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Please help yet another newbie choose a first "real" bike

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Please help yet another newbie choose a first "real" bike

Old 03-04-12, 07:54 AM
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Please help yet another newbie choose a first "real" bike

Hello to everyone! And thank you in advance for considering my post!

I am basically a bicycling newbie, and I'm looking to purchase my first "real" bike, and I could really use some help from those more experienced with the various choices out there. Yes, I have already done plenty of searching and have read prior posts here at bikeforums.net, but some of the posts were old (different model features and pricing), and I'm not sure I found all the options available. I'm going to try to be brief, but I'll do my best to detail my background and wants/needs, and hopefully someone here can steer me in the right direction...

Background: I am currently mid 30's, male, about 5'7", and out of shape, though I am a month into a diet/exercise program, and I'm feeling better already. About three or four years ago I was in good shape; I have a cheap Mega-Lo-Mart brand mountain bike and back then I could ride over 30 miles round trip on a local Multi Use Path, as I think folks here call them, and I was doing that about 3 to 5 days a week, plus other workouts. I'd like to get back to that level of fitness and riding.

Wants/needs: I would really like to ditch my old mountain bike, and hopefully find one bike that will satisfy all my riding requirements. I have been thinking hybrid, and I'd like one that can do both trails and street riding. I do not need the best of either world, but I'd prefer to buy one bike that can do both reasonably well (if this is possible). I have a TIGHT budget of $350 to MAYBE $500 max, so I know it will be tough. I will be riding on pavement for sure, but also light trails such as my local MUP, parts of which are hard dirt, and parts of which are loose gravel, and I'd like to try some trails we found that go over old railroad tracks. I will not be climbing/descending super steep hills or mountains, nor will I be training to win any road races. I'd just like to make sure what I purchase is versatile enough to handle both road and trial riding environments. I am not a business commuter either, and I will not be riding in urban city conditions, more out in the suburbs and parks.

I know from shopping that I really would like the newer trigger shifters; I find them very nice! I'd expect at least 21 to 24 gears, or maybe more. I like the ergonomic hand grips, and a modestly aggressive (read: hunched over) riding posture, but nothing like a real road bike - but I just don't want to be propped upright like on a comfort bike either. I would like the size 700 wheels, two water bottle mounts, and I would appreciate small touches like the cables routed through the frame of the bike, but that's being picky. I would really prefer something that is as light weight as possible within my budget (my old bike is a heavy beast!), and I'd really prefer something blue.... OK, that last one is negotiable, lol!

So far: Early in my search, before I found bikeforums.net, I was strongly considering a left over 2011 Diamondback Menona from a local big box store. Although I am no longer considering this model because of it's more comfort oriented riding position and very heavy weight, I still like the price ($380). But it's definitely heavy, and it has a front (one) shock that can not be locked out. I do like that it has disc brakes, but I have read that most, but not all, here prefer not to have disc brakes on hybrids.

I've been to two "real" LBS, and I've found one to be prohibitively expensive, but the other has a few I like, and I rode them yesterday. First, they have a left over 2011 Raleigh Cadent FT1 ($429), and I really like this bike. I think it looks great (hey, that means something to me, lol!), and it felt great. It is very light, and felt very nimble on the streets right around the store where I test rode it. Again, I was really drawn to this bike, but my concern is that it is more road bike than off road bike, and I'm not sure it will handle even the lightest trails around here. The wheels are 700 x 32c with very narrow tires, and it's a fairly rigid, unforgiving frame and fork system (from what I've read). But I did really like it on the road, and I like that it's very light weight; very different animal fro what I have now. Does anyone think I could use this bike on modest dirt trails, or would I be asking for a bad day?

I also saw a Specialized Sirrus Sport, it too was a 2011 left over, it was very similar to the Raleigh Cadent FT1, and was the same price as the Cadent. Between the two, I would pick the Raleigh for both comfort and looks, so I don't think I'm considering the Sirrus.

Then they had a 2012 Raleigh Misceo, which I liked a lot, and I believe would be more versatile bike than the Cadent FT1, but the Misceo is $500, which is really getting to be a stretch money-wise. It also has disc brakes, which I personally think are nice, but I'm now thinking may not be necessary on a bike like this. Additionally, this bike was much heavier than the Raleigh Cadent. Anyone have any thoughts on the Misceo?

Last, I have read a fair amount about Jamis bikes, and I think maybe the Coda would be a good fit for me. There is a Jamis dealer about 30 miles away, and I may try to stop there this week. However, I'm worried that they may not have anything in my price range. I will be trying yet another LBS today, though I'm not sure what brands they carry.

Could anyone suggest any other models I should be looking at? Does anyone know if there's good place to order bikes online? Yes, I understand I would then have to pay for professional assembly, but maybe it's worth it to get a bike that is really the best for me? Any suggestions, or comments, would be greatly appreciated!

Thank you for your consideration!

-Elaphe

Last edited by elaphe; 03-04-12 at 09:32 AM.
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Old 03-04-12, 10:24 AM
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To Bike Forums, Elaphe!

We will try to answer all of your questions to the best of our abilities!

Thus far, I think you've done excellent research on your own. Furthermore, I think that the bicycles that you've named are all excellent choices. Quite naturally, the more you spend, or the higher your spending limit, usually the better bicycle that you'll get.

Bikesdirect, usually has great deals online, but they come with two basic caveats. The first of which is the most important one, and that's fit. Purchasing a bicycle online, without knowing its exact fit or comfort-level can be risky indeed. Also, there is some minor assembly involved. Therefore, you either need to be slightly mechanically inclined, or willing to shell out more cash to have your bike assembled professionally at your LBS.

The following would be my recommendations for you:

1) The Jamis Coda Sport ~ $560
www.jamisbikes.com/usa/thebikes/street/coda/12_codasport_rd.html


2) The Raleigh Misceo ~ $500
www.raleighusa.com/bikes/hybrid/misceo-12


3) The KHS Urban Xcape ~ $420
www.khsbicycles.com/06_urban_xcape_m_12.htm


4) The Raleigh Cadent FT1 ~ $429
www.raleighusa.com/bikes/performance-hybrid/cadent-ft0-12/


5) The Schwinn Sporterra Sport ~ $495
www.schwinnbikes.com/bikes/hybrid/2012-sporterra-sport-mens-14586


6) The Schwinn Sporterra ~ $410
www.schwinnbikes.com/bikes/hybrid/2012-sporterra-mens-14553


7) The Trek 7.1FX ~ $470
www.trekbikes.com/us/en/bikes/town/fitness/fx/7_1_fx/#


8) The Diamondback Insight 1 ~ $450
www.diamondback.com/bikes/performance-hybrid/insight-1-12/


9) The Motobecane Cafe Latte ~ $400
www.bikesdirect.com/products/motobecane/cafe_latte_x.htm

Good Luck!

- Slim

PS.

www.bikesdirect.com/instructionhelp.htm
(Watch the video as many times as you need for assembly assistance)

* Almost all hybrids can handle the dirt trails that you've described.

Last edited by SlimRider; 03-05-12 at 05:42 AM.
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Old 03-04-12, 11:14 AM
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First real bike, eh? Forget about the online route then. Here's why:

Not too long ago, we a newbie who came seeking assistance as well. He had his heart set on a particular model that he saw while looking at various brand sites. He then went for a test ride. That bike is not the one he went with; he ended up with something that wasn't as easy on the eyes, but that felt more comfortable.

Slim's list is pretty good, but he missed a couple. And as much as I'd like to list other candidates, I don't know what is available to you through the LBS. Go to them, look over what they have. If they don't have what you think you want right now, ask to see their catalogs.
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Old 03-04-12, 11:48 AM
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Originally Posted by no1mad
First real bike, eh? Forget about the online route then. Here's why:

Not too long ago, we a newbie who came seeking assistance as well. He had his heart set on a particular model that he saw while looking at various brand sites. He then went for a test ride. That bike is not the one he went with; he ended up with something that wasn't as easy on the eyes, but that felt more comfortable.

Slim's list is pretty good, but he missed a couple. And as much as I'd like to list other candidates, I don't know what is available to you through the LBS. Go to them, look over what they have. If they don't have what you think you want right now, ask to see their catalogs.
With the myriad of choices out there Elaphe, I'm most certain that I've miss more than just a couple. However, those come to mind off the top of my head. Currently, I'd say that they're my favorite ones near that particular pricepoint. Just remember that you're really looking for a "performance" hybrid. As long as you avoid suspended forks, size 26 in tires, and drop handlebars, you'll most probably be in the correct category, the hybrid.

I like to promote the Jamis Coda, because its my all time favorite of all steel-framed bicycles. I simply love it!

Some folks don't like that, but Que Sera Sera....

PS.

It's customary not to direct Newbies to bikesdirect.com

However, I personally feel that all bicycle manufacturers and companies claim sizes that sometimes vary both by make and model. Therefore, everyone stands the same chance of making a mistake in the sizing or fit department. However, you can reduce your chances of making a mistake, if you know that the geometry of a bikesdirect bike, is very similar to the geometry of a bicycle with which you're already familiar. Also, bikesdirect has a sizing chart, as well as other websites online.

The good thing about bikesdirect, is that they will allow you to exchange a bicycle, if there is a sizing issue. The bad part about bikesdirect, is that you will have to pay for the shipping cost, if a problem does exist, that's not their own fault.

The extra shipping costs could very well eat up your savings and beyond!

For more bikesdirect information just checkout this link:
www.bikesdirect.com/frequent.htm#satisfy

Nothing can beat going to your nearest bicycle shop and test-riding a bicycle in order to get a true feeling of the bicycle's comfort-level.

That's what you miss by trying to save cash by buying online!

Last edited by SlimRider; 03-04-12 at 01:50 PM.
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Old 03-04-12, 12:25 PM
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Most bikes that are online sales have a sizing chart.

Most people who buy online already know the size bike they need, but with that said, I'm sure there are some that just buy because the price seems right and they don't know if they bought the right size, which is where they make a big mistake.

Buying blindly and not having any idea what size or how the bike performs without riding it is rolling the dice.

If you have a bike shop near you that you can test ride several brands, you can then get a feel of the bike, and what your needs are going to be along with your riding style, and also get fitted correctly, and that is the way to go for a newbie.

If the bike shops don't then have what you are looking for, and you have basic knowledge of what you want and find a good deal online, then you can more easily make a wise decision by going that route.
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Old 03-04-12, 12:59 PM
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Originally Posted by Jimbo47
Most bikes that are online sales have a sizing chart.

Most people who buy online already know the size bike they need, but with that said, I'm sure there are some that just buy because the price seems right and they don't know if they bought the right size, which is where they make a big mistake.

Buying blindly and not having any idea what size or how the bike performs without riding it is rolling the dice.

If you have a bike shop near you that you can test ride several brands, you can then get a feel of the bike, and what your needs are going to be along with your riding style, and also get fitted correctly, and that is the way to go for a newbie.

If the bike shops don't then have what you are looking for, and you have basic knowledge of what you want and find a good deal online, then you can more easily make a wise decision by going that route.
Hey there Jimbo,

One of my points was that, say you currently ride a Surly in size 56cm. Now when you go to a Marin or Giant dealership, their 56cm could very well be different. That's why I say, just stick to the geometries of the bikes.
Although, you're right for the most part. However, you can't act surprised when your correct size in a particular bike, doesn't match another. That's even though, as a general rule, they're suppose to match.

- Slim
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Old 03-04-12, 01:37 PM
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Okay, changed my mind. Given the OP's wants and budget, but not knowing what is available locally:

-Giant Escape 2
-Kona Dew
-GT Traffic 4.0

There are others, but either there is no pricing info (Scott Sub 40), over budget (Felt Verza City 3) or just plain don't have a good enough value for the price (Fuji Absolute, anyone?).
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Old 03-04-12, 02:02 PM
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Originally Posted by elaphe

Last, I have read a fair amount about Jamis bikes, and I think maybe the Coda would be a good fit for me. There is a Jamis dealer about 30 miles away, and I may try to stop there this week. However, I'm worried that they may not have anything in my price range. I will be trying yet another LBS today, though I'm not sure what brands they carry.

-Elaphe
Give them a call before you go out there! It's a lot less expensive and faster than driving 30 miles out.
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Old 03-04-12, 02:19 PM
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Wow! Thank you for your prompt and helpful replies!

I'm still considering my options. I did try another well regarded LBS today, and the guy there told me I should really consider a bike with suspension. He said even if 20% of my riding would be on the local trails (which it will), then I would be better off with a suspension bike. In fact, I believe he said what I want was called a dual sport, not exactly a hybrid. Maybe I'm not using the term hybrid correctly. Anyway, they carry Trek, and he showed me a 2012 7.1 FX ($449), but he really suggested I look at the 2012 Trek 8.2 DS ($499). They also have similar Specialized, but from what I saw I was leaning towards the Trek. The 8.2 DS was very nice, I liked the way it felt, and appreciated the three water bottle mounts (I can drink LOTS of water). It did not have disc brakes, but it did have a front suspension, though you can not lock out the front suspension. I liked this bike, I really did, but I'm not sure if I liked it more than Raleigh Misceo.

That Jamis Coda sounds very intriguing, I'd like to see one in person. There seems to be quite Jamis the following on this forum. What is it about these bikes that makes them so well received?

I'm going to look through the links posted above, and see if I can find the perfect bike for me ;-) Thanks again to everyone who has taken the time to read and respond to my post, I really appreciate it! Any more ideas or thoughts would be very welcome!

Thanks a lot!!

-Elaphe

Last edited by elaphe; 03-04-12 at 02:27 PM.
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Old 03-04-12, 02:21 PM
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A dual sport is just another form of hybrid. That Raleigh Misceo would fall in this category except it has a rigid fork instead.

As far as the Jamis following, it's really only slim that's pushing it. :-p

As far as what I ride, I have a Marin Muirwoods 29er, which is very similar to that Raleigh Misceo. My commute is mostly beat up San Francisco streets and some hill climbs.
https://www.marinbikes.com/2012/bike_...Muirwoods_29er

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Old 03-04-12, 02:33 PM
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Originally Posted by SlimRider
Hey there Jimbo,

One of my points was that, say you currently ride a Surly in size 56cm. Now when you go to a Marin or Giant dealership, their 56cm could very well be different. That's why I say, just stick to the geometries of the bikes.
Although, you're right for the most part. However, you can't act surprised when your correct size in a particular bike, doesn't match another. That's even though, as a general rule, they're suppose to match.

- Slim
Another reason is that for a lot of Bikesdirect bikes, they don't have even have the geometries listed. Some of them just list a range of heights for each frame size. Marin has a frame size chart that suggests certain frame sizes for a range of heights. I ended up going with a 19, but that chart said I should have been on a 17. For me, the 17 was not comfortable, and the geometries on my Marin are not really comparable to many of the bikes I tried. My Muirwoods has a 600mm horizontal top tube distance, for example, which is 30-40mm longer than other bikes I tried at the time. The reason I didn't go with the 17 was because in order for me to ride it properly, I had to raise the seat very high which gave me a big drop to the bars. On the 19, the drop is more like 1 cm.

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Old 03-04-12, 02:34 PM
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Originally Posted by jsdavis
As far as the Jamis following, it's really only slim that's pushing it. :-p
LOL, no, I was reading about Jamis bikes even before Slim's reply! Thank you for your suggestion, though, I will take a look at the Marin, I think they have a couple at my local Eastern Moutain Sports.

Thanks for the help!

-Elaphe
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Old 03-04-12, 02:43 PM
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Also, could some of you more experience riders weigh in on disc brakes or not, and suspension or not, for the riding/bike I'm hoping to buy, please?

Thanks a lot everyone!

-Elaphe
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Old 03-04-12, 02:53 PM
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Dual sports are basically performance hybrid/fitness bike with wider tires and a front shock. But if you're not planning on doing any technical off-roading, the suspension doesn't really make sense. Wide tires offer cushioning, and you can always stand up over really rough stuff.

Besides the suspension fork adding weight, more moving parts to maintain, and robbing you of efficiency when you're trying to go fast on the street, that fork may instill false confidence when you go play in the dirt.

But then again, the Trek DS line does have a pretty good following around here.

It's going to boil down to what you want and how a bike feels while you are riding it.
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Old 03-04-12, 02:59 PM
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Suspension makes no sense for your intended purposes, but if you want it....

Disc brakes are nice for riding in the rain, snow, mud, sand, steep or long downhill segments, otherwise they just add weight and cost more. But there are those that swear by them and won't use anything else.
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Old 03-04-12, 03:14 PM
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Originally Posted by no1mad
Dual sports are basically performance hybrid/fitness bike with wider tires and a front shock. But if you're not planning on doing any technical off-roading, the suspension doesn't really make sense. Wide tires offer cushioning, and you can always stand up over really rough stuff.

Besides the suspension fork adding weight, more moving parts to maintain, and robbing you of efficiency when you're trying to go fast on the street, that fork may instill false confidence when you go play in the dirt.

But then again, the Trek DS line does have a pretty good following around here.

It's going to boil down to what you want and how a bike feels while you are riding it.
Thanks again for the reply, no1mad! I see your point about the suspension, and that's what my thinking was to justify the Raleigh Cadent FT1, which so far has been the least expensive non-Diamondback bike I've looked at, and probably my favorite. But, the guy at that shop told me it wasn't going to be very comfortable on anything but nice pavement. It was he who then showed me the Misceo as a better "all-in-one" bike. He said that even though the Misceo does not have suspension, it has a steel fork that will cushion the ride off road a little more than an aluminum fork like on the Cadent FT1. And today they guy with the Treks told me I'd be kicking myself if I didn't get something with suspension, thus the Trek 8.2 DS. So I'm not sure what to think about suspension.

Originally Posted by no1mad
Suspension makes no sense for your intended purposes, but if you want it....

Disc brakes are nice for riding in the rain, snow, mud, sand, steep or long downhill segments, otherwise they just add weight and cost more. But there are those that swear by them and won't use anything else.
With the breaks, I think we share the same opinion. I think that the disc breaks are a nice upgrade, but I'm not necessarily looking for them on this bike. I'd prefer to have the lighter weight.

Any other thoughts? Anyone?

Thanks very much for all your help!

-Elaphe
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Old 03-04-12, 03:25 PM
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Even though the Misceo doesn't have suspension, it has bigger tires and it looks like there is still clearance even bigger tires so the Misceo will be cushier all around and perform better off-road with wider tires. This is not to say the Cadent cannot go off-road, but it will rider harsher, and you'll likely have to go a bit slower. For road performance, the Misceo might be a bit slower, but probably the difference won't be huge.

Will the store let you take the Cadent and Misceo out for a ride. Most shops I've been to in SF just require you leave a credit card and ID. Take both bikes out and ride them on the street and do so hill climbs if possible. Don't just ride on the parking lot, take it up and down the streets and if there are beat up streets it will give you an idea of how the bike will feel realistically.

If I had to take a bike off-road on a regular basis, I'd go with the Misceo over the Cadent and take the performance hit on the street, but I'm also a bit biased since I ride something very similar to the Misceo.

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Old 03-04-12, 03:40 PM
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Originally Posted by jsdavis
Even though the Misceo doesn't have suspension, it has bigger tires and it looks like there is still clearance even bigger tires so the Misceo will be cushier all around and perform better off-road with wider tires. This is not to say the Cadent cannot go off-road, but it will rider harsher, and you'll likely have to go a bit slower. For road performance, the Misceo might be a bit slower, but probably the difference won't be huge.

Will the store let you take the Cadent and Misceo out for a ride. Most shops I've been to in SF just require you leave a credit card and ID. Take both bikes out and ride them on the street and do so hill climbs if possible. Don't just ride on the parking lot, take it up and down the streets and if there are beat up streets it will give you an idea of how the bike will feel realistically.

If I had to take a bike off-road on a regular basis, I'd go with the Misceo over the Cadent and take the performance hit on the street, but I'm also a bit biased since I ride something very similar to the Misceo.
Hello again, jsdavis!

Yes, I forgot to mention that the sales rep at the shop also told me that the larger tires on the Misceo would better cushion my ride off road. That, and the steel fork would make it more comfortable off road compared to the Cadent FT1, I was told. And to his credit, he also told me that the Cadent would certainly go off road, he was trying to say it might be a little too harsh to be comfortable for anything more than a short jaunt.

Yes, they do let you ride, and I rode both bikes yesterday. I did not go too far only because it was like 32 degrees and snowing. I could go back and try them more extensively. I definitely liked the Cadent a little better, but the Misceo felt great too. Something about the Misceo seemed to be faster too, like it had more get-up-and-go, so to speak. Of course, I didn't ride either very far.

I think if I could add slightly bigger wheels and/or tires on the Cadent, or loose the disc breaks on the Misceo to save some weight, I'd probably have a winner. I liked the Trek today too, and it's probably right up there as a choice now, but I was a little disappointed that it only had 21 speeds, where as all the others seem to have 24. I know it probably doesn't even matter to a rider like me, but it just seems like everything else has 24, why not the Trek?

Still searching......

Thanks very much for your help, though!

-Elaphe

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Old 03-04-12, 04:09 PM
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The Cadent probably won't take tires much bigger than the 32mm tires it comes with because it's more road oriented and 32 is pretty big for road tires but pretty standard for hybrid tires.

As far as the Misceo, don't worry about the weight of the brakes. Your talking like 500grams or 1 pound of difference comparing V-brakes and disc brakes. Unless your racing or you need bragging rights, the additional weight of the disc brake system is negligible.

In the grand scheme of things, if you ride regularly, you'll probably lose the 1 pound weight difference that the disc brakes add in a month or less.

I ride a 30lb bike to work on a daily basis and that's before I add lights and my lock. I ride up a 14% grade on a daily basis on that beast. That means that for each 500 ft of horizontal distance I cover, I climb about 70 ft.

When I chose my commuter bike, the Marin Muirwoods 29er, neither weight nor frame material were a consideration. I bought something with a riding position I like and was cushy enough that I could ride it and not have to dodge every little imperfection on the road. Also low gearing was important for me for the hills. Disc brakes and chromoly frame and fork were not a consideration but the bike I ended up liking was chromoly with disc brakes. What can I say? If you like the way the bike rides and feels, buy it and ignore little details like disc brakes. The important part is that the bike fits you correctly and you like the way it rides so that you will keep riding it.

It sounds like the Raleigh guy knows his stuff, and as far as Trek goes, I think they don't have a rigid bike like the Misceo so that could be why he's pushing you towards the 8.2DS with the suspension fork. The Misceo and 8.2DS I would both consider dual sport style except one has suspenion and the other does not. Suspension forks on the road are useful for taking the edge off, but in all honesty, the 700x42 tires I ride on do that for me on all but the hardest bumps like the occasional missing chunk of asphalt that leads to 2" deep hole in the ground. Oh and 700x42 is huge as far as road tires go, but they are cushy on the road and there's no denying that. In the worst case, I lift my butt about an inch off the saddle and let the bike bounce up and down between my legs and my knees and hips can soak up the bumps-- the front shock won't help in alleviating your bottom from bumps from the rear wheel anyhow.

Last edited by jsdavis; 03-04-12 at 04:15 PM.
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Old 03-04-12, 04:19 PM
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Here's my recommendation.

Trek 7.1 FX 2012 or 2011 model.
Trek 7.2 FX 2011 model (under $500).
https://www.eriksbikeshop.com/2010-Qu...3C3566/Product
https://www.eriksbikeshop.com/2011-Qu...3C8041/Product

I'm leaning more towards the 2011 Quick 5.

Last edited by ChowChow; 03-04-12 at 04:23 PM.
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Old 03-04-12, 08:03 PM
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Hi, ChowChow!

Thank you for the recommendations, I very much appreciate your help! Can you tell me what you like about the models you chose, or how they would fit my needs?

Thanks a lot for your help!

-Elaphe
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Old 03-04-12, 08:53 PM
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Hey there Elaphe!

If you research the threads thoroughly, you'll plainly see that I'm not the only cyclists who's impressed by the Jamis Coda. It's just that, I'm the most "vocal" about the Coda. However, if you do a search on the Jamis Coda, it will literally blow your mind as to how many people would cast their vote on a Coda, right now!

So, don't believe the hype! Only believe in the scientific method. Go test ride it, and see if I'm blowing anything out of proportion. That bike is simply the sweetest!

- Slim

Last edited by SlimRider; 03-05-12 at 01:34 AM.
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Old 03-04-12, 09:11 PM
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People have alreeady stated this, but a new trek 7.1 fx or a used 7.2 or 7.3. I bought the 7.1 last year and lost 20 pounds immeditly and put over 1600 worry-free miles on the bike. Try one at your lbs, you won't be dissaponted.
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Old 03-04-12, 09:12 PM
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^^^I paid $380 on sale https://www.trekbikes.com/us/en/bikes/town/fitness/fx/
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Old 03-05-12, 04:41 AM
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The Trek FX series is a popular choice. I think many people purchase the 7.2 or higher. The Trek DS 8.2 is also popular. You can probably find a few threads about both of these bikes. Disc brakes and suspension fork add to the cost of the bike. Your target price is low, and you will be able to get better derailleur components if you are not paying for the disc brakes and suspension. I think getting a sturdy bike that accepts wider tires will suit you for off road riding on gravel roads.
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