Choose my bike, please.
August 21, 2017 11:56 AM   Subscribe

I don't get why people make a big deal about bikes. Please visit the kijiji link inside and just tell me which one I should buy.

My daughter learned to ride her bike today, so now I'd like a bike to ride around the neighborhood with her! Bikes are kinda a THING now, which I know nothing about. I just want a regular old bike that I can use for some chill bike rides in our short summer season. I am clueless about bikes and don't care to learn. So, please, just tell me which bike I should buy and I will listen to you. Basically, the bike needs to be 'good enough' and 'not foolishly bad'. HERE is the link. I would probably balk at paying over $100. Thanks!
posted by kitcat to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (21 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
How tall are you? Do you have particularly long or short arms or legs? An ill-fitting bike is as fun as ill-fitting pants.

I think something like this is probably what you want, but it's hard to say without knowing size, which sellers of cheap bikes frequently omit/don't know.

If you buy an inexpensive bike and don't care to learn how they work, be prepared to spend multiple times the bike's purchase price in helmet/tuneups/maintenance over the next few years. Upside is, it will make the bike much more enjoyable to ride.
posted by substars at 12:13 PM on August 21, 2017

This looks cute if you just want to randomly buy something.

(I'm a big believer in the random buy for items you don't care all that much about that is somehow really fraught with sub-decisions.)
posted by A Terrible Llama at 12:20 PM on August 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

If I were you, I would totally, totally get the "Apollo single speed ladies cruiser bike", because WHO HAS THE TIME TO LEARN HOW TO SWITCH GEARS?
Unless you are Greg Lemond or something, all bikes should have one gear and it's called How Fast Can You Pedal?
posted by Major Matt Mason Dixon at 12:35 PM on August 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

Yeah buy that Apollo.
And if the single speed bugs you, then you'll have learned that you do care something about bikes, and you can sell it and buy a 3 speed.
posted by SaltySalticid at 12:45 PM on August 21, 2017 [3 favorites]

Hi, maybe I should add more detail and even rethink this somewhat. I'm fairly short (5'2). I'm thinking about the Apollo, but if you guys could help pick a multi-speed that would be great too. And maybe I should consider a mountain bike? We have nice trails around here...I just don't know how much my daughter will be into bike riding.

Where I'm coming from here is that I've never had a 'nice' bike (it's been at least 12 years since I had one at all), don't see the need for one, and don't want to fall into the trap of worrying about whether my bike is 'nice' enough, what it signals about me, yadda yadda. If I start researching bikes I might start getting greedy about features and quality and I just don't want to deal with that, which is why I'm trying to outsource this decision.
posted by kitcat at 12:55 PM on August 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

I have a saddle with Greg Lemond's name on it and it's FALLING APART. It's duct taped with a saddle cover on it now.

This is further indication that you should get the single speed. I have a single speed. I like it. Please note that the Apollo is NOT "fixed gear single speed" like crazy people and me have.

Fixed is when the pedals control the rear wheel forward and backward like a baby's tricycle wheel. I don't mean to patronize you here, but just want to be sure.

And to respond to what you said above, I'm totally bike judgemental (with a cheap bike) and I love to see people on cruisers. Single speed cruisers are chill bikes. Like beer cozy on the handlebar chill.

And it you want to start climbing mountains then you sell it for $75, and get something else.
posted by turkeybrain at 1:02 PM on August 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

Is there a bike shop near you that has any used inventory? It might help to have an expert take a look and talk with you. You'll have less choice at a bike shop, but it sounds like that might be what you want!
posted by dondiego87 at 1:22 PM on August 21, 2017

A one hundred dollar new multi speed bike is going to suck. If that's your budget, and you must buy new, stick with a single speed like that apollo.

However! If you are still in Edmonton, there is a great looking volunteer-run bike coop, Bikeworks, with fully serviced used bikes starting at 10 bucks. I would start at one of their locations, or at another local equivalent, instead.
posted by rockindata at 1:27 PM on August 21, 2017 [6 favorites]

Another option would be this 3-speed Raleigh. It has three speeds and a chain guard (nice for being able to ride around in whatever clothes you happen to be wearing)and looks in pretty good condition. Raleighs of that era are tanks made with high quality parts and it will probably run awesome despite its age. Plus this one has an internal hub, which requires less maintenance than regular gears do and no particular knowledge of how to switch gears.

But I agree with the others that the Apollo will probably suit your needs fine too! The seat looks horrible, though, so I'd look at getting it adjusted (the nose looks too high) or switched for something else.
posted by urbanlenny at 1:43 PM on August 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

Yeah, if you want a fair/decent bike for under $100, a bike coop is the way to go.
posted by destructive cactus at 2:14 PM on August 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

Oh wait I missed the 3-speed Raleigh, get that one if you decide against the single speed cruiser route. That is a sweet bike and provided it works fine now it should last for many years with no maintenance. That bike could sell for $300 or more in cool urban USA.

A very rich and famous dean I worked with at a big state U rode the men's version of that to work and he got tons of compliments from the cool kids.
posted by SaltySalticid at 2:31 PM on August 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

So I have a fairly inexpensive hybrid and I have taken it on several cycle touring holidays. I would get the cheapest bike that has 18 or so gears and is reasonably light. If you ever go up hills, 3 gears won't cut it.

Second hand tends to get more bike for your money and at this point you sound unlikely to ride enough to start wearing bits of the bike out.
posted by kadia_a at 2:32 PM on August 21, 2017

$100 is pretty limiting nowadays; used to be you could get a decent old bike for $50 or less and have lifetime transportation with just a bit of maintenance, but those days are long gone. That 3-speed Raleigh is a sweet ride at $250 and will handily cover you for general riding-around duties. The 3-speed hub gear is bulletproof and will make hills and such much easier than on a singlespeed, the chain guard is great for keeping grease off your jeans, and it's even got a little bit of cycling cachet while not being too try-hard about it. You can go anywhere on pavement in a bike like that and it'll get the job done in comfort and style.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 4:55 PM on August 21, 2017

Where I'm coming from here is that I've never had a 'nice' bike (it's been at least 12 years since I had one at all), don't see the need for one,
The reason you don't see the need for one is that you've never had one.

and don't want to fall into the trap of worrying about whether my bike is 'nice' enough, what it signals about me, yadda yadda.
You won't fall into that whole bit about being cool. You sound reasonable.

The people who wrote upthread about co-ops are dead-on target. Even if the co-op doesn't have the bike you're looking for, you'll meet someone who isn't trying to hustle you, someone who just wants to see you on a decent bike, wants to see everybody on a decent bike. Bike co-ops are fun, lots of good ppl in my experience of them. And they'll tell you if whatever bike you're looking at is a solid bicycle or is a garbage can.

A hundred dollars is really limiting. That Ladies Trek mountain bike (as new 175 firm) would be a bike I'd set you toward, if it wasn't a Medium size frame -- you'll be looking for a Small, unless I miss my guess. And that's not really a mountain bike, it's a hybrid, which falls between a road bike and a mountain bike, generally a good compromise, and one that fits in your wheelhouse, IE mostly street some trails; I'm assuming these aren't monster trails, and if I'm assuming correctly a hybrid will handle it. (I ride a mountain bike daily here in Austin but it's on a very civilized trail, I could easily get by with a hybrid with the exception of one climb that I need the beefier tires on.)

Why would I set you toward that Trek? Because it's going to have decent components, they won't fail any time soon and when they do fail any decent bike mechanic would be glad to work on your bike; no bike wrench wants to work on a Walmart bike and I don't blame them -- they are garbage. If someone came to my door just now and gave me a Walmart bike I'd try to politely duck out but if I couldn't duck out I'd smile and say thanks and as soon as the person is out of site I'd throw the bike off the balcony then come back here to the couch and tell you about it.

You want a decent bike. Why not? It's all the difference in the world, and no, I'm not talking some silly little status thing -- just get you a decent bike. If you're going to climb at all you're going to want some gears, let the bike do the work for you. Again, why not? On that one climb I wrote about upthread a bit, I hit that bastard full out, fast as I can go, jam down through the gears as I climb, I'm out of gears right when I top out that hill, great fun, pouring sweat, smiling, etc. A hybrid could handle it except it's mud and rocks and scree and I need the big tires; I'd guess that climb right there would be where the line is that delineates mountain bike from hybrid. For me, anyways.

Your bike co-op ppl will either sell you a decent bike or set you towards one. If you have an REI they will tell you if the bike you're looking at is worth the time of day. (Big secret: REI has the best bike wrenches you can imagine, and they'll work on your bike even though you didn't buy it from them, though you'll be at the end of the line in season when they're selling a zillion bikes, I'm guessing back to school and onset of spring. No one except Andy has touched either of my bicycles since I found out about REI -- Andy is a bike wrench deity.)

Plus if you buy a bike and turns out you don't ride it much you'll get more for it, too -- a decent bike holds its value.

Friends don't let their friends buy el cheapo bicycles.
posted by dancestoblue at 9:36 PM on August 21, 2017 [3 favorites]

My answer boils down to "You have a crapton of reasons to, please, for the love of Cthulu, put down Kijiji, go to your local used bike shop, state your budget and your needs, and let them help you."

1. You're 5'2"? You're short like me, and you need to try riding any given bike you're thinking about buying in person because adult bikes are emphatically not one-size-fits-all. For this reason, a used bike store wins because they will probably have multiple models in stock that fit you [I'm 5'0", and even with my 26.5" inseam, my local bike shop found me two options the last time I was looking used], whereas going through the classifieds means possibly having to go to multiple peoples' houses to see if the *one* used bike they're selling will fit you. Don't waste your money buying anything you haven't test-ridden; there's a very good chance it will be too big for you.

2. At a hundred bucks, you're buying a used bike, period. Somebody who works at a bike shop can help you figure out what features are important *for you* - if your biking neighborhood is hilly, for example, what's the best gear setup they have available within your price range? If you have some local "unimproved" gravel roads, that'll affect their recs as well. [All I know of Edmonton is from reading local Sarah Chan's excellent Girls and Bicycles blog back in the day; no link because it's no longer up.]

3. Mountain bikes are often slower on streets; this may be desirable or undesirable, depending on how fast your daughter rides [and how quickly she improves]. In all likelihood, you're going to end up with some sort of hybrid bike rather than a mountain bike or a road bike; hybrids are good "ride around my neighborhood" bikes, whereas the other two are optimized for very specific riding profiles [tearing down hilly dirt and gravel trails, or keeping up with speeding cars]. Again, a bike shop specialist can help you weigh this factor into your choice of bikes.

4. I know you don't want to be "greedy" about quality, but keep in mind that if the quality is so low you're not enjoying riding, that defeats the purpose of going out biking with your daughter. You can get good-enough quality for a used starter bike with a hundred bucks, and a few months down the line, once you've gotten some more recent and consistent riding under your belt, if there's something that bugs you about the bike, this is something that can be diagnosed and possibly adjusted by ... yep, your friendly local bike coop. :] [Also, you'll want to do a yearly tuneup anyway for basic maintenance.]

5. All that being said, I am gently heart-eyeing the Raleigh urbanlenny linked above. Hub gears instead of a derailleur made such a difference for me in terms of enjoying riding. But again, will this bike fit *you*?
posted by Pandora Kouti at 9:37 PM on August 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

I am clueless about bikes and don't care to learn.

Unlike a car, a bike is an extension of your body; more a prosthesis than a vehicle. And if you spend any time operating a machine to which you've granted that level of intimacy, you are going to learn something about it whether you care to or not.

I would probably balk at paying over $100.

If you spend less than $100 on a new bike from an online vendor, what you will learn is that bikes are a stupid lumpy noisy crunchy unreliable rusting squeaky loose uncontrollable painful waste of time that you want nothing further to do with.

If you spend less than $100 on a used bike from a co-op, what you will learn is that being clueless about bikes is an unfortunate but unsustainable condition that slowly but inexorably breaks down over fifty years of happy riding.

Your call of course, but as your random Internet friend I want to reinforce the point that friends don't encourage their friends to buy cheap and shitty new bicycles. Go find a cheap pre-loved one instead.
posted by flabdablet at 1:30 AM on August 22, 2017 [5 favorites]

If you just want to buy a bike now and not bother going down to the co-op, I'd get the Raleigh 3-speed. The internal hub is nice if you don't know much about bikes, and the seat post looks like it could be raised or lowered to your height. It's a solid old bike, but it doesn't look nice enough to steal. The Apollo specifies that it's good for someone around 5'7" so... not you.
posted by AmandaA at 7:14 AM on August 22, 2017

I also like that Raleigh. Cruiser geometry will be make for a plenty "chill" ride, and Internal hubs are basically zero-maintenance (until they die, anyway). Don't get a cheap mountain bike, it will be harder to keep in good riding condition.

Again, hard to say if it will fit you. I will nth going to a bike shop with an open mind and trying some used bikes, if for no other reason than to get an idea for what a good bike fit feels like. As for buying from them, it'll cost more for a similar bike. But they usually tune them up and put on new wheels, which is what makes old bikes ride like new.

I do think your options improve a lot if you're willing to go up to, say, $300 (esp. from private sellers). $100 used bikes are like $1000 used cars, they can be awesome but will likely be more expensive than something nicer in the long run unless you learn to do your own maintenance.
posted by substars at 7:35 AM on August 22, 2017

Thanks everyone. The "friends don't let friends" comments made me giggle. I messaged the person selling the Raleigh, but no response, so it looks like I'm going to the coop. I'll talk to them and decide if I really need to drop more than $100 or not. Thanks for finding that - in my own city and I didn't even know!
posted by kitcat at 1:44 PM on August 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

Would love to see you follow up in here after you and kitkitten have clocked up a hundred miles together. Happy riding!
posted by flabdablet at 1:17 AM on August 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

Here's another Raleigh that looks similar to the other one. It doesn't specify gearing but it appears from the photos that it also has an 3-speed internal hub. Also $100.

I'm a recent Raleigh evangelist, having just bought one (a 1976 Raleigh Superbe) last month for $175 and falling in love with it, despite owning two other perfectly nice and relatively expensive new bikes. I think you'll be quite happy with it if it fits you.
posted by urbanlenny at 1:26 PM on August 24, 2017

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