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  1. #1
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    Trek vs Raleigh vs Schwinn for newbie

    I'm interested in getting into bike riding and am in the market to buy a new bike. Well, I say new but I'd be happy with used, but the pickings here seem to be pretty close to nonexistent. I visited several local LBSs today and have come up with several options.

    Trek 7100
    Raleigh Passage 3.0
    Raleigh Venture 3.0
    Schwinn Sierra GS
    Schwinn Voyageur GS

    Most of my riding will be on the rough, pot-holy roads of New Orleans, and along paved paths around the lake and in the parks. As my fitness improves I may go on longer rides (50-100 miles) along paved country roads. I may also go on dirt hiking/biking paths in the state parks. I'd like to stay at $300 or less.

    As you can probably tell by my list, I keep veering between hybrid and comfort bikes. To help me decide, would you recommend (or recommend I avoid) any of these bikes concerning:

    overall use
    maintentance and repairs
    going off road very lightly (dirt paths, leaves, small roots, gravel, etc)

    Even though I realize $300 is pretty cheap by the board's standards, I'd like to get a lot of use out of this bike for many years to come so want to make sure that I won't grow out of it if what I listed above is all I intend to do. Thanks for your help!

  2. #2
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    It sounds like you want to do some miles. I'd look to what people ride that like to do miles. Very few of them ride comfort bikes. Craigslist is a wonderful thing. Especially if you decide which bike you like. You can fairly easily search for that bike on the used market and get it. You may have to pay for shipping if it is not in your area. And yes, you can approach sellers in other craigslist markets. I have done it a few times. Some are willing to ship others not. But you do increase the available number of bikes. For the kind of riding you envision and the money you have to spend, I would really try for that used market. If you can find something with Shimano 105 components, great. I'd recommend 700c tires. You can ride wider tires to help with the rough roads, 28mm or larger. They will be able to handle dirt paths fine. Just be careful of the large bumps.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Sci-Fi's Avatar
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    The Trek 7100, Raleigh Passage 3.0, and Schwinn Voyageur GS (in that order) would probably be your best bet, esp if you plan on 50-100 miles rides. I'm not a fan of suspensions, but in your case, the rougher conditions may require it. If you can afford it, take a closer look at the Trek 7200.

  4. #4
    NJS my life! roughrider504's Avatar
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    Dont worry about the streets harming your bike much. I know people that ride track bikes on the streets, and their bikes take it. At most, your wheels may need to be trued every once in a while. You dont really need the suspension either. The LBS may tell you otherwise, but this is my experence.

    In that line up of bikes, I would pick the trek. But since you want do do longer rides in the future, I'd look into a bike like the Kona Smoke or a mountian bike with slick tires.

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    Thanks for the advice. After having thought about it some more, I'd probably do 25-50 mile rides rather than 50-100 on some weekend excursions, but overall everything I said in the 1st e-mail would hold true in the second. And I'd like to say that 90% of my riding really would be in parks & neighborhood settings.

    I've been browsing through Craig's List and ebay, but am feeling rather nervous about getting something online since I dont know the first thing about working on a bike and the bikes for my size (I'm 5'1") seem to be awfully rare. Should I therefore just focus on what the LBS are carrying? Or continue on the online quest for a used bike?

    One bike that popped up on ebay was a Fuji Cambridge. How do you think that would compare to the others I'm looking at? One of the things I've also had to be careful about is making sure that the bike brand I'm looking at is carried/repaired at one of my local shops (there was an auction on a Marin Redwood that was tempting, 'til I found out nobody in Louisiana carried them).

    I also think I'm knocking the Schwinns out because the seat just doesn't feel comfortable to me. I realize I can change the seats out, but the Trek and Raleigh felt much more comfortable overall when I was riding them. Anyway, I'd welcome any and all advice y'all may have as I purchase my bike. Thanks again!

  6. #6
    Senior Member Sci-Fi's Avatar
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    The 2005 Fuji Cambridge is a good bike. BUT I wouldn't pay over $200.00 for it...that's the going price right now. The problem may be that you don't have an opportunity to test ride one to make a better informed choice. Plus it will probably come in a box and needs to be assembled and adjusted. I find truing and tensioning the wheels to be the one thing that almost always needs to be done with a mail order or department store bike. Better for most people to pay the LBS the labor fee to assemble and adjust it and remind them to true the wheels.

    Just about any bike can be serviced at and replacement parts can be found at your local LBS. The parts that need to be serviced or replaced are pretty much standard fare.

  7. #7
    Two H's!!! TWO!!!!! chephy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by astphard
    Thanks for the advice. After having thought about it some more, I'd probably do 25-50 mile rides rather than 50-100 on some weekend excursions, but overall everything I said in the 1st e-mail would hold true in the second. And I'd like to say that 90% of my riding really would be in parks & neighborhood settings.
    I wouldn't want to do 25 miles on a comfort bike. As a matter of fact I wouldn't want to do 10 miles on a comfort bike. They are fine for going around the neighbourhood, but really aren't meant for longer rides. I think you should be looking for something a little more versatile, especally if, as you said, you don't want to grow out of it too quickly. Out of all the bikes you listed I'd go with the Trek, but truthfully none of these bikes appeal to me very much. Going around the parks - yes, going on longer weekend rides - no. I'd prefer something more aero/sporty. Something like Marin Muirwoods is starting to look reasonable... but that's a bit out of your price range. Unless you go used, it's not easy to find a good all-around bike for $300. But it's not as though it's impossible to ride 50 miles on something like that Trek, if it's a leisurely 50 miles. But you'd have to pay me quite a bit before I do it on Fuji Cambridge.

    Other similar bikes which you might find interesting: Specialized Globe or Crossroads (I'd gravitate towards "Crossroads Sport" version), Giant Cypress, Marin Kentfield, GT Nomad (fitness geometry)...

    I've been browsing through Craig's List and ebay, but am feeling rather nervous about getting something online since I dont know the first thing about working on a bike and the bikes for my size (I'm 5'1") seem to be awfully rare. Should I therefore just focus on what the LBS are carrying? Or continue on the online quest for a used bike?
    I would at least try out your local craigslist and arrange to meet with the sellers and test ride the bike before making any decision regarding it. Read some basic guidelines about bike fit (Google search should produce plenty of hits) so that you know more or less what to pay attention to.

    One of the things I've also had to be careful about is making sure that the bike brand I'm looking at is carried/repaired at one of my local shops (there was an auction on a Marin Redwood that was tempting, 'til I found out nobody in Louisiana carried them).
    If you're buying it on the net, why do you care whether the local bike shops carry it or not? Bikes are bikes, modern bikes from different brands are very similar to each other, all the components are basically the same, so even if a store does not carry a certain brand, it'll certainly be able to repair/tune it as easily as the bikes they do carry.

    Of course one advantage of buying through a store is that it will most likely do the tune-ups free for you for a while (usually a year or so) whereas with a net-bought bike you'll have to pay (unless you learn to do maintenance yourself of course). Another is being able to try the bike out.

  8. #8
    Junior Member CTYankee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chephy
    I wouldn't want to do 25 miles on a comfort bike. As a matter of fact I wouldn't want to do 10 miles on a comfort bike. They are fine for going around the neighbourhood, but really aren't meant for longer rides.
    Curious as to why. I purchased 2 new Raleigh Ventures 4.0 (2007) recently and found them quite comfortable on the road as well as light trail (at a state park). What am I missing?

  9. #9
    Two H's!!! TWO!!!!! chephy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CTYankee
    Curious as to why. I purchased 2 new Raleigh Ventures 4.0 (2007) recently and found them quite comfortable on the road as well as light trail (at a state park).
    How far was your longest trip on them? Those are "comfort bikes" so of course they are meant to be comfortable - over short distances. But the problems for longer distances include:

    - A very upright position which increases air resistance and results in greater effort for the same speed, especially if there is a headwind and/or you're trying to maintain relatively brisk clip. Admittedly at 10 mph air resistance is negligible unless you're dealing with strong winds.

    - Same upright position does not allow you to efficiently utilize your cycling muscles. It gets frustrating and tiresome to keep riding that thing for hours on end in a completely inefficient posture.

    - Bike geometry is not designed for getting out of the saddle and pushing hard (say on hills).

    - Wide saddles usually found on such bikes will often cause chafing of inner thighs over longer distances. These saddles are also usually very soft and will, in some people, lead to numbness of certain private regions over longer distances.

    - Limited gear selection may cause troubles over hilly terrain (and the greater the distance you go the more hills you'll have to tackle, on average).

    - Suspension often found on such bikes makes for a cushy ride but steals pedalling energy, especially because suspension used on cheap bikes is pretty cheap and hence crappy. It also adds weight.

    - Even without suspension such bikes are usually not very stiff: they flex under load which results in similar loss of pedalling energy.

    - These bikes are usually quite heavy (a liability on hills).

    So it's not as though it's impossible to ride 10 or 25 or 50 or 100 miles on them, but you'll have to work quite a bit harder and it'll take quite a bit longer than if you have a bike better suited for the job (road, cyclocross, touring, "sporty" hybrid, no-suspension mountain bike with slick tires...). And it's not going to feel very good: you'll be cursing the cushy seat and that inefficient upright posture that felt so comfy initially. Of course if you're devoting a whole day to your trip, pedal very relaxedly through it, take breaks - you can easily go 40 miles with no problems. But, well, that's just a matter of how much you're willing to limit yourself speed-wise.

    Something like Raleigh Venture however can be adjusted to improve performance somewhat though: swap the saddle (and ditch the suspension seatpost), lower handlebars (the problem with that type of adjustable steam though is that you can't control height and distance from the saddle independently so you may have to end up compromising between handlebars that are too high but a good distance from the saddle and too far away but at a good height), maybe get different pedals (to install toeclips or just for better grip - clipless pedals would be an overkill for such a bike). And it has a good range of gears.
    Last edited by chephy; 03-26-07 at 01:35 PM.

  10. #10
    Two H's!!! TWO!!!!! chephy's Avatar
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    P.S. CTYankee, I just read your own thread about getting back into biking. Don't worry, your comfort/hybrid beast should serve you quite well for that, especially since you're not doing it for performance or anything. If it feels right - just keep riding it and pay no attention to what others including myself are saying: you know your body, your biking style, your limits and your goals better than we do. If you become more serious about biking and begin feeling that your bike limits you - you'll upgrade. The only suggestion I might have is to try out other styles of bikes a bit down the road. I myself started out riding on very lousy department store bikes and had no idea what I was missing until I tried out my biking friends' rides.

  11. #11
    Senior Member roadie138's Avatar
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    Get the bike that feels good to you.If it don't feel good you won't want to ride.

  12. #12
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    From what people have been saying, I think I'll probably stick with a hybrid rather than going for the comfort bike ride. Even just going around parking lots I can tell a definite difference in the speed between comparable comfort and hybrid bikes, so if I'm doing a longer distance, I can see where that might be frustrating. (Or if I'm having to huff and puff to keep up with other riders because of my bike's ineffeciencies.) By the way, thank you CTYankee and Chephy for the answer and question as to why Chephy wouldn't want to do 10 miles on a comfort bike.

    At the same time, however, I really like the upright stance and the cushy seat (it's one of the reasons I didn't ride my old bike as much as I got older). If I was in it purely for the exercise, then I could get a gym membership and use an exercise bike. I want to be gazing about, looking at the world, and the hunched over postures really won't help with that. Plus as I said earlier, I'm not into really fast speeds. If I'm on a weekend ride, it will probably be pretty leisurely along the river going to look at different plantations or something like that. One perk about Louisiana for bikers is that it's pretty much flat as a pancake, so unless there's a highway highrise, there are no hills. Even so, I doubt I'd use more than the 21 speeds available on these bikes.

    Of the bikes that have been mentioned, I'm definitely going to check out the Cypress. Is there a minimum model level I should be looking at? And do you rank it above the Trek and the Raleigh? Though I definitely appreciate the other suggestions people have been making I want to be able to try the bike out and the brands that are carried locally are:

    SE Bikes
    Fuji
    Pinarella
    Kona
    Kuota
    Guru
    Raleigh
    Kestrel
    Giant
    Trek
    Cannondale
    Serocca
    Gary Fisher
    Orbea

    (Kona Smoke is out of my price range.)

    Thanks for your suggestions, and keep the recommendations coming!

  13. #13
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    Well, on Ebay there's a "new" women's small 2005 GT Nomad LTD available for Buy it Now at $329 plus $30 shipping, which is a bit more than I wanted to spend but if it's going to be a great value then I'd consider it. It says the MSRP is/was $520 but when I went to GT's website the '07 Nomad lists at $349 and the Sport version is $470. I'm not sure if LTD is sport or regular, but is this something I should even investigate? Plus there's the factor that I havnen't ridden it...

  14. #14
    Junior Member CTYankee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chephy
    How far was your longest trip on them? Those are "comfort bikes" so of course they are meant to be comfortable - over short distances. But the problems for longer distances include:
    >Admittedly my longest trip so far has been 10 miles - There were a few challenging hills (easy going down though - just had to pedal in the lowest gear going up) 24 speed seems to be sufficient.

    Quote Originally Posted by chephy
    So it's not as though it's impossible to ride 10 or 25 or 50 or 100 miles on them, but you'll have to work quite a bit harder and it'll take quite a bit longer than if you have a bike better suited for the job (road, cyclocross, touring, "sporty" hybrid, no-suspension mountain bike with slick tires...).
    > At this time my main concern is a cardio workout and since my heart rate is significantly lower than most (Resting BPM=46) I need to work harder. That said I have to say it still seems easier than my old Fuji 10 speed road bike I had in the early 80's.

    Quote Originally Posted by chephy
    Something like Raleigh Venture however can be adjusted to improve performance somewhat though: swap the saddle (and ditch the suspension seatpost), lower handlebars (the problem with that type of adjustable steam though is that you can't control height and distance from the saddle independently so you may have to end up compromising between handlebars that are too high but a good distance from the saddle and too far away but at a good height), maybe get different pedals (to install toeclips or just for better grip - clipless pedals would be an overkill for such a bike). And it has a good range of gears.
    It is good to know if I want to change my rides that I can - thank you for that information. In the meantime, here's to better health and enjoying riding with my wife along the shores. BTW: I plan on riding the carriage trails in Acadia National Park the end of June. I hope we are able to spend several hours enjoying the scenery and packing a picnic lunch to bring along (including wine - drinking and driving )

    Cheers,

  15. #15
    Senior Member roadie138's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by astphard
    Well, on Ebay there's a "new" women's small 2005 GT Nomad LTD available for Buy it Now at $329 plus $30 shipping, which is a bit more than I wanted to spend but if it's going to be a great value then I'd consider it. It says the MSRP is/was $520 but when I went to GT's website the '07 Nomad lists at $349 and the Sport version is $470. I'm not sure if LTD is sport or regular, but is this something I should even investigate? Plus there's the factor that I havnen't ridden it...


    astphard Plus there's the factor that I havnen't ridden it would be enough to make me a little nervous.

  16. #16
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    Do the bikes in a series ride very differently from each other? For instance, if I've ridden a Trek 7200, will the feel be that much different from a 7500? (I realize the more expensive bikes have more solid components, but will it actually feel different in terms of sitting on the bike?) And at what point is the year of the bike going to make a difference? Say a 2007 compared to a 2003 compared to a 1998?

  17. #17
    Two H's!!! TWO!!!!! chephy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by astphard
    At the same time, however, I really like the upright stance and the cushy seat (it's one of the reasons I didn't ride my old bike as much as I got older). If I was in it purely for the exercise, then I could get a gym membership and use an exercise bike. I want to be gazing about, looking at the world, and the hunched over postures really won't help with that.
    Understood and respected. Yeah, you certainly don't need to be bent over like a pretzel as if you were in the Tour de France. Anyway, one advantage of the bikes you have been considering is adjustable stem, so you can play around with it to see at what height you want your handlebars (although, as mentioned before, some compromise will be necessary since height and distance from the saddle are not independent).

    I still say cushy saddles don't work well for longer distances but, I mean, what the hell: if you find that to be the case, you can easily swap the saddle. And if the cushy saddle works fine - even better. Just remember that a relatively hard saddle can be very comfortable; it just has to fit properly. (Lots of people on here love Brooks saddles made of leather (since it conforms to your shape over time), but given that they are at least 70 bucks a pop you probably wouldn't want to go that route. At least not until you become a cycling addict, heh heh heh!)

    One perk about Louisiana for bikers is that it's pretty much flat as a pancake, so unless there's a highway highrise, there are no hills. Even so, I doubt I'd use more than the 21 speeds available on these bikes.
    No, 21 speeds is plenty. Hybrid gearing allows for some very low gears. When I typed in my post about "limited gear selection" I had in mind comfort bikes that had 3 gears or so.

    Of the bikes that have been mentioned, I'm definitely going to check out the Cypress. Is there a minimum model level I should be looking at? And do you rank it above the Trek and the Raleigh?
    The rule of thumb in the biking world is that in a given price range all bikes produced by good manufacturers will be roughly of the same quality. There will be a slight variation in things like frame quality and components, but not enough to really worry about it. Certainly not enough to create some sort of ranking of good manufacturers. All the manufacturers you listed are basically good. Some do not make hybrids AFAIK (e.g. SE Bikes or Pinarello), but that's a different matter.

    So one good piece of advice (especially for lower price range) is: shop as much for the LBS (local bike shop) as for the bike. Of course, first and foremost pick a bike you like. But if you find in two different stores, say, a Trek and a Giant that cost and feel about the same - don't try to figure out which bike is "better" since they are about the same. Instead focus on which bike shop you like better: Which one has knowledgable friendly salespeople geniunly concerned about your needs instead of trying to get you to drop way more $$$ than you intended? Which offers a better post-purchase tune-up package? Which one is located more conveniently? Which one has a large selection of bikes in your price range (there are lots of snobby stores that may carry an occasional hybrid or two, but who mainly cater to the high-tec enthusiast crowd and do not consider someone like you an "important" client)? Unless you're really good at wrenching and prefer to do all bike maintenance yourself, a good relationship with your LBS is a very good thing.

  18. #18
    Two H's!!! TWO!!!!! chephy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by astphard
    Do the bikes in a series ride very differently from each other? For instance, if I've ridden a Trek 7200, will the feel be that much different from a 7500? (I realize the more expensive bikes have more solid components, but will it actually feel different in terms of sitting on the bike?)
    Sometimes it does make a difference since the geometry can actually vary quite a bit within the series. Apart from different geometries, you'll also possibly have different tires, different saddles, different forks (some suspension and some not), different pedals and different handlebars, all of which contributes to how the bike feels. Sometimes there'll be very little variation, and sometimes a whole lot.

    And at what point is the year of the bike going to make a difference? Say a 2007 compared to a 2003 compared to a 1998?
    If your question is about series, then bike geometries can vary dramatically over the years while the series retain the same name. I used to have a 2003 Marin San Anselmo (a hybrid, a bit more high-end and sportish than what you're considering) and I can tell you that my bike was quite different from what Marin called a San Anselmo in 2005, and that bike in turn is different from the San Anselmo they are selling this year.

    If you're asking about general bike quality/wear, I say it depends. Many older used bikes are in good conditions, many newer ones are trashed. As far as technology goes... there hasn't been anything very new in the past ten or so years in that price range. Of course once you go far enough into the past, you won't even come across any hybrids 'cause the concept didn't exist.

  19. #19
    Two H's!!! TWO!!!!! chephy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by astphard
    Well, on Ebay there's a "new" women's small 2005 GT Nomad LTD available for Buy it Now at $329 plus $30 shipping, which is a bit more than I wanted to spend but if it's going to be a great value then I'd consider it.
    Well, so with shipping that gets you into the $360 range which is pretty close to the MSRP. And you get no free service since you're not buying from a store. So it's not outrageous, but not a super steal either. Given that you can't try it out, I'd be a bit leery of it.

    EDIT: Now, wait a second, wait a second... I just checked it out myself, and the $350 MSRP is for 2007 GT Nomad, while the bike offered on e-Bay is a 2005 GT Nomad LTD. They are different, the latter one being higher-end. You will get better components in this one, and it is looking like a rather good deal then... Whether it's good enough to outweigh the risks of buying a bike "blind" and with no tune-ups thrown in - only you can decide... I'd be inclined to pass it up and shop locally if I were in your position, but that's just me.
    Last edited by chephy; 03-26-07 at 08:56 PM.

  20. #20
    NJS my life! roughrider504's Avatar
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    How a bike looks on paper is nice and all, but what really matters is how the bike feels to you. My advice is to not stress the details, just test ride a few bikes that appeal to you and buy the one that feels "right".

  21. #21
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    Instead of the hybrid, I'd go for something like the Trek 7.2fx. A new one is out of your range but it might be possible to get one used. Wider tires for those wonderful N'awlins roads (I lived there for 3 years), the ability to add fenders for those wonderful wet roads(practically everyday in the summer), flat bars for low speed maneuverability, plus you can add a rack so you can pack that picnic to Audobon Park or up on the levee.

    The front suspensions aren't really needed; my wife had a Trek 7100 before getting a 7.5FX WSD. Those suspension seatposts don't do anything that I could notice, either.

    The Giant Cypress ST is $240. It's a bit more upright than a Trek FX but may be worth checking out.

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    Thanks for all of your comments. I've re-ridden the Trek, the Raleighs, and have tried out the Giant Cypress (forgot which model, sorry!). I find the Raleigh to be the most comfortable for me, and since I notice a definite difference in the amount of effort required to maintain the same speed between the hybrid and the comfort, I'm choosing the hybrid Passage. When I go to the store today I'm also going to try out the 3.5 since so many people here don't really recommend the suspension. But I plan on leaving the store with either the Passage 3.0 or 3.5. I'll let you know how it goes!

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    I bought a bike! But what about hot weather?

    Finally! I've bought a bike! WOOHOO!!! I went with the Raleigh Passage 3.0. I tried the Raleigh without the suspension, and though others may not be able to tell a difference, I certainly could! Overall I've had good experiences at the LBSs in the area, and they all have 6 months of tune-ups, so I went with the bike that felt most comfortable. Got it back to the house and went for a 20 minute ride but got caught in the rain. I can tell I'm not ready for any 20-mile rides yet, but I'll be working on it! Thanks again for all the help!!

    Oh, one other question. I saw in CTYankee's thread that there was a recommendation not to keep the bike in the garage because of cold weather. Is there something similar with hot weather?

  24. #24
    Senior Member roadie138's Avatar
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    Congratulations astphard on your new ride.It sounds like you did everything right by going to your LBS. And finding the one that felt most comfortable to you.It will be fine in hot weather in your garage.The most inportant thing to remember is to keep it clean after rides.If your really anal about it throw a blanket over it.Thats what I do with mine. I keep mine in the bedroom but at a cost of 6 grand I treat it like a show car.My wife says I treat my bike better then I do her.

  25. #25
    Two H's!!! TWO!!!!! chephy's Avatar
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    Congrats! May you and your new addition to the family spend many happy hours on trails and roads. Ride! Ride! Ride!!!

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