Help me research a new bike
December 24, 2008 12:02 PM   Subscribe

My bike just broke spectacularly, while I was riding it. I want to research getting a good, new hybrid bike for city riding. Can anyone recommend good websites for research?

I am looking for good websites that review bikes, but recommendations regarding possible bikes would be welcome too.

I want a new hybrid with slicks. I bought my last bike 7 years ago so I feel a bit clueless. What do I need to consider, other than budget? I am going to put aside £400.

All advice very welcome. Please ask any questions if there is anything obvious I haven't stated.
posted by thelost to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (15 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Favorited, because I'm in a similar boat, except my bike was stolen. I went through the threads here (search for bikes, etc) and so far I'm looking at Trek's FX or 7000 lines.
posted by mhz at 12:39 PM on December 24, 2008 (MBR = Mountain Bike Review) has the best mountain bike reviews, with some hybrids too. They also have incredibly helpful forums. has the same for road bikes.

MTBR has a 'what bike should I buy' forum for just this kind of question.
posted by unSane at 12:54 PM on December 24, 2008

bikeforums, specifically commuting and recreational and family . I think £400 could get you a lot of bike, how far/often do you ride? Do you need to carry a lot of stuff? What do you do with your bike? Are all questions to think about.
posted by thylacine at 1:09 PM on December 24, 2008

Seconding bikeforums - commuting. You might also find the winter and utility cycling forums helpful. Best of luck!
posted by silentbicycle at 2:09 PM on December 24, 2008

Before you commit to getting another hybrid, consider some of the benefits of a regular road bike: the curved bars have multiple usable hand positions, which is better for hand, wrist, and forearm comfort (also the wrist position with a straight bar is unnatural and actually bad for you) - if you really cannot stand drop bars, "moustache" bars or the on-one midge bar or similar have a much healthier wrist/hand position than a straight bar, and accommodate multiple hand positions (changing hand position regularly reduces the risk of pain or injury). The upright riding position of most hybrids leads to increased saddle pressure, thus increased chafing and soreness on your posterior, and increased risk of the dreaded cyclist's impotence - the reason that most road bikes have so little padding on the saddle is that on a road bike you are not putting much weight on the saddle. While some of this weight is shifted to the hands, it is easier to shift handholds for comfort than it is to find different ways to sit on the saddle. A huge amount of pedaling power is lost to suspension devices, poor airflow, and mushy frame geometry; with a stiffer, lighter bike you will go further, faster, with less effort. The whole "aero" thing seems like a joke, but a large percentage of your effort when cycling simply goes into moving the air in front of you out of the way, and road bikes, obviously, have a much more streamlined profile to their riding posture, and if you alternate between an upright and a crouched position on a downhill with a constant grade while not pedaling or braking, you will notice your speed change.

Of course a road bike is not for everyone, but I made the switch and have been very happy with it - you do need to relearn to ride to some degree with the difference in posture, and the ride is a bit harsher, but to me the extra speed and lack of saddle discomfort are more than worth it.

There seem to be cultural or fashion barriers to road bikes for some people - straight bars and upright riding are regarded by many to be more manly, and I will be the first to admit that a roadie covered in fluorescent spandex with his ass up in the air and his face down by his handlebars looks a bit foolish, but I have outgrown the need to constantly affirm my masculinity, and you really don't need to wear spandex to ride a road bike. Riding any bike can look a bit foolish, and with a road bike I spend 66% as much time on the road to cover the same distance, thus less time spent looking foolish overall (I did not make that number up, that is the actual difference in my speedometer-measured average speed, with the same effort expended).
posted by idiopath at 2:42 PM on December 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

I also recommend bikeforums. Their threads have a great search function and lots of helpful people.
posted by apricot at 2:46 PM on December 24, 2008

It's worth going in a proper bike shop and asking, too. There's nothing that beats talking to real people and trying out real bikes.

If you're in the north, I'd recommend Edinburgh bicycle coop. I went there (the Leeds branch - they're not just in Edinburgh) and got some great advice, and ended up with one of their own brand hybrids which is great and very high specced for the price. With this bike I made the step up to disk brakes and they make a huge difference to my daily commute - the bike actually stops, quickly, when it's wet! Marvellous.
posted by handee at 2:53 PM on December 24, 2008

Response by poster: @idiopath

Great reply thanks. I really want a road bike, but I like to be able to hop on and off pavements when I need to.
posted by thelost at 3:12 PM on December 24, 2008

Sheldon Brown The bicycle god.
posted by saxamo at 4:16 PM on December 24, 2008 [2 favorites]

thelost: you could check out a cyclocross bike or a touring bike, both are variations of a road bike made to be much tougher - any cyclocross or touring bike worth the name can hop up or down a curb or bomb through a pothole with no trouble, if the rider can handle it.

The way I see it, the hybrid bike is a mountain bike with skinny tires and less rugged frame, probably a hardtail, while a cyclocross is a road bike with a more durable frame and wheels and room for knobby tires, and a touring bike is a road bike with a much more durable frame, much more durable wheels, and fine tuned for long-long-long rides (ie. a week of ten hour days of riding), at the expense of not keeping that zippy quick to accelerate wants-to-go-fast feeling a cyclocross bike will share with a road bike. Either a cyclocross or a touring bike will be significantly lighter than a hybrid, have drop bars, and something closer to a road bike posture. In terms of durability or being able to handle rough terrain, a cyclocross bike can go head to head with a mountain bike unless you are dealing with deep loose gravel, uneven steep downhills, or deep mud (I seriously doubt your commute includes any of these).

I have a touring bike (novara randonee) and a road bike (trek fast-track 470). The touring bike is great for things like riding from Portland, OR through the coastal range to the coast with all my camping gear on the bike rack, but for a ride under 30 miles or so round trip, the road bike is just alot more fun to ride and gets me there faster.

I rarely have to hop curbs for the same reason a car doesn't: I am on a vehicle and obligated to obey the same traffic laws that any slower vehicle would obey, which includes not being on the sidewalk (I do cheat, the last 2 mile stretch of my 12 mile ride to work is on an industrial road with no shoulder, but there are no cross streets or pedestrians out there, so I do spend some time on the sidewalk, but when the shoulder is there, or on the ride home when the traffic is slower, I stick to the street). Traffic laws in your region may vary, and these laws are loosely enforced, but a large number of bike accidents happen when a bike crosses a road while riding the sidewalk - drivers don't (and arguably shouldn't) expect someone moving that fast coming off of a sidewalk.
posted by idiopath at 4:27 PM on December 24, 2008

Completely agree with idiopath on road bike efficiency and better cycling position. One point to note though is that road bike position could be less convenient to be aware of what's around you (typically, trafic ).
But it's completely worth it, I have both type and my commute is almost twice as fast with the road bike (single speed).
posted by anto1ne at 7:12 PM on December 24, 2008

Instead of buying one £400 bike, buy four £100 bikes used. Or eight £50 ones. You'll get to try a bunch of different bikes, one of which you may love, and you'll be buying into an ethos that fits with city biking much better than buying brand new. Unless you're riding for miles upon miles or participating in races, things like "riding position" or "handlebar style" are kind of bullshit.
posted by borkingchikapa at 9:39 PM on December 24, 2008

trek and giant are always reliable.
be careful about getting a hybrid, they are basically a mountain bike with really slack posture. a mountain bike has more agressive posture. a mountain bike with slicks might suit? i dont think borkinchikapa really gets it.
a mountain bike will hold up better and probably shift sharper. it also means if u ever want to go off road properly/track riding it is better suited.
also they are marketed more so there is more variety in mountain bikes.
depends how much u ride, and how hard u ride.
1 - if you ride slow, are possive and dont do many km get a hybrid
2 - if you put in, do considerable km and sometimes go offroad, get a mountain bike
posted by edtut at 2:47 AM on December 25, 2008

I'm seconding a touring bike or similar - I really like my Jamis Coda with swept back handle bars (like the old English 3 speeds, allows you to ride in an upright position ... in european countries where bike commuting is more common, the swept back bars are used by nearly everyone).

Also seconding Sheldon Brown - here's his "beginner's page" (RIP) - your first stop for bike questions and needs.

edtut is correct that a hybrid is much like a mountain bike with a more upright posture ... that posture is generally appropriate for commuters of short distances (<1>
Actually, tires and rims are something to consider carefully though too much attention leads down an expensive path, often without the need. If you are regularly commuting, get puncture resistant tires - your local bike shop (LBS) can help, but also check Sheldon Brown for more accurate and detailed information. As for rims/wheelsets: your new bike will likely come with an acceptable wheel set, but it is something to consider.

Hybrids usually have "mountain bike" wheel sets with slick tires ... these are wide, comfy, but inefficient for longer rides. You may be more comfortable and efficient riding on smaller wheels (like a "racing bike" but slightly wider). Really depends on the length of your ride and the surfaces you'll be covering. Again, reference Sheldon Brown for the most accurate details. I have "touring rims" on my bike to make up for my additional weight (body weight, not from touring equipment/bags) with wider than usual tires (35mm). If you're average weight and your commute is over 5 miles, consider something closer to 32mm, maybe 35mm if your frame will accept them.
posted by unclezeb at 10:41 AM on December 25, 2008

I don't know your gender, but I like the advice and community at the Team Estrogen bike forums here. The commuting sub-forum is my favorite.
posted by Maarika at 8:08 PM on December 25, 2008

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