Hi, longtimer lurker, new member, and first time poster. I'm looking for a new bike and was wondering if anyone was familiar with the Motobecane brand of bikes, specifically the Motobecane Fantom XC. Specs can be found here: http://www.bikesdirect.com/products/...m_cross_cx.htm
I've finally come to the point (after planning to a couple of years back and then having other financial obligations take priority) that I'm going to buy a new bicycle (after 19 years on a ~17" 10 speed mountain bike that I got for my 10th birthday and really doesn't fit me as I'm now 6'2, 230). I have to say that the old Schwinn Woodlands of mine held up really well through a lot of abuse over a lot of years, but I'm tired of my knees hitting my wrists/handlebars as I ride.
I can really only afford to get one new bike, so I've decided that a cyclocross style seems like the way for me to go. I'd mainly be using it to commute to and from work (5-6 miles each way 10-12 round trip), but that means some rough roads with the occasion pothole, having to deal with some curbs, and (depending on the route) the possibility for a mile or two of dirt road so I wanted something up to a bit more of the rough conditions than I think of traditional road bikes being able to handle. Also, I weigh in at ~230, and would like to put some panniers on it for commuting, so I'd need a sturdy frame able to take on some weight. On weekends on the other hand, I'd like to get back to going some longer distances on roads and light trails, so I don't want to sit fully upright like on a mountain bike (plus I'm not going to be doing those kinds of trails), so it seems like a cyclocross bike is the best bike to fit my needs if I can have only one. (I know people would suggest I get one for each type of riding I do, but that's not really in my budget, unless I shop at walmart.)
The thing is, after like 6 weeks of the occasional e-bay search and regularly trolling craigslist in my area, I haven't seem to come up with any used cyclocross bikes with a 58 cm frame (this seems to be the best size for me based on talking to guys at the local bike shops and using several online sizing calculators, but none of the guys at the local shops either had a bike of that size built up or they just weren't willing to waste the time letting someone who wasn't looking to buy today and was only looking at the lower end bikes try one out to see how it fit). So I decided I'd have to look at new bikes, but the thing is my budget has a pretty hard ceiling at ~$700 and I'll like to go for less if at all possible.
As I see it, as far as cyclocross bikes go, that leaves me with the aforementioned Motobecane Fantom XC and the Redline Conquest Sport. Since we don't have a Redline Dealer around here and the Motobecane is only sold online, I can't really try out either one. The Redline barely comes in at the top of my price range while the Motobecane would leave me with some money left over to get the rack, panniers, pedals, and fenders I'd want and still stay within my budget. Does anyone know of any other options?
The thing is, I don't really know anything about the quality of the Motobecane bikes. They tend to get bashed around on certain online forums because a vendor apparently used to use some less than desirable advertising techniques at some point in the past on one or more of those sites (don't know if it's the same guy who currently sells them, if this even really happened or what). Whatever the reason, it seems hard to get an unbiased review of them (some people really seem to like them, but those posts are often called spam by people who really seem to hate them). I've done a lot of repairs on my current bike myself (just about anything that can be done without speciallize chain/spoke tools), so I'm not afraid of the amount of setup that come from a bikesdirect.com bike.
So anyway, I'm looking to hear from anyone with experience on the topic. Are the bikes of good quality? If so, why are they so cheap? Is it just the fact that they don't have a brick&mortar presence? I also notice that there are only 2 chainrings up front on the bike I'm looking at (the fantom xc). Is the fact that it only has 16 speeds going to provide me enough gearing to do all that I want to do? (I don't see myself going much over 50 miles at a time and while I sometimes hit [to me] steep hills, they're always paved.)
If you can think of some other options that I should be looking at instead, that'd be great too. As a poor grad student, my budget is pretty tight and dropping what to me seems like a lot of my on a wrong bike that I couldn't ride (because it doesn't meet my needs/doesn't fit/etc.) would be worse than getting a bad deal on the perfect bike, though I really can't exceed $700. Is it even possible to get a good bike to fit my needs in this price range?
I'd greatly appreaciate any and all advice anyone would like to provide.