please hope me buy a bike.
September 24, 2010 9:09 PM   Subscribe

Too many local bike shops! Please help me choose one. [BayAreaFilter]

I just moved down to Palo Alto from Seattle, and since I refuse to learn how to drive it seems like my only option for dealing with the spread-outness of stuff here is to buy a bike. However, I have never bought a real, proper bike store bike — I've only personally bought thrift store bikes and one really regrettable one from a department store. So now I'm looking in buying something that will be as reliable as possible and will serve as my primary means of transportation for a good long while.

Two questions:
  • I notice that there are a ton of bike shops around the Stanford campus, but since I'm a little clueless about bikes I don't know which, if any of them, I should go to. Alternately, though, I am completely up for exploring the bay area; if the bike store of my dreams (some place with awesome mechanics who will tune my bike up awesomely, making me actually sort of sad about all the time I've wasted riding other bikes) is anywhere I can get to on public transportation, I will gladly go there.
  • My budget is around 400 dollars, lower if possible, somewhat higher if absolutely necessary (I'm a new grad student, so I will be short on disposable income for the foreseeable future). I'm mainly planning on using this thing for my commute, but will hopefully be getting to use it for longer weekend rides, too. What should I be looking for, and what should I be asking the people at the store?
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick to Shopping (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I got my first real "store bike" at Walt's Bike Shop, in Sunnyvale, on Evelyn.
My circumstances were similar, superficially, to yours (Didn't drive. Wasn't going to
learn). They sell reconditioned bikes, too, and I bet their prices are lower than the
stores around Stanford.
posted by the Real Dan at 9:37 PM on September 24, 2010

Go talk to the folks at the Campus Bike Shop, when I was there they were super nice and knowledgable. I'm sure they would even direct you to the better bike shops around campus. I like Mike's Bikes on El Camino, you should check them out.
posted by JimmyJames at 11:15 PM on September 24, 2010

Best answer: Well, first, welcome to the area. You have a couple of options. The major ones close by (campus and university ave) are the campus bike shop, palo alto bicycles, and velotech. Velotech is awesome, and is where I get parts for my bikes, but they're geared towards racing/high end stuff. If you want really cool, insanely smart people to talk to, its them. PA Bicycles has also been very nice to me in terms of service (they occasionally have let me use tools/etc. that I didn't want to buy, and have done stuff like get a nut off of a bent axle for me for free) but they're kind of pricey for buying stuff. The campus bike shop has a handful of pretty cool mechanics too, but the bikes there aren't amazing. They have scrap bins that are a goldmine for fixing older bikes though.

In terms of getting a new bike, unless you're planning on putting on lots of road riding miles or mountain biking, I'd go for a commuter bike. I personally think an internal-gear hub is worth it for commuter riding, and I rode very happily on a single-speed (though not fixed-gear) bike from downtown palo alto into campus on a daily basis for two years. For around campus, honestly its not worth getting anything better than a shitty $100 bike. If you're commuting in, its worth getting something better. This would work and is within your range; this is what I've been wanting for a while now, but I'm stuck with a 70s Schwinn until my budget allows it. A friend of mine has something very similar to this for commuting a lot longer than I'll ever have to and loves it.

Anyway, congrats on moving to the area, good call on not getting a car, and good luck with the bike hunt. TL;DR: the PA options are all going to be expensive, and I'd rely on them for mechanical help much sooner than I'd buy a new bike from them. Unless I was buying a racing bike, in which case I'd go to Velotech in a heartbeat.
posted by devilsbrigade at 12:48 AM on September 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

If Velotech is still the same people it was when they were running it out of their house, it's guys who used to wrench at Palo Alto Bicycles. Super friendly, super knowledgeable people. It does look like they're a bit more focused than they used to be, like devilsbrigade said, but if they can't help you find and fix up something cheap, they should at least be able to point you in the right direction.
Oh, and just tell them what you told us, that you're looking for something to commute to school on. One way or the other, they'll be able to help you out.

Palo Alto's a great spot for riding- it's easy to commute anywhere on a bike and there's tons of awesome places for recreational riding. Don't be surprised if you end up putting a ton of money into your $300 bike over time.
posted by gally99 at 10:57 AM on September 25, 2010

I was in the same situation long enough ago (over 10 years ago) that I doubt any bike shop info I have is relevant. But, I had the same cheap budget and got one of the lower-end Marin hybrid/commuters (Larkspur, $300) and it served me well there for years commuting around Redwood City/Menlo Park/Palo Alto and it now has survived commuting several Maine winters. So I can recommend that brand for less-expensive commuter bikes.
posted by mikepop at 5:57 AM on September 27, 2010

Response by poster: For the folks finding this thread later — after checking out a ton of bikes/bike shops, I ended up getting a Trek 7000 at Chain Reaction in Redwood City, and it is, as of right now at least, completely rocking my world.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 3:48 AM on October 10, 2010

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