Affordable Road Bike for Father's day?
June 7, 2010 11:59 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for an affordable, 10 mile a day road bike for my dad for Father's day. He doesn't want anything more expensive than a $500 USD bike, but I can't find it in my heart to buy him a $200 Schwinn from Walmart. Can anyone suggest a road bike between $200-$500 for my dad? He's about 6'1", 200 pounds, pants inseam 33". Ordering online and having it delivered (USA) will work. I'm fairly handy with tools an can assemble it, but I'd rather order just 1 bike pre-packaged and not buy pieces individually and put them together myself (tires from one distributor, frame from another, etc.)
posted by WhereAmI to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (18 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I just found a perfect bike by posting a "wanted" ad on craigslist bikes for sale. I put in my general specs and price range and got several responses. It was a lot easier than combing the ads. Good luck!
posted by greensalsa at 12:02 PM on June 7, 2010

A Trek Hybrid would fit the bill, at less than $500. Perfect for tooling around town or on paved greenway trails. Had one for a couple of years and was very happy with it. Got my feet seriously wet and then moved on to a more aggressive-style road bike.
posted by jquinby at 12:04 PM on June 7, 2010

Check out Bikes Direct. The frames are no-name (or rather recycled names of defunct companies) but the components are name-brand.
posted by ghharr at 12:07 PM on June 7, 2010 [2 favorites]

You can get a fine bike complete off the shelf for <$500 and I don't think you're going to save much by ordering online due to shipping. I'd bounce around to various bike shops in your area and look at Cannondale, Specialized, Trek, etc. It will probably be an aluminum frame and Shimano components, in which case I'd try for 105 (though Tiagra should be fine for 10mi/day). Just go in and say "I'd like to see bikes around $350," since you'll want to build in a margin for their obligatory upsell.
posted by rhizome at 12:08 PM on June 7, 2010

Look for a reputable bike shop near you and ask for their opinion. At this price level (and arguably all price levels), there isn't a lot of difference between bikes; the fitting, service, and accessories from the bike shop are going to make a lot more difference than the sticker on the bike frame.

"Road bike" usually means a lightweight racing bike meant to go as fast as possible. A hybrid or a mountain bike fitted with slicks will be more optimal than a road bike for your father (who I assume doesn't ride a bike now).

One thing you don't want to do is buy a bike from a big-box store like Walmart (which doesn't have fitting, service, or good accessories) or assemble the bike yourself (which will involve lots of specialized tools and experience).
posted by meowzilla at 12:08 PM on June 7, 2010

rhizome: asking for 105 or Tiagra on a <$500 bike might get you laughed at. I think the cheapest new Trek with Tiagra is $1100.
posted by ghharr at 12:12 PM on June 7, 2010

You might getter more useful answers if you specify what you mean by "road bike". Do you mean the type of bike that has drop bars, skinny tires, a narrow seat, and doesn't weigh much or do you mean any bike that is suited for riding on roads (i.e. city bikes, hybrids, etc.)? If it is the former, you are pretty much limited to department store bikes (not such great deals if you want to keep them for a while) or used bikes (can be good deals, but it helps to know a little about bikes). If it is the latter, you should specify exactly what you are looking for or at least more specifically what the bike will be used for and which bikes your father has previously ridden, because there are many, many bikes out there.
posted by ssg at 12:15 PM on June 7, 2010

Response by poster: Awesome responses, thanks to everyone who's offered their advice and knowledge thus far!

My father is planning (or at least aspiring) to ride to and from work (20 miles round trip). The bike will be locked to a bike rack outside of his work, but it won't be protected from rain.

Will rain kill the bike?

If it does get rained on, what are the correct steps to take in order to revive the bike? Oil the chain (with what kind of oil/grease), etc.?
posted by WhereAmI at 12:27 PM on June 7, 2010

Response by poster: @SSG - I just picked road bike because that's what my father asked for.

He doesn't want a mountain bike.
He doesn't need what Lance Armstrong rides.

Anywhere in-between that can get him 20 miles a day will be perfecto :)
posted by WhereAmI at 12:29 PM on June 7, 2010

The aforementioned Bikes Direct organizes its offerings by component group, and has a couple Tiagra-level bikes under $500:

Generally, I'd say stay away from 2200, Tourney or Sora-equipped bikes if possible -- these would include the GMC Denali bikes sold on Amazon, which are pretty much junk.

If you have a local Performace Bike, they may have a few Fuji, Schwinn or other bikes that are decently made and have at least Tiagra components in the $500 range -- while PB doesn't get much love from cycling purists, at least you'd be able to check fitment and comfort, something you can't do from an online seller.

That said, bike fit is very adjustable, as long as you have a correctly-sized frame to start with. For his size, I'd probably look at something in the 59 or 60 cm range.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 12:31 PM on June 7, 2010 [2 favorites]

Don't buy a bike and give it to him. Take him to a bike shop (maybe one you've scoped out beforehand) and let him test ride a few different options. Bike fitting is really a personal thing, and can be pretty unpredictable.
posted by xil at 12:32 PM on June 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Rain will kill a bike if you let it, but if you're willing to keep up with it, it can be ok. That means wiping it off when it gets gunky, cleaning and lubing the chain (maybe with a lube for wet conditions) regularly, and being sure to replace the chain with some regularity. If he's going to be commuting he might consider getting a bike that will let you mount a rear rack, like this. Most lower-end road frames have rear rack mounts. If you're buying online you may want to err on the smaller side with frame size, it's easier to adjust bike fit up with a longer seatpost, stem, or cranks than it is to fit to a bike that is too big.
posted by ghharr at 12:42 PM on June 7, 2010

Response by poster: @M.C. Lo-Carb! - Thank you for the detailed suggestions!

@xil - He's had a ~$400 road bike bike before, but it was given away during a garage sale/spring cleaning years ago.

It was a 60cm Schwinn he had ordered online and was quite pleased with it, so I'm comfortable replicating this again (regardless of brand name).
posted by WhereAmI at 12:46 PM on June 7, 2010

It might be worth looking at a few step-through frame bikes, which are "old-fashioned" in that they are a sit-up riding style, have built-in mudguards, and generally always have a rack for carrying things. They also often have chain cases and enclosed gears, so they are very easy to maintain and more resistant to the weather. I ride a bike like this, because I don't cycle for sport, just for pleasure and sheer utility.

The sit-up riding style is really comfortable and I find myself feeling more confident on the roads because I'm not bent over, trying to look around at the traffic. Here are a few ones I saw within (the top end of) your pricerange: Lombard bike, Breezer town and city bike, and pretty much anything from Electra bikes.

The only downside to bikes like these is that they often have a smaller range of gears - mine is a 5-speed and in hilly Edinburgh, I really feel it sometimes. (Then again, my bike is also completley steel framed so weighs a ton). If your dad's route is super-hilly then these bikes might not be a good fit, but otherwise i'd highly recommend an old-fashioned bike for your dad!
posted by ukdanae at 1:39 PM on June 7, 2010

Thirding Bikes Direct. I bought a Mirage Pro [review] when I moved to New York and wanted a bike I wouldn't have to worry about being stolen, crashing, or otherwise being damaged by the city streets. It's lasted me well enough for the past three years of daily commuting, and I've taken it on a fair number of 50+ mile rides. I'm going to swap it soon because my commute is now 43 miles in one direction and it's a little uncomfortable for that length of ride, but it was a great entry-level bike.

I would suggest buying at least the Mirage Pro (or similar linked on the Tiagra section) if you decide to go with one of the Bikes Direct bikes. It's a little bit more expensive but has Tiagra components and the carbon fork will make things a bit more comfortable.

He will definitely get a better fit and advice by going to a local bike shop and talking to someone experienced, but unfortunately there are not really a lot of sub-$500 road bikes, especially at those shops.
posted by kdar at 2:23 PM on June 7, 2010

You really need to find a bike shop that will do fittings over the lifetime of the bike. A poorly fit bike is always a problem. Even an expensive bike feels uncomfortable if it's not right for you.

As he starts riding, he'll start to know what's right and what's not. Bikes are incredibly customizable. When I first got fitted for my bike, I had no idea what it was supposed to feel like. I couldn't give the fitter good feedback. A few months later, I knew that my hands would get numb and I'd sometimes get cramps in my forearms. The first fitting was very detailed, I just didn't know what I wanted.

Go to bike shop and have them pull a few hybrids in your price range.
posted by 26.2 at 2:34 PM on June 7, 2010

I like my Kona Dew. No shocks, though. ukdanae rings up some good points about riding styles, though.
posted by Decimask at 5:07 PM on June 7, 2010

I'm almost the exact same size as your dad and have a similar commute. I love my wingra. It's listed as $629, but I got mine for less than $600 CDN.

It's fast, durable, and the larger wheels allow you to roll over bumps more easily.

I also threw all the customary commuter addons (lights, panniers, rack) which obviously upped the price a bit.
posted by sauril at 10:45 AM on June 8, 2010

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