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  1. #1
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    Beginner looking for a bike--overwhelmed!

    Hi all,

    Pardon my newbie-ness. I am, like many before me, looking to buy my first bike. (Well, technically, I just bought one this week, but I don't like it so let's pretend I didn't.) I've been looking on Craigslist and poring over these forums for a few weeks now trying to determine my best course of action, and all I've come out with is questions (which I'm sure have been asked and answered many times before, so I apologize in advance!). Namely:

    1. I'm slow and out of shape. Not fat (quite small, really) but when I've biked with friends in the past, I've consistently lagged far behind while they zoom off into the sunset. I don't know how much is the bike and how much is me, but I've convinced myself that getting a FAST bike is what I need to keep up with everyone else on the road. I imagine fast bikes are fast because they convert energy into distance more efficiently--i.e., I will need to exert less effort to go farther. Is this indeed true, and will I find a fast road bike to be less taxing than the hybrids I've ridden before, or am I just trying to weasel my way out of getting in shape?

    2. I'm cheap. I don't want to spend more than $300, and ideally much less than that. I am totally okay with buying used and in fact I expect I will have to. One thing that confuses me is that every time I see what appears to be a good deal on Craigslist, I search through these forums for info on the bike (usually a vintage 10-speed of some kind), and people claim that it can be found for $50, or $20, or some other obscenely low amount. Where are these magical deals?? Why is everyone on Craigslist trying to rip everyone else off?

    So basically: I want a fast bike so I don't feel like dying every time I go up a hill, and I want it to be cheap. Where should I be looking? Not Craigslist, evidently. Goodwill? Used bike stores? Garage sales? Help!

    (Sorry for the essay. What I lack in experience I make up for in wordiness.)

  2. #2
    Galveston County Texas 10 Wheels's Avatar
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    Buy Craigslist for the first bike.

    Get in shape. Riding is 10% bike. 90% motor.

    What size do you need?
    [SIZE=1][B]What I like about Texas[/B]
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    Set F1re To The Ra1n ( NY Night Rain Ride)
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  3. #3
    Just Plain Slow PhotoJoe's Avatar
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    Welcome to the forum.

    No bike is going to overcome being out of shape. Wanna go faster, work on the engine. However, yes, a road bike by design is more efficient than a hybrid.

    What part of the country are you in? Maybe we can offer up some local suggestions. Location? Size bike? Height?
    If at first you don't succeed, Skydiving is not the sport for you!

  4. #4
    ka maté ka maté ka ora pdedes's Avatar
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    If you're doing it right, cycling hurts.
    By the time you're experienced enough to get something germane out of a test ride, you won't need a test ride.

  5. #5
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    There is a ton of junk listed on craigslist. I've sometimes wanted to vomit at the crap being sold and the prices being asked.

    You will find an occasional gem every once in a while, and quite frankly, browsing through craigslist ads is not very time consuming at all IME.

    You'll have to know something about bicycle maintenance and repair if you buy used, but the vast majority of bicycle work is straightforward.

    You should be ready to up your spending limit by a significant sum however. You will need to purchase a number of essentials such as a mini-toolkit, helmet, lock and cables, a frame pump, patch kit, tire levers, spare tube, a pair of lights, and perhaps a mirror and reflective tape if the bike doesn't come with reflectors.

    These accessories alone will set you back around $100 if you buy as cheaply as possible.

    So your actual budget is x + $100.

    Is it impossible to get your total budget up to about $500 or so? For this first one, it might be worth it to budget that much so you can work with a shop to get all of your adjustments taken care of, or to buy online and get a new bike which is far less likely to have mechanical issues.

    Most people who intend to spend such a small amount have little interest in mechanical repairs and this inattentiveness along with a cheap, used, poorly maintained craigslist clunker is not a good combination.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Homebrew01's Avatar
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    ^^ good post.

    You can also search Ebay, and set a distance range from your zip code. Then you can look at it first and avoid shipping costs.
    Bikes: Old steel race bikes, old Cannondale race bikes, less old Cannondale race bike, crappy old mtn bike

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    Quote Originally Posted by roadandmountain View Post
    There is a ton of junk listed on craigslist. I've sometimes wanted to vomit at the crap being sold and the prices being asked.

    You will find an occasional gem every once in a while, and quite frankly, browsing through craigslist ads is not very time consuming at all IME.

    You'll have to know something about bicycle maintenance and repair if you buy used, but the vast majority of bicycle work is straightforward.

    You should be ready to up your spending limit by a significant sum however. You will need to purchase a number of essentials such as a mini-toolkit, helmet, lock and cables, a frame pump, patch kit, tire levers, spare tube, a pair of lights, and perhaps a mirror and reflective tape if the bike doesn't come with reflectors.

    These accessories alone will set you back around $100 if you buy as cheaply as possible.

    So your actual budget is x + $100.

    Is it impossible to get your total budget up to about $500 or so? For this first one, it might be worth it to budget that much so you can work with a shop to get all of your adjustments taken care of, or to buy online and get a new bike which is far less likely to have mechanical issues.

    Most people who intend to spend such a small amount have little interest in mechanical repairs and this inattentiveness along with a cheap, used, poorly maintained craigslist clunker is not a good combination.
    +1

    This is your best advice!

    Furthermore, since you're not knowledgeable about bikes, I would suggest that you join a bicycle co-op and have someone bike savvy, accompany you when you go to test ride bikes. If you can't do either of these things, then your quest for a decent used bike will be just a crap shoot. Craigslist can be a fool's paradise... It's filled with scam artists, folks struggling to pay bills, and the ignorant (both sellers and buyers).

    Save your money, and quite possibly this time next year, you'll be able to purchase a brand new road bike from www.performancebike.com. Perhaps something like the GT GTR Series 2, or the GT Corsa 2. These are two really nice endurance road bikes
    Last edited by WestPablo; 05-09-14 at 08:33 AM.

  8. #8
    Senior Member JBerman's Avatar
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    It's not the bike, it's the rider, pending the bike you get isn't complete junk. Some guys ride 29er full suspension mountain bikes and blow past high end road bike riders. When I started riding a couple months ago, I was slow (around 14 mph avg). But after frequently riding and pushing myself, I average 19 mph now. The other day, at the end of a group ride, we sprinted to the end and I hit 30 mph on flat (and seated). I was very happy.

    I don't expect to be an A-group rider, but I also know a "faster" bike won't get me there. It's about training. Also, ride with people faster than you. It helps.

    I also originally had a $300 budget. I planned on getting a Giordano Libero 1.6 off amazon or a Windsor Wellington 2.0 off bikesdirect. I talked the wife into a higher budget, and went used. I ended up with a $1,500 bike in mint condition with full 105 for $600.
    Last edited by JBerman; 05-09-14 at 09:01 AM.

  9. #9
    Senior Member aubiecat's Avatar
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    boobooboo, even the best cyclists in the world hurt when they go up hills. It never gets easier, you just get faster. You'll need to be willing to put some miles under your butt if you want to get better. No bike is a magic tool.

    You may think you're cheap but if you get the cycling fever you'll be surprised how much money you'll spend.

  10. #10
    Senior Member MRT2's Avatar
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    Durable, light, and cheap. Pick two. Seriously.

    You can find a new, entry level road bike for around $700, and that should be enough to get started, though $900 would be better. Off season, I have seen such bikes being sold at a 30% discount as bike shops want to get rid of inventory. But this time of year, it is hard to find such a deal on a new road bike.

    It is hard to find a good, lightweight used road bike for less than $300 unless you really know what you are looking for. What you want is a mid priced road bike from a quality manufacturer less than 10 years old and either lightly ridden or well maintained. Problem is, there are so many poorly maintained, really old and heavy bikes out there that to the novice, look more or less the same as a good, modern, lightweight bike. But they are no bargain because your $150 or $200 Craigslist special might need hundreds of dollars of work, and you are still left with a heavy old school bike that sold for $150 or less 30 years ago.

    Also, many have mentioned it but it bears repeating. There is no substitute for being in shape. No matter how light the bike is, you still need to pull yourself up the hills. One of the realities of biking some don't like to talk about is like running, some people are just faster than others. With training, you can get faster. How fast is depends on two things you can control and one you can't: fitness, genetics, and equipment.
    Last edited by MRT2; 05-09-14 at 09:27 AM.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by MRT2 View Post
    Durable, light, and cheap.
    So far my bike is all three. And there isn't any other owner feedback of my bike would indicate that it won't be durable and I should still be riding it years from now.

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    Quote Originally Posted by zymphad View Post
    So far my bike is all three. And there isn't any other owner feedback of my bike would indicate that it won't be durable and I should still be riding it years from now.
    What bike did you buy?

  13. #13
    Senior Member MRT2's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by zymphad View Post
    So far my bike is all three. And there isn't any other owner feedback of my bike would indicate that it won't be durable and I should still be riding it years from now.
    Then maybe enlighten OP so he or she can run out and get one.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by MRT2 View Post
    Then maybe enlighten OP so he or she can run out and get one.
    Because OP doesn't seem like will be interested in what I have and what OP will need to build one like mine. Took a lot of time. And costs more than $300. Cheap to me is under $1200. Was just responding to you. BosSox also did something similar to me, his bike is light, cheap and durable. You only have to pick two if you have to pay the extra $1K for the privilege of being a moving billboard.

    And a few shops around here are selling Tarmac and Roubaix for $1300, that's cheap, durable and light.
    Last edited by zymphad; 05-09-14 at 10:10 AM.

  15. #15
    Senior Member MRT2's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by zymphad View Post
    Because OP doesn't seem like will be interested in what I have and what OP will need to build one like mine. Took a lot of time. And costs more than $300. Cheap to me is under $1200. Was just responding to you. BosSox also did something similar to me, his bike is light, cheap and durable. You only have to pick two if you have to pay the extra $1K for the privilege of being a moving billboard.
    Depends on your definition of cheap. OP's definition of cheap is less than $300. I said you can find a decent used road bike on CL or elsewhere for that price if you know what you are doing, and if you can do your own wrenching, it is possible to build up something really good for not too much money. Problem is, most bike newbies don't know what to look for and are, frankly, better served getting something decent from a LBS. And even then, they might not get as light a bike as they would like, and may find themselves spending more money than they would like. It actually isn't too terrible. IMO, you can get quite a decent road bike for under $1,000 and if they can find a good deal, as little as $600 or $700. Will it be 15 or 16 lbs? No, but many sub $1,000 retail road bikes weigh around or just over 20 lbs, which is pretty light.

  16. #16
    Redefining Lazy Slackerprince's Avatar
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    Shut up, everything

  17. #17
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    Thanks for all the advice, guys!

    It's actually a little comforting to know that fitness is the biggest factor. I've been wondering if I'm missing something because cycling seems like so much more work for me than others, but so does running so it shouldn't be too surprising. I've just heard from so many people that after switching bikes, their commute got much easier, and that feeling is what I'm searching for I guess. But, fitness will definitely be a priority.

    I am willing to up my budget if that's what it takes. My biggest concern was that I simply don't know what a good price is for what I'm looking for, and I didn't want to get ripped off. But it sounds like if I want something good, more expensive is the way to go.

    I think the best thing for me would be to keep what I have for now since it gets me from A to B, but then make the rounds to LBS's and collect advice and knowledge so I can purchase something good in the future.

    Thanks again! Keep em coming if you have more advice.

  18. #18
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    In that price range, your best bet is something that:
    -Is from the late 80s to early 90s
    -Has a lugged steel frame
    -Has aluminum, not steel rims
    -Has an aluminum, not steel crankset
    -Has downtube shifters (not stem mounted)
    -Does not have turkey levers
    -Is not made by Ross, Free Spirit, Huffy, etc

    Here are some good examples of the kind of bike you're looking for:
    1980.s specialized sirrus
    Classic Univega SuperStrada 12-Speed
    Centurion ironman 55cm road bike 275 obo


    This is about the quality level where improvements start getting more subtle for your money.

  19. #19
    Senior Member Homebrew01's Avatar
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    If you add your "location" to your profile, then sometimes people can give better advice based on your local craigslist, local shops etc...
    Bikes: Old steel race bikes, old Cannondale race bikes, less old Cannondale race bike, crappy old mtn bike

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by boobooboo View Post
    Thanks for all the advice, guys!

    It's actually a little comforting to know that fitness is the biggest factor. I've been wondering if I'm missing something because cycling seems like so much more work for me than others, but so does running so it shouldn't be too surprising. I've just heard from so many people that after switching bikes, their commute got much easier, and that feeling is what I'm searching for I guess. But, fitness will definitely be a priority.
    I've heard other people say this and I've personally found it to be true, but switching from knobby wide tires to slick wide tires gains you about 2mph, switching from slick wide tires to a road bike with skinny road tires gains you about another 2mph.

    But do you know who the fastest people on the Greenway are who are always passing me? They're riding upright wide tired (but slick) bikes while I'm on my road bike. They're people who ride their bikes *everywhere*, every day. Being in shape is much much bigger advantage than different bike styles (as long as you don't go to the extremes, like a 4" knobby tire, or a bike that's completely the wrong size for the rider).

    Sometimes people definitely do find themselves more motivated to ride on a lighterweight bike, though.

    Quote Originally Posted by boobooboo View Post
    I am willing to up my budget if that's what it takes. My biggest concern was that I simply don't know what a good price is for what I'm looking for, and I didn't want to get ripped off. But it sounds like if I want something good, more expensive is the way to go.

    I think the best thing for me would be to keep what I have for now since it gets me from A to B, but then make the rounds to LBS's and collect advice and knowledge so I can purchase something good in the future.

    Thanks again! Keep em coming if you have more advice.
    Out of curiosity, what are you riding now?

    The best place to find lightweight old road bikes, imo, is at a used bike sale. I live in Minnesota, so not sure what it's like where you are, but in the spring different shops have a series of sales where people bring in their old bikes and offer them for sale, with the bike shop getting a cut of the selling price of the bike.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by PaulRivers View Post
    Out of curiosity, what are you riding now?
    I'm riding a Specialized Crossroads, not sure how old. Looks a bit like this: https://pedalrevolutionblog.files.wo...ads_17-295.jpg

    It felt clunky riding it, but it probably just needs a tuneup and I might be on the wrong gear.

  22. #22
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    If your bike position looks like that (much higher handlebars than seat), that will really slow you down. An upright position adds a lot to wind resistance and the drag is what slows you down. In fact the faster you go, the greater resistance to overcome.

    So you probably are looking at a road bike if you want speed.

    Also ignore those alleged $50 deals on CL. When someone comes across something like that, it's likely because the seller doesn't know how much the bike is worth. But that's about as common as a person finding a 1966 Cobra in a barn and the owner wants to sell for $500. Most often a $50 bike is ten times as bad as a $300 bike.
    You're just trying to start an argument to show how smart you are.

  23. #23
    Senior Member mlander's Avatar
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    Alright, I'll be the first to say it, even though this may start BD vs used dispute no. 1,287. Poke around on Bikes Direct. Then research the THOUSANDS of Bikes Direct posts on here and decide if it is right for you.

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    Quote Originally Posted by boobooboo View Post
    I'm riding a Specialized Crossroads, not sure how old. Looks a bit like this: https://pedalrevolutionblog.files.wo...ads_17-295.jpg

    It felt clunky riding it, but it probably just needs a tuneup and I might be on the wrong gear.
    Ah, for "clunk" a tuneup level of things could definitely fix it. You're certainly not guaranteed to get a non-clunky feeling bike if you get a cheap used road bike.

    I assume it has slick tires not knobby tires? Having the tire pressure higher rather than lower helps to. You need to check the tire pressure (and usually add a little air) about every week. It's annoying, but it's necessary if you want an easier and faster ride.

    In my experience helping numerous friends in college with bikes, the #1 and #2 issues are that the bike is not the right size for them, and that they're seat it to low. Again and again, friends who were always going slow and lagging behind while riding suddenly got faster and could ride further when I raised their seat to the right height. They'd often complain when I raised their seat that it was "to high" because "they couldn't touch the ground easily while stopped". I'd point out leaning the bike to the side a bit when stopping and wanting to put a foot down, and encouraged them to try it for a ride. When they'd come back they'd say they like the seat higher - their legs felt better, they felt faster, and they were faster and less fatigued. It got even better for them after 2-3 rides as their muscles got used to the more efficient positions.

    When you're pedalling, your legs should extends *almost* (but not quite) straight at the bottom of your pedal stroke.

    Those are my suggestions. You'd probably be a little bit faster on a road bike, but I'd say fitness level, bit fit (including the seat), and keeping the tire's inflated are more important factors (that also would not cost any money to fix right now).

    P.S. In my opinion, being super upright doesn't make a big difference in speed unless you're biking into the wind, or your friends are really really fast.

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    PaulRivers, those are great notes! I didn't even think about fit. My feet are pretty much flat on the ground when I sit on my bike, because that felt the most secure to me. I'll try raising the seat. Thanks!

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