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  1. #1
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    I'd like to get my first bike in many, many years. I'm totally out of the loop and could really use some advice on what to buy and why.

    I intend to use it mainly for casual road riding, sightseeing, and light exercise. (I'm already in pretty good shape, fwiw.) I don't see myself using one for racing or hardcore exercise, at least initially, nor do I see myself doing any serious off-roading, just the occasional shortcut through a small field The terrain around here is pretty flat, and the weather is pretty warm and rainy.

    Any suggestions for type of bike and brand? Also, what accessories do I need besides a helmet, water bottle, and lock? I'd ideally like to spend below $500 for the whole shebang, bike and gear.

    It sounds to me like I need a hybrid/cross or mountain bike for my intended uses. Local dealers stock Cannondale, Trek, Raleigh, Specialized, and Schwinn, to name a few brands. How do those stack up?

    Thanks for any help!

  2. #2
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    The place to start is with a good bike store. Look in the phone book for bike stores in your neighborhood. Visit two or three stores. You are not just looking for a bike. You are looking for a relationship. The RIGHT store will have:

    -someone willing to answer your questions and show you bikes in your price range

    -someone on-duty to make adjustments to the bike that you buy (at smaller shops, one person might be the person showing you the bike, and setting it up for you).

    In a given price range, there is not a big difference between brands. Each brand will have a metal frame, supported by two tires, holding the selection of Shimano parts that is standard for that price range. So, your satisfaction from a $400 bike depends on getting a bike that fits your height and weight, and is tuned up and adjusted to ride comfortably and safely.

    Unlike a sporting goods store, or discount store, a good bike shop expects you to bring your new bike back in a few weeks. The cables on a new bike stretch, and bolts sometimes needed tightening. Wheels sometimes need a bit of re-truing after a few weeks of riding.

    Based on the description of your riding plans, a good bike to look at would be the Trek 7300FX. With light, slick tires, it is a good road bike/commuting bike. With heavier tires, it can be used on smoother dirt trails. It comes in five sizes, so almost any rider can get a good fit. After you "test ride" a Trek 7300FX, try some $400 bikes from other companies to see how they compare. That is a "price point" where most companies offer several good choices.

  3. #3
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    A high performcance takedown bike such as Bike Friday or Moulton might solve your storage problems.

    oops. this reply is for another thread. Ignore it
    Last edited by MichaelW; 12-27-04 at 03:08 AM.

  4. #4
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    Everyone is going to give you complicated advice that will involve a lot of time, thought and money. Some people probably give up on riding just because it seems too complicated. So my advice is to simplify, simplify, simplify. Just try a couple bikes and buy the first one you like that costs about $200 new, or even less used. It will be a semi-halfway-decent ride. (No offense, but you don't have enough experience to really know or appreciate a good bike--and that's OK for now.) Then just ride the hell out of Cheapo for about three months. Also, do not buy any special clothing or gear. You dont need it yet.

    I guarantee you will have a lot of fun on Cheapo, and you will have some great rides. Hang out on this forum, and at your LBS, and read the want ads and Product Review web sites, but mostly just ride, ride and ride some more. At the end of three months you will know a lot about riding and about bikes. I am sure you will know the bike you really want. Then you can sell your $200 Cheapo for $150, and use the money toward the bike you really want. Or, if you still don't ride often, you might even be satisfied to keep the $200 bike.

    Remember--when you're first starting out it's better to just enjoy the simple pleasure of riding a bike. If it turns out to be the right activity for you, you will soon enjoy learning more about it and spending way too much money on bikes and gear. but for now, just have fun riding Cheapo!

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by alanbikehouston
    The place to start is with a good bike store. Look in the phone book for bike stores in your neighborhood. Visit two or three stores. You are not just looking for a bike. You are looking for a relationship. The RIGHT store will have:

    -someone willing to answer your questions and show you bikes in your price range

    -someone on-duty to make adjustments to the bike that you buy (at smaller shops, one person might be the person showing you the bike, and setting it up for you).

    In a given price range, there is not a big difference between brands. Each brand will have a metal frame, supported by two tires, holding the selection of Shimano parts that is standard for that price range. So, your satisfaction from a $400 bike depends on getting a bike that fits your height and weight, and is tuned up and adjusted to ride comfortably and safely.

    Unlike a sporting goods store, or discount store, a good bike shop expects you to bring your new bike back in a few weeks. The cables on a new bike stretch, and bolts sometimes needed tightening. Wheels sometimes need a bit of re-truing after a few weeks of riding.

    Based on the description of your riding plans, a good bike to look at would be the Trek 7300FX. With light, slick tires, it is a good road bike/commuting bike. With heavier tires, it can be used on smoother dirt trails. It comes in five sizes, so almost any rider can get a good fit. After you "test ride" a Trek 7300FX, try some $400 bikes from other companies to see how they compare. That is a "price point" where most companies offer several good choices.

    Let me guess--You work in a bike shop?

  6. #6
    Toyota Racing Dev. PWRDbyTRD's Avatar
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    you'd be surprised just how many members DON'T work at a bikeshop, they just spend as much time as the employees there
    Linkage...My 2004 Kona Hoss Dee-Lux My Mindless Banter
    Disclaimer: I'm 425lb...I put unnormal loads on my bike. This should help you in answering any of my questions.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by richmyer
    Everyone is going to give you complicated advice that will involve a lot of time, thought and money. Some people probably give up on riding just because it seems too complicated. So my advice is to simplify, simplify, simplify. Just try a couple bikes and buy the first one you like that costs about $200 new, or even less used.
    I hear you, particularly since I'd love to start riding right now. But can you get a decent enough bike in the $200 range? I know it won't be great, but I don't want something that will give me grief, either.

    Also, for my likely uses, do you all recommend I start looking at hybrids or mountain bikes? It looks like the latter would be pretty darn sturdy and stable, but if I end up mainly just using it on roads, would I need to buy slick tires for it, or can you use the knobby ones and just go slower? Like I said, I'm a total newbie.

    PWRDbyTRD, I dig your sig quotes, as you might guess from my screen name

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Six-Shooter
    I hear you, particularly since I'd love to start riding right now. But can you get a decent enough bike in the $200 range? I know it won't be great, but I don't want something that will give me grief, either.

    Also, for my likely uses, do you all recommend I start looking at hybrids or mountain bikes? It looks like the latter would be pretty darn sturdy and stable, but if I end up mainly just using it on roads, would I need to buy slick tires for it, or can you use the knobby ones and just go slower? Like I said, I'm a total newbie.

    PWRDbyTRD, I dig your sig quotes, as you might guess from my screen name
    With most types of products, there is a price level that is "the cheapest" in the long run. For entry level bikes "the cheapest" bike is a hybrid or mountain bike in the $400 range. These bikes are well made, reliable, and provide about 95% of the performance of a $1,000 bike.

    Few bike shops sell a "$200 bike. Most bikes in that price range use parts that are somewhat "non-standard", making parts upgrades troublesome, and expensive. The wheels are less reliable, and harder to keep "in true". Most people who ride everyday, and ride their bikes hard are soon unhappy with the performance of a $200 bike, and begin looking at better bikes.

    So, when the cost of repairs, replacement parts, and maintainance are figured in, a $400 bike will usually end up costing less than a $200 bike. (Replacing a rear wheel - not uncommon with cheap bikes - will cost $100 and up).

    Can someone have fun on a $200 bike, or even a $50 bike? Sure. But, if someone is planning to ride every day, they can have more fun, and spend LESS money, if they spend around $400 for their first bike.

    Yes, you can put light weight slicks on a mountain bike, and use them on the roads. Many Houston bike messengers use that method to obtain a fast, but bullet proof bike.

  9. #9
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    Some bike shops sell decent used bikes for $200. If $200 is your limit, go for a decent used bike from a local bike shop rather than a new walmart bike.

  10. #10
    Center of the Universe ngateguy's Avatar
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    look around I buy all my bikes used
    Matthew 6

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by ngateguy
    look around I buy all my bikes used
    YES I bought a beautiful Specialized MTB in a pawn shop for $100, and it obviously had less than 500 miles wear on it. This is the best time of year to buy in a pawn shop because there is little demand for bikes in the winter, so they really want to move them out. My beautiful bike had a sticker price of $130, but my courageous friend bargained them down to $100. If I tried to bargain, I probably would have ended up paying $150!

    But the point of my earlier post was that "a real newbie" doesn't really know enough to recognize a great deal when they see it. He is so worried about buying "the right bike" that he will probably end up buying no bike at all. I bought my first bike (1 1/2 years ago) from a neighborhood kid for $30. It was an ugly old Huffy piece of crap. But I hopped on it and, so to speak, I never got off. I loved riding that bike for three months and learned so much on it. Then I knew it was time for something better, and I knew enough to get it. And now, I am once again in the market for a further upgrade.

    The point is: we scare newbies away when we give them too much information. Just hop on any old bike you find and have fun and learn. You know, when you are new at anything, you are not supposed to be good at it or know a lot about it! And a mountain bike is fine for riding in the city. A hybrid might be slightly better, but maybe more expensive and a little harder to find. Road bikes are great too. You will try different bikes and different riding styles, then you will decide what is best for you. I really don't think anyone else can tell you that!

  12. #12
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    For < $500 a Trek 7200 or 7300 may be a good choice. I owned one for 3 years and it was well worth the money. Sold it for only $50 less than I purchased it for. Just my experience. Not a real strong Trek fan even though that is what I ride now. There are good Hybrid bikes for < $500 in a lot of different brands. You LBS is certainly the best place to start.

  13. #13
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    "I'd like to get my first bike in many, many years. I'm totally out of the loop and could really use some advice on what to buy and why."

    Recently I went through the purchasing process after not riding for over 20 years. This is what I did:

    1 Read the forums (There is an abundance of knowledge and experience available here from contributors and a lot of good advice on this thread already)
    2 Looked at company websites
    3 Read reviews
    4 Listed bikes I thought I'd like
    5 Listed components I'd like (and there is a lot of new, interesting equipment out there)
    6 Visited local bike shops (LBS) and asked questions (many of the salespeople are helpful)
    7 Tested a number of bicycles

    Process Results:

    I rode some excellent and different types of bicycles in the $330 to $900 range from: Trek, Specialized, Electra, Bianchi, Giant, Breezer, and Raleigh.
    Almost all the salespeople would ask what I needed the bike for and listen patiently.
    Then they would look at me and say something to the effect of, "Even though you are a little short you need a medium frame." And then I would test bikes with medium frames. Although the above bikes were very nice they never felt right. This was extremely frustrating. I did not know what was wrong. I thought it was me. I'm just an ignorant and insecure person. I followed the salespersons' recommendations. I will admit that I don't know much about bikes and that some of my earlier and subsequently revised "component requirements" limited my search. I visited nine different LBS and some of them several times. (I wanted a quality, new and therefore more reliable bike) I was despairing of finding a bike for me. On one forum thread I found a discussion of LBS in my area and I asked some questions there. One forum poster told me to visit X store which happened to be further than I wanted to go but as frustrated as I was (potential buying danger!) I went.
    Before arriving I told myself I just want something that feels good and not to worry if it didn't have xx components. I prayed too. "Lord, if I can get a bike please tell me!"
    The salesperson asked my needs and then said, "Let's fit you." That statement alerted me. He put me on a bike with a small frame and man, it felt so good. "This is it!" rang in my mind. I bought it. I'm very happy with it. It's a Raleigh hybrid but I think the brand is of little import so much as the FIT. Many forum members also gave this advice i.e., FIT is the most important factor. And of course, now I concur.

    Happy hunting and please post the results of your search. Thank you.
    Last edited by scottogo; 12-28-04 at 12:51 PM.

  14. #14
    Senior Member halfspeed's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Six-Shooter
    I'd like to get my first bike in many, many years. I'm totally out of the loop and could really use some advice on what to buy and why.

    I intend to use it mainly for casual road riding, sightseeing, and light exercise. (I'm already in pretty good shape, fwiw.) I don't see myself using one for racing or hardcore exercise, at least initially, nor do I see myself doing any serious off-roading, just the occasional shortcut through a small field The terrain around here is pretty flat, and the weather is pretty warm and rainy.

    Any suggestions for type of bike and brand? Also, what accessories do I need besides a helmet, water bottle, and lock? I'd ideally like to spend below $500 for the whole shebang, bike and gear.

    It sounds to me like I need a hybrid/cross or mountain bike for my intended uses. Local dealers stock Cannondale, Trek, Raleigh, Specialized, and Schwinn, to name a few brands. How do those stack up?

    Thanks for any help!
    alanbikehouston is probably right with the 7300FX. Just make sure you go with the FX model because the fixed fork makes a lot more sense for road riding. (Suspension forks are heavy and pointless unless you are doing off road riding.) If you =do= get "hard core" or decide to race, you'll outgrow the FX but you'd likely outgrow a "real" road bike in that price range anyway.

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    I ended up getting a new Trek Navigator 200 since it feels good and the price was right. I figured I could carefully research things on paper for weeks, but that wouldn't amount to much without actually riding. I imagine you only really learn what you need by getting out there and pedalling a lot. I'm already having a blast with my new bike and can easily see myself really getting into cycling.

    I do have one concern: clearance. The salesperson at the bike shop asked my height and had me try different frame sizes. I ended up with one that gives me maybe a little less than an inch of clearance from the bar until my family jewels (rather more clearance up to the actual crotch since I'm a guy). Do I need more clearance for safety? I know you need more for a mountain bike, but this one is just for casual street riding. So far, the bike otherwise feels great for my height and body type.

  16. #16
    Dog is my co-pilot 2manybikes's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Six-Shooter
    I ended up getting a new Trek Navigator 200 since it feels good and the price was right. I figured I could carefully research things on paper for weeks, but that wouldn't amount to much without actually riding. I imagine you only really learn what you need by getting out there and pedalling a lot. I'm already having a blast with my new bike and can easily see myself really getting into cycling.

    I do have one concern: clearance. The salesperson at the bike shop asked my height and had me try different frame sizes. I ended up with one that gives me maybe a little less than an inch of clearance from the bar until my family jewels (rather more clearance up to the actual crotch since I'm a guy). Do I need more clearance for safety? I know you need more for a mountain bike, but this one is just for casual street riding. So far, the bike otherwise feels great for my height and body type.
    You will get different answers from different sources on clearance, as with just about any other question. I think the most accepted point of view is ABOUT an inch. This is not as important as comfort when riding. If your bike is comfortable just go for a ride. Then go for another ride. Repeat as needed.
    Don't worry, be riding.

  17. #17
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    You may want to fit fenders and a luggage rack to your bike, this is easier if you get a bike designed for them. You need threaded eyelets on the frame.
    Suspension is not something you will need for your kind of riding.
    My suggestion would be a bike in the style of Specialized Sirrus. Quite a few forum members ride them and give good feeback. They are light, fast, practical and comfortable. Other brands also make bikes in this style, so pick a shop that gives you good service.
    As far as sizing, modern bikes tend to be designed for 1-3" of clearance. The critical dimenison (given adaquate clearance) is the reach to the handlebars so you are not cramped or over streteched. If you are inbetween 2 sizes, then the smaller size is usualy better.

  18. #18
    Newbie EddieSpaghetti's Avatar
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    I intend to use it mainly for casual road riding, sightseeing, and light exercise.
    It sounds to me like I need a hybrid/cross or mountain bike for my intended uses.
    I bought a bike about 6 months ago. I got a mountain bike for pretty much the same reasons you've stated above. Kinda wish I'd got a road bike, though, because I ride on the road most of the time and as I get fitter and stronger, I find I want to go further and faster. I had a ride on a road bike the other day and was blown away by how fast and easy the riding felt, and now I want one.
    So my advice would be to not spend too much on your first bike, because you may need another one before too long!
    I still love my MTB, no real regrets.

  19. #19
    la vache fantôme phantomcow2's Avatar
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    pawn shop definantly. I saw a specialized i forgot the name but it had a nice array of components for 225, you would be surprised what you can pick up, especially now

  20. #20
    Senior Member Bontrager's Avatar
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    A far as the fixed fork vs suspension fork. You have to decide which way you want to go, unfortunately. I bought a hybrid 7200FX because I was trying to get the best of both worlds. A week later I went in and returned it for a 1000 (road bike) and I'm much happier. To boot, I have my g/f's 7200 (with suspension) and that is the bike I would buy if I just wanted to ride around my neighboorhood and city bike paths/packed dirt paths. The 7200 with suspension (i.e. not the FX) is very smooth. My g/f LOVES it and so do I for recreational rides. I figured I'd rather have a new 1000 and pick up a used 7200 or similar rather than new 7200 and used road bike since my priorities are training for a few charity rides.

    No matter what you do - ride a BUNCH of bikes when you visit your LBS. Ride some that are out of your price range, as well. It will give you an appreciation for what you're buying and what the difference in cost gets you. Remember to pick up the bike, too. Ride the beach type ones, the comforts, the hybrids, and a road bike while you're at it. I think the most important thing is to get one that you like and one that feels good or else you won't ride it as much as you otherwise would have.
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  21. #21
    Senior Member Bontrager's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Six-Shooter
    I ended up getting a new Trek Navigator 200 since it feels good and the price was right.... I'm already having a blast with my new bike and can easily see myself really getting into cycling.

    I do have one concern: clearance. The salesperson at the bike shop asked my height and had me try different frame sizes. I ended up with one that gives me maybe a little less than an inch of clearance from the bar until my family jewels (rather more clearance up to the actual crotch since I'm a guy). Do I need more clearance for safety? I know you need more for a mountain bike, but this one is just for casual street riding. So far, the bike otherwise feels great for my height and body type.
    We tried the Navigators and they felt like we were riding on couches they were so smooth! Just keep in mind about the jewels if you ever have to abruptly dismount. As long as the bars, seats, etc are adjusted (and you can go back to your LBS and they'll be happy to accomodate you) then it's probably fine. I ride my gf's 7200 which is just a shade too big for both of us. Too bad Trek didn't have a 15.5" frame..
    08 Giant TCR Alliance Custom Build
    08 Trek 1000 Discovery Channel
    08 Fuji Outland Pro Custom Build (mostly Forge stuff)
    08 Forge Sawback 5xx MTB frame
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    09.5 Downtube Front Suspension folding
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