Author Topic: Need advice on purchasing a bicycle  (Read 6098 times)

VuwylkOnlezzyen

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Need advice on purchasing a bicycle
« on: January 26, 2014, 09:55:08 PM »
I have been watching Craigslist for a few weeks, but I'm having trouble figuring out what I should do.

I know I would like to have a touring bicycle, but these seem to be in short supply.  I also know I feel somewhat leery of road bicycles because my previous experience with a road bicycle is frequent trips to the bike shop for broken spokes.  This is what ultimately got me off of bicycle commuting, and I would really like to avoid this scenario.  Admittedly, this was a lower end (albeit new) road bicycle, so perhaps my perception of them is skewed.

I can't really spend very much money on a bicycle since my spouse is skeptical of the endeavor (due to the aforementioned experience).  I am looking at a budget of about $200, especially since I will likely have to make additional purchases once I obtain the bicycle (fenders, rack, lighting, chain guard, etc).

Should I purchase a hybrid or do you think I can safely go with another road bicycle?  Should I be looking elsewhere for a bicycle?  I checked the nearest bike shop, but they didn't have much of a selection for used bicycles.

capital

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Re: Need advice on purchasing a bicycle
« Reply #1 on: January 26, 2014, 11:09:30 PM »
Unless your roads and weather conditions are always perfect, a hybrid (or cyclocross/touring) bike is definitely preferable. Look for one with no suspension, and room for fenders, as well as eyelets to attach racks and panniers.

This cheap cyclocross bike is extremely nice for the price if you don't mind doing the assembly yourself, though still a bit above your stated price range:
http://www.bikesdirect.com/products/gravity/liberty_cx.htm
My girlfriend has one and it has been a sturdy commuter for about two years, as well as serving on many longer rides.

Most cities only have a few bike shops that sell used, and the prices are usually significantly higher than Craigslist, though you may need to work on a Craigslist bike.

VuwylkOnlezzyen

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Re: Need advice on purchasing a bicycle
« Reply #2 on: January 26, 2014, 11:17:00 PM »
Thanks.  I'll show my wife the link and see what she thinks.

GuitarStv

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Re: Need advice on purchasing a bicycle
« Reply #3 on: January 27, 2014, 06:51:39 AM »
Chain guard is completely optional IMHO, but rack/fenders/lights are a must.  I use a hybrid for a 10 mile each way commute all winter and have no issues with it.  If you pick up some bar ends, flat bars can be made much more comfortable.  The price you pay for the bike will be dictated by how comfortable you are repairing stuff, as usually the cheaper bikes on craigslist need some work.

Ravenplay

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Re: Need advice on purchasing a bicycle
« Reply #4 on: January 27, 2014, 07:09:15 AM »
I bought a Giant "Escape" city bike a couple of years ago and love it for everything around town -- it's lighter than most "comfort" bikes or Amsterdam style bikes, and yet I think it would be a comfortable commuter bike. (I also have a road bike for long distance road riding.) It comes with fenders, chain guard, etc. and there are men's and women's versions. It is more expensive than you are looking for, but for a new solidly-built bike, it's quite reasonable: http://www.giant-bicycles.com/en-us/bikes/model/escape.city/14810/66194/

You may yet find something great on Craigslist. Also consider sheriff's sales -- police departments sometimes auction off their stash of found bikes. Good luck and happy riding!


fodder69

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Re: Need advice on purchasing a bicycle
« Reply #5 on: January 27, 2014, 07:30:29 AM »
Lights are a must, but fenders and a rack are definitely optional.

Unless you are carrying a lot of weight having it on your back is safer and more comfortable than strapping it to a rack. The bike handling changes quite a bit and I personally am not a fan of having my laptop bouncing on an unsuspended rack.

Fenders only make things a little more comfortable riding in the rain. If you live in seattle they would go further up the list for my commuter but not at all a requirement.

Cyclocross bikes are a great commuting bike, more substantial than a road bike but faster than a hybrid. That said, hybrid bikes make great commuters as well and if you see a good one cheap on craigslist I'd go for it.

VuwylkOnlezzyen

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Re: Need advice on purchasing a bicycle
« Reply #6 on: January 27, 2014, 12:16:28 PM »
Chain guard is completely optional IMHO, but rack/fenders/lights are a must.  I use a hybrid for a 10 mile each way commute all winter and have no issues with it.  If you pick up some bar ends, flat bars can be made much more comfortable.  The price you pay for the bike will be dictated by how comfortable you are repairing stuff, as usually the cheaper bikes on craigslist need some work.
I suppose I could just roll up that pant leg, so the comment on the chain guard is probably right on, although I won't turn it down if it is available.

Lights are a must, but fenders and a rack are definitely optional.

Unless you are carrying a lot of weight having it on your back is safer and more comfortable than strapping it to a rack. The bike handling changes quite a bit and I personally am not a fan of having my laptop bouncing on an unsuspended rack.

Fenders only make things a little more comfortable riding in the rain. If you live in seattle they would go further up the list for my commuter but not at all a requirement.

Cyclocross bikes are a great commuting bike, more substantial than a road bike but faster than a hybrid. That said, hybrid bikes make great commuters as well and if you see a good one cheap on craigslist I'd go for it.
When I first commuted with a bicycle, I found carrying things on my back much less comfortable than on a rack.  I never had any issues with bike handling (just with broken spokes), and I won't be carrying anything fragile like electronics (probably just some extra clothes and a lunch for work, and perhaps some groceries if I start shopping with it.)  It was just too hot here to have anything on my back, especially in the Summer.  The extra airflow definitely made a difference in my ride.  Also, while this isn't Seattle, it does rain enough in the Spring and Fall to warrant fenders in my mind.  I will definitely look at bicycles without fenders, but I would at least like the ability to install them later if I wanted.

GuitarStv

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Re: Need advice on purchasing a bicycle
« Reply #7 on: January 27, 2014, 12:42:29 PM »
Chain guard is completely optional IMHO, but rack/fenders/lights are a must.  I use a hybrid for a 10 mile each way commute all winter and have no issues with it.  If you pick up some bar ends, flat bars can be made much more comfortable.  The price you pay for the bike will be dictated by how comfortable you are repairing stuff, as usually the cheaper bikes on craigslist need some work.
I suppose I could just roll up that pant leg, so the comment on the chain guard is probably right on, although I won't turn it down if it is available.

I use cycling leg bands . . . they're velcro, reflective, last a few years and cost only a couple bucks:



As far as your issues with spokes go . . . look for bikes with lots of spokes.  32 spokes minimum on the tires, 36 is best.  The higher the spoke count the stronger your wheel tends to be.  Check the spokes a couple times a year on your bike and get a spoke wrench to tighten up any loose ones you find and they'll last a lot longer.  Touring, cyclocross, and hybrid bikes usually have at least 32 spokes on the wheels.
« Last Edit: January 27, 2014, 12:49:23 PM by GuitarStv »

somepissedoffman

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Re: Need advice on purchasing a bicycle
« Reply #8 on: January 27, 2014, 01:27:39 PM »
As far as your issues with spokes go . . . look for bikes with lots of spokes.  32 spokes minimum on the tires, 36 is best.  The higher the spoke count the stronger your wheel tends to be.  Check the spokes a couple times a year on your bike and get a spoke wrench to tighten up any loose ones you find and they'll last a lot longer.  Touring, cyclocross, and hybrid bikes usually have at least 32 spokes on the wheels.
For real, son.  There's a trend of spoke reduction for weight and aero advantages on road bike wheels, but that doesn't translate well to commuting.  I've got 32 spoke wheels on my road bike, and haven't had any spoke related problems.


VuwylkOnlezzyen

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Re: Need advice on purchasing a bicycle
« Reply #9 on: January 27, 2014, 03:50:31 PM »
As far as your issues with spokes go . . . look for bikes with lots of spokes.  32 spokes minimum on the tires, 36 is best.  The higher the spoke count the stronger your wheel tends to be.  Check the spokes a couple times a year on your bike and get a spoke wrench to tighten up any loose ones you find and they'll last a lot longer.  Touring, cyclocross, and hybrid bikes usually have at least 32 spokes on the wheels.
For real, son.  There's a trend of spoke reduction for weight and aero advantages on road bike wheels, but that doesn't translate well to commuting.  I've got 32 spoke wheels on my road bike, and haven't had any spoke related problems.
Thanks for the input (both of you).  I'll go ahead and add road bicycles back to my list as long as it has sufficient spokes (I think I'll look for 36 since the wheels are thinner and won't be absorbing as much energy).

the fixer

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Re: Need advice on purchasing a bicycle
« Reply #10 on: January 27, 2014, 04:16:10 PM »
You might have better luck on Craigslist in the spring/summer. If I had a bike to sell I wouldn't bother trying this time of year.

As for leg bands (my wife and I call them "dork straps"), I used to use them but got too lazy. IMO it gets really annoying when this is the process for getting on the bike: "Okay, I'm going to ride my bike. Now where's my helmet? Where are my gloves? Oh, I'm wearing pants, so where are the dork straps? I might be out after dusk, where's my headlight? Okay, now time to put on the bike shoes..." etc. I usually either roll up the right pant leg or try to ride carefully with my leg sticking out a bit more than usual. The less special stuff I need to have to get going on the bike, the better.

Eric

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Re: Need advice on purchasing a bicycle
« Reply #11 on: January 27, 2014, 04:55:29 PM »
As for leg bands (my wife and I call them "dork straps"), I used to use them but got too lazy. IMO it gets really annoying when this is the process for getting on the bike: "Okay, I'm going to ride my bike. Now where's my helmet? Where are my gloves? Oh, I'm wearing pants, so where are the dork straps? I might be out after dusk, where's my headlight? Okay, now time to put on the bike shoes..." etc. I usually either roll up the right pant leg or try to ride carefully with my leg sticking out a bit more than usual. The less special stuff I need to have to get going on the bike, the better.

I try to bike in shorts most of the time, but if not, a rubber band works just fine at keeping the pants away from the chain.

Paul der Krake

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Re: Need advice on purchasing a bicycle
« Reply #12 on: January 27, 2014, 07:29:15 PM »
Yeah, it sounds like you've been very unlucky with roadies. A good wheel should go a couple thousand miles before requiring spoke adjustments if yu treat your bike correctly. Are the roads notoriously bad in your area, or any other reason that could be responsible for putting too much strain on the bike?

m8547

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Re: Need advice on purchasing a bicycle
« Reply #13 on: January 27, 2014, 07:57:04 PM »
Cheap or poorly built wheels will break spokes. And cheap spokes break more easily. Good quality wheels, especially hand built ones are expensive. Machine built wheels can be hit or miss. I recently re-tensioned all the spokes on a wheel on a $1500 bike. It was only a year old, but the spoke tension was so unbalanced that some of the spokes were completely slack, and none had enough tension. If the tension is too low, spokes are more likely to break because the stress changes more as the wheel rolls. Too much tension will break spokes, too, but that's usually not a problem.  I have one mountain bike with machine built wheels (I'm assuming-- most factory wheels are), and they haven't needed even the slightest adjustment over the life of the bike (a few years). I have one high-end hand built wheel on another bike, and again it has needed no adjustment in a year.  Number of spokes doesn't necessarily matter, because my cheap commuter with 36 spokes breaks one every so often.

When looking at wheels, especially on a used bike, there are a few things you can check:
-Is the wheel true? Rest your finger on the frame near the rim and spin the wheel slowly. If the rim gets closer or farther from your finger in some spots, that can be a bad sign. It might just need to be trued, which a bike shop can do for $10-20, or it might be bent in which case there is almost nothing that can be done by adjusting the spoke tension.
-Is the hub centered, radially? As you spin the wheel, look for any areas where the rim looks like it's going up and down. The tire might do that a little, which is OK, but it should be minimal on the rim.
-Are there any flatter spots on the rim? The curvature should be the same all the way around. Also look for dents on the side and where the bead hooks in. Any cracks would also be bad.
-Is the wheel roughly centered in the frame (dished correctly, and the frame is straight)? If not, that could indicate a bad wheel build or bent frame.
-Is the spoke tension roughly even all the way around? Each spoke should make a musical sound when plucked or tapped with your fingernail. The tone should be very roughly the same all the way around. If one is very low or sounds dull, it might not have enough tension.  You can also estimate by squeezing pairs of spokes together to see how much force it takes to bend them. On the rear, one side will have more tension than the other, but both sides of the front should be about the same.

Practice this 3 minute bike inspection and do it whenever you go look at a bike on Craigslist. It will take more than 3 minutes, and it's more thorough than most people will ever be. http://www.pinkbike.com/news/Tech-Tuesday-Three-Minute-Bike-Preflight.html

When buying a bike, you will get a good deal if you find someone with a bike that has something wrong with, and you know is easy to fix but they don't know how to fix it (minor adjustments, small parts need replacing, cosmetic defects, etc). It's a bad deal if you get a bike with something that's difficult/expensive to fix, like a cracked frame, bad wheels, bad fork, badly worn drivetrain, etc.

VuwylkOnlezzyen

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Re: Need advice on purchasing a bicycle
« Reply #14 on: January 27, 2014, 10:44:59 PM »
Yeah, it sounds like you've been very unlucky with roadies. A good wheel should go a couple thousand miles before requiring spoke adjustments if yu treat your bike correctly. Are the roads notoriously bad in your area, or any other reason that could be responsible for putting too much strain on the bike?
I think it was also the fact that it was a low end road bicycle with wheel components of questionable quality.  I was inexperienced (still am) at purchasing a bicycle when I bought it and probably paid the price for it with my poor bicycling experience.

GuitarStv

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Re: Need advice on purchasing a bicycle
« Reply #15 on: January 28, 2014, 06:20:10 AM »
As for leg bands (my wife and I call them "dork straps"), I used to use them but got too lazy. IMO it gets really annoying when this is the process for getting on the bike: "Okay, I'm going to ride my bike. Now where's my helmet? Where are my gloves? Oh, I'm wearing pants, so where are the dork straps? I might be out after dusk, where's my headlight? Okay, now time to put on the bike shoes..." etc. I usually either roll up the right pant leg or try to ride carefully with my leg sticking out a bit more than usual. The less special stuff I need to have to get going on the bike, the better.

I try to bike in shorts most of the time, but if not, a rubber band works just fine at keeping the pants away from the chain.

It was -32 here and pretty dark when I was getting on my bike at 6:00 am.  Shorts were out, leg bands in.  I used to do the pant leg tucked into the sock, but over 10 miles it always seems to come out and get stuck in the chain.  Ripped pants suck when there's an arctic wind blowing up your leg!

Thegoblinchief

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Re: Need advice on purchasing a bicycle
« Reply #16 on: January 28, 2014, 06:31:25 AM »
The only pants I've had issues with are jeans, where the inseam has a "ridge" facing backwards, making it super easy to catch in the front gears. The Dickies work pants I bike with are super baggy but the seam has no exposed edge to catch. It brushes the chain all the time, no problem.

Depending on your area, it might help to search for particular models/terms like "commuter" "hybrid" or "Trek FX" and use Craigslists' built-in RSS function to track the saved search. Once I did that, it eliminated 99% of the crap ten-speeds, Huffies, or high-end bikes way out of my price range.

What size frame are you needing? If it's something other than 17.5 or 20", good luck finding one used.