First-time rider seeks bicycle advice. What should I get? From where [in Melbourne, Australia]? Rough cost?
October 25, 2010 7:30 PM   Subscribe

First-time rider seeks bicycle advice. What should I get? From where? Rough cost?

I'm new to any outdoor cycling - but for about 6 months now, I've done spin/cycle classes twice a week at the gym, for whatever that's worth. I really enjoy riding and the endorphin rush. The weather here is becoming beautiful, so I'd like to buy a bike to make the most of some outdoor riding.

I anticipate riding mostly on sealed paths and roads or the occasional gravel path. The trails I can ride on are pretty flat, but getting to them involves some pretty heavy going hill-work - so hopefully I could get a bike to deal with both. If possible, it'd be nice to do some light riding on what are probably considered mountain bike terrain (paths - nothing very intense though).

Ideally I'd like to work up to 50km-200km 'fun competitions' next year sometime, and would be great if the bike could handle this too. I've been told a hybrid is what I should be looking at. Your advice is much appreciated!

Budget: hopefully under $1000 aud all inclusive (helmet, lock? etc.) - but less is best. Me: I'm 186 cm (6'2") and am in reasonably good shape.
posted by mrme to Health & Fitness (14 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
You can get a nice Kona 'cross bike for that price. If you can tolerate drop bars, it's your best bet for maximum performance on the road, on trails and on moderate off-road.

Kona Jake
posted by klanawa at 7:35 PM on October 25, 2010

i took up cycling again at age 40, on a recumbent, and in fairly short order was riding 200km+/week. hills were a problem at first (can't stand on the pedals). shoes with clips made a huge difference. the efficiency and comfort of the recumbent is worth having your friends laugh at you all the time, imho. not having to do the turtle thing to enjoy the scenery is fab.
posted by kimyo at 7:45 PM on October 25, 2010

I love cyclocross bikes like the Jake. Cyclocross and touring bikes are rugged but also have a lot of the characteristics of road bicycles. If I could only have one bike, it would be either a cyclocross bike or a touring bike. I love my Bianchi Volpe and I also really like the Surly Crosscheck.
posted by advicepig at 7:48 PM on October 25, 2010

I'd also recommend some kind of cross bike. I think a lot of new riders are disappointed by standard road bikes, they tend to be pretty uncomfortable and don't usually accommodate commuter equipment like panniers, fenders, and knobby tires.

Be sure to include a stand pump, a portable pump, several replacement tubes, oil, front and rear lights, and some basic repair in your budget. For commuting, you'll also want panniers. This stuff is all ridiculously expensive at bike shops, so get it online if possible.

You'll want clip pedals and shoes too, that'll take a hundred or so out of your budget.
posted by miyabo at 7:53 PM on October 25, 2010

A cyclocross bike like the aforementioned Jake would probably work for you, but, at less than $1000, a Jake may not hold up long - you may wind up spending another $300 on replacement parts and repairs after the first year, so it may be better (if you are truly serous about 200km) to aim for a $1500 bike.

Then again, if you are new to biking, your tastes may change, so it may be wise to purchase something cheap and durable (like the Jake) and plan to buy something more expensive the following year. You may not think that you will want to do this, but believe me, after catching the biking bug, any purchase will make sense.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:05 PM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Vintage steel frames are amazing. That might not be up your alley but you could get a very nice bike for that price. Very forgiving if you happen to crash it.
posted by RolandOfEld at 8:19 PM on October 25, 2010

Best answer: Whatever bike you get, I would recommend getting one with three chainrings on the front. These directly influence your possible lowest gear and will make the difference between riding up a steep hill (slowly) or walking it. A lower number of teeth on the chainrings equals a lower possible gear.

Road bikes with triples usually come 30/42/52; mountain bikes and some hybrids come with 22/32/44. Cyclocross bikes might have something in the middle and possibly a double, like a 36/46.

I personally have a double road setup on mine (39/52) and while it is a little more reliable than a triple, it forces me to stand up and mash pedals on steep hills just to stay upright, while everyone else just gears down, spins, and relaxes.

Hybrids are ok, but they tend to be slow due to terrible aerodynamics, bike weight, and clunky mountain bike components. They are still substantially cheaper than a cyclocross bike, and not everyone enjoys drop bars.

Fit is the most important part of bikes. Getting the seat height and handlebar distance correct is more important than what bike you have. If the fit is not correct, you will feel a lot of pain in a variety of places, and no amount of fancy bike seats, shoes, or anatomic handlebars are going to help you.

The most important accessory is a floor pump - you will be topping off your tires every other ride. Buy equipment to deal with flat tires (usually a frame pump, spare tubes, and a patch kit) but have a backup plan regardless (cell phone). Small mini pumps aren't very good - they'll put enough air in your tire to get you home, but your arms will hurt and you can't go very fast safely.

A cyclocross bike like the aforementioned Jake would probably work for you, but, at less than $1000, a Jake may not hold up long - you may wind up spending another $300 on replacement parts and repairs after the first year, so it may be better (if you are truly serous about 200km) to aim for a $1500 bike.

Disagree completely - spending more money does not get you more durable bike components, it gets you lighter and shinier ones. I've used bottom-end components and top-end components, they both work fine (the latter is lighter and shinier). The Sora/Tiagra components on the Jake will work just as good as Shimano's top of the line.

The only real maintenance you should expect is to replace all the cables after a year, plus tires and tubes. Initially you'll have to bring in the bike after a month or 100 miles to get the cables readjusted because they're new and stretch. Your real wheel may go out of true (go wobbly), but that's minor and should be an easy fix. You should not break anything on your bike unless your bike was assembled incorrectly, or you crash.

Reserve money for them, but don't get clipless pedals and shoes when you first get your bike. The only thing they do in the beginning is confuse you and cause you to fall down when you come to a stop. Wait a month or so until you are comfortable on your bike.
posted by meowzilla at 8:42 PM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

You want something comfortable for long rides (200km is a very long ride) and with a relatively aerodynamic position, so you need something like a road bike (a hybrid would not be much fun for 200km). However, you want to go off-road, so you want to be able to use wide, potentially knobby, tires at low pressures. What you need is, as others have written, a cyclocross or touring bike. You want: drop handlebars and comfortable geometry to use them and clearance for wide tires (2" is nice). You can find these on both touring or cyclocross bikes. Compared to cross bikes, touring bikes tend to have more gears and a wider range of gears, more relaxed geometry (a riding position that is a little more comfortable for the long haul and a tendency to keep going in a straight line versus a little more aggressive position on a cross bike and more responsive steering), and weigh a little more. Touring bikes also have attachment points for front and rear racks while cross bikes might have rear rack attachment points, but won't have front rack attachment points. But that's all background information, because you need to get out to some bike shops and ride some bikes. See what you like and go from there. Just stay away from dedicated road bikes (you won't be able to fit wide enough tires for dirt on them).
posted by ssg at 8:50 PM on October 25, 2010

My suggestion would be to stay away from a hybrid. Maybe look at a flat bar road bike? Or a mountain bike with slick tires. Really you've got get on bikes and test ride them, see how their geometry feels, the range of gears and how those gears actually change. Speak to the guys/gals at your local bike shop.

Bicycle Exchange is a pretty good resource to compare prices.

Also I've found things on Wiggle to be quite well priced on additional accessories and fueling. (You'll need food for those long rides).

50-200km, would that be Around the Bay by any chance? (Road bike all the way!!!)
posted by WayOutWest at 9:29 PM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks a heap everyone; it looks like a cyclocross or touring bike is the way to go.

I'll have to try out a few over the weekend and see what fits best. I'm struggling to find a decent priced Kona/Jake bike in Aus though - the websites I've looked at quote over $2k! Perhaps a follow on question - is it worth going second hand? I'm a bit reluctant, as I have next to no idea, and would struggle to assess the quality / any problems with the bike.

Also - very much appreciate the maintenance advice meowzilla and miyabo - hadn't really considered the extent of setup and ongoing costs.

& wow - around the bay is definitely the motivator for me - would love to be able to do that next year!
posted by mrme at 12:41 AM on October 26, 2010

Secondhand bikes can be a great deal. It used to be that you could go to a bike store patronized by hardcore riders and find flyers for excellent used bikes on their bulletin board. Craigslist pretty much killed that. If you have any friends who are serious riders, ask them to keep an eye on Craigslist for you (if that is popular in your area), and it wouldn't hurt to see if your local shops do list anything on their bulletin boards.
posted by adamrice at 3:53 AM on October 26, 2010

If you go for the used option, there's always:
I know it's great in North America, but unfortunately is looking pretty sparse elsewhere.
posted by Stagger Lee at 6:57 AM on October 26, 2010

Your local bike shop will have second hand bikes in good repair, as will bicycle co-ops. The bike co-op will be a great resource for bike repair, club rides, and bicycle life in general. Explain that you'd like a touring or cyclocross bike, and they'll have a few options for you. It will be more expensive than Craig's List, but 1) the bike will be in good working order and 2) the bike probably won't be one that was stolen.

Also, at the local bike shop, keep an eye out for holdover models and display models (often used for test rides) - these will be new bikes that are unsold after a few years. Bike shops will be dying to get these off the showroom floor, and may cut you a good deal on them.

A third option is REI - not as good as a local mom'n'pop bike store, but they have some decent store-brand models at a reasonable price during their frequent sales, and pro mechanics on site to make sure the bike was set up right.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:26 AM on October 26, 2010

If you're thinking about Around the Bay, do test ride a road bike too. Maybe have a look at the Giant Defy 2 on sale for AU$999 (do a search on Bike Exchange).
posted by WayOutWest at 5:35 PM on October 26, 2010

« Older Name that Jazz Funeral Song!   |   space mmo open source shooter Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.