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Something under $500 that is relatively unbranded.

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Unbranded, it that possible to find one these days? –  Moab Jun 29 '11 at 16:02
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What distance and speed: would you prefer it to be faster, or comfortable? Does $500 include accessories (lock, helmet, lights, shoes, a rack, fenders, ...)? Can you add photo of what you mean by "lots of potholes and bad roads"? –  ChrisW Jun 30 '11 at 5:21
    
Is this for commuting? –  Neil Fein Jul 4 '11 at 19:16

3 Answers 3

For daily use on Toronto roads (occasional but not continuous pot holes) I'm happy with a bike which has no suspension, strong wheels, and 700x32 tires (with tread but not studs) inflated to 80..95 psi.

Tires that wide might (? check this ?) need disc brakes, which are relatively expensive: so slightly thinner, XXX-28 tires might be cheaper because they can be used with cheaper brakes.

See also What is the narrowest tire you would use for commuting?

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For a slightly slower but softer ride: tires designed for a lower air pressure. –  ChrisW Jun 30 '11 at 5:59
    
32 tires need disk brakes??? That information apparently never made it to my bike. –  Daniel R Hicks Jul 4 '11 at 22:20
    
@Daniel - That's based on one of zenbike's comments after this question - "In the case of a 32c tire, you might have enough traction for a v brake or a disc, and a disc would be better than a V-brake. But it would be bare minimum, and I wouldn't recommend it as an option for an unskilled rider, since it would require a lot more skill to modulate the brake given ..." - I didn't understand the comment: but if it's saying that a 32 tire for commuting needs a disc, that wouldn't be a suitable answer to this question which wants a sub-$500 answer. –  ChrisW Jul 5 '11 at 2:19
    
Makes no sense to me. Unskilled riders seem to manage fine on fat-tire bikes with rim brakes. (Unless he's saying that the V-brake is that much worse than other rim brakes -- I've never used one -- but V-brakes were invented in the first place to work on fat-tire bikes with suspension forks.) I suppose he may be saying that you can't (as easily) lock up a wide tire with rim brakes, but I don't see that as much of an issue, since you'd be getting even more total braking force with the wide tire. –  Daniel R Hicks Jul 5 '11 at 11:17

Better yet, look at a 29'er. Like this one.from Kona, Single speed, rigid, fat tire MTB. Run fat tire slicks, and it's a great commuter. The lack of shifting works well on flat ground, with the right gear choice (very personal decision), and the fat large tires roll well and comfortably. MTB durability means rough roads might as well not exist.

There are many bikes like this, and while i like the Unit 29'er linkd, I'm recommending the idea, not the particular bike.

As far as branding, that can be fixed with judicious use of tape, spray paint, and stickers.

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Same thing I was thinking. The BikesDirect Dawes Bullseye is a surprisingly good for how cheap it is entry-level variant on that. –  lantius Jun 29 '11 at 19:41
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+1 for a single speed. No gears means super low maintenance and much better quality in the rest of the bike for the price. That Kona has a very clever rear dropout... you can remove the back wheel without affecting the chain tension. Nice! –  Mac Jun 29 '11 at 22:52
    
That's twice the cost that the OP asked for (if bought new). I'm not sure that disc brakes are worth the cost when the budget is under $500. I don't think I'd recommend a single-speed to someone I didn't know. –  ChrisW Jun 30 '11 at 11:30
    
Yes it is. Which is why I said not this bike, but this idea. And I didn't ask you whether you would recommend a SS. Feel free to make your recommendation in your own answer. If you're annoyed because I voted down your helmet answer, grow up. And I live in Dubai. My prices aren't generally equivalent to US or Euro pricing, so I don't base recommendations on price. –  zenbike Jun 30 '11 at 20:24

I vote for a used hardtail mountain bike with 700c wheels and a rigid steel fork. If you put thin/ fast rolling city tires on there you'll be left with a quick bike that can handle some abuse and the upright geometry may make avoiding potholes and other obstacles easier. This is what I ride. I consider the 700c a poor mans 29er.

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Why not a full suspension mountain bike? Smooth out the flat but rough roads in N.O. –  Moab Jun 29 '11 at 16:03
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@Moab, personally I'm not a fan of full suspension bike for city cycling - it takes away some of your pedalling power. Also, buying a second-hand MTB with full-suspension in this price range might turn out in disappointment. –  Czechnology Jun 29 '11 at 16:24
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@Moab A suspension for potholes is overkill. Fatter tires at low pressures is all that is needed. Suspensions are just one more cheap part that saps your power and is prone to breaking. –  Stephen Touset Jun 29 '11 at 18:21
    
Have you seen the potholes in N.O.? ;-> –  Moab Jun 30 '11 at 1:30
    
Does "hardtail with a rigid steel fork" imply no suspension, or front suspension? –  ChrisW Jul 5 '11 at 15:11

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