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Old 06-16-09, 09:10 PM   #1
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I didn't know that I knew so little about bikes...

Up until last week when I went shopping for my son's first bike. I figured that I'd have to get myself a new bike as well to ride along with him. It would all work out nicely since a few friends of mine ride on my company's MS150 team and I need a new hobby anyway, running is just too high impact for me on concrete. So I hit a few shops on the North side of Houston, (Performance, Sun and Ski, Cycle Spectrum, Bike Barn, & REI) after talking to people faaaar more knowledgeable than I; I think I'm more confused than ever... and intrigued.

Could riding replace my car customizing/modifying/racing hobby that I gave up with kids? Possibly, the only problem is that now that I know how little I know I'm looking for good resources to learn from. I don't even know what I need (or want or what's available) in a bike, so I figured that I had better find out so that I can spend my money wisely. All I know for sure is that whatever I end up with will have to do mostly road, maybe a little mud, gravel, grass and defiantly be able to take a curb. Beyond that, front suspension or rigid fork? Disc brakes? Components? How important is weight for my uses? What are good brands to start looking at? Ect? I have too many questions and not enough info to answer them. Can someone fill me in or point me in the right direction? I'd appreciate the guidance.


Thanks.
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Old 06-16-09, 09:24 PM   #2
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If you're looking for just one bike, you may want to consider a cyclocross bike. Cyclocross bikes have their own subforum. If you prefer flat bars and want to have the ability to handle the rougher stuff, I'd suggest a mountainbike. With a mountainbike, you're almost guaranteed to get a suspension fork. I haven't seen any new mountainbikes with rigid forks in years.

Weight is somewhat important. The more likely it is that you'll be racing or if you ride a lot of steep hills, then weight will be a much more important factor than if you plan to spend most of your time cruising on the road.

Disc brakes are nice to have, especially if you ride in rainy weather a lot. If not, then I'd stick to regular rim brakes because they're lighter, less complicated, and easier to work on if you like to do your bike work yourself.

The question that's important now once you've decided on a cyclocross or MTB is what is your budget?
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Old 06-16-09, 09:39 PM   #3
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If you are mostly riding on roads, you are better off without suspension. That is more intended for hard-core off-road riding. Some "comfort bikes" offer suspension seat posts, but on smoother surfaces the bounce is annoying and actually adds to your efforts.

To ride curbs you are better off with a mountain bike, but some road bikes (tour and cyclocross models) have heavier duty tires that can cushion the wheel from some impact. However most road riders even on those bikes won't take curbs aggressively for fear of harming their rim or causing a pinched flat tire.

If you enjoy working on cars, maybe you will want to buy and improve used bikes. You could check out the classic and vintage forum.

Bike weight is not very important unless you will be riding uphill a lot, or racing competitively, or you are status conscious. Much more important is comfort and fit.

If you are thinking of riding with a group, you need to find out about how they ride. Is it a leisurely cruise along a boardwalk or a fast group ride that's almost a race?

It's probably not productive to spend hundreds of hours (exaggerating) researching to find the "perfect bike". Get something cheap or used, ride for a while and then figure out what you want to buy as a "good bike", once you have some experience. The problem with paying too much up front is - you may not end up with what you want, and also, you have not anticipated the "n+1" rule. That is: if the number of bikes you own is "n", the number you need is always "n+1".

Good luck.

Robert (n=4).

Last edited by cooker; 06-16-09 at 09:45 PM.
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Old 06-16-09, 09:42 PM   #4
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I'm definitely not interested in a mountain bike. I live in a suburban area so I'm thinking a more road oriented flat bar hybrid/city/urban/fitness/commuter/whatever bike would be the ticket but I'd like the capability to ride across a patch of grass, a gravel driveway or go up a curb if needed I just don't know if I'd be able to do it on a rigid front fork bike without getting all beat up. A cyclocross bike may bee a little too aggressive for me at this point from (admittedly) what little I know about them.
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Old 06-16-09, 09:49 PM   #5
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If you are mostly riding on roads, you are better off without suspension. That is more intended for hard-core off-road riding. Some "comfort bikes" offer suspension seat posts, but on smoother surfaces the bounce is annoying and actually adds to your efforts.

To ride curbs you are better off with a mountain bike, but some road bikes (tour and cyclocross models) have heavier duty tires that can cushion the wheel from some impact. However most road riders even on those bikes won't take curbs aggressively for fear of harming their rim or causing a pinched flat tire.

If you enjoy working on cars, maybe you will want to buy and improve used bikes. You could check out the classic and vintage forum.

Bike weight is not very important unless you will be riding uphill a lot, or racing competitively, or you are status conscious. Much more important is comfort and fit.

If you are thinking of riding with a group, you need to find out about how they ride. Is it a leisurely cruise along a boardwalk or a fast group ride that's almost a race?

It's probably not productive to spend hundreds of hours (exaggerating) researching to find the "perfect bike". Get something cheap or used, ride for a while and then figure out what you want to buy as a "good bike", once you have some experience. The problem with paying too much up front is - you may not end up with what you want, and also, you not have anticipated the "n+1" rule. That is: if the number of bikes you own is "n", the number you need is always "n+1".

Good luck.
Common sense is usually sound advice. Perhaps I should explore a used bike first to get a feel for what I need/want. Knowing that I'm still figuring out what I want and that I'll probably want to upgrade I'm looking at around $500 preferable less if I can get away with it. A frame build up will probably be in my future at some point once I do figure things out though.
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Old 06-16-09, 09:58 PM   #6
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Eventually you will need

1 road bike to ride on fast rides, possibly more
1 road bike to ride when it is raining, possibly more
1 commuter bike, possibly more
1 bike to for when you get the itch to leave the pavement, could be a mountain bike, could be a cross bike, could be one or more of each
1 classic or vintage ride, possible a dozen or more
It also helps if you have 2-3 bikes worth of parts on hand at any one time. You know, just in case you might need them.

So, where you start isn't really that important.
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Old 06-16-09, 10:10 PM   #7
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Something like an SE Bikes Draft Lite would give a lot of fun for $360.
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Old 06-16-09, 10:23 PM   #8
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How old is your son?

How much is your budget?

I got my 12 year old daughter a Kona Lana'i http://www.konaworld.com/09_lanai_c.cfm
I figured a mountain bike would be best for her as she'll no doubt be dropping it, jumping curbs (with no regard for the bike), and generally treating her bike as any 12 year old would.

For myself, I got a Kona Dew FS http://www.konaworld.com/09_dewfs_c.cfm and have absolutely no regrets -- it's a terrific bike that allows me to ride at good speeds on pavement, and jump off-road to do some light trail riding with my daughter. The front suspension fork has a lock-out which makes pedalling up hills a lot easier. It's not as durable as a mountain bike, but it doesn't pretend to be.

I got Kona's because I read nothing but good stuff about their bikes and we've got a local dealer who sells them.
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Old 06-17-09, 08:17 PM   #9
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Well after talking to some more folks I think I've decided on a rigid cyclocross (as suggested) or road bike with slightly larger hybrid tires. I'll just have to slow way down and bunny hop up on a curb when needed. So I have a starting point I just need start comparing what's available in my price range of about $500 new or used. What's important to look for spec-wise?
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Old 06-17-09, 08:39 PM   #10
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Well after talking to some more folks I think I've decided on a rigid cyclocross (as suggested) or road bike with slightly larger hybrid tires. I'll just have to slow way down and bunny hop up on a curb when needed. So I have a starting point I just need start comparing what's available in my price range of about $500 new or used. What's important to look for spec-wise?
If you up your budget to around $700-$800, you can get a much nicer bike. cyclocross bikes are more like road bikes, which means the prices go way up quickly.

you could also look at a more roadish hybrid, like the Trek FX series. they would also suit your purposes, but might not be quite as fast as a cyclocross bike.
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Old 06-18-09, 06:47 AM   #11
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If you up your budget to around $700-$800, you can get a much nicer bike. cyclocross bikes are more like road bikes, which means the prices go way up quickly.

you could also look at a more roadish hybrid, like the Trek FX series. they would also suit your purposes, but might not be quite as fast as a cyclocross bike.
I'm not opposed to a more road oriented hybrid at all, I'm focusing on used bikes at the moment to get more value for my buck but I'm short (5'-6") and finding a bike in my size is proving difficult.
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Old 06-18-09, 06:55 AM   #12
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Join the club.

I've been messing with bikes for over 40 years. I do all my own maintenance, have wrenched in several bike shops and even owned my own bike shop for about 5 years.

Not only do I keep finding things about bicycles that I don't know about but the rate of change is so high that I'm continually falling farther behind.

I think that's neat!
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Old 06-18-09, 08:13 AM   #13
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OP: From your description of "riding gravel drive...." I'd concur that a hybrid would suit your requirements perfectly. And you DO NOT want a mountain-bike. Okay - hybrids swing the pendulum towards both mtn-bikes and road-bikes. For more road-bike, look into the Trek FX series:

http://www.trekbikes.com/us/en/bikes/bike_path/

I, and many others here, can attest to their being excellent machines for the money. Fast & nimble while also being quite capable of handling gravel - or 5 miles each way of crushed stone, twigs, and dirt - I just proved that again at around 12 - 14mph.
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Old 06-18-09, 10:59 AM   #14
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Join the club.

I've been messing with bikes for over 40 years. I do all my own maintenance, have wrenched in several bike shops and even owned my own bike shop for about 5 years.

Not only do I keep finding things about bicycles that I don't know about but the rate of change is so high that I'm continually falling farther behind.

I think that's neat!
I think it's neat too!
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Old 06-18-09, 11:26 AM   #15
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Up until last week when I went shopping for my son's first bike. I figured that I'd have to get myself a new bike as well to ride along with him. It would all work out nicely since a few friends of mine ride on my company's MS150 team and I need a new hobby anyway, running is just too high impact for me on concrete. So I hit a few shops on the North side of Houston, (Performance, Sun and Ski, Cycle Spectrum, Bike Barn, & REI) after talking to people faaaar more knowledgeable than I; I think I'm more confused than ever... and intrigued.

Could riding replace my car customizing/modifying/racing hobby that I gave up with kids? Possibly, the only problem is that now that I know how little I know I'm looking for good resources to learn from. I don't even know what I need (or want or what's available) in a bike, so I figured that I had better find out so that I can spend my money wisely. All I know for sure is that whatever I end up with will have to do mostly road, maybe a little mud, gravel, grass and defiantly be able to take a curb. Beyond that, front suspension or rigid fork? Disc brakes? Components? How important is weight for my uses? What are good brands to start looking at? Ect? I have too many questions and not enough info to answer them. Can someone fill me in or point me in the right direction? I'd appreciate the guidance.


Thanks.
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Old 06-18-09, 11:28 AM   #16
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Eventually you will need

1 road bike to ride on fast rides, possibly more
1 road bike to ride when it is raining, possibly more
1 commuter bike, possibly more
1 bike to for when you get the itch to leave the pavement, could be a mountain bike, could be a cross bike, could be one or more of each
1 classic or vintage ride, possible a dozen or more
It also helps if you have 2-3 bikes worth of parts on hand at any one time. You know, just in case you might need them.

So, where you start isn't really that important.
Had someone told me before I was in too deep.
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Old 06-18-09, 12:01 PM   #17
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Eventually you will need
...
<snipped>.
LOL! Your post is all too true. I really do have my "bad weather errand-running bike" and my "good weather errand-running" bike. And things just get worse from there. And if I had the budget, they'd get even worser. .
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Old 06-18-09, 12:33 PM   #18
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All I know for sure is that whatever I end up with will have to do mostly road, maybe a little mud, gravel, grass and defiantly be able to take a curb. Beyond that, front suspension or rigid fork? Disc brakes? Components? How important is weight for my uses? What are good brands to start looking at? Ect? I have too many questions and not enough info to answer them. Can someone fill me in or point me in the right direction? .
There are many many bikes that will foot the bill in your price range. Look all the bikes that you can online and more importantly, see what your local LBS carries.

Some brands to consider: Specialized, Trek, Giant, Gary Fisher, Scott, Bianchi, Jamis, Felt, Cannondale etc etc. (just too many good brands). You say maybe for the mud, gravel and grass. If I was you, I would lean much more to a road oriented bike. Flat bar bikes are great for cruising around, but you will not like them nearly as much in heavy winds. The only way you are going to know for sure is to get out and ride, ride ride.
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Old 06-18-09, 01:02 PM   #19
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I'm not opposed to a more road oriented hybrid at all, I'm focusing on used bikes at the moment to get more value for my buck but I'm short (5'-6") and finding a bike in my size is proving difficult.
Couple of popular bikes that have a proven track record that might fit your bill. These are the cheaper models and unfortunately- you get what you pay for. But on both these bikes- the frame (The heart of the bike) is worth any upgrades you may wish to fit. BUT- bikes of this standard will give you a good ride-enough to get you interested in cycling and keep you here. Which is more than a "Cheap" bike would do.


http://www.specialized.com/us/en/bc/...jsp?spid=38461

http://www.giant-bicycles.com/en-US/...ad/2268/32201/

I am biased as I ride Giants- but a mate of mine bought the FCR acouple of years ago now. He uses it as a commuter- His fun bike for the Smoother trails and on Sunday is doing his 4th century ride of the year. Despite my infering that it is not a top knotch bike with inferior parts- This bike has over 7,000 miles on it with a new chain at 4,000 miles being the only upgrade.

(and at 5'6"- the same as me- you will find that S size will fit you)
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Old 06-19-09, 11:19 AM   #20
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I'm definitely not interested in a mountain bike. I live in a suburban area so I'm thinking a more road oriented flat bar hybrid/city/urban/fitness/commuter/whatever bike would be the ticket but I'd like the capability to ride across a patch of grass, a gravel driveway or go up a curb if needed I just don't know if I'd be able to do it on a rigid front fork bike without getting all beat up. A cyclocross bike may bee a little too aggressive for me at this point from (admittedly) what little I know about them.
Listen, your perspective is very very common and this question seems to come up every week. And it's always the same answer.

A road bike is completely capable of handling that and is the most appropriate bike for your needs.

I own a full on high end race bike and I take shortcuts over grass all the time. I don't get beat up (more about that in my recommendation) over grass. Biking on a gravel driveway isn't the most pleasant, but it certainly isn't bone-jarringly terrible either. Your bike isn't going to fall apart if you go off a curb or bunny hop onto one. I plow off of curbs constantly. Short of a full on suspension mountain bike, no bike is going to be able to plow straight into a curb without doing some bunny hopping, and all bikes are going to have some trouble trying to get up onto a curb you're parallel to, but the nice thing about a road bike is that the lighter-weight frame is less weight to pull up for the hop. The reason why road racers are afraid of plowing off curbs is because they own high end superlightweight race wheels that often cost more than you even want to spend on your entire bike ($1,000 to $3,000) and the really lightweight fragile wheels start to have issues. Also, the frame on a road bike is completely capable of going off the curbs (I wouldn't take it off ramps, but curbs are no issue). Some road wheels/rims have reputation for being particularly tough, like the Mavic cxp33's and the Mavic Open Pro's.

The only issue I see is that a solid, comfortable road bike like I'm describing costs $800-$900 retail price. But that buys you a bike that's comfortable over bumps and bad road, durable, and only about 5% slower than the more top end road race bikes (you aren't going to end up having to bike a new bike next year because your bike is to slow). If you did get really into biking and racing, this bike would still be useful for training on rainy days, commuting, and taking on trips like the MS150 where you don't really want to throw your racy bike in the back of a uhaul with a bunch of other bikes. At $800-$900 retail it's a very solid bike.

Now as to which bike to choose, I'll start by saying that there are some road bikes which are a much nicer ride than others. The worst is probably either the old school (like 20 years ago) full aluminum skinny tire bikes. Those would beat the crap out of you, even on "shorter" rides. In recent times, carbon fiber forks and bike design have greatly improved this. Right in the middle are modern "race" bikes, like the Specialized Allez. Far more comfortable than the old road bikes, they're sort of in the middle where some people feel a little beat up after really long rides (like 100 miles), and they're designed to be ridden rather leaned over for aerodynamics, etc etc. But the most comfortable road bikes fall into a category they call an "endurance" road bike. They're designed to be ridden on rough roads and, frankly, to be comfy but still road bike fast for the actual typical bike buyer who wants to cruise around town or bike to work while being comfortable, including on rough stretches of road. This sounds like the category that fits your riding.

I'm not familiar with the Giant or Trek lines of bikes, but I've been really impressed with the comfort level on Specialized bikes. The Sequoia is their less expensive "endurance" bike, and from your description it sounds like the best fit for doing the kind of riding you're talking about:
http://www.specialized.com/us/en/bc/...=39270&eid=117



For the following reasons:
1. Speed - As mentioned, the difference between this bike and like a top end racing bike in speed is like 5%. IMO, I'd say the difference between a fat tired hybrid bike and a race bike is 30%-100%.
2. Comfort on rougher road - it's designed (and in my riding does an excellent job) of keeping even rough roads with potholes comfy on the hands and rear end.
3. Comfort on long rides like the MS150 - a curly bar bike is, counter-intuitively, actually better designed to be comfortable on your hands for really long rides than a straight bar bike (like most hybrids). The curly bars give you 3 different positions for your hands - on top of the brakes, down in the drops, and on the straight part of the bar. Those positions also don't compress nerves in your hands like straight bar bikes do. Typically the tradeoff is that your back has to deal with being leaned over more, but the Sequoia's bars are still relatively high. I want to mention that this isn't just a theoretical issue for me - I went on a 75 mile ride over 2 days on my straight bar bike with round grips, and when I got back the leftmost 2 fingers in my left hand could barely feel it when I touched anything. (Apparently it's something about compressing the Unular nerve.) It took over a month to completely heal - really creeped me out. You can get grips that help, but a curly bar bike ideal and designed for longer distances.

That's my opinion - I think for the kind of riding you're talking about doing an "endurance" road bike would be ideal. You're not going to have problems going over grass, your bike isn't going to break going off curbs, and you aren't going to have to get off and walk for gravel driveways. At the same time, you're not going to have to buy a new bike next year because your bike isn't fast enough to keep up with your son or other riders (whether you're fast enough, well, that's a whole 'nother story! :-)).


I feel obligated to add what I think a road bike isn't appropriate for -
1. If you're really, actually biking through a bunch of mud all the time. Some mud here and there isn't going to hurt your road bike, but constantly being deluged in it certainly would.
2. Gravel bike trails aren't a problem on a road bike, especially a good vibration absorbing design like the Sequoia. They're bike trails, they use small rocks. If you're biking on designed-for-cars dirt road with large rocks, though, the skinny tire on a road bike starts to lose traction and the bumps are to big and you're better off with a fatter tire cyclocross bike (though it's going to be a little bit of a bumpy ride no matter what bike you're riding).
3. If you're going off jumps with your bike.
4. If you spend a lot of your trip biking in wet conditions on unpaved road. It gets kind of mushy and the skinny tire starts handling worse. Now, your road bike can handle things like a wet gravel driveway, it's just not going to be ideal. I mean, handling is going to be a little rough and sloppy but certainly not "bone jarring" or anything. But if your entire ride is a 10 mile long gravel road you regularly ride in the wet, well then a cyclocross bike with wider tires would be a lot better.
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Old 06-22-09, 08:09 AM   #21
Sry0fcr
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Excellent post! Thanks for the PM as well.
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Old 06-24-09, 10:44 AM   #22
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the older I get, the more I realize there is to learn
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Old 06-24-09, 07:16 PM   #23
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2 words for ya:

Redline Conquest.

(Google it!)
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Old 06-26-09, 10:16 PM   #24
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When we used to live near the beach, I loved to ride an MTB down the creekside bikepath with my boys. It didn't make sense to take the roadbike because they couldn't ride fast enough to keep up. There were some dirt berms we used to tackle too. Dad had to show the kids how to do em!

Figure out with whom are you going to ride. What about your spouse/ sig other too?
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Old 06-27-09, 03:19 AM   #25
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i don't make a big deal over bike selection. i am a grocer on a low income and others i work with bike to work on 90 dollar bikes they bought at target and walmart. they ride just fine and get all of us from point a to point b
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