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  1. #1
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    Shopping questions from a beginner

    Hi All. I'm 26, and haven't really done much (non -stationary) bike riding in about 10 years. I'm interested in getting back into it, and I'm looking for some guidence. Here's some background, followed by some questions.

    I'd like to start riding again mainly as a means of excercise. I will mostly be riding on bike paths, but might try to do a little bit of off-roading. Because I'm not yet sure how much I'll actually be riding, or if I'll stick with it in the long-term, I'd like to start off with a fairly inexpensive bike (I'm talking $150 or so). I'm guessing that might confine me to used bikes.

    Here are my questions...

    1) Keeping in mind the needs listed above, what type of bike should I look for? Mountain or road bike? Not sure how much choice I have at this price-point.

    2) How does sizing work? I went to a local cycling shop, and they said I'd want an 18 incher. For kicks, I looked at a local sporting goods store and the bikes that fit me (left about 1-2" clearence at the crotch) were marked as 24 or 25". What's the difference here? How should I actually size bikes when I shop?

    3) What's my best bet for buying a cheap starter bike? Should I buy a "junk" bike at Sportmart, a used bike, or do I really need to up my price-point and buy an entry level bike from a shop? Any other suggestions?

    Thanks in advance for any help you can provide.

    Jeff

  2. #2
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    A front suspension MTB can be a reasonably good all-round bike that is good on trails.
    To enhance its road-going performance you may want to fit less knobbly tyres, the slicker the faster.
    Ensure that the frame is the correct size and comes with threaded eyelets for a luggage rack and fender.
    Discount no-name bikes are generally useless. The entry-level bikes from respected brands are quite good.
    The first step is to pick a good local bike shop, one that you trust and where they have good advice about size and accessories.
    Budget for the bike + helmet, simple repair kit.
    For utility riding you may want to fit a luggage rack and fenders.

    A road bike is much faster on the road but is hard to ride on trails. Race-oriented road bikes are usually unsuitable for utility riding, they are geared too high, have little tyre clearance and cannot take luggage. Tour-oriented road bikes are much more useful and can even take some trail riding.
    Using the bike for commuting and shopping is an easy way to fit excercise into your everyday routine.

  3. #3
    Humvee of bikes =Worksman Nightshade's Avatar
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    Good advice here. I'll add my.02.......

    Go used that is steel framed. Avoid suspensions as they add
    weight and complicated maintaince. Hybrids are good all'round
    with a converted (tires & bars) road bikes a close second.

    Have fun as you learn.

  4. #4
    Leo
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    Affeking, I'd get a new hybred bike from a bike shop and tell them up front you want an inexpensive one. Then get your helment and other gear at Wal Mart. The bike shop will give you one that will fit you, be adjusted properly and not have unsettling blowouts and breakdowns. It will cost you about 250., but if you don't know bikes, you really need professional help to get you started in an enjoyable way.
    Leo

  5. #5
    45 miles/week Eggplant Jeff's Avatar
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    Buying used is a great way to make your money go farther, but unfortunately you will probably need to know a little more in order to make a good purchase.

    Try going into multiple LBS (local bike shops) and ask them about what to look for. If they really want your business (for the helmet, clothes, accessories, parts, etc) they should be willing to give you advice on fitting etc. You don't have to tell them you're buying used, just tell them you're still shopping. If they have an unfriendly reaction to that (or to the fact that you might buy a used one) then take your business elsewhere. You have the potential to spend more on accessories (over the next few months or years) than on a bike, so they should want to make a good impression no matter what.

    One thing that might be worth budgeting for is having the LBS do a thorough tune-up on a used bike. That way you won't be wondering as much about the condition.

    Helmets run $20-$60 for reasonably priced ones. So that will have to be part of your budget too. Get a new helmet, who knows what's happened to a used one.

  6. #6
    Chairman of the Bored catatonic's Avatar
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    I'd say drop $200 on a DB Outlook/Raleigh M20. They are capable of light off-road conditions. If you find you like it, then you can go and buy a bike better suited for trail riding.

  7. #7
    Senior Curmudgeon
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    Look for a good used Kona Dew. They sell for $400 new, and should be available for your price used. Great hybrid with some off road ability.

  8. #8
    Burnt Orange Blood Longhorn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eggplant Jeff
    One thing that might be worth budgeting for is having the LBS do a thorough tune-up on a used bike. That way you won't be wondering as much about the condition.
    That's exactly how I got into it. I already had the bike (Raleigh Talon from the 90's) but I could have found it used for $50 or less. I took it in for a full tune-up, new tires and tubes, chain, grips, seat, and helmet, all for about $150. It turned out that bike was too small for me so I did get a new one but it's in great shape and it got me hooked.

  9. #9
    Banned. Linchpin's Avatar
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    If I were in your situation, this is what I'd do:
    Go to a bunch of bike shops and test ride differant bikes, don't even look at the prices on them, all I'd be doing at this point is finding out exactly what a bike properly sized to was like. Then, after armed with that information, I'd go to Wal-Mart or a Pawn Shop and pick up a cheap-ass-bike that fit me the same or as close to as the ones in the bike shops, of course I'd be weary about the Pawn Shop bikes since at this point in my biking career I'd not know exactly what to look for when it comes to damaged frames, cranks, etc.
    After picking out the bike I want my next step would be to evaluate the tires. If the tred is so aggressive that it makes a whining noise on pavement (like the sound jacked up 4WD trucks does) I'd head back to Wal-Mark or K-Mart and look for tires with as little tred a possible, yes these places DO sell tires.

    So now here I am, with a cheap-ass bike and tires more fit for road use. I'd ride the ever loving **** out of it to see if I really enjoy it. After a month or so I find I'm falling in love with biking and decide to get something up to par for my needs. By now I am educated on bikes and tires and wot-not and reqalize that while I love pavement pounding I also enjoy hitting the single track on the weekends. I go to the bike shop, hopefully they'll have forgotten about me by now from all my test-riding-with-no-buying a month or two earlier. I pick out a good mountain bike, most likely a Specialized or a Giant, somewhere around $400 - $500 bucks I drop on the bike. The bike has some decent tires on it for the single track runs but I still need something for the pavement. I hop on the forums here, brag about my new bike and start asking about tire reccommendations. I get flooded with messages like "armadillos" and "Panaracers" and after doing some more research on my own I place an order for some Armadillos. So now I have me a really kick ass bike with some road tires on it and some aggressive treaded whiles for the weekend singletrack rides, plus I got me a cheapo bike in case my good bike is in need of major repair.

    This is just me talking though.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Retro Grouch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by affeking
    Should I buy a "junk" bike at Sportmart, a used bike, or do I really need to up my price-point and buy an entry level bike from a shop? Jeff
    I think that buying a POS starter bike is a self fulfilling prophecy. The concept is that you don't want to spend a lot of money on a bike in case you decide that you don't like riding. Problem is, POS bikes don't work as well so riding one isn't very much fun. Since it isn't fun, you don't use it and congradulate yourself on not wasteing more money on a better bike.

    Now here's where that reasoning falls apart. If you decide that you like bikeing, you'll want to get yourself a better bike so you've essentially just added the cost of the POS starter bike onto the price of whatever you decide to get for yourself. If you decide that you don't like bikeing, the price of the POS is just wasted money. Either way, the POS turns out to have been a wrong move.

    I think that you should either save yourself a hundred bucks by not buying a bike at all or else step up to a reasonable quality, good fitting bike. Buying a POS starter bike is betting against yourself.

  11. #11
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    Thanks everyone for the advice. I think I have a little bit of a better idea. I am still planning to keep an eye out for used bikes, although I haven't really found a great place to shop for them. If I do, I'm still very worried about getting the right size, because I don't really understand the sizing. Also no idea if I'd end up with a lemon.

    It sounds like people think I'd be good going with a hybrid. I think I saw the Raleigh M20 mentioned a couple times, which is actually a bike I looked at at my LBS. This is definatley a mountain bike, however. Would it still be a good choice if I plan to mainly ride on paths? I will likely spend 80% of my time on bike paths around my neighborhood.

    Any hybrid suggestiosn other than the Kona Dew, which I am keeping an eye out for.

    Thanks,
    Jeff

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