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  1. #1
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    beginner getting into biking: which entry level bike?

    My sister is encouraging me to go biking with her, and as it happens, there are some sales at the sears I work for that bring some of the entry-level bikes even closer in reach, so I'm thinking of springing for a bike and trying it out!
    I'm a noob with bikes but know a lot about cars, so I should understand what you can tell me about bike selection.

    First concern is that I'm not ENTIRELY sure of my aims. Have fun, save some gas, spend some calories: that's in my mind's eye, anyway. I live in Iowa City, which is relatively bike-able, not so urban as Baltimore (where I moved from), lots of students bike around. So, I'm thinking... road bike or hybrid?
    But I suppose there is a chance that I'll really enjoy it, and want to try some trails! I do not know.

    I'm 25, 5'7", and 240#. Trying to decrease that latter specification. I've been told that 26" ought to be an appropriate size.

    I've ruled it down to a couple bikes... we're looking favorably at the schwinn discover, which we have on sale for $180. It's a "hybrid" (road bike with wider tires...?), has a rack already (if I aim to go biking to pick up groceries or go to the library, it'll be pragmatic), and has fenders (if water splashing is a genuine problem for those biking in pants they might wear to work). According to a friend, the adjustable angle on the handlebars is a useful feature as well. I would intend to take it to a shop to tune it up.

    However, what really is the difference? Is a trail bike just a road bike with a heavier frame, shocks, and fatter tires with a coarser tread pattern?
    We also have ironhorse brand trail bikes: a maverick 2.2 for $190, and a larger osprey 9.1. Both are also aluminum, but also have front and rear brake rotors, and the maverick 2.2 may or may not have a better shifter mechanism "shimano ezfire" (simply according to one individual).


    I suspect that this will be a road bike for me, but if the disk brakes are better, and the "ezfire" shifter on the maverick is better/ easier than the "sram" grip shifter on the schwinn, and I can make it a road bike anyway just by putting road bike tires on it... is the maverick better over all and potentially more versatile?
    Or if there are subtler details to quality that will become apparent, and the schwinn is better built, not to mention it looks better and has fenders and a rack already-- and possibly the seat is more comfortable for cruising, not racing, which is what I'll be doing-- then go with the discover?
    (although I just learned that scwhinn, iron horse, and even mongoose are all under the same umbrella company!)

    A fundamental question of course is that I have not been a bike rider, and do not know with certainty what my needs will end up being, I only think it'll be mostly an urban commuter but maybe I'll like trails. I also do not know yet what is comfortable for me, if, like shoes, bikes are somewhat a question of fit: I don't know what size I am.
    It makes answering this question more ambiguous.

    But if you can give me an opinion between the bikes for what to start with. And if I like it and am riding regularly, in a few years, I can always of course upgrade to something else!
    thanks for the advice!

  2. #2
    Old, SLOW bike rider! ;)
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    spin_prod_522283901.jpgspin_prod_534462601.jpgThe Schwinn is a road hybrid, yes it will do some mellow, dirt paths/trails but it's not ment for off road/single track, mountain trail riding. It would be a decent entry level, commuter, utility, recreational machine. The Iron Horse's, are low end MTB's they are made for off road/cross country trail riding and unless you put some "thinner slick tires" on them, they will feel like "boat anchors" riding on the city streets and paved trails, jmho. Now if you REALLY want to buy a "Big Box Store bike", then get it in the BOX and take it ASAP to a REAL bicycle shop and have them assemble it properly. The assembly people at WAL-Mart, Sears, K-Mart etc. "DO NOT HAVE a SINGLE CLUE" on how to properly set up a bicycle!!!!!! BTW: when Sears says "26 inch" they mean the "WHEEL SIZE" not the frame size!!! Frame size is what NEEDS to fit you for a proper riding bicycle!

    You'd be better off going to a Real Bike Shop and "riding" several types and brands of bicycles and finding the one that, "Talks to YOU"!! They can fit you properly and set the bike up to function at 100%. A lot of bike riders call Sears/WalMart, ect. bikes, "BSO's" Bicycle shaped objects. YMMV.
    Take care, RIDE SAFE, have FUN!
    B.J. Ondo
    1993 Mongoose Switchback MTB, converted to a "comfort bike"! :)

  3. #3
    Senior Member a1penguin's Avatar
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    I think you should avoid anything that's a mountain bike with a suspension fork because in your price range they are all crap. I think you would be well served by a hybrid that has fatter tires and mountain bike gearing. 32mm tires will give you a smooth ride on the road and you'll be able to ride on gravel paths. I agree with the ability of xmart stores inability to assemble bikes properly. The qualifications for those positions are probably "knows how to use an adjustable wrench". I think it will be worth the $50 or so that a real bike shop will charge to assemble.
    2012 Cannondale Synapse 3, 2012 Trek 7.5 FX Disc, 2003 Trek 2200 WSD, 1997 Specialized Rockhopper Al Comp

  4. #4
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    Hey,

    Thanks for the advice. I'm definitely starting with an entry level bike --for my first bike and foray, cannot possibly justify anything more until I know I'm using it-- but yeah, I've already arranged to take it to a real bike shop for re-assembly/tuning. I work at the sears I'm buying the bike from, and we all joke about the assembly quality: thrown together by a guy who is paid per-bike, so the sloppier (faster) he is, the more money/hr he makes. Which to be fair still isn't a lot.

    I read some other comments from old forum posts that suggested likewise: if I'm going to be commuting at all, I do NOT want a mountain bike.
    Really, I strongly suspect it will be a devoted road bike.
    Just registered for a college next Fall, and I aspire to bike around campus, too, for example.

    Between these two models, then, would you suggest the schwinn volare or the discover? Both are hybrids: the latter would be more upright seating and fatter tires, and has fenders and a rear basket equipped. The former is more of a road bike, with narrower tires, but also a less comfortable (but more powerful/leveraged...?) seating with lower handlebars, and while it lacks fenders, it comes with trigger shifters instead of gripshift stock: which I've been assured are much preferred by most.
    If upright is much more comfortable for getting around campus, my biker friend tells me that $50 can get a trigger shifter if I find I really want it, anyway.

  5. #5
    Old, SLOW bike rider! ;)
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    IF "comfort" is your main concern and you'll be mostly using it to ride around the campus, the local coffee shop, the store, etc. then I'd get the "Discover". I'd prefer a "non-suspension" fork but it's not a deal breaker, having the "Rear Rack" might come in handy and the fenders are great when it rains or there's crud on the road. The Volare, takes after a "fitness hybrid", ie: you use it to ride to get a work out, personally, I you want a more fitness/road unit, I'd WAIT till you can afford a "Bike Shop" version as a fitness hybrid would be used to ride, longer distances at a faster pace but less "comfort", of course this is JMHO, YMMV. hope it helps! Glad your going to get it set up by a bike shop, a good shop can make a BSO, run surprizingly well!
    Take care, RIDE SAFE, have FUN!
    B.J. Ondo
    1993 Mongoose Switchback MTB, converted to a "comfort bike"! :)

  6. #6
    Carpe Velo Yo Spiff's Avatar
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    The Volare is more of a flat bar road bike. The discover is most definitely meant as a city/utility bike.

    Since you are new to cycling and unsure of what direction you will take it in, I think the discover would be a better choice for now.

    As previously mentioned, the 26" is a wheel size, not a frame size. The frame size is the most important thing. I'm the same height as yourself and find a frame with an effective seat tube size of 50-52cm to fit me right. I say "effective size" because sloping top tubes with longer seatposts change the actual measured size, but not the fit of the frame. Here are pics my bikes if it helps give you some idea of the frame sizes you are *probably* looking at. I have short legs, but a longer torso. This should put you in the neighborhood however.

    1988 Trek 900 MTB, converted to drop bars and street tires.

    Old Red on the job by Yo Spiff, on Flickr

    2000 Bianchi Veloce

    Celeste by Yo Spiff, on Flickr

    1988 Schwinn Prologue

    Prologue by Yo Spiff, on Flickr
    2000 Bianchi Veloce, '88 Schwinn Prologue, '88 Trek 900, '92 Trek T100, 2000 Rans Tailwind

  7. #7
    Senior Member BaseGuy's Avatar
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    If you're not 100% sure biking is for you and want to try it out, I strongly suggest a USED bike. Look on Craigslist in your area. I bet you'll find lots of solid, name-brand hybrids and rigid mountain bikes (i.e., no suspension) that cost $350 or more when new, but are now being offered at $100.

    My own hybrid is a 1997 Specialized mountain bike that would go for about $100 today. With skinny, high-pressure tires, the thing is nearly as fast as a road bike (I have a real road bike, too), is comfortable, and is fun to ride just about anywhere.

    Good luck getting started.

  8. #8
    we be rollin' hybridbkrdr's Avatar
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    My information at this point might be outdated but I once did a comparison for someone and found the GT Traffic 4.0 had some interesting parts. Except now it has 32 hole wheels instead of 36H. I think Giant made some interesting models as well.
    Feeling Good by David Burns

  9. #9
    Senior Member a1penguin's Avatar
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    Yo Spiff I love your bikes. I guess I'm just old and still like the clean lines of the bikes of yesteryear. I do like STI shifters and more reliable grouppos that modern bikes offer.
    2012 Cannondale Synapse 3, 2012 Trek 7.5 FX Disc, 2003 Trek 2200 WSD, 1997 Specialized Rockhopper Al Comp

  10. #10
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    Thanks for the advice!
    Going with the discover.
    More I consider it, really, this will be an urban commuting bike. If it's not comfortable, I may not get into riding it regularly. If I find I love it, and want to ride recreationally on scenic back roads and trails, then, I can get a dedicated road bike (rather than a compromise).

    Thanks for the clarification on frame size: that makes more sense. My bike-enthusiast coworker -who also works at a bike shop, so ought to know- says it looks like it'll work fine for me. Myself, I don't know what fits yet. Just getting into this, so I simply do not know what a comfortable fit means. I'll trust my coworker.

    Alternatively, there are some craigslist options in a "comfort bike" now that I'm more firmly sure that that is what I'm looking for (by the way, what is a "crank forward" design? would I want it?):
    http://iowacity.craigslist.org/bik/3450498423.html
    http://iowacity.craigslist.org/bik/3519139285.html (too small?)

  11. #11
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    Hey btw!
    I know cars and am an ase master tech... for cars.
    You'd never consider a car without a suspension. Stiffer suspensions help handling, that's all-- and you can't just make it infinitely stiff for the best high-speed handling. No suspension at all, just a rigid frame, and you'd lose contact with the road on 2 tires around tight turns. You want every tire in continuous contact with the road, mostly a level vehicle with equal amounts of weight on each wheel, and ideally, for every bump, the tire rides up and then back down: in one half of a cycle exactly (obviously, picking a set of shocks will always be a compromise). Bumpy roads require a softer suspension to perform, one example where a stiff racing suspension for the refined and paved asphalt track would be worse on a rally track..
    Other considerations is that, say, for a drag race in a rear wheel drive car, a soft rear suspension lets all the weight transfer to the back for traction.

    Details aside, why would one prefer NO suspension on a road bike? What's the advantage of no springs, no shocks, at all? Plausibly a good bump will cause your front wheel to bounce entirely off contact with the pavement (and then you can't steer for that moment), where a suspension could have kept it on the ground.

    Coworker tried to tell me it's because shocks absorb your effort in pedaling and saps energy/endurance. maybe... is that the real reason...? Cause once the suspension compresses, it'll stay compressed, I don't see how the forward momentum of the rear drive wheel is lost into the front suspension all that much. If this IS true for bikes... then likewise, do stiffly sprung cars ALSO get better fuel economy? ;-) (tell your doubting wife that you put coilovers on the car to save gas money, hah).

  12. #12
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    I think until spend $1k+ on a bike the suspension shocks on hybrids and mountain bikes just add weight and sap power. Imagine a pogo stick effect every time you rotate the pedals. You can't compare a few hundred dollar bike to a car. If you must have suspension I would get one with a mechanical lockout for smooth roads. Wider tires at lower pressure are a better way to smooth the ride out IMO.

    That's a nice looking Trek but beware than step through frames like that are typically female specific frames.

  13. #13
    Old, SLOW bike rider! ;)
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    The Spec. Globe is only a "3 speed" with a internal gear hub!!!!! Ok for flatland but if you have any hills, I'd avoid it, jmho. Also it to looks like a "womens style frame", some time refered too as a, "mixte style" frame, FYI.
    Dunbar is right, that Trek is a "womens style frame", the angled down top tube makes it easier for "short legged people", (ie: a lot of women) to step thru. Usually the "top tube length" is shorter on a womens style frame, than on a man's style frame FYI.
    Last edited by bjjoondo; 01-15-13 at 11:00 AM.
    Take care, RIDE SAFE, have FUN!
    B.J. Ondo
    1993 Mongoose Switchback MTB, converted to a "comfort bike"! :)

  14. #14
    S'Cruzer pierce's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by berninicaco3 View Post
    Hey btw!
    I know cars and am an ase master tech... for cars.
    You'd never consider a car without a suspension. Stiffer suspensions help handling, that's all-- and you can't just make it infinitely stiff for the best high-speed handling. No suspension at all, just a rigid frame, and you'd lose contact with the road on 2 tires around tight turns. You want every tire in continuous contact with the road, mostly a level vehicle with equal amounts of weight on each wheel, and ideally, for every bump, the tire rides up and then back down: in one half of a cycle exactly (obviously, picking a set of shocks will always be a compromise). Bumpy roads require a softer suspension to perform, one example where a stiff racing suspension for the refined and paved asphalt track would be worse on a rally track..
    Other considerations is that, say, for a drag race in a rear wheel drive car, a soft rear suspension lets all the weight transfer to the back for traction.

    Details aside, why would one prefer NO suspension on a road bike? What's the advantage of no springs, no shocks, at all? Plausibly a good bump will cause your front wheel to bounce entirely off contact with the pavement (and then you can't steer for that moment), where a suspension could have kept it on the ground.

    Coworker tried to tell me it's because shocks absorb your effort in pedaling and saps energy/endurance. maybe... is that the real reason...? Cause once the suspension compresses, it'll stay compressed, I don't see how the forward momentum of the rear drive wheel is lost into the front suspension all that much. If this IS true for bikes... then likewise, do stiffly sprung cars ALSO get better fuel economy? ;-) (tell your doubting wife that you put coilovers on the car to save gas money, hah).

    a bicycle weighs like a 10th of what the rider weighs. a car weighs 10X or 30X what its driver weighs. the whole bike is the suspension, stand up on a big bump and let your arms and legs absorb the shock.


    any bicycle suspension below about $1000 is junk for a heavy rider. the springs will be tuned for a 150 lb kid and will bottom out with a 240 lb rider.

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