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  1. #1
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    Getting back into riding and need some help/advice on bike choices.

    Hi everyone,

    I've been lurking around reading these forums for ages and haven't really posted before. Due to some medical issues and of course, also through my own fault, I am currently 5'10" and just under 300lbs. Two years ago, I was 150lbs and I'm doing my best to get down again, at least to 200lbs and we'll see from there. I haven't really ridden since my early 20's (35 now) but I remember that I loved it. I want to start riding again for the fun of it and also for the benefit of exercise. Basically, what I end up getting will be my "car" since I don't have a car now and rely on public transportation in San Francisco. I envision using it to run errands, commute to work (five miles each way, two very steep hills), and for weekend rides along the coast or in the GG Park...more as I get more in shape. I guess I'm afraid that at my weight I'm going to break what I end up buying. From what I can tell from reading here though, it sounds like I could go with Steel or Aluminum for the frame and be ok as long as I make sure I have strong wheels. I am considering the following bikes which appeal to me the most. I can get any of them for $1500 or less, and that's all I want to spend for now. Could any of you give me your opinion on the below choices? Any model I should avoid? Anything stand out as the best choice?

    Raleigh Superbe Roadster
    Raleigh Alley Way
    Globe Live 3
    Civia Loring with SRAM i-9
    Build up my own (Surly LHT or Rivendell Sam Hillborne or Betty Foy...along those lines)

    I'm basically leaning towards a different model above each day ! I can see how this can be addictive! I should note that I am currently riding a bit on an old Trek 8500 in great shape that I picked up from a coworker, but no matter the adjustments I make, it's just not the right size for me.

    Thanks,
    Nico

  2. #2
    Senior Member CACycling's Avatar
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    Welcome! Fit is the number one priority when choosing a bike. The best bike for your needs won't work if it doesn't fit. There are a few ways to go about getting back into cycling (my absence from cycling was twice as long as yours).

    You can go out and test ride the bikes you are interested in and find the one that feels the best and buy it. I will caution you, however, that the bike that appeals to you not may very well not be right for you a year or so down the road.

    Another option is to get a nice used bike - one that fits - and start riding. As you start dropping weight and getting in better shape, you may find you are interested in an entirely different type of bike.

    For me, I started back on an old MTB and was saving up to buy a new MTB as a gift to myself for sticking with it. Then I was given an old road bike and rediscovered how fun a road bike is. My new MTB quickly turned into a new road bike - the type of bike I never would have imagined riding - and I love it.

    The big thing is to get moving and don't expect you will buy the perfect bike for you. Your second, or even third, bike will be much better suited to you but you have to start somewhere.

    Good luck and just do it.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by CACycling View Post
    Welcome!

    the bike that appeals to you not may very well not be right for you a year or so down the road.

    Another option is to get a nice used bike - one that fits - and start riding. As you start dropping weight and getting in better shape, you may find you are interested in an entirely different type of bike.



    Good luck and just do it.



    +1
    Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by CACycling View Post
    Welcome!

    the bike that appeals to you not may very well not be right for you a year or so down the road.

    Another option is to get a nice used bike - one that fits - and start riding. As you start dropping weight and getting in better shape, you may find you are interested in an entirely different type of bike.



    Good luck and just do it.




    +1
    Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.

  5. #5
    Senior Member c_m_shooter's Avatar
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    I see that your leaning towards bikes with internal gear hubs. You may want to see if you get one with Shimano's Alfine hub, the others are intended for light casual use not a 300 pound guy trying to climb steep San Fransisco hills. A lot of guys are using the Alfine hubs for their XC mountain bikes and having good results.
    May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view.
    May your mountains rise into and above the clouds. -Edward Abbey

  6. #6
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    Thanks for the advice, guys. Much appreciated. My biggest worry was about being too heavy for the bikes I am being drawn towards. Was leaning towards IGH and belt drive because at this point, I want as little maintenance as possible so as to avoid getting discouraged from riding. I really like the Globe Live 3 a lot, but was worried about the aluminum frame breaking or being too stiff. From what I've read, it sounds like steel might be the best choice. In all honesty though, I'm not going to be going on any major rides any time soon, even though my mind already has plans for lots of things.

    C_M_Shooter...thanks for telling it like it is . I'll look at the Alfine bikes more closely. I think they all are equipped that way except the Loring, which has the SRAM i-9. I don't think I would be attempting any steep hills at my current weight and would probably have to walk the bike up, but as I get more fit, I would be preferring to ride everywhere without having to get off and walk it. I was thinking initially to ride my bus route so that if I get stuck, or I bite off more than I can chew, I can just hop on the bus with the bike loaded onto the rack up front.

    Nico

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    I'd love to revive this thread, because I'm an experienced bicycle commuter, well into 'clydesdale' zone, and I've been torn between the Live 2, Live 3, and Civia Loring. What did you eventually choose? How'd it work out?

  8. #8
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    Hot_Damn,
    I just picked up my new bike yesterday, actually. I ended up going with the Raleigh Alley Way. I had Nitto racks mounted front and rear. It just felt and looked right to me and seemed to have the most features for the price, including a front dynamo. I really liked the Live 3 (didn't try a 2 because I knew I didn't want the Nexus and it didn't have the belt drive or disc brakes). I felt like the Live 3 had the best stopping power. I ended up not going with it because the ride felt a little harsh to me and I figured I was better off with a nice steel frame instead of aluminum. I already have a aluminum framed Trek 8500 and I also don't like the ride on that either. I feel like my current weight and aluminum don't mix right now for the kind of ride I can feel good on. That being said, I could have been happy walking out the door with it had I not tried the Raleigh.

    I did also ride the Loring, and between it, the Live 3, and the Superbe Roadster, I had decided it was going to be my next bike. This bike feels great, there's so much attention to detail, and it is gorgeous! Love the racks and I really liked the SRAM iMotion 9. As you've probably read, it's not as smooth as the Alfine, but at that point, it's like saying a BMW isn't as smooth as a Mercedes. I think both are great from my test rides...no long term experience with either. In fact, I sort of liked the i-Motion a little better for the gear spacing and extra gear...but shifting the Alfine was more intuitive with the trigger, instead of twist grip. The Loring feels like a more leisurely bike though, more like something I want to use on the weekend for pleasure rides and going downtown for coffee, running errands, farmer's market, etc. The Alley Way felt a bit more sporty...dare I say, like a British roadster :-), and the belt drive won me over for maintenance on a commuter plus the extra features though I know I had to add the racks. It was really close between the Loring and Alley Way. Ride both and see how you feel. I actually think I'm going to go and get the Loring too and try to get my partner into riding with me :-).

    Since I hadn't planned on actually purchasing that day, I had walked into the bike shop after some shopping and a doctor's appointment. Since I was on public transportation, I didn't have time to take everything home and come back either, so my first ride back home had a little over 15lbs in the front rack and another 25lbs or so in the rear. Bike handled great. I did opt to walk up some steeper hills instead of straining the bike and myself and I did take a few breaks. I am not in very good shape but I'm motivated to change all that. Now I need to learn about removing that real wheel in case I end up needing to someday.

    Best of luck, and I think you'll be happy with any of those bikes. I'd love to hear about what you end up choosing too. Oh, and the EcoVelo blog (google it) has some nice write-ups about both the Loring and the Alley Way. They also have the new Civia Bryant written up as well as the Hyland.

    All the best,
    Nico

  9. #9
    Senior Member Seattle Forrest's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by xcarbonmadex View Post
    I haven't really ridden since my early 20's (35 now) but I remember that I loved it. I want to start riding again for the fun of it and also for the benefit of exercise.
    Don't do it for the exercise. That'll come naturally. Do it for the fun, and it won't feel like exercise.

    Quote Originally Posted by xcarbonmadex View Post
    Basically, what I end up getting will be my "car" since I don't have a car now and rely on public transportation in San Francisco. I envision using it to run errands, commute to work (five miles each way, two very steep hills), and for weekend rides along the coast or in the GG Park...more as I get more in shape.
    As you get in shape, the Presidio turns into a wonderful bike ride. And eventually so will Marin County. If you can force yourself to climb Pill Hill, there's a road coming down that gets little use, and lets you pick up some speed... Until then, though, there are a lot of trails to explore in GGP, and some of them are pretty well shaded from the wind.

    Which hills do you need to climb? When I lived in SF, I rode a lot, and found I had this very detailed topographic map in my head. I knew not only how to get from one point to another, but how to do it without sweating too much ... how to get around most hills, and which ones that was hopeless for. You might find it more convenient to go an extra mile or two over more level ground, to get around the mountain.

    I don't have any advice on which bike, except to say that you should pay most attention to how well they fit and fell, then to how much fun they are to ride, and as a third priority, how much effort it takes to get up to speed and to keep the bike there. I think all of this is a lot more important than what brand, style, components, or any of that.

  10. #10
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    Seattle Forrest...thanks for the advice, encouragement, and tips. You're right. I should just forget that it's exercise :-). My commute would be from the Avenues to Potrero Hill up 24th St. I was planning on trying to follow my usual bus route, except staying a street over. That way if I get stuck, I can just put the bike on the bus fairly easily..but it probably makes the commute a bit harder too. I thought this might be best mainly because I am asthmatic which is exacerbated by my weight. It's fairly under control, but I'm going to be stressing myself initially in ways I'm not used to doing in a long time and want to be careful. I look forward to being able to do the Presidio and Marin County. Going to head to GGP this weekend and see how it goes. Traffic is making me nervous sort of, but I'll get over that. Growing up where I did in So Cal...since nobody walked, we all always used the sidewalks for bikes...then I did mountain biking, so no cars. It's a whole new thing riding in the street :-). Anyway, I ended up with my new bike yesterday and since I'm off work for a week, I've been enjoying it. I ended up picking a bike that was fun to ride, fit well, and had the features I wanted. I'm really excited to be doing this. Thanks again for taking the time.
    Nico

  11. #11
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    I also live in bay area, and my advice is: be very, very careful, and expect to get into a few scrapes. My first two years of biking in the city I was hit by a Muni 14 and at least two cars- luckily never injured. But it can take time to develop the vigilance you need for safety.

    Also, you're going to love the length of your commute. When I was biking all the way across the city I looked great, felt great, and enjoyed myself a ton. Now that I commute from the east bay by train I've been missing the many benefits of the longer rides (and my jeans no longer fit!)

    The main thing, in my experience, is to give yourself plenty of time and not be in a hurry. Don't stress about not going as fast as other bikers- they're probably not going as far as you. Stop at every stop sign, and of course stop at every light- take the opportunity to catch your breath. The ride will incrementally get easier until you realize one day it's a piece of cake.

    I have to agree with others that the topological map is your best friend, and following a bus route might be hard/discouraging. Not to mention riding in tandem with a bus sucks- you have to constantly pass and be passed by the bus, which is irritating and dangerous. I'm assuming that if you can afford a $1500 bike, you can probably afford a cab ride if you get stuck- if you ask they'll send a van and you can toss your bike in.

    Those are the lessons I learned riding from the excelsior district to the marina, at least.

    As for my bike- I'm leaning toward the Loria, because it looks so darn fun that I think I'll start taking non-commuter trips on it. I've been longing for the i-motion 9, since I think it'll be an advantage in the hilly bay area. Where were you able to test ride it? I haven't found anyone carrying it yet.

  12. #12
    Senior Member Seattle Forrest's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by xcarbonmadex View Post
    Seattle Forrest...thanks for the advice, encouragement, and tips.
    You're welcome! But it's just Forrest ... that's the kind of name you get if you're raised by hippies. Surprisingly, I'm not the first Forrest to join this web site, though, so I had to be a little more specific.

    Quote Originally Posted by xcarbonmadex View Post
    My commute would be from the Avenues to Potrero Hill up 24th St. I was planning on trying to follow my usual bus route, except staying a street over. That way if I get stuck, I can just put the bike on the bus fairly easily..but it probably makes the commute a bit harder too. I thought this might be best mainly because I am asthmatic which is exacerbated by my weight.
    Are you in the Sunset, or the Richmond? And how close are you to GGP? I've lived in the Aves, north and south of the park, but never that far away from it. I really enjoyed biking through the park ( on JFK! cars on MLK will run you down ), for the scenery as much as anything else. When that's "over" and you come out to the Panhandle, there's ( or there was when I lived there ) a sign painted on the trail that warns of "Death Monsters ahead," meaning you're heading for the road, and need to watch for cars. Ironically, I also used to live in Bernal Heights, not too far from where you're heading to. I liked taking Hayes and/or Fulton past Almo Square, which is a slight climb going up, and then a fun ride down to Market. You come out sort of near Van Ness, but on the wrong side, and then Valencia is a nice, and flat, ride into the Mission. But that's more than a mile or two out of your way, although flat.

    I think it makes perfect sense to shadow the bus route, a block away, at least initially. You'll find the bike a lot more fun, but it'll give you that confidence that if anything ever happens ( you're tired one day, or you get two flats ) that it's not a big deal. Before long, though, you'll start experimenting, and soon after that, you'll be blazing your own route.

    Quote Originally Posted by xcarbonmadex View Post
    Growing up where I did in So Cal...since nobody walked, we all always used the sidewalks for bikes...then I did mountain biking, so no cars. It's a whole new thing riding in the street :-).
    It feels the opposite, but studies show you're about 25x more likely to get hit on the sidewalk. Keep that in mind, and don't hesitate to get off the street if you need to, but do it carefully, and on a case-by-case basis. If there are a lot of driveways cutting through the sidewalk, this is what you need to watch out for. You think you have the right of way, because you're going straight, and they're entering the roadway ... but most of them won't even look for you, and the ones that do, mostly won't care. Going the right way on the street, drivers might be annoyed, but they know to be on the lookout, and basically to drive properly.

    Don't hesitate to take the entire lane if you feel like it. You can ride in the center of the right lane, and will want to do this sometimes to prevent cars from passing you in the same lane, inches away. You might feel rude doing it, but it'll keep you out of the hospital.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Seattle Forrest View Post
    Don't hesitate to take the entire lane if you feel like it. You can ride in the center of the right lane, and will want to do this sometimes to prevent cars from passing you in the same lane, inches away. You might feel rude doing it, but it'll keep you out of the hospital.
    +1

  14. #14
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    Forrest (hey, I like the name :-)...my ex-wife and I were going to name our first son Tristran Thorne after a character in a Neil Gaiman faerytale book we both loved.), I live on 18th Ave at Taraval, so it's in Parkside, which is a sort of renamed area of the Sunset near West Portal. Pretty close to GG park overall. I'm gonna go look for that "Death Monsters ahead" sign to see if it's still there :-). I'm familar with Bernal Heights too. I'm sort of glad I'm not trying to start riding again over there :-). I work at General Hospital so the route you mention could work for me. I'd rather as much flat or slightly sloping as possible, even if it adds a mile or two. Just gotta build up the stamina and keep persisting. I'll keep it in mind about riding in the center of the right lane. You're right that I would have figured it was rude. I'm going to sign up for these Urban Cycling workshops through the SF Bicycle Coalition: http://www.sfbike.org/?edu. Also checked out some books about Urban riding and riding in traffic at the library. I'm in my head a lot, so I always find it helpful to read and research a lot so I feel prepared. I really appreciate all the help and suggestions as well as encouragement. I needed it.

    Hot_damn, thank you for all of your advice and encouragement as well. I have no doubt that you were hit by the Muni 14. The drivers on that route are crazy! I've already noticed that I'm not paying attention as much as I should because I'm just so focused on what's ahead and pedaling that I've been surprised by cars coming up from behind a couple of times. I had someone open up their car door in front of me as well, and I almost got myself injured by just instinctively swerving around it without checking if there was a car just outside my field of vision to my left, which there was. Thankfully, they were paying attention and yelled at me. Well, I had to agree. It was my fault. If I had been driving, I never would have swerved without checking, so I just need to remember I'm more like a car. Oh, and thanks for your words about other riders. I've definitely been concerned that I'm annoying them when I can't ride as fast. It's why I want to keep going back to the sidewalk. For the Loring (yeah, I want an i-Motion 9 too!), try calling Pedal Revolution http://www.pedalrevolution.org/. They also have a custom build Hyland and I think a Bryant.

    Take care,
    Nico

  15. #15
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    How's the commuting going? I opted for the Loring, and pedal revolution even had one on sale. I love it so far! I took a look at an alley way, and it's a sweet-looking bike. I need quite a bit of flexibility with my stem and handlebar, though, and it looked like it'd be hard to swap them out on the alley way.

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