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Monday, June 15, 2009

The beater bike

I've been riding bicycles for almost 30 years now, although I really haven't ridden much lately. But I do have a cycling project in mind though. I would like to build a beater bike. What's a beater bike you ask? My definition of a beater is a bike that is just not attractive to thieves, that is simple to operate and that is as trouble free as possible. In essence, a useful urban bike.

I already have a really nice bicycle, and although it is a joy to ride, it is a problem in several circumstances. When I want to go into town, I never feel that I can lock up my bike safely, as it has numerous desirable components. Like a race car, it is meant to be used, then stored. What I need is a bike that I don't really care about, with no removable parts, as are common on more expensive bikes. Parts like quick release hubs or seat posts, derailleurs and shifters, as well as some more obvious materials, like carbon fiber, that can be locked downtown without fear (or with less fear) of theft.

Here are some of my basic requirements:

- 700C wheels (road bike wheels)
- Puncture resistant tires and tubes (with shraeder valve, for availability)
- Single speed drive (simple and reliable)
- Chain drive (simple and reliable, easily available replacements)
- Front and rear v-brakes (simple and reliable, easily available replacements)
- Straight handlebars and low rise stem (for a more comfortable position compared to road bike stems and handlebars)
- Straight fork (no suspension)
- Matte paint job (most likely black, although grey might be even less appealing to thieves)
- Freewheel hub (I don't really like flip-flop hubs)
- Platform pedals (I don't really want the trouble of clipless pedals)

Some manufacturers have begun producing bikes that fit many of my requirements except one, price. I have been told that it is possible to go to a bicycle "recycling" centre, and build up a new bike from old parts for a reasonable amount.

The Trek Soho:

The Trek Soho is a great looking bike, but it is listed at almost CAN$1000, and that is just too much to be considered a beater.

The Trek District:

With the District, Trek is using a belt-drive system instead of the more traditional chain design. They feel that this provides a more rugged and quieter transmission system. I would very much like to ride it myself and determine that on my own. I have faith that such a system could work very well indeed. But once again, the bike is priced beyond the definition of a beater.

The Giant Bowery Mashup:

The Giant Bowery Mashup really looks like a track bike with straight handlebars. It has a nice paint job, and a nice mix of parts. But it is also too expensive for my needs.

I will keep exploring what is available on the market, as that is an obvious and simple solution. But I will also be keeping my eyes open for a discarded bike that might just meet my needs. More to follow.

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