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  1. #1
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    I'm Too Indecisive...Help Me Choose Something!

    Might want to grab a drink because this is a little long.

    After several test rides, talking to LBS owners, and many late nights spent reading online, I still cannot choose a bike, so I'd appreciate a push in the right direction. More or less, I'm not sure whether I want a road bike or a mountain bike. It's a little hard (but not impossible) to find info on this since it seems like most people already know if they want a road bike or a mtb, just they need suggestions on a specific bike.

    Keep in mind, the last bike I rode was a cheap $80 Target bike with "dual suspension" that probably weighed close to what my car does. I clocked on nearly a thousand miles (5 miles at a time, since that was my commute) before I sold it before I moved. So with respect to that bike, almost any entry-level (like, sub-$500) bike will be a significant improvement over what I used to ride.

    More or less, I'm not looking to climb mountains or ride on trails barely wider than a bike tire with steep drop-offs on one or more sides. I'll probably ride on road 80% of the time or more. But, I don't like to just hit the pavement and pedal and pedal to eternity. If there's a quick dirt trail next to the bike path that's a short cut, I'll take it. And I'd rather ride down stairs and jump curbs for the minor thrill and rather than having to take the long way or go around. I'd also cut across grass in a park (which I learned is pretty much like hidden potholes) or jump onto the state beach alongside the highway and pedal on the sand and through a few small creeks with fresh/salt water. Sometimes all in the same ride.

    I've also ridden my $80 POS for 30 miles near-nonstop on the pavement at an easy 15MPH while I watch other cyclists on $2000 road bikes turn up their noses when they pass by. Not saying everyone is like that, but I don't blame them. What is the first thing you're gonna think when you see a kid (I'm 19) on a cheap Target bike going slow? Probably not that I'm aspiring to ride with them one day or anything like that.

    This pretty much led to my dilemma. I will rarely hit up an actual mountain, but I don't like to just pedal on the pavement forever. Although I'd also like to throw a rack and fenders on it and use it as a commuter if I'm physically fit enough to pedal the 15 miles (mostly through flat farmland) to school. One LBS suggested a hybrid (the Specialized Crosstrail base model), and it was a nice ride, but I don't really like the idea of an "in-between" bike, even though I may seem like an "in-between" rider. Having one of those to me is like (because I'm a car guy) driving a Ford Escape with "intelligent 4WD" (not doggin' on the Escape; my Mom drives one because she likes how it looks). It's like, you don't want an all-out 4x4 truck, but you don't want a car that's lower to the ground and FWD, so you settle on something "in-between". But in reality, it's not much higher than a car, and it sucks at going off road because you pretty much have to pray that the "intelligent 4WD" will kick in before you get stuck.

    So because I like to get off the beaten path but still ride on road for significant distances all in the same ride, I was thinking about getting a mountain bike with thin road tires. This, in my eyes, would be like getting a small 4-cylinder pickup truck. It's not exactly like a car on the road, but because it's a small pickup and not as high or as big/wide as a full-size pickup, it's easier on the road and has better road manners, as well as the better gas mileage of something smaller. But when you want to go off road, you can still hit up the trails better than an Escape since it's body-on-frame and can go pretty far with a bit of throttle modulation.

    But that doesn't leave road bikes out of the question. If a road bike can do all that, then I wouldn't mind riding one of those either. I've ridden a Specialized Sirrus, Crosstrail, and Hardrock, a Giant Rincon, and a Trek 820, all base models, and I don't have a preference or an immediate attachment to any one bike. They all have their quirks about seating and whatnot, but I could get used to their individualities, given enough time. I took each one for a few easy laps around the block because I don't really like pushing things that aren't mine, so I didn't want to take someone else's bike down a flight of stairs or through a creek or something. They all shifted way better than my $80 POS, which would jump 2 or 3 gears when clicking down one gear. And they were all way easier to pedal and much lighter. The Sirrus and the Crosstrail seemed a little faster, but I think that was more to do with the tires than the bike. I kinda liked the suspension forks more than a rigid fork, but the rigid fork is something that I could get used to if need be.

    So given my situation (poor college student who wants the equivalent of the small pickup truck of bikes), what would you suggest? My budget is around $300-500, which I know won't get me anything super fancy, but every base model I rode blew my $80 Target bike out of the water in every aspect, so having the fanciest rig on the block with the best components available isn't a concern to me. Keep in mind, I rode my Target bike for a thousand miles on almost all original parts. The only things I changed were inner tubes (three front and two rear). I seriously wouldn't mind a road bike or a mountain bike; I just need a pointer on what you would suggest so I can get something and head out to the open bike lane and ride. Just don't say "both" since I can't afford two bikes.

    Anyway, if you're still reading down to this point, I thank you greatly for your time. I always like to give more detail than be too vague, because I think it's easier for people to help if they know what I'm asking. Hope that wasn't too long of a read. Ride safe and don't end up in a ditch like me (that was my fault...being distracted coupled with crappy brakes on a crappy bike [like having ice cubes as brake pads, seriously] led to missing a hairpin turn on a bike path and hitting a ditch about 3 feet wide and 3 feet deep...ouch).

  2. #2
    Senior Member Loose Chain's Avatar
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    You want a cyclocross bike like a Surly Cross Check or one of many similar bikes.
    Steel is Real

    I was once told that only _ussies needed lower than 42/21 gearing.

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  3. #3
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    FWIW, I have a Trek 7.2FX kicking around that I use for bike path, off road, street and sometimes commuting (when my 520 is in the shop). That's the bike I pull out when we're tooling around and don't know what we're going to run into. It's really more of a road bike than a mountain bike, but it does very admirably on off road trails. It wouldn't be my first choice if I were riding through virgin forest with no trails at all but it doesn't sound like that's what you're doing. If you're 80% road, but you want to be able to go off road trails as well, I don't really think you can go wrong with the 7.2. Mine has a steel front fork which i prefer. Try several of them. You can get an aluminum fork also, but I thought the ride was a bit harsher.

    A nice touring bike with appropriate tires would work well too but now you're starting to get into some bucks.

  4. #4
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    I say cyclocross, but If you want a straight bar bike, avoid the front suspension. You will get better comfort and performance by fitting 35 - 40 mm wide tires on a rigid forked bike. Also put a rack on the back, because when you tool around its nice to carry stuff without putting it on your back. Have fun!

  5. #5
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    I've just got the Specialized Crosstrail Sport, for pretty much the same reasons you describe. So far I've had it for just under a week, and it's performing admirably. My riding at the moment is a fairly equal mix of on and "off"-road, mainly canal paths and some gravel tracks. It's also done nicely over some rougher ground.
    While it won't win any prizes for speed I find that on the flat I can keep a steady pace of around 18mph without exerting myself, and hit an average of about 11 on the tracks. My girlfriend has the same bike (matching bikes, heh) and says she hit 33mph on the way back from college, I've got to 26 on a slight incline, and will probably get faster as my fitness improves.
    With slightly more roady tires it would probably roll a bit faster, but as my riding currently is a mix I've kept the stock tires which seem to be doing just nicely.

    I don't know how much of that is of any help to you, but I wish you the best whichever you choose.

  6. #6
    Fred-ish rogerstg's Avatar
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    I agree with the cross bike recommendation. Oh, and don't be so paranoid about what you think people might think when they see you - you'll be happier that way.

  7. #7
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    The Novara Safari is neat also but it's probably out of your price range unless you pick one up used. I saw a Crosstrail just the other day, and that was very nice too.

    re: cyclocross
    A real cyclocross bike is going to be setup to race. Surly's CrossCheck, for example, is geared with a 48/36 up front with a 12-25 cassette. To me, that's not an everyday, cruising around town kind of setup. Just my opinion, though.

  8. #8
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    I had a Trek 3700 (more mountain bike) about 5 years ago and rode it a bit but it was slow on the road, traded that in about 9 months ago on a Trek 1.5 road bike. I loved the bike and the speed was great but where I live the roads are not good for the narrow tires and there are some gravel/dirt roads too so I would end up having to load up the bike and find a spot to ride so fast forward to this week.............. I traded my road bike in on a Gary Fisher Dual Sport bike. Im hoping this is my do ALL bike! Go to the Trek website and I think there are three versions of the dual sport (maybe pushing your budget a little) but I did a test ride on the entry level and it was a very nice ride.

    Good Luck! (from another indecisive one)

  9. #9
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    Thanks for the responses. I forgot to mention that I did ride one cross bike, but I don't remember exactly which bike. I think it was a Trek or a Specialized, and I remember that it was around $1000 because the price tag was flying around while on a test ride. I think I'd have to stick to flat bar bikes for now. It's a little hard to see traffic when you're hunched down like that, coupled with the narrower bars and vertical brake levers. Or maybe I wasn't riding it "right" and need someone to correct my posture. But at any rate, I haven't really found one locally for $500 so it'd be out of the question unless I can find a used one.

    I do have a question though. How harsh is it to ride a rigid bike over potholes, down stairs, and on trails? I haven't really got a chance to get a good comparison since the road around the shop was pretty smooth.

    I'm interested in the Trek 7.2 but, forgive my ignorance, I always suspected that having a lower-end suspension fork would give a better ride than a rigid bike. The Gary Fisher dual sport bike looks promising as well, so I'll have to go test ride one. Looks like a mountain bike with more roady gearing and 700c wheels. Which is pretty much what the Crosstrail is, but I like the Fisher a little more just from looks, since it appears to be a little more toward mountain and less toward hybrid or road.

    I also don't really care what other people think, but when someone exerts a negative behavior toward you, you can't really help but think about what they are thinking for at least a few moments.

    Thanks again for the recommendations. Back to the LBS for a few more test rides!

  10. #10
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    Your body is the best suspension, learning to stand up and put some flex in your knees and elbows will help you take on all sorts of terrain, even stairs.

    I switched to road bikes from MTB and never looked back. I love road bikes, but I think you'd probably be happier on a MTB. Curb hopping, stairs, and trails are hard on a road bike. A CX bike might provide the durability that you want in something sportier, but you don't seem to be keen on high speeds or drop bars (though you might test ride a set of drop bars while riding on the hoods), so I think you may really be leaning toward an MTB. You can fit your MTB with some narrower road slicks or semi slicks. They will probably give you better road performance, but still give you cushion for curb hopping and stairs. Also, I think they will probably perform well for grass and light trails. You probably won't miss knobby tires unless you're really going out onto some messy muddy trails.

    As to the particular bike, you seem to be fairly concerned with looks and style, which is just fine. It means that you need to spend a lot of time taking test rides until you find the one that really "clicks", the one that just looks and feels right to you. Don't let having the money now, or a desire to hurry up and get riding make you rush so much that you get something that you're not happy with. You will ride more if you have something that you really like.

  11. #11
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    I have a hard tail mtb with lockout front suspension. It works well on pavement as well as the rough stuff. When I'm riding alone it is perfect. If I'm riding with a group I prefer my road bike, for the extra speed.

  12. #12
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    Redline Conquest. Check it out.

  13. #13
    rebmeM roineS JanMM's Avatar
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    Entry-level good quality hybrid. Then, save money for the bike you really want later on. By then, you'll have a better idea what bike that is.
    RANS V3 (steel), RANS V-Rex, RANS Screamer

  14. #14
    Senior Member Retro Grouch's Avatar
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    I think that before you shop for a bike you should shop for a bike shop.

    Visit all of the bike shops in your area until you find a sales person who asks all the "right" questions. You'll know the right one when you meet them. Once you develop a rapport, the bike selection process will be much easier because a local sales person will know the good places to ride and what kind of bike is best for that kind of riding.

  15. #15
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    What do you think makes up a good bike shop? I've been to a few more over the last few days, and they've all been pretty much the same as far as service. As far as suggestions, I've presented the same story to all the shops I've been to and gotten everything from get a mountain bike and slap some slicks on it to get a flat-handle road bike with some cross tires or something.

    All of them offer lifetime free adjustments and whatnot. I've even gotten different suggestions on specific types of bikes. Like one sales rep suggested that I get a mtb with cheap disc brakes since I have the option to upgrade 'em later without having to buy new wheels. Another sales rep at a different shop suggested I get a mtb with v-brakes because he said that the disc brakes at my price bracket all suck.

    So regardless, I'm pretty much not yet decided on anything. But out of all the different brands and types and models of bikes I've tried, I have a strong interest in the Specialized Sirrus, Crosstrail and Hardrock. Three different bikes for three different uses, but it's a start. I like the seating position of the Sirrus better, but it's at the top end of my price bracket and I'm not sure how having no suspension would work out with potholes and curb hopping and whatnot. To be honest, the Crosstrail felt like the Sirrus with a suspension fork. Nothing too different about it, but it's again near the top of the price range.

    The Hardrock definitely felt slower, but that could have been due to the tires. It also felt more rugged, like it wouldn't break if I crashed into a 3-foot ravine. It's also more affordable, so I'm pretty much torn between the three. Several LBS's carry Specialized and all three models are within a few bucks of each other at the different shops, so getting parts/service isn't gonna be too big of a problem. There are only a handful of shops that carry Giant or Trek though, which is kind of interesting.

  16. #16
    Senior Member Kimmitt's Avatar
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    You shouldn't buy a bike based on how you think someone else might think of you when they see you riding it. That will get you the wrong bike.

    I agree with the other posters that say that if you still don't feel like you don't know what kind of bike you want, you should go inexpensive but decent while you mull it over.
    I see unexamined people. All the time. I don't think they know they're unexamined.

  17. #17
    Senior Member MRT2's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kimmitt View Post
    You shouldn't buy a bike based on how you think someone else might think of you when they see you riding it. That will get you the wrong bike.

    I agree with the other posters that say that if you still don't feel like you don't know what kind of bike you want, you should go inexpensive but decent while you mull it over.
    Agreed. It sounds to me like the OP needs something more sturdy than a road bike, so it will be either a performance oriented hybrid, or a hard tail mountain bike with slicks or at least hybrid tires. If it were me, I would look for an older hybrid or mountain bike and just ride it for awhile.

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    I went for a hybrid and quickly wanted a road bike. What was useful about the hybrid is it gave me a fairly cheap way of finding out what I wanted.

    TBH from what you have described (and I didn't read all of it!) I'd for a bike which gives you large tyre clearance (enough to run fat MTB tyres for your ride across farm land), disc brakes in case you hit a hidden hole and it knocks your wheel out of true / you need to ride in rain or something, and drop bars - as long rides in an upright position with a huge headwind aren't fun.

    That means most likely, off the shelf, a cyclocross bike.

    Daven

  19. #19
    Senior Member Retro Grouch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by IBrakeForNobody View Post
    What do you think makes up a good bike shop? I've been to a few more over the last few days, and they've all been pretty much the same as far as service. As far as suggestions, I've presented the same story to all the shops I've been to and gotten everything from get a mountain bike and slap some slicks on it to get a flat-handle road bike with some cross tires or something.

    All of them offer lifetime free adjustments and whatnot. I've even gotten different suggestions on specific types of bikes. Like one sales rep suggested that I get a mtb with cheap disc brakes since I have the option to upgrade 'em later without having to buy new wheels. Another sales rep at a different shop suggested I get a mtb with v-brakes because he said that the disc brakes at my price bracket all suck.
    What makes a good bike shop? Why that's easy - it's all about the people.

    It sounds to me like you're looking at objective things like who offers lifetime free adjustments. So who is taking the time to really communicate with you?

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by MRT2 View Post
    Agreed. It sounds to me like the OP needs something more sturdy than a road bike, so it will be either a performance oriented hybrid, or a hard tail mountain bike with slicks or at least hybrid tires. If it were me, I would look for an older hybrid or mountain bike and just ride it for awhile.
    I am considering a hardtail mountain bike with slicks, but I'm not sure how that would fair on the road since that's where I'll be like 80-90% of the time. On the other hand, I'm not sure how a flat-bar road bike would handle when curb jumping and creek-crossing either.

    Quote Originally Posted by daven1986 View Post
    I went for a hybrid and quickly wanted a road bike. What was useful about the hybrid is it gave me a fairly cheap way of finding out what I wanted.

    TBH from what you have described (and I didn't read all of it!) I'd for a bike which gives you large tyre clearance (enough to run fat MTB tyres for your ride across farm land), disc brakes in case you hit a hidden hole and it knocks your wheel out of true / you need to ride in rain or something, and drop bars - as long rides in an upright position with a huge headwind aren't fun.

    That means most likely, off the shelf, a cyclocross bike.

    Daven
    Thanks for the suggestion, but most new cross bikes start at double my max budget. And I haven't been able to find a reasonably-priced used one that comes in a size that fits, but I'll definitely keep that in mind while shopping around.

    Quote Originally Posted by Retro Grouch View Post
    What makes a good bike shop? Why that's easy - it's all about the people.

    It sounds to me like you're looking at objective things like who offers lifetime free adjustments. So who is taking the time to really communicate with you?
    Ironically, the one guy that talked to me for over 45 minutes about bikes works at the bike department at Sport Chalet. They don't really sell the upper-end brands, but the guy was answering all my one-line questions with at least one-paragraph replies, and walking me around the department showing what parts he'd recommend and which to stay away from. When I didn't have anything more to ask, he continued on with more comments and suggestions till I thought of more questions to ask. Most of the other people working at the three LBS that I tried talked to me for about 5-10 minutes, answering my questions with equal-length replies. Not to say that they aren't good people. They all seem like cool guys and everything, it's just like when I was done asking questions, they were done trying to sell me something.

  21. #21
    Senior Member MRT2's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by IBrakeForNobody View Post
    I am considering a hardtail mountain bike with slicks, but I'm not sure how that would fair on the road since that's where I'll be like 80-90% of the time. On the other hand, I'm not sure how a flat-bar road bike would handle when curb jumping and creek-crossing either.

    .
    I just bought my son a used hardtail mountain bike (no suspension seatpost or fork) and bought some slick road tires. Given that he is still a kid, and there just aren't too many really small road bikes out there, and a comfort hybrid didn't suit his personality, this seemed like the best choice for him. Now he has no problem keeping up with me on longer rides, while my wife now has trouble keeping pace with him.

    I am sure he will eventually jump curbs and ride on grass, dirt and gravel, but if I catch him trying to ride across any bodies of water deeper than a puddle, he is in big trouble.
    Last edited by MRT2; 07-12-10 at 11:13 PM.

  22. #22
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    After a few more weeks of test rides and thinking about it, I'm fairly confident in saying that the bike for me would be an entry-level drop-bar road bike with cross tires. After test riding "real" bikes for a while, I can tell that a mountain bike just isn't as efficient on the road as a road bike (obviously). It might just be a placebo effect, but it definitely feels faster when I grip the drop bars down the steep hills rather than the wider bars of a mountain bike or flat-bar road bike.

    Going up steep hills is a different story. I just about died on my way up since the road bikes I tried don't have as much "bottom end" (sorry for the automotive term; I have no idea what that's called in bike terminology) like the mountain bikes do. It also could be that I haven't ridden a bike regularly in two years so I was using the mechanical advantage of the lower gears on the MTB to make up for my lack of muscle (which seems more likely). I was also told that I can occasionally take a road bike down a flight of stairs and jump off curbs without potentially hurting it, just if I do it all the time I might bend a wheel or something.

    The only problem that I have come across is that I'm too poor to afford one. Most "entry-level" drop-bar road bike are upwards of $800 new, so it's kinda putting a bump in things. The only drop-bar road bike I could find for around $500 new is the Fuju Newest 4.0, and I'm not sure how good of a bike that is. It's a fairly good ride though, and having 4 brake levers is kinda nice when riding through traffic. The other thing is that my neck starts hurting after a while from riding a drop-bar road bike in traffic and constantly looking up, but I could get used to that. That said, are there any other entry-level road bikes around $500 that I could look at?

  23. #23
    Ridin' South Cackalacky dahut's Avatar
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    +1 on a cyclocross bike.

    Put some fenders, a rack and a chain guard on it and then you can have a full-blown commuter, too.
    "Watch out for giants; they are boorish fools with tongues wagging, drunk upon their own words.
    They will try to teach you a lesson if given the chance, and you will stumble over their stinking feet."

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