Help me buy bikes for me and my brother.
May 18, 2010 11:35 AM   Subscribe

Two old dudes want some bikes.

My brother and I want to incorporate some bike riding into our *new* exercise routine.

Challenge: we'd like a bike that is as good on the road as it is off the road (or just not terrible on either). Neither of us know much about bikes, so we'd like something that is easy to maintain.

We're basically total noobs when it comes to bike riding. Where do we start?
posted by ColdChef to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (13 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
If you are new to biking, hybrid or cruiser bikes are a good inexpensive way to start. The Specialized Crosswinds is a really solid one from what I've been told. They're comfortable and upright and have wide soft tires that do equally well on pavement and mild trails.
I would avoid buying a bike at a place like WalMart or Target because they aren't built well and could potentially be very dangerous. Buying a previous-year model from a place like Performance Bicycles (a nationwide chain) is a good bet.
posted by tmt at 11:50 AM on May 18, 2010

I'd start by looking at a cyclocross bike. They're like road bikes, but with slightly thicker tires, and a few other embellishments. You'll have to stick to fairly well-groomed trails, although this might not be an issue depending upon your locale.

Alternatively, you could buy a mountain bike (I'd stick with a hardtail) and two sets of tires/wheels, one of which is suited for normal mountain bike use, and another that are slick. I did this, and ended up using the slicks 95% of the time. In this case, you have a bike that's great on all sorts of trails, and can easily be converted into a fairly decent road bike.
posted by schmod at 11:52 AM on May 18, 2010

Seconding a cyclocross bike. Quick like a road bike, and specifically built for tromping through mud and ease of carrying over large obstacles.
posted by kaibutsu at 12:01 PM on May 18, 2010

if either of you have back issues, you might consider a recumbent. also great cause you can easily enjoy the view (no need to lift your head to see the sights)

i rode mine on trails too, although there is a limit there.

lastly, on the delicate issue of scrotal endangerment, recumbents rule.
posted by kimyo at 12:12 PM on May 18, 2010

Bikes are pretty specialized, for good reason: they have extremely low-power (1/2 HP or less) motors, so they need to transmit that power as efficiently as possible. So you're not going to find a bike that's really good on dirt and pavement: you'll need to compromise.

Without any further information to go on, I'd agree with the cyclocross recommendation, but it would be helpful to know: how much road riding do you envision doing? How much dirt riding? What is your budget?

Bikes these days don't take a lot of maintenance beyond keeping them clean and lubing the chain (more accurately, when they do require maintenance, you need a whole workshop of specialized tools, so you take them to the shop). So I wouldn't worry about that too much. You could avoid some potential failure points by getting a single-speed bike, but I don't recommend that unless you know that's what you want. Which it probably isn't.
posted by adamrice at 12:57 PM on May 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

My husband just bought a Trek Navigator 2.0 for bike path & recreational riding. It's ridiculously comfortable (front suspension plus a suspended seat post). It is, of course, an entry-level bike; it's heavy and the componentry, while name-brand, is not top-notch. However, it's perfect for what he uses it for and he loves it.
posted by workerant at 1:02 PM on May 18, 2010

If you're completely new to cycling, I would recommend a hybrid bike over a cyclocross bike. Hybrids are generally cheaper and have more upright seating positions than cyclocross bikes. The drop bars and low position of road/cyclocross bikes are often difficult for people who have not been riding much and don't have lots of flexibility.

A hybrid bike is slower and heavier than a cyclocross bike, which won't be a big deal if you are not a strong rider. If you do get to that point you should buy another bike.

Recumbents are nice in their own way but sometimes difficult to transport, and the position is quite low to the ground so you have to make an effort to see and be seen.
posted by meowzilla at 1:03 PM on May 18, 2010

You might want to look into Breezers. I love my Greenway. I get lots of admiration and questions about the bike from other cyclists.
posted by cleverevans at 1:11 PM on May 18, 2010

I ride mostly on roads, but I like to be able to go off paths. I'm pudgy and occasionally in downright poor shape, but my bike is always fun to ride, and was pretty great to commute on when I could. As far as I understand, the only downside to riding a mountain bike like mine on roads is the loss of some speed. I don't care, I'm burning calories and it's a notoriously fun bike to ride. Several mefites have ridden my bike. Save the jokes about the town bicycle. It's really fun to ride, OK??? It's a Gary Fisher Opie, with a women's seat. I also think it's good to take on the forward posture of something that's not a cruiser, so you get some upper body toning when you ride. Unless your back is too bad to allow it, I guess.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:35 PM on May 18, 2010

One thing no one has mentioned is that if you're new to biking and are going to be riding for any length of time or with any frequency, you'll most likely want to get rid of the seat that comes with the bike you buy and pick up one that's designed for comfort. Nothing like a bruised butt to make you not want to climb on the thing.
posted by mudpuppie at 3:45 PM on May 18, 2010

I would go to a full service bike shop and ask the people who work there. You can even test drive them (the bikes), I'll bet.
posted by Daddy-O at 6:38 PM on May 18, 2010

If I were you, I'd go to a proper bike shop. One that does repairs, so that you know the people in there know how to fix a bike, as well as sell one. Maybe even one that sells secondhand as well as new.

I think that with bikes, fit is as important as type. A good shop will be able to let you try out various bikes and check that the frame geometry suits your build. And you'll be able to see if the bike suits you, too.

Personally, I am more comfortable on bikes with an upright riding position. So for me, hybrids or MTBs are good. You can get slick tyres for a mountain bike and essentially it behaves like a hybrid. If you're going to be doing road riding you don't want full suspension - if you can get front-fork suspension with a lock-out (so you can turn off the bouncy bit) that's good, but rigid bikes are fine for most trail riding, so I'd choose a fully rigid bike or a hard-tail (front but not rear suspension) if you're choosing the MTB route. Hybrids tend to be rigid bikes more geared for road use.

If you're more comfortable with a drop-handlebar position, then you want to look into cyclo-cross bikes as mentioned above.

A secondhand bike from a shop will be much cheaper than new, enabling you to get more bike quality for your bucks, but will have been serviced properly and should last fine. Given that this is a new thing for you I'm guessing you don't want to spend tons on a bike, just in case it doesn't work out. A $200 secondhand bike will be much better than a $200 new one (if it's been seen by a mechanic).
posted by handee at 2:30 AM on May 19, 2010

Response by poster: After reading the suggestions here, it seems like this will not be as easy of a choice as I'd anticipated. Thanks for the starting place, though.
posted by ColdChef at 9:16 AM on May 19, 2010

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