Hi everyone, my girlfriend is looking for a bicycle for recreational purposes. She's 5'5 and lives in San Francisco. She wouldn't mind a new or used bike. Budget is around $200-300. What would you guys recommend?
I'm a big fan of cheap bikes for casual riders, but that's really not much money...she'll need gears in the city (I used to live on Cole Street, out by the panhandle), and a $200 geared bike is likely to give you trouble. Best thing to do might be to check thrift shops for a used mountain bike from the '80s or '90s and put road tires on it. She'd sit up a little straighter, so she could watch traffic, and they're durable and reliable. Around here you can find them for $50-$75. Some names to look for: Specialized, Trek, Bridgestone, Diamondback, Cannondale.
Definitely go the used bike via Craigslist route. You should be able to get something decent enough right in that range. She'll definitely want gears; she probably doesn't need 27 or anything, but a decent 7, 8, or 9-speed would give her some options (albeit some hills just won't be rideable pretty much no matter what; I lived at the top of Potrero Hill for 3 years and biking up either 23rd or DeHaro just wasn't possible for me). And if she doesn't plan on biking long distances, don't be afraid of the hyrbid and mountain bike frames at all. If you hunt around for a week, maybe two, you should be able to get a really decent recreational bike well in your price range.
And in agreement with Velo, one of the best upgrades to a used CL bike can be to throw some new tires on it, and definitely ditch any knobbies (if you go the MTB route) for some more road-centric tires. It'll make a huge difference.
You can craigslist a hell of a bike for a casual user in that budget range in my area.
It really would come down to what she's after.
Comfort? Flat bar hybrid.
Some offroad/extreme rough road driving? Mountain bike.
Speed and distance? Road/touring.
Personally, my girlfriend is a huge fan of the comfort bikes.
She has a Raleigh Route, I believe it is called. Very comfortable bike, lots of shock absorbency, very upright position. This bike was about 400 brand new, this year.
It's the blue one pictured. 424764_10151254570781217_1195924387_n.jpg
It's a bit heavier, and a bit slower than my entry level racing bike, for obvious reasons. But the main way to get her out riding is to keep her comfortable