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  1. #1
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    Advice on road bike models for a beginning commuter

    I posted on here a week or two ago about getting a Walmart bike (http://www.bikeforums.net/showthread...ike-at-Walmart), and we were ultimately convinced that we would probably not go that route. To repeat our background, we're just getting started with better bikes after having ridden crappy $50 mountain bikes all our lives. We're mostly going to use them for commuting around the city (San Francisco).

    Now we're thinking of getting something off Bikes Direct--probably my husband's bike first because he's already decided to get a road bike, and I'm still deciding between road bike and hybrid. We're looking at these two models: 14 Spd Shimano Aluminum Mercier Galaxy SC1 for $259 (http://www.bikesdirect.com/products/..._al_xi_sc1.htm) and the 24 Spd MicroShift the AL Frame/Steel Fork Gravity Avenue B for $299 (http://www.bikesdirect.com/products/...y/avenue_b.htm). Are either of these good bikes? Which one is better? We chose these mostly because of the price. We just don't want to get anything that expensive yet because when we've test ridden bikes so far, we haven't really been able to tell the difference between one or another, so I feel anything too grand would be wasted on us.

    Also, my husband's biking co-worker said that when we get a bike, we should make sure that the smallest crank size divided by the largest cassette size should be close to 1, but when we went to Performance Bikes today, the manager, who seemed really knowledgeable, says that it isn't necessary, that you'd be going so slowly if you were using that speed setting anyway. How necessary do you think it is to have this ratio close to 1?

  2. #2
    Packfodding 3 caloso's Avatar
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    Depends on how steep the hill is. If you're commuting to the top of Twin Peaks, you might want a 30x30 low gear. If you're sticking to the Embarcadero, it's overkill.

    Also, I would recommend buying your first real bike from a brick and mortar shop, like the nice folks at Performance who talked to you and let you test ride. If you have an issue with your new bike, you can go talk to them. They will do a tune up for you and help you get accessories for commuting. I don't think you get any of that from Bikes Direct.
    Last edited by caloso; 11-17-13 at 09:55 PM.
    Cyclists of the world, unite! You have nothing to lube but your chains!

  3. #3
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    That's true, but the cheapest road bike we found there was $650, which is out of our price range. Otherwise we would definitely consider it. That said, we might look elsewhere.

  4. #4
    Disco Infiltrator Darth Lefty's Avatar
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    From these bikes even up to the mid $1000 level, bikes are usually differentiated by their quality and complexity. Past about the mid $1000 level the pricing and features go really bonkers. These two bikes are fine. Between the two I'd go for the 8-speed since it has a rear hub of different design that's more durable. If you look at higher prices, you will find increasing quality of components, more convenient paddle shifters that let you shift fast without moving your hands off the brakes, lighter frames, sealed bearings. Some quality "problems" are just the choice you make. I bought a name-brand mountain bike about 12 years ago for <$400 and it seems like lately all the parts are failing at once. But still, 12 years! And thousands of miles.

    BD bikes are less expensive than some others since they don't have the retail markup and require some assembly, and they don't have the brand cachet. I haven't bought one but you will usually see advice to take it to a bike shop and have it assembled and checked over.

    Mountain bikes usually have a low gear ratio under 1 and road bikes usually over 1. Road bikes for various reasons are more efficient and roads are not usually as steep as trails. But San Francisco can be really steep. The cassette can be replaced with a lower one if you need it (which might also require a mountain bike rear derailleur and longer chain so there's enough to go around the bigger gear).

  5. #5
    Disco Infiltrator Darth Lefty's Avatar
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    Here's an example with the Galaxy SC models.

    SC1 is what you posted.
    SC2 gets the better 8-speed hub, and shifters built into the brake levers. Components are generally better.
    SC3 gets a carbon fiber fork and adjustable handlebar stem.

    The Trek website is actually really good about this within a given series of bikes, it will say on the page for the 7.4 FX that it has a better fork and drive train than the 7.3 (just an example).
    Last edited by Darth Lefty; 11-17-13 at 10:44 PM.

  6. #6
    Senior Member GeneO's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chschen View Post
    That's true, but the cheapest road bike we found there was $650, which is out of our price range. Otherwise we would definitely consider it. That said, we might look elsewhere.
    I don't know what your price range is, but Performance does have road bikes on sale you can get for less than $650 . If they don't have it at the store, you can buy it online and have them ship it to the store for free (I don't think you have to be a team performance member for the free shipping):

    http://www.performancebike.com/bikes...41009__1841009

    Admittedly low end components, but that is a lower priced road bike.

    You can try something similar for size at the store.
    Last edited by GeneO; 11-17-13 at 10:49 PM.
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  7. #7
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    If your MTBs don't have slick tires, I'd start there. Save some money to buy good bikes, preferably locally.

    Understand you're trying to go "cheap" but "working" beats "not working." With that in mind, go see what the LBSs have on sale at the end of the season that might work for you. The real benefit of an LBS is to keep the new bike working. Warranty repairs and free tune-ups beat shop rates for labor, and not that far down the road.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by pdlamb View Post
    Warranty repairs and free tune-ups beat shop rates for labor, and not that far down the road.
    Out of curiosity, how much are tune-ups usually?

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    Quote Originally Posted by chschen View Post
    Out of curiosity, how much are tune-ups usually?
    It's almost a non-issue. If you buy a bike from an LBS tune-ups are usually free. Sometimes for the life of the bike. Every LBS worth the name though will have some kind of tune-up schedule with a $20 brake and derraileur adjustmet to a $140 beginning of season total overhaul. Just about everything sold now uses cartridge bearings... tune-ups are therefore limited to adjusting cables, making sure various allen bolts are tightened to spec. You can do that yourself. You really can.

    H

  10. #10
    aka Tom Reingold noglider's Avatar
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    I'd say that mail order bikes don't save much money, if any at all. Assembly is trickier than you'd think, and paying your LBS to set up your mail order bike wipes out your savings. Plus, as Leisesturm says, you get more service if you buy a bike at your local shop.

    I'd say if you want more than your budget allows in a new bike, you can certainly get a good deal in a used bike on craigslist. My wife just bought a Trek 7.3 FX on Saturday. She paid $320, which, in retrospect, was a bit too much, but it sure was a lot less than $650.
    You don't read my signature anyway, do you?

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  11. #11
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    I see. We'll consider this then, thanks. We may have a friend who's really into cycling who could help us assemble it, but we have to ask him first--I'm not 100% sure how much experience he has taking care of bikes versus just riding them and having someone else take care of it.

    BTW, thanks, Darth Lefty, for your very specific feedback!

  12. #12
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    Look for cromo steel framed road or mtbikes from the 80's or 90's on your local CL. Make certain that it fits and has no rust or damage. Next, work with one of the co-ops in SF to help upgrade and maintain your bike. You'll have to be patient when watching for the right bike on CL.

    * After you've exhausted all of the co-op resources, you may have to buy a few new bike parts to complete your project.
    Last edited by WestPablo; 11-18-13 at 04:09 PM.

  13. #13
    Ghost Ryding 24/7 Ghost Ryder's Avatar
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    Don't go the hybrid route, they're sort of Frankenbikes IMO.
    Why not consider a Cyclocross bike?
    These are the best "do all/jack of all trades" bikes. With the new bunch of them coming disc equipped makes them even more commuter friendly.
    Giant Defy Dura Ace : Rip/Hammer-Specialized Allez Ultegra/105 : Recovery/Spinner-Specialized Allez Red : Trainer-Kona Major(Rad) Jake : Down & Dirty

  14. #14
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    really, the "cheap" bikes are often not so cheap in the long run. entry level lbs bikes might have similar materials and components, but the warranty, service, and design that goes into it is much better. buying locally gives you a life long relationship with a shop. many offering as much as six months free tune ups, if not more, as well as offering discounts on accessories.

    will you want lights, racks, bags, locks, etc??

    going into a shop because you got a flat on your way to work and having a guy who knows exactly what you need and rushes to help because he remembers you is a good feeling. having a guy see your internet bike and cringing, not knowing what is going to break or fall off as soon as he puts it in the stand... not so much.

    I don't know to many models from modern companies besides Giant, as that is who we carry. many of the big names should have something comparable to my recommendations, i just am not as familiar. I would recommend the giant Defy(Avail if the women's model, same bike besides geometry being suited for women) for an actual road bike. if I were to buy a single, new bike for both commuting and exercise/adventure/fun this might be it. the seating position is more comfortable/upright compared to aggressive road bikes. rack and fender mounts. giant has some of the best aluminum frames in the business.

    if you absolutely can't do drop bars, the giant Escape is what I would recommend.

    you're buying a lot more than a bike when you buy from a good lbs.

  15. #15
    Disco Infiltrator Darth Lefty's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AlTheKiller View Post
    the giant Escape is what I would recommend.
    I'm saving my pennies for a drop-bar road bike, but if I were buying a hybrid this is the one. They are nicely built out for a better retail price than the equivalent Trek FX or Specialized Sirrus. For 9-speed and carbon fork:

    Giant Escape 1 for $650
    Bikes Direct Cafe Sprint for $700
    Trek 7.4 for $800
    Specialized Sirrus Elite $820

  16. #16
    Ghost Ryding 24/7 Ghost Ryder's Avatar
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    I love my Defy, & am eyeing a TCX for the next CX season!
    Is the escape the new FCR?

    As a general rule, Giant is almost always a better bang for your buck. They're the largest company, & everyone knows they make frames for many of the major players.
    Giant Defy Dura Ace : Rip/Hammer-Specialized Allez Ultegra/105 : Recovery/Spinner-Specialized Allez Red : Trainer-Kona Major(Rad) Jake : Down & Dirty

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Darth Lefty View Post
    I'm saving my pennies for a drop-bar road bike, but if I were buying a hybrid this is the one. They are nicely built out for a better retail price than the equivalent Trek FX or Specialized Sirrus. For 9-speed and carbon fork:

    Giant Escape 1 for $650
    Bikes Direct Cafe Sprint for $700
    Trek 7.4 for $800
    Specialized Sirrus Elite $820
    To be fair, the Sirrus comes in three(?) different trim levels and the Elite is the top of the line. Likewise I suspect the Trek FX line has different levels and between the three competitors more evenly matched and priced models can be found than the selection you have worked out for us. Personally I have always like Specialized and would take an Allez or Sirrus (in red) in a NYC minute. I saw my first Trek FX this year and I like them too. My LBS is a Giant dealer and my folding bike is a Giant, but their road bikes have never excited me all that much.

    H

  18. #18
    Disco Infiltrator Darth Lefty's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Leisesturm View Post
    To be fair, the Sirrus comes in three(?) different trim levels and the Elite is the top of the line. Likewise I suspect the Trek FX line has different levels and between the three competitors more evenly matched and priced models can be found than the selection you have worked out for us.
    I did my homework and I picked the models with 9-speed drivetrains, V-brakes, and carbon forks. It was just an example, but you could compare the models at the same price point instead and you'll find that for the price of the 9-speed and carbon fork on the Giant you get 8-speed and steel or aluminum fork on the other two.

    The Sirrus tops out at $3000 in full carbon fiber with an Ultegra RD, carbon fiber cranks, DT AXIS wheels, hydraulic disk brakes and so on. That might not be good value but it does sound exciting.

  19. #19
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    Bike direct will require you know how to assemble a bike, or you will eat your savings paying a local bike shop to assemble for you. There are many advantages to dealing with a local shop - free advice, adjustments, etc that can save you in the long run.

    If you want a road bike, not hybrid in this price range i would suggest looking at used options to leave some money for accessories, etc. You can try craigslist or try the best of both worlds with a shop that sells used bikes. I know there are a few shops the sell used bikes in the SF area. There is one in San Rafael, and in SF try http://www.pedalrevolution.org/ or http://www.refriedcycles.com/ - you might get more for your money this way.

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