the bikes under the cut…