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  1. #1
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    New rider - thoughts on bikes

    First of all, I've been doing a ton of reading and checked out a couple of stores this weekend. Unfortunately it was rainy and snowy, so I didn't have a chance to ride any bikes. This is on the list of things to do.

    I'm looking to get a bike for commuting and fitness. If it's important, I'm in reasonable shape, reasonably young, and of medium size, though relatively muscular (28, 5'10", 180lbs). I haven't ridden a bike since I was a kid except for once - about a year ago I did a 20 mile bike ride of Brooklyn on a borrowed road bike. At the end of the day, my ass hurt and my wrists hurt.

    My current commute I could probably do easily on just about anything since I live so close, but I'll be moving to a new job soon and have no idea of how long my commute will be - mostly through the suburban outskirts of Philly and ending on a college campus. However, it's not going to be a 15-30 mile commute, it should be shorter. I will certainly be adding fenders and a rack/panniers as I plan on really commuting full time, rain or shine, and doing grocery shopping, etc. with the bike. I'd kind of like to get the bike before I move, because the current commute would be a great way to get the hang of things since it's relatively short and on roads that have very little traffic.

    At the two shops I visited so far, one tried to sell me on the Trek FX series, specifically the 7.3 and the 7.5. I liked them, the price was right on the 7.3, and I could see myself stretching to the 7.5 if I thought it was money well spent. At the other shop, the salesman was showing me a Bianchi Volpe and a Specialized Globe. The Volpe looked very nice, seem to have all the right attachments, and looked like it could take a rugged tire if I so desired. And it was steel, which seems to be a good thing in the eyes of some He barely talked about the Globe.

    Like most new riders, I'm leaning towards the flat bar. I'd certainly add the bar ends on, but it looks a lot more maneuverable for riding on canal tow paths, dealing with traffic, and whatever I might encounter as I cut through a college campus.

    I did like the look of the Trek. I guess I'm whether I should looking at cross bikes like the Volpe (a bit more than I wanted to spend) in addition to the Trek FX style flat bar bike. I know a lot of this is about individual fits; I'm curious to know how others feel about the whole cross/hybrid bike thing for this kind of usage.

    I guess if I really get into all of this, I can always get a road bike or a touring bike. I'm really looking for a bike that will be great for commuting (again, not monster 30 mile, open road commutes) in a variety of conditions like rain, packed dirt, and mostly asphalt. And have fun with periodically on the weekend.

    Is the 7.3 -> 7.5 upsell worth the money? Still cheaper than the Volpe... Are there other bikes I should be checking out? Jamis Coda? A friend recommended Surly, but that's getting a bit expensive...

    Sorry if this is a bit rambling. Working things out in my head and I'm really just curious to hear what decisions others in similar positions have made and how they felt about those decisions upon reviewing them down the road.

  2. #2
    Cycle Year Round CB HI's Avatar
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    Each of the bicycles you mention are fine for commuting. Test ride as many as you can in different sizes. Pick the bicycle you like the best, just make sure it is the right size for you.

    We each have our different preferences, so we can only tell you what we like or dislike about a bicycle; not what you will like or dislike.

  3. #3
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    I just started commuting myself and CB HI hit it on the head. I can see that what I would look for in my next ride will be a bit different based on experience.. sounds like you have a pretty good handle on it..

  4. #4
    Senior Member climbhoser's Avatar
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    Test test test test test.

    FWIW Out of all the bikes I've test ridden I liked the Surly Crosscheck the best of all. I can't afford it, so I'm not riding it, but I liked it the best.

    I DO like a road like geometry the best...for some reason mountain geometry doesn't work for just spinning long distances (while it might be fine for actual mountain biking). In fact, MTBs tend to make my hamstrings sore on longer commutes.

    So, keep your mind open to drop bar bikes, because they're usually on comfortable geometry bikes.

    Try touring and cyclocross bikes, like Surly LHT and Crosscheck or the Lemond Poprad or Trek Portland. They're more relaxed in geometry, but still not the super relaxed cruiser style or MTB style.

    Try lots!

  5. #5
    Member stiggywigget's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 125px View Post
    <snip>
    At the other shop, the salesman was showing me a Bianchi Volpe and a Specialized Globe. The Volpe looked very nice, seem to have all the right attachments, and looked like it could take a rugged tire if I so desired. And it was steel, which seems to be a good thing in the eyes of some He barely talked about the Globe.

    Like most new riders, I'm leaning towards the flat bar. I'd certainly add the bar ends on, but it looks a lot more maneuverable for riding on canal tow paths, dealing with traffic, and whatever I might encounter as I cut through a college campus.

    I did like the look of the Trek. I guess I'm whether I should looking at cross bikes like the Volpe (a bit more than I wanted to spend) in addition to the Trek FX style flat bar bike. I know a lot of this is about individual fits; I'm curious to know how others feel about the whole cross/hybrid bike thing for this kind of usage.

    I guess if I really get into all of this, I can always get a road bike or a touring bike. I'm really looking for a bike that will be great for commuting (again, not monster 30 mile, open road commutes) in a variety of conditions like rain, packed dirt, and mostly asphalt. And have fun with periodically on the weekend.
    <snip>
    Bikes that lean towards cyclocross style include the Volpe and Surly Crosscheck. Bikes that are more truly designed for cyclocross racing are Fuji Cross Comp and the Kona Jake the Snake. I'll let you guess which are steel and which are aluminum.
    Lots of people love steel but don't rule out an aluminum frame for that reason. Place our first priority on fit. Stand-over height is not the meaningful way to gauge a good fit. Go to a bike shop that can measure you and make recommendations based on those measurements. Pay attention to the top tube length in finding the right bike.

    I'd look around the cyclocross and touring spectrum for commuting. But this is just my preference. My commute is 32 miles RT with some big hills. I commute on a road bike in summer. I commuted on mountain bikes back when I lived on flat terrain.

    My preferences also include drop bars, brifters (STI shifters), narrower and higher pressure road tires (a little tread but no knobs), fenders, and lots of lights. Pretty much like this one

  6. #6
    Violin guitar mandolin
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    Distance, road conditions, hills, traffic all play into it. Stop & start in city traffic calls for an upright bike and possibly bigger tough tires. Suburban and semi-rural with few stops suggests a more road-typical design.

    Distance, too. Upright and straight bar is nice for short distances.

    So, city and 5 miles I'd run a tough bike, upright, maybe even with suspension on bad roads. Tend to get stuck on a line and have to ride through bad surfaces. Probably an aluminum frame.

    Longer non-stop stretches and 10 miles or more I'd be running a straight touring bike, 28 mm touring tires, good wheels, low rider racks in the front, a trunk in the rear on a good rack, lots of lights. Certainly steel or AL/Carbon. Not straight AL, my taste.

    The problem is that most commutes seem to lie somewhere in between. I've got 2.5 to 7 miles depending on the route I take. I've settled into a steel frame cyclocross-like bike w/ provisions for racks, V brakes, high-rise hybrid bar w/cane creek bar ends, moderately high position (I keep lowering it bit by bit) and a relatively far back seat to keep weight off my hands.

    But I'm thinking I'd rather have something like a Fuji World. But maybe one of Bikes Direct's Windsor Tourist models would do. Only 4130 (I'd rather have 853 like I do now) but tapered stays. I'd probably upgrade the crank, saddle (I'd throw my old Brooks on it), and tires maybe. Put on a lowrider front rack & mudguards. Lights. Lots of reflective tape. Leave the front panniers on all the time. Probably pop a handlebar bag on. And those little cheater brake levers on the top of the bars.

    So much depends on taste. If I were still commuting from Alexandria to Georgetown I'd be on a fixie with fenders, carrying a messenger bag! I used to do 13 miles each way without problems. It's flat. At least compared to here.

  7. #7
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    Definitely planning on testing for a good fit. If there is one thing I've picked up in my short time here, it's that.

    Next year (new job), I will be commuting not quite in the city, but certainly not rural. Or even neighborhood-style suburbs. Not sure how far I'll be, but I'd imagine it will have a reasonable amount of traffic, and be somewhere between 2-10 miles.

    Anyways, I think I have a list of bikes to check out with the flat bar style (Trek FX, Jamis Coda, Specialized something or another - it was at the store) but what about cross-style bikes like the Volpe? Any others I should check out in my price range ($500-800)?

    Thanks again.

  8. #8
    Senior Member biknbrian's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 125px View Post
    Is the 7.3 -> 7.5 upsell worth the money?
    I haven't had time to look at all the bikes you asked about, but I really don't like the looks of the wheels on the Trek 7.5 FX. After one quick glance, they seem to be disigned to look cool, but I'd question whether they'll hold up well for day after day loaded riding on real streets.

  9. #9
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    Good to know... More spokes I take it?

  10. #10
    Senior Member greenstork's Avatar
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    I spent a lot of time on a beater mountain bike after I took up cycling again as an adult. That time in the saddle really helped me to understand exactly what kind of biking I liked and what I didn't like. The needs of a commuter, club rider, and tourer are very different and I'm pretty glad I waited to drop the big $$$ on a bike that ended up being exactly what I wanted.

  11. #11
    M_S
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    Trek expanded the Soho ino a whole line for '08. I'd check those out before the FX series.

  12. #12
    Senior Member roseskunk's Avatar
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    well, since you asked... if it were me, i'd get an old raleigh sports. yup. put some alloy rims on it, a rear pletscher rack and you're set. fenders and a decent bike bag. three-speed sa hub, internal, chainguard. you'll be sitting upright which is a wonderful thing for seeing what's around you, and it won't cost an arm and a leg. hell, if you're lucky it won't cost an arm. you can find them pretty often on craigs for under 100 bucks..i know this style of bike is old of fashion, but for shorter commutes i don't think you can beat them. once you ride a bike with a chainguard fenders a decent rack, you'll never ride anything else. honest.

  13. #13
    Senior Member roseskunk's Avatar
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    uh, that would be "out of fashion..."

  14. #14
    not a role model JeffS's Avatar
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    Every company out there makes a range of flatbar hybrids.

    Typically, my advice is to not over analyze them, especially within a given brand. I tell people to just pick a price that you're comfortable paying and then buy the bike that appeals to you the most in that range.

    It often helps to determine some criteria to help narrow the field though. For instance, if you want front suspension or not, whether you want 26" or 700c tires, if you need rack mounts, if you need fender clearance, etc.

    For the most part, you're not going to find one brand/model that's just a MUCH better deal than something else. What you will find, of course, is that some brands do sell for a little more than others. Trek and Cannondale can be on the higher side. That said, their resale value will also be much better than something like a Jamis, or a Novara bike from REI. We could try to explain to you why the 7.5 costs more than the 7.3, but would you really understand if a Tiagra derailleur was something you wanted to pay more for than a Deore?

    As a general rule, anything with a drop bar (a road or cross bike) tends to cost more than a flatbar bike. There's not really a good reason for it, other than manufacturers have decided that their entry point for road bikes is going to be higher than for fitness bikes.

    Have you considered purchasing a used bike? If you feel comfortable with the idea, there is a lot of money to be saved by picking up a barely used bike on Craigslist or Ebay.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by M_S View Post
    Trek expanded the Soho ino a whole line for '08. I'd check those out before the FX series.
    That's funny. A used Trek Soho just popped up on Craigslist not too far from me. It's last years model though - 9 speed but not internal hub. Decent price too...

  16. #16
    Senior Member biknbrian's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 125px View Post
    Good to know... More spokes I take it?
    I'd recommend more spokes in a normal pattern for a commuter bike. The 7.2 FX looks decent. I think others have been advocating not spending too much money on a bike. This is pretty good advice. It takes time to zero in on your riding style and figure out what type of bike you'd like long term.

    If you can pick up something used at a decent price I'd advocate that. I believe you said you won't be commuting too far at first so you should be able to use any of a wide variety of bikes.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by JeffS View Post
    Typically, my advice is to not over analyze them, especially within a given brand. I tell people to just pick a price that you're comfortable paying and then buy the bike that appeals to you the most in that range.
    True.

    Quote Originally Posted by JeffS View Post
    For the most part, you're not going to find one brand/model that's just a MUCH better deal than something else. ... We could try to explain to you why the 7.5 costs more than the 7.3, but would you really understand if a Tiagra derailleur was something you wanted to pay more for than a Deore?
    I understand that. No free rides.

    As far as the components... I don't want to get to obsessive yet, but it did take me a bit of time to figure out that the Tiagra > Deore. Not that I know by how much or if it will really make a difference, but it is kind of nice to be able to look at the lists and at least see what the differences are...

    Quote Originally Posted by JeffS View Post
    Have you considered purchasing a used bike? If you feel comfortable with the idea, there is a lot of money to be saved by picking up a barely used bike on Craigslist or Ebay.
    Been looking. If I find a good deal, I'm all over it. Regardless, I'm going to hit up the stores to find out what I should be looking for, new or used...

    As far as not spending too much, for new, it seems like around $400 gets me a bike that I'd want. If a decent upgrade is $150 more, that's a month's worth of gas - I can hack it. The Volpe at $800 was pushing that line of reasoning...

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    $400 is a good limit, you can get a good hybrid bike in that range. I would recommend the Marin hybrid bikes in addition to the ones already mentioned here. I would avoid suspension forks for road use, if I were you. Suspension forks in that price range are going to be crap anyway.

    Just remember that if there are a few things you don't like about the bike, like the saddle or handlebars, they can easily be changed. So make your decision based on the way the frame fits. And the lower-end Shimano mountain components are all just fine for what you will be doing with them.

  19. #19
    Senior Member crazybikerchick's Avatar
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    I would probably go with something secondhand or inexpensive but decent as this is your first bike. As you get more biking experience you'll probably find your preferences change; for example you may prefer flat bars at first and then decide you want a drop-bar bike, or you might buy something where you are fairly far forward and then decide you prefer something more upright. Then when you really know what you like, you can buy the ideal bike.

    Test as many different styles of bikes as you can. Even better is if you have friends with spare bikes that you can borrow for a longer ride to really get a feel of that type of bike.

    Of course the most important criteria is buy something you like, and something that is comfortable otherwise you want want to ride it. What you find comfortable on a test ride may not be what you find comfortable when you are on longer rides or used to it. Big squishy seats come to mind. But thankfully if you go with the right style of bike for you, you can then change parts later as needed, such as the saddle or handlebars or pedals.

    Keep in mind when you are budgeting for the bike too some extra for accessories. Pretty much all accessories are optional (with the exception of lights if you are biking when its dark), but can make your commute more comfortable and efficient. Panniers, a decent raincoat, gloves to reduce vibrations on your hands and protect in case of fall, rearview mirror, etc. etc.

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