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ISO a beginner bike

Old 10-14-20, 05:44 AM
  #1  
Ryno317
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ISO a beginner bike

Hey everyone. I looking to get back to bike riding again, probably haven't in about 20 yrs. The plan is to start out on some easy rail to trails paths and the Pennypack Park system in Philadelphia. But I would like to add in some off-road / hilly dirt trails to keep it interesting.

But I need a bike. Budget is low, in case my motivation disappears over the winter. So I need some suggestions on what type and brands/models I should look for or stay away from for what I want to do. A co-worker says all the big names are good(Specialized, Trek, Nishiki) and avoid the Roadmasters, Huffy and walmart models. He also said, he'll help me fix or tune up anything I find if it needs it. I been on Craigslist, FB Marketplace and Offerup searching, do I get a MTB or a hybrid?

Sorry for the long post.
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Old 10-14-20, 06:24 AM
  #2  
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Listen to your friend with one exception, while some might argue the point, today's Nishiki (and Schwinn) basically meet the definition of a department store bike. Stay away for full suspension unless your budget is in the thousands of dollars.

If you are just getting started and looking at Rail Trails in eastern PA either a gravel bike or hybrid would be my suggestion. Not that I'm the standard of fine living, not even close but I have close to 600 miles in 2020 riding the D&L Trail (out of a total of 4700 total bicycle miles to date 2020), mostly north of Allentown but within the last month I've finally hit all of it from Bristol to Black Diamond for this year. The bike I use on that trail is a Trek 4500 about 15 years old. It is a hard tail, has urban "street" tires and I have the front suspension pre-load turned up as tight as I can get it. Rail trails are so easy that having any kind of suspension is a negative in my opinion. Most of my bicycling is on the road using a road bike though.

A mountain bike that is designed for wilderness technical single track isn't really that good for a rail trail. Since I have no idea what your level of fitness is and your goals and determination to achieve those goals my suggestion is for now get a simple honest hybrid or gravel bike and hit the trails. If you decide you are really wanting to hit challenging single track, you will want a dedicated bike that is up to it. I'm in Carbon County, we have here by most definitions technical single track available locally and I can do a lot of that kind of riding with my hybrid. Not saying I'm not going to get smoked by a honcho, i will but I can do it.

One thought about my Trek. I bought this thing back in 2005 thinking the same as you that I was going to hit the wilderness. To get a little bit in shape I started riding the local canal towpath. With nothing but good intentions, I rode it about 200 miles total over about 3 years then hung the bike up in my shed and forgot about it. Then in 2018 I got it out to ride with a friend on the D&L and discovered that my fitness level was somewhere in the vicinity of sucks big time. My friend has a much nicer Gary Fisher with a "real" suspension fork (as opposed to my Rock Shock Judy) and disk brakes. For about a year I dreamed about getting fit enough to out ride my friend and replacing my Trek with something more awesome but it wasn't until a year later that I actually started working towards getting better fit. Being respectfully fit now I have a appreciation for my Trek such as it is (relatively heavy and low tech) because now my Gary Fisher riding friend cannot keep up with me even on a good day. The take away: riding a bike, any bike, on a regular schedule is far superior to sitting on the couch watching TV.

Budget: used approx $400, new $700+

Last edited by Thomas15; 10-14-20 at 06:28 AM.
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Old 10-14-20, 06:34 AM
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Used. Hardtail MTB. Look under the brand name, Gary Fisher. Plan to spend $350-400. Know your size before you begin looking.
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Old 10-14-20, 06:50 AM
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Thanks for the replies so far, keep them coming. What's a Gravel bike? Is that a hybrid? Any other brands or models I should look for?

I wasn't looking at the full suspension bikes, looks to be more then what I need, but thanks for the advice.
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Old 10-14-20, 06:51 AM
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Look for an older Cyclocross bike with canti-brakes. You can get great deals on canti-brake bikes because everyone has gone to disc, but they will be more than enough for your needs.

Also, the bike shortage is real. You may want to expand your CL and FB search beyond just Philly and see if someone will ship or meet you with the bike.
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Old 10-14-20, 07:06 AM
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This is not a technical comparison: A hybrid looks like a MTB main feature flat bars with trigger shifters but will usually have a triple chain ring and a different frame geometry. I know I know there is more to it that that but that is the basic. Most MTB will have a single small chainring and a wide range freehub. Still a hybrid is not a good choice for road and even on the rail trails it's not a speed demon. Personally I treat rail trails as a cardo workout with a high cadence.

A gravel bike looks more like a road bike, down turned bars and brifters but generally wider tires and more robust wheels than a road bike.

Again more to it than that.

When I was a kid it was easy, parents took us to the store and we picked out a bike based on looks, rode the bike where ever we pleased. Today it's complicated and most of us have several bikes, we pick out a bike based on what kind of riding we are doing that day.
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Old 10-14-20, 07:26 AM
  #7  
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Originally Posted by Ryno317 View Post
A co-worker says all the big names are good(Specialized, Trek, Nishiki) and avoid the Roadmasters, Huffy and walmart models.
I can't disagree with this, even though I have a fairly solid Roadmaster bike I'm using as a beater/commuter/gravel bike. It was given to me so I'll just ride it until it falls apart. But yeah, the build quality on big name bikes is much better than the department store bikes and they'll last you a lot longer. Plus, if something does need repaired, it will be worth fixing up instead of the repairs costing you more than what the bike cost in the first place.
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Old 10-14-20, 07:34 AM
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There has been a proliferation of specialty bikes tailored to being better for a single use. It used to be that there were only road bikes and then came the mountain bike. You could ride either one on the road but probably not wise to to ride a high quality road bike with narrow high pressure tires on rugged trails. That;s why I eventually ended up with both. I found the mountain bike a little more versatile than my road bike because I could always have a second set of tires for better use on-road with the knobby off road tires for that purpose. However the MTB has a lower gear range than the road bike and was heavier so it still made sense to keep the road bike. Decide what your MAIN use will be and focus on the bike that works best for that use.


With the heat subsiding here in the desert I am beginning to see a some entry level bikes being sold at garage sales for reasonable prices. Not so on my local CL where prices seem to be through the roof. The advantage of actually seeing the bike and sitting on it is you can judge if it is the right size. Only the crappiest bikes come in one-size-fits-all. You will get a lot more pleasure out of riding a bike that fits you than one that does not.


It looks like bike availability is still unchanged - dismal in the entry level category. My local REI stores have exactly one entry level MTB (Cannondale) priced at $575 and that is a 14 speed bike with entry level components. I wouldn't touch it for that price. No road bikes below $1K and they don't even seem to mention hybrid or gravel bikes.


Be very careful buying a bike long distance. Does the current owner even know how to measure frame sizes? If they do, do you know what frame size fits you for the different categories of bike? They are not the same. I bought a couple of bikes that way but I know what I need and was sure before I bought them. Most were from regular bike shops. Shipping isn't cheap so you have to add that to the price of the bike buy from a distance. Stick to local where you can actually try the bike before you spend your money.
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Old 10-14-20, 05:34 PM
  #9  
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Originally Posted by Ryno317 View Post
Hey everyone. I looking to get back to bike riding again, probably haven't in about 20 yrs. The plan is to start out on some easy rail to trails paths and the Pennypack Park system in Philadelphia. But I would like to add in some off-road / hilly dirt trails to keep it interesting.

But I need a bike. Budget is low, in case my motivation disappears over the winter. So I need some suggestions on what type and brands/models I should look for or stay away from for what I want to do. A co-worker says all the big names are good(Specialized, Trek, Nishiki) and avoid the Roadmasters, Huffy and walmart models. He also said, he'll help me fix or tune up anything I find if it needs it. I been on Craigslist, FB Marketplace and Offerup searching, do I get a MTB or a hybrid?

Sorry for the long post.
used market will be loaded with barely used bikes after all the gyms open up and during the winter. Once you find the bike you want shop around Craigslist, EBay, and Facebook Market place.
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Old 10-15-20, 05:37 AM
  #10  
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So this is what I have found so far...
Schwinn Ranger 2.6 FS with an extra wheel $135
older Trek Mountain Track 820 $100
Iron Horse MT200R with an extra set of wheels, wont shift gears $95
Schwinn Frontier, wont shift gears $105
Columbia Trailhead Disc, comes with disc brakes, needs tubes, tires and crank bearings $50

which is the best bang for the buck or should I avoid all of them and keep looking
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Old 10-16-20, 03:50 PM
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Originally Posted by Ryno317 View Post
So this is what I have found so far...
Schwinn Ranger 2.6 FS with an extra wheel $135
older Trek Mountain Track 820 $100
Iron Horse MT200R with an extra set of wheels, wont shift gears $95
Schwinn Frontier, wont shift gears $105
Columbia Trailhead Disc, comes with disc brakes, needs tubes, tires and crank bearings $50

which is the best bang for the buck or should I avoid all of them and keep looking
Those are all really cheap bikes to begin with some of them being sold for more than they are worth. The Trek might be at the top of the heap but not be much. Any bike that doesn't work is off the table unless it is a valuable bike with quality components which Schwinn these days isn't known for and hasn't been known for, for a long time (aside from a few things here and there like the Homegrown series)

Don't buy a cheap bike as that can be a bigger deterrent to riding when things don't shift well, brake well or the bike isn't comfortable or various problems like that. Get something of decent quality with good support from your Local Bike Shop that you enjoy riding.

Nishiki was a bike boom brand and some of their stuff was ok but these days the quality just went down and are a notch above some of the Schwinns and Huffys and such but not by a whole lot.

These days the used market is terrible for all but the sellers. Seeing a Huffy going for what they paid when it is worth whatever scrap is, is a bit crazy.
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Old 10-16-20, 04:25 PM
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Buy the Trek, and fix it with your friend! Don't wait too long. MHO
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Old 10-19-20, 08:06 AM
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OK thanks for the input.

Unfortunately I did wait to long on the Trek. All but the Iron Horse and Frontier with the bad gears have been bought. I have found a Forge Sawback 5XX complete and ready to ride. I have done some reading on Forge bikes and they have good reviews with good components. Anyone have real life reviews or input?

If this falls thru, I'll probably just wait til winter and see what pops up.
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Old 12-24-20, 01:49 AM
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It depends on your patience level.

I am assuming your knowledgeable friend could accompany you so that you didn't buy a bike with issues a beginner might not notice? Fairly important when buying used.

Also .... if you buy a very cheap bike (and most of those were overpriced, IMO, but that is not my call) Then expect it to fail .... it might last the rest of your life, or it might last the rest of the week.

If your budget is $300, wait for the really good deal. if your need is driving you, get a few Decent $100 bikes with compatible parts and ty to keep one running by swapping and buying new stuff only when you have to.

You might find a 25-year old brand-name rigid MTB which basically works and will last longer than you will---you might get a bike which has needed lubrication and adjustment for the past several years and has been grinding itself into dust internally.

If you can wait, then wait and watch. Good deals are out there (in my limited experience) but you have to persevere, and also have to happen to check that listing on that day, because other people will snatch them up.

IMO, Fit is the most important aspect. If the bike doesn't fit you---is too big or too small---don't even bother---even if you drove 25 or 30 miles to see a bike which was advertised as the a different size. A god deal on a bike you will end up leaving in the garage is not a good deal.

Besides that .... buy a couple cheap bikes (or be prepared to buy another if the first one dies) and wait .... as you wait, and save, your range of options increases.
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