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  1. #1
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    Beginners Bike for me?

    I need help selecting a beginner's bike - I'm a woman, 52, in okay but hopefully improving shape, but haven't ridden a bike regularly since childhood. I'm terribly intimidated by the bikes with lots of gears (my coordination has never been great) and I can barely deal with the thought of hand brakes instead of coaster brakes. Naturally, dh thinks we shouldn't spend too much for a bike - what if I never use it, after all? (wink)

    He's in super shape and has a bike he's happy with but also hasn't ridden much, himself. We'd like to just do some recreational biking - dkids at 15 are getting older and we anticipate having more time together.

    I should also add that we live on a mountain and I don't anticipate being able to ride much from home, particularly in the beginning. It's just that hilly and steep if one isn't in top shape. I suspect we'll need to go off the mountain to other biking paths that are flat. (Our area has excellent fitness and mountain biking possibilities but out of reach fitness-wise for me for now.)

    Dh was checking out the Schwinn "Searcher" bike yesterday at Sears - 7 speeds only - or the Skyliner with 21 speeds.

    Are these too inexpensive a bike to start out? Other recommendations and advice?

    Thanks so very much!

  2. #2
    Grammar Cop Condorita's Avatar
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    Wow, when I was looking for a bike, the local Sears told me they don't carry bikes any more.

    Will Sears let you test ride? If not, start checking around the LBSs, and start test riding.

    The bike that's right for you is the one you get out and ride.
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  3. #3
    Small Member maddmaxx's Avatar
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    It would be worth your while to investigate a couple of local bike shops. If you are not familiar with or ready to perform maintenance on your bike, then the relationship you forge between yourself and the people at the shop will be invaluable. Sears will probably not service your bike!

    Shop bikes do not have to be extremely expensive. As long as they understand what you need or are capable of riding they should be able to help. If not...................well, this is why you visit more than one shop.

  4. #4
    Senior Member CACycling's Avatar
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    One additional comment on gearing. Just because you buy a bike with a lot of gear choices doesn't mean you need to shift at all to start with. At first, you can find a comfortable gear ratio and leave it there. Especially if you are level bike paths, you can treat the bike like a single speed untill you are comfortable with balancing the bike, pedaling, and using the hand brakes. Once you've mastered those, you can start playing with the gears. Getting a bike now with gearing capable of doing that big hill by your home will allow you to tackle it when you are ready (and you may find you are ready sooner than you think). Good luck.

  5. #5
    train safe buelito's Avatar
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    go to your local bike shop-- the prices will be competitive, and the service will be better thatn Sears or any of the big box type stores.

    Fit is the most important consideration. Also, buy the best bike you can afford. Get yourself a budget, and go for the high end of the budget-- you will be pleasantly surprised at how much more fun it is to ride a decent bike rather than a cheap one...especially when you do the hill by your house Also, don't forget the little things, like helmet and bike shorts.


    Enjoy-

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  6. #6
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    You'll get loads of advice here, all well informed and supportive.

    My own 2c s - the big companies (Trek, Specialized, Giant etc) are big because they have happy customers, many of whom started as beginners. See what the big companies, retailing through dedicated bike shops, have to offer, rather than a store that sells stepladders and dog food.

    And don't be overwhelmed by gears. You have the savvy to work a computer and post on the interweb. Gears are less complex than that.

    Keep us in touch!

  7. #7
    Senior Member deraltekluge's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DonnaGWD View Post
    I'm terribly intimidated by the bikes with lots of gears (my coordination has never been great) and I can barely deal with the thought of hand brakes instead of coaster brakes.
    Just because you have lots of gears doesn't mean you have to use them all, all the time. Based on how you describe your surroundings, you probably should get something that's 3x8 or 3x9. Think of the front gearing (the 3) as ranges. Pick one, and do most of your shifting with the rear gears (the 8 or 9). Think of the front as uphill, flat, and "whee!" speeds. There is a lot of overlap in the gearing...the middle of the 3 covers most of the range of the other 2, so you don't have to change ranges often.

  8. #8
    Pat
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    Go to your local LBS. Bikes are like shoes. If they don't fit, they are no fun at all. The LBS will fit the bike to you.

    I am not a great mechanical whiz and my coordination is not that hot either. When I started, I had concerns about the gearing and hand brakes and both are easy even for me. I don't think you will have a problem.

    Hand brakes are far safer than coaster brakes. 1) Coaster brakes are rear wheel and the rear wheel has far less stoping power than the front wheel (your weight pushes against the front wheel when braking). 2) Coaster brakes take time for you to switch from pedaling to stopping. With you hands on the hoods where the brake level is, you can apply the brakes much faster with hand brakes. 3) You can also hit both brakes at once. Don't worry, it is not hard. If I can do it, almost anyone can.

    You can get a Trek 1000, an entry level road bike, for about $600 new. There are many other manufacturers that offer comparable products. Most local bike shops sell quality stuff so it is rather hard to go wrong.

    The way the gearing works is you have 3 chain rings (since you are intimidated by hills I hope 3). They are on front. The big one is for fast the little one is for hills and the middle on in between. You do the fine tuning shifts on the rear gears back by the hubs. It takes very little time to figure out.

    How much you spend depends on how atheletic or active you are. But even that can be deceptive. Many people who are couch potatos take to cycling like ducks to water and end up riding far more than they expect. The more you use something, the more you can justify spending on it. I know quite a few people who buy a modest bike and end up buying a much higher end bike in a year or so.

  9. #9
    His Brain is Gone! Tom Bombadil's Avatar
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    If you are looking at the Schwinn Skyliner, then you are looking at what is termed a "comfort bike." This is a bike that is designed to have an upright riding position, high position handlebars, and a cushy saddle. This is a very popular genre of bike for recreational/casual riders.

    The Skyliner is one of the better bikes available from Sears/Walmart, however it does use a lot of low-end parts and may not hold up well under regular use. It also is very heavy. Price is around $150. It's a reasonable deal for $150, but I only had $150 to spend, I'd go for a better quality, used bike. But that can be very difficult to sort out if you don't know the brands and models.

    If you are willing to bump what you are willing to pay up to the $225-$275 range, you can get a much better bicycle. For example the Schwinn Sierra 7 speed is around $230. Very different from the Skyliner, with many upgraded parts. But it has a fixed/rigid fork - which many people find to be fine on bike paths, but some like a suspension fork that cushions the bumps. The Schwinn Sierra Sport, at around $250, has a suspension fork.

    Up a bit more would be a Trek Navigator 2, at around $325. Definitely nicer and very comfortable.
    Or the Trek 7000 at $300'ish. Not quite as cushy as the Navigator, but a little lighter and faster.

    There are other bikes very similar to these from other manufacturers.

    I recommend you go with something that you find comfortable. This will encourage you to ride more often. It is possible that you will ride so often that you find yourself needing a better bike. But if you had gotten the better, faster bike at first, you might not have ridden very much. For many people it is a two- or three-step process. But to many others, they ride comfort bikes for years and years.
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  10. #10
    Pedaled too far. Artkansas's Avatar
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    Living at the top of a hill is a toughie. The best way to start cycling is to just leave from home and pedal. But a big hill underneath makes that harder.

    Have you looked at the Giant Simple 7 or the Giant Suede? Seven gears should give you a bit of range for different hills, but just having 7 gears in a row will make it easy to catch on.
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  11. #11
    Senior Member PirateJim's Avatar
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    If you are looking at comfort bikes I can vouch for the Trek Navigator. My wife and I have had a pair for over ten years. Never had any trouble with either of them and they are comfortable. If you husband is a roadie you may want to look at a more agressive bike that can keep up with him a bit better. On the other end of the spectrum, if you really don't want to deal with gears and break leavers, look at the Trek Lime, three speed "automatic transmission" and a coaster break. I've not given one a test ride but they should be great for toodling down the bike path or around the park.
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  12. #12
    Senior Member brewer45's Avatar
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    My wife loves her Giant FCR2W (Review from Roadbikereview.com here). The frame is sized specifically for those with the xx chromosome advantage.

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  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by DonnaGWD View Post
    I need help selecting a beginner's bike - I'm a woman, 52, in okay but hopefully improving shape, but haven't ridden a bike regularly since childhood. I'm terribly intimidated by the bikes with lots of gears (my coordination has never been great) and I can barely deal with the thought of hand brakes instead of coaster brakes. Naturally, dh thinks we shouldn't spend too much for a bike - what if I never use it, after all? (wink)

    He's in super shape and has a bike he's happy with but also hasn't ridden much, himself. We'd like to just do some recreational biking - dkids at 15 are getting older and we anticipate having more time together.

    I should also add that we live on a mountain and I don't anticipate being able to ride much from home, particularly in the beginning. It's just that hilly and steep if one isn't in top shape. I suspect we'll need to go off the mountain to other biking paths that are flat. (Our area has excellent fitness and mountain biking possibilities but out of reach fitness-wise for me for now.)

    Dh was checking out the Schwinn "Searcher" bike yesterday at Sears - 7 speeds only - or the Skyliner with 21 speeds.

    Are these too inexpensive a bike to start out? Other recommendations and advice?

    Thanks so very much!
    Here comes some wisdom and prejudice. Get a used (Craig's list..e-bay) touring/sport touring bike with a quality steel frame that fits you and put the biggest/widest tires that it can handle. A steel frame is very comfortable. A touring/sport tourer made of good steel will make you smile. It does a great job of absorbing shock. Springs are made of steel not aluminum. It may be a little heavier but so what. Sizing: www.rivbike.com has a lot of good info. The bikes are out of your price range but the fitting info is excellent. You will not be happy with a department store bike. I recommend used because you will get more bike for the $$$. You can have your LBS do whatever is needed to get it right for you. Get a good women's specific saddle....look at Terry seats. Skip the cycling shoes until you get comfy with the bike. The objective is enjoyment. Check out the Riv site and post again.
    Last edited by FloridaBoy; 05-20-08 at 03:44 PM.

  14. #14
    DRF aka Thrifty Bill wrk101's Avatar
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    +1 on Craigs List.

    +1 on more gears. Initially, you do not have to shift very often. As you get more comfortable, you will appreciate the advantages of gears, particularly in a hilly area. And even a flat road, against the wind, will feel like a pretty steep hill.

  15. #15
    Senior Member deraltekluge's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FloridaBoy View Post
    Here comes some wisdom and prejudice. Get a used (Craig's list..e-bay) touring/sport touring bike with a quality steel frame that fits you and put the biggest/widest tires that it can handle. A steel frame is very comfortable. A touring/sport tourer made of good steel will make you smile. It does a great job of absorbing shock. Springs are made of steel not aluminum. It may be a little heavier but so what.
    Given her status as a "beginner", I seriously doubt that she would be able to tell the difference between aluminum and steel other than by testing it with a magnet.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by deraltekluge View Post
    Given her status as a "beginner", I seriously doubt that she would be able to tell the difference between aluminum and steel other than by testing it with a magnet.
    Just because she is a beginner does not mean she has to make a mistake in her first purchase.
    A steel frame will be more comfortable so ask the seller and get a magnet. I agree on the gears if they are not there you can't use them.

  17. #17
    Senior Member RoMad's Avatar
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    If you live on a hill you will need the gears, but you don't always have to use them. If it is much of a hill I would get a triple front chain ring and at least 7 gears on the back (cassette). With a triple front chain ring you can have the chain on the middle ring for flat riding and when you are ready to try that hill put the chain on the little ring in the front and a big one in the back and you will be a climbing machine. If you go with a comfort type bike with fat tires it will be be comfortable but will be slow. If you go with a little thinner tire bike it will be much easier to go a little faster or farther or up a steeper hill. You should be able to get a pretty good quality used bike from C list for $200 or less. A used $200 Trek, Giant, Specialized will shift, pedal, stop, and ride much better than a new $200 Wal Mart or Sears bike. Good luck

  18. #18
    Senior Member BCRider's Avatar
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    While I'm normally a fan of such things as Craig'slist and buying used in your case I'd have to say that it would be less risky to buy from a bike shop. Buying used is only a really good idea if you know what to watch for in a used bike and know the prices of all the models you're looking at. In this case it doesn't sound like either you or your hubby is bike savvy enough to do this with little to no risk. So that leaves the certainty of the bike shop and the new bike warranty.

    Try all the ones in your area before deciding and listen to all of them and then go away and try to make some sense out of all of it. Some will likely be very frank and helpful and others will just tell you what they think you want to hear unless you tell them you want to get the bike you should have rather than what you think you need. Test ride as many different styles as you can so you get a feel for them.

    Also don't be taken in by the old beginner idea that you should be able to reach the ground from the saddle. So many beginners make that mistake and then suffer from early exhaustion or even knee pain and then don't ride any more. You're supposed to slide forward off the saddle and stand as you come to a stop. So at least listen to the shops when they tell you that the bike you picked so that you can stand while in the saddle is really the wrong size. By all means have them set the saddle that way at first and get the hang of it but as soon as you get a little confidence lift up the saddle so that your leg is not quite fully extended when your foot is all the way down and still on the pedal.

    Steering exercises in a parking lot can help a lot. Or if you're worried about falling try them on a short mown grass field or yard. Get some practice doing starts and stops. Then move up to figure 8's around a couple of milk jugs spaced around 20 feet apart. You'll be a pro in no time at all.

    If you're REALLY rusty then I'd suggest some coasting practice. Have the shop or hubby take the pedals off and lower the saddle all the way down so you can stand with bent knees while seated. Then push off on pavement and coast with your feet raised. When you start to fall to one side turn the bars hard into the fall to catch yourself and get the bike back under you. Turning INTO the fall seems wrong from a car driving perspective but remember that your bike isn't a 4 wheel car. Steering a bike is more like balancing a broom handle end on in your hand. You gotta keep moving your hand under the balance point. The bike works much the same. So when it starts to tip you have to move the bike back under you to correct the tipping. But to help out be sure to wear good sturdy shoes and long pants and some leather gloves during this practice "just in case". Gardening knee pads may not be a bad idea either...

    As for all the gears the others are right. Go for them. Then for as long as you're just riding on the flat areas set the front changer so the chain is on the middle gear and just use the back gears for all your changing. It'll have as much range as you need and then some for the flatter areas.
    Last edited by BCRider; 05-21-08 at 07:40 PM.
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  19. #19
    tm3
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    lots of good advice already. i'll add that if you have a Rans dealer anywhere nearby, you might want to check out their Crank Forward bikes. more expensive than some of the options mentioned, but if the quality and comfort gets you out riding, and the riding keeps you out of the expensive care unit at the local hospital, then you have made a very good investment.

  20. #20
    Senior Member guybierhaus's Avatar
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    My wife has a similar problem. Started her on a cheap 21 speed with hand brakes. Riding on flat surface no need to shift. But she just refused to accept hand brakes. Crashed into a couple curbs and trail bollards. She preferred to put her feet on the ground to stop, just would not squeeze hand brakes. Finally took her to a bike shop to try some models. Put her on a Trek Pure at $400 list, that is a crank forward bike, that permits you to place feet on ground when stopped. But alas it had multiple speeds and hand brakes. She liked the Trek Lime, as it has NO hand brakes, has a coaster brake. Auto shift 3 speed, so she gets some benefit of gears, but doesn't have to actually shift. But she still wants her feet to reach the ground so seat is too low and she cannot ride far before leg pain sets in. And the bike will never be more than a flat trail bike. Even small rolling hills stop her. Fortunately she also likes to walk. I see Fuji has a Del Ray model, same coaster brake and auto shift 3 speed, but does have crank forward design. But $599 list!! I'd hate to see anyone buying such a limited use bike. I'd really encourage you to go to a shop and try a few models and really try to accept hand brakes. As another suggested, you can set the gears at a comfortable setting and forget it. As to living on a hill, I share that problem. For three years I drove to a trail or flat country to ride. Still transport wife to trail. On my own, I'm now riding from house. I may walk a bit of the hill coming back, but so be it. Of course the question we can't answer is if you will continue to ride, that will no doubt have a lot to do with how comfortable you feel on the bike you select. And quite frankly if you become like most of us, whatever you buy, will not be what you will be riding next year.
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