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Thinking of catching the cycling bug and need some guidance

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Fifty Plus (50+) Share the victories, challenges, successes and special concerns of bicyclists 50 and older. Especially useful for those entering or reentering bicycling.

Thinking of catching the cycling bug and need some guidance

Old 08-12-14, 08:46 PM
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infotime
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Thinking of catching the cycling bug and need some guidance

Hi everybody! This looks like a great forum. Iím hoping to get a little guidance here to get me started in cycling. Iíve only been old enough to post in this sub-forum for about seven months

Iíve been thinking about getting a nice bike to start riding around my neighborhood and maybe get in the habit of riding frequently for improved health reasons. My health is good now. Iím 6í and about 200 lbs. I play volleyball one or two nights a week on a league and get a fun, but minor, workout. Iíd like to do more to improve my fitness and health. Iím not one to join a gym and get into that scene or that routine. Nor do I think Iíd do well with exercise equipment at home. Riding a bike seems like it might be a natural, fun way to improve my health and well being.

Also, Iím not approaching this with a goal in mind. Not jumping in saying Iím going to ride x number of miles x number of times per week or anything like that. I know myself. That would be a recipe for failure. Iím hoping to buy a decent bike and start riding. Then after a while I might really catch the bug and get more serious.

Iím anxious to get started so there are three key areas I need to get some clarity on to get going.
what bike
where to ride
accessories and technology

WHERE TO RIDE

Iíll discuss this first, since that will have a large impact initially on what type of bike to get. To get started and probably for a while Iíd like to ride around my neighborhood. It looks like I could ride about a 4.5 mile course around my neighborhood with only have to cross a 35MPH two lane road twice. Doubt that my initial rides would go that far. But it appears I could get it a lot of riding without having to ďleave homeĒ. I think this is a key to success to get me started. If I have to pack up a bike, drive somewhere unload the bike, ride, pack up, drive home, etc. I donít think itíll ever get off the ground. So most of my riding will be on 25MPH paved streets. Theyíre not busy roads at all most of the time.

WHAT BIKE

So from what I understand so far my choices are Comfort Hybrid, Fitness Hybrid and Road Bike. Iíve test ridden the Comfort and Fitness bikes. I use the word test lightly - rode about 5 or 6 different bikes around a parking lot and around the block with a small hill. At this early phase of my search Iím favoring the Comfort. I like the seating position being more upright vs the Fitness. I also liked the smooth ride. I did appreciate how the Fitness models seemed fast and light. But I didnít like the bent over position. Also thought the feel of the road was a little too tight and any little crack in the pavement was felt.

Someone suggested to just go for a Road Bike. Havenít tried one, but it seems if I prefer the Comfort over the Fitness then the Road would be even further from what I like.

Currently I have a $120 Wally-World bike that Iíve not ridden any more than I have to. Got it to ride with my son when he got a new bike last year. Any good bike that Iíve tried at the bike shops blow away my current bike. So anything I ride seems awesome in comparison.

So Iím about decided on a Comfort Hybrid. Thereís only a few remaining objections. One is that Iíve heard you have to work harder with one. Well maybe thatís a good thing for me. Iíll be riding alone so I wonít have to worry about keeping up. And if I have to work harder to go the same distance Iím going to get a better workout, right? The other possible objection in my mind is will I regret getting the comfortable choice. Sure it feels good now, but if I start getting into the sport I might wish I had bought a more serious bike like a Fitness Hybrid. My response to myself on that is if I got the Fitness and donít enjoy riding it because itís too harsh or uncomfortable I may not ride much and end up fat and unhappy on the couch watching football.

ACCESSORIES and TECHNOLOGY

Iím a computer guy, in the computer and technology business. Iíve got an iPhone and iPad and Macs and PCs at home. Some of the new Trek bikes in one of the shops had iPhone mounts on the stem and a spot of the frame to mount a sensor. I probably shouldnít let that little feature sway my decision but it would be cool to have. Not sure why I need it, since I havenít really looked in to the apps and the like that are available. Plus, cycling should probably be an escape for me. I donít want to be on a ride and have to worry about why bluetooth isnít syncing. But I am nonetheless intrigued.

Iíll definitely buy a good helmet and always wear it. I might get some lights and things for riding at night. Iím a night person by nature and may end up riding at night more than the day. Time will tell.

Anyway, if youíve read this far thanks for reading. If you have anything to add or comment on Iím all ears.

Thanks!
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Old 08-12-14, 11:29 PM
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Most important thing about a bike is that it fits you properly. Not every bike shop cares enough to sell you a bike that fits. Read up in bike fit so you are an informed shopper.

If you get semi serious about riding, the comfort hybrid will get replaced in a year and the fitness hybrid in two. Nothing wrong with that, always nice to have a spare bike.

Best way to ride more is to make riding part of your daily life. Errands, grocery runs, commuting. Maybe not right away but in no time at all you will be wanting to do more than a 4 mile loop in your neighborhood. 4 miles on flattish roads is hardly a 15 minute ride. After the initial weeks, you won't get much exercise or challenge from a 15 minute ride.

Get Cyclemeter on your iPhone, it will track your rides via GPS with the iPhone sitting in your pocket. No need to see the iPhone as you ride.

Do your riding in daylight at first. Night riding requires more experience, lights, reflective clothing, street riding savvy.

Have fun!

Last edited by jyl; 08-12-14 at 11:33 PM.
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Old 08-13-14, 12:25 AM
  #3  
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Don't think your first bike will be your last bike! Over the course of a year I started with a comfort cruiser, then four months later wanted to go faster/farther and moved up to a road hybrid (flat bar) bike. Six months later still wanted to faster/farther with less effort (like all the other cool kids) and moved up again to a road bike . . . And do not regret the progression of bikes at all.

There was no way I could have 'started' on a road bike and still have an appreciation for my time/miles in the saddle on the others to better enjoy what the road bike has to offer. While the road bike now gets the most miles, the others have their purpose too. The hybrid is great for 10-15 mile night rides around the neighborhood (it's a tank) and the comfort cruiser is great cruising the block on holidays, at the beach or just a quick run to the store (with a bar mounted basket) for a few items.

BTW - Sites like Craig's List are good place to start, but stick with quality brands (all three of mine were CL finds, under three years old and less than half of retail.) NOW if I can just find a "good deal" on a newer Roubaix with a 105 (or better) set-up . . . Love'em all, but want ONE more! (It's kind of like a fever ->>> "N+1")

Good Luck!

Last edited by Jimbosays; 08-13-14 at 12:43 AM.
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Old 08-13-14, 12:51 AM
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In my opinion a comfort bike would be a waste of money. Just ride your wally world bike. The reason I say that is because "comfort" bikes are made for people that don't ride bikes....at least those that don't ride them "seriously". If all you want to do is ride a few miles a few times a week, then fine...but that same upright saddle that feels so comfortable for short distances makes it nearly impossible to use that bike for anything approaching serious riding. The fitness type bike will at least allow you to grow with your cycling.
An iphone app with your bike is a great idea. There are plenty of inexpensive bike computers and reviews of same online. No need for them with a comfort bike. Just put that thing out of your mind. A flat bar fitness type bike would be my recommendation to start with. Best of luck.
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Old 08-13-14, 01:22 AM
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When you play volleyball, do you:

- bat the ball back and forth over the net? Get a comfort bike.

- bump set spike? Get a hybrid.

- 6/2 offense or designated setter? Get a road bike.

- Run plays & have practices? Get a $2k carbon bike

You'll outgrow your neighborhood quickly- a two hour ride will be about 30 miles.

It also depends on the terrain- if it's pretty flat you can get around on anything; hills/ mountains want a more efficient riding position.
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Old 08-13-14, 03:42 AM
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Hmm. Difficult to advise a complete beginner who isn't sure about the sort of rides he wants to do.

First of all, 4.5 miles is a very short ride for anyone who is reasonably fit. Even just pottering along, I'm going to finish that circuit in 20 minutes, and 20 minutes at low intensity isn't much of a workout. And if I go for it I'm going to be done in less than 15. So if you are serious about using the bike as a way of getting fitter, you may want to rethink a little.

And that does inform the choice of bike. A comfort bike will be fine for shortish rides, just tooling around town, that sort of stuff. But you are right to be concerned that if you decide you like cycling, you'll quickly wish you'd got something a shade sportier. This isn't just about going fast. The "comfort" bike is more comfortable for the short distances you have in mind, at relatively low speeds. But because of the riding position, which puts the bulk of your weight on your backside, it will actually be less comfortable on longer rides at greater effort levels. Road bikes are actually the most comfortable for long, hard rides because one is "flying over the bike" with weight largely borne by the power one is putting through the pedals, and relatively modest pressure on hands and backside.

Having said that, if you think the riding position on a fitness hybrid is "bent over", then a road bike is clearly not for you - at least, not yet. So I'd probably recommend the fitness hybrid. Don't expect to be immediately comfortable. It takes a while to toughen up the flesh over your sit-bones, for example. Just a couple of weeks, but it may feel longer! However, whatever you buy, make sure the staff at the shop take some time to set it up for you so that it fits - correct saddle height, reach to bars and so on. It'll make a big difference to how quickly you get comfortable.
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Old 08-13-14, 05:03 AM
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Stick to volleyball.... its way cheaper.
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Old 08-13-14, 05:29 AM
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Any bike will do for now. Its mostly the desire to ride. Don't over think it. In other words, no need to go through a strenuous "decision matrix" to say to yourself that you made a wise decision. Money-wise or any-wise. Why? Bike riding is "stupid".

A network geek was in our office. He rides and showed me the difference between a Garmin device and now a new device that works off of the smart phones. He talked about the difference between the GPS chip in a Garmin versus the GPS chip that's in a smart phone. They are different. Garmin is better; in what sense of the word, I am not certain I can even explain.

The new device is separate and apart from the smart phone. But it works with the smart phone in a wireless way. I would have to contact him to have him show me the web site.
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Old 08-13-14, 06:28 AM
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For 4.5 miles in a subdivision, any old bike will do as long as it's adjusted to work properly. Even a Wally-world BSO (Bike-Shaped Object.) It probably won't take long to graduate from there, though. I agree that a flat-bar road bike or a hybrid would be the next step. Of the two, I'd recommend the road bike. Fat tires aren't going to make it significantly easier or more comfortable to ride but they will slow you down when/if you graduate to the next step: finding a group to ride with. If you reach that point, even the flat-bar roadie's days may be numbered and a full road bike will be indicated. If you get in with a group, then exercise becomes a couple hours of hanging with the guys, who just happen to be riding. In other words, a 30-mile ride isn't so much an exercise session; it's just a social event.
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Old 08-13-14, 06:42 AM
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I'd agree with those who say ride what you have for a little longer and see where you really want to go. I returned to riding about 3 years ago with somewhat the same idea. Riding 5 miles or so in the evening with my wife (someone had given her a bike and I got one just to keep her company). After a couple of weeks on a hybrid, I bought a road bike and was much, much more comfortable on it. I found the flat bars very hard on the hands and wrists. And we quickly extended the length of our rides, getting to 20 miles or so within about a month. We do have the advantage of being able to ride very nice roads without driving anywhere. Although that does involve a lot of 60 mph roads, they don't have a lot of traffic and you quickly get used to riding them.

If you don't end up wanting to ride farther, any bike will do. But if you like it, you'll be going farther soon and the will change what kind of bike you want.
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Old 08-13-14, 06:47 AM
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Keep in mind that a fitness type bike can be modified (higher rise handlebars, wider tires, softer saddle) to be more like the comfort bike much more effectively than a comfort bike can be made to be more like a fitness bike. As your riding progresses, you can go back to the original parts or move a little beyond. If you later decide to move on to a drop bar road bike, the fitness bike will still be a good commuter/short errand type bike, while the comfort bike will be more likely to sit idle.
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Old 08-13-14, 06:53 AM
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You didn't say where you live but posting your location might help others refer you to a store. While a comfort bike initially seems like a good idea, any riding past that 4.5 mile loop once a few times a week will get old. You might find a shop that lets you test ride both a comfort and a fitness bike for longer test rides. A fitness bike can also be set up for more comfort and then adjusted later after you got some time/miles in.

As you ride and get into better cycling shape, a fitness bike will feel much more suited to riding.

Regardless, congratulations on wanting to ride and improve your fitness. A few rides each week goes along way to improving both physical and emotional well being.
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Old 08-13-14, 07:21 AM
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Welcome!!

Your post sounds exactly like what my first one would have sounded like a little over 10 years ago. I started riding the same age as you. My first road ride was 12 miles on a mountain bike and I thought I'd gone around the world. That mountain bike was all I thought I ever needed. What I've learned is over that period is I should have bought a lot more bike than I thought I needed every time I bought a bike. If you find that you enjoy riding, I suspect you'll find that you'll want to ride further and eventually faster. It's a heck of a lot of fun riding solo, riding with groups, exploring new areas on your bike you never knew existed and doing organized rides. Just the fact you're posting here and even thinking about dabbling with it shows a lot more interest than the average person. There is a lot of cool geeky stuff about bikes/cycling that you haven't even uncovered yet. My suggestion might be to get more feedback from others on the ultimate opportunities from doing more riding than just close to your house to see if that creates any interest. You might even go visit an organized ride with rest stops so you can see what that's about to see if that is something you might enjoy. Cycling can be terrific exercise, a great stress reliever and very rewarding. Good luck with whatever you decide!
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Old 08-13-14, 10:25 AM
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Originally Posted by infotime
So I’m about decided on a Comfort Hybrid. There’s only a few remaining objections. One is that I’ve heard you have to work harder with one. Well maybe that’s a good thing for me. I’ll be riding alone so I won’t have to worry about keeping up. And if I have to work harder to go the same distance I’m going to get a better workout, right? The other possible objection in my mind is will I regret getting the comfortable choice. Sure it feels good now, but if I start getting into the sport I might wish I had bought a more serious bike like a Fitness Hybrid. My response to myself on that is if I got the Fitness and don’t enjoy riding it because it’s too harsh or uncomfortable I may not ride much and end up fat and unhappy on the couch watching football.
Can't really speak to some of your other issues, but I thought I'd post my experience riding a hybrid. BTW, I'm not quite old enough to be a regular here, but I am only 14 days away from qualifying. Hopefully I won't see any pitchforks or torches headed my way.

Pretty sure I won't.

Anyway....

A few years ago my truck broke. I had taken a beating in 2009 (post-near collapse of the banking system). I was laid off of a good job and could only find a really, really poorly-paid job. I considered myself lucky at the time to have even found a job in my field (same as yours). The bad part was that I couldn't afford to fix my truck, so I rode the bus for a while. I live in a gigantic city. I had to ride the bus from the north side to downtown for a transfer, then on the longest route the city has to a place waaaaaaay out on the west side.

After a few three hour bus rides (Sunday nights) I found myself once again sitting at a bus stop looking forward to taking forever to get home, hoping that I don't have to deal w/ a crazy wino who hadn't bathed in a few months on the bus ride. I thought, "This is nuts. I could ride a bicycle home quicker than it's going to take me to get home on the bus." So, I started riding my Trek 7100 hybrid. At first it was hard because I was so out of shape. It was 20 miles one way. Surprisingly quickly it didn't take long for me to be able to do the ride in 1.5 hours, work all day, and then do a 1.5 hour bike ride home.

The only time I ever wished for a bike w/ drop bars was when I was facing a stiff headwind.

After a little while I decided that I wanted a bike w/ drop bars, so I found a 1983 Fuji S-12S LTD 12 speed and started riding that.

1. I noticed very little difference in my commute times. Maybe a few (less than five) minutes.

2. I really appreciated having solid forks rather than the sprung suspension on the Trek. The suspension forks on the Trek didn't have a lock-out, so every time I got on the pedals the front end of the bike felt a bit "bouncy". I didn't like that.

3. I didn't like using the drop bars on the Fuji unless it was really windy out. I generally rode on the tops because when I got down in the drops my thighs would be the crap out of my gut (I'm in far worse condition than you, by the sound of it).

I've since moved on to another job (much, MUCH more pay, hallelujah). I got my transportation issues sorted and wound up w/ a decent vehicle. The new job is in an area where the traffic is plain crazy, and riding cross town means getting funneled into one of three passages across highways, bayous & train tracks. Here in Houston, half the drivers don't have insurance, a third of them don't even have licenses, and far too many of them are either drunk or way too aggressive when it comes to bicyclists.

I started driving to work.

Now I'm gaining weight and looking to resume bicycle commuting. I've scouted out a route which takes me a bit out of the way, but should be safe enough. My Trek was stolen earlier this year, so I'm looking around for another commuter.

If I didn't already have the Fuji, my choice of a commuter would be a rigid hybrid or a rigid old-school (80's) mountain bike converted into a commuter. I'm half-tempted to put some North Road bars, a brooks saddle and some 700c wheels onto the Fuji, essentially turning it into a hybrid/comfort bike of sorts.

So, were I you, I'd not worry at all about a hybrid. They're sturdy, solid, good bikes. I loved my Trek until that wretched ne'er-do-well stole it from my parlor.

Last edited by SkippyX; 08-13-14 at 10:47 AM.
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Old 08-13-14, 11:42 AM
  #15  
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ride the bike you have
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Old 08-13-14, 12:13 PM
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infotime
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Originally Posted by rumrunn6
ride the bike you have
The brakes on it are always grabbing, even when not braking. It's done this since it was new. I had a bike mechanic adjust them but it lasted about a week. There are other little issues with it. I don't want to fix the brakes again and I'm tired of fooling with it. It's not fun to ride, at all.
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Old 08-13-14, 01:24 PM
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While you can ride a BSO for short local trips or errands it's not exactly going to encourage you to ride more which is what the op wants. I volunteer at a community bike workshop and we groan when given one to work on as they're usually difficult to repair/set-up and weigh a ton. We normally strip them of any usable components and then scrap the rest.

I'll go along with those who suggest a decent quality hybrid (no front suspension) or flat bar road bike which is more likely help the op develop his riding skills, distances and enjoyment.

If he catches the bug, in a year or two who knows what bike(s) he may want...........
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Old 08-13-14, 02:17 PM
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infotime, you got a lot of input already and I'll let you sort it all out. I only have two recommendations: 1.) whatever bike you are considering purchasing, arrange to take it on an extended test ride. Something a lot more than a spin around the parking lot or even once around the block. Any shop worth your having your money will let you keep the bike for an hour or two. Take it out for at least ten miles or at least a half an hour. This will give you a better feel for the bike. Try to ride in varied terrain, if possible and nearby the shop. You might have to leave your driver's license and/or car keys as collateral. You are starting to build a relationship with a shop. Most shops don't want to sell just one bike to someone . . . they want a life-long relationship where they will serve your cycling needs well into the future.

And, 2.) have a serious discussion with your shop about your ideas and cycling goals. If they are a worthy shop, they will take the time to get to know you and your needs. You can start out small, then build up to big. Ask the shop if they will purchase back your "old" bike, (not your current BSO), when you upgrade to a "better" one, also purchased from them. A trade-in, if you will. Most shops will do that, but you want to make sure that they won't rip you off either. You don't want a shop that will promise to take your previous purchase as a trade-in, then only give you ten cents on the dollar. (And of course, they won't really want a trashed bike. You'll have to take care of what you have. Keep it inside, keep it clean and maintained properly, etc.)

I suspect that if you play volleyball once or twice a week, and you have to use a towel to "dry off" several time during the match, that you are in better physical shape than you think. At your height and weight, you could stand to lose a few, (I'm 6'3" and the BMI boundary between "healthy" and "overweight" is right at 200 pounds - I'm 215, so slightly overweight for my height). My guess is that if you get the comfort bike, you will outgrow it within a few months. All you need to do is get your body used to riding. Your butt will toughen up and your body will be fine after the initial protests of using muscles that you didn't even realize you have. As mentioned, a proper fit is paramount for mitigating body pain caused by cycling.

Good luck with our decision. Ride safe.
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Old 08-13-14, 02:34 PM
  #19  
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Get some new tires for your present bike, oil the chain and ride it. You really do not need a new bike. You just need to ride.
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Old 08-13-14, 04:23 PM
  #20  
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You will be surprised how quickly that 4.5 circuit gets to be easy and you need to ride farther.
The comfort hybrid would be good when riding with a young kid. But get the hybrid fitness is your really want fitness.
If you want a tough workout, ride your cheap bike with the knobby tires.
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Old 08-13-14, 10:06 PM
  #21  
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Originally Posted by digibud
In my opinion a comfort bike would be a waste of money. Just ride your wally world bike. The reason I say that is because "comfort" bikes are made for people that don't ride bikes....at least those that don't ride them "seriously". If all you want to do is ride a few miles a few times a week, then fine...but that same upright saddle that feels so comfortable for short distances makes it nearly impossible to use that bike for anything approaching serious riding. The fitness type bike will at least allow you to grow with your cycling.
When I say Comfort bike I'm referring to models like the Giant Cypress or Trek Verve. And for Fitness I've seen the Giant Escape and Trek FX series. Does that change what you're saying? Want to be sure we're talking about the same thing.
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Old 08-13-14, 10:11 PM
  #22  
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Originally Posted by woodcraft
When you play volleyball, do you:

- bat the ball back and forth over the net? Get a comfort bike.

- bump set spike? Get a hybrid.

- 6/2 offense or designated setter? Get a road bike.

- Run plays & have practices? Get a $2k carbon bike

You'll outgrow your neighborhood quickly- a two hour ride will be about 30 miles.

It also depends on the terrain- if it's pretty flat you can get around on anything; hills/ mountains want a more efficient riding position.
Haha, nicely done! The leagues I play in are bump, set, spike... Coed sand and court. I can play 6/2 and 5/1 offenses, etc. but finding enough other players who are that into it and who can play on a regular basis just ain't happening.
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Old 08-13-14, 10:19 PM
  #23  
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Originally Posted by StanSeven
You didn't say where you live but posting your location might help others refer you to a store.
Louisville, KY.
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Old 08-13-14, 10:29 PM
  #24  
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Originally Posted by volosong
infotime, you got a lot of input already and I'll let you sort it all out. I only have two recommendations: 1.) whatever bike you are considering purchasing, arrange to take it on an extended test ride. Something a lot more than a spin around the parking lot or even once around the block. Any shop worth your having your money will let you keep the bike for an hour or two. Take it out for at least ten miles or at least a half an hour. This will give you a better feel for the bike. Try to ride in varied terrain, if possible and nearby the shop. You might have to leave your driver's license and/or car keys as collateral.
A long test ride sounds like a good idea. Although I'm not sure about the idea. First of all I don't know when I've ever ridden 10 miles on a bike. I did a distance like that maybe a couple of times in my teens on a Schwinn 10 speed. But that's it. Any bike I ride, even a $350 model would be such a big improvement over what I've ridden in recent years that I'd be thrilled with any of them. What would I look for with an extended test ride?
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Old 08-13-14, 10:31 PM
  #25  
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Thanks for all the thoughtful, detailed responses for far! You guys are awesome.

Man how I wanted to have a new bike today. It was such a beautiful day here.
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