Author Topic: Help me be mustachian or at least not dumb about my new bike purchase  (Read 4423 times)

fallstoclimb

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Yes this is now my second thread about my bike search.  I am sorry.

This is what I am looking for in my new bike:
- Able to run a wide range of tire sizes with fenders
- Drop bars
- Zippy but able to handle a load (I think I can get by with just rear panniers)
- Generous gearing (can be swapped out I guess)
- Clean shifting and easy-to-maintain brakes
- It can BE heavy as long as it doesn't FEEL heavy under saddle because I won't often have to carry it. 
- I like the idea of steel but am not sold on it -- if aluminum I definitely want a carbon fork though
- Not very upright, I hate the loss of power I feel on upright bikes and I think they're unfun.

This is what new bike will be used for:
- Daily ~10 mile roundtrip commute to work - some dirt/gravel trail, mostly road, some hills (sadly will have to be locked outside under no canopy when I'm at work -- I may keep my current commuter bike as a "rain" bike...)
- Future bike camping & tours - probably nothing too crazy
- Around town / social rides


This is the main problem I am facing:  I am approximately 5'2".  NO ONE carries light touring/cross bikes (which is where I think my needs list is pushing me) in such a small size, and no one appears to be selling them on craigslist either -- I've been scouring listings across three cities for months with no luck. 

So I've basically accepted I'm going to have to buy new, which hurts my mustachian heart, but I can afford it and I really do love bikes.  (I do worry about locking up an expensive bike, but we always use u-locks, work is fairly secure, and around town there isn't too much of an issue.  It will live safely in my basement.) 

However I just plain don't know how to shop for a bike when I can't test ride. And I'm getting caught up in brand name games -- a Surly cross check was the front runner for a long time but that's basically just because people talk highly of Surlys.  I've never even ridden one!  Why was that my top choice?  Although the Surly is actually more affordable than a lot of the other brand names that have been tossed out -- Salsa Vaya, All-City Space Ghost, etc.  I don't exactly have a "budget" per se but I don't think my heart could handle paying more than ~$1250.  (I know, some of your hearts just stopped, but bikes ARE one of my core values.)

We live near a plethora of bike shops, and most will order a bike for me to test ride under "no obligation" to buy but I think the psychology of ordering a bike would make me want it to work even if it doesn't.  I certainly wouldn't want to go through that process a few times. 

My husband has this amazing ability to just acquire bikes for free or cheap, but I think that is a lot easier when you are a ~5'9" man!  This 5'2" lady is frustrated. 

So, anyway, how would you go about this?  I basically just have an ever-increasing list of possibilities on my phone, none of which I can easily test ride, so I am getting overwhelmed. 

(And then yes a TINY part of me is thinking -- your commute is so short, what is wrong with your current bike and you always have your road bike for fast rides -- but I know we will want to do some touring in the future, and I really don't find my current commuter bike fun, and I've had it for four years, and I've now paid off my loans and bike commuted for over a year which was the deal I made for myself about getting a new bike.)

FireDAD

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Re: Help me be mustachian or at least not dumb about my new bike purchase
« Reply #1 on: September 16, 2014, 12:18:40 PM »
if you are doing touring in the future then the LHT by Surly would fit the bill.

I commuted for years on a Raleigh One-way. comes with fenders, is a single speed. I also had a Raleigh Sojourn for commuting/touring as well.

It is all in what you are looking for. My new job has some massive climbs and I'm considering going for the  E-assist. The thing to remember when considering the cost is how much less it is compared to a car.

GuitarStv

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Re: Help me be mustachian or at least not dumb about my new bike purchase
« Reply #2 on: September 16, 2014, 12:23:20 PM »
Nashbar sells a touring bike, the TR1 in a pretty small (50 cm) frame.  It's a decent bike that ticks off everything on your list of criteria.  I've been using mine for a couple years (11 mile commute each way and hauling a lot of groceries) and really like it.  You can pick them up for pretty cheap when they go on sale every few months.  Even if you don't wait for the sale, it'll be cheaper than a grand.

As far as finding a bike that fits you . . . you need to ride a few until you come across one that's comfy.  Then figure out the top tube length, seat tube height, and length of the chainstays (to see if your panniers will bump your heels).  Once you have these numbers you can go online and check specs for most any big manufacturer to make sure they're pretty close to what you like.

That's my two cents anyway.

fallstoclimb

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Re: Help me be mustachian or at least not dumb about my new bike purchase
« Reply #3 on: September 16, 2014, 12:28:13 PM »
As far as finding a bike that fits you . . . you need to ride a few until you come across one that's comfy.  Then figure out the top tube length, seat tube height, and length of the chainstays (to see if your panniers will bump your heels).  Once you have these numbers you can go online and check specs for most any big manufacturer to make sure they're pretty close to what you like.

That's my two cents anyway.

Would my road bike (Dolce Specialized) measurements transfer to a touring-style bike?  The Dolce has a sloping top tube so I'd have to figure out a way around that -- I guess just measure as though it were straight.  My husband is suggesting ordering a bikes direct bike, which would save a lot, but I just worry about ordering a bike and not being able to return it without a test ride.  I know exactly what I don't like about the feel of riding my hybrid and I think its less measurements than geometry, you know?

fallstoclimb

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Re: Help me be mustachian or at least not dumb about my new bike purchase
« Reply #4 on: September 16, 2014, 12:33:19 PM »
Also:  I got a bike fit on my road bike (which is a 48, but with a sloping top tube) and just found the form.  He says it's 47.5 from "seat nose to hood back" and 43.8 from "seat nose to bar center."  I'm not sure if either of those measurements are equivalent to a top tube measurement? 

GuitarStv

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Re: Help me be mustachian or at least not dumb about my new bike purchase
« Reply #5 on: September 16, 2014, 12:38:51 PM »
The key thing that really matters for bike fitting is effective top tube length.  If this is comfy, then another bike with a close measurement there should also be comfy.



^ Measure that on the bike that fits you well and then use it to compare.  As long as you have that down and can stand over the frame (usually listed as 'standover height') you should be pretty confident ordering online.
« Last Edit: September 16, 2014, 12:42:28 PM by GuitarStv »

lackofstache

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Re: Help me be mustachian or at least not dumb about my new bike purchase
« Reply #6 on: September 16, 2014, 12:40:16 PM »
I'd second the LHT from Surly. Buy it complete & the parts will last a long time. It's fine for road riding, and works extremely well loaded. An old rigid mountain bike can be very similar if you know what you're looking for and want to spend time tinkering.

fallstoclimb

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Re: Help me be mustachian or at least not dumb about my new bike purchase
« Reply #7 on: September 16, 2014, 01:06:12 PM »
@GuitarStv, I swear I'm not being an idiot but my bike fit specs don't seem to have effective top tube length -- I'll try to attach them later.

Re: the LHT recommendations, I ruled out the LHT pretty early on because I heard it could ride like a tank, especially for a smaller rider like myself.  It would be perfect if I were buying it to ride across the country, but this bike will be used primarily for short commutes and tours under a week long, which won't require more than rear panniers. You all are making me go back to leaning hard on the Surly Cross Check, for no reason other than it's a Surly and I read that some bike bloggers liked it.   

GuitarStv

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Re: Help me be mustachian or at least not dumb about my new bike purchase
« Reply #8 on: September 17, 2014, 05:45:54 AM »
I would be careful recommending a cross bike for you based on your height.  Cyclocross bikes are designed for off road use . . . as such they have higher bottom brackets.

A high bottom bracket means you can pedal through turns and avoid catching the pedal on debris while off roading.  For touring it means that you will have a higher top tube (so harder to find something that can easily be stood over for short people) and it will handle differently, a bit more twitchy.

A lower bottom bracket also means your seat will be at a lower level, so you'll be more easily able to get a foot down while still in the saddle . . . which can be quite handy when touring or commuting (frequent, sometimes unexpected stops and trying to keep the weight on the bike stable).

fallstoclimb

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Re: Help me be mustachian or at least not dumb about my new bike purchase
« Reply #9 on: September 17, 2014, 06:21:18 AM »
Interesting.  I hear people talk about the higher bottom bracket but didn't really know what that meant for the ride.  I don't mind having to get out of the saddle to put a foot down -- I already always do that and am used to the motion -- but higher top tube might be a problem.

Surely short women ride cyclocross though, right? 

I attached my fit specs -- although I'm still very dubious about just going by the effective top tube length. 

Terrestrial

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Re: Help me be mustachian or at least not dumb about my new bike purchase
« Reply #10 on: September 17, 2014, 07:05:26 AM »
It sounds like the biggest problem you are having is finding a bike in your size?

If you are comfortable with hunting around and piecing something together, try to find a cyclocross bike on craigslist that has the component level you're seeking, then buy the nashbar cyclocross frame/fork in your size (~$250), they have sizes all the way down to 46cm, or hunt around on ebay for one in the right size...then if you if you/your husband are handy swap all the componentry over, or if you are not have your LBS do it, then sell the frame from the donor bike on craigslist.

This does take more effort and knowledge than just finding a complete bike or buying a new one, but you can get some reasonably good bikes for a decent cost.


fallstoclimb

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Re: Help me be mustachian or at least not dumb about my new bike purchase
« Reply #11 on: September 17, 2014, 07:21:33 AM »
If you are comfortable with hunting around and piecing something together, try to find a cyclocross bike on craigslist that has the component level you're seeking, then buy the nashbar cyclocross frame/fork in your size (~$250), they have sizes all the way down to 46cm, or hunt around on ebay for one in the right size...then if you if you/your husband are handy swap all the componentry over, or if you are not have your LBS do it, then sell the frame from the donor bike on craigslist.

That might be a good option.  My husband has built up bikes before.  Still wish I could test ride it, though.

I think one problem I'm having is the "I'll maybe use this bike for touring" issue.  We PROBABLY will tour -- we both love bikes, we did some bike camping last year that was rough on gravel but I still see this as something we will do -- but do I buy the bike for the probable tour or do I buy the bike for the definite commute?