I need to buy a hybrid bike and need some help, please. I found one on sale and need to make a quick decision.
I will be riding mostly road, but also want to be able to take it on trails. I want it to be reliable, sturdy, and easy to maintain as Iím not mechanically inclined at all. Also, a reasonably lightweight bike is important as Iím short and itís difficult for me to load it on a bike rack. I donít ride often, but want this bike to pretty much last me so I donít need to buy another bike 10 years down the road.
I had a Giant Rincon that I bought around í97 and it was okay. My main complaints were it was too heavy and the brakes werenít great, especially if I took off the front wheel Ė it would then have to be readjusted.
I am looking at a 2005 GT Timberline Small (Comfort Bike) which I can get for around $230. Has a Shimano drivetrain.
Is that a good deal? Is it easier to maintain than the Rincon (brakes are more reliable and I can take off the wheel without problems)? Are there lighter/better bikes around that are in the same price range? Is a Shimano drivetrain good? The bike is new, but the chain makes a little noise in a few gears Ė if it doesnít get worse, I can deal with that, but is that a sign of problems to come? The store manager said at that price, that is a common issue, but I donít remember that with my Rincon Ė is he blowing smoke?
Basically, what am I supposed to look for in a bike (e.g. drivetrain, brakes, gears)?
I am willing to spend a little more if it is worth it, but I was told that I would have to pretty much triple the price to see a difference in quality. Is that right?
In every price range, but especially in the $200 to $400 price range, the quality of the bike store is more important than the "brand" of the bike. A bike in that price range uses a mixture of some rather reliable components, and some components chosen for their low price. That bike can be a reliable and enjoyable bike IF (and only if) it is carefully assembled, fitted to the customer, and tuned up. A good dealer will give the bike a free check up in a few weeks, and take care of any warranty issues that arise in the future.
So, visit every bike shop that is within five miles or so of where you live and work. Have them show you the bikes that are in your price range. Buy from the dealer that you feel good about, the dealer that answered your questions and clearly is interested in making sure you are going to be happy with your bike.
Also, you need to understand how the economics of the bike industry have changed. Most good bike shops don't carry bikes selling for less than about $400 or so. Their reasoning is that the bikes in the $200 to $400 price range don't hold up as well, and are not as well built. Customers are often unhappy with them, so the bike shops just don't stock them.
If a friend asked me to suggest a "bargain" bike, I'd advise them to look at the Trek 7000 series. Those bikes cost more than the bike you are looking at. But, with reasonable care, they will give you twenty or thirty years of good service. Many $200 bikes are designed for to last a year or two of hard riding. Not a bargain if you look at the "price per year".
I would agree with alanbikehouston on making your purchase from a reputible bike shop, rather than a chain box store like Target,Walmart,ect. But I differ about "most good bike shops don't carry bikes selling less than $400...." I bought my Fuji comfort bike from a reputible LBS back in 2004, for about $300. I have seen good decent low end Trek bikes, Fujis and Raleigh hybrid and comfort bikes on the manufactor portals, at the average price starting out at 300-400 dollars. My Fuji comfort bike is great, reliable, well made and I have put a lot of miles on it in the last two years. I ride it to work, school, urban bike trails and city traffic. It has held up just fine, and I havnt had a flat tire in the whole time that I have owned it.
I can vouch for the Trek hybrids's quality.
I have a 16 year old 750. I'm not gentle with it. Don't know how many miles I have on it, but since I started keeping track 6 years ago I ridden over 8000 miles. Still runs beautifully.