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Deb Gluskin 09-10-04 09:01 PM

New to cycling - looking to purchase a road bike (help please! ...)
Hi. I'm very new to cycling and would like to purchase a used or new road bike. I found what looks (?)to be a super bike - Cannondale R800 but it's alumium. I understand there are many who say aluminum's ride is very jarring and fatiguing. Thoughts? I'm not certain where to start. Hoping for a bit of guidance.


Lufty 09-10-04 09:12 PM

#1 Go ride as many bikes at your LBS. Confort is king, and a bike that fits gets ridden.
#2 Aluminum is less absorbant, but with carbom fork/seatpost etc. the ride is fine. I like my aluminum bike alot. Again, go ride many bikes in and out of your price range.
#3 I've heard alot of good input about Mike's Bikes in SF. Also Sports Basement in SF has the DEALS on everything. Don't forget the Performance Bike shop in San can't beat their sale prices, and they are the same as their online catalog.

Hope that helps for starters.

kefin 09-10-04 10:10 PM

Yes, go to a good local bike shop and test ride all the different brands and varieties you're interested in. A lot of people will probably tell you how good this or that brand is, and I'm sure they are all good bikes. But I believe the only way to tell what's right for you is for you to test ride the bikes and see how they feel. Some people like steel bikes, some titanium, some high-tech carbon, some aluminum... It really depends on the how the bike fits you and how you feel riding the bike. Nowadays, most bikes, assuming they fit, will riding comfortably whatever the material they're made of. They are differences in materials that you can feel, but I would say the geometry of the bike, the tires you use, your saddle, your fork and in general how the bike fits your body are going to be much more important in affecting the ride quality.

The most important thing is to make sure the folks at the bike shop are knowledgeable and are willing to work with you to find the bike that suits you. I've been to a few of the local shops in San Francisco and I find many of the sales people uninformed and don't make an effort to work with the customers. One way to tell is whether they will give you a complete fitting (on a custom fit cycle) or take careful measurements and ask you all kinds of questions about what kind of riding you plan to do, your experience, etc. If you walk into a bike shop and they just eyeball you and say, "Here, try this one. It looks like it fits and it's currently on sale...," walk right out the door and don't turn back! When you buy a bike, you're also buying the bike shop, for after all they're the ones who are going to service your bike (unless you're doing all your own servicing and repairs).

I've bought from City Cycle (in the Cow Hollow district, on Union & Steiner) and they are excellent in service and know what they are talking about. But they are expensive and their frames are mostly high-end (Serotta, Seven, Calfee, etc.). I believe they also carry Bianchis, which are a very popular brand, more economical than the "boutique" brands and are very good bikes. I've heard good things about A Bicycle Odyssey (in Sausalito).

Good luck and have fun!


jukt 09-11-04 04:22 PM

I think ALU just vibrates more. More of the little shocks from road imperfections travel further in that metal.

It may be lighter. All materials have weak and strong points.

I like 853 steel.

Retro Grouch 09-11-04 07:06 PM

I've been doing this for kind of a long time, at least in terms of years. The thing that I find funny is that the commonly accepted characteristics of the various materials seems to migrate from material to material over time.

Aluminum bikes used to be whippy, then they became shock dampening due to the less dense material, then they were harsh, now they're I don't know - disposable.

Steel bikes used to be described as "stiff yet resilient," then they were granted some undefinable ride quality, now they're heavy.

Titanium used to combine the best characteristics of steel and aluminum, now it has acquired the whippy reputation.

If you can't find anything bad to say about carbon, call it dead woodenly feeling.

Whatever you buy, somebody is sure to come along and expound at great length on what a stupid mistake you made by buying whatever you finally choose.

If you ride enough bikes in your chosen price range, eventually one of them will sing to you. Don't analyze your purchasing decision too much, just buy that one. Honestly, I think that tire size and air pressure have more to do with the feel of the bike than frame material does anyway.

JoeTown244GL 09-11-04 07:18 PM

See the post above. I have to concur with the Grouch. It's good advice.

Indolent58 09-11-04 07:19 PM

Cannondales used to have a reputation for having a harsh ride. The reputation was deserved back when they used very oversized main tubes. I rode some early 90's C'dales that were downright sadistic. More of a design than a materials issue - aluminium can have a nice ride too. I haven't heard such things about more recent models.

Bockman 09-11-04 07:37 PM

Hi Deb,

Welcome. I 'cut my riding teeth' on an old R series frame (1986 model) which I still own and ride-- although the componentry has changed over the years to mostly Dura Ace.

I need a stiff frame because I'm 6'3" and strong enough to flex many steel frames to the point where the gears are affected. There is very little road vibration transmitted through the aluminum frames, and contrary to what some say, I don't see it as a 'harsh' ride at all. It's a great bike and I'm sure the newer models are even livelier.


glomarduck 09-11-04 07:41 PM

Go for all columbus cromo with all campy record and I'm just kidding. Get something thats fun and you like don't worry about aluminum this or carbon that .

coney 09-13-04 02:58 PM

I don't know the difference enough between aluminum and cromo and steel and all that to suggest anything specific, but since you're new to riding, get something that's comfortable that you like. If you get into racing in the future, you can look into more advanced bikes and by then you'll know what you like to the point where you can say "I've had this aluminum bike for 3 years and I think I want to get a carbon bike. It may suit me better."

But for now, just get what you like. If you've found a good deal on a bike that fits you, go ahead and try it out.

TheNJDevil 09-14-04 04:08 PM

What I was told from the local bike shop guys is to test out all different brands in your price range. Since I was just starting out, I didn't really want to spend more then $550 for a road bike. I tried a Trek, Lemond, Specialized, Giant, Bianchi, and Cannondale. I ended up going with the Giant OCR-3. In my opinion, it is a great beginner bike that I was told should last for about 3 years. After that, I can trade up for a better bike. But don't go out and spend a fortune on a beginner bike.

jukt 09-14-04 05:55 PM

Read what Reynolds says.

Rick O'Getti 09-14-04 06:36 PM

Hi Deb...

I am relatively new to cycling, but have a couple thousand miles under my belt... I started by buying bikes that were inexpensive and didn't really meet my needs (hence I wasted more money than were I to have just bought the right steed to begin with). My second bike was a C'dale Adventure 400... A so-called 'comfort' bike. This was an excellent do-it-all bike, but it really beat me up on long rides. My 3rd bike is a Fuji Marseille, a very stiff aluminum frame with carbon fiber seat stays and front fork. This bike also felt harsh on long rides (because of its aggressive geometry and stiffness)... I changed the saddle, added a carbon fiber seat post and adjusted my handle bars such that the ends point downward toward the point where the rear wheels meet the road. Now it rides exceptionally well. My 4th bike is a LeMond Zurich, with a composite Carbon Fiber/Steel frame... This is supremely comfortable, but a bit heavier than my Fuji.

For you, I recommend you find a bike shop with an interested and knowledgeable Sales Mgr. (ask for the guy that runs the shop)... The most important thing is the fit. Women have different body geometries than men (you may have noticed), which means you 'may' need a frame that is more oriented to a woman's body. Some bike makers have women-specific frames. Both Fuji and LeMond do... In addition to the frame, the handle bars and crank arms need to be sized properly. You may not be thrilled to have to push 175mm crank arms if you are only 5'-3" tall... or steer a bike with a 44cm handle bar (imagine driving a truck).

I further recommend a Fuji Team SL, or one of the Fuji women's frames (though, they are generally configured with 105-level components, I think -- which are not so bad). When bought on sale, Fujis are very competitively priced! Warning: watch out for the way the Fuji's come configured with cranks and handle bars... Mine was totally mis-configured and I've had to replace my cranks. I highly recommend the LeMond Zurich - in a woman's frame size... such a sweet ride, and for me the fit was perfect.

Finally, you will want a shop that will put you on a trainer (at least) and make all the adjustments with you... Like: seat height, seat fore-and-aft location, seat angle (mine is perfectly flat), handle bar height, handle bar rotation. You will also need a woman's-specific saddle (accept no substitutes here!!!)... You will be one unhappy camper with the wrong saddle.

Hope that helps... Remember, if the bike doesn't fit, you will not enjoy it, and worse can injure yourself very badly while riding it.

BTW... I did the NYC Century on my Fuji last weekend, and I felt so good I know I could have done it twice. For me, the carbon fiber seat post really made the bike an enjoyable long-distance tourer.

Warmest regards,


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