Help me pick my new bike!
July 1, 2007 6:30 PM   Subscribe

Help me pick my new bike!

In some areas I really know what I want, but in others I need help, especially with the lingo to make my needs clear with the shop guys.

My priorities, in order:
Comfort (upright positioning, please!)
Reliability / minimal maintenance
Durability (I want it to stand up to rougher street riding, hopping curbs and whatnot)
Tires appropriate for streets plus occasional bits of gravel or dirt
I'm leaning toward traditional pedals, partly because I want to be free to make small adjustments due to knee issues. I'm ambivalent about front suspension, having had my only nasty wreck with such a rig that didn't act the way I expected.

I'm curious about fenders, but unsure.

The bike will be for fun and exercise.

Are there accepted terms for this type or category of bicycle? What kind of bike should I tell the shop guys I'm looking for?

I'm looking to cap the bike expense at $400. I'm 6'1" (plus a bit), height / weight appropriate.

For some extra context, I'll also mention that I've scouted (online) a nearby shop that's well regarded, but I'm a little concerned since it looks like the only new bikes they sell are Giant models. This in the Arlington area of northern Virginia.

Bonus points for guidance on what other things to watch for on a bike for my sweetie.

Thanks, and I'll try to answer any questions you have about this.
posted by NortonDC to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (60 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Oh, I left out gearing. I definitely want a good range of gearing. It's actually important to making this whole deal compatible with my knee issues. I'm not picky about the shifting mechanism.

Also, I'm curious about disk brakes. Are they worthwhile and affordable?
posted by NortonDC at 6:33 PM on July 1, 2007

Best answer: I recently bought my first bike in years and years, and given nearly identical requirements the bike shop sold me last year's Trek hybrid bike. Rides like a dream, you can grab a strip of grass with far more ease than on a road bike. I found suspension to be a (figurative) pain in the ass. I liked a pretty aggressive stance but my sense is you can get pretty comfortable on such a machine. There's a class of bike called 'comfort' bikes, I believe, which will seat you as if in a car. My friends remain envious.

You'll get proper advice from MeFi shortly - and no doubt some jackass will recommend a recumbent - but anyhow there's a recent newbie experience that lines up neatly with yours.
posted by waxbanks at 6:39 PM on July 1, 2007 [2 favorites]

Oh - and it put me out just over $400. Of course incidentals and accessories (pumps, lights, multitool, rack, panniers(!), etc.) run up another $100+ quite quickly. But that's true all over.
posted by waxbanks at 6:41 PM on July 1, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Priorities #1 and #4 point to either a hybrid bike, or a kind of new breed that's either basically a road bike with flat (Mt. bike style) handlebars or a mountain bike with road wheels and skinnier tires. Any of those rigs will suit your purpose.

A $400 cap may limit your choices, but you can probably find a bike you can live with around that price if you're not concerned about weight. If you're willing to consider a used bike, you can get more for your money. You mentioned a reliable shop that you know - check out their stock of used bikes if they sell them. A used whip from a good bike shop will have all the parts checked out and adjusted properly, and should be a nice reliable ride.

Disc brakes are great, but not critical for the kind of riding you're planning on, and probably not stock equipment on a bike in your price range.

A mountain bike with 29" wheels (w/ skinner than stock mtb tires), and a stem with a higher rise seems like it might be ideal for what you want.
posted by altcountryman at 6:44 PM on July 1, 2007 [1 favorite]

It doesn't have the 29" wheels (regular 26" mtb wheels) but the Trek SU100 (SU stands for "Sport Urban") looks like a good fit for what you want, and it's in your price range. For a little more, there's the SU200 that has disc brakes - I guess these don't add as much to the price as I thought.

Discs will give you better stopping power if you ride in wet conditions.
posted by altcountryman at 7:01 PM on July 1, 2007 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Are the 29" wheels about frame geometry for my height?

If the only advantage of disc brakes is performance when wet, I might be disinclined to devote resources to them. I guess most of my interest in them came from my history of trouble properly adjusting the rim grabbers and keeping them from singing during use.
posted by NortonDC at 7:14 PM on July 1, 2007

Best answer: I just bought a new bike for my 9 mile roundtrip work commute, and for fun and exercise. I went with a Gary Fisher Wingra. It retails for $459, but my local shop marked it down to $399.

I absolutely love it. It's fast, light, nimble, fits well, and is comfortable. It has smooth 700C street tires, wider than a road bike, not as wide as a mountain bike. The tires are rated at 65-85 psi. At 85, the ride was a bit harsh. I have them lower now, and it's much better. The seat is not a wide "comfort seat" but it's surprisingly comfortable. It has 24 speeds which click in easily and quickly. I never have a problem finding the right gear, quickly. The brakes are good, and stop the bike quickly, although they do emit a little more "rubbing" noise when braking than I am used to.

You can't tell from the photo I linked to, but the handlebars are not totally straight, but angled in just a bit, and have very comfortable grips, although I use gloves as well.

I've ridden it at least 10 miles a day for the last several weeks, and I continue to be thrilled with it.

As far as fenders, it wouldn't hurt. But, I have a rear rack, to hold panniers, and that serves as rear fender as well. I don't have a front fender, and haven't had a problem in normal rainy, wet streets with occasional puddles. If you anticipate mud and lots of rain, you'll definitely want front and rear fenders.

Good luck. I know the retail of my bike is above your maximum, but you could find a markdown, or they may give you a deal without a sale necessarily going on.
posted by The Deej at 7:24 PM on July 1, 2007 [1 favorite]

A friend bought a Trek Navigator 200 and loves it. It has a more upright riding position than my Wingra, but he did have to swap the seat for something more comfortable. Even with back issues, he finds the ride great, and can do mild hills pretty easily. It retails for $379.
posted by The Deej at 7:40 PM on July 1, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The big advantage of disc brakes over rim brakes is actually that they don't overheat as quickly - performance in rain, etc., is just a perk. And, nope, you definitely don't need them and should be wary of most $400 bikes that have them. The one exception to this is Avid mechanical disks, which are both nice and cheap.

Traditional pedals, yep. Clipless are probably overkill for this. But don't let clipless pedals steer you away from anything good - any reputable shop will swap them out for you or give you a set of platform pedals for cheap.

Fenders tend to cause more trouble than they solve (after all, they are an inch or two away from rotating parts, and they're usually fragile), but if you care about 'fashion'...

Check out other brands, for instance a Marin Muirwoods is supposed to be a great hybrid.

Oh, and the most important thing in this decision is fit. Features, price, all comes second to whether the bike is ergonomically great.
posted by tmcw at 7:40 PM on July 1, 2007 [1 favorite]

A "hybrid" is probably what you are after, as others have said.

I use one of these for commuting (10km round trip per day), plus some weekend leisure riding. In two years, it's cost me nothing in maintenance other than the odd lube & a couple of sets of worn brake pads. FWIW, mine is a Jamis Tangier, which is only a bit above your price range, and I'm pretty happy with it overall. The cycling I do sounds almost exactly what you describe - slightly rougher street riding (not xtreme tricks, but curb jumping, potholes etc) plus a bit of mild x-country.

The upright position is pretty good for seeing across the top of traffic, even if it slows you down a bit, and I rarely get a puncture (two in two years) becoz the tyres are thicker & sturdier than "real" road tyres - a reasonable amount of tread, but stopping well short of the kind of knobbly tyres that you find on a dedicated mountain bike. i'd recommend you steer clear of that knobbly variety, as they're not particularly efficient or suited to roads.

over to everybody else.
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:04 PM on July 1, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: As a fairly big guy looking for an inexpensive bike, you need to be careful about the components used. At the low end, selecting for durable components will limit your choices.

Important components to consider:
  • Rear wheel must be cassette/freehub, not freewheel. With a freewheel rear wheel you will get bent and broken rear axles.
  • Pedals must be solid cast metal. Plastic bodied pedals will crack within the first year.
  • Cranks should be three piece (so the crank arms come away from the bottom bracket), and the chain rings should be individually changeable (sometimes the chain rings are permanently affixed to the right crank arm; on very cheap bikes the cranks and bottom bracket axle are all one piece, with permanently affixed chain rings too). Actually, I'm not certain of how important this is, because cranks and replacement chain rings are very expensive. In principal however, it is important to be able to replace just the part you break, not the entire assembly.
  • Rapid fire shifters can be more durable than grip shifters, but this is influenced by how you use them. I have a tendency to crank really hard on grip shifters, and that is bad.. I was surprised to learn that the old style MTB SIS shift levers are just as easy to use as gripshifters or rapid fire. I don't think they are available on new bikes anymore though, so it hardly matters.
  • I also look for cartridge type bottom brackets and press fit headsets, because they don't need adjustment. I'm very uncertain how important those things really are though.
I think these requirements might drive you over budget by a little, but it will be in the ball park.
posted by Chuckles at 8:20 PM on July 1, 2007 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Durable with a wide range of gears and low-maintenance is going to get you a shock-less mountain bike or a hybrid. The general difference there is the size of the wheels, and in case you get sidetracked a 29" wheel bike (a "29er") is a specialty thing and not at all an option in your price range. In the US, $400 will possibly get you a Crome-Molybdenum (CrMo, a kind of steel) frame, or you can get an aluminum frame for that price no problem. A 9- or 10-speed drivetrain with a triple chainring on the front will get you anywhere you need to go, and at your budget in the US it will probably be entry-level Shimano components, which are fine.

Don't be confused about brakes (disc are higher maintenance), shocks (totally unnecessary for you) or even wheel size. You won't really notice many of the differences aside from what you find you like once you go and try a few out at the store.
posted by rhizome at 8:20 PM on July 1, 2007 [1 favorite]

Oh, I left out gearing. I definitely want a good range of gearing. It's actually important to making this whole deal compatible with my knee issues.

It is always better to spin at high cadence anyway. With a MTB/hybrid, the stock gearing will probably be fine, but you may not use the big ring on the front too much. My impression is that road bike gearing is much higher, which could be a problem..
posted by Chuckles at 8:26 PM on July 1, 2007 [1 favorite]

This doesn't directly answer your question, but I'd suggest you take a look at the second-hand market before you buy(provided that you can find somebody selling in your area, so you can physically inspect the bike).

It's not uncommon for some kinds of people to buy reasonably expensive bikes as hopeful exercise / lifestyle accessories, only to leave them in the garage for a couple of years before selling them off. If $400 is your budget, you should be able to find yourself a bike worth perhaps double that amount.

You ought to be able to recognise one of these barely-used bikes if you see one - eg very little wear on handlebar grips, pedals, brake pads, rims & tyres. A regular rider will replace one or more of these as they wear out, but if they're all in newish condition, you probably have a winner.
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:47 PM on July 1, 2007 [1 favorite]

Fenders do a body good. Your clothes will love you for it!

In my experience, bmx-type flat pedals with pins are really nice for casual city biking. They're cheap, too, and will work with any shoes you like.

I second the 29" tire people. You're 6'1", I'm 6'3" and commute on a fixed-gear Surly Karate Monkey 29"-er bike (700x38mm) in the snowy Michigan winter, 700x28mm with toe clips otherwise. Grand Rapids is fairly hilly, but no S.F.. The big wheels help smooth out city roads, particularly when you're big. They also suck up inertia like crazy -- it takes some force to accelerate, but once you're going you just roll over everything. They're probably hard to jump curbs with, though -- I never learned. I killed a wheel once trying.

Ultimately, though, comfort is mostly about having a saddle and handlebars you like. Try several things out. Flip/chop bars (road drops hacksawed and turned upside down) are good for upright bikes, so are mustache bars.
posted by trouserbat at 8:58 PM on July 1, 2007 [1 favorite]

Also, if you're relatively tall, your local bike shop should keep that in mind when giving advice, fitting bikes, etc. If not, look elsewhere!

And seconding what UbuRoivas said about picking up cheap garage ornaments, though being on the tall side doesn't help the odds. Good luck!
posted by trouserbat at 9:02 PM on July 1, 2007 [1 favorite]

Your first priority actually sounds like it is price. I third UbuRoivas's opinion about buying second hand. You aren't likely to get a reliable bike for $400 new. I had a cheap bike in college, and everything broke on that sucker. I'm 6'2", and big guys can thrash bikes a lot faster than your average medium sized guy.
posted by BrotherCaine at 9:45 PM on July 1, 2007

See if you can test-ride a Trek 7.x FX series hybrid. I had a 7.5 FX that was a dream in every way until it was stolen while I was sitting through my last class on the last day of my undergraduate degree (drat). It cost me about $650 so you may want to look at 7.3 or 7.2, the difference in price seems to come from using slightly different components.

The roads and sidewalks in my town are in a general state of disrepair/intermittent non-existence and it coped well with most adverse conditions, but it does have thin road-geared tires that aren't going to get you reliably through loose gravel and soft soil.

In the couple years I had it all I did for maintenance was to keep the drive-train oiled an cleaned, change a few flats and, once, change the pads in the tire that go between the tube and the rim. There's no front suspension, but I'm with you in that they aren't really the hot idea they seem, and if you buy from a shop you will probably get a better warranty on bike without the suspension.

I'm not clear if this is the case for the rest of the series, but my 7.5 came with these sweet pedals that had clips on one side and were regular flat pedals on the other. The occasionally annoyance of twirling the pedals to find the right side using regular shoes is made up for, imo, by being able to use clips for serious distance rides.

Also, the whole series has very good aesthetic qualities and I got a lot of compliments about it, even in non-theft form.
posted by moift at 9:53 PM on July 1, 2007 [1 favorite]

I forgot to mention how much I liked the trigger gearshift on the 7.5 FX, and how it always made me think about the Cyprus Hill line about hanging out the window with my magnum.
posted by moift at 10:00 PM on July 1, 2007 [2 favorites]

I have an '06 Schwinn Mesa that I got from Performance Bicycles that I like a lot and fits all of your criteria. It was a little under $300 when I got it.
posted by concrete at 1:15 AM on July 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

I don't know much about bikes (terminology, etc) but I just bought a Specialized Crossroads bike that I love to pieces. I hadn't ridden a bike in about 15 years but I'm a riding fool with my new bike now. It's super easy to ride, does very well with hills, gears are really easy to deal with, etc. It cost around $350. Highly recommended.
posted by mjones at 7:37 AM on July 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Chuckles, I wonder if the hub variations might be less important for my use pattern. I'll avoid power sprints up hills and high torque pedaling due to my knee issues, so I wonder if that still matters for me. Maybe it doesn't matter right away, but it's one of those eventual durability issues.

Thanks for the "hybrid" keyword, everybody. I also found out that the Giant-only shop sells used bikes of all brands, so I'll be giving used bike some real attention.

Hey, what's the current thinking on those seats designed to protect the blood flow (?) to the package?

No one wants the bonus points for giving advice on bike for my wife?
posted by NortonDC at 7:56 AM on July 2, 2007

Response by poster: Two terms used in answers that I'm unsure of: whip (synonym for bike?) and pins (in relation to pedals). What do these mean?
posted by NortonDC at 8:04 AM on July 2, 2007

Well, you didn't provide any information regarding your wife - e.g., height, weight, what type of riding she will do, riding experience, etc. - so it's hard to provide advice.
posted by needled at 8:14 AM on July 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm pretty sure the rear hub/axle arrangement problem I had came down to shock loading, which pretty much means hitting bumps at high speed. On the other hand, I also broke an axle on a sharp turn one time, when I was much younger and thiner. Fatigue over time must play a big part too.. Also, I think the cassette system is becoming very common (although I'm not looking at new bikes that often). You won't find the old style (freewheel) hub on a 9-speed, for example.

How big and/or strong is your wife? It is pretty important for a bike to be light enough for the rider to manhandle (carry up stairs, move out of the way of cars at a stop light, and etc.).
posted by Chuckles at 8:15 AM on July 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Pins are basically... well, pins. Like those nubs people stick on tires to drive in ice, pins are fairly sharp little things that are screwed (or pressed) into pedals to make them 'grippy'.

Unless you're hopping barriers and jumping stuff, they'll just gouge your shins every once in a while.
posted by tmcw at 8:27 AM on July 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Oh, geez, she falls into the "shorter than me" category. I guess about five foot six or seven. I expect she'll be less vigorous on the bike than me, lacks my knee issues, and also will value comfort. Care to chime in, sweetie?
posted by NortonDC at 8:35 AM on July 2, 2007

Best answer: I beg your pardon -- I am 5 ft 7 and 1/2! I am built proportionally, a little bit round but not fat, and am reasonably strong but not a weightlifter. I never had a 10-speed growing up and am definitely not a very experienced bike rider. My last bike experience occurred 3 years ago when my brother gave me his old 10-speed (you know, the kind with the really thin wheels) and I spent the next 10 test rides in terror of falling off it was so wiggly, even after we re-fitted the seat to a more comfortable one. The feeling of leaning over the bike and putting my weight on the handlebars, all to be balanced on the skinny, super-sensitive front wheel, was a bit more excitement than I wanted from my bike. Now I am a little a-scared of bikes. I liked the 1-speed from my teenage years just fine. Honestly I'm not even really sure I could handle gears.

I expect I would mostly be using the bike to ride around the neighborhood either for exercise or to get places (e.g., local restaurants or grocery shopping).

Clearly I don't know nearly as much about bikes as NortonDC so I don't have opinions about fenders or pedals or the like. Here is a big preference: I would really like a bike that is not likely to get me killed in traffic by me falling over and getting my head run over by a car. Also, maybe a cute basket or storage on the back?

I have enjoyed reading your answers to NortonDC so far and have to say that you all rock very hard.

Yours truly,
Mrs. NortonDC
posted by onlyconnect at 9:03 AM on July 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I've heard 'whip' before, used like 'mount' (both used as nouns) to mean 'bike'. My best guess about 'pins' is that they mean the nubs, tread, teeth, etc. present on the surface that makes contact with your shoe.

My general rule for bikes is this: Always spend the most money on the parts where your body meets the bike. Choose a great seat/shorts, great pedals/shoes, and great handlebars/gloves. Don't forget a helmet.

As for your wife, it's the same dance with a different tune. It's all about the fit & positioning. Without a comfortable position (especially on the hands and wrists, for my wife), cycling stops being fun in a major hurry.
posted by Wild_Eep at 9:14 AM on July 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: For Mrs. NortonDC, off the top of my head I would consider cruiser type bicycles, such as the ones from Electra, or the bicycles Trek puts in the comfort category. The Lime might be a bit beyond your price range but it offers automatic shifting. These types of bicycles are single-speed or three-speed and are intended for city riding.

As a lady, I would get a women's frame (so I can still wear a skirt), platform pedals with no toe clips (don't want to scuff my nice shoes!), and a cute basket in front :) I currently have a Trek 4300 mountain bike and my sweetie is building me a road bike, but I confess to lusting after this Trek in willow green whenever we visit the bike store. I suggest a visit to Big Wheel Bikes, since they appear to have a good selection of bicycles meeting your criteria. (And that's where I bought my first bike back when dinosaurs roamed the earth!)
posted by needled at 9:39 AM on July 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

The local Craiglist has a lot of bikes.
onlyconnect - consider a Bianchi Rollo. My partner has one and it is a fine city bike. The clown-head-horn is removable.
posted by exogenous at 9:43 AM on July 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: A Hulk-green bike with a clown head? really?
posted by NortonDC at 9:54 AM on July 2, 2007

posted by The Deej at 10:24 AM on July 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: When my wife read this question, she thought it was me writing it, it sounded so like what I'm looking for (and I'm currently looking for a bike)

Well what I found, and plan to buy, is the Runabout from the Dynamic company, all of their bikes are shaft drive rather then chain. This means it's enclosed, you can ride it with any clothes you please, it requires less maintenance (as in no chain to get dirty from dirt/salt/snow), and you can start from any gear from a stopped position. It has an adjustable handlebar position and angling so you can get it to just the right fit, has good quality parts, nice warranty, and is sold direct from the company, so it's less expensive then going through a bike shop.

Check out the Runabout at I also was considering the Crosstown 7, which is lighter and perhaps a snappier ride, but it's not as ergonomic (as in you have to lean over like typical bikes) and not as adjustable. It's on
posted by healthyliving at 10:31 AM on July 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

Oh and I know these are out of your stated range, but I thought it would be of interest, both to you, and to others checking this thread. I'm buying mine in early August, would be happy to report back, to anybody who's interested.
posted by healthyliving at 10:32 AM on July 2, 2007

Best answer: What is a "gel seat with quick release" and is this apparatus really appropriate for outdoor use? (NOT EXHIBITIONIST-IST)
posted by onlyconnect at 10:34 AM on July 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

How 'bout a bike built on the Shimano "Coasting" technoloy. This Raleigh has 3 speed automatic transmission, is built for comfort, and has a six-pack rack and built in bottle opener. Now THAT'S comfort! It also has a funky fun retro style.

Some photos. And a review.

Again, it's a little over your target price, ($450) but you could get a deal somewhere.
posted by The Deej at 10:34 AM on July 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

(Oh, the above is for your wife, but they do have a men's version too.)
posted by The Deej at 10:35 AM on July 2, 2007

Best answer: I was like you about a year ago,

first advice.. do not buy walmart, big box stores bikes..

they will break down and your overall cost of owning a bike will go up.

The casual biker as you and me, if you are looking for a decent mountain bike is going to cost you starting 300+ min

good brands to look at are ironhorse, giant, raleigh , trek (overhyped), gary fisher. each of them will offer good shimano or sram components which wont break down.
posted by radsqd at 12:21 PM on July 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: And another one for the ladies!

The Giant Suede w Purple.

Comes equipped with 7-speeds to make pedaling hilly terrain a breeze.
Comfort features like a large memory foam saddle leather grips and cell phone/MP3 holder will keep you rolling in style
7-speed drivetrain for shifting simplicity
Adjustable stem for perfect positioning
Front suspension for smooth tracking over rougher roads
MSRP: $350
posted by The Deej at 12:23 PM on July 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Also, a guide for buying comfort bicycles from Revolution Cycles. They carry Trek bicycles, which Big Wheel Bikes doesn't.

Why not make a day of it and hit a couple of stores, testing out the various bikes?
posted by needled at 3:18 PM on July 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: What is a "gel seat with quick release" and is this apparatus really appropriate for outdoor use?

in case anybody is interested in a serious answer to this question, a gel seat is just a particularly comfy, springy seat, not unlike those gimmicky gel-soled trainers.

"quick-release" means that there's a lever you can flick to adjust or remove the seat in seconds flat. this serves no good purpose other than allowing thieves to steal your gel seat (happened to me!). you have zero need to adjust your seat height, anyway, once it's set. quick release hubs are also good for little other than helping thieves to steal your wheels. if your model comes with quick release mechanisms like these, replace them with lockable ones.

(slight elaboration: quick release seats & hubs can allow you to partially disassemble your bike in seconds, which can be handy if you want to put it in your trunk & drive somewhere. that's about the only minor advantage i can think of. you can repair a puncture easily enough with the wheel still on the bike)
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:18 PM on July 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Hey, what's the current thinking on those seats designed to protect the blood flow (?) to the package?

Yeh, get one. After the gel-seat-on-springy-pole was stolen from my bike, I replaced it with a more streamlined, male-friendly one (presumably, the exact kind you are speaking of). These seats have a groove running lengthwise down the centre, so that you are not sitting on the region roughly running between yr asshole & the base of yr penis.

It probably doesn't matter much for short-distance riding, but longer-distance male cyclists report not being able to have an erection for something like 24hrs after riding on the old-style seats (the ones without the groove). The old seats numb the area & prevent normal functioning, as far as I understand it.
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:31 PM on July 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

Sorry for trying to get all gangsta and use the term "whip." It was correctly defined as being a slang term for a bike. It can be a car, too. Maybe any mode of transportation can be a whip?

For the Mrs, I'd really recommend the same kind of bike I recommend for you. Something with a comfortable upright riding position for sure. Gears are your friend, even if you don't share your husband's knee troubles. Shifting won't be a problem if you're on a bike that doesn't make you feel like you're putting your life at risk when you reach for the shifter.
posted by altcountryman at 7:34 PM on July 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: As far as seats, thick padding gets less comfortable the longer you ride - it presses into your perineum, causing the blood flow and numbness problems mentioned above. I personally find that a harder racing-style seat with a wide, flat area to set the pelvic bones on is the most comfortable in the long term.
posted by concrete at 1:42 AM on July 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

concrete: eponysterical!

but yeh, perineum. that's the spot. the term evaded me until i was on my way home.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:24 AM on July 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

Seconding the Electra Townie. You might want to check out the 21 speed. I'm picking mine up tonight!
posted by Riverine at 9:03 AM on July 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I stumbled upon a great resource for cycling terminology, Sheldon Brown's Bicycle Glossary.
posted by NortonDC at 12:08 AM on July 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

Oh, yeh - Sheldon Brown is The Man for all things cyclic.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:38 AM on July 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

Do let us know what you end up getting.

And how's the Townie, Riverine?
posted by The Deej at 8:34 AM on July 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I've been out looking and riding. Giant Cypress, Trek 7100 and Marin Kentfield.

They do not make it easy to find out what's freewheel and what's cassette with these bikes, even though I've been visiting highly regarded local shops.

I'm not confident in any of these yet.
posted by NortonDC at 5:14 PM on July 8, 2007

Thanks for the update. I don't know much (well, anything) about the freewheel/cassette issue.

Jumping up another $100 might get you into something you are more confident in. Don't be afraid to ask for a deal. I'm not good at that, but I figured out a way that sometimes works without sounding like a hardass:

"I'll be making my final decision and purchase in the next week or so. I'd really like to buy this bike, but it is a little over my budget. Do you have any sales or promotions coming up?"

Or, just let them know you will be buying a lower end bike from someone else, unless they can make you a deal. At least give them the opportunity. My Wingra was marked down $60 when I bought it. I didn't ask, I guess they just figured it was on the floor too long.

Good luck.
posted by The Deej at 6:01 PM on July 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Having typed the following, I'm almost sorry I brought it up. The minutia is very frustrating, but the devil is in the details, as they say.

NortonDC: They do not make it easy to find out what's freewheel and what's cassette with these bikes, even though I've been visiting highly regarded local shops.

I've had similar troubles with bike shops, but considering that you are asking a specific question.. Hmm, having looked at the websites, they just don't want to say because it is the wrong answer.

There are something like 8 subtle variations on "Giant Cypress" listed, and who knows, the dealer might make changes too.. Of note in those specs though, under "CASSETTE", the DX and higher models say something like "SRAM PG830 11-32 8-speed cassette", but the two lowest models say "Shimano 14-34 7-speed". Notice the conspicuous omission? Those 7 speed clusters are going to be freewheels.

Marin doesn't even make it that clear, but looking at the pdf they provide, I think the Kentfield is freewheel - it is 7 speed, and smallest cog has 14 teeth. The two "sports commuters" from marin are probably freewheel too, but it is harder to say - both 8 speed, with smallest cog of 12 teeth (the true cassettes normally have 11 tooth cogs).

Trek has a dizzying array of models (well they all do, but wow!). I'd say the Trek 7100 is freewheel too, because they don't explicitly say otherwise.

It is actually pretty easy to see, although not so easy to see in pictures.. Sheldon Brown has an attempt, your most likely to see a Shimano Hyperglide Freewheel, or a Cassette with Lockring. The freewheel pic is really good, and you can see how there is a huge hollowing out in the middle of the smallest cog. The cassette pic isn't as good because of the shiny lockring.. With the cassette, there isn't a huge wide hollowing out, and it is splined (notched) right on the surface.
When I say there isn't a hollowing out.. There has to be clearance for the axle, but look at the band of writing on the freewheel, it is actually recessed back from the surface level, on the cassette the writing is on the surface, and you can't see into the hole much at all.

I might try to take a pic of my cassette, the lockring is dull, so I think it will show up better..
Plate of beans!!!

The Deej: Don't be afraid to ask for a deal. I'm not good at that, but I figured out a way that sometimes works without sounding like a hardass: ...

Ya.. There was a thread about that, actually - Bargaining over the price of a bike.

(and to continue with unSane's derail from that thread.. I'm starting to get broken spokes on the new, but still cheap and machine built, rear wheel. No more trouble with the axle though!)
posted by Chuckles at 8:54 PM on July 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I'll study the visual freewheel/cassette differences to try to learn to differentiate. Right now I'm at their mercy, and I don't like that.

This weekend has brought up a few other points of interest. One thing I noticed is that the local shops are charging a few dozen dollars over the manufacturers' MSRPs. As a longtime electronics consumer, this is an alien phenomenon. Also, how about that Trek Lime? Onlyconnect went for a spin on that and really liked it. I wonder about the lifetime of the electronics, but its simplicity of operation is great for her interests. (I also saw some some guy vehemently ranting about the chain on it, but I couldn't assess his complaints.)
posted by NortonDC at 10:55 PM on July 8, 2007

Response by poster: I'm looking at a few bikes: Trek 7.2X, Trek 7200, Giant Cypress DX, and Marin Larkspur.

The 7.2X and Larkspur have rigid forks while the 7200 and Giant have front suspensions. The 7200 has less travel, 50 mm compared to the Giant's 75 mm. Given my ambivalence about front suspension, less travel seems like a plus.

I believe that all four are cassette based. Even after looking at all the comments here and at Sheldon's site, I'm still unsure since the certain ways to tell don't seem to work while the bike is assembled.

I'm intrigued by the rotating shift controls as opposed to levers, but unsure. Any strong opinions on these out there?
posted by NortonDC at 10:54 AM on July 28, 2007

Looking at the specs you sent me, I'm pretty sure all 4 of those models are cassette. It is really pretty amazing how similar they seem, except for front suspension.. Choosing between them will be all personal preference, I think (one has slightly bigger tires, another has no front suspension, and etc.)
But don't mistake my know it all personality with actual expertise :)    I'm working on it, but I have a long way to go..

Technically, Acera is supposed to be better than Alivio, but I don't know what the differences are.
I just found this extremely detailed site about components, but it only covers mid 90s stuff..

Those models all have plastic pedals, but that is a very easy and inexpensive fix if/when they break.
(remember that the left pedal has reversed threads - which seems backwards to me, but I just checked..)

I really liked my grip shifters, years ago, but I had a tendency to break the housing on them (twice in 2-3 years). Shifting down at a stop light with grip shifters was great, because it only took 1-2 motions to go from 6 to 1. The breakage was my fault, wrists are a lot stronger than thumbs, and I would crank way too hard.. The ones I had would have been bottom of the line, but I'm not sure how much more durable they could have been, considering how I abused them. Now, on rapid fire shifters, I just break the cable regularly, which is a lot cheaper to replace (and I sometimes hurt my thumb).
posted by Chuckles at 7:24 PM on July 28, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks, I appreciate the extra input. One thing I see that looks different is the ranking of Shimano component sets. I'm seeing Alivio besting Acera. For instance, here, here, here and here.
posted by NortonDC at 11:08 PM on July 28, 2007

D'oh! I just typed it in the wrong order.. Anyway, without specific information, that I don't have, I'm assuming there isn't much difference (quality wise, that is, there might be added adjustments on the higher model, or look and feel issues).
posted by Chuckles at 12:03 AM on July 29, 2007

Response by poster: I just bought a Trek 2700, 22.5 inch. When I rode both the 20" Trek and 21" Giant yesterday, the Giant felt like a better fit. I figured the 20" Trek was closest to the 21" Giant, but when I compared the geometries, Trek's 22.5" was actually much closer to the 21" Giant than Trek's 20". The 22.5" Trek felt great on today's test ride and it was on sale for under $400, so I grabbed it! w00t!

For anyone that's interested, here are the geometry specs for the Treks and the Giants.
posted by NortonDC at 2:14 PM on July 29, 2007

Awesome NortonDC. Have fun!
posted by The Deej at 5:51 PM on July 29, 2007

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