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  1. #1
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    Biking on a budget? Broke college student looking to bike..

    I'm a student and I'm looking to get some exercise/have some fun biking around campus, around my neighborhood and on some well-kept trails. I had a bike in the city I used to live in (Pittsburgh) but it got stolen two years ago. It was pretty much broken anyways because it was the same two-wheel bike that I had since I was 13.

    Now I'm in a different city and want to start biking again, but I'm on a tight budget. I want something that I'm not going to have to spend a lot of money to repair in the future, but I need to pay for Summer classes and can't afford much more than $300.00 up front.. I might be able to swing a little more. I know that you get what you pay for, but I'm at a conundrum here because I want something that won't cost me in repairs or replacement in the long run, but I also don't want to spend like $500.00 or more.

    So.. any suggestions for a bike that I could afford, ride around campus, travel from my neighborhood to town (a few miles), and maybe hit up some well-kept (paved or partially paved) trails with? I appreciate any feedback.

  2. #2
    Senior Member spectastic's Avatar
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    I feel you. I was in your shoes not too long ago. Craigslist would probably be your best bet, depending on where you live. Big cities have a large market for used bikes. Totally different story for small cities. I like used bikes because they don't lose value when you purchase them, whereas new bikes' values plumet the minute you start pedaling, just because they're no longer new. But anyway, back to craigslist. You should be able to find a pretty nice vintage for around 200, but I would do a little research, because there are good vintage (medium-top of the line for its time), and crappy ones (average bikes for its time). The good vintages would feel smoother, more stable, more responsive, and overall just better... You'd have to test ride them before you really understand where I'm coming from. (btw, vintage = road bike)

    Another thing is pay attention to frame size. I've had 3 or 4 vintage bikes throughout college, and I was lucky enough to fit into all of them. But keep in mind that a 6' guy would not be very happy riding on a 52 cm frame, or a 5'2" guy on a 61 cm frame (if that's even possible; his nuts would be crushed into his abdomen). But yea, just look around, and be patient. My last vintage was a steal... 1982 fuji del rey for $75. It needed a new cogset and chain, but those are chump change compared to the bike's total cost.

    Your other option is a single speed or fixie. Bikesdirect sells bikes straight from the factory (gutting out the middleman). So if you want a new bike, that would be the place. Keep in mind though, that every bike would eventually require regular maintenance. (eg. cassette/cogset replacement, chain replacement, brake pad replacement/adjustment, chain lubrication, tire maintenance, the whole nine yards).
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  3. #3
    Senior Member Flying Merkel's Avatar
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    Figure out what you want the bike to do. Back in the 80's, I spent big bucks on a bike that was just wrong for me. Could have spent less and picked something more functional.

    For an around town ride with longish trips, an old rigid mountain bike with street tires is still hard to beat. Hybrids are under-rated. Vintage road bikes are a good value- if you can find them in good condition.
    Pronounced "Murkle"

  4. #4
    Senior Member spectastic's Avatar
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    also, don't buy a bike from walmart. I can't stress that enough.
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  5. #5
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    Buying a used bike does have risks involved. There are tons of used mountain bikes in my area for around $100. If you can find a descent "garage queen" that was obviously bought new and never ridden, you'll do fine. If the bike looks like it's been ridden hard, you may want to steer clear as it might require extensive repairs. Sites like Bikepedia.com are useful to find out how much the bike sold for new, which is good info to have when haggling.

    If you don't want to deal with that whole thing and prefer to buy new, a place like Dick's Sporting Goods may be your best bet. They sell bikes in your price range and should have a service department to address any issues you have. Your local bike shop may also have something for you be it new or used. And definitely do not buy your bike at Walmart, Target, ETC. They are not as careful about assembly, and you will most likely have problems right off the bat.

  6. #6
    rugged individualist wphamilton's Avatar
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    Sometimes the colleges auction off bikes that were abandoned by departing students. The student publications might have classified ads also. I'd look there first. Failing that I'd start bottom-feeding on craigslist or online. You don't really want anything valuable locked up on campus unattended.

    Personally, I'd budget half an hour or so to check out the above, and if that failed order something cheap from Amazon.

  7. #7
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    You might what to call some of your local Dick's sporting goods. I picked up the bike below from a local store last night. Last years model is only 250.

    http://www.dickssportinggoods.com/product/index.jsp?productId=12375058

  8. #8
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    +1 Campus security cleans out abandoned bikes , cuts locks, makes room in the bike racks,
    then Auctions them bikes off..

    Do more homework, to learn the good from the poo.
    Last edited by fietsbob; 04-03-13 at 11:26 AM.

  9. #9
    The Recumbent Quant cplager's Avatar
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    In college towns, you might have more luck finding bike shops that sell used bikes. Try calling around and see what you can find. Used bikes are a great resource, but finding the right one can be difficult if you (or a friend) don't know about bikes.
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  10. #10
    Been Around Awhile I-Like-To-Bike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by spectastic View Post
    Your other option is a single speed or fixie. Bikesdirect sells bikes straight from the factory (gutting out the middleman). So if you want a new bike, that would be the place. Keep in mind though, that every bike would eventually require regular maintenance. (eg. cassette/cogset replacement, chain replacement, brake pad replacement/adjustment, chain lubrication, tire maintenance, the whole nine yards).
    Quote Originally Posted by spectastic View Post
    also, don't buy a bike from walmart. I can't stress that enough.
    Why on earth would a college student who is not an a cycling enthusiast want a fixie to "get some exercise/have some fun biking around campus, around my neighborhood and on some well-kept trails"?

    The regular maintenance song and dance and Walmart bashing sound less like specific advice to the OP's question than the battle cry of an LBS devotee trying to drum up business.

    Why wouldn't a new big box store single speed cruiser priced at under $100 serve the OP's needs quite well?

  11. #11
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    Wally world has a single speed /fixie.. less craptastic because there is less to it..

  12. #12
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    Garage sales.....more then half that I go to have decent bikes...usually a mtb

  13. #13
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    Craigslist is really hit or miss. It can be very time consuming and frustrating. You want the bike to fit reasonably well and not have any unexpected mechanical problems. If you have some time on your hands, however, some persistent craigslist searching could pay off. Other options include yard sales and flea markets. The earlier in the morning you go, the better your chances. My Dad is an early bird and he amazingly finds used bikes for $10-$50 at yard sales every now and then.

    If you feel like you're hitting a wall with Craigslist I'd recommend spending slightly more than $300 and get a GT Aggressor 3.0 mountain bike from a bike shop. I saw them on display at a bike shop in Linden, NJ for $320. GT's website has them listed at $370. Most bike shops will fix any kinks, such as loose spokes or brakes, before putting the bikes on the floor.

    Screen Shot 2013-04-03 at 1.47.53 PM.jpg

    I've owned a GT Aggressor 3.0 for nine years and put well over 5,000 miles on it. It was at least a couple years before I needed ANY repairs. I was doing the same type of biking as yourself; mostly short trips, some paved/ semi-paved trails. You do want to factor in money for things like a decent U-Lock. Also, many bikes, including the GT Aggressor, come with quick release wheels and seat, which are easily stolen, even in daylight. Low cost solutions to this include running a bicycle chain (the type that makes the bike go when you pedal) through the seat, and using metal clamps for the wheel levers from a hardware store. Alternatively you can use cable locks for the wheels and seat.

    One last suggestion is to check to see if there are any local bicycle co-ops that sell used bicycles. They may even give you a bicycle for free for putting in volunteer hours. Best of luck!
    Last edited by GeraldF; 04-03-13 at 12:08 PM. Reason: typo

  14. #14
    Senior Member Homebrew01's Avatar
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    You could also spend a minute or 2 and check Ebay listings near your zip code.
    Bikes: Old steel race bikes, old Cannondale race bikes, less old Cannondale race bike, crappy old mtn bike

  15. #15
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    I periodically check Craigslist but I don't often see any real bargains there. I think that if people go through the bother of listing a bike, they bother to price it accordingly.

    If you have both the time and local transportation, I'd check out garage and yard sales. My brother-in-law picked a very nice Canondale 3.0 Black Lightning road bike for under $50. We went over it and all it needs are new tires as the existing ones are dry rotted and some lube and grease and it is good to roll. He also recently bought a mountain bike at a sale, but it's in a bit rougher shape. But he's paying like $20 to $50 for these rides.

    It helps if you need a common frame size. He'll never run across anything that would fit my height (dang it).

  16. #16
    Been Around Awhile I-Like-To-Bike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lenA View Post
    Garage sales.....more then half that I go to have decent bikes...usually a mtb
    That is where the best bargains are, if the OP can find a bike in reasonable shape and fits her. Any kind of bike, but a road bike or fixed gear bike, would fit the OP's needs.

  17. #17
    Senior Member spectastic's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by I-Like-To-Bike View Post
    Why on earth would a college student who is not an a cycling enthusiast want a fixie to "get some exercise/have some fun biking around campus, around my neighborhood and on some well-kept trails"?

    The regular maintenance song and dance and Walmart bashing sound less like specific advice to the OP's question than the battle cry of an LBS devotee trying to drum up business.

    Why wouldn't a new big box store single speed cruiser priced at under $100 serve the OP's needs quite well?
    That wasn't even my first suggestion. My first suggestion was craigslist. And I said ss OR fixie. What's wrong with a flip flop hub? In fact that's pretty stand with single speed bikes. And I'm just speaking from my own experience about bike maintenance. There was constantly sht I had to do with my bike to make it better. I didn't have to do it, but it was necessary in the long run. If anything, me telling her to go to Bikesdirect should be a very telling sign that I'm all about saving money. I visited the bike shop maybe twice in the last year, and that was only because I didn't have the tools to do my own bottom bracket. If you want a good bike, you need to put the work into maintaining it, and that encompasses everything I mentioned. they're not hard to do. You don't need to be an enthusiast to do these basic things...

    And walmart bikes are sht. I can't believe someone has the sense to contradict that. My friend's walmart bikes' BB bearings eroded... yea when he took them out, they were literally oval looking little pellets. He goes through one of them every two years. I don't know why.

    If you actually took the time and money to buy a bike from one of these big stores, and found it to be a decent value, then I'm all ears.
    Last edited by spectastic; 04-03-13 at 02:27 PM.
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  18. #18
    Senior Member Monster Pete's Avatar
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    I'd suggest looking at second hand mountain bikes. An older bike with a rigid fork is basically bomb-proof and can be had for next to nothing. Usually all that's necessary is a good service and slick tyres to replace the knobbly off road ones. They will have good brakes and a wide range of gears. Mostly you'll also find attachment points for fenders and a rear cargo rack. Unless you live in a very dry area where you can rely on it not raining, proper full-coverage fenders are essential to avoid getting soaked by standing water, and a rack makes life easier by getting weight off you (backpack etc) and onto the bike.
    I've got a bike, you can ride if you like it's got a basket, a bell that rings and things to make it look good- Pink Floyd, 1967

  19. #19
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    Thank you for all of your advice.. I can't believe I got all of these responses in such a timely manner! I actually had not thought of checking the local bike shop for used bikes. I'd rather get a used bike from a bike shop.. I was checking on both the Pittsburgh and Eastern Panhandle (of WV.. where I currently live) Craiglist sections, and in Pittsburgh it seemed everyone was charging significantly more than what they paid to buy it! And then in my current area, people are really only selling WalMart or Target brand bikes. I wouldn't be opposed to getting a bike from Dick's, but I've just heard so many horror stories of people getting bikes from the big box stores.

    I went online and found out that the shop near my school sells used bikes on a regular basis.. so I think that will be my first stop. If that doesn't work, I will check online like many posters have suggested.. it's just hard when you don't know which bike will feel the most comfortable, or ride the best for what I want it for. I was asking the questions because it seems like everything I read contradicts itself... hybird, road bike, mountain bike.. they all seem good and bad for me.

    If I had to choose, I think I'd rather choose something that works best on pavement, then worry about hitting the trails later. I know I'm not going to get the absolute best thing on the market because I'm not willing to spend all of my savings, I just want something that will get the job done and allow me to have some fun.

    I'm going to compile all of your suggestions into a big list, then head into the bike shop with that as a starting point! Thank you all again.. I really appreciate it!! I'll let ya know how it works out..

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by GeraldF View Post
    If you feel like you're hitting a wall with Craigslist I'd recommend spending slightly more than $300 and get a GT Aggressor 3.0 mountain bike from a bike shop. I saw them on display at a bike shop in Linden, NJ for $320. GT's website has them listed at $370. Most bike shops will fix any kinks, such as loose spokes or brakes, before putting the bikes on the floor.

    Screen Shot 2013-04-03 at 1.47.53 PM.jpg
    THANK YOU! I'm so lazy when it comes to planning and preparing and researching.. it's nice to actually have the name and cost of a bike that someone has used personally to work with! Haha. I really appreciate you taking the time out of your day to show the price and such (with pictures!) and appreciate you sharing your experience. I would not mind spending what these cost.. I think with the bike, a nice lock, and some accessories I could spend $400 or so.. which wouldn't gouge my wallet too much. If I can get a new bike and still swing paying for Summer classes, I'd be a happy girl. I'm definitely going to also look into the used bikes too, though I'm not sure if I live by a co-op.. there might be some near D.C.. so I'll check that out too. Thanks!

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by cplager View Post
    In college towns, you might have more luck finding bike shops that sell used bikes. Try calling around and see what you can find. Used bikes are a great resource, but finding the right one can be difficult if you (or a friend) don't know about bikes.
    I actually did just check the one local bike shop that I know of near my campus.. and they sell used bikes! Fantastic.. I'm really excited to check them out. Thanks so much for the suggestion. I'm hoping that someone at the shop will offer me some advice, since I don't know much about bikes and don't really know many people that do! Thanks again!!

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    Yeah.. one of the first things I did was check on Craigslist after seeing lots of suggestions on this thread for that. I have family in Pittsburgh, and checked on the Pittsburgh forums.. people seemed to be scamming big time, selling used bikes for what they paid for them or more. And as far as the area I live in right now, it's the Eastern panhandle of WV.. basically people are selling Walmart or Target brand bikes on there. I do live close to D.C.. so I think I'm going to check Craigslist for that area.

    I'm 5'2" (and a girl, so "nuts" wouldn't be an issue for me! lol.. but point well taken!) so I don't think I'll have to worry much about being too tall.. I will need to make sure I get the right size for my short legs though.. the vintage bikes seem to be for people with longer legs than me, but I will keep an eye out to see if there's anything that might work for me. Thanks for the advice!!

  23. #23
    rugged individualist wphamilton's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by anniemarie1189 View Post
    THANK YOU! I'm so lazy when it comes to planning and preparing and researching.. it's nice to actually have the name and cost of a bike that someone has used personally to work with! Haha. I really appreciate you taking the time out of your day to show the price and such (with pictures!) and appreciate you sharing your experience. I would not mind spending what these cost.. I think with the bike, a nice lock, and some accessories I could spend $400 or so.. which wouldn't gouge my wallet too much. If I can get a new bike and still swing paying for Summer classes, I'd be a happy girl. I'm definitely going to also look into the used bikes too, though I'm not sure if I live by a co-op.. there might be some near D.C.. so I'll check that out too. Thanks!

    My wife has that Aggressor too btw, and she enjoys the heck out of it.

    Regarding the big box bikes you can get burned, especially with their low end mountain bikes, but some of the bikes would be fine for short commutes, campus riding and paved trails. I was happy with a GMC Denali ($159 on Amazon) for several years. So don't rule it out entirely if the local bike shops don't pan out. I'd even be tempted by the $99 fixie, if you can find a mechanic to go over the wheels, hub and headset. If it even lasts the summer you come out ahead compared to buying a $500 or $600 bike that needs work or replacing in a couple of years. Just something to keep in mind.

  24. #24
    Senior Member spectastic's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by anniemarie1189 View Post
    Yeah.. one of the first things I did was check on Craigslist after seeing lots of suggestions on this thread for that. I have family in Pittsburgh, and checked on the Pittsburgh forums.. people seemed to be scamming big time, selling used bikes for what they paid for them or more. And as far as the area I live in right now, it's the Eastern panhandle of WV.. basically people are selling Walmart or Target brand bikes on there. I do live close to D.C.. so I think I'm going to check Craigslist for that area.

    I'm 5'2" (and a girl, so "nuts" wouldn't be an issue for me! lol.. but point well taken!) so I don't think I'll have to worry much about being too tall.. I will need to make sure I get the right size for my short legs though.. the vintage bikes seem to be for people with longer legs than me, but I will keep an eye out to see if there's anything that might work for me. Thanks for the advice!!
    yea there are some really shady deals on CL. But if you give it some time, do your research, and keep checking the site, you're going to be able to easily weed out the horrible rip offs, and run into a great deal. Just be sure you jump on those deals immediately, because some of them are literally gone within hours after their posting... some. There are also CL ads for massive sales, and evidently some of those sales are actually pretty good. I got one of my vintages from a farmer who basically horded bikes, fixed them, and then sold them, at very good prices too. And there are small sized vintage bikes out there. I've come across plenty of them.

    good luck with summer classes. Those were a PITA... especially if you take a lot of them, and considering right after that is fall semester, so you're pretty much going to school for 16 months straight.
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  25. #25
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    There's a ton of farmers around where I live.. so many I'll look into them haha. And I will keep an eye out on Craigslist, I definitely want to take my time with whatever I end up getting, no rash decisions. And thanks for the luck.. I need it! I just want to get done as quickly as possible.. I've changed my major a few times, and since I've finally settled I'm ready to just graduate already. I'll be looking forward to saving some cash on gas and getting some exercise by biking around campus.. Thanks again!

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