Author Topic: buying a bike  (Read 4227 times)

Ezzo

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buying a bike
« on: August 04, 2016, 07:27:07 AM »
Hi,
So after going through MMM blog posts, I am actually seriously considering getting a bike, and am kind of excited about the prospect.  However I don't seem to be making that final push so I thought I would put it out there

- I am a single mum of two post divorce.  Have one small 7yo car which is filled up once a month. No loan. Not willing to give up my sole car.
- the supermarket I would consider biking to is more expensive.  Whilst I wouldn't mind doing a mid week shop, it would probably cost me more money than driving to the cheaper supermarket. 
- The children's school is within biking distance, however I wouldn't want them on the busy roads.  I think they are too big for a trailer. Especially with two of them?
- I could do other weekly errands using the bike. - few times a week

Main concern is that I don't want to buy a bike (or 3) and have it rusting in the garage as a useless purchase.  I am downsizing and decluttering and not wanting to bring in anything to the house that isn't central to our lives.  I could potentially buy one used on gumtree, which would limit the financial outlay/loss if it doesn't work out.  But I still haven't made that final push.

So experiences, advice or other?
Thanks

-- update down page.  25 Aug
« Last Edit: August 24, 2016, 08:45:51 PM by Ezzo »

GuitarStv

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Re: buying a bike
« Reply #1 on: August 04, 2016, 07:56:24 AM »
- What are the distances you're considering cycling?
- Is the area that you live hilly or flat?
- Where do you live?
- Are you planning on using this bike just for running errands, or to do some other stuff (mountain biking/road cycling on the weekends?)
- Are you mechanically minded at all?  (If no, what's your proximity to a bike shop?)

My recommendations will vary depending on your answers to those questions.

bobechs

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Re: buying a bike
« Reply #2 on: August 04, 2016, 07:58:00 AM »
I'd say it's pretty clear you are much more interested in owning a bike than using one.  So you are probably correct that holding your expenditure down on buying a bike would be very prudent.

I would suggest rather than a space-hogging 3-D full-metal-jacket actual bike you get a minimalist 2-D poster sized photograph of the most expensive bike you can imagine, to admire for nearly free any time you want.

It is a method known to and employed by pre-teen boys in decorating their bedrooms the whole world over, with great success.

Jack

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Re: buying a bike
« Reply #3 on: August 04, 2016, 08:14:16 AM »
I agree with bobechs that you don't seem mentally committed to the actuality of biking (as opposed to the theoretical idea of it). I don't necessarily agree with him that a poster instead of an actual bike is the best plan for fixing that problem. It's entirely possible that a bike would get bought, used once, and then left to rust, but it's also possible that it could create an epiphany that turns you into a born-again cycling fanatic.

What I want to know (in addition to GuitarStv's questions) is this:
  • Why do you think you can't bike to the cheaper supermarket?
  • Are you sure there isn't some other route you can take to school? And are the roads objectively unsuitable for cycling, or do they just seem that way because you're new to it?
  • How old are your kids?

Ezzo

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Re: buying a bike
« Reply #4 on: August 04, 2016, 08:42:01 AM »
I will own up to having a bit of excusitis in this..

Distances considering cycling - furthest errand/appointment would be about 4km (2.5 miles) from where I live.  Although I would probably do the odd trip out to a satellite town (11km/7mi away) for fitness sake.

I live in a large country town (over 100k people).  Area has some hills, but not overly so.  Weather is fine.

I currently run (trying for the half marathon), so it isn't the fitness side that I am opposed to.  Although being in Australia, I am worried about those crazy swooping birds in spring.

I am not sure how cost effective it would be to add it, as I don't think it would add much in that department. 

Not mechanically minded, although have people around me who are.  I would be approx 4km/2.5 miles from a bike store.

I don't think I will cop to being more interested in *owning* a bike.  However i will cop to being more interested in the *idea* of owning a bike, and increasing fitness/cost cutting for errands (although I question how much it would save). 

Cheaper supermarket is in the centre of town.  Horrible going in with a car, never mind a bike.  Actually, come to think of it, there is another I could head out to, which would be do-able.

Going to school with children, would mean the back roads, which in this direction are quite mazelike, always going in odd directions.  Then it has highways/main street at the end which would be unavoidable.

Children are 6 and 8.  The 8 year old would be capable, but not at this busy time of day.

markstache

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Re: buying a bike
« Reply #5 on: August 04, 2016, 09:12:15 AM »
Could you borrow a bike for a few weeks from a friend to get a better sense of your own commitment. You might find longer distances are less of a burden and that there are some safer routes than you anticipated. I found that in the first few weeks where after I started biking I discovered side streets, parks, and other bike-able but not car-able paths that made it much safer and faster to get where I wanted to go.

I have a 5.5 year old and 3.5 year old. The 5.5 year old rides on his own most of the time and the 3 year is starting to ride separately, but if she gets tired we have a cargo bike that she can ride on with her bike. You might be surprised how well your kids can adapt, particularly if you find some alternate routes that make meet your comfort level.

ChairmanKaga

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Re: buying a bike
« Reply #6 on: August 04, 2016, 10:11:43 AM »
I don't see why this is an either/or situation. Buy a used and inexpensive, but decent quality bike, then commit to riding it at least three times a week, even if it's just for pleasure and exercise. Once you start to figure out ways to work the bike into your routine on a more consistent basis and become more confident in your stamina and traffic navigation skills, make it happen.

robartsd

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Re: buying a bike
« Reply #7 on: August 04, 2016, 10:43:03 AM »
I'll second the idea of borrowing a bike for a few weeks to try it out. You certainly are not yet committed enough to consider buying a new bike. If you were mechanically minded, a used bike could be as good as borrowing (find one that needs fixes you're confident you can DIY and sell at a profit if biking doesn't work out for you). After borrowing a bike and deciding that you do want to buy one, get one of those mechanically minded people to help you select a used bike to purchase.

If you are going to bike for transportation, you should at least be comfortable changing out a punctured inner tube. I'd recommend also learning to clean and lube your chain and adjust your brakes. With this maintenance knowledge, you should be able to keep yourself from getting stranded in most instances and be able to DIY the most frequent service needs. Outsourcing other maintenance items should not add too much to the cost of biking.

Your kids are certainly old enough to be riders (though they might limit your range/speed somewhat). Do your they already know how to ride a bike? Avoid training wheels - the primary skill you need to learn to ride is balance, training wheels are not particularly helpful. If your kids need to learn to ride, a "balance bike" can be much more useful. A standard bike can be made into a balance bike by removing the cranks.

Finding a great kid's bike can be even harder than finding a good bike for yourself. Hand brakes that are easy for the kids to operate are one of the most important features to look for. Here in the US, bikes below a certain size are required to have coaster brakes (a stupid requirement probably based on the prevalence of poor design in kid's hand brakes). Depending on your young riders' skills, they may or may not be ready for multi-geared bikes.

I'll second the idea that once you get started, you might be surprised at both your range and the routes available to you that you would not consider when thinking about routes as a motorist. You can learn to navigate the back road maze. Also with confidence in your own skill and a rational awareness of the true risks to you as a cyclist, you may be surprised at how buys a street you are able to ride on safely. It would be worthwhile to look for traffic skills classes for cyclists in your area.

For you cycling doesn't yet sound like a financial opportunity (bikes easily save money if they reduce car ownership, but the savings is generally negligible if only replacing a fraction of the miles). I certainly believe that cycling may be worthwhile as a lifestyle choice (and you might eventually get to the point where it would replace your car); so I think you should try it.

Ezzo

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Re: buying a bike
« Reply #8 on: August 04, 2016, 06:09:50 PM »
I thought I would update here - yes already :)

Well thinking about how I was approaching this, I was both annoyed at my "excuseitis", but at the same time, not wanting to "spend money if it was not feasible".

I took to thinking of what I *can* do rather then what I can't.

- I can use a bike for my local errands
- I can use cycling with a group to replace my gym membership (have been wanting to get rid of it, but didn't have enough other exercise)
- I can learn all these back ways and familiarize myself with the area, and *then* introduce the children to accompanying me, rather then using them as an excuse as to why I can't

I did some searching of local bike clubs here, and it turns out that they have a group for beginners where they will loan you a bike for a short period to try it out.  Obviously sponsored by one of the local bike shops. 
The children do have their own bikes already at their father's house as they have a bike path right outside.  I am disappointed they aren't using them more.   They are not confident riders at this time.  It would be no problem for retrieval of the bikes in the future.

And thanks for the responses everyone .....

mountains_o_mustaches

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Re: buying a bike
« Reply #9 on: August 04, 2016, 07:25:04 PM »
I second another poster's suggestion of buying a decent quality used bike - check Craigslist and before you buy check the serial # against stolen bikes in your area (my local police department will do it).  No need to go all out and buy and expensive road bike for several thousand dollars.  I took the plunge and bought a bike and I've found that the more I ride, the more comfortable I am, and the farther I go. You mention some maze-like back roads as a drawback- those are my favorite to bike on - almost no traffic and I get to say hi to the neighbors!  Another suggestion is to get in touch with any local cycling organizations - they often have free maps, classes on how to maintain your bike, road safety, etc.

Do it - take the plunge and buy a bike!

GuitarStv

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Re: buying a bike
« Reply #10 on: August 05, 2016, 06:10:48 AM »
Based on your answers, it sounds like just about any bike that you find comfortable will suit your needs at the moment.  I'd look for a bike that you can attach fenders to (makes riding in rain no more uncomfortable than walking in the rain), and a rear rack (it's much easier to let the bike hold the weight of your stuff when running errands than putting it on your back).

Try to avoid any kind of suspension, as they just add weight for no real benefit if you're not doing extreme off-roading.  Smooth tires without much tread will grip better on the road than knobby tires, and they'll go faster with less effort on your part.

For accessories I'd look into:
- helmet (cheap ones will work just as well as expensive ones)
- u-lock and cable (and learn how to use them properly - like this: )
- lights (something cheap but bright/durable like the Planet Bike Superflash Turbo on the back and Blaze 2 watt front light will work just fine for dark conditions where there's some street lighting.)

robartsd

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Re: buying a bike
« Reply #11 on: August 05, 2016, 08:28:16 AM »
- helmet (cheap ones will work just as well as expensive ones)
The main difference between cheap helmets and expensive ones is the amount of ventilation. The expensive ones need to use higher grade materials to meet the safety standards while allowing so much airflow around your head. Helmets should always be purchased new and should be replaced every few years (or any time they've suffered an impact, even if damage is not immediately evident).

GuitarStv

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Re: buying a bike
« Reply #12 on: August 05, 2016, 08:38:50 AM »
- helmet (cheap ones will work just as well as expensive ones)
The main difference between cheap helmets and expensive ones is the amount of ventilation. The expensive ones need to use higher grade materials to meet the safety standards while allowing so much airflow around your head. Helmets should always be purchased new and should be replaced every few years (or any time they've suffered an impact, even if damage is not immediately evident).

The every few years thing is debatable.

Snell recommends every five years:  http://www.smf.org/helmetfaq#aWhyReplace
MET recommends every eight years: http://www.helmets.org/replace.htm

robartsd

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Re: buying a bike
« Reply #13 on: August 05, 2016, 08:51:22 AM »
- helmet (cheap ones will work just as well as expensive ones)
The main difference between cheap helmets and expensive ones is the amount of ventilation. The expensive ones need to use higher grade materials to meet the safety standards while allowing so much airflow around your head. Helmets should always be purchased new and should be replaced every few years (or any time they've suffered an impact, even if damage is not immediately evident).

The every few years thing is debatable.

Snell recommends every five years:  http://www.smf.org/helmetfaq#aWhyReplace
MET recommends every eight years: http://www.helmets.org/replace.htm
Thanks for the info. My current helmet is only 5-6 years old, maybe it's not quite time to replace it yet (I thought I was over due).

GuitarStv

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Re: buying a bike
« Reply #14 on: August 05, 2016, 09:10:45 AM »
- helmet (cheap ones will work just as well as expensive ones)
The main difference between cheap helmets and expensive ones is the amount of ventilation. The expensive ones need to use higher grade materials to meet the safety standards while allowing so much airflow around your head. Helmets should always be purchased new and should be replaced every few years (or any time they've suffered an impact, even if damage is not immediately evident).

The every few years thing is debatable.

Snell recommends every five years:  http://www.smf.org/helmetfaq#aWhyReplace
MET recommends every eight years: http://www.helmets.org/replace.htm
Thanks for the info. My current helmet is only 5-6 years old, maybe it's not quite time to replace it yet (I thought I was over due).

Yeah, it was kinda a shock to me as well.  Helmet manufacturers had been telling me every two years.  :P

Ezzo

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Re: buying a bike
« Reply #15 on: August 24, 2016, 09:16:23 PM »
Well a bit of an update, after having borrowed a road bike for most of a week now.  I've taken it out for two rides, one solo on the bike paths to familiarize myself and once with a group on the roads


- At this stage I am too slow for the beginners group, so I would have to work on that before going again.
- My backside is sore.  I feel every time I change gear, go over almost invisible bumps, or even go over regular road over about 30km/hr (19mi/hr).  They did make sure it was at the right height
- as such I'm hitting the brake.  Which would be fine, but the brakes don't feel like they work very well.  It is like braking in a huge truck and I'm almost surprised (and pretty grateful) when I finally stop.  I don't remember my old mountain bike doing that!  One of the other cyclists said disc brakes were better?  If the others are that bad why would people use them?  I don't feel like I can get any speed as I'm too worried about slowing down.  -
- so I may be able to join the group again if I can get the above issues sorted out.  I would say they are the bigger problems over fitness as physically I could have pushed my legs and lungs harder.
- traffic is scary!!  Even with dedicated bike lanes.  I don't have a problem with back streets, or roads out of town though.  It is harder to actually do useful stuff out there though.  I am not sure whether confidence will improve with further riding and whether central areas will be a future possibility

Having said that, I do like the process of cycling.  Great scenery, feels great (apart from my backside), and would love to continue this.

So now I am at decision time.  Reviewing what I want from this and if I should proceed...

- would love to be able to ride with kids around the bike paths.  There are a lot of them around.  more scenic than useful in where they go. 
- If I get a bike it would be one with better brakes and a top quality seat.  I would still have to decide between road bike and hybrid.  Trying to guess if I am going to build this confidence mainly. 
- Trying to think of a way to do some of my errands on bike.  I can get most of the way there, but I would need to go through a central downtown area.  Not confident enough on bike to do that  (yet?). Long way to walk the bike across.  Alternative way using back streets would be significantly longer circling back around large parklands/ovals/school area. 
- Would love to do tours around the countryside on it.  That would involve a roadbike if I am going with the group.

The last option is to put it all aside as a failed experiment.  I don't know how I feel about that.  I still have a few days before I give it back.

Was wondering what others experiences were when they started?


Ezzo

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Re: buying a bike
« Reply #16 on: August 24, 2016, 10:14:45 PM »
and just to add - google apparently doesn't map bike tracks in my area.  I found a number from council information booklets and more again from seeing paths near creeks and rail lines and confirming via google street view that it was a shared pedestrian/bike path.  I'm wondering how many more there are and have been trying to spy different tracks. 

GuitarStv

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Re: buying a bike
« Reply #17 on: August 25, 2016, 06:16:50 AM »
Well a bit of an update, after having borrowed a road bike for most of a week now.  I've taken it out for two rides, one solo on the bike paths to familiarize myself and once with a group on the roads


- At this stage I am too slow for the beginners group, so I would have to work on that before going again.

This is to be expected.  You just need to put in some regular miles for a month or so, and will make some pretty incredible increases in your strength and stamina.  Little things (like learning to draft properly, always being in the right gear, figuring out when to brake, figuring out when to go all out) will make this an awful lot easier as well.

- My backside is sore.  I feel every time I change gear, go over almost invisible bumps, or even go over regular road over about 30km/hr (19mi/hr).  They did make sure it was at the right height

The stronger you get on a road bike the more weight your legs take (because you're constantly pushing down on the pedals).  This means that you're sitting less weight on the saddle, which makes things much more comfortable.  Finding the right bike saddle is a tricky thing, and near as I can figure everyone has slightly different preferences based on body shape, fitness, style of riding, terrain, etc.

Generally speaking the further forward you lean while riding, the narrower a saddle you want.  As you lean forward the width of the bones in your pelvis will change, so measuring your 'sit bones' to get a good idea of saddle width is only so helpful.  If the saddle is too narrow it'll feel like it's riding up your butt and be very painful.  If the saddle is too wide it'll feel OK for a little while, but will cause chafing on your inner thighs.  Thick padding can be bad because you sink too far down and your 'nads bear too much weight . . . which makes your block and tackle go numb and isn't good news.  Saddles with cutouts can help prevent numbness, but some people are less comfortable on them.

Personally, I'm good on any saddle I've ridden for about 50 km.  I start to notice problems with a saddle after about 90km, and if the saddle doesn't fit very well I'm in pain after about 120km.  This makes figuring out if a saddle will work very difficult unfortunately.  :P


as such I'm hitting the brake.  Which would be fine, but the brakes don't feel like they work very well.  It is like braking in a huge truck and I'm almost surprised (and pretty grateful) when I finally stop.  I don't remember my old mountain bike doing that!  One of the other cyclists said disc brakes were better?  If the others are that bad why would people use them?  I don't feel like I can get any speed as I'm too worried about slowing down.

Properly set up (and with good pads - I like the kool stop black and salmon dual compound ones), road brakes will let you lock up the front wheel.  That's the fastest way that you can slow down on a bike.  Disk brakes can't slow you down faster than locking the front wheel, V-brakes can't slow you down faster than locking the front wheel.

Rim brakes on a road bike are very powerful brakes.  On thing that often trips people up coming to a road bike is the body position change.  Because you sit farther up, and farther forward on a road bike there will be more weight on the front wheel.  When you brake on any bike it throws your weight forward.  If you use a low saddle position and high bar position you can get away with using the rear brake to stop, because even when your weight gets thrown forward you're still keeping a lot of weight on the rear wheel.  You have to brake properly on a road bike . . . which means that 90% of your slowing power comes from the front brake alone.  The rear brake is rarely very useful.

In the wet you need to brake differently because the brake has to make a couple passes to clear water from the rim before it'll start to slow you down.  There's a clear advantage to disc brakes in that sort of situation.


- traffic is scary!!  Even with dedicated bike lanes.  I don't have a problem with back streets, or roads out of town though.  It is harder to actually do useful stuff out there though.  I am not sure whether confidence will improve with further riding and whether central areas will be a future possibility

Traffic is scary.  Over time you figure out better ways of cycling (when to take the lane, how to handle different traffic situations) which makes it more tolerable, but I'd say the vast majority of cyclists try to avoid busy traffic areas - and with good reason.  I've been cycling to work through busy city streets for five years now, and while you get used to being yelled at, people passing too close, and stupid car stuff . . . it's never as fun as doing a long ride in the countryside.

I ended up getting a steel frame touring bike.  It has a very wide range of gearing, so I can hang with a fast group or slowly drag heavily laden bags up hills equally comfortably.  While it's a little heavier than a true road bike, it's pretty robustly built so I'm not worried about banging it up a little bit.

Jack

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Re: buying a bike
« Reply #18 on: August 25, 2016, 08:14:48 AM »
Both the speed and the backside comfort will improve fairly rapidly with time, but it does take more than two rides! Ride for at least half an hour every other day for a couple of weeks then let us know if you're still having trouble.

GuitarStv's braking advice was good, but note that you don't actually want to lock up the front wheel (that's how you flip over the handlebars). You just want to almost lock it up. At that point, almost all your weight will have shifted to the front and the rear brake will be doing almost nothing.

If you find it literally impossible to lock up the brake (test with the rear one), then something is wrong -- take it to a mechanic[ally-inclined friend] to get it adjusted (or replace the pads if they're old, dried out and hard).

markstache

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Re: buying a bike
« Reply #19 on: August 25, 2016, 08:15:48 AM »
Good advice all around from GuitarStv. I have bikes with rim, v, and disc brakes. All work great if properly set up. I suspect the bike you are on has some issues with the brakes, but since you are buying a different bike, I wouldn't spend much effort figuring it out.

I ended up getting a steel frame touring bike.  It has a very wide range of gearing, so I can hang with a fast group or slowly drag heavily laden bags up hills equally comfortably.  While it's a little heavier than a true road bike, it's pretty robustly built so I'm not worried about banging it up a little bit.

A good suggestion. Another point is that a touring bike will have many attachment points for racks, baskets, water bottles, etc. You said previously that you wanted to use the bike to haul stuff, so these connection points are extremely useful. Most fitness oriented bikes omit these. Also, get a bike that will fit at least 32mm tires with fenders (e.g., most touring bikes). Wider tires will ease shocks and the fenders will keep you dry. Even with racks and fenders, you can still ride it for fitness -- don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

Happy riding!

GuitarStv

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Re: buying a bike
« Reply #20 on: August 25, 2016, 08:32:20 AM »
GuitarStv's braking advice was good, but note that you don't actually want to lock up the front wheel (that's how you flip over the handlebars). You just want to almost lock it up. At that point, almost all your weight will have shifted to the front and the rear brake will be doing almost nothing.

Oh yeah.  This is an important point.  You absolutely do not want to lock the front brake, you want to be able to lock it up (that's a sign of a well adjusted brake with good pads).


When you brake hard you want to brace your arms against the bar, get your body low, and slide your ass off and behind your saddle.  Use mostly the front brake and a little of the rear to stop.  Feathering the front brake is a good skill to practice a couple times on a quiet road . . . just go up to speed, then slow down fast.  Get used to the different feel and the amount of pressure you need to stop.  You need more pressure if you're stopping from the hoods, and less pressure if you're stopping from the drops.  Remember to keep your body relaxed, and release the brakes if it feels like you're being thrown forward too hard.
« Last Edit: August 25, 2016, 08:34:37 AM by GuitarStv »

robartsd

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Re: buying a bike
« Reply #21 on: August 25, 2016, 09:18:42 AM »
19 mi/hr is decent speed on a bike; I'm not sure what kind of beginner group you've found where that is not fast enough (beginner racer perhaps, but not beginner cyclist). It does sound like the brakes on the bike you borrowed need attention. As others have said, bike brakes should be capable of locking up the wheel. I used to take winters off from cycling, and rides the first couple of weeks in the spring would cause some backside soreness. Any traffic will be scary until you are confident enough with your bike that you never think about how to operate it (it just feels like an extension of you) and you have learned the best practices for riding with traffic (some types of traffic will always be scary). While I currently ride a mountain bike frame with tires that are relatively smooth and skinny, if I were shopping for a new bike I'd probably look at a touring bike (though I might also consider a long-tail cargo bike).

Ezzo

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Re: buying a bike
« Reply #22 on: August 25, 2016, 06:42:07 PM »
19 mi/hr is decent speed on a bike; I'm not sure what kind of beginner group you've found where that is not fast enough (beginner racer perhaps, but not beginner cyclist).
The group is supposed to be around 12-15mi/hr, but speeds go up to above 19mi/hr when going down hills.  I apparently averaged under 10mi/hr which is not so good.

markstache

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Re: buying a bike
« Reply #23 on: August 26, 2016, 09:48:31 AM »
19 mi/hr is decent speed on a bike; I'm not sure what kind of beginner group you've found where that is not fast enough (beginner racer perhaps, but not beginner cyclist).
The group is supposed to be around 12-15mi/hr, but speeds go up to above 19mi/hr when going down hills.  I apparently averaged under 10mi/hr which is not so good.

You are on a bike. You are going 10 mi/hr faster than everyone sitting on a couch. :-)