Looking for information about either the Raleigh Woman’s Retroglide NX3 or Coasting Bike.
June 29, 2008 11:01 AM   Subscribe

Looking for information about either the Raleigh Woman’s Retroglide NX3 or Coasting Bike. I haven’t ridden in oh, nearly 30 years. And this is the sort of bike that I’d be most comfortable on, I believe. This is for going to the grocery store, library, mail box, possibly on paved trails through the local nature center. I’m perfectly willing to spend the money on something that will last, but would love to know if anyone else has purchased either model and what they thought of it.

in case folks think something else is better - my specific bike needs are: sit upright, something that accommodates skirts, fenders are good - think something from a film set in a 1950 English village. I'm also interested in knowing if people have had difficulty repairing the Coasting bike. I did see this question, but hoped for more specific info re the Raleigh's.
posted by korej to Travel & Transportation (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Yeah, I don't know about those autoshift bikes. I do see that infomercial on TV from time to time, which is not a good sign in my book. The Shimano three-speed is a tried-and-true workhorse if you don't mind the manual shifting. If you want to get even fancier, Shimano makes an 8-speed internal hub!
posted by rhizome at 11:31 AM on June 29, 2008

If I was in the market for such a thing, I would be tempted to check out Electra's line:


I've heard some good things about those.

You will occasionally find local bicycle shops that actually sell cruiser type bikes... these also tend to be the bicycle store's where you won't get snooty service. If you have one of these around, definitely go and do a test drive. It's by far the best way to find the right bicycle.
posted by selfnoise at 11:50 AM on June 29, 2008

If you really don't mind how much you spend, take a look at Dutch bikes. Nederlanders buy a bike to last a lifetime (or until it gets stolen), and they are built to resist a Panzerfaust attack.

http://www.dutchbikes.us/ is one seller. Beware the euro-dollar exchange makes these cost about as much as a car did 30 years ago.

Trek Lime is like the Coasting bike, 3-speed rear hub with autoshift. They gave a whole bunch of them away last year when they first came out, and now they are available for less than the retail price on Craigslist in most cities. These are like the classic three-speeds of yore, but with the addition of a computer in the front hub looking at your speed and deciding when to shift for you. Anything more complicated is more costly to fix...
posted by ackptui at 11:50 AM on June 29, 2008

Best answer: Just to reduce confusion a little bit, Coasting is a product of the Shimano corporation. Shimano makes things like gear-change mechanisms, cranks, axles, pedals, et cetera, for probably most of the western world's new bicycles. Coasting is Shimano's attempt to encourage bicycle manufacturers (like Trek or Raleigh) to build more casual, easy-going, fun bikes like you seem to be in the market for. The central idea of Coasting is to make the bike as straightforward to ride as possible and central to that is automatic gear shifting.

Studies have shown that even the simplest of manual gear-change systems intimidate people who've not ridden for decades or ever. Various companies have put together systems to do this, and I often see them advertised on late-night television, but Coasting is probably the only one I'd buy. Note that Shimano is a huge company and has been making bicycle components for decades; their stuff works. Some random informercial bike may not.

Anyway, Shimano encourages bicycle companies to build casual bicycles using the Coasting technology. The system uses a small generator in the front wheel's hub to generate electrical power for a small embedded computer. When the computer decides to shift, up or down, it controls a three-speed internal gearbox in the rear wheel hub. Generally speaking this should be extremely reliable. To slow down you just pedal backwards, exactly like the bike you probably rode as a little kid. It's all super-easy.

If that's what you want, and you take a test-ride and like it, more power to you. Ride! However, if you're okay with shifting gears you have a lot more options with regards to models of bikes you can buy. There are very few bikes that use Coasting technology, which is fine if you really like one of them, and there a whole lot more that don't.

Raleigh builds decent bicycles, as do Electra, Trek, Specialized, and lots of other companies. As long as you're buying at a bicycle shop instead of a department store you're pretty much assured of getting something well engineered and properly built. Just find a store you like, take some test rides, and you're good.

Have fun!
posted by LastOfHisKind at 12:18 PM on June 29, 2008

Either one looks like a pretty sweet ride, so it looks like your main decision is bewteen automatic vs. manual shifting - cost vs. convenience. Here's a blog post from early last year in which the founder/editor of BikePortland.org test-rides the Shimano Coasting, and is pretty positive. You can read through the comments and see that there's quite a bit of back-and-forth, but I didn't see anything there (or in other Google results) that screamed Avoid Avoid Avoid.

More importantly, what do you think? As LastOfHisKind suggests, can you test-drive both models (and other cruisers with hand brakes, in case you don't like the coaster brake on these)? One or the other is going to feel right, and you won't know until you're in the saddle and on the road.

Happy riding!
posted by hangashore at 12:34 PM on June 29, 2008

These bikes with high or curved handlebars can feel very unstable (wobbly) until you get used to them. It's like the motorbikes with "chopper" handlebars - you sacrifice stability a little for (retro) style. My own inclination would be to go with a Trek bike (see the "Bike Path" selection). But I am probably just over-fussy. The Raleigh bikes look nice, but you need to try one out. Go see a good dealer and get some advice about sizing. Especially for a woman's bike, getting the correct frame size and adjusting the handlebar reach properly can make all the difference between a bike that you ride all the time and a bike that stares at you guiltily from the corner of the basement ... :-)
posted by Susurration at 12:39 PM on June 29, 2008

Just to throw another option out there, I bought one of these a few months ago and it's been great for commuting 3-4 miles each way. It comes in a color you'll probably like, and there's a variation more amenable to skirts. It doesn't include a rack or fenders, but I've been looking into these and it seems like they shouldn't be a big deal to add on. It's a 24-speed, but in reality I haven't had a reason to move out of the middle gear on the 3-speed side, so it's not that complicated.

I was pretty much a novice, but even pedaling shakily around the parking lot it was clear that this was a lot more comfortable for me than some others with similar specs -- so I second making the effort to ride a few before you choose one.
posted by ecsh at 12:49 PM on June 29, 2008

Whoops, the link is to a newer version -- I think mine's 2007. But pretty similar. Good luck with your decision!
posted by ecsh at 12:53 PM on June 29, 2008

Please don't confuse Shimano's Coasting technology with the crap that's been peddled (heh) on infomercials.

Shimano's Coasting tech is fairly new to the market and designed precisely for the type of ridding that the OP is interested in. Light recreation and service ridding...

The coasting tech is finding its way onto quite a number of major manufacturer's line ups. Personally I don't like Raleigh bikes as I find they are on par with other department store bikes which is to say pretty lousy. However you should find a shop near you that is carrying some of the new Shimano Coasting bikes and take them for a spin. You'll likely find that the offerings do not differ much in quality or price for this type of bike. I'd lean towards offerings from Trek or Specialized above others based on experience with other products.

Good luck and welcome back to ridding!
posted by wfrgms at 3:43 PM on June 29, 2008

I got an Electra Hawaii after posting this thread last year and oh my god do I love it. I love my big pink bike!

Probably the best thing for you to do would be to is to pick a brand or two, find local shops which sell them, and then go for a test ride. I knew as soon as I got on the Hawaii that I wanted one.
posted by sugarfish at 4:41 PM on June 29, 2008

Best answer: i own the retroglide 7 and love it. i use it in the same fashion you're planning--library, post office, grocery. you really do get the chance to sit upright and wearing a skirt is no problem. i like the multi-speed aspect as we have some serious hills over here. if you are using it for about town tasks and relaxed rides, pick the retroglide. it is a fun design and bikes should be fun!
posted by ms.jones at 10:17 PM on June 29, 2008

I recently got an Electra Townie as my first bike in nearly 20 years, and I adore it. I have the 21-speed, and although I was very skittish about shifting manually I got the hang of it very quickly. It is cute as can be with a retro style and allows you to sit upright, and has a stepthrough frame that is ridable in a skirt. You can also get any number of accessories from the company, so you can arrange your preferred configuration of fenders/basket/rack/bell/streamers/whatever.

Find a good bike shop (or the bike department of your local REI, if you have one near you) and try different ones until you find the one you like. It is tempting to try to save money by getting something from Target or whatever, but if you want to ride regularly that's being pennywise and pound foolish- get your bike from a place that will assemble it properly, fit it to your specifications, and give you a free tune-up in a few months once you've broken it in a little. My bike shop also did some minor work on mine to make it fit me better, for free.
posted by oblique red at 12:31 PM on June 30, 2008

Response by poster: Thank you all - I'm more than half tempted to mark nearly everyone as "best" as this is all terribly useful to me, as well as encouraging. I've found some local stores that have the Raleighs as well as the Electras for me to test rid, and its nice to know that the Shimano shifting gizmo is considered reliable, if I just don't think I can manage manually shifting (I know, it shouldn't be hard. But we'll see how nervous I am at the store.) I'm very very excited - thanks again!
posted by korej at 12:54 PM on June 30, 2008

I learned how to ride a bicycle 4 years ago at age 29 on an Electra Townie, and it changed my life. :) It took me a while to figure out the whole shifting thing, especially since I don't drive stick either, so for the first month or so I just left it in a middle gearing that worked most of the time. Now I'm a shiftin' fool! :)

It's very much a library/post office/grocery kind of bike, although I also commuted with it for a while. (I now have a Kona Smoke 29 just for my 10 mi/day commute.) It's fun, although can be a bit of a tank coming up hills, and you do need to get their accessories for stuff to fit right. Although I did manage to wrangle Planet Bike fenders to fit. I have the guy's version, so it's not esp skirt-friendly, but the women's should be fine on that account.

Definitely test ride, and have fun!
posted by epersonae at 4:27 PM on June 30, 2008

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