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Old 10-12-07, 06:19 PM   #1
rae
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Overwhelmed and a little frustrated

Hi, I've just joined the forum and hope you all will give me a little hand holding as I search for a new bike.

I did some touring ~25 years ago but rode less & less, then not at all as family responsibilities caught up with me. Really got into running in the past several years, and started riding again last year on a yard sale Magna "mountain" bike as cross training; but now really am enjoying long rides on the rail-trails so want to get a bike better suited to that, better fitting, and better able to take on more road riding, touring (and hills!). By long rides I mean minimum 25, up to 60 miles so far. Endurance-wise, these distances are fine but the bike is not. The reach (too far) and straight bars are tiresome. I've no interest in racing, off-road, or commuting. I do want to stay at the lower end of the price range. Oh, and due to a recent neck injury, I find the upward head tilt posture on my old touring bike very difficult, but it is not that I don't want drop bars--in fact I would prefer the variety of positions they offer.

When I first went into the local shops and explained all that, I was being shown the comfort hybrids. OK, I like the somewhat wider tires (than my touring bike), but they are really too upright. The women's models also seem too -- how to describe--compact? the bars are too close in. Some of the other hybrids were better, though. But if I am going on long rides on paved or packed surfaces, I don't think I want or need a suspension fork -- although one guy mentioned that some of those can be adjusted to stiff or loose. The adjustable stems seem like a nice feature. I confess that I can use my gears but I know nothing about them.

Now my head is spinning from seeing and reading about so many brands & styles. Also, on the one hand I don't want to spend much (what if I don't like it, or actually use it much after all?) but on the other, an extra two hundred or four seems to bring it much closer to my desired configuration. I've come close to buying the cheapest I can find just to get it over with! ahgg!

Having browsed this forum I am thinking that the hope exists for a good fitting bike that will meet my needs: slightly more upright, not so heavy, could still have drop bars, medium width tires, able to maybe take touring. I would love to hear your suggestions and experiences. Have you found this perfect bike?

From my shopping so far, I've ridden a Kona Dew, a Fuji Crosstown 3.0 & a Schwinn super sport that weren't too bad on a very short trial (but neither perfect). I am going back tomorrow for a longer test ride on the Kona, and to try a Giant (an older model that the LBS says is similar to the FCR1) which would be at the higher end of my price range ($650)--he is putting on a different stem to bring the bar angle a bit closer & higher for me. Still need to check out Trek and Specialized shops. I am watching craigslist also, although I don't quite know what to watch for...
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Old 10-12-07, 07:31 PM   #2
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My favorite bike to ride is my racing bike, but due to spine problems of my own I start to experience neck and lower back discomfort after about four hours in the saddle. My mountain bike is much more comfortable, but after being accustomed to my racing bike the MB feels sluggish and heavy when riding it. I can stay in the saddle longer but I'm traveling slower so long distance rides are a great effort.

I struck on a good balance of speed and comfort when I bought my Kona PhD hybrid which is basically a lightweight performance bike that allows me to sit in a more upright position that's easier on my neck and back on longer rides. I'm a touch slower on it than I am on my racing bike but much faster than on my MB, especially on grades. Since I'm mostly on paved and hard pack paths I don't miss the added bulk of wide knobby tires and an unnecessary shock absorber at all.

I think you might be on the right track with the type of bikes you're looking at. Since you're planning to ride on paved surfaces I'd say if you can avoid buying anything with a shock absorber you won't miss it at all and you'll spare yourself unnecessary added cost and weight.
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Old 10-12-07, 07:37 PM   #3
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Have you tried out any cyclocross bikes? Might suit your needs, should be good for rail-trails. If you have a Kona dealer, see if they have a Jake the Snake (if nothing else, the name is cool!)
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Old 10-12-07, 07:46 PM   #4
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I know what it means to have your head spinning. There are so many choices and so many price points. Buying a cheepy isn't the worst thing in the world. It will get you started and, at the very least, you'll learn what you don't like.

I've been riding for several decades, and speaking for myself, I always took more time than I wanted and always ended up spending a little more than I thought I should. The benefit was that I got a *bike that fit* and a bike I could ride for at least several years, and maybe more.

I wish I could give you advice on the bikes your mentioned, but my knowledge does not extend that far.

The good news is that I truly believe we are living in the golden age of the bicycle. The multiple choices you confront are actually a reflection of the many wonderful options we now have before us.

Good luck, and keep us up to date on your journey.
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Old 10-12-07, 07:49 PM   #5
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Have you tried out any cyclocross bikes? Might suit your needs, should be good for rail-trails.
+1
I've got 3 of 'em. They are "do anything bikes". Quick group rides, Rail trails, commuter, Day-touring, Credit card touring. Set up correctly they can be perfect for riders not wanting the aggressive position of a racing bike...
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Old 10-12-07, 08:12 PM   #6
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So many bikes, so little time....

Cyclocross seems to be a good bet.

If you are independently wealthy you might look into Rivendell bikes.
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Old 10-12-07, 08:36 PM   #7
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I suggest either a cyclocross bike or an older touring bike.
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Old 10-12-07, 08:36 PM   #8
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Just like a person can buy a road bike and leave the shop with a striaght bar on it, you can buy a hybrid and leave the shop with drop bars on it. The conversion will cost more, though, since you'll be changing shifters and brake levers. If you buy a hybrid bike with V-brakes, you most likely will be able to put larger tires on it, for the trails.
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Old 10-12-07, 09:57 PM   #9
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Hang in there, take your time, ride (and research) a lot of bikes, ask questions, ride more bikes. Eventually, you will know what you want.

I ride a hybrid and like it a lot. I chose a hybrid because I didn't think I'd be riding nearly this often or this far. That is not to say you can't ride long or far on a hybrid.... you can...... but if I'd known the type of riding I really want to do now, I'd have purchased a lighter bike and one that fits me better (my bike is too big). Now I'm shopping for my next bike. I will keep my hybrid because it serves me well and I'll use for my night riding after work and possibly for errands. It's the one that is getting me in better shape than I was in 20 years ago.
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Old 10-13-07, 03:14 AM   #10
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It is very important to get the reach dimension correct (more important even than standover height). If the hybreds are too short than go with the cyclocross or road frames. It is relatively easy and quick to turn the stem upside down to raise the handlebars up to nearly level with the saddle. Many here in the 50+ forum have done so due to older back/neck situations.

There are other things that you can do to help with the "head twisted up to far pain". Do not use a visor on your helmet and use your eyes more to look forward without tilting the head as much. If you wear glasses, you may find that the variable lenses do not allow you to use the upper portion of the lens. Returning to regular bifocals may help there.

Try more bikes, ask more questions. Your already riding much farther than the average entry level cyclist so you have a good feel for what you want in the next bike. Try some other bike shops even if you have to travel some.
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Old 10-13-07, 05:30 AM   #11
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Try tucking your chin in to your chest and moving whole head back instead of raising your chin to see, and, above all, get rid of any visors!
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Old 10-13-07, 05:54 AM   #12
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...slightly more upright, not so heavy, could still have drop bars, medium width tires, able to maybe take touring...

Check out: Bianchi Volpe, Cannondale Touring 1, Fuji Touring, Jamis Aurora, Novara Randonee, Raleigh Soljourn.

HTH,
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Old 10-13-07, 06:07 AM   #13
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Neck injury: its recent? Is this going to be a chronic thing? Maybe all you need is a flipped stem to get the upright position. The rest of the fitting can be done for a road bike. That way you can do the longer distances.
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Old 10-13-07, 06:14 AM   #14
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... Check out: Bianchi Volpe, Cannondale Touring 1, Fuji Touring, Jamis Aurora, Novara Randonee, Raleigh Soljourn. ... TCS
Good suggestion.
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Old 10-13-07, 06:38 AM   #15
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I suggest developing specifications based on your needs, then looking at what fits those specs best. That's how I shop and I end up fitting very well. A possible approach:

1. Figure out your position. Get the saddle setback, saddle height, reach to the bars, and drop of the bars.

2. Decide where you want the bars in relation to the front wheel. This is very important. I like the forward bend of the bars as they go into the drop directly over the front axle. Some tourists like the bars back a bit. Will give stems longer with shallow angle head tubes and taller frames. This geometric aspect is crucial.

3. Decide what kind of handling you like. Snappy = steeper head tube, with more relaxed angles giving smoother handling. Somewhat shallow angles (e.g. 72 degrees) don't mean you can't make the bike handle, just that it handles differently.

4. Once you've got the reach and the angle, use trig to get back to the range of stem & TT & angle relationships that fit. Go find a couple of bikes that fall in this range and see how they feel. You may find that something different than you thought feels better. For example, I'm originally a classic steel rider, now on a compact carbon about 1.5 sizes smaller than I used to ride, and I like it.

Watch out for the trap of the same stem on all sizes. Get the bars where they belong to try finalists out! Will greatly change the handling.

Or go to competitive cyclist & do their fit. Or Dave Moulton's blog links to his frame sizing, which works well enough almost all the time.


On the type of bike, that matters less than how it is set up. From your description, I would think you'd need a pretty wide gear range and stable handling. I'd tend to be looking at a slightly laid back road geometry road bike (e.g. Giant OCR, Specialized Roubaix) watching for too-short stem problems, set up with 28 mm tires and a triple or wide range compact. On the other hand, the Fuji Newest 2.0 I got my daughter seems exceptionally capable, if a little heavy. It has even slacker head tube - think it is 71.5 degrees. That's a bit much layback for my driving style, but she loves it!
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Old 10-13-07, 08:01 AM   #16
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When I first went into the local shops and explained all that, I was being shown the comfort hybrids. OK, I like the somewhat wider tires (than my touring bike), but they are really too upright. The women's models also seem too -- how to describe--compact? the bars are too close in. Some of the other hybrids were better, though. But if I am going on long rides on paved or packed surfaces, I don't think I want or need a suspension fork -- although one guy mentioned that some of those can be adjusted to stiff or loose. The adjustable stems seem like a nice feature. I confess that I can use my gears but I know nothing about them.
Keep looking. I'm thinking that you're shopping for a bike when you should be shopping for a bike mentor.

My advice is to keep checking out all of the local bike shops. Tell whoever you talk to what you told us. If they look confused or sound uninterested, don't waste any more time with that person than is necessary. Honestly, I doubt they'll mind.

Once you find the right sales person, everything else will magically fall into line.
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Old 10-13-07, 08:11 AM   #17
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Keep looking. I'm thinking that you're shopping for a bike when you should be shopping for a bike mentor.

My advice is to keep checking out all of the local bike shops. Tell whoever you talk to what you told us. If they look confused or sound uninterested, don't waste any more time with that person than is necessary. Honestly, I doubt they'll mind.

Once you find the right sales person, everything else will magically fall into line.
+1. It is absolutely essential that you find someone who will fit you to the bike you need, not tell you what everyone else is riding.
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Old 10-13-07, 08:18 AM   #18
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Keep looking. I'm thinking that you're shopping for a bike when you should be shopping for a bike mentor.

My advice is to keep checking out all of the local bike shops. Tell whoever you talk to what you told us. If they look confused or sound uninterested, don't waste any more time with that person than is necessary. Honestly, I doubt they'll mind.

Once you find the right sales person, everything else will magically fall into line.
Rather than just put a +1 on this, I will say this is excellent advice and worth way more than you are paying for it. A bike shop that makes you feel comfortable is IMO the first thing you should be shopping for.

Great advice and excellent post.
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Old 10-13-07, 08:19 AM   #19
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I started to look at Hybrids a few years ago. I was on a 40 mile organised ride and did it on the Tandem- It may be a heavy offroad version but with slicks and a good team- this is fast on the road. On the ride- we kept coming across some hybrids. Not just your ordinary hybrid- these were quality bikes- Basically a road bike with straight bars. The quality of theses bikes was high and there was one annoying "OLD" rider that kept taking us on the flat. Uphill is down to the rider and he was not that good but on the flat he could motor up and pass us.

At the end I looked at the bike- Picked it up- compared it to a few Road bikes and this was a top end road bike- with straight bars. Very light-High quality fitments and looked very comfortable. In the last couple of years- these high end hybrids have improved and Even CF frames are appearing on them.

I only changed to drop bars in the last 18 months. I found it strange at first and did not get down into the drops. After 15 years of mountain bikes- I was not comfortable with my head between my knees when riding- but riding on the flats and riding on the hoods gave me two very comfortable riding positions. Initially I did have a slight neck problem but that passed. I even get into the drops when a head wind appears now and find the lower position usefull for aerodynamics. Then it was time to adapt the bike and a slightly longer raised stem to bring the bars higher improved the ride again.

So the choices are there for you. the hybrids that you are being offered may not be to your liking-on quality and weight- but are they comfortable? Then again- if you are worried about riding a full "Racing" bike- then don't be. Even within the racing bikes- there are Different types- And they all fit and feel different.

So it is back to that standard reply that is given to all buyers of new bikes- Get out and test ride- and take your time over choosing your next bike. When the type and style that suits you appears it will let you know straight away. And wjhile you are doing this- You will find the LBS that you want to deal with aswell.
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Old 10-14-07, 07:26 AM   #20
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..... but if I'd known the type of riding I really want to do now, I'd have purchased a .... Now I'm shopping for my next bike.
Ditto. Which begs the question: how many bikes do you have to buy before getting it right?

(Answer: as many as it takes!)
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Old 10-14-07, 09:53 AM   #21
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Have you had a fitting done? Not sure if it is as effective as with road bikes but I would think so. Find some place that is less interested in selling you a new bike than in doing a good fitting. Ask around to find the best place (the one people trust to tell them the truth about their existing bike), network with local cyclists and don't be in a hurry. Talk to them about what you are seeking and get their advice in addition to the great advice here. Worth the investment. I had my 18 year old road bike stolen. Got a fitting then got some help from my son who is knowledgeable (like the guys here) about bikes and bought a bike off of Craigslist so I could go see what the seller was selling and what condition the bike was in. Whether you buy new or used (less money on the bike and more on getting it set up perhaps) you should come out with what you want. I was fortunate but I was prepared and found an Eddy Merckx that some guy was selling for the price of his two new wheels for his racing bike so I got a great deal on a used high end bike in great shape. Still have a little fitting stuff to do this winter but I rode it all summer and am feeling better about the current set up. I thought it was too low at first but I hadn't ridden for a year and my back was not in good shape. Still might need to raise the front bars a little. Seems like you have already done that but do give yourself a little time to adjust to new bike.
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Old 10-14-07, 10:56 AM   #22
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Allow me to recommend that you look at the Fuji Absolute series. They have a 30 speed with adjustable stem and 28mm tires. I think you can fit 32mm tires on those wide forks. And they have eyelets for racks or fenders for light touring. I think you'll find them decently priced. And Fuji has been building bikes since the 1890's.
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Old 10-14-07, 11:34 AM   #23
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I'd add my +1 to the cyclocross recommendations. I too came from riding a MTB, and wanted to get more into touring and road, but I didn't want to jump right into a road bike. I looked at less-aggressive road bikes, like the Trek Pilots, but wasn't crazy about the aluminum frame and (what I thought at the time were) really, really skinny tires. So I went with Bianchi Volpe- it's a great bike, all steel, nice geometry for those of us coming from a more upright posture, and it's easily convertible to a road bike (which I just did with a second wheelset). So now I have two bikes in one- yes, the geometry is a little different from a typical road bike, but that's OK with me- I'm not racing, but I've done a bunch of metrics and an imperial on it, and I was very comfy.
I'd look into the other 'cross bikes too- Kona, Fuji, Surly, Specialized- these are all good makers. Like RetroGrouch said, you need a bike mentor- someone you can work with IRL to help you with this. Although the BF is a great place to start, best to have a "shopping buddy."

Good luck!
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Old 10-14-07, 12:56 PM   #24
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When I first went into the local shops and explained all that, I was being shown the comfort hybrids. <snip>

I've come close to buying the cheapest I can find just to get it over with! ahgg! <snip>

Having browsed this forum I am thinking that the hope exists for a good fitting bike that will meet my needs: slightly more upright, not so heavy, could still have drop bars, medium width tires, able to maybe take touring. I would love to hear your suggestions and experiences. Have you found this perfect bike?
The first bike I bought was hybrid. I've since learned two things: First, if you're over 50, they automatically try to sell you a hybrid. Second, hybrids are a great choice if you don't really like cycling. Yeah, I rode mine for 3,800 miles and liked it a lot. Then I bought a road bike...

I bought the cheapest road bike I could find, $100. It was a seven-year-old Trek 1000--a beginner's road bike. For $100, I didn't care an awful lot about what I was buying. That took all the indecision away. It was also a bit of a fixer-upper, and I enjoyed spending the winter learning from that experience.

When spring came I first started riding it, I found it was the best $100 (plus replacement parts) that I ever spent. The road bike showed me everything that was wrong with the hybrid. It was easily twelve pounds lighter, it goes when I pedal, and neither hills nor headwinds intimidate me any more. It also showed me what I really wanted in a road bike, which lead to...

I may have found the perfect bike. I recently bought a Trek Portland. It's sold as an urban commuting bike, but I found it's an excellent all-rounder. From the summary of the initial review I wrote,

Quote:
In summary, the Trek Portland is superb all-rounder. Simply because it’s sold as an urban commuter doesn’t limit its capabilities at all. The good manners it exhibits in traffic are equally refined when hauling groceries, trapped behind beginners on the bike path, on high-speed descents and on all day century rides.

I have no qualms about recommending the Trek Portland for anything but all-out racing. Beginners will find its good manners reassuring, while experienced riders will appreciate its versatility, details and refinement. Whether for quick errands around town or transcontinental touring, it’s a fine bike to have beneath you.
There you have it. Two possible strategies for you. It worked out well for me to buy cheap, learn, then buy what I really needed. Or, you can skip right to the results I found.
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Old 10-14-07, 02:59 PM   #25
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Have you tried out any cyclocross bikes? Might suit your needs, should be good for rail-trails. If you have a Kona dealer, see if they have a Jake the Snake (if nothing else, the name is cool!)
A friend has a Jake-the-Snake and he has taken it on mountainous centuries and does fine. I have a Gunnar Sport and it is the most comfortable bike I've had for club rides on the crappy roads around here. It's close to 'cross geometry and has rack/fender eyelets, but is outside your price range unless you can find a used one.
I think Jamis has some nice Reynolds steel bikes that might work for you.
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