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  1. #1
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    Tips on buying first mountain bike for someone who has NO experience

    I'll be heading off to school at Notre Dame, and am looking for a mountain bike i can ride around campus in all weather (including lots of snow).
    I really don't have any knowledge about bikes, but I've read blogs/tips on riding in snow (getting fatter tires, fenders etc.).

    Questions:
    1. I'm only 5 foot 1 (female). According to some sites, I should get a 14" frame (or thereabouts), but when bikes are advertised, they say 20", 24" etc. What does the 20", 24", 26" etc. refer to?

    2. Anyone have a bike to recommend? I can't afford to spend more than $200 total.

  2. #2
    Old School Rad mtnbiker66's Avatar
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    If you have a biks shop around go and see them and they'll help you out with the lingo.
    20" 24" and 26" refer to wheel size. 20" is the standard BMX wheel size and 26" is the standard MTB size. At 5'1" A 13 or 14 inch frams shoud be about right.
    Like a circus monkey on a stolen Harley......

  3. #3
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    When you read 20", 24",26" and 29" it is referring to tire size. You will probably want to stick with 26" as it is most common.

    Riding on campus in the snow isn't the same as riding on snow. I know at State, they were good at cleaning the sidewalks in the morning. This will make it slushy, possibly icy at points. Just go slow and cautious. Fenders are a good idea just to keep dry and prevent back spray.

    I would think cheap, especially if I am locking my bike outside. I know MSU sells "captured" bikes in the fall, but they are stored outside, and not a real bargain.

    5'1" would put you in like a 12 or 13" mens bike. That is the size I just gor for my 5'2" wife.

    I would check craigslist if you wanna stay around $200 (where are you located?). I don't know list price (not on Specialized site now) but i would look into a Hardrock. This is the model I bought as well, but may be in the $300-$400 range.

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    Wow thanks for the advice everyone!
    Jon - I'm thinking along the same lines. Bicycle theft is an issue at most universities, so I want to stay under $200.
    I'll be in South Bend (northern Indiana), and looked on the south bend craigslist site, but haven't found anything decent.
    I'm leaning towards 24" bike, because the 26's feel too high for me.
    What do you guys think of this:
    http://www.walmart.com/catalog/produ...uct_id=5412095

  5. #5
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    Well, it is hard to say. Most (everybody here) will say NEVER to a wal-mart bike.

    If you never intend on going off read, it may be an option. That bike will weigh a ton, and not work well after the fist semester, if at all. My wife also tried one of those before we got the Hardrock. It was so bad, she lost interest in riding, and it took a while to interest her in trying it again, until I got her on a "real" bike.

    I too looked at the S.B. Craiglist site, and didn't see much in your range.

    I would NOT get a "Full-Suspension" bike from them, it will be terrible. This is more in your range: http://www.walmart.com/catalog/produ...ct_id=10660677 but again, I highly recommend going to a bike shop, and seeing what they can do for you.

  6. #6
    Fourth Degree Legend junkyard's Avatar
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    That Walmart bike is more or less a toy. Are you currently located in South Bend? If not, try your local craigslist for more options.
    Quote Originally Posted by dminor View Post
    The caveat with a strap-on, of course, is you will have to get creative with a couple of lock cables and an anchor point

  7. #7
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    If I go to a bike shop in South Bend, I will probably have to spend a lot more than $200 right?
    Should I invest a lot of money in a bike that will be ridden through snow/tough weather?

    I'm actually in Southern California until mid-August, so Craigslist would have a lot more options around here, but shipping a bike would be another $60-$80, so i'm not sure if it's worth it.

    I also don't know anything about bikes, and can't tell between a good and a bad one, so Craigslist wouldn't be a good idea, unless I have someone help me.

    When choosing a bike, should i primarily look at brands? Are there certain brands I should stick to (ie. Hardrock) to ensure I get a quality bike?

    Jon: the Schwinn bike you recommended looks great, but I'm too short for 26".

  8. #8
    aL1
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    Quote Originally Posted by irishgirl View Post
    If I go to a bike shop in South Bend, I will probably have to spend a lot more than $200 right?
    Should I invest a lot of money in a bike that will be ridden through snow/tough weather?

    I'm actually in Southern California until mid-August, so Craigslist would have a lot more options around here, but shipping a bike would be another $60-$80, so i'm not sure if it's worth it.

    I also don't know anything about bikes, and can't tell between a good and a bad one, so Craigslist wouldn't be a good idea, unless I have someone help me.

    When choosing a bike, should i primarily look at brands? Are there certain brands I should stick to (ie. Hardrock) to ensure I get a quality bike?

    Jon: the Schwinn bike you recommended looks great, but I'm too short for 26".
    I have a Schwinn Aluminum Comp from Walmart, it isn't a bad bike. Whatever you choose, invest in a good lock.
    Last edited by aL1; 12-19-09 at 06:44 AM.
    2009 Hardrock Sport Disc

    2006 Schwinn Aluminum Comp/DOA

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by irishgirl View Post
    Jon: the Schwinn bike you recommended looks great, but I'm too short for 26".
    I am not sure where that comes from. Again, my wife is your height, and rides a 26" wheeled bike.

    That Schwinn has a low stand over, and should work. Know that Wal-Mart bikes typically do not come in various sizes, while a "real" bike from a bike shop will have several options.

    This Myka hardtail (made for women) is $400 list, and could be has for less at the end of season. I would take the next month and try to scrape together another $150-200 and buy that.

    http://www.specialized.com/us/en/bc/...=38429&eid=107

    The Hardrock is cheaper, if flower's aren't your thing:
    http://www.specialized.com/us/en/bc/...=38434&eid=107

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    Thanks al1, I'm looking for a good bike lock now (on Amazon). Any recs?

    Jon: I'm scrapping the craigslist idea (since i don't know what i'm doing), and will get the Schwinn from walmart as a last resort. Will take your advice on going to a bike shop.

    I found the Hardrock at a local south bend shop for $355 http://www.outpostsports.com/bikes.htm

    I also found a local bike shop that has tons of bikes for sale. Are any of these good?
    http://albrightscycling.com/itemlist.cfm?category=52

    Between the Hardrock for $355 and the bikes listed at albrightcycling, which would you choose?

  11. #11
    Old School Rad mtnbiker66's Avatar
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    The trek womens 820 may be just what you need. The bike will be out in the elements and it may get stolen so the less you spend the better off you are. Locks only keep honest people honest.
    Like a circus monkey on a stolen Harley......

  12. #12
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    ^ I agree.

  13. #13
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    A rattle can spray paint job seemed to be the accessory of choice on the bikes at my college. I think the spray kinda "hid" the bike, made it a little less appealing to bike thieves. Not that you could "hide" a great bike like that, but it could make a new but inexpensive bike look less "new" and inviting.

  14. #14
    aL1
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    I use a 'combination' of u-locks and a cable. I'd go with any major brand, like OnGuard or Kryptonite...
    Last edited by aL1; 12-19-09 at 06:45 AM.
    2009 Hardrock Sport Disc

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  15. #15
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    Just take into account that you get what you pay for.

    If you are just looking for a simple bike, then $200 might just do it. But, if you want something that will last and will function the way you want it to, then you really need to double that price.

    However, if you just need to get around the campus, a folding bike is quite nice as you can just fold it and take it inside with you (so nobody steals your investment). To stay under your $200 budget, I'd recommend the "Miami" bike from Citizen bikes. http://tinyurl.com/32wc4j

    It has 20" wheels and folds up to 33 x 11 x 24.5 in (32lbs fully loaded). It comes in 5 different colors, and you can even get a bag for it!
    An added benefit is that you can chain your bike through both wheels and the frame with one lock if you do decide to leave it on the rack.

    Take into account that the tires you put on it will greatly affect your traction. Just be careful when you're riding on snow or ice.
    Last edited by pocketdrummer; 07-24-09 at 07:24 PM.

  16. #16
    Old School Rad mtnbiker66's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pocketdrummer View Post
    Just take into account that you get what you pay for.

    If you are just looking for a simple bike, then $200 might just do it. But, if you want something that will last and will function the way you want it to, then you really need to double that price.
    ![/I][/B]
    False. Ipicked up a cheap Ironhorse for my father about 5 years ago. It has the cheapest components you can get on a bike. The RD has no name on it at all......none of the components do. It has tons of miles of gravel roads, campgrounds, I even commuted on it for a while. As long as it's not abused a cheap bike will go for a long time.
    Like a circus monkey on a stolen Harley......

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by mtnbiker66 View Post
    False. Ipicked up a cheap Ironhorse for my father about 5 years ago. It has the cheapest components you can get on a bike. The RD has no name on it at all......none of the components do. It has tons of miles of gravel roads, campgrounds, I even commuted on it for a while. As long as it's not abused a cheap bike will go for a long time.
    I'm not saying there aren't diamonds in the rough. I got a $1500 bike for $480 and I've been riding it every day. As a general rule, cheap bikes are... well.... cheap. So, feel free to gamble if you want, but don't be surprised when components malfunction or fail on you.

  18. #18
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    pocketdrummer: Will the Miami bike (or folding bikes in general) be ok in Northern Indiana (snowy) weather?
    If so, I'll go to some local bike shops and see how it feels to carry 30 lbs around. I'm tiny (5'1, 100 lbs), so I'm not sure if I can handle it. I'll check to see if the lockers we have are big enough to stow the bike in.

    Chris: thanks!!! I'll look into spray painting my new bike, if i don't get a foldable one.
    aL1:

    Thanks jon & mtnbiker66! If i decide against a folding bike, I'll get the one you guys suggested. =)
    aL1: Do you think using more than 1 lock helps a lot?

  19. #19
    Old School Rad mtnbiker66's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pocketdrummer View Post
    I'm not saying there aren't diamonds in the rough. I got a $1500 bike for $480 and I've been riding it every day. As a general rule, cheap bikes are... well.... cheap. So, feel free to gamble if you want, but don't be surprised when components malfunction or fail on you.

    Lock a high end bike to a bikerack at a big school and see if you keep it long enough to see the components fail.
    Like a circus monkey on a stolen Harley......

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by mtnbiker66 View Post
    Lock a high end bike to a bikerack at a big school and see if you keep it long enough to see the components fail.
    Notice that I didn't recommend a $1500 bike, nor did I suggest locking it to a bike rack.

    Are you having a bad day or something? I don't see why we're arguing here...

  21. #21
    Old School Rad mtnbiker66's Avatar
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    Who's arguing???? I thought we were having a discussion on a public forum.1500bucks to most folks is not high end it's insane. 300 is high end to most people.If you ride one on campus you're gonna lock it on a rack at some point. If I'm railing down the side of a mountain I want good stuff under me but if I'm riding a sidewalk for 3 blocks it's not too crucial. There's a reason you see a lot of beater bikes on campus.

    Heck my real advice is the OP should get a P1. No gears to mess up and she can learn to ride street and DJ.......she'll be a happier person for it.
    Like a circus monkey on a stolen Harley......

  22. #22
    aL1
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    Quote Originally Posted by irishgirl View Post

    aL1: Do you think using more than 1 lock helps a lot?

    Yes.
    Last edited by aL1; 12-19-09 at 06:46 AM.
    2009 Hardrock Sport Disc

    2006 Schwinn Aluminum Comp/DOA

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by mtnbiker66 View Post
    Lock a high end bike to a bikerack at a big school and see if you keep it long enough to see the components fail.
    I went to a fairly large school, and grad school and I didn't not have my bike come up stolen. It wasn't a $1500 bike, but it was more than OP is looking to spend.

    Some common sense things, like not locking it up outside over night probably helped.

  24. #24
    Old School Rad mtnbiker66's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jon-w9 View Post
    I went to a fairly large school, and grad school and I didn't not have my bike come up stolen. It wasn't a $1500 bike, but it was more than OP is looking to spend.

    Some common sense things, like not locking it up outside over night probably helped.
    Common sense goes a looooong way........but it seems to be in short supply.
    Like a circus monkey on a stolen Harley......

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by irishgirl View Post
    pocketdrummer: Will the Miami bike (or folding bikes in general) be ok in Northern Indiana (snowy) weather?
    If so, I'll go to some local bike shops and see how it feels to carry 30 lbs around. I'm tiny (5'1, 100 lbs), so I'm not sure if I can handle it. I'll check to see if the lockers we have are big enough to stow the bike in.

    Chris: thanks!!! I'll look into spray painting my new bike, if i don't get a foldable one.
    aL1:

    Thanks jon & mtnbiker66! If i decide against a folding bike, I'll get the one you guys suggested. =)
    aL1: Do you think using more than 1 lock helps a lot?
    There's another model that is aluminum that weighs 25 lbs, but it is a little more pricey and only comes in silver.

    A couple other alternatives are Downtube bikes and the Dahon Boardwalk (nice if you can find it cheap). I've heard really good things about the Boardwalks. You can find them as low as $190 if you look hard.

    http://brandscycle.com/itemdetails.cfm?ID=7900

    Again, a bike's traction and handling on snow will be largely dependent on the tread on the tires. If you find that they are too slippery, you might want to look for replacements that are more suited for your terrain. (But this will go for all bikes.)

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