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  1. #1
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    Newbie Q: Marin Fairfax v. Jamis Coda v. Specialized Sirrus v. Giant Rapid 3

    I'm trying to decide among some hybrids or flat-bar road bikes at about $500, and would love some advice from the veterans. I read though a lot of the posts on this forum re: these bikes, and the consensus seems to be they are all good, but I don't know how to make a decision, or if there are some telling differences among them.

    I'm a 28 year-old guy, 5'10", about 175, in decent shape, and have been putzing around on hybrids since college -- at least until I moved to L.A., and got in the awful habit of driving 2 blocks for coffee.

    Now I'm back in the Bay Area, and looking to get a solid bike to go for some weekend 10-30 mile rides around the Bay Area roads, both flat and hills. I'm not ready for a road bike, especially since I'll also be occasionally just riding on SF city streets, so I thought I'd get a hybrid geared more toward performance than comfort, or maybe what some salespeople have told me is a "flat bar road bike."

    There are four in particular I test rode (just a 5 minute spin) and liked within my budget ($400-$600), and would appreciate any insight on them:

    2009 Marin Fairfax (19"). $499 at Marin Factory store; aluminum frame w/ carbon fork; derailer: shimano sora; crankset: TruVativ Touro 3.0; rims: Alex DC-19 (28c).

    I liked that this is a light bike with road-bike components. It seemed pretty smooth and put together, but I see some people say that the bottom-of-the-line sora could be trouble.

    2010 Specialized Sirrus (54 cm). $469 at LBS; aluminum frame; derailer: shimano altus; crankset: shimano FCM-191; rims: Alex S500 (32c).

    Seems very light and comfortable, but I wonder what I'm losing with not getting the carbon fork of the Marin?

    2010 Giant Rapid 3 (medium). $550 at LBS; aluminum frame (chromoly fork?); derailer: shimano sora; crankset: FSA Tempo; rims: Giant Sport Road (28c).

    This felt very fast, but I was bouncing around from the vibrations on a rough city street on a test ride.

    2009 Jamis Coda (19"). $430 at Sports Basement; steel frame; derailer: shimano acera M360; crankset: FSA alloy triple; rims: Alex ID-19 (28c).

    I love how the steel makes it a smooth, sturdy ride, but I wonder what I lose with the added weight?

    I also checked out a Gary Fisher Monona, but had to ride a 17" and didn't get a good idea about it, and the Raleigh FT1 Alysa, which was nice but I felt a little too upright.

    I wonder too if maybe I can eliminate the Giant Rapid -- the 28c tires + all-aluminum frame being trouble w/ vibrations? My favorites rides are in the hills above Berkeley and Palo Alto, and just winding through the Presidio -- and none of those roads are particularly smooth, so maybe I need to go with a more comfortable bike.

    I read in one of the sticky posts that, at this price point, there's not going to be a lot of difference, so perhaps I should just figure out what feels best.

    I really appreciate the help. It's great to have experts here helping us newbies get introduced to the sport. Thanks again.
    Last edited by earlwarren; 02-21-10 at 09:13 PM.

  2. #2
    Great State of Varmint Panthers007's Avatar
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    The best way to find "your" bike is to test-ride each of the offerings. The one you feel the most comfortable on - all the way around - is the one you'd ride the most. And that would be "your" bike.
    How do you keep an idiot in suspense?

  3. #3
    Senior Member mikeybikes's Avatar
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    Not to pick nits: The Sirrus comes with 700cx28 tires.

    Those bikes are all very comparable with similar component sets. Nothing wrong with Sora components, or the Altus and Acera components.

    You'll just need to compare each and pick one that says "you" the best.
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  4. #4
    Great State of Varmint Panthers007's Avatar
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    The components on a stock bike, like the one's you listed, are easily swappable. Want smaller tires? You can do it. Expand the gear ratio? No prob. Better brakes? Sure. The feel of the ride is what matters most to a hybrid person. That mostly comes from the frame geometry. So test ride - then decide.
    How do you keep an idiot in suspense?

  5. #5
    PatronSaintOfDiscBrakes dynaryder's Avatar
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    +1 on ride them and decide what you like best.

    That said,I don't know about your wrists,but my mild carpel tunnel would make me turn down the Sirrus. I have/had skinny tired bikes with alloy forks and my wrists did not like them. If you have no issues and smooth roads,you might be ok,but just making the point. If you're going to be doing hills and haven't been doing alot of riding,the Coda has the widest gear range of the bunch. And the Rapid's low-end caliper brakes won't be as strong as the other model's V brakes,and if they're not long reach you may have issues mounting fenders.

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  6. #6
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    I love my Sirrus, I have the plain model (2009) I just bought in august. The aluminum fork doesnt seem to be an issue for me, as the "bigger" 28c tires help smooth out vibrations. This is in comparison to the 2006 Allez triple that I had (sold it, hated drop bars) which had a carbon fork and 23c Michelin kyrlion carbon tires. I wish Michelin made the krylion tires in 28c, I would order a pair

    At the same time, The Jamis would be a good choice, too. Steel frame is really gonna suck up vibrations, and last I had checked Jamis bikes come pretty nicely speced compared to others of similar price ranges. The only jamis I could find in stock was a size too big, and I loved the way the Sirrus rode, so thats what I walked out with. I paid $10 more than your lbs sells it for, and it was a 2009 model. I had no problem paying what I did for it.

    Test ride each one though, then make a decision. In your situation, my money would buy the Jamis Coda. I was actually looking for one but no one had one, and the only people that wanted to order one wanted full MSRP, which is baloney. Unless your a racer, your likely never going to notice the extra weight of the steel, especially on an upright bike like were discussing

  7. #7
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    I'm a fan of the Marin Fairfax. Marin makes sexy bikes.
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  8. #8
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    Narrowed it down to two!

    Thanks for all the insight to everyone -- it's been very helpful.

    In the meantime, I've narrowed it down to two!

    I took each bike for about a 30m ride today. In case anyone had some last-minute thoughts, and in the interests of anyone else facing a similar decision in the future, I thought I'd share some brief conclusions. (Despite the colorful prose, all differences struck me as pretty minute).

    Giant Rapid 3. This is one fast bike. I rode around Golden Gate Park, and was blowing by cars (at least at stop signs). It felt very sleek and efficient. The problem is, every little bump in the road was like a dagger into my arms and nether regions. The steel fork doesn't seem to add anything but a pound or two of weight, and I got a little tingling in the hands on some downhills. The shifting was just OK, and the saddle was as rigid as a MUNI seat. It clocked in at 26 lbs on a bathroom scale.

    If my life depended on winning a race on a (recently) paved stretch of Grizzly Peak, I'd opt for this bike. But I'd probably need 3 ice packs afterward. Final grade: 7.4/10.

    Specialized Sirrus. This is one comfy bike. I like the grips, like the saddle, and the slightly wider 32c tires seem to smooth it out more. It felt a bit slower though -- maybe a combination of the tires and the more upright position? The shifting was just OK. The lack of bar ends and an adjustable stem was a bummer. It weighed 25 lbs. Final grade: 7.5/10.

    Marin Fairfax. This bike seemed to combine the best of the Rapid and the Sirrus. The solid build and the carbon fork sucked up a lot of the vibration, even going down a torn-up Folsom Street. It seemed like a perfect fit for my body geometry, and I like that I can adjust the stem. It shifted quite well (better than the same sora component on the Giant; strange), and felt pretty nimble and sleek. I like that Marin offers life-time free service for all tune-ups and gear upgrades, and the guys in the factory were super helpful and patient. It weighed a little under 25 lbs. Final grade: 7.8/10.

    If I had to pick among the prior three, I'd go Marin, easy. But then I rode....

    Jamis Coda. This bike is super sturdy and smoooooth....like Billy Dee Williams. The steel frame just feels so solid and put together, and I was cruising over parking-lot ruts out by the Marina without feeling much of anything. Had great geometry for me, and the shifting was like butter, maybe even a hair better than the Marin (Shimano Acera M360 rear derailer). However, the steel frame meant it weighed in at 29 lbs -- about 5 lbs heavier than the Fairfax. On a flat surface, I didn't notice (the momentum means you don't, I guess; it's been a while since college physics), but I could feel the weight a little when accelerating, when going uphill, and when going against the wind -- at least compared to the Marin. I'm bummed the stem isn't adjustable since I feel a little high, and no bar ends disappoints, plus the seat is a little stiff. I'm also not the biggest fan of Sports Basement, where I'd be buying it -- just b/c I feel like I'd get better service at the Marin Factory. But it is $70 cheaper than the Fairfax. Final grade: 7.8/10.

    I'm not sure how to choose between the two. Maybe I need one more ride on each. Or maybe I need to figure out what kind of riding I'll really be doing.

    It seems to me that, if I'm riding up on a nice secluded road in Tahoe or above Palo Alto or Berkeley, the Marin is the one that I want.

    If I'm cruising SF city streets, or ducking into the Presidio or Golden Gate Park on some well-traveled roads, the Jamis Coda is my guy.

    Problem is, I expect to do be doing a little of all of that. That's the dilemma -- but I probably can't go wrong with either, can I?

    If anyone had some last-minute ideas on differences between the two, or what I should be thinking about, I'd love to hear it, but otherwise, thanks again for everything.

  9. #9
    aka Phil Jungels Wanderer's Avatar
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    Sounds to me like the decision has already been made - Sounds like the Marin already has your name on it.......

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  10. #10
    Born Again Pagan irclean's Avatar
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    Aluminum frame/carbon fork and road gearing vs. steel frameset with MTB gearing. Perfect fit vs. Billy Dee smoothess. Their differences are their strengths. Tough choice. I'd say get both! Seriously, ride them both again and choose the one that feels best. After that you will have to learn to live with the "what ifs".
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  11. #11
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    I have much less experience than others here, so take my view for what it's worth. It seems to me like the Marin Fairfax edges out the Jamis Coda for you. You really seem to feel the difference of a steel frame, which many others seem to praise. Yet I think I've read (from Sheldon Brown's stuff) that more important factors in a bike's ride comfort include the tires, a correct fit, and the saddle.
    Quote Originally Posted by earlwarren
    It seemed like a perfect fit for my body geometry, and I like that I can adjust the stem.
    Quote Originally Posted by earlwarren
    I like that Marin offers life-time free service for all tune-ups and gear upgrades, and the guys in the factory were super helpful and patient.
    These seem like great offerings for your first bike in a long time.

  12. #12
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    The Marin looks like a very well thought out bike, except I really dislike adjustable stems. They can work loose at the most inopportune times, and they really take away from the looks of a bike. But if thats what you like, then so be it, because honestly, its your money and your gonna be the one riding it!

    It really does look like a nice bike though. I just couldn't own an adjustable stem! But once you found what position you liked, you could have the Marin store hook you up with a matching solid stem, for a rock solid connection, and save some weight, too.

    Sounds like your fairly well set on the Marin. To me, maintenance packages mean nothing since I do ALL of my own work (truing and tensioning, too) but for someone without the tools, I can see how that would make for a deal breaker! I would say take the Marin and Jamis both for a longer ride again if possible, hour would be good. See if the Marin still shines. If it does, buy it!

    Good luck and hope to see pictures of a new bike soon

  13. #13
    Alfredo Contador |3iker's Avatar
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    As I have posted earlier, the Marin Fairfax is a very good hybird. I'd stay away from that Jamis based on the weight alone. It's as heavy as my stock hardtail mtb with disc brakes!

  14. #14
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    Thanks again. A couple quick points:

    1. MTB v. road gearing: what's the functional difference? I asked the guy at Sports Basement and he was sort of stumped. Eventually said MTB gearing is designed to hold up a little better against torsion, wear & tear, etc.

    2. I've heard that about adjustable stems. I like the idea that I can tilt it up a little bit for cruising, but down for longer rides. (The website describes the Fairfax stem as an "Alloy Threadless, Adjustable with 0 to 60 Rise"). But yeah, I assume I won't want that on my next bike. I guess it's also adjustable vertically in addition to the angle tilt -- the stem can rise or lower w/ spacers? The Marin guy said something about taking out the spacers when I have the right fit, to lose a little weight? Not sure what that meant at all. Part of the problem is I have no mechanical sense. Can't even work a can opener.

    3. Any other times I'm going to feel the extra weight of the steel frame -- besides acceleration and hills? Conversely, when am I going to feel the harsher frame of the Marin -- rough roads, downhills? Any time I'm on a packed dirt trail (like a jogging trail; I assume the bike really won't go over anything rougher than that)? I haven't ridden enough unfortunately to know exactly what I should be looking for, and what's going to matter at the end of a longer ride.

    Thanks again. This is a great forum. Hope to be talking about rides and maintenance soon!

  15. #15
    Super Moderator no1mad's Avatar
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    Get them both. That way you'll have a back up bike that you like. You'll also have a tougher time designating one as the beater.

    That being said, if I had to choose between your two candidates? Jamis Coda.

    As to the Road vs. MTB gearing- MTB's are geared lower to make climbing easier, while the Road is geared higher, for a higher max speed (wholly dependent on the rider).

    ETA: Question: Are you planning on just taking the bike out on just rides, without stopping and locking up somewhere? Like at a bike rack with other bikes banging around? That carbon fork might get scratched and could weaken to the point of failure, but the chances of that actually happening ought to be rather low...
    Last edited by no1mad; 02-23-10 at 09:33 PM.
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  16. #16
    PatronSaintOfDiscBrakes dynaryder's Avatar
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    The difference between road and MTB gearing isn't just how high or low the gears are,but also the range. Road gearing is usually pretty narrow to maintain a more constant cadence on long rides. MTB gearing is usually broader to allow for constantly changing terrain. The Fairfax's biggest gear is 52/12(big ring up front,8th speed out back) which according to Sheldon's gear calculator(http://sheldonbrown.com/gears/) is 116 Gear inches;the Coda's 48/11 top combo gives 116.8 gear inches,so the Coda actually has a taller top gear than the Fairfax. In hilly terrain,you're going to be mashing up steep hills and playing your shifters like castinettes with the Fairfax while the Coda will allow you to spin easier and shift less. Of course,you can always change the gearing on the Fairfax,I'm just compairing the stock bikes.

    Carbon fork durability is pretty much a non-issue on street bikes unless you ride like an animal or don't take care of your gear. Don't ride down stairs and lock it where it won't get knocked about by foot traffic/bad parkers and you'll be fine.

    For the adjustable stem,two words: blue Loctite. Problem solved. From the pic on Marin's site I can tell you that it sweeps up/back and down/forward. Can't tell if it can be raised lowered without moving the spacers around. You can always do that;most stock bikes are set up with a stack of spacers slid down the steerer tube with the stem above them and the top cap on the top. You could change the height of the stem by pulling spacers out from underneath and putting them on top.

    As for the weight difference,there's alot of factors besides weight that come into play for hill climbing. Gearing,wheel weight,tire weight/pressure/tread,riding position...and the biggest thing is how strong your legs are. When I first started commuting,it was on a Trek 7200 and the hills kicked my azz royally. I gradually built myself up to where I could ride into/home from work without having to get off and push. Now my daily commuter is a 32lbs touring bike,and the hills aren't a big deal anymore.

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  17. #17
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    I'm riding a 2009 Fairfax and think it's a good bike. One thing I can strongly recommend is get a pair of Ergon GP-1 grips to replace the stock round grips. Here's a picture of mine. I also replaced the stock bar ends with some Forte Kor bar ends from Performance Bicycle.



    Before I did this, my wrists would be sore after a 20 mile ride. The Ergons reduced this to almost nothing.

  18. #18
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    Made a decision! Went with the Marin Fairfax after a final (long) test ride. It edged out the Jamis because it felt just a little more nimble and fitted to my geometry -- and the carbon fork made it awfully (though not quite) comparable to the Jamis in the smooth/sturdy department.

    I'm stoked about the new bike -- I just wish we weren't dealing with rain and tsunamis in the Bay Area otherwise I'd take it for a ride right now around the Bay.

    Thanks to everybody for your generous help and advice. It really helped me understand not only the differences among the bikes, but exactly what I'm getting with the Marin. I feel like I'll go into my next bike purchase 10x wiser already. Thanks again.

    PS -- Like the tip on those Ergon grips. Probably going to pull the trigger on those and maybe a new seat in a couple of weeks, once I see how I adapt to the new bike.

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    If you get the Ergons, be sure you get the ones with the alloy clamps as pictured. There is a model with "nylon composite" clamps but when I tried those they stripped out very easily. Hope you are liking your new Fairfax, I find the gears shift well if it is kept in proper adjustment. I found this video very useful, he also has one on the front derailleur.

    http://bicycletutor.com/adjust-rear-derailleur

    About 90% of the adjustment is having the right cable tension, once the limit stops are set right. If it doesn't shift right, often a 1/4 turn of the adjuster is all it takes. Hopefully you have a good floor pump with a gauge, I pump my tires up before each ride and set the pressure to about 80 lbs.

    Oh, and as for the seat, I am having no problems with the stock WTB Speed V seat (my Fairfax is a 2009 model). I've ridden a total of around 150-200 miles on it, the longest ride being 28 miles. I keep thinking about a better seat but so far I can't find a good reason to upgrade.
    Last edited by kh6idf; 03-01-10 at 07:44 AM.

  20. #20
    aka Phil Jungels Wanderer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by earlwarren View Post
    Made a decision! Went with the Marin Fairfax after a final (long) test ride. It edged out the Jamis because it felt just a little more nimble and fitted to my geometry -- and the carbon fork made it awfully (though not quite) comparable to the Jamis in the smooth/sturdy department.

    I'm stoked about the new bike -- I just wish we weren't dealing with rain and tsunamis in the Bay Area otherwise I'd take it for a ride right now around the Bay.

    Thanks to everybody for your generous help and advice. It really helped me understand not only the differences among the bikes, but exactly what I'm getting with the Marin. I feel like I'll go into my next bike purchase 10x wiser already. Thanks again.

    PS -- Like the tip on those Ergon grips. Probably going to pull the trigger on those and maybe a new seat in a couple of weeks, once I see how I adapt to the new bike.
    And, if you decide to go with bar ends (highly recommended) , consider getting regular bar ends, so you can still insert a Mountain Myrracle rear view mirror in the end of your bar. P.S. ------ You will love the GP-1 Ergon grips..........

    "Retirement is the best job I ever had!" Me, 2009


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    kh6idf and Wanderer: Thanks! Two more quick Qs along those lines, if I can pick your brains: If I get the Ergon GP-1 grips, can I stick with the Marin's factory bar ends -- or do I have to upgrade those as well? I kind of like the ones on it now, but a tech at a shop told me (w/o seeing my bike) that it might be "uncomfortable" and hard to install the new grips with the existing bar ends. I don't know what that means. Maybe I just need to buy the integrated GC-2 grips that come with bar ends?

    Also, I had one other question about chain maintenance on the Fairfax: should I get a pure oil lubricant that you drip on, one of these "cleans and lubes" lubricants like Rock n Roll (where you apparently put a lot more on?), or something else entirely -- and how often should I apply it?

    Having just spent all this money on a bike, I'd like to take care of it and have it for a while!

    Thanks.

    PS -- Going to give the WTB seat a try for a while. I figure maybe I just need to get used to it after not riding at all for a year or so. Thanks again.

  22. #22
    aka Phil Jungels Wanderer's Avatar
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    I don't have any knowledge of the OEM bar ends. I like a rear view mirror, so want ones that can expose the bar end, so I can insert a mirror in there. I like the GP-1 grips, because they allow this, and the fixing clamps are strong, easily adjusted, and foolproof. The Mountain Myrricle is a very good mirror, that gives a steady, large rear view, and is easily adjustable to any angle.

    As far as oil, it's a crapshoot. I clean and oil my chain whenever shifting gets less than precise and quick, or, whenever I hear it while riding. I have used everything from teflon oils, other bike specific oils, and full synthetic motor oils thinned 25% with mineral spirits. I use Shell Rotella T Synthetic, 5W-40,(dark blue jug) and mix the mineral spirits in myself, and always shake before using. I like this lube the best, and it works very well. I make a quart of this stuff for about $5.00. Also, this mixture seems to keep the chain the quietest for the longest. I normally ride about 200+ miles per week.

    How do the OEM bar ends come off? If you find the handlebars less than comfortable due to lack of angles, consider some bars with a slight rise, and slight pullback, to align your wrists more naturally. From what I can see on the Marin website, installing a mirror is easy, just pop out the plug on the end of the bar. It also appears that the bar ends would work fine with the GP-1 grips. (But, their picture angles aren't the best on their site.

    p.s. What color did you get?
    Last edited by Wanderer; 03-02-10 at 09:38 AM.

    "Retirement is the best job I ever had!" Me, 2009


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    Thanks. I actually figured out I have room for everything -- the Ergon's need 130 mm of bar space, and right now there's 127 mm between the bar ends (which just clamp on to the handlebar) and the bracket holding on the shifter/brake mechanism. So I should just be able to move the shifter/brake down a hair and there's room for everything.

    I actually have never encountered wrist/hand pain on long rides, but browsing around on these forums, I find horror stories of people who rode a bit "extra" one day and woke up w/o being able to type or brush their teeth. Since I spend most of the day on the computer, that sounds like death to me. I figure the Ergon's can't hurt as an insurance measure against that -- and it sounds like they're pretty comfortable to boot?

    Also, got the blue bike! It really pops.

  24. #24
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    Yes, I believe you can use the stock bar ends with the Ergons. You might have to loosen the shifters/brake levers and slide them in a little - it's no problem.

    The Ergons are supremely comfortable. Read the instructions about setting the angle. I set mine level and have never had to adjust them other than tightening the clamps a few times.
    After riding with the round grips and then switching to the Ergons the bike is much more fun to ride because it's so comfortable on the hands/wrists.

    I haven't decided on how to lubricate my chain either. So far with less than 200 miles I have been wiping the black stuff off after every ride and occasionally dribbling on some Pedro's Chainj lube and wiping it again after running through the gears a few times..
    I have yet to give the chain a thorough cleaning. I might get one of those chain scrubbing tools that you can use without removing the chain from the bike.

    I got the blue color too, it looks great. One last tip - want to make it 'pop' even more? Get some car wax and wax the paint.
    Last edited by kh6idf; 03-04-10 at 07:31 PM.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by kh6idf View Post

    I got the blue color too, it looks great. One last tip - want to make it 'pop' even more? Get some car wax and wax the paint.
    Pedro's "Lust" silicone bike shine is AWESOME at making a bike "pop" out at you. Wipe a light coat on then wipe off with dry cotton cloth. I applied some to my mountain bike, and even with all the scratches and digs, it lit up the red on that bike. My girlfriend even asked if I had done something different to it! She said it made the bike look almost new. Car wax takes far too long and is a pain, the Lust shine is very fast and easy. I wipe down my Sirrus once a week during riding season, fenders too

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