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  1. #1
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    Looking to buy a bike for university

    Hi everyone! Firstly, this might be in the wrong place so I'm sorry if so! I'm looking to buy a bike for university, and I'm torn between a hybrid and a road bike. I originally thought I'd get a road bike, since lots of guys at my school/6th form ride road bikes and they get on just fine. The first bike shop I went to said a road bike would be fine, since they're tougher than they used to be, etc.. The second bike shop guy suggested (in a nice, non-salesy way) that I get a hybrid, since I'm mainly planning to use it around Cambridge (provided I get in!). I know everyone (give or take) says that hybrids are silly, but he made some good points; it will be stronger, faster than a MTB, more durable, etc. My budget is around 450. So that was my intro, here are the bikes suggested to me:

    First shop:

    Merida Ride 77 - he said the one with carbon fibre forks is 499 but since they didn't have the one without (450) in stock he could do the one with for 450. I said I'd think about it. Stupidly I didn't look at the hybrids in the shop.

    Second shop:

    Claud Butler Elite - down from something or other, the numbers on it were 6061 t4-t6 if that means anything (showing my ignorance of bikes). This was 398.

    Raleigh 100 airlight - 409

    Ridgeback Velocity MP 380 - this was the bike he pointed us to when I said what I'd be using it for.

    Part of me says I want the drop handlebars, but another part says that I'll never use it for racing (I'm going on a couple of 50 mile rides over summer but that'll probably be it) and that I'll look pretentious when I only need it around town.

    So my questions are:

    Are hybrids really that bad? They seem light enough, and with thin enough tires, but durable. I would get toe clip pedals, but is the drop handlebar thing enough to make a road bike a better choice?

    Is the ridgeback a good choice? I like the look of things like the Trek 7.3 [EDIT: maybe 7.2, can't remember] which is about in my range. Should I visit some more LBSs? I've seen others online but I seem to recall that buying online isn't a good idea for someone who will need help fitting like myself.

    Is my budget realistic?

    Any other advice? I'd appreciate any tips; as you can tell I'm no bike expert so I'm hoping to learn a lot.

    Thanks very much in advance

  2. #2
    http://www.538.nl acidfast7's Avatar
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    If you're in the UK, I'd look at CUBE bikes (German). Most people on here won't know about them (or STEVENS because they're not sold in North America).

    Their MTBs are great value for money (in the UK), and I assume that their road and hybrids are as well. STEVENS also has good value:money ratio here (Germany), but I haven't checked their prices in the UK (only looked at CUBE UK prices.)

    Usually, you can get a discount on last year's models as well.
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  3. #3
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    I am not familiar with those particular models, but if I may offer a bit of advice on sorting it out: test ride as many different bikes as you are able to. Additionally, try to take an actual ride, not just a quick loop around a parking lot/ around the block. Your own rear-end is the best judge, and will be wildly different than everybody else's.

    That said: I like hybrids for very short (under 10 mile rides at the high end, and really under 5 is my preference) rides where I want to be sitting upright. Not great for going fast and not great for climbing, but pretty decent for mild-paced commuting.
    I like a non-suspension MTB for hauling things/ climbing on rides of most any distance (though if pure "distance" is the goal of the ride, I don't prefer a MTB). My MTB is my "pickup truck" bike.
    For straight-up speed and/or super long distance riding, I really wouldn't trade my road bikes with the drop bars for any other type of bike. For me, it's not so much the drop bars (though I do like them) as it is the stretched-out positions I can get into. This is my "sports car" bike.

    If your biking is only going to consist of commuting, then a hybrid (with racks and fenders!) would probably be an OK choice, but if you find that your biking habit grows, you may find that a road bike is a better fit. Consider a cyclocross bike, maybe. It's a decent choice for a "fast" commuter and you can usually put fenders and whatnot on them.

    It seems to me that most people that don't ride a lot tend to stay happy with a hybrid, but those that have ever-increasing mileage tend to long for a road bike pretty quickly.


    At any rate, I wouldn't worry about other people thinking that you are being pretentious with whatever you end up with. Buy something that fits your needs and fits your body and fits your budget.

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    what's pretentious about drop bars? A lot of ppl who are not racers use drop bars including commuters and tourers. Drop bars rock. I don't know if I'd ever get any other kind of bar. The options, the comfort, the aerodynamics, the control. Also, you should look into cyclocross bikes.

  5. #5
    http://www.538.nl acidfast7's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SurlyLaika View Post
    what's pretentious about drop bars? A lot of ppl who are not racers use drop bars including commuters and tourers. Drop bars rock. I don't know if I'd ever get any other kind of bar. The options, the comfort, the aerodynamics, the control. Also, you should look into cyclocross bikes.
    to be honest, I find them somewhat uncommon in Europe (at least in Germany/Sweden/Denmark) and I assume that the UK is the same. almost all long-distance German touring bikes don't have drop bars, especially the serious ones. i agree that it's shouldn't be seen as pretentious, but a road bike with drop bars would draw a huge amount of attention if someone was in the bike lane with one on the way to work. in the morning/evening, I probably see a few hundred different cyclists and I can't remember the last time I saw one with drop bars.

    the european city bike is by far the common bike on the commute (maybe 65-75%) ... usually by men/women dressed in work attire (as the usual RT commute is less than 10k)

    Picture 1.jpg

    then the German touring bike is the next most common (without drop bars) ... this is probably one of the more desirable touring bikes (VSF fahrradmanufaktur TX-1000) because of the 14-gear speed hub on a fully-equipped bike for 2500 new.

    Picture 2.jpg

    The rest are pretty much mountain bikes (usually Cube or Stevens because fully equipped bikes can be had for under 500 with an XT rear, discs and an inexpensive front suspension)

    Picture 3.jpg

    in fact, I see more boxbikes than I do bikes with drop bars.

    Picture 4.jpg
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  6. #6
    http://www.538.nl acidfast7's Avatar
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    here is a typical inner city Frankfurt bike lane (this one is kind of busy which is not so nice ... i would actually find an alternative route, rather than ride this one) and it provides an example of why drop bars wouldn't be so good.

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  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by acidfast7 View Post
    If you're in the UK, I'd look at CUBE bikes (German). Most people on here won't know about them (or STEVENS because they're not sold in North America).

    Their MTBs are great value for money (in the UK), and I assume that their road and hybrids are as well. STEVENS also has good value:money ratio here (Germany), but I haven't checked their prices in the UK (only looked at CUBE UK prices.)

    Usually, you can get a discount on last year's models as well.
    Thanks for your reply; I'll have a look. I didn't see any of those names in the stores I visited, but I'll look out for them on my next visit.


    Quote Originally Posted by Wolfwerx View Post
    I am not familiar with those particular models, but if I may offer a bit of advice on sorting it out: test ride as many different bikes as you are able to. Additionally, try to take an actual ride, not just a quick loop around a parking lot/ around the block. Your own rear-end is the best judge, and will be wildly different than everybody else's.
    Do they normally let people do this? What precautions do they take to stop me stealing it? Not that I would, of course, but I didn't know they offered this.
    Quote Originally Posted by Wolfwerx View Post
    That said: I like hybrids for very short (under 10 mile rides at the high end, and really under 5 is my preference) rides where I want to be sitting upright. Not great for going fast and not great for climbing, but pretty decent for mild-paced commuting.
    I like a non-suspension MTB for hauling things/ climbing on rides of most any distance (though if pure "distance" is the goal of the ride, I don't prefer a MTB). My MTB is my "pickup truck" bike.
    For straight-up speed and/or super long distance riding, I really wouldn't trade my road bikes with the drop bars for any other type of bike. For me, it's not so much the drop bars (though I do like them) as it is the stretched-out positions I can get into. This is my "sports car" bike.

    If your biking is only going to consist of commuting, then a hybrid (with racks and fenders!) would probably be an OK choice, but if you find that your biking habit grows, you may find that a road bike is a better fit. Consider a cyclocross bike, maybe. It's a decent choice for a "fast" commuter and you can usually put fenders and whatnot on them.

    It seems to me that most people that don't ride a lot tend to stay happy with a hybrid, but those that have ever-increasing mileage tend to long for a road bike pretty quickly.
    Yeah, that's essentially what I'm concerned about. If I buy a hybrid I'll end up wanting a road bike one year down the line because I want to get into cycling, but if I buy a road bike I'll never use it to its full potential. Are cyclocross bikes just road bikes but a bit tougher and with the option to attach mudguards and a pannier rack? With drop handlebars? Can I get one for my budget that won't be completely awful? Can you suggest any?

    Quote Originally Posted by SurlyLaika View Post
    what's pretentious about drop bars? A lot of ppl who are not racers use drop bars including commuters and tourers. Drop bars rock. I don't know if I'd ever get any other kind of bar. The options, the comfort, the aerodynamics, the control. Also, you should look into cyclocross bikes.
    I don't think they're pretentious at all, if you use them to full effect. I'm worried I'll become the guy who buys a good bike but then never uses it -- the bicycling equivalent of the woman who buys a 4x4 and uses it for a 1 mile shopping drive twice a week. Are cyclocross bikes just road bikes but a bit tougher and with the option to attach mudguards and a pannier rack? With drop handlebars? Can I get one for my budget that won't be completely awful? Can you suggest any?


    Thanks all for your replies

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by tcrwt View Post
    Do they normally let people do this? What precautions do they take to stop me stealing it? Not that I would, of course, but I didn't know they offered this.
    I am not sure about the protocol in your part of the world, but it is common around here for a bike shop to (at a minimum) let you take a prospective purchase for a few laps around their parking lot/block. In some cases (usually if you seem like a serious buyer for an expensive bike) they will let you take a longer ride. If you drive there, I guess they assume that you aren't going to steal the bike and leave your car. Some places hold your ID while test-riding.


    Quote Originally Posted by tcrwt View Post
    Yeah, that's essentially what I'm concerned about. If I buy a hybrid I'll end up wanting a road bike one year down the line because I want to get into cycling, but if I buy a road bike I'll never use it to its full potential. Are cyclocross bikes just road bikes but a bit tougher and with the option to attach mudguards and a pannier rack? With drop handlebars? Can I get one for my budget that won't be completely awful? Can you suggest any?
    You can get a road bike with flat bars, if the drop bars are concerning you. If you find that you take a liking to the biking, then you can either swap over to drop bars (and sell off the redundant parts to mitigate your costs, or keep for the parts bin), or sell the whole bike and pick up something new (Flat bar road bikes seem to have a much better re-sale value vs. hybrids, around here). Or have 2 bikes. Or, heck, you may like the flat bar set-up and not find the need to change anything.


    Also, to answer your question about 'cross bikes in an over-simplified fashion: yes they are toughed-up road bikes that usually offer proper fender mounting.

  9. #9
    The Left Coast, USA FrenchFit's Avatar
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    I don't know the environment you are anticipating, the issue for my kids was their bikes being stolen - completely or in pieces. As a result, both road old, nasty looking bikes that were actually pretty nice under the rust but appeared to be pulled from the dump. Even so, they lost wheels. To think it's socio-economic is a false assumption, I'm taking about exclusive schools with very low crime. So, I'd say invest in a beater for school...anything nicer is simply a target.

  10. #10
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    A Giant Escape RX 2 seems to be a good start since it's a solid start and dipped in Shimano. It's a road-leaning hybrid (it's cousin is the Seek which is more tanklike and offroady). See if you can roadtest one and get a feel for what style you like or how adventurous you want to be. I got a Seek since it's tires away from hitting the trails vs slicks for road.

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    Quote Originally Posted by acidfast7 View Post
    to be honest, I find them somewhat uncommon in Europe (at least in Germany/Sweden/Denmark) and I assume that the UK is the same. almost all long-distance German touring bikes don't have drop bars, especially the serious ones. i agree that it's shouldn't be seen as pretentious, but a road bike with drop bars would draw a huge amount of attention if someone was in the bike lane with one on the way to work. in the morning/evening, I probably see a few hundred different cyclists and I can't remember the last time I saw one with drop bars.

    the european city bike is by far the common bike on the commute (maybe 65-75%) ... usually by men/women dressed in work attire (as the usual RT commute is less than 10k)

    Picture 1.jpg

    then the German touring bike is the next most common (without drop bars) ... this is probably one of the more desirable touring bikes (VSF fahrradmanufaktur TX-1000) because of the 14-gear speed hub on a fully-equipped bike for 2500€ new.

    Picture 2.jpg

    The rest are pretty much mountain bikes (usually Cube or Stevens because fully equipped bikes can be had for under 500€ with an XT rear, discs and an inexpensive front suspension)

    Picture 3.jpg

    in fact, I see more boxbikes than I do bikes with drop bars.

    Picture 4.jpg

    Hey, Thanks! I liked your comments. Suddenly, I feel enlightened...

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    Welcome To Bike Forums, Tcrwt!

    A hybrid is just the perfect commuting bike. When watching and being aware of traffic, you'd much prefer sitting in an upright position, where you can actually see vehicles coming and going, than not.

    Therefore, I'll cast my vote for the Ridgeback Velocity MP.

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    Quote Originally Posted by acidfast7 View Post
    here is a typical inner city Frankfurt bike lane (this one is kind of busy which is not so nice ... i would actually find an alternative route, rather than ride this one) and it provides an example of why drop bars wouldn't be so good.
    What in that video would suggest that drop bars wouldn't be good? Riding through that gauntlet, I think I'd rather have nice, narrow drop bars for fear of clipping a post or car or pedestrian with a wider flat bar.

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    graduating seniors often enough abandon bikes when they leave,
    rather than haul them home or to their new area,

    so see if campus security auctions them off in the summer, to the locals.

    .. cutting locks to clear fences and bike racks.
    Last edited by fietsbob; 06-08-12 at 11:45 AM.

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    I would seek out the cheapest bike you can. I guess I don't know specifically about in Europe, but here in the US colleges are about the worst place to park a bike outside for any amount of time. I would not leave a bike worth more than $100-200 parked outside here. Fortunately, university areas are also full of cheap bikes to buy. As fietsbob said above, there are typically a large number of abandoned bikes in university areas. The ethics of taking one that you think is abandoned is up for debate, but you also may be able to purchase ones that have been confiscated by the school. Here at Ohio State they are starting a bike co-op where they will get the abandoned bikes ridable and sell them to students for cheap, plus help teach them to work on them.

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    http://www.538.nl acidfast7's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by groovestew View Post
    What in that video would suggest that drop bars wouldn't be good? Riding through that gauntlet, I think I'd rather have nice, narrow drop bars for fear of clipping a post or car or pedestrian with a wider flat bar.
    It's not about the drop bars ... it's about the bike that the drop bars would be on (i.e. one with high-pressure narrow tires without any suspension). all of the vibrations would be transferred to the rider's wrists. most of the inner city paths are made from what you guys call "pavers" in the states (usually used for outdoor ground patios.)
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  17. #17
    http://www.538.nl acidfast7's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SlimRider View Post
    Hey, Thanks! I liked your comments. Suddenly, I feel enlightened...
    Are you being serious? If so, thanks. If not,
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    Quote Originally Posted by acidfast7 View Post
    Are you being serious? If so, thanks. If not,

    Why wouldn't I be serious?

    I've been to Europe twice before. Though I did see a few old road bikes, it never really dawned on me that they were being outnumbered to such a degree.

    I truly felt enlightened...So wipe that frown off your face, my friend!

    Smile!!!

    Don't worry! Be Happy!
    Last edited by SlimRider; 06-09-12 at 09:20 AM.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by GuyForget View Post
    I would seek out the cheapest bike you can. I guess I don't know specifically about in Europe, but here in the US colleges are about the worst place to park a bike outside for any amount of time. I would not leave a bike worth more than $100-200 parked outside here. Fortunately, university areas are also full of cheap bikes to buy. As fietsbob said above, there are typically a large number of abandoned bikes in university areas. The ethics of taking one that you think is abandoned is up for debate, but you also may be able to purchase ones that have been confiscated by the school. Here at Ohio State they are starting a bike co-op where they will get the abandoned bikes ridable and sell them to students for cheap, plus help teach them to work on them.
    +1

    There's nothing wrong with getting a nicer bike, of whichever type you choose, but I would check out the racks at your prospective schools to see what the bike parking looks like. It would suck to buy a new bike just for someone to come along and scratch it up when they park next to you.

  20. #20
    Senior Member groovestew's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by acidfast7 View Post
    It's not about the drop bars ... it's about the bike that the drop bars would be on (i.e. one with high-pressure narrow tires without any suspension). all of the vibrations would be transferred to the rider's wrists. most of the inner city paths are made from what you guys call "pavers" in the states (usually used for outdoor ground patios.)
    Ah, thanks. Yes, a good point. A cyclocross bike would be a little better than a typical road bike because they can run fairly wide tires (35 mm) if a drop bar bike ended up being preferable otherwise.

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    I really don't think durability would be a factor with any bike, unless you're taking it off stairs or something - the main considerations are comfort (how good is the road surface you'll be traveling on?) and distance.

    Quote Originally Posted by acidfast7 View Post
    to be honest, I find them somewhat uncommon in Europe (at least in Germany/Sweden/Denmark) and I assume that the UK is the same. almost all long-distance German touring bikes don't have drop bars, especially the serious ones. i agree that it's shouldn't be seen as pretentious, but a road bike with drop bars would draw a huge amount of attention if someone was in the bike lane with one on the way to work. in the morning/evening, I probably see a few hundred different cyclists and I can't remember the last time I saw one with drop bars.
    I could be wrong, but I believe drop bars are fairly common in the UK, at least in London (I don't think separated bike paths exist there).

    I did notice they're fairly common in Stockholm, much more so than in Denmark or Germany - Cyclocross and road bikes made up at least 25% of all bikes on the path between Danderyd and Stockholm. I'll grant that in the city center, they're fairly rare.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tcrwt View Post
    Hi everyone! Firstly, this might be in the wrong place so I'm sorry if so! I'm looking to buy a bike for university, <snip>
    Honestly: Get a second hand beat up bike for moving around. Get a nice bike for weekend rides and keep it tucked away somewhere safe. Do not get a nice bike for riding to/from lectures. It WILL get stolen. Sorry, but that's the reality.

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    http://www.538.nl acidfast7's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by degnaw View Post
    I did notice they're fairly common in Stockholm, much more so than in Denmark or Germany - Cyclocross and road bikes made up at least 25% of all bikes on the path between Danderyd and Stockholm. I'll grant that in the city center, they're fairly rare.
    That's because the people in Danderyd have more money than they know what to do with. And to be fair, I never really lived outside city center when in Stockholm (Medborgarplatsen and Kungsholmen) so I never really used the bike paths north of the city
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    Quote Originally Posted by fairymuff View Post
    Honestly: Get a second hand beat up bike for moving around. Get a nice bike for weekend rides and keep it tucked away somewhere safe. Do not get a nice bike for riding to/from lectures. It WILL get stolen. Sorry, but that's the reality.
    +1, this is basically what I'm going to do this October when I go to university. Which college have you applied to? (That's colleges within the university of Cambridge, for anyone reading this who's not familiar with the system). I went to an open day at Queens' last year, and they have secure bike parking inside the college grounds, which I'd imagine most of the other large ones do as well. I'm not saying it's theft-proof, but it's definitely a lot better than the street, you could probably get away with keeping a fairly nice weekend bike in there.

  25. #25
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    Hybrids aren't silly; you should probably get one. If you are doing club rides or extensive long distance rides, of course a road bike is better. And if you are doing exclusively mountain biking, of course a mountain bike is better. But if you are commuting a reasonable distance, a hybrid is probably better than both.

    Road bikes have thin, high pressure tires. They are very efficient on smooth asphalt, but they are unpleasant on rougher surfaces, as they transmit all shocks directly to your hands. In my experience of commuting with a road bike, I found that if I didn't pump my tires up every day or so, they would lose enough air that I was at risk of pinch flats. (And I got a lot of pinch flats). Many road bikes can't take racks or fenders.

    Mountain bikes are pretty much just the opposite of road bikes. Rougher surfaces are, of course, no problem. But the fatter, knobbier tires on mountain bikes tend to slow you down significantly, as does the suspension.

    So get a hybrid. Racks, fenders, and reasonable tires are no problem. You can ride a century on a hybrid, or you can use it for light touring.

    And if you later decide you want to get into road biking, the best plan would be to buy a road bike then. You'll know better what you want by then anyway. And you'll still have a hybrid you can use for commuting.

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