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Hi! Help getting started?

Old 09-23-15, 10:09 PM
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littlemiss
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Hi! Help getting started?

Howdy folks!

I am a brand new commuter bicyclist, just starting to feel the addiction coming on. :-) I live and work in Boulder, CO so it's very easy and fashionable to ride your bike to work. Right now, I'm commuting a pretty short (4.5 miles) distance, but it's all uphill on the way to work. I am currently riding a big fat Electra that has 7 gears and dicey brakes. While taking it in for a tune-up, I started drooling over the lighter, more efficient bikes that might let me use more than just my quads to go uphill. Now I am in research mode, trying to find a decent bike for commuting that won't break the bank, since I'm just a rank beginner. My problem is that the research is so overwhelming. Help me wade through some of it?

- I like to sit slightly more upright, leading me to believe I want a hybrid, or possibly just a straight handled road bike.
- It's paved the whole way, and I have no intention of going off-roading, so I don't think I need a mountain bike.
- I need some gears, so no fixies.
- I am little (5'3"). I want something lighter than my cruiser.
- I'd love to spend less than 400$. I could be persuaded up to 500.
- At my tune-up, they let me toodle around on a Trek 7.2, which was very cool. But I know nothing, and it's a lot of money to plunk down.

Can anybody recommend some awesome entry-level commuter bikes that I should look into? Does anybody have anything to say about a Trek 7.2? Can anyone help me with an approach to this process, other than go to the 30+ bike stores in town and poke around until you fall in love. (Unless that's the best option, in which case, I'll do that.)

Thanks!
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Old 09-24-15, 12:24 AM
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Great news, keep it up!

Though I have never visited, I am told that Boulder is a bike Mecca. I would hope that you could find a great local bike shop with trustworthy staff and just go with their advice.

I will suggest that you might want to try changing to slick-ish, narrower tires on your Electra. However, is it probably the case that your Electra just isn't geared low enough for the hills. I have a friend who loves his Electra but he does concede that it is mostly a flat-ground bike.

Sad to say, your price point might be too low for a brand new bike. Your money will go much further on Craigslist, but shopping Craigslist can be a lot of work and take a lot of patience.
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Old 09-24-15, 05:23 AM
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take my advice worth a grain of salt, but i think a couple things are in order.

first, if you are going to commute daily, you will need to know some basic mechanics. if something breaks on the trip, you need to know how to cobble together a fix good enough to get you to work. the best way, in my experience, is to buy an old bike an fix 'er up. i will second the advice given above that a CL find might be the best for you given your budget. a good Trek would be an awesome start. my last project was a Trek 800, and once done it made a most excellent touring/commuting bike. paid $25. once you have a decent frame that fits you alright, then you can research and upgrade the rest of the bike to suit your needs. through this, you will gain the knowledge you need to fix anything on your ride at anytime.

what to put on it? a back rack with some bags. racks can be found cheap on CL (just make sure you get the mounting parts with it), but bags are another story. might as well spend a bit and get new, waterproof ones. next, get a longer stem and some butterfly or upright bars. super cheap and easy to install...the trickiest thing will be installing new cables and housings, but youtube will be your friend for this, and it is also very easy.

if done right, you can have a great bike that you know inside and out, and for less than half the cost of a brand new one. in fact, if i were you, and you are serious about commuting, then i would spend more money on waterproof panniers, rain pants and a rain coat then i would on my bike. then again, you could just go the easy route and pay good money for others to do all this for you, but where's the fun in that??!! good luck

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Old 09-24-15, 07:12 AM
  #4  
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A lightweight, flat-bar bike with a wide range of gears sounds ideal. Something like a Specialized Vita would work.
Make sure that the frame has threaded eyelets for a luggage rack and fenders.
Disc brakes are nice in wet conditions but if your ride is mostly dry, V-brakes work as well.

The only issue is your size. You need a small bike with a small frame, but manufacturers usually try to cram in big (700c) wheels. The result is a geometry which is compromised, a frame which is longer than you need, and wheels which (relative to your size) are big and clumsy. Ideally you need 26" MTB wheels but few manufacturers take the trouble. The Surly LHT uses 700c in larger sizes and 26" in smaller ones.
5'3" is really the boundary for 700c wheels so you may be OK.
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Old 09-24-15, 07:30 AM
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Don't overlook a cyclocross bike. That is what I commute 22 miles on and I am 58. Yes it has curved bars however it also has a set of brakes on the top so you can ride it upright and when you get the windy days you can ride int he drops to lower your profile being exposed to the wind. The wheels are a nice compromise being wider than a road bike but thinner than a mountain bike, with enough pressure so you are working a little less. Most have compact cranks which will make the climbs much easier. Mine is steel which after you get used to the extra weight makes for a comfortable ride. Cyclocross bikes will also take rack and panniers if that is how you are planning on transporting your stuff to work. Mine ran me about $599 without pedals, components are nice Shimano 105's.

Most important is to get something that is comfortable to you and is what you really wanted. You will get a lot of ideas on bikes most important get what you can afford and what you will enjoy riding.
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Old 09-24-15, 08:14 AM
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90s rigid mountainbike(so one without any suspension). Swap the tires out for 1.5" slicks. Swap the flat bars out for some Nashbar butterfly bars.
Take it to a shop for a full overhaul if you aren't confident or wanting to do the work. Have them change the cables and cable housing, true the wheels, adjust the brakes, and redo any bearing areas that aren't moving freely(headset, bottom bracket, and wheel hubs).

Bike will be $50-150 depending on quality and condition
Tires will be $30-60 depending on where you buy and what you buy
Butterfly bars will be $20
New bar tape will be $6-20 depending on where you buy it and the brand
Service should be $75-150 depending on how extensive the service.



A 90s rigid mountainbike setup like this will give you-
- 26" tires which for your size may be best as the chance for toe overlap(your foot hitting the front tire on turns when riding slow) is limited.
- tons of gears to tackle hills but gearing that is still good enough to let you move quickly on flat parts of the commute
- attachment points for a rack and fenders with plenty of room so fitting the fenders isn't all cramped.
- slick tires for a smooth ride with less rolling resistance(easier to ride)
- multiple hand positions for comfort due to the butterfly handlebars. You aren't stuck with your hands in the awkward palms down position of a flatbar.
- easy gear shifting due to either gripshift(rotate) or trigger shift(buttons) to shift with. These aren't high end technology, but they are typically more reliable for their age than expensive brifters(shift and brake combined on drop bar bikes) and are cheap to replace if needed.



In total this will cost anywhere from $200 to $400 depending on your choices. You will have a bike that meets all your wants though. The only possible downside is it most likely wont look shiny new, even when cleaned. There will probably be some scuffs and chips in the paint. These can be filled in with nail polish(seemingly limitless colors to match) or just leave them as is since its a commuting bike and isn't meant to be the most beautiful ride on the road.



Total guess based on your height, but 15" thru 17" frames would probably work. Going and trying them out will be the only way to tell for sure. The one potential issue with 90s mtbs is the top tube is long, which stretches you out for reach. A new stem can help that a lot. Also, butterfly bars bring the handlebars a little closer to you than typical flat bars. A stem with limited reach is $5-20 depending on if its new or used and where you get it. Again, this is just a potential issue, but if you find a bike that fits you well except for the reach is an inch too long and you like the bike, changing the stem is a simple fix.


If you go this route, there is a forum here called C&V appraisals. You can toss a bike or two up and ask for opinions to see if the asking prices are reasonable or not. There is a wide mix of quality in 90s mtbs, just like all types of bikes, and figuring out what is good vs what is junk can sometimes be confusing. you want to look for a name brand you recognize(Trek, Specialized, Giant, Diamondback, etc) with tubing that is cromo/chromolly and is hopefully double butted. This is, generally, a sign of a mid-level bike or better from that era and will typically be lighter due to what the frame is made from.
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Old 09-24-15, 08:39 AM
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I tried a Trek 7.2 FX as well. Seemed like a nice bike. Trek dealers occasionally have sales on Trek bikes - you may want to wait a bit for the next Trek sale. The latest sale was in August. My coworker got his Trek Madone for a nice discount in winter time - so maybe if you wait until winter you can get a good deal.

Until then, try a bunch of bikes at bike shops and have fun!
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Old 09-24-15, 08:43 AM
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I agree with this I ride a cyclocross as well with rack and fenders. It is a great bike for commuting. I have 28mm tires on it but they are tucked under 35 mm fenders so I could run some wider tires if I wanted a touch more comfort. I ride 22-7 round trip. It has a been a great bike..Sometimes getting down in the drops really helps with fighting wind. mine is aluminum with a steel fork. I think it rides well.

Originally Posted by Outnumbered View Post
Don't overlook a cyclocross bike. That is what I commute 22 miles on and I am 58. Yes it has curved bars however it also has a set of brakes on the top so you can ride it upright and when you get the windy days you can ride int he drops to lower your profile being exposed to the wind. The wheels are a nice compromise being wider than a road bike but thinner than a mountain bike, with enough pressure so you are working a little less. Most have compact cranks which will make the climbs much easier. Mine is steel which after you get used to the extra weight makes for a comfortable ride. Cyclocross bikes will also take rack and panniers if that is how you are planning on transporting your stuff to work. Mine ran me about $599 without pedals, components are nice Shimano 105's.

Most important is to get something that is comfortable to you and is what you really wanted. You will get a lot of ideas on bikes most important get what you can afford and what you will enjoy riding.
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Old 09-24-15, 09:41 AM
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I have a Trek 7.2 fx that I daily commute with. It's a fairly short trip (~9 miles RT), and not that hilly. I love the bike. I have had it for a little over 6 years, and have done nothing with it other than routine maintenance. When I bought it, I had it equipped with fenders and a rear rack, so it went a little north of your target price, but I have not regretted it once in 6 years. I commute through all seasons and weather in STL, and it performs admirably. Worth every penny to me. I hope that was helpful.
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Old 09-24-15, 10:22 AM
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We can't really give you definitive answers, but you are asking the right questions.

The Trek 7.2 is a very smart design. My wife has the 7.3, which is just a little nicer. Other brands are worth considering. I believe pretty much all bike companies make bikes like this one.

It may seem like a lot, but if you find you are committed to riding a lot, it will eventually make sense. But don't rush it. Keep riding your bike for now.

You can get a better value from a used bike, but you need to know what you're looking at and invest more time into the purchase. I never buy new bikes.
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Old 09-24-15, 10:54 AM
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Unless I way miss my guess the o.p. is female. I also do not think I would be insulting her by observing that she has little to no bike mechanic experience. So why endless repeats of the tired "90's MTB's make excellent commuters" sage wisdom? Personally I can't think of anything uglier, and, more importantly, I don't think they make all that wonderful a commute bike for the stated conditions the o.p. mentioned, without heaps of work which, unless done by the rider themselves will add up to some pretty nice coin.

O.p., if you make it this far in the thread. Your budget allows for a new bike, but, if you choose used, there are other sources, safer sources, of used bicycles than Craigslist! Many LBS's refurbish and sell used bikes and, I have to think, Boulder, CO must be home to numerous bike co-op's which are usually run as non-profits and although their selections may be smaller, you get a more hands on sales experience.

Portland, OR is another cycling mecca, and AS many women as men commute here. I see what kinds of bikes they are riding everyday and I don't see any 90's MTB's with pink Ergon Grips. I see tons of 90's Peugot Mixtes I see plenty of Trek road (touring) rides. I see plenty of FX series and there are more women than I thought possible riding fixed and SS and plenty on carbon road racers. Just because it has drop bars doesn't mean the bars can't be higher than the seat. Adjustable and/or angled stems can put those bars anywhere you want them, and drop handlebars give a rider a minimum of three different positions to deal with different muscles needing rest or fighting through headwinds. etc.

Ideally you would have a flat-bar AND a drop bar, but if only one, my choice would be the drop bar. And if one is going to go flat-bar, then IMO the flatbars on MTB type bikes don't cut it. The North Road type bars on women's road mixtes are much more suitable for a flat-bar bike that will be a persons only bike. FWIW.
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Old 09-24-15, 11:33 AM
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@littlemiss Welcome to mansplainer central processing! Don't let anyone tell you what you need, try some different things and decide what you like.

The Trek you looked at is fairly popular. There are step-through versions of the women's 7.2 if that's important. Most bike companies sell a similar model. There are also more upright models with similar features; my wife bought a Raleigh Route. Bikes get more expensive as they get lighter, that's just how it is. For example, the 7.3 has a better frame and lighter aluminum fork, the 7.4 has an even lighter and better-riding carbon fiber fork. You might do better for your money at a chain like Performance Bike or a sporting goods store like REI or Sports Authority.


And get some lights! Winter is coming!
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Old 09-24-15, 11:46 AM
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I'm 5' and I ride a Trek Skye, 26" tires, size 16, with no problems, which I got for around $400. I think looking around bike shops is a better option, one can't really appreciate a bike until you've seen it and at least sit on it to see how it fits. I don't know about building your bike, I'm not too good with mechanics (recently learned how to change a punctured tube, that says it all).

I think the Skye makes a good commuter if you change the tires (I haven't because I go off road at parts of my commute). Another I've heard a lot of is the Trek Neko. I've also heard good things of Upland bicycles. I like Trek bikes though, and they usually come in nice color combinations, so that's a plus for me (I'm a girly girly after all).

Also a rack and panniers. I have waterproof double panniers from New Looxs (they have nice patterned panniers).
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Old 09-24-15, 12:13 PM
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Hmmm....

A lot of options here. I wouldn't give up on the drop bars. At least they should be considered. As Outnumbered suggested, you can add "interrupter brakes" to drop bars, whether they are cyclocross bikes or road bikes. Although, I've had drop bars so long that now I have one bike with interrupters, I've never gotten used to reaching for them.

A small person would benefit as much as anybody shedding 10 or 20 pounds of bike weight. Of course, your commute is short, but you do have the hills.

Something like this Ruby would be a SWEET BIKE.
Women's Specialized Ruby Sport - $800 (Boulder)

A bit above your budget, but definitely worth considering. You would have to have a good lock for it though. Or, perhaps some secured parking at your office.

I do encourage learning some of your own bike mechanics if buying into the used road bike market though.
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Old 09-24-15, 12:18 PM
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Originally Posted by Leisesturm View Post
Unless I way miss my guess the o.p. is female. I also do not think I would be insulting her by observing that she has little to no bike mechanic experience. So why endless repeats of the tired "90's MTB's make excellent commuters" sage wisdom? Personally I can't think of anything uglier, and, more importantly, I don't think they make all that wonderful a commute bike for the stated conditions the o.p. mentioned, without heaps of work which, unless done by the rider themselves will add up to some pretty nice coin.
Because when limited to the price mentioned, a good condition rigid frame double butted cromo mountainbike is a better buy than most anything else out there. The components can be much nicer and the wheel size will most likely fit better.
Even with a total overhaul, making the bike basically new performing, it will often be a less expensive option. This is based off the costs at a couple of my local shops, so yes, Colorado shops could be more.
https://boulder.craigslist.org/bik/5194281165.html
https://boulder.craigslist.org/bik/5232918114.html
https://boulder.craigslist.org/bik/5137731154.html
https://denver.craigslist.org/bik/5200414449.html
https://fortcollins.craigslist.org/bik/5229271464.html

5 min on craigslist netted these options in the OP's presumed size. A couple are older, so they may be sold, but it shows what this sort of bike costs out in that area.
The Mongoose is probably the lowest end- the others have Shimano STX or similar components.
$40-200 and the $200 looks overpriced. An MB-5 for $140? A Rockhopper Comp with DX shifting for $100?


One can always go the bikesdirect route, but that's still taking it to a shop to be built and for $400 you will have a lower quality bike than the ones I listed in just a few minutes.
There is always this- https://www.amazon.com/Diamondback-Bi.../dp/B00ODZ9YIM which can be found at REI and Sports Authority too, I believe. I would bet it will need to be taken in for wheel truing and to dial in shifting though(based on I built the girl's version this past winter).



A new bike that costs $400 and is reliable and has reliable and robust components is rare.
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Old 09-24-15, 12:28 PM
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Ugly, ugly, ugly. Ugh. The red Mongoose is the only one worth considering. That seller may actually be for real as well. It will need new tires ($50 - $80) Fenders, a rack, lights. All doable by someone gifted or a friend but at a bike shop it will all add up to a significant percent of a new bike. A new bike will be much more advanced in components than something left in a barn for 20 years.
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Old 09-24-15, 02:42 PM
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What looks like the lowest end one is the only one worth considering? How so? And how is that seller the only one who is real?(I don't even understand that comment). You mention the Mongoose would need a rack, fenders, and lights. Well all bikes need that, except for a select few commuter designed bikes which are over $400. So mentioning that as a negative is pointless.

I don't disagree that a new bike will be often times be more advanced in components than something left in a barn for 20 years. It will also be much more expensive.
But the bikes I listed don't look like barn finds and there is no reason to think they are. Furthermore, the total cost once overhauled would still be less. Further furthermore- STX and Deore LX from the mid90s is just as good or better than what is on a 7.2FX.

The 7.2 comes with a cheap Shimano M131 crank. You cant even change the chainrings on it.
The 7.2 comes with Altus and Acera components. These are lower quality than STX and LX, even with 20 years time. With that said, I am sure the Altus and Acera will work fine as even entry level Altus/Acera shifting is reliable at this point.
The 7.2 comes with a lowend hiten steel fork.

The 7.2 is a very good and popular option for a commuter flat bar bike but its over the desired $400 budget. And it has low end components. If budget is really a concern, a rigid frame mtb will be $100-200 cheaper even after overhauled at a bike shop and it will have smaller wheels for someone 5'3".

https://boulder.craigslist.org/bik/5220191189.html
There is this option too, possibly.
Toss out some options which tick all of the boxes- under $400, better gearing, properly fits, etc, while still being good overall quality.



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Old 09-24-15, 03:48 PM
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Originally Posted by mstateglfr View Post
What looks like the lowest end one is the only one worth considering? How so?

It's the nicest looking. Life is too short to waste any of it riding ugly bikes.


Originally Posted by mstateglfr View Post
https://boulder.craigslist.org/bik/5220191189.html
There is this option too, possibly.
Toss out some options which tick all of the boxes- under $400, better gearing, properly fits, etc, while still being good overall quality.


Now you are talking. Shimano front derraileur and she is almost good to go. Only way to improve it would be to put drop-bars on it...
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Old 09-24-15, 05:39 PM
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Wow! You guys are amazing and super helpful. This is what I'm hearing:

- Check out craiglist, after I know what size to look for.
- Go to more shops and see what they say (Today I stopped into another shop and they suggested the Fuji Absolute 2.3. It was 300$, but seemed heavier than the Trek and less... sexy? Zippy? I'm not sure how I should weigh that as a consideration.)
- Learn some basic bike maintenance (Sorry guys, I don't think I'm gonna be building my own bike right now...)
- Consider brands like: Raleigh, Diamondback, Giant.
- See how the drop handled bikes feel, don't abandon that notion right away.
- Mixed feelings on the Trek 7.2.

Thanks! You guys rock. :-)
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Old 09-24-15, 06:08 PM
  #20  
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As if there wasn't enough to look over now you have pages worth written just for you. There are so many choices but deep down each company produces its own version of the different types of bikes ie road bike, mountain bike, fitness etc. You have different price points within the category and maybe some other choices as well. Too much choice, like much today. Basically decide what kind of bike you want and choose a company.

Problem with Hybrids is they aren't good at anything. I have one and want a mtn bike now. You sound like you want a road bike. Problem 2 is that road bikes of this name brand quality aren't found much under 1k. Mtn bikes start around 400 but you should really get the $800 one. If you knew now what you would have known then which we here know and would almost all tell you to spend the extra money. I didn't like the FX cause it doesn't have any shocks and has thinner tires. For roads that's good, I do more trails. And still you should specialize in road or trail not be mediocre at both.
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Old 09-25-15, 03:25 AM
  #21  
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https://boulder.craigslist.org/bik/5237769866.html

How about this? Should be a good fit and its in your price range.
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Old 09-25-15, 04:19 AM
  #22  
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hey, not to beat a dead horse, but it seems that some are of the opinion that females can't or won't do any bike stuff except buy a pretty pink one. i am a guy and even i find that offensive. i agree you won't be building a complete bike, but if it is going to be your main mode of transport, i personally feel it is really important to at least know how to do the basics. changing a flat at the least.

furthermore, i really don't feel that a brand new bike is in your budget. and if you did buy a brand new bike for this price, you would most likely be repairing or replacing things soon anyway and probably not be happy with how it rides compared to some really good quality used bikes that could be had for cheaper.

in the end, it is completely your decision. if you want to commute on a time-trial or track bike, go for it! who cares what the people say, but the most important thing is that the bike is comfortable for you to ride back and forth everyday, otherwise you will ride for a few weeks then quit because your back and knees are hurting too bad. no point in doing that. i think you are on the right track by going and trying a bunch of different rides to see which one fits you best and how they fit differently. this will probably pay off more in the end than buying the most expensive, maintenance-free bike out there. good luck!
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Old 09-26-15, 09:30 AM
  #23  
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What about this one? Is this a good one?

https://boulder.craigslist.org/bik/5223493417.html
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Old 09-26-15, 09:32 AM
  #24  
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Originally Posted by littlemiss View Post
What about this one? Is this a good one?

https://boulder.craigslist.org/bik/5223493417.html
Perfect for you...Good Price.
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Old 09-26-15, 11:53 AM
  #25  
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By "basic bike maintenance" they probably just mean you should learn how to change the tube if you ever get a flat tire, how to lube your chain, etc.... not "how to build a bike"!

A lot of bike shops offer a "basic maintenance" class for free.

If you get that road bike, you can have the saddle moved back/forward - as well as up/down, and the handlebar raised to get you into a more upright position. The stem may also be replaced with a shorter one. Later on, you can have a shop install levers on the top of the bar for easier braking when riding with your hands on the tops of the bar.

Last edited by GovernorSilver; 09-26-15 at 11:57 AM.
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