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Starting out

Old 05-25-12, 06:26 AM
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Matt S
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Starting out

Hello there. To start out, some back story for how I arrived where I am now.

I got a free bicycle (a 1995 Univega Via Carisma) from my girlfriend's parents but the problem is it is too small for me. I measured the seat tube to be around 21 inches, which you can imagine does not work well for someone that is 6'4". I of course found this out after finding out this recall still works since it had the listed FC-MC12 cranks and had them replaced by the LBS. I have tried riding it anyways, knowing it is too small for me, but it ends up bothering me after 2 or 3 miles and then I do not ride it again for a few weeks. Since I got the bike last year, I have been lurking here and seem to have grown an affinity for late '70s and 80's Japanese bikes.

I have browsed craigslist plenty the last few months but tend to stay away from the NYC one as it would be more difficult to get there than other places for me. Something caught my eye yesterday though, a Univega Gran Rally frame listed as 24.5" that looked to only be missing wheels, brake levers, and some of the cables. At $50, I thought to myself "it's cheaper than a complete bike and you could have fun getting it going!" In retrospect, I should have tried to jump on it regardless because the Shimano 600 parts it had seem to go for a nice price anyway and would have covered the cost of entry if something went wrong with the frame.

Either way, I guess the "starting out" title refers to what the best way to go about getting a bike for someone that is new to this would be. The initial cost of a putting a bike together looks attractive compared to a complete bike, especially with some of the ones I see for sale around here. I do not really have any tools, but I figure I would end up purchasing them anyway, and I have the space and the go ahead from my SO. The only problem with buying just a frame is that I only have an idea of what my size should be from an online frame size calculator but have never actually ridden on various sizes to test them out.

So it leads me to wondering if it would be better for me to pay a bit more and buy a bicycle that works to begin with and that I can test ride to make sure it is the right size for me or to buy a frame and hope it is the right size as I build it up.
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Old 05-25-12, 07:45 AM
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Hi Matt - Welcome to C&V.

This is a good guide to finding a suitable bike for newbies - courtesy of our own Randy J.

Unless you already have a stash of parts, building up a bike from components is the most expensive way to go: Finding a complete, good quality bike is the most economical approach.

In determining your optimal frame size, I suggest you ride as many bikes as possible before you purchase. The internet sizing charts can provide a guideline for some people, but for some others they are wrong. Also, if you use your drops, you might consider a larger "french fit" frame vs. what the charts recommend.
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Old 05-25-12, 04:21 PM
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Building up a bike from scratch can be fun and rewarding, and not necessarily more expensive than buying a complete bike (assuming used/vintage parts, and shrewd purchasing), but, and this is a big BUT, I wouldn't recommend attempting it until you have some experience knowing what size/type of frame, as well as many other component attributes, suits you, and have acquired at least moderate skills for maintaining and upgrading bikes. Once you start tinkering with bikes, you'll know yourself when you're ready to tackle a ground up build.
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Old 05-25-12, 04:28 PM
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Step into my garage.....


welcome to the forum.
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Old 05-25-12, 07:51 PM
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are you saying that the $50 frame has shimano 600 components? that sounds like a great deal regardless of the fit. you might be able to part it out, clean it up, and sell it for more. you also say that you're going to make this a hobby with tool purchases and a time commitment. tools to get you going will be around $100 for most everything you need, given you have the basic non-biking tools already. (wait on the bike stand or build your own.) so go for it. go to your lbs and ride some different sizes for free. understand seat post and stem sizing and the flexibility they provide for fit. buy that $50 frame and start wrenching. be patient finding parts and additional frames and tools. and remember how easy it is to spend $50 at the grocery. it's the same $50, no different. but if you buy the bike, unlike groceries, you should still have it a week later. enjoy.
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Old 05-25-12, 09:26 PM
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Thank you for the welcomes. From my lurking it seemed like you were a good, helpful bunch here, and the info so far has been helpful.

I missed out on that frame entirely. It was gone from craigslist by the time I got home from work yesterday afternoon. Still kind of sad about it (especially after finding seeing what Shimano 600 bits go for on ebay) but it is the nature of craigslist.

I was thinking about it earlier, and it seems like an extremely stupid question, but would modern bikes be comparable in how they fit to the older bikes? It is funny to me with all of the looking and searching I have done that I never figured it out. I ask because there are plenty of new bike stores around but there are not many used places. Closest one is about 45 minutes away in Easton, PA, and it looks like they only have a limited selection. Also, while it may be blasphemy, I have to admit that I have never ridden a bike with drop bars before. The Via Carisma has flat bars with horns on the end sticking up and the only other bike I have ridden much was a Huffy mountain bike back when I was younger.
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Old 05-25-12, 10:50 PM
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Matt -
You are not alone in not understanding modern bike sizing.

Insofar as economics is concerned, the best deal in cycledom BY FAR is a C&V bike, no doubt about it. There are deals to be had if (1) you are diligent (2) savvy enough to recognize a deal when you see it and (3) are quicker than the next guy.
-I have followed these simple rules myself, and amassed a sizable collection at a PBR price. Retail establishments on the other hand, simply want to sell you what they have to sell you.
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Old 05-25-12, 11:14 PM
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so if your talking about road frames, they are measured in cm's. Being 6'4 you need a large frame like a 62 cm (probably) going to a bike shop and sitting on a few different bikes will confirm this. not having the tools or any misc. parts laying around shouldnt stop you from trying to build one up from the ground but as auchencrow says will be more expensive than buying a whole bike. The up side to building is you will force yourself to learn bicycle mechanics, Utube can teach you alot.
One problem with buying used is unless you are fairly well versed in the past 30 years of bicycles, you may not know exactly what you are buying. Sellers will charge more than retail for crappy used bikes because they know this. Others will sell bikes with damaged frames or components and not tell the buyer anything. when buying used its a good idea to have a friend looking out for you. buying new eliminates this risk but your not getting away cheap.
I direct people to www.bikesdirect.com often on this site, I dont work for them, I didnt even buy my bike from them (although they do carry my brand). You didnt specify if your looking to drop a few hundred bucks or if your looking at the cheapest route possible so I wont link to any bikes in particular but I would say for about $500 you can have the best of both scenarios, new and you can assemble it yourself to learn how. I kinda like the motobecanes. if you know how much your willing to spend let us know and we'll link to all your best options. dont forget to save some cash for a helmet, taillight, gloves, shorts, seatbag, pump, waterbottles.....
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Old 05-26-12, 12:28 AM
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Also when it comes to fit on a classic road bike with drops you should feel comfy riding in several hand positions on the drops from top to bottom. If you feel comfortable in only one or two positions the bike is likely not a good fit.
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