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  1. #1
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    Bike Shopping for a Complete Beginner

    Iím getting the bike bug again and think this time Iím going to have to go through and finally get one.

    From reading around different forums, Iíve picked up that nothing beats going in and trying out bikes to find the one that feels right. That said, I donít live in a cycling hotbed (we do have a couple of shops, though) and have no friends in cycling for guidance before or during shopping, so would like to get opinions and information before so I can go in somewhat armed.

    Primary use at this time would be exercise; I would also like to use it for some short-distance (under 5 miles) errands. I would love to switch to a bike for my commute (13 miles), but just donít have a bike-friendly route available, and donít think I could do it quickly enough to realistically work in my schedule.

    For my uses, Iím thinking a hybrid or road/sport bike are probably the best options - what are the major differences in these types? Sometimes I see ďperformanceĒ thrown into the mix Ė is that just a higher-end bike, or does it signify something else? Is there something Iím missing and should be considering a different bike altogether?

    Unfortunately, cost does have to be a factor; is there any hope of a decent bike in the $400 - $500 range?

    A stupid Ė or at least newbie Ė question Ė when the size of a bike is mentioned, what is it referring to? Height? Wheel size? A measurement of some part of the frame from one point to another? Something else?

    And, what about essential accessories for starting? I know I need a helmet and pump Ė what else is an absolute before striking out? Iím factoring another $150 for this start up gear Ė am I being unrealistic with this?

  2. #2
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    You can get something decent in the $4-500 range. There will be plenty of folks who will give you recommendations in that area. After that it would be a matter of finding those models or similar ones and trying them out.

    As for size, that could be one of two things, rim or frame size. You will probably be getting a bike with a 26" or a 700cm rim. The particulars are not all that important at this level as tubes and tires will be widely available to fit your riding needs. There are two types of valves used for bikes, schrader like your cars and presta. I would recommend presta but it also not a very important decision. Almost all higher end rims will be presta rims. The presta valve is smaller in diameter than a schrader. A presta valve can fit in a schrader hole but not vice versa.

    To figure out your fit, go to your LBS (Local Bike Shop). In fact I would go to two or three to get a sense of which shop you would rather deal with. It will also give you a better sense of what does fit as you will be going through the process that many times. Frame size measurement can vary depending on how the manufacturer wants to do it. Often a more important measurement is the top tube (TT) length and even the virtual TT length. A shop can get you fitted so that the numbers won't matter a great deal to you. A shop with a fit kit will likely be better at getting you onto the right sized frame.

    Something else to think about is pedals. If you want to have platform/clips or go clipless. I'd recommend starting out on platforms/clips. That way you can research what clipless system you would like if you go that route. It also lets you not need to get cycling shoes.

    A helmet, pump, flat kit, basic toolkit, bikes shorts/skirt, gloves are about it.

    $150 is a decent range for the other equipment. Try on a bunch of helmets from different makers. Don't skimp to much there. A well fitting helmet that is comfortable can make alot of difference. Get good shorts also, especially if you are female. Females are much more sensitive to riding in the seat area.

    Something else to consider as part of your purchase if you are female is to get a saddle you like. A good shop will let you try a bunch of saddles over time to find the right one for you with no cost to swap. This is a common complaint for women that their saddle hurts them. Spend what time and money you need to get a good saddle.

    Performance can mean a number of things. Probably the frame will put you into a more aerodynamic position of leaning over with a flatter back. It will likely also be a lighter bike and have thinner higher pressure tires and maybe upgraded components. I would not worry so much about those "names" as opposed to getting on a bike that you feel comfortable on. Whether that is a heavier more upright hybrid, lighter harsher riding performance bike or something in between.

    I hope this helps get you in the right direction.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Sci-Fi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ebeth View Post
    Iím getting the bike bug again and think this time Iím going to have to go through and finally get one.

    From reading around different forums, Iíve picked up that nothing beats going in and trying out bikes to find the one that feels right. That said, I donít live in a cycling hotbed (we do have a couple of shops, though) and have no friends in cycling for guidance before or during shopping, so would like to get opinions and information before so I can go in somewhat armed.

    Primary use at this time would be exercise; I would also like to use it for some short-distance (under 5 miles) errands. I would love to switch to a bike for my commute (13 miles), but just donít have a bike-friendly route available, and donít think I could do it quickly enough to realistically work in my schedule.

    For my uses, Iím thinking a hybrid or road/sport bike are probably the best options - what are the major differences in these types? Sometimes I see ďperformanceĒ thrown into the mix Ė is that just a higher-end bike, or does it signify something else? Is there something Iím missing and should be considering a different bike altogether?
    Hybrid and Road bikes are basically similar..i.e. 700c tires, similar/same gearing, etc. Only real difference is the Hybrid will come with a flat handlebar. On longer rides, the flat handlebar limits the amount of hand positions and isn't very ergonomic, but the more upright position is preferred by many commuters to see over traffic. Drop bars offer more hand positions. Some replace their flat bars with something more ergo, like the traditional North Road bars, OnOne Mary bar, trekking bars, etc etc. if they want to keep a more upright riding position but want added hand and wrist comfort on longer rides.

    As far as 'performance', generally a bike with 700c tires will be faster, esp in the 700c x23, 25, and 28 tire sizes. Anything larger will add more comfort and the possibility of some off-road use, but those bikes will be called 'cross bikes'.

    Nothing wrong with a bike with 26" tires...will be called 'comfort bikes', but can give a more comfortable ride and have a better load capacity if you plan on using your bike for grocery shopping. Look at a 'step-through' frame if you are going to do a lot of shopping or have a rear mounted child seat. Easier to mount/dismount and balance the bike when fully loaded.

    Unfortunately, cost does have to be a factor; is there any hope of a decent bike in the $400 - $500 range?
    A lot of 'good' entry bikes are in that price range. It's a matter of finding the brand and model that feels/rides the best for you.

    A stupid Ė or at least newbie Ė question Ė when the size of a bike is mentioned, what is it referring to? Height? Wheel size? A measurement of some part of the frame from one point to another? Something else?
    Getting a proper fit determines what size frame/bike is best for your body build. Most shops will/can fit you for free or a slight fee. Can also test ride different sized bikes of the model that interests you to see which frame/bike size feels the most comfortable. Height, length, geometry, etc of a bike all plays a part, as well as properly adjusting the seat and handlebar height and angle...so there's no easy/simple answer.

    And, what about essential accessories for starting? I know I need a helmet and pump Ė what else is an absolute before striking out? Iím factoring another $150 for this start up gear Ė am I being unrealistic with this?
    Spare tubes, tire patch kit, tire levers, allen/hex metric wrench set (the fold out ones), air pressure gauge, maybe a small first aid kit (liquid skin/bandage is great stuff), and a seat or handlebar bag to hold all of it. Sounds like a lot, but it's an inexpensive purchase and doesn't take up/use that much room or weigh that much. Buying a presta to schrader valve adapter is handy to use at a gas station air pump or if you need to use a generic hand air pump or have an airless air pump at home. A pair of safety glasses (tinted or clear) is a good option to protect your eyes from stuff kicked up by cars or dust in the wind.

    Anything else is up to you. Some will add lights (rear or front or both), a bike computer, mirror, bell, rear rack, basket, etc etc.

  4. #4
    Life is good RonH's Avatar
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    Have you read thru the General Cycling forum? Lots of "What bike should I get" threads there.
    My bikes: 2001 Litespeed Tuscany---
    2013 Cannondale CAAD 10 2 "Racing Edition"--The bike shop owner said it's toast. R.I.P.
    2014 or 2015 CAAD 10 3 coming soon. Decision time.

    Life is like a 10-speed bicycle. Most of us have gears we never use. ~ Charles Schultz

  5. #5
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    Thanks for the input - I'm slowly beginning to absorb some of this (I'm so new to this that I have a labelled photo of a bike I keep referring to to be sure of all the parts).

    RonH - I feel stupid - I had completely missed the General Forum!

  6. #6
    Senior Member deraltekluge's Avatar
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    A stupid Ė or at least newbie Ė question Ė when the size of a bike is mentioned, what is it referring to? Height? Wheel size? A measurement of some part of the frame from one point to another? Something else?
    If you buy a toy bike from a department store or toy store, the size given is usually the size of the tires. If you buy a real bike from a bike shop, the size given will be the frame size...generally the length of the seat tube (or something related to that). See Sheldon Brown http://www.sheldonbrown.com/frame-sizing.html for more information.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by deraltekluge View Post
    If you buy a toy bike from a department store or toy store, the size given is usually the size of the tires. If you buy a real bike from a bike shop, the size given will be the frame size...generally the length of the seat tube (or something related to that). See Sheldon Brown http://www.sheldonbrown.com/frame-sizing.html for more information.
    It is not necessarily bikes from a toy store that are measured by wheel size. Kids and youth bikes are the ones that are measure by wheel size (12", 16", 20", 24"). There may be other sizes but those are the primary ones. There are other bikes that do use those wheel sizes (recumbents, time trial bikes, funny bikes, etc.), but when talking youth and kid bikes, the bike size will be expressed as a wheel size. The manufacturers do not offer different frame sizes for particular wheel sizes in the kids market. Outside of the kid market they usually make different size frames to fit different people, hence the frame sizing measurement.

    Sheldon's(RIP) website is chock full of extremely useful information, trivia and tidbits.

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