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Old 01-06-05, 11:47 AM   #1
TrailRider
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Basics of Bike Selection

I'm getting bored with my daily 1 hour walk on a nearby paved multiple use recreational trail. I'd like to get a bike but haven't a clue what to get. I'm 55, 6', 185 lbs. with a large frame and have a really bad lower back (minimizing stress on my lower back and straightening up occasionally to stretch will be important). But sitting bolt upright on a single speed CCM with a basket up front, like the one the Wicked Witch of the West rode, sure doesn't appeal. I pass regular stress tests with my cardiologist and use a heart rate monitor - so I'm serious about fitness. What do I need to know in shopping for a bike? MTN bike, touring, road - what type of bike would be most appropriate? What size of wheel, type of tire, shape of seat, frame and handlebars, etc. Cost is an issue so the best bang for the buck is important. Any suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks.
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Old 01-06-05, 11:57 AM   #2
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There is a FAQ on choosing a bike that might be helpful:

http://www.bikeforums.net/faq.php?faq=how_to_buy_a_bike
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Old 01-06-05, 01:37 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TrailRider
Cost is an issue so the best bang for the buck is important.
I've had lots of new cyclists say that the cost of a decent entry level bike (~$800-1000) is much cheaper than a day in intensive care.

Any "good" bike salesperson can answer your questions and should take the time to ask you the important ones about how often, how many miles per ride, where you want to ride, goals, $$, etc. and any health concerns. You may have to talk with the store owner/manager.
If you don't feel comfortable with the person or are being rushed, head for the door.

I'm about the same height and weight but a few years older than you and IMHO you DO NOT want a bike with a comfy saddle or fat tires and suspension!!
Get your questions answered and make sure the bike FITS!
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Old 01-06-05, 02:20 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TrailRider
I'm getting bored with my daily 1 hour walk on a nearby paved multiple use recreational trail. I'd like to get a bike but haven't a clue what to get. I'm 55, 6', 185 lbs. with a large frame and have a really bad lower back (minimizing stress on my lower back and straightening up occasionally to stretch will be important). But sitting bolt upright on a single speed CCM with a basket up front, like the one the Wicked Witch of the West rode, sure doesn't appeal. I pass regular stress tests with my cardiologist and use a heart rate monitor - so I'm serious about fitness. What do I need to know in shopping for a bike? MTN bike, touring, road - what type of bike would be most appropriate? What size of wheel, type of tire, shape of seat, frame and handlebars, etc. Cost is an issue so the best bang for the buck is important. Any suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks.
Please make it a point to test ride a Specialized Sequoia (comes in various configurations). It has very relaxed geometry yet I can regularly get mine up to around 34 mph. It was my entry level bike, and when I went nuts of cycling, I wound up spending a few K for my Roubaix, but liked the Sequoia so much I kept it. BTW, I am 64.
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Old 01-06-05, 02:53 PM   #5
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Hello!
I'm not as big as you are but I recently went through a bike purchasing process and this forum was very helpful. I had begun with the idea of getting a commuter type bike (sitting upright with a basket) but none of the ones I tried fit so I got a hybrid... still upright but very comfortable, easy on my back, and more efficient than a cruiser. I would say get something that fits and worry less about "style."
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Old 01-06-05, 02:54 PM   #6
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Best advice is to go to your Local Bike Shop and discuss with them. Worst advice is to go to a department store and buy a cheap bike. Decide what type of bike you want-- Road --Mountain or probably better for beginner A hybrid.

Others will advise you on road bikes but for a mountain bike go for a Steel frame, without suspension, unless you do plan plenty of off road riding, and if using it solely on pavement, change the tyres to slick tyres. Suspension sounds good but a full suspension bike at a beginners price will be rubbish. Sensible ones in this line start at around 1000 in the UK. Front suspension means that only a cheap fork will be fitted and it won't last.

Paying for your riding does not stop there though. Get a helmet right from the start, and a sensible wind/rain proof right from the start. A spare tube and pump are also advisable, and the Saddle pouch to carry the tube and sandwiches in. Then go out and ride, and get your neighbours to join in your fitness programme at the same time.(Make certain that they are just as unfit as you, or a lot older. 20 year olds are not fun to ride with at our age)
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Old 01-06-05, 02:55 PM   #7
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That FAQ is absolutey brilliant. I think that sums everything up.
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Old 01-06-05, 05:38 PM   #8
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Chances are, if you get "hooked" on cycling, you will eventually have more than one bike. A "first" bike ought to be one that can handle a variety of tasks, including riding on roads, bike trails, and off-road trails. And, it should be designed for a "custom" fit.

One series of bikes you should look at is the Trek 7000 series. These bikes come in a range of sizes, so you can get a good fit. The big tires provide both stability and comfort. Later, if you want to do some "fast" riding, you can put narrower, lighter tires on the same rims.

As much as I enjoy road bikes, I don't think a road bike is the best choice as a "first" or as an "only" bike, for most people over forty. The narrower tires and lower riding position is more suitable for an experienced rider who has some riding miles under their belt.
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Old 01-06-05, 10:14 PM   #9
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Be sure to investigate the recumbents; they are the most comfortable of bikes. Like you, I have a very bad back. I'm 53, 5'11", 213 lbs. I did not think my back would let me seriously ride a bike at all until a recumbent stationary bike convinced me I might be able to ride a real recumbent bicycle. Now I ride 80 to 100 miles a week, really pushing myself one or two of those rides each week, and it doesn't hurt my back at all. Come to think of it, I don't hurt anywhere from riding my bent.
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Old 01-07-05, 05:49 AM   #10
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I second what Bud Bent said. I used to be a roadie, but getting a 'bent made all of the little aches and pains go away. Oh, I have a bad back too. No back pain, not even after a long ride.

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Old 01-07-05, 06:24 AM   #11
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A lot of riders like the Specializes Sirrus. It's a flat bar bike, but much lighter and sportier than most "hybrids". It works well as a general purpose, utility and commuter bike .
The features you need on a utility bike are:
Low enough gears.
Fittings for luggage rack and fenders.
Clearance for wide-enough tyres.
A comfortable riding position, suited to YOUR favourite position.
The Sirrus ticks all these boxes.
Compared to the Sequoia, it can take wider tyres more suitable for tracks and rough roads. The Sirrus uses MTB style V brakes rather than road style caliper brakes which limit the Sequoia to 28mm width. If you look at other brands of flat bar road bike, note that some use road-style caliper brakes.
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Old 01-07-05, 10:48 AM   #12
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I want to thank you all for your advice. I did indeed find a good local bike shop - http://www.pedlarbicycle.com/ - and as the first step I telephoned the manager, a fellow with a thick European accent. Not that he didn't know his bicycles. Interestingly, he suggested what some of you advised - a hybrid, prices starting around $600. He said he's assembling bikes now and to come for inspection next month. In the meantime, he stated he'll give me a book about buying a bike. What I liked most was his attitude - he enjoyed talking about a suitable bike more than making a sale. When asked he also stated he had a used Raleigh for $150. Even though that might be in rough shape, I'm thinking it might be most suitable just to see how much biking is going to appeal (horseback riding is my life passion). His shop sells helmets that may be mandatory for adults soon if not now - I should be wearing one like many others for recreational horseback riding anyway. Recumbents are interesting - both the trikes and bikes - and likely best for a bad back. But the recumbent position looks utterly vulunerable - to traffic and whatever might be overhead - which must be just about everything. Hunched over the handle bars of my metallic dark red 3 speed Raleigh imported from England, pushing down hard going up hills and racing with my brothers, is how I remember biking as a kid (I usually beat them all, at least that's how I remember the races). I might be wrong, but I suspect recumbent cyclers are a breed onto themselves. I have seen them around Niagara...flying warning flags on arterial roads and wonder if they auger into the local bike accident statistics http://www.rnbc.info/Accident%20Stats.htm. Finally, with a little research, I've found a lot more biking activities than I realized, right in my own back yard which is one of the most beautiful locales in Canada http://www.cycleniagara.com/ Thank you all again. Mark

Last edited by TrailRider; 01-07-05 at 11:06 AM.
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Old 01-07-05, 11:51 AM   #13
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I primarily mountain bike. While mountain bikes are great all around machines, they are relatively slow on the road. Road bikes are fast on the road, but I find the riding position a problem. I don't have a bad back, but I do have some bone spurs that cause some numbness if I get to much shock transmitted into my back from my arms. With the road bike riding position you also spend more time watching your tire. Road bikes are also more prone to flats, particularly when when you get off pavement.

I bought Specialized Crossroads (a hybrid) for my wife and I to take day rides, and I also use mine to ride in town for training. The primary difference between the Crossroads and the Sirrus is in the fork (Crossroads has a shock fork) and the Crossroads has a shock seat post. They have the same tires which are a good compromise for paved and hard packed bike path trails and the drives trains are similar though the Sirrus components are more road bike centric and the Crossroads are more MTB centric. Both use MTB v-brakes. I am really happy with the Crossroads because it is comfortable to ride and I don't aggrevate the bone spur problem, fast enough, and the Shimano Deore components work well and are very similar to those on my MTB components. The only thing that could be better is the seat if you use padded riding pants.

In chosing between the Sirrus and the Crossroads, I would focus on the the importance of the effect of shocks. A shock seat post is relatively inexpensive and could be added, so the fork is the big differential.
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Old 01-07-05, 12:32 PM   #14
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DJColorado - Which has the shock fork and which the shock seat post? I may have similar back issues to your "spur" problem. I have, in part, degenerative disc disease involving my spinal facets with a little neurological involvement. In 1969 I was warned by a surgeon not to ride horses, which was good ignored advice to an indestructible muscular 20 year old. To accommodate the bad back and go on 4 hour rides, I add extra padding under the saddle and stand in the stirrups when I trott. Medications too. So getting a suspension seat on a bike and leaving trails to the horse sound like the approach for me. As an aside, I understand that medical complaints get boring and even morbid. But hearing I'm not alone with my problem means the world to me ... and IMHO one of the best benefits of a forum. Mark

Last edited by TrailRider; 01-07-05 at 12:56 PM.
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Old 01-07-05, 01:31 PM   #15
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Actually your visibility to drivers when you are on a typical recumbent is not an issue (exception being a low racer), at least that is what I've found. Perhaps recumbents are more noticable to traffic because they are so different. I've ridden the same streets and roads on both my road bike and my recumbent. The traffic treats me far better when I'm on the recumbent. Your normal head position is about the same as that of a driver oin a typical passenger car. Your forward visibility on a recumbent, particularly a USS model, is better than on most road bikes. Recumbents may not be for everybody but in my opinion they offer too many good things to totally ignore.

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Old 01-07-05, 01:42 PM   #16
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Okay Bent Brian - if the local shop has one, I'll give it a try with an open mind. You never know.....
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Old 01-07-05, 02:51 PM   #17
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Sounds like you are getting good advice. Unless you can just roll out of your driveway, you will need a bike carrier of some type. If you've got back problems, you will probably want a hitch mounted carrier or a trunk mounted carrier. Factor cost into your purchase. A new bike (even lower end) from your LBS will be a delight to ride and probably get you hooked. You live in a beautifull area and should have some really nice riding options. Have fun.
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Old 01-07-05, 02:55 PM   #18
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Thanks Terex - I've got a pickup - hoisting up a reasonably light bike onto a mat in the back shouldn't be a problem. Thanks again guys for taking the time and making the effort to reply.
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Old 01-07-05, 07:20 PM   #19
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You're about my size and weight - and I have a back that feels like a stack of broken bottles. I hopped on my old road bike - against many naysayers' advice and decided to see how my back would handle the correct cycling position. Turns out that bending over was the BEST THING that ever happened to my back. I stretched muscles and loosened things up in my back to the point that I consider my bike to be the cure for my achin' back. I HOPE you have the same kind of experience. Good luck and best wishes.
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Old 01-07-05, 07:27 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by Adgooroo

Turns out that bending over was the BEST THING that ever happened to my back. I stretched muscles and loosened things up in my back to the point that I consider my bike to be the cure for my achin' back. I HOPE you have the same kind of experience. Good luck and best wishes.
Ditto to everything you said. If my back is out of whack, it means I need a ride on my road bike.
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Old 01-07-05, 08:27 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TrailRider
I might be wrong, but I suspect recumbent cyclers are a breed onto themselves. I have seen them around Niagara...flying warning flags on arterial roads...
Pardon me for posting here when I'm not 50 yet and won't be until this summer. Actually, a lot of recumbent riders don't fit the stereotype of a bearded fat guy wobbling at 10 mph and flying a 5-foot whirlygig. I'll never be serious enough with my training to be a true racer, but my lowracer gives me the edge to keep up with all but the fastest roadies, something I take perverse pleasure in doing. Overall, 'bent riders are just as diverse as upright road riders.
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Old 01-07-05, 10:00 PM   #22
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Please--What is a 5 foot whirlygig? Thank you.

(Class of '73? Me too.)
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Old 01-08-05, 10:15 AM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by scottogo
Hello!
I'm not as big as you are but I recently went through a bike purchasing process and this forum was very helpful. I had begun with the idea of getting a commuter type bike (sitting upright with a basket) but none of the ones I tried fit so I got a hybrid... still upright but very comfortable, easy on my back, and more efficient than a cruiser. I would say get something that fits and worry less about "style."
I'll add to this reponse..............Don't forget to buy.....and use.....the proper safety gear......a helmet
as well as a safety vest. Now that you're an adult rider you'll ride on the streets so visiblity is VERY
important unless you want to get hit by a passing car. Both pieces of gear are inexpensive and
can save your life. The bikes you'll ride now are NOT kids toys and can be changed to fit you with
different bars, seats, adjustable stems, etc. for a few dollars.
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Old 01-08-05, 02:03 PM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TrailRider
When asked he also stated he had a used Raleigh for $150. Even though that might be in rough shape, I'm thinking it might be most suitable just to see how much biking is going to appeal
I think that's a wise insight. One of the problem with buying articles like computers and bikes is that until you get some miles under your belt, you don't understand all of the parameters well - especially what you want. Even though you can (and should) make an informed judgement, it's not the same as having experienced your likes/dislikes on a long ride where it's physical - not intellectual. My goal was to spend no more than 1K on a mainstream road bike which I did, and I'm learning a tremendous amount (as well as having a lot of fun). But I know it isn't my "ultimate" bike; I'm still figuring that out. A $150 Raleigh might be a little extreme, but if you understand that you're going to learn a lot through the process, the approach makes sense.

Just make sure that you get a good fit. I think that's really the critical thing.
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Old 01-08-05, 07:11 PM   #25
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A $150 bike is not an extreme choice for those of us who have lower incomes and cannot afford $1,000 bikes. And that would probably be about 99.9% of the world's population.
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