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How do Bicycle? (teach me about bikes)

I'm in the market for a bike. I know NOTHING about bikes other than "you peddle to make it go".

I need the bike to get me to and from work - it's about a 30 minute bike ride; all paved roads (except the driveway in my apartment complex)...uh...there are some hills, but I don't think they are BIG hills. Not sure what other info would be relevant to helping me find a good bike.

Anyways, I was just going to look for a used bike on Craig's List, so, could you help give me an idea of what I should be looking for?

also, for extra bonus netterweb points, feel free to recommend appropriate "accessories" - such as bike locks, bike-lighting (so I don't get run over if I have to go to work in the dark), helmets - I guess? or anything else you would think would be appropriate.

Thanks :D

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Get a cheap ass bike, get a comfy seat, put a small motor on it. Win.

Needs a boombox strapped to the back

Otherwise unless you want something special like a folding bike which aren't too great, just find something that isn't too rusted up, buy a big seat for it, and get a U-lock with a warranty, or a thick chain lock that can snake around your frame and tires.

Also spare inner tubes under the seat, and a small pump kept in a backpack or something can be handy.

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I got a 2012 Trek 8.2 DS (Gary Fisher Collection) a while ago that I now swear by. It'll run you about $400-$500 new, but since it's a 2012 model you might find one used for a bit less. It's an extremely versatile and lightweight bike that I would highly recommend for riding pretty much anywhere. As for accessories, you can't really go wrong with anything you'd find in a local bike shop

+5 Street Cred, boombox is best custom mod you can do to a bicycle (+20 more if thats actually your bike)

Penny Farthing - Boss style

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Do you know anyone with a bike you can borrow for a week and find out what you hate about it and then find a bike to buy that fixes this?

lol..."do you know anybody"...lol.....what is a "friend"? Such a weird concept...

Yeah, one big hurdle is that it's been YEARS...and I mean YEARS since I last rode a bike...it will be painful to watch me struggle to relearn how to ride one...this would be a good time to have a "friend" who has a bike to relearn so don't embarrass myself in front of whoever it is I purchase my bike from.

what you really want to do, if you get into riding a lot. is to stay away from wal-mart specials and cheap bikes. The cheap ones are heavy and you should not be fighting against the bike when going up a hill. and trust me, even small hills seem MUCH larger when they are long and gradual. The best thing to do is build one. They are far more expensive than the el cheapos, but they ARE better.

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Well I live in an area with some hills on my way to work as well so I use an older mountain bike with shifters, which I need to get fixed because they keep shifting with out m moving them....

+1 for that. It makes for a terrible experience. If you have a friend that knows bikes look for a used one and have them check it out with you. If not and you are in the US I have had really good luck with the bikes at Performance Bicycle. They are priced well give you free tune ups for the life of ownership and can help you find a good fit. If you are primarily going to be on the street I would stick as close to a street tire as you can skinny/much less knobby. Your LBS (Local Bike Shop on any bike forum) will likely be a great resource as well but many of them carry fairly expensive bikes. There are few considerations with how the bike will position you as well that you might need to go into your LBS to figure out. I like a more forward position even for just riding around but you might prefer a more upright ride, think beach cruiser.

On a total side note, good on you for biking to work and really biking in general.

I'd recommend trying to borrow one first to see how you get on. After that I'd look for a good bike secondhand. So many people buy them, use them one or twice and then decide to get rid of them after 2-3 years. Therefore there are usually plenty of "as new" bikes available for half price or less. Something like this is far better value and will be far nicer to ride (plus better components and should be lighter). Agree with the sentiment for avoiding cheap new bikes. The components usually don't last very long and they are HEAVY.

I ride to work most days but I don't like very far away. Here's some things I can think of that I use most of the time.

Helmet - not mandatory here and most of my ride is on bike lanes but I still tend to wear one.
Shorts - yes I wear lycra but they are the most comfortable. The padding means even small saddles are fine. You can get padded underwear or longer mountain bike shorts that are padded.
Top - again I tend to use a proper cycling top as they help keep you cool. It's not quite summer here and not quite winter so I have a soft-shell jacket to keep the cold/wind out. I do have a waterproof layer as well.
Tyres - even on my mountainbike I have road tyres. Bike is faster. I carry one spare tube, a couple of tyre levers incase I need to replace said tube, sometimes a small repair kit incase the new tube gets a puncture too and often but not always I carry a pump. Worst case scenario I could walk home but hopefully somebody nice would stop that was clever enough to carry a pump if I didn't have mine on me.
Seat bag - small one under the saddle to keep tube/levers/multi-tool in.
Lights - I have smallish removable flashing LED lights front and back. I'm not bothered about "seeing the road" just that people see me. A reasonable set from Cateye or similar I'd be looking at about £30/$45?? I wouldn't trust cheaper ones to be bright enough and not convinced yet I need more expensive ones. They rarely get used in summer and on flashing mode I buy maybe 2 sets of AA batteries a year for each one - i.e. not many
Mudguards - if you ride in the rain you can fit these easily and fairly cheaply to road bikes. Failing that buy an Ass-Saver for a few bucks (google should return safe for work images if you've not seen one before).
Bag - personal preference but I don't like riding with a rucksack on even though they're the easiest/most convenient. They just make your back sweat straight away. I use messenger style bag but might get some panniers for my commute bike one of these days.
Lock - I have a D type lock at home as well as a huge motorbike chain and at work I've a D lock with a metal cable extender but I don't really need it there as the underground car park I have access to is pretty secure. Not sure I would trust leaving any of my bikes out on the street but I am super-paranoid about them.

It helps if you have showers at work and secure parking.

I don't tend to wear hi-viz... just bright colours. One time I did wear hi-viz I got knocked off lol

Oh and what weather will you have to deal with??? I've ridden to work many times when it's near 0c/32f and with the right clothing it's no problem.

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If you are serious in your riding, I would learn about the shifting system and how to assemble it; it will be something needed if you build your own.

Well technically I do but the parts holding it from automatically shifting are to worn down to work and I just can't find replacements.

I know it might not be entirely related but boostedboard is also an option. It's expensive, but it can get you to a place quick and with a bonus of not having to lock the bike on the street and they are really durable.

I actually wanted one of these...well, I was looking at a different brand - forgot what they were called, I think it was Zboard or something like that; they has better wheels for all terrain and I think better suspension - regardless, whether "Zboard" or Boostedboard, they are kind of out of my price range; I've been looking at second hand bikes in the 100-300 price range.

Whoops, hang on; sorry, I didn't want to give a good name for myself, so let me make sure to change your idea of me:

I'm not doing it for the environment or for any "feel goodsies". I'm doing it because I lost my car, and even if I got a cheap beater off CL, I couldn't afford gas and insurance, and - honestly, I don't do much with myself anyways, I hardly go anywhere, so why pay for these things when I could just pay for a bike and...really hardly have to think of any other costs associated with riding. Sure, maybe some basic maintenance here and there occasionally, but far less than a cars cost to drive.

I really appreciate the really in depth info and suggestions.
As for weather; I live in Texas; our winters are pretty short, with only a few freezing days out of the year. When we aren't having a freakin' drought all year long, we get moderate rainfall. I've thought about these things, I don't think they will bother me much

lol

I don't care WHY you are riding I just love riding bikes.

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Yeah, this is definitely not a first time buy. Maybe after a year of commute a thing like that would be more reasonable. I am going to buy one because it's nice to get around the college campus but i don't think I am going to buy it this season. Maybe next.

I like riding solid steel $50 bikes from 1990 cause I want to be fit not fast.