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Need help with new bike decision

Old 01-21-14, 08:42 AM
  #1  
en2ec
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Need help with new bike decision

I'm 43 and haven't ridden regularly for years. When I was in college, I'd ride ~20 miles a day. I just so happen to be going back to get a PhD this Fall at Duke University. We'll most likely live in Chapel Hill or Carrboro. I would like to eventually work up to a commute the whole way, which will be 9 - 10 miles each way. At the minimum, I'll drive and park in an outer lot off campus and will use the bike for transport around campus and around downtown Durham.

I am currently living in Vienna, Austria and had thought about buying a bike here since there a lot more options for bikes that are already set up for daily commuting with fenders, lights with dynamo hubs, racks, etc. But the bikes aren't so cheap, and they are a lot heavier than an equivalently priced and equipped bike in the US. Plus, if a defect reveals itself in a few months, I'll be on my own. So I've mostly decided to get a bike in the US, but all I can go on is what I read online since I can't ride them until I get there. I'll want to buy one ASAP when I arrive in 6 weeks.

Or maybe someone will convince me to get a bike here before I go. Shipping cost isn't an issue since my employer is paying. I'll be bummed if I don't get a bike here, then can't find something I like back in the US.

I want ease of maintenance, reliability and all-weather capability in street clothes. Therefore, I want an IGH and either a chain guard or a Gates belt drive. I want something that can be fine for both around campus and eventually longer commutes and that is fairly comfortable.

One issue I may have is correct sizing, which will make the decision for me if only one bike works well. I'm 5'7" with a 29 inch stand over height. Bike shops here say I need at least an inch clearance. But most bikes with that much clearance feel like the TT is too short. I've read in a number of places that stand over height doesn't matter much and that you can adapt. When I was a kid, I had bikes that were way to high, and I did adapt without a problem.

I've identified 4 possible.

- Novara Gotham ($1260 after REI member dividend ... maybe less if a 20% member coupon is going when I buy)
- Breezer Finesse (2011 model had been $2K now $1250)
- Jamis Commuter 4 ($1050)
- Breezer Uptown Infinity or 8 ($1050 or $850)

The Breezer Finesse has a better frame and lighter components like a carbon fork and seatpost and pretty much a full set of Alfine components. Has a dynamo hub and B&M headlight. Weight is 28 lbs.

The Novara Gotham has a slightly lesser quality frame and components than the Finesse except for a NuVinci N360 with a Gates belt drive. It has a rechargeable headlight rather than dynamo. It weighs 34 lbs.

The Jamis Commuter 4 has a NuVinci with chain drive and no light but is cheaper and weighs 31.5 lbs.

The Breezer Uptown is a back up plan in case sizing of the above bikes doesn't work for me.

Any thoughts? Advice? Does the weight difference matter for my purposes? By the way, most bikes here way 35 - 45 pounds with 35 being considered light.
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Old 01-21-14, 09:05 AM
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Since money isn't a issue - buy what you want there - what you want will be harder to find here.

Just ask them to go over it there. Repair parts re easy to get here.
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Old 01-21-14, 01:40 PM
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Anything will do, really. It's a question of how much time or money you are willing to put into it. Which resource is scarcer, time or money? If it's time, buy it there. You can fix it later or even have a local mechanic fix it. They'll know how.
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Old 01-21-14, 02:44 PM
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brands of a given bike Type. at the same price point will be more similar than different ..

ever hear about the Narcissism, of sweating small differences, in any of your post graduate studies?

I am currently living in Vienna, Austria
sounds Lovely .. Danube river valley is likely pretty flat across the city. dont get your Bike stolen .
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Old 01-21-14, 03:13 PM
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fietsbob, you don't believe your post was helpful in any way, do you?
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Old 01-21-14, 03:14 PM
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Agree. But also wonder what the freaking rush is about? Even if shipping is free, there may be shipping damage. The o.p. doesn't sound like an ace mechanic. Buy a four figure bike over here and lifetime service and tune-ups are guaranteed. There are more than four commuter bike models on the U.S. market. Europeans do not have the market cornered on capable, worthy, bikes suitable for commuting with. Walk into an LBS with four figures to spend and you just may ride out on a completely different bike from what you went in to buy. And you'd be alright in the end. You can't buy a bad bike for four figures. You just can't. It may not fit you, it may not have the right gearing, etc. but none of these details would make it an unsafe or unworthy bicycle to commute on. OTOH I commute just fine, really rather excellently all things considered, on a Schwinn that cost just $150 from the co-op. Fenders (Planet Bike) were included. $25.00 rack (Planet Bike Eco - 55lb capacity). Twin MagicShine headlights (~$150). A previous owner already removed every graphic off the bike except the head-badge. I'd really feel awful taking sandpaper to a brand new four figure bike. In fact, I wouldn't do it! FWIW.

H
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Old 01-21-14, 03:38 PM
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They make bikes now for commuting purposes that have 3 to 5 to 7 internal gears inside the rear hub and these systems are very maintenance free and very reliable. Gates belt drive thing is not going to take off, not sure why, but sales on those types of bikes never took off so it will be rare to find a gates belt bike. But lubing a Chain is no big deal, there are plenty of threads here on this forum about lubing and videos on You Tube will show you how. The biggest maintenance issue you'll have on a bike is fixing a flat on the road, if you're not mechanically inclined simply watch a bunch of You Tube videos then practice with a junk rim and tire, or some bike shops will also teach you. Fixing a flat is not a big deal either once you learn how. Of course you can eliminate flats by using superior flat resistant tires like Schwalbe Marathon, or Specialized All Condition Pro, or Panaracer Pasela TG, and a few others; then to add to the flat protection you could install a flat resistant liner like the Panaracer FlatAway. You can never achieve a flat proof tire, but you can go a long ways towards rarely getting a flat.
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Old 01-21-14, 03:56 PM
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Spending your money at an LBS that will support your purchase decision, tips the balance in favor of buying in NC.
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Old 01-21-14, 04:08 PM
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If it was me, I would buy a bike there, and then if it didn't work out, buy one in NC more to your liking. Then either sell the Austrian bike or not. I think if I didn't buy a bike in Austria, I would regret it.
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Old 01-22-14, 05:57 AM
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Thanks everyone for your replies. The issue with buying a bike here is that at this time of year, shops don't have a lot in stock. If I had to order something, I'd need to do it really soon. The smallest frame size for most European bikes is 50 cm, which I can straddle but only barely on some models and not on others. I'm reluctant to order a bike here because of the timing and size issues.

If I buy a bike in NC, I'll want it right away because I don't want to rush a car buying decision for our 2nd car and was hoping that we could get by with 1 car and a bike for a while. I'd rather rush the bike decision.

It isn't that I'm not mechanically inclined (I can change a flat tire and can do basic bike maintenance), it is that I tend to be forgetful/procrastinate when it comes to things like routine maintenance. Knowing myself, I'm much better off with a fairly maintenance free bike.

I think I've decided to wait and buy the bike in NC from a LBS (or REI). There are enough in the area that I'll have a good selection.

By the way, I have a 1999 Jamis Exile with a nice Reynolds steel frame that I've never ridden very much. I bought it at a LBS in Washington, DC. I don't ride it because it isn't a good fit for size or function. I was never a mountain biker and put city tires on it immediately. The problem is that the shop sized me for a mountain bike, so the frame is too small for me for city riding. I have to have the seat up about as high as it can go, which is several inches higher than the handlebar. When I ride, my neck aches, and I feel a lot of strain in my wrists. That's why I want to get a bike designed to be a commuter and not try to adapt one to the purpose.
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Old 01-22-14, 05:27 PM
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Check out the Spot Acme. IGH with Gates drive.
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Old 01-22-14, 07:24 PM
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Can you rent there then buy here?
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Old 01-22-14, 09:50 PM
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If you want a good European or Dutch style city bike you might have a difficult time here. There are a bunch in the close-but-not-quite arena and lots of road, mtn, and recreational though.

Other advantages to buying there is that it will be available for you as soon as you get here, no worries about finding something, making a decision, waiting if they have to order it, backorder problems, etc. You'll also likely have something a bit more unique and something to remember Vienna. From a maintenance standpoint, if it's a good quality bike with good quality components you'll likely not need any as these bikes tend to be pretty bullet-proof. If you do you shouldn't have any problems as long as it uses standard components (Shimano, Sturmy, etc.). For me it'd be a very easy decision to buy there, even if I had to pay shipping.
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Old 01-23-14, 02:55 AM
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CrankyOne: Yeah, those are all the reasons I was considering buying here. Every brand has several options, whereas there are only a handful of similar bikes sold by US brands. I think I've essentially run out of time here though. Vienna bike shops (all shops for that matter) shut at 6 pm M - F and are generally open from 9 - 2 on Saturday. I can't make it during the week, and at most I can hit 2 bike shops on a Saturday because I have to do all my other shopping then. These are tiny shops with very limited selection. Very hit or miss. I also don't want to spend my remaining free time here finding a bike.

I've also worried a bit that a unique European bike will catch the eye of a bike thief.

Thelazywon: The Spot Acme is a gorgeous bike, but out of my price range.
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Old 01-23-14, 03:03 AM
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I forgot to mention before that I did find a Kalkhoff Limited with an 11 speed Alfine and everything else I want in a bike. I can stand with my feet on the ground but I have zero clearance. It is basically like sitting on the top tube. I'm not sure how prudent it is to get a bike this tall. When riding, it is great though. I'm also nervous about the 11 speed Alfine. I've read about a lot of problems. It seems that the 8 speed is extremely reliable but the 11 speed has some problems. The bike has been in the shop for 2+ years, and the guy is asking ~$975. A good deal, but if I get to the US and the IGH turns out to be bad, then it isn't such a good deal.
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Old 01-23-14, 08:38 AM
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What is your price range? I was thinking you'd love a Rivendell, but that's probably way too much money.

I've ridden plenty of bikes with no clearance between top tube and pubic bone. It's fine for me. When I stop, I tip the bike to the side. I don't imagine everyone is willing to do that, though. But no, I haven't been injured. Not even close.
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Old 01-23-14, 09:05 AM
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Originally Posted by noglider View Post
What is your price range? I was thinking you'd love a Rivendell, but that's probably way too much money.

I've ridden plenty of bikes with no clearance between top tube and pubic bone. It's fine for me. When I stop, I tip the bike to the side. I don't imagine everyone is willing to do that, though. But no, I haven't been injured. Not even close.
I have a scoche more room than that on my trek tourer, but I agree with this
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Old 01-24-14, 06:56 PM
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Originally Posted by en2ec View Post
If I buy a bike in NC, I'll want it right away because I don't want to rush a car buying decision for our 2nd car and was hoping that we could get by with 1 car and a bike for a while. I'd rather rush the bike decision.
Here's my recommendation:

Start studying the NC craigslist now, get a feel for the market. You're looking at >$1000 bikes, that'll get you some pretty schweet wheels eventually, but set aside $100-200 to purchase a CL bike within the week you arrive in NC. That bike will be good enough to last you a few months while you shop for the Real Bike, but not so good that when you get the Real Bike you won't notice much difference and you'll feel ripped off by all the extra money. Also, once you buy the real bike, you can keep the cheap one around as a beater/backup, or sell it "back into the CL cloud" for approximately the same price.

The usual recommendation is an oldish non-suspension mountain bike. They're indestructible, reliable, cheap, comfortable, and if you get some slick tires, fast enough. But depending on your preferences, you may look for a touring bike or a SS or who knows --- it's up to you what you want your N-1 bike to be!

BTW, kudos for planning to get into biking. I'm 43 as well, I got back into biking at about age 40 after not riding hardly at all for 15-20 years. First year I didn't do that much. second year I did mostly recreational riding, and very occasionally biked the 25 miles each way to work. 2013 was year three, I moved close to work and became a full time bike commuter. No looking back.
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