Which bicycle (for a novice) would you recommend?
November 27, 2010 12:32 AM   Subscribe

Which bicycle (for a novice) would you recommend? Comparison between four bicycles

Final followup from my earlier post: http://ask.metafilter.com/168736/Firsttime-rider-seeks-bicycle-advice-What-should-I-get-From-where-in-Melbourne-Australia-Rough-cost

I've finally had some time to sit down and review my options, and have narrowed the selection down to four different bikes (all roughly similar cost during sales):

- Raleigh Airlite 400 http://www.wiggle.co.uk/au/raleigh-airlite-400-2010/
- Olmo Impact Veloce http://www.wiggle.co.uk/au/olmo-impact-veloce-2010
- Kona Jake 2011 http://www.wiggle.co.uk/au/kona-jake-2011/
- Giant TCX 2 2011 http://www.wiggle.co.uk/au/giant-tcx-2-2011/

I know the Jake got a good plug in my last question, but just wondering how the lot stack up? Jake and the TCX are the two cyclocross bikes, which I guess makes them a bit sturdier?

Any recommendations or personal experiences would be very helpful. Your help is much appreciated & many thanks from a very excited rider to be!
posted by mrme to Health & Fitness (17 answers total)
The Raleigh Airlite 400 has a Shimano 105 drivetrain/components compared to a tiagra (or tiagra/sora) mix for the others. That is a definite step up in quality and it's the cheapest in price to boot.
posted by tallus at 12:47 AM on November 27, 2010

I see from your previous question that you plan to ride on gravel trails, which is why people suggested a cyclecross bike. You don't want to ride a road bike on gravel for any distance, but it'll be just fine on a cyclecross with the right tires.
posted by chrchr at 12:51 AM on November 27, 2010

Is here any reason you're not considering a cheap, steel mountain bike beater?
posted by EsotericAlgorithm at 1:27 AM on November 27, 2010

As chrchr says, if you plan to use this on gravel, you want something sturdy and with considerably fatter tyres than 25s. A carbon fork probably isn't your best bet on the rough stuff either. It'll get chipped, and then it'll crack.

Which is a pity, because the parts on the Raleigh are distinctly better than the other three. That said, the Tiagra gear on the Kona is only one step down from the Raleigh's 105 kit, and should see you fine.

Go the Kona!
posted by Ahab at 1:34 AM on November 27, 2010

Response by poster: @Ahab & @chrchr

The main attraction of the cyclecross was that it kept my options the widest open! I guess this is the point where I have to decide what my ambitions are - the vast vast majority of use will be on sealed roads and paths. I'm not really sure if I'll take up riding on dirt trails (and less likely, gravel) - just didn't want to close any doors. I figured a cyclecross would be the best compromise, but the problem is that I'm not really sure exactly what I'm giving up for that.

@EA: Mostly because I have little idea about all things cycle related - I'm all ears though - my main use will be riding on sealed paths/roads (30-40km at a time), occassional fun-race, and possibly (see above ;) very light use on dirt tracks.
posted by mrme at 2:09 AM on November 27, 2010

Get the Raleigh. It'll be fine on LIMITED dirt trails (ie less than 100 m at a time), and will be much easier to ride those distances on. The energy lost through a CX bike's semi-knobby tires on asphalt would make it much more of a chore, especially for a novice. On a real road bike, it'll fly by.

If you find yourself yearning for trails, get a cheap used hardtail mountain bike. A decent one is easier to find than a cheap used road bike.
posted by supercres at 5:35 AM on November 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'd ride them all and go with my gut, but since you're asking us again, I'll go with the Jake. The biggest thing you give up is weight, but in reality, the difference between these bikes isn't all that much. You also give up slightly nicer components, but I personally can't tell the difference between Tiagra and 105. I'd get the Jake and some commuter tires like the Continental Contact in 28mm. I ride these tires on a cross bike when I don't need knobs and it's a joy!
posted by advicepig at 6:48 AM on November 27, 2010

Best answer: Alright. Changing my tune then.

The negatives of the cyclocross bikes are weight (more than a kg, though it's hard to tell for sure, because Giant refuse to specify weights), rolling resistance from the fatter tyres, maybe a bit of wrist strain from alloy forks, and in the case of the Giant, a fairly ugly looking mix of bottom end components. The Kona also has a Sora triple crank, and they can be a bit tricky with respect to chain rub against the rings.

But if you're not taking it onto dirt with any regularity, there's no reason to put up with any of that. So I'd be going for the Raleigh or the Olmo.

The Olmo appears to be the lightest, but Campagnolo Veloce gear is not the greatest (anti-Campagnolo personal prejudice admitted). That said, all of the components on the Olmo are Veloce, so they are all designed and manufactured to work together.

That's not the case with the Raleigh - they've skimped on the crank and the brakes. It's not likely that will be a problem, but it is possible. So if the you buy the Raleigh, I'd consider swapping out the crank and the brakes for 105 components either immediately, or over time. That guarantees you that everything will mesh and you'd also then have a bike that you could resell as "full 105 group". It'll hold value a bit better.
posted by Ahab at 8:35 AM on November 27, 2010

It should be noted that cyclocross have a slightly more narrow wheelbase, which makes them extremely maneuverable. It also means that your toes may touch the front tire as you turn.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:31 AM on November 27, 2010

Are you planning on buying these online at the links? If so, you definitely want to try riding them before you decide. I am a foot shorter than you so I was basically working with the smallest frames in the bike store. It really helped me to try a few out so that I could realize things like how important it was for me to find a bike with a shorter top tube. Also to make sure I could deal with drop handlebars. If they're all basically the same price, buy the one that feels best to you.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 9:44 AM on November 27, 2010

I would recommend the Jake.

- A triple crankset is a nice thing to have. It gives you a little bit wider gear options, though I would still want more than the Jake provides.

- It has lots of clearance around the tires for fenders and mounts for fenders (but only on the front, whereas the Giant has them back and front). It also has clearance for wider tires, which are nice in some cases (rougher roads, if you weigh more than a bike racer, longer tours). You will need to replace the tires it comes with though.

- It has proper wheels with sufficient spokes. The Raleigh has very weak wheels with a low number of spokes, the Olmo has semi-reasonable wheels, but the Jake has good, strong wheels. Proper wheels are easier to keep true and much less likely to fail (especially if you weigh over 75kg or so).

- 9 speed is preferable to ten speed because the components are still significantly cheaper. When you replace the chain or the rear cluster, you will pay much less.

It also means that your toes may touch the front tire as you turn.

Pretty unlikely. Cross bikes are designed to allow much more wheel movement than road bikes.

Also, I second making sure you actually ride the bikes before you buy one.
posted by ssg at 10:41 AM on November 27, 2010

. So if the you buy the Raleigh, I'd consider swapping out the crank and the brakes for 105 components either immediately, or over time.

I replaced my brakes a few months ago on my own, after having never attempted any sort of bicycle maintenance in my life. It was cheap, and very easy to do.

From what I hear, the crank's a bit harder to do. Still... it's not a bad compromise.
posted by schmod at 11:00 AM on November 27, 2010

Response by poster: I just got laughed out of the LBS today when I went in looking for a road bike, and told them I had a budget of max $1.5k - when I pushed, was disdainfully told to maybe come back next week, and maybe someone would be in who could help me with some old stock. I'm ok with old stock - just not the attitude!

I've had a think, and decided to set aside the idea of a CX, given that my major use will be on road. Should probably focus on something that does that well. If I need to, buying a cheap MTB is probably a decent idea @supercres

I've just found: http://www.chainreactioncycles.com/Models.aspx?ModelID=44406

Which I need to add a set of pedals to. But it looks like a decent option, at a price that I can almost afford! And I love the look of it as well! I'm a touch over 6ft2" - and looking around it seems that a 60cm or 62cm frame would be the best (this Cube bike is said to run fairly small).
posted by mrme at 9:25 PM on November 27, 2010

Just another thought.

You might also consider Cell Bikes on the strength of their being in Australia, and you not having to pay international return shipping if something's wrong. They are a bit pricier than what you're currently looking at, but they have a Tiagra equipped model for $1000 and a 105 equipped model for $1500.

They seem to get reasonably good reviews, and fwiw, I have a friend (who is also 6'2") who is very happy with his tiagra equipped model.

Also, they're one of those retailers with constant sales, so it might be worth ringing them and seeing whether you can haggle the price down even outside a sale period.
posted by Ahab at 1:12 AM on November 28, 2010

Oh man, fuck that bike store.

Unless things are waaay more expensive in Australia, an entry-level road bike should not cost you that much. My recent search was for women's specific frame road bikes and ~$650 usd was the cheapest in most of the brands I looked at. My parents and boyfriend all have Trek FXs that they like. It's basically a road frame with flat handle bars for a more comfortable ride. They are cheaper than road or cx bikes. According to the Trek Australia website, they start at $400. I used to take my boyfriend's FX on group rides with mostly road bikes and while it was a bit more work (upright position=more wind resistance), I could still keep up with them.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 10:20 AM on November 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Just want to say: a heartfelt and big thank you to everyone. I managed to pick up a used road bike in excellent condition, with a carbon frame, and full 105 gearset, for a decent price.

I've learnt a hell of a lot this weekend - and I've got a sneaking suspicion that this is about to become an addiction of sorts. Very exciting!
posted by mrme at 9:50 PM on November 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

Yay! Congrats!

(And, seriously. Don't go back to that bike shop for maintenance or supplies! Even though they seem to be treated as the paragon of small businesses, I've been to plenty of godawful local bike shops.)
posted by schmod at 10:24 AM on November 30, 2010

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