From the mailbox, another request for advice.  You can advise, too, in the comments.

Hey guys,

Quick story: I’m a student at American University in DC (looking at your blog it looks like you’re in the area too). Last Summer I decided it was time to ditch my old Giant Mountain Bike that I’d had since I was 14 and get something better suited for the area. I didn’t, and still don’t really, know a lot about bikes but I’m a patient, thorough shopper and I looked all over the place. I went to Big Wheel Bikes in Georgetown and also the bigger store in Arlington. I went to that other Georgetown bike shop I don’t remember the name of. I went to Hudson Trail in Tenleytown. I went to the Bike Rack on Q st. And I went to District Hardware on L st.

Even though I didn’t know much about biking, I quickly figured out what I wanted. I wanted a chainguard, backrack, and fenders. And I needed it to be able to get up Mass Ave because AU is at the top of the hill that is DC. I almost bought a Breezer for $900 but ended up buying the Raleigh Detour 3.5 for $370 from District Hardware.

Raleigh Detour 3.5. Credit: Raleigh USA

I added the backrack and fenders and the guys at DH were even able to put on a chain guard on it despite it being a 21 speed. I didn’t even know that was possible. That got it up to $575 which was still a great deal. So that was a pretty great bike.

It was stolen last night. The front tire was U-Locked to a bike rack and the frame cable locked to the U-lock and the whole set up was in the basement of my apartment building which is supposed to be locked all the time. Somebody got in somehow, cut the cable, stole somebody else’s front tire and left me bike-less (as a side note, I had my old Giant stolen last Summer too from the same basement but at least I already had the new bike. Fool me once…).

So I need a new bike or CaBi [Capital Bikeshare] membership. Any recommendations?

I know I still want the backrack, chainguard, and fenders. I’d like a light for nighttime but can add that myself. I’m indifferent about handlebars but I like to stand up while biking up hills sometimes (I remember one bike I tried made that really awkward).

Also, since many of my friends do not have bikes of their own, what are your thoughts on passengers on the backrack? It seems pretty common in Europe and I’d love to be able to have a pretty lady along for a ride. But the backrack I had wouldn’t have been solid enough. So if you can consider that in your recommendation it would be greatly appreciated. Of course, if it is stupid and dangerous just tell me.

Thanks in advance and keep up the good work on the blog,




My condolences on the theft of your bikes. It’s especially a shame that you lost your new Raleigh Detour. Unfortunately, bike thefts always seem to be more prevalent around campuses. For that reason, I usually recommend beater bikes to college students.

However, I like your idea about getting a CaBi membership even better.

CaBi is still expanding. A map of bike stations is available on the CaBi website.

I don’t see how you can go wrong. You won’t have to worry about storage or theft. After you dock the bike at a CaBi station, it’s no longer your problem. There is a CaBi station in Ward Circle. While you’re riding around on your CaBi bike, you can think about what bike you’d like to invest in for the long term, including your post-college days.

As for your last question, about having passengers ride on your back rack, that one’s easy. Absolutely not. Even the sturdiest racks available, which are made for loaded touring, only have a weight capacity of 75 lbs. (regular racks can hold about 50 lbs). So unless your lady friend is an elf, you don’t want to carry her around on your rack. Use your new CaBi membership to rent her a bike so she ride along with you.

Best of luck,


p.s. – if you want more advice on your options, I can post this and you may get some helpful advice in the comments.



Thanks for the response. I would like to see if there is any more advice in the comments. Also, a quick update: it looks like I have about $1000 to spend and so far the bike I like best is actually the Raleigh Detour Deluxe. Kind of funny if I end up getting a better version of what I already had.


My advice remains the same.  You can leave your suggestions for Ben in the comments.

(Visited 3 times, 1 visits today)


  1. Anonymous


    Dear Ben, Keep your new $1000 bike in your apartment. I know it is pain, but then you won't have to do this a third time!

  2. Alicia


    Maybe keep the bicycle in your apartment? Olocks are good but always use another lock too. Good luck!!

  3. Adam


    Always use the (high quality) u-lock to connect the frame to a stationary object, not the wheel.The cable is to secure the wheels to the frame, not the other way around.An expensive bike like the one you are looking at is worthy of a quality U-lock purchase of ~$90, like the Kryptonite Fahgettaboudit or the Kryptonite New York Lock (I prefer the versatility of a longer u-lock).If there is not enough space to use a u-lock to connect to a stationary object in your apartment basement, consider a Kryptonite NY chainI also recommend replacing the quick release skewers with locking skewers.

  4. Ron


    Whatever bike you get, get a high quality U-lock and make sure you lock it around the frame and preferably one wheel.Many quality U-locks also come with a cable which you can use to secure the other wheel and/or saddle.

    If you really want to haul your friends around, get a cargo bike – like the Kona Ute, Surly Big Dummy and the like… but then I'd get 2 U-locks!

  5. Tom


    I like the bike share idea too, but I also kind of want you to go back to that bike shop and find out what chain guard they put on it, and tell me, so that I can have a chain guard on my front triple crank 🙂

    If you do get a nice bike, in addition to the getting a good u-lock, using the cables to lock the wheels to the frame, and the u-lock to lock the frame to whatever, you should also probably take some steps to reduce the likelihood of theft.

    – make your bike look less awesome.wrap it in old tubes, cover it in bumper stickers, scratch it up.whatever.

    – never lock it someplace that it's out of sight, like an underused basement of an apartment building.If someone can get in there, like all of your neighbors and their friends can, then they can take their time to defeat your locks without anybody watching them do it.choose places that are easily visible, lock it well.

    And as to your second question, most bikes aren't really built up to have a passenger on the rack.Something like an xtra-cycle or even the Kona Africabike have a more sturdy rack, rated for 50-100kg… but then you still might end up kicking them on every pedal stroke.I generally just keep an extra folding bike around for friends…

  6. Anonymous


    I'd second the CaBi comment. I own three bikes and I still use it a few times a week. The fleet is well maintained, the bikes are great to ride, and you always have fenders, a rack, lights (important), and a secure place to park.

    Bikeshare is also great if you have non-cycling friends, because you can either leave the bike and take the metro with them, or convince them to pay $5 for a day membership to ride with you.

    Also, not that it's enforced, but carrying a passenger on a rear rack is illegal in DC.

  7. Dr. Logan


    I agree with all of the above. Get a folding bike and keep it in you apt. Your bike needs are such that a folding bike is a perfect option. Get something reputable like a newer Dahon, bikeFriday, birdy, etc.

  8. Anonymous


    Ben, I'd also recommend the CaBi idea or get the cheapest bike possible that can still get the job done. Look on Craigslist, and sure, even settle for a Target bike if you have to. When I was in college not so long ago I had a bike stolen every single year I was there. And I was there for 5 years. All my bikes were cheapo Target bikes. It would've hurt more if I had paid more than $150 each time. Get your dream bike later in life when you don't have to worry about campus thieves (just street thugs).

    And remember, please lock both the frame and the rear wheel to a stationary object with a u-lock. Forget the front wheel. That's an easy replacement. Use a cable on that front wheel if you don't want another ulock. Or get custom skewers for the front wheel.

  9. solicitors specialist


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