What kind of bike should I get for city riding?
February 28, 2004 10:26 AM   Subscribe

I'm in the market for a new (or used) bicycle because it would be insanely practical for both fitness and transportation, but I havent really had one since i was 11, so I don't know what I'm looking for. I'm looking to mostly ride it on city streets and sidewalks (in Seattle: lots of hills) , but i don't know what other bells and whistles i should be looking for or avoiding. Can anyone point me in the right direction?
posted by Slimemonster to Shopping (20 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
find a good local bike shop - ask people in the street who look like they cycle a fair bit for advice. it's worth paying a bit more for good advice and support.
posted by andrew cooke at 11:18 AM on February 28, 2004

Specialized Crossroads. Best nice entry level bike.
posted by the fire you left me at 11:28 AM on February 28, 2004

I use and enjoy a mid priced range mountain bike. Be sure to get center pull brakes. I chose the mountain bike for tire durability. A great bike can be gotten at Sears, for example at approx. $400. However, I'd be amazed if you didn't find some great bargains in the classifieds.
posted by scottymac at 11:34 AM on February 28, 2004

I don't know if the situation is similar in the USA but you can pick up second-hand racing bikes incredibly cheaply in the UK. Seeing as you only want to ride on the streets and pavements it'd probably work out cheaper than a mountain bike. Faster too. Just mind those rims.
posted by squealy at 11:37 AM on February 28, 2004

email gene@oneononebike.com he's got about a thousand (no joke) used bikes in his basement. he'll set you up. :) cheap.
posted by specialk420 at 11:38 AM on February 28, 2004

These things look frikkin' awesome, though they're certainly way out of my price range. Spotted on 10 Years of My Life.
posted by scarabic at 11:59 AM on February 28, 2004

Bigha bikes are nerdy, even for a bicycle. Remember "Grass Valley Greg" from Mr. Show?
posted by Mayor Curley at 12:41 PM on February 28, 2004

I would definitely look at getting an aluminum (or similar lightweight material) frame, it will make your life a lot easier. I had a steel framed mountain bike (most entry level bikes are steel or "cro-moly") and the thing was heavy. You don't notice it too much when you're riding, but it can make a difference; also, if you have to carry your bike anywhere (i.e., up to a second floor apartment), you will notice the weight.
Also make sure the components are at least reasonable quality (brakes, derailleurs, crank, etc), my experience is limited to Shimano, but regardless of brand, I would highly recommend that you at least get at least one notch above the bottom level component series.
Not to be elitist, but I'd discourage you from bikes from any big box sporting goods or dept store. You would be better off buying a used bike that originally came from a bike shop than a new one from a big sporting goods store.... they tend to be better constructed (some brands to look for, but not a comprehensive list: Specialized, Trek, Cannondale, Giant, Gary Fisher, Kona).
Lastly, and this sounds like a no-brainer, but make sure you give the bike a good test-ride before you buy it, different manufacturers can give a different "feel" to a bike, and it may make a difference to you.
posted by dicaxpuella at 2:22 PM on February 28, 2004

For street/sidewalk riding, knobby or semi-knobby off-road tires are distinctly (and needlessly) harder to peddle than fat street tires. Swap 'em out, preferably at purchase. If it's a used "take it or leave it" bike, street tires are definitely the first mod you make.

Also try to find add-on fenders! Fenders will cost you any hope of ever looking cool on your bike but will prevent the notorious inverse-skunk look, that distinctive wet-road-slime racing stripe that goes up your front, across your face and down your back if you have to ride somewhere on a rainy day.
posted by jfuller at 2:32 PM on February 28, 2004

Hey SlimeMonster, I'm a fellow seattle-onian who's been riding daily (on, and currently off again) for the last 5 years or so.

If you're going to buy new, consider getting the REI Buzz. I also personally lust after the Specialized Sirrus, and I'm sure the Crossroads mentioned above is great too.

For bike stores, I prefer (mostly out of convenience, but they've been good to me too) Gregg's Aurora Cycles. R&E Cycles is also great, but a bit pricier. Try Recycled Cycles if you're serious about used bikes.

I'd favor (lack of) weight over features on all bikes with these exceptions: go for V-brakes, they grip really well and Sea-town is rainy. Get fenders if you want to ride outside July. I wouldn't shop for a suspension bike if I were you. If you get it, fine, but it's not worth focusing on. Too much weight for not enough benefit, especially around town.

I won't spend more than $500 on a new bike. Save money and get yourself this after market stuff:

HELMUT: 1st most important thing. Do not get a used one. You don't need to spend more than $40. Helmut quality does not vary with price. Get one you'll wear. Get it fit at the store. Don't mess around, this will save your life.

LIGHTS: 2nd most important thing you can get IMHO. Get a rear flasher and a front white lite. The front light is not for seeing the ground, it's so oncoming traffic can see you. Incredibly important. A forward facing white LED light is fine for this and should be cheap.

A split saddle (and of the ones with grooves down the middle should work, I swear by the specialized version). Might feel weird at first but trust me it's worth it.

Skip the nobby tires, go straight for (mostly) slicks with kevlar unless you want to spend some time changing tires. But I definitely do NOT reccomend getting knobby tires unless you want your bike to spend it's time in the garage. Specialized Nimbus tires are good.

Last, but perhaps most important: stay off those sidewalks. Riding on the sidewalk will get you killed much faster than riding in the street. Don't take my word for it, take a class from the Cascade Bicycle Club. This is another very cheap investment that will safe your life, literaly.

If you're thinking about commuting to work, there are several programs in the area, including a bike commuting 'mentor' program.

Seattle's a great town to bike in. See you on the road!
posted by daver at 2:43 PM on February 28, 2004 [1 favorite]

(I suppose proof reading would probably safe my life too :-)
posted by daver at 2:47 PM on February 28, 2004

You would be better off buying a used bike that originally came from a bike shop than a new one from a big sporting goods store.... they tend to be better constructed

Good frame construction (including correct sizing for your body) is essential. Good components will save you a lot of hassle.

But even the best bike in the world won't last long without some maintenance and repair. If you learn how to take care of a bike, it's amazing how much mileage you can get even out of a crappy beater.
posted by scarabic at 3:00 PM on February 28, 2004

yeah, you should seriously seriously consider buying used -- and not from a shop, but from some dude on the street; you live in a big enough urban area that i'm sure you have plenty of bike aficianados who spend most of their time buying the latest and greatest and getting rid of last years' model. they may be able to tell the difference between DaShiz 2005 and DaShiz 2004 models, but you probably won't; if it gets back in a store, my guess is they're going to mark it up near retail -- if you buy it off Joe Bikerider, you're probably going to get a good deal. Hell, I have a friend who bought a nice mid-level specialized, rode it twice, then moved, and is now so desperate to get rid of it he wants to sell it for $70-100, whereas he paid something like $600 just a few years ago.

granted, joke bikerider isn't going to be able to get a bike that "fits" you (maybe you should visit a store to figure out your frame size, or, if you feel bad about taking advantage of their knowledge without buying from them, look in a bike FAQ or something). I bought a bike about 7-8 years ago from a shop, and although I feel pretty happy with the deal i got (considering it was brand new) i will never do so again -- it's just cheaper to go with someone else's hand-me-downs, unless you really care about having the most "in-style" bike.

anyhow, i'd totally start with seattle's craigslist (they've got nice bikes on there -- buying used doesn't mean you're getting a beater) -- if you can't find one there, or really want to pay for that "new bike smell", maybe then move on to a shop (independent, hopefully).
posted by fishfucker at 4:31 PM on February 28, 2004

Second Ascent has good stuff too, both gear and bikes. But craigslist is a great suggestion...
posted by daver at 4:43 PM on February 28, 2004

A hybrid like the crossroads or that REI rig is what you want and should suit you well for riding on the streets.

And yeah, the Bigha is about the dorkiest bike on earth, but it's also the most comfortable thing I've ever ridden. I'm about 6' 3", so I often have trouble even with XL 21" frames on mt. bikes and hybrids. I get a lot of neck, back, and wrist pain riding bikes that are a little too small and the bigha is as comfortable as a couch. I could totally see doing 50 mile rides on that sort of thing, but the price is outrageously high.

In addition to Craigslist, there are tons of bikes on ebay. You can even search for people selling just in the Seattle area, so you can take test rides before you buy.
posted by mathowie at 5:53 PM on February 28, 2004

I am a bike elitist, but I'm also a bike commuter. My take:

If you'll be riding more than a few miles at a stretch, weight will be something of a factor, but unless you get into elite-level cycling, frame material will not. You can find heavy aluminum bikes and light steel ones. Don't sweat it. Get a solid frame that isn't cheaply made (no department-store bikes) and you'll be OK. Decent-quality components, likewise.

The single most important determinant of ride quality is the tires. Second, the wheels. If you wind up getting a bike with mt-bike wheels, swap the tires for some slicks. I favor Continental Avenues. If you get a bike with road-bike wheels, get, ohhh, fattish (25 mm if they make 'em) Specialized Armadillos for street riding.

Buying new, prepared to spend $600+ for something reasonably good. But as others have said, if you can find a hardcore cyclist selling a used bike, it'll probably be well-maintained and you may be able to get a killer deal on a nice bike for less. Craigslist is good, as is rec.bicycles.marketplace on usenet. As is the corkboard at your friendly neighborhood upscale bike shop.

There's a genre of bikes called "speedbikes" that are a type of mt/road hybrid that might be suitable for your riding style.

Scottymac: nobody has made centerpull brakes since the '80s.
posted by adamrice at 5:54 PM on February 28, 2004

Yeah, I have had it a long time.
posted by scottymac at 7:05 PM on February 28, 2004

Frankly, the bike industry is as prone to hype and BS as the Hair-Care industry. Wasn't all that long ago that I tried to buy a bike and all that was available were the ones with ultra-thin tires. I said I wasn't really comfortable about those, they countered with reams of "evidence" about how superior thin tires were to thick tires. Now the situation is reversed, and the same sneering half-wits are pushing thick tires and making fun of people asking for thin ones.

Just go to a police auction or pawn shop and pick up something there. If you don't like it, you're not out much.
posted by RavinDave at 7:13 PM on February 28, 2004

On a tangent, does anyone have a suggestion for a good store in NYC where I can buy a decent beatup used bike? Basically, I want to go where a messenger would go if em wasn't building hir own bike -- and, preferably, where they won't laugh at me because I'm a doughy attorney who's had too many dinners delivered to the office.
posted by subgenius at 9:25 PM on February 28, 2004

in NYC? Recycle a Bike!!

I used to be a bike snob, but now I like simple and cheap,
mostly because of moving in to the city (although I had my
bike stolen more back in the 'burbs than NYC)

I got a nice Trek and then customized it to my liking.
posted by milovoo at 6:28 PM on February 29, 2004

« Older What's the best Wiki software for a novice?   |   Best free utility to use (XP) to create and burn a... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.