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Old 07-25-10, 09:02 AM   #1
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How to buy a hybrid

I'm stuck indoors today, so I added the following to the "Why to buy a hybrid" sticky. I'd appreciate comments and promise not to be more tactful than I sometimes am...


>>

Some hopefully useful advice on buying a hybrid:

The shop
- Final assembly and tuning of the bike are done by the shop you buy from. Given that components and frames on different brand's bikes often come from the same factories, you should worry more about the skill of the mechanics at the store you buy from than the manufacturer. One quick (but not infallible) test for a good store is asking if they custom build wheels. Another is to see if they stock Kool Stop brake pads and SRAM powerlinks - low profit items for the store, but ones that makes a big difference to a bike.

- It's useful to know if your salesman is on independent commission. If he is, he'll be much less interested in selling you the right bike for you and much more interested in moving whatever carries the biggest commission that month - which will often be the lemon the store couldn't otherwise move. Phone ahead of time and talk to a salesman. At the end of the call thank him and ask if you should speak only to him when you come in. If he says "Yes!" too emphatically then be wary.

- The best time to get a super-bargain is when makers change to a new year's model. The differences are usually minor or cosmetic and the discounts can be substantial.

- Try to buy your bike at a time of year when the store won't be busy. That way it will be more likely to get more attention from a better mechanic.

Components
- Saddles, tyres, brakepads and chainrings and gear cassettes are easily changeable on a bike. You can negotiate changes in all these components as part of your purchase.

-- If you like a bike except for the saddle, then tell the store and ask them if you can test ride and buy it with a different saddle. If the answer isn't yes, go to different store. Saddles are very personal - ass shapes vary so much, and the same person will sometimes need different saddles on different bikes because of changes in riding position - but one that works very well for a wide range of people of people is the WTB Speed V. And it's fairly cheap as saddles go.

-- You should almost always change stock tyres on a new bike for better ones. They'll be faster, more comfortable, and resist punctures better. Marathon Supremes or Duremes are usually the best all round choice. Ask the store about Slime or Sludge filled self-sealing inner tubes too.

-- If you are going to ride in rain and don't have disc brakes, have the bike fitted with Kool Stop Salmon or Dual Compound brake pads.

- If you are going to leave the bike locked up on the street, then buy security skewers to replace the quick releases on the wheels and seat post. These need a special key to unlock them and will stop your bike from being stripped of these components.

- When you buy the bike, have the chain fitted with an SRAM Powerlink. This will let you remove the chain much more easily so that you can clean it when needed. A nice side effect of specifying Kools and a Powerlink can be that you get taken more seriously by the store and they assign a better mechanic to assembling your bike. Booking a course in bike maintenance should help too

- If you are a heavy rider, planning to tour loaded up, or ride hard off road, then avoid wheels with a fashionably low spoke count and consider hand built ones. High quality hand built wheels are often a much better upgrade than higher end shifters and the other stuff that differentiates different levels of the same basic design.

- If you don't have one, buy a good pump with a pressure gauge when you buy your bike. Use it regularly. (The Truflo Evolution is excellent.)

Carbon fibre
- Regarding carbon fibre components, be aware that:

-- The complex anisotropic carbon fibre weaves used in expensive racing bikes do give them a marginal advantage over metal bikes in some competitive events. But weaving this sort of CF is very expensive and in lab tests the cheaper CF used in less elevated racers - which will be the same as that used in a CF hybrid - lacks the most of desirable properties of the good stuff. Low end CF is usually just a marketing gimmick to give a bike more glamour at a low cost and increase profits.

-- Carbon seat stays and chain stays on a metal bike are often marketed as ways of reducing "road buzz" and making a bike more comfortable. They don't really work!

-- Carbon adds significant danger and hassle to a bike. It can take invisible damage that can cause a component to snap instantly at a later time. Always have a carbon bike professionally inspected after even a minor crash or other shock.

Drop handle hybrids
- If you want a ready made drop handle hybrid, they are fairly readily available and called cyclocross bikes. For the sort of riding you'll probably want to do it is a good idea to have the stock cantilever brakes changed for v-brakes with little gizmos called "travel adapters". (Cantis are powerful and flexible but adjusting them is a dark art, and they can squeal or even cause fork judder if special care isn't taken - these problems can be especially bad with carbon forks.) Bikes Direct sells crossers from $500 up (their prices are VERY aggressive) over the Internet; unless you're quite at least a little skilled with mechanics it's a good idea to find a local mechanic to assemble and check the bike when it is delivered, and to fit those v-brakes. The Specialized Tricross and Kona Jake are probably the crossers your local stores are most likely to stock. The Surly Cross Check is extra tough and very popular among traditionalists.

Gimmicks
- Even good bike companies are prone to loading bikes with useless gimmicks to sell them to customers. Carbon fibre seat stays are a fairly good example; Specialized's use of supposedly shock damping Zertz inserts is an even better one. Try not to be take in by this sort of thing.

New technology
- Some new-ish pieces of technology that do work well are:

-- Disc brakes, which give much better braking in the wet (at least if they are decent disc brakes - the best low cost disc brakes are probably those made by Tektro.) Discs can be hydraulic or mechanical. The hydros are harder to maintain. With either, ask how to maintain them and make sure that you are happy with doing the job, or at least you'll know *when* to bring the bike in for a brake service.

-- Internal gear hubs, which require much less maintenance, laugh at bad weather (which can do really nasty things to over refined modern powertrains, thanks to the very thin gears used to get 9, 10, or 11 speeds per chainring) and let you shift gear while stopped. A downside to these is that most stores don't know how to repair them, so in the unlikely event yours has an internal fault you'll probably need to replace it.

Summary

- Choose the store carefully.

- Your best upgrades are a saddle that suits you and premium tyres.

- Be wary of gimmicks designed to sell you a higher priced bike.

- Try to buy just after a maker changes models for a year, or during the off-season.


<<<

I should probably add something about negotiating prices, forming a group of people to order the same bike, and advice on pedals and sizing. Unless someone else feels like doing those jobs? I'd especially appreciate hearing from people who maintain (or don't) disc brakes. Oh - and the trick of checking if a bike has a good BB and cranks as a guide to its overall quality. (These are critical and good cranks are some of the hardest components to make, but they are unsexy. So less scrupulous bike makers tend to skimp here and push up the spec on the components that people notice more.)

I'd especially appreciate comments from qmsdc15 and sixty fiver(although I think I know what "Basil" will say about hand built wheels.)

Last edited by meanwhile; 07-25-10 at 09:16 AM.
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Old 07-25-10, 10:15 AM   #2
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Since your guide covers about everything I have little to add
Just one little advice for people who know nothing about bikes but are looking to buy one:

Most bike manufacturers do not actually "manufacture" bikes, they simply make a frame or even more simply buy a cheap taiwenese frame and put their name on it ... and then they fit that frame with components from other companies.
Most people look at the rear derailleur to determine the overall quality of a bike ... bike manufacturers know this and so they will mostly fit a rear deraileur that is of better quality than any of the other components of a bike. Considering that the rear deraileur is a relatively cheap component, the manufacturers are trying to fool you and by doing so they try to make more money!
Do not be fooled by bike brands that use this method.
There are serious brands outthere that will fit a whole bike with components of the same "group" and quality ... these bikes are obviously going te be a tad more expensive ... but you will at least know what you bought and you will know you can rely on it.
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Old 07-25-10, 10:44 AM   #3
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Since your guide covers about everything I have little to add
Except for the excellent advice you added on the other copy of this post:

Quote:
Quote:
Originally Posted by AdelaaR View Post
I almost completely agree with what meanwhile said and thank him in the name of all cycling newbies for some great advice.
A few things I'd like to add:

-Security skewers are a cool addon, but are either crappy or quite expensive ...
Good point. Pitlocks are excellent, but expensive. The cheap skewers that I like take a special pentagonal allen key and are buggers to remove without it. (I had to try recently!) They're sold under various names and cost about $25. I've never heard of anyone losing anything secured with these. Of course, if they DID become common, then thieves would start carrying pentagonal keys. But until then they seem to work.

A nice trick someone on the forums taught me is filling any opening for an allen key with cheap glue and a small ball bearing. Do NOT use 2 ton epoxy! You'll be able to chip the cheap stuff out in a couple of minutes to do a repair, but no thief will be willing to do this. At least that's what I was told. I wouldn't go this far unless I was leaving a bike in a real nightmare zone like New York. If I was then I would secure my shifters this way. Or I'd secure a Brooks saddle's seat clamp this way anywhere - they're super-stealable.

Quote:
an other and easier way to secure your bike and both of your wheels when you have quick-releases (as most bikes do these days), is to get a large enough lock to secure both your frame AND both of your wheels to a solid object like a lamppost. I use a Kryptonyte "kryptoflex" lock (http://www.chainreactioncycles.com/M...?ModelID=37272). It is light and small enough to carry around using the supplied bracket and it is long enough to easily lock both wheels and the frame to about anything. It comes in a combination or keylock edition.
Good point. Of course you could use both. And most competent thieves carry one of two tools - bolt cutters or a bottle jack. If they're carrying bolt cutters and your wheels are nice ones, then they'll be gone in a snip.

Quote:
-Disc brakes are somewhat of an overkill on most bikes. They surely will stop your wheel, but your wheel will not stop and start drifting. I have Shimano XT brake levers (with "servo wave" action to make them have more power when braking) combined with XT brakecables, XT brakes and XTR pads ... the whole set cost me about $100, which is less than discbrakes and I assure you that they stop my wheel DEAD if I pull 'em hard enough, even in very wet conditions!
No rim brake is as immune to heavy rain as a disc. Yes, your XTs will stop you in rain, but not as fast as discs could - because before a brake pad will work properly on a wet rim it has to wipe that rim dry, which takes time. Given that discs are now widely available I think one should know the advantages. (Btw - Kool Stop Salmons are much better than any Shimano pads in the wet.)

Quote:
V-brakes have a few benefits over disc-brakes: they are much lighter and they are easier to maintain by casual people.
Absolutely. V's are the best maintenance choice. As I said, don't consider discs without making sure that you can maintain them. Very important point!

Quote:
Warning: Do not go for cheap brake-cables! Professional quality brake cables are only a small investment of a few euro's (or dollars if you like) and they make a world of difference since they flex less and thus brake more
Another excellent point. Good cables - I favour Shimano - and good fitting of the cable can transform a bike's brakes. Which is another reason for choosing the shop that will perform final assembly carefully - even good cable will behave poorly if it is improperly cut or the routing has a few mm too much or too little curve at a key point. SIS gear cable is even trickier to work with. Jagwire make fancy coloured stuff that some makers favour because it looks good and helps sell the bike, but its performance is second rate (unlike the more expensive Jagwire). I'd ask your your LBS to ditch the stuff when they build your bike up. Asking for decent cable will also boost their respect for you, which will help ensure a better build.

Which reminds me that the best site for component reviews is mbtr.com. Here are the cable reviews:

http://www.mtbr.com/cat/drivetrain/cables/

Quote:
Just one little advice for people who know nothing about bikes but are looking to buy one:

Most bike manufacturers do not actually "manufacture" bikes, they simply make a frame or even more simply buy a cheap taiwenese frame and put their name on it ... and then they fit that frame with components from other companies.
Most people look at the rear derailleur to determine the overall quality of a bike ... bike manufacturers know this and so they will mostly fit a rear deraileur that is of better quality than any of the other components of a bike. Considering that the rear deraileur is a relatively cheap component, the manufacturers are trying to fool you and by doing so they try to make more money!
Do not be fooled by bike brands that use this method.
Yes. Look at the bottom bracket and cranks, where they don't expect you to look.

Quote:
There are serious brands outthere that will fit a whole bike with components of the same "group" and quality ... these bikes are obviously going te be a tad more expensive ... but you will at least know what you bought and you will know you can rely on it.
Mixed groups can be used to good effect - my crosser has Campagnolo shifters and derailers (THE best imo) but then uses Shimano brakes and decent Taiwanese cranks (Dotek; these days I'd expect FSA). This makes sense on a drop handle, because the integrated shifters are such a critical component. (Which reminds me - I should probably list makers of decent cranks and BBs if I'm recommending this trick.) But examine mixed groups with care. Stuff that comes from Shimano, SRAM (including Avid brakes and Truativ cranks), Suntour, Campagnolo (if you ever see it on a hybrid), FSA, and Tektro is mostly good. But think at least a dozen times before buying a bike with unbranded Chinese cranks!
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Old 07-25-10, 11:23 AM   #4
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Oh - and be wary of components from high end racing bikes. Standard bike components are designed to be tough, good value, reliable and long lasting. High end racing stuff is designed partly to get every last ounce of performance (and damn value, component lifetime, etc) and partly to appeal to high-end bike freaks will to spend money to get technological "ultimates" - even if they don't translate into performance.

A good example of this would be Campagnolo's 11 speed (per chainring - so 22 speed on a dual ring bike) powertrain. The thing gears cost more (they need to be made of super hard metal) wear out faster, and need the most exotic tools. A good tool to remove a normal chain costs 15. For the Campag 11 speed... 150. Oh - and you should use a seperate peening tool. I don't know how much that it is. Or even what peening is. I should probably find out - especially as I am stuck inside today - but the word is rather off-putting.

10 speed powertrains aren't quite that tricky, but they're still more neurotic and faster wearing than 8 or 9 speed.
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Old 07-25-10, 11:29 AM   #5
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I'd especially appreciate comments from qmsdc15 and sixty fiver(although I think I know what "Basil" will say about hand built wheels.)
Basil ?

You have me confused with that guy who runs the inn... he has no mad repair skills and a nagging wife.

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Old 07-25-10, 12:01 PM   #6
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How to buy a bike...

Go to a reputable shop that understands how to fit people to a bicycle... too many people buy bikes that don't fit them properly and I have seen this happen with folks who have dropped thousands of dollars on a new bike at large bike shops that are supposed to know what they are doing.

And then look at bikes... if the shop won't let you take a long test ride go somewhere else.

Pretty is as pretty does... don't get sucked in by a flashy paint job as that is just the icing on the cake.

But orange bikes do go faster.

Really give some good thought to what you plan to do with your bike... where you ride, how your ride, and how far you ride are important considerations. Will it see rain ? Will you be carrying cargo or towing a trailer ?

If you plan on putting down a lot of miles and riding every day spending a little more on a better equipped bike will pay off in the long run... get as much as you can afford and know that many components can be upgraded later.

The Girl spent well over $1000.00 on her bike and a few people could not understand why anyone would spend this kind of money on a bicycle... she has been riding it every day for nearly 4 years in every kind of weather, it is often towing a trailer, and she does not have a lot of repair skills.

But the bike rarely needs anything except regular service and fresh brake pads... have to say that an internal gear hub is a wonderful thing.

On discs... they are even easier to set up than v brakes (which are pretty easy to set up too), work well in all weather conditions, and save your rims which is important in wet climates
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Old 07-25-10, 12:44 PM   #7
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Basil ?

You have me confused with that guy who runs the inn... he has no mad repair skills and a nagging wife.

Please. It's a - in fact, an - hotel.

And she's a charming woman and saintly woman. After all, she hasn't murdered him yet.
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Old 07-25-10, 12:46 PM   #8
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Please. It's a - in fact, an - hotel.

And she's a charming woman and saintly woman. After all, she hasn't murdered him yet.
Fawlty Towers?
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Old 07-25-10, 12:49 PM   #9
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How to buy a bike...

Go to a reputable shop that understands how to fit people to a bicycle... too many people buy bikes that don't fit them properly and I have seen this happen with folks who have dropped thousands of dollars on a new bike at large bike shops that are supposed to know what they are doing.
Can you give some hints on how to recognize such a store? Also, is fitting a hybrid as difficult or crucial as fitting a performance drop bar?

Quote:
But orange bikes do go faster.
I'm pretty sure that yellow bikes are even faster:



- In fact, I had to add blue bar tape just to slow this bad girl down. (At least until I get tyres that brake better on road sections than those turquoise Michelin Muds. Great off road, but they turn tarmac into ice.)

Quote:
On discs... they are even easier to set up than v brakes (which are pretty easy to set up too), work well in all weather conditions, and save your rims which is important in wet climates
Good point about rims - I forgot about that. Re. set-up, are you talking about mechanical discs only, or hydraulics as well?
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Old 07-25-10, 12:50 PM   #10
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Fawlty Towers?
65's avatar, yes.
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Old 07-25-10, 01:08 PM   #11
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Useful links on negotiating -

Two excellent basic guides:

http://www.londoncyclist.co.uk/tips/...f-negotiation/

http://www.ehow.com/how_6028192_nego...-bicycles.html


And the advanced class - how a bike store thinks:

http://www.bicyclenewswire.com/index...e&cid=16&id=79

And the 18 month price cycle:

http://www.bikesportmichigan.com/store/howmuch.shtml


I'll summarize these the next time I time on my hands, but for now I'll just add:

- Don't be an ass and try to negotiate a large discount on a store that has been exceptionally helpful. If they're a bit more expensive than someone else, mention this and say that you think they're worth it. If the price gap is bigger and the bike is an expensive one, ask them to split the difference and/or give you an extra year's servicing with an overhaul in the off season.

- It's easier to get extra stuff free, or at a heavy discount, than it is to get a reduced price. Extra services, timed for the off season, can be even easier because they won't cost the store anything except the time of a mechanic who will be under-occupied anyway. For example, if you want good lights and a bike rack, don't mention this while you are buying. Instead decide on your bike, ask for cash, and then respond if this isn't enough by suggesting that you get, say, a 25% discount on accessories bought with the bike if you can come up with $100 (or whatever) worth of them to buy browsing around the store. And then add "Or a 25% discount and two year's free overhauls in the autumn - your choice of time - if I can pick out $200 of stuff."

- Another good move is to agree with one or more friends to buy the same model of bike. This should get you a discount even in summer.
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Old 07-25-10, 02:11 PM   #12
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I'm pretty sure that yellow bikes are even faster:
That is a popular misconception.

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Can you give some hints on how to recognize such a store? Also, is fitting a hybrid as difficult or crucial as fitting a performance drop bar?
I feel that a proper fit is essential if you want to be able to enjoy your bike to the maximum... any frame with compact geometry will allow for more rider variation while a classic diamond frame isn't quite as forgiving if you are looking for optimal fit.

Bike companies like this as they do not have to produce as wide a range in sizes as they would if they were offering standard frames and many hybrids come in s, m, l, and xl.

Compact frames need to be measured differently as a compact frame with a 52cm seat tube may have an effective top tube of 55cm so if you are coming from a classic frame with a 52cm frame you may need to ride a smaller compact frame.

If you have been properly fitted you should retain the information as this can make shopping much easier... I know I can ride a 52-55cm frame but the top tube measurement of 55cm is more important than standover as this determines how comfortable I will be on the bike when I am riding.

If you have lived in an area for some time and know other cyclists they can point you to decent shops... just because a shop is the biggest does not mean it is the best and small shops tend to deal with smaller volumes and cannot afford to annoy their customers.

Quote:
Good point about rims - I forgot about that. Re. set-up, are you talking about mechanical discs only, or hydraulics as well?
I find that disc brakes of either type are very easy to set up and hydraulics are even easier to service after their initial set up than mechanicals and offer better performance and modulation.
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Old 07-25-10, 02:13 PM   #13
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Wink

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But orange bikes do go faster.
Hahaha
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Old 07-25-10, 02:28 PM   #14
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Hahaha
And you should know this better than anyone.

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Old 07-25-10, 04:23 PM   #15
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That's the bike that Merckx used to set the world hour record!
I assumed you made a joke when you said something about orange bikes, but in fact you were very serious!
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Old 07-25-10, 04:45 PM   #16
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If orange bikes were that fast, Merckx's bike wouldn't have been fitted with a yellow speed booster strip on the seat tube. (Back then frames weren't strong enough to survive at All Yellow speeds.)
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Old 07-25-10, 04:52 PM   #17
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If orange bikes were that fast, Merckx's bike wouldn't have been fitted with a yellow speed booster strip on the seat tube. (Back then frames weren't strong enough to survive at All Yellow speeds.)
They were actually afraid that Merckx would snap the frame in half before he got up to speed and only an orange bike could survive Merckx's output and speed.

There was something about a non rhyming colour having special properties and the yellow speed booster (actually a braking device) was not used in 1972 as Merckx's bike had no need for brakes.

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Old 07-25-10, 04:56 PM   #18
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Please note the colour of the Molteni jersey as well...

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Old 07-25-10, 05:10 PM   #19
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Lol ... this has nothing to do with buying a hybrid but it sure is funny.
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Old 07-25-10, 08:01 PM   #20
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Since your guide covers about everything I have little to add
Just one little advice for people who know nothing about bikes but are looking to buy one:

Most bike manufacturers do not actually "manufacture" bikes, they simply make a frame or even more simply buy a cheap taiwenese frame and put their name on it ... and then they fit that frame with components from other companies.
Most people look at the rear derailleur to determine the overall quality of a bike ... bike manufacturers know this and so they will mostly fit a rear deraileur that is of better quality than any of the other components of a bike. Considering that the rear deraileur is a relatively cheap component, the manufacturers are trying to fool you and by doing so they try to make more money!
Do not be fooled by bike brands that use this method.
There are serious brands outthere that will fit a whole bike with components of the same "group" and quality ... these bikes are obviously going te be a tad more expensive ... but you will at least know what you bought and you will know you can rely on it.
Nubie, I hope you have educated yourself on "cruiser's with gears." LOL!!!
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Old 07-25-10, 09:54 PM   #21
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Most people look at the rear derailleur to determine the overall quality of a bike ... bike manufacturers know this and so they will mostly fit a rear deraileur that is of better quality than any of the other components of a bike. Considering that the rear deraileur is a relatively cheap component, the manufacturers are trying to fool you and by doing so they try to make more money!
D
this can go both ways. i suppose some manufacturers do it for the reasons you state, but at the same time in regards to components, the rear derailleur is one of the more complicated parts on a bike and most vulnerable as well. it has to shift through many gears reliably, and thus is much more important than the FD. also if the bike falls over on that side, the RD will get banged up. so a better RD is good here as well. it really is one of the more important components.

just because they use a cheaper FD and a more expensive RD means nothing. it really all depends on what other stuff is on the bike. just having an RD as the best part on a bike is not so cut and dry as you paint it.
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Old 07-28-10, 10:01 AM   #22
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One more minor point in favor of disc brakes, if you're transporting your bike with the front wheel off, disc brakes help simplify and speed that action up.
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Old 07-28-10, 10:35 AM   #23
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Indeed a very minor point.
With typical shimano V-brakes like mine it takes about 2 seconds to open the brake in order to let the wheel be removed.
I have two wheelsets that I exchange quite often and I really don't have any problem with this.
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Old 07-28-10, 10:36 AM   #24
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Nubie, I hope you have educated yourself on "cruiser's with gears." LOL!!!
I want to know as little about them as humanly possible.
You're still just trying to bash me instead of contributing something of value
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Old 07-28-10, 02:28 PM   #25
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One more minor point in favor of disc brakes, if you're transporting your bike with the front wheel off, disc brakes help simplify and speed that action up.
It is much easier to hit the brake rotor against things and screw up the braking... I deal with this all the time at the shop.
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