Help me find a suitable bike
April 11, 2006 8:39 PM   Subscribe

Help me pick a bicycle. I'm currently riding a bmx'er with 20" wheels. My days of jumping over stuff and doing table tops are over. I need a really good multi-purpose bike.

I've seen older guys riding hybrid bikes that have pretty high rising handlebar stems and high seat posts. The bikes look really utilitarian-it seems that I could ride wheelies and jump a little bit but ride comfortably the rest of the time as well as keep up with the kids and wife.

Where can I find this style bike? Is it marketed to older folks? I've checked with TREK and other companies but I'm not finding what I see in the field. Perhaps these bikes are just customized?
posted by snsranch to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
are you thinking of somehting like a raleigh twenty ?
posted by psychobum at 9:13 PM on April 11, 2006

Older guys? I'm wounded.

They are not customized. Find your favorite two bike shops and tell them what you're looking to do. If they won't let you ride around the building find another shop. The whole purpose of this type of bike is comfort. That will depend a lot on your body frame and level of terrain you have at home.

A big idea with these bikes is to have you pedal in front of your hips. You have that "I'm leaning back and taking it easy" look on the hybrid. (Here's an article on rider angle.)

If you want to go old school look at the Chopper.
posted by ?! at 9:21 PM on April 11, 2006

You should look into a cruiser- it's basically a giant, simple BMX type bike. Usually with a single gear.

Personally, I can't stand road bikes or mountain bikes, I love my BMX. But if I ever grow out of it, I'll pick up an adult-sized cruiser.
posted by fake at 9:21 PM on April 11, 2006

this is a kind-of bmx for grown-ups. not sure the handlebars are as you describe, though.
posted by andrew cooke at 10:25 PM on April 11, 2006

Look for an "urban mountain bike" from the various companies out there. They're in between bmx cruisers and regular mt. bikes, so you can still ride them like a mt. bike and keep up with people commuting, but they're also built for jumps and other basic stuff.
posted by mathowie at 10:58 PM on April 11, 2006

I'm a little unclear on your intended use--it's just for bombing around with family and some tricks? There's a lot of "urban" styles out there (seems to be the new term for "hybrid", though the latter is usually lighter and less cushy). I don't think these are marketed to older folks as much as folks riding shorter distances and interested in comfort more than speed (road bikes) or off-road handling (mountain bikes). These are also sometimes called "commuter" bikes, though it seems that commuters are a pretty varied bunch in what bikes they prefer.

If you're wanting to pop wheelies and stuff, and you were into BMX, you might want to check out cyclocross as an interesting sport to pursue.

Mountain Bike Warehouse in San Diego has good service and a pretty good selection (not of cyclocross, AFAIK), but there are undoubtedly other places that others may recommend.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 11:49 PM on April 11, 2006

Sorry--that should be Bicycle Warehouse. No relation except for buying accessories there--haven't bought a bike from them.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 11:51 PM on April 11, 2006

My do-it-all bike is a Bianchi Volpe. It has been seemingly indestructible; it's my daily commuter in bad weather, I've raced it on trails, taken it for a 185-mile epic through mud and rain, ridden it on dirt roads and cobbles in Europe and and it's never needed much more than the occasional hose-down and lube. The suggestion to look at a 'cross bike is a good one; Bianchi's more serious cross offering is the Axis, but I think you might like the offerings from Redline, too.
posted by Wolfdog at 4:11 AM on April 12, 2006 [1 favorite]

I highly recommend Giant bicycles.

This link shows all their models and the "comfort" bikes and fitness bikes may be what you're after. I started on a "comfort" bike when I realized that I needed to get back in shape and just recently also grabbed a non-competition road-bike (but still have the comfort bike to ride with the fam).

You'll need to find a local dealer, but that's good advice regardless of what bike/brand you're looking for.
posted by hrbrmstr at 5:44 AM on April 12, 2006

In direct answer to your question the types of bikes you are seeing are much heavier and probably less sturdy than anything you are imagining jumping with, unless you just mean bunny-hopping.

In relation to the advice you've been getting, let me try to clarify the names of these bike styles:

"Hybrid" and "comfort" bikes are both somewhere on the spectrum between road and mountain bikes. Every manufacturer has their own terminology but in general a hybrid usually has 700C wheels (like most road bikes) and a comfort bike usually has 26-inch wheels (like most mountain bikes). Both are likely to have seatpost and front suspension, low-range mountain-style gearing, moderately chubby tires, and a padded seat. Pretty much all of them have riser bars these days. These bikes are very good all-around bikes if you're not in a particular hurry and you don't need to do serious off-road riding. If you want to bump around all over the place get a real mountain bike, which will have much more rugged suspension.

"City" or "commuter" bikes are pretty similar to those above in that they are hybrids of road and mountain styles. They have an upright riding position with riser or straight handlebars. These may not have suspension, however, and they may have road-style gearing, which will be a lot faster for street riding.

"Cruiser" bikes are the ones people ride up and down boardwalks. They're very relaxed, with riser bars and often some decorative detailing. These are likely to have internal hub gearing, if any, and to be relatively heavy. They're generally for slow, short rides on flat terrain. They look good, though, I'm bet they're a lot of fun.

At least one company, Electra, is making bikes which are somewhere between cruiser and comfort bikes. They have very low seats, which are set back chopper-style so that your legs still extend comfortably when your feet are on the pedals. This allows you to set your feet flat on the ground while seated, which relieves stress for some new and returning riders. They look great, but are heavier than regular comfort bikes.

Then of, course, there are road and mountain bikes and their various permutations (touring, time trial, tri, freeride, downhill, etc.). I'm sure you're familiar with these in general and it doesn't sound like they're what you want right now anyway.

Nearly all the general road/mountain manufacturers make comfort/hybrid bikes and many now make city/commuter bikes and cruisers as well. The exceptions are higher-end manufacturers and those are known for their specialization in one style.

Personally I ride a city/commuter bike, a Kona Dr. Dew, which has 700C wheels, disc brakes, road gears, and a flat handlebar. I love this bike. It's fast and comfortable enough for quite long rides, and it's very solid and well-behaved. Nearly all of my riding is on the road but I've done light trail riding with it as well.
posted by Songdog at 6:43 AM on April 12, 2006

I think you might start looking at a hardtail or completely unsuspended ATB/"mountain bike". An ATB is probably closest to what you are used to (in fact, it can be hard to tell a "trials" bike from a BMX). The Surly Instigator is a great choice: cheap, rugged and nicely made, but there are others out there (Kona, Norco, Trek, etc...). The bars you like are called riser bars, a common option on ATB to the more usual flat bars. Bike Nashbar has a number of them here.

You might also like crusers, but they really aren't suitable for any trick riding---the seat and pedal set-up really don't work as well and the weight distribution is much further back than you're used to.

The choice of front suspension is one of taste and cost. Most ATBs can be set-up either way. On pavement only, front suspension is kind of a waste, heavy and extra expense. Off road, it's often essential.

The other thing that affects ride hugely is tire choice. If all your riding is urban, go for slicks, not combos, not smooth centre bead, slicks. You'll go faster and your wrists and hands will thank you. If you intend to off-road, then you do need knobbies, but many ATBs never see dirt.
posted by bonehead at 6:52 AM on April 12, 2006

A lot of BMXers I know are now riding fixed gear bikes and enjoying it. Might not be the most practical or comfortable bikes, but they sure are fun.
posted by atom128 at 7:49 AM on April 12, 2006

We've got several members who advocate fixed gear riding. I'll have to try it sometime (or at least a single-speed).
posted by Songdog at 8:14 AM on April 12, 2006

I ride fixedgear exclusively. I love it.
posted by atom128 at 8:53 AM on April 12, 2006

Great advice here as usual! Thanks everyone. In the links I found the style of bike I was curious about, but you've also given me some other useful ideas. Woo hoo, my knees and back thank you!
posted by snsranch at 4:34 PM on April 12, 2006

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