How should I pick a bike for me?
October 26, 2017 4:08 AM   Subscribe

When I was a boy, I rode a 'dragster' bike a lot. Fast forward 30 years and I bought a cheap mountain bike, but found it unpleasant to ride, so left it to rust. I recently have been tootling about on oBike rental bikes, and been delighted.

I think the biggest issue is the upright posture of both the bike I had as a kid, and the rental bikes suits me better. I'm now thinking my adult dislike of biking was due to the bike I bought that pushes my posture forward, and makes cycling more about work.
I think I might buy a bike again, but now am wondering what other simple things I never considered or questioned (like bike posture).
I'm interested to hear from riders who can relate and what works for them.
I am in my 40s, medium fit, but not a gym person, a bit overweight, but happy to walk 10 miles in a day. I live in a hilly place, but traffic is light and there are plenty of lycra cyclists about.
Help me learn from your experiences in what is a good bike to ride for pleasure or run some errands, and how you determined what works for you.
posted by bystander to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (11 answers total)
I think the search term you're looking for is "comfort bike."

I ride my mom's old Trek hybrid but if I was in the market for a new bike, I might opt for one of these. I'm in a similar position to you--older, medium-fit but not a lycra-wearer (or a black skinny jeans wearer, which my city has just as many of) and I bike (slowly, on side streets) a few miles to and from work every day mainly because there's no place to park where I work. I find bikes uncomfortable and envy the heck out of the people I see bopping slowly but surely around on these upright-posture, sturdy comfort bikes. I live in a very hilly place though my daily ride isn't all that hilly, and I find I don't really ever use more than 6 of the umpteen speeds my bike has. I'd think 7 speeds would be fine.
posted by soren_lorensen at 4:32 AM on October 26, 2017 [2 favorites]

Dutch style or Dutch city bike may also be useful terms when searching.

I’d recommend finding a local bike shop that stocks the sort of thing you are looking for and trying out a few. Most bike shops are pretty good at letting you take bikes out for a test ride.
posted by mr_stru at 5:06 AM on October 26, 2017 [4 favorites]

I like my 3G beach cruiser, it looks slick too. But the next one I buy will have more than 1 gear.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 6:10 AM on October 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

100% test ride some things and see what feels like fun. A lot of Dutch style bikes think that's some excuse for weighing a lot. Some are upright, but still fun. Learning about how to use more than three gears is totally worth it.

I'm really keen on this Opus bike. I just bought it for my father in law and thought it was so fun I was tempted to keep it.

You might also be surprised by bikes you never thought you'd like, so take the time to try five or six.
posted by advicepig at 6:14 AM on October 26, 2017 [3 favorites]

I have a city bike. It's got some design flaws which make it slower but it has fat tires and I sit upright. I love the fat tires because if I get caught in street car tracks I am wedged upright! Anyhow, it has three speeds. My bike enables me (a slightly overweight, late 40s, avid walker but non gym person) to bike 10km to work each day in about 40 minutes. I started biking again to work after 7 years about a month ago and have rediscovered my love of biking. I agree with mr_stru that Dutch style is a good term to look for. Also, my road bike has sat for years because I'm scared to ride it so from my experience an upright commuting bike is completely worth it.
posted by biggreenplant at 6:17 AM on October 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm a hunched-over fixie guy, but from time to time I'd borrow my wife's bike to get to work when my own was up on blocks for repairs and it was SO VERY COMFORTABLE. It was an old Raleigh LTD-3, three speed and upright posture. You can change gears while stopped at a red light, and with very little weight leaning on the handlebars, steering feels light as a feather. So maybe a Raleigh Sport? Superbe? There's a couple on Boston CL right now.

My own courier-bike setup is super annoying now, as I was rent-priced out to the ex-urbs a few months back and I'm on a serious hill, and I'm only ten minutes to the commuter rail station. It was perfect for my 30 minute city mostly-flat commute, but now I think I'd like a three speed.
posted by turkeybrain at 6:58 AM on October 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

You're in luck: many bike companies are now producing upright bicycles that would give you the relaxed, upright riding posture you're looking for. Public Bikes and Linus are two companies whose bikes you should test ride. Look for swept-back handlebars for posture, baskets and racks that let you ride without a backpack, and internally-geared hubs so you can change gears while stopped. A step-through frame and kickstand might make it easier to get off and on.

I personally have a variety of bikes for different purposes. I prefer a light, hunched-over commuting fixie with narrow handlebars that I sling over my shoulder when getting on trains. Errands are nice on an upright bike with a rear rack and basket. For larger shopping trips I have a cargo bike that can hold a full week's groceries.
posted by migurski at 7:38 AM on October 26, 2017 [3 favorites]

(Migurski: n+1.)
posted by uberchet at 7:50 AM on October 26, 2017 [2 favorites]

REI sells Electra bikes with good brakes and a very relaxed riding position..
This is unequivocally the most comfortable bike I have ever ridden (and I own six bikes)
posted by Mr. Metaphor at 9:05 AM on October 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

Thanks team. You have given me some good leads and reassurance I'm on the right track.
posted by bystander at 12:57 PM on October 26, 2017

In addition to the posture, I bet a lot of the discomfort you experienced on the mountain bike was because it was cheap. Cheap components on a cheap frame combined with a bike that's not fitted for you, will always lead to a bad, uncomfortable ride.

You don't have to spend a lot of money on a bike, but I would highly recommend going through a local bike shop as opposed to a department or even ordering online. They will have all the different styles mentioned that you can try. They will also be able to order a bike that fits you and give you advice on how to fit your new bike comfortably to your body. Most bike shops will also offer a free-tune up after the bike "settles in" and might have some kind of limited-warranty.
posted by mayonnaises at 1:37 PM on October 26, 2017

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