Where can I buy an inexpensive bicycle in Los Angeles?
July 5, 2008 4:39 PM   Subscribe

Where can I get a halfway decent road bicycle in West Los Angeles for around $400?

I've looked in a few stores. I've checked out Performance Bicycles, REI, Bike Attack, Coco's Variety Shop, and Helen's Cycles. I wouldn't mind a used bicycle, but don't want to resort to looking at pictures on Craigslist and trying to decide what will fit me and ride well, or what is about to fall apart.

I want to use it for the occasional ride to work. To get there, I ride about 16 miles each way. It's not everyday, but often enough that I want something somewhat reliable and comfortable. Right now, I'm riding a mid-70s road bicycle that feels like it's about 600 pounds of steel. It was given to me for free a couple of months ago, but I've so far paid about $200 over that time for new tires, tubes, a poorly done overhaul at Bicycle Ambulance in Santa Monica, other various parts, etc. So the cost of my free bike is approaching that of a NEW, LIGHTER low-end road bicycle.

I dislike the attitudes I've seen in many of the local bike shops. If you're not spending $2000 on a bicycle, they act like they have better things to do; I don't want to buy a bicycle from a dickhead. And when I tell them where I want to be in terms of price, they generally point out one or two bicycles and then walk away. I'm a college student for Chrissake. I can't afford everything to be carbon fiber.

Should I just buy something inexpensive online (such as this one from Performance Bicycle) or is that just a bad idea?

By the way, here's what I already know:
* Don't buy a bicycle from department/discount store (ie. Walmart)
* Yes, there are cheap used bicycles on Craigslist
* Spending a bit more on a bicycle may indeed yield a better bike (but let's stay in the $400 neighborhood)
* Hybrids are sometimes a good compromise, but I'm not too crazy about them.

If you know of a great bicycle shop in LA (preferably West LA or the Valley), let me know. If there's someone you recommend, let me know that too. Advice? Know of a place online that has great deals? Any valuable advice?
posted by rybreadmed to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (9 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I honestly don't think you're going to be able to find a road bike that will feel good riding 32 miles for $400, unless you get extremely lucky finding something used.

If you could bump up your budget a little bit, you'll still not be in road bike territory, but you could get away with something like the Bianchi Avenue, which could handle 32 miles, but not as well as a dedicated road bike (a road bike with a rack and panniers so you don't have to ride 32 miles with a backpack).

Can you tell us more about what you mean by "road bike"? Some people consider any bike with drop-style handlebars to be a road bike. Others consider any bike with skinny tires to be a road bike.

If you're not going up a lot of hills, weight isn't really going to make that big of a difference. Be aware that you might get a $400 bike and find that it doesn't make riding any easier that your current steed.

I wouldn't buy that bike from Performance Bike. I think you'd find a better value by bumping up your budget as much as you can (give 'till it hurts) and then buying from BikesDirect.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 4:57 PM on July 5, 2008

You can't really get a halfway decent road bicycle for $400, new, that won't even buy an aluminum framed bike with a poor wheelset and 100% Sora level components. Look around $650, take a look at the specs of the Trek 1000 or the entry level model of Specialized's Allez series. That extra $250 is definitely worth it to get you into a type of component set which doesn't totally suck.
posted by thewalrus at 5:06 PM on July 5, 2008

I should add that the reason why you want a $650 bike is to get into something with 9-speed shifters, rear derailleur and other drivetrain bits. The 8-speed Sora shifters found on the cheapest road bikes are pretty bad, but the modern 9-speed Shimano STI stuff is much better.

This will also mean you get a bike that is overall lighter, the wheelset will be of marginally higher quality, the crankset will be better, brakes slightly higher quality, etc.

If you are already a decently strong rider get something with a 53/39 or 50/36 "double" front crankset, shifting performance will be improved over a clunky triple and it will be lighter in weight.

Common drivetrain replacement parts for a 9-speed bike will be relatively cheap, if you buy some tools and learn to do your own maintenance: 9-speed road cassette $25-35, new chain around $25-30.
posted by thewalrus at 5:13 PM on July 5, 2008

The hybrid (I wouldn't classify it as a road-racer) you linked to will work fine to start, depending on how much you want out of the bike. It won't be the lightest or most reliable bike. It will do the job. It is, however, pretty much the same as the bikes sold in Walmart.

I dislike the attitudes I've seen in many of the local bike shops. If you're not spending $2000 on a bicycle, they act like they have better things to do

It's not an act. Quite frankly, for a retailer dealing in low-volume specialty items, you ARE a waste of time. They are running a business and margins are so thin on bikes as is that it's not worth the effort to serve the low-end of the market. Consumers just don't want to accept that the costs of producing a high-quality bicycle are high. How do you think a car dealer would react if you walked in and demanded a new car for $10,000?

$600-$700 is the absolute minimum for a real road bike, but everything on it will be cheapo shit. I suggest $1000 to all of my friends as a more realistic starting point for a bike that rides well and will last.
posted by randomstriker at 8:46 PM on July 5, 2008

Well, I know you don't want to buy a bike from WalMart, but....

I found this bike at WalMart, and posted an AskMeta question about it here 2 years ago. Basically, everyone said "I CANNOT STRESS THIS ENOUGH - DO NOT BUY THIS BIKE."

So, I bought the bike. I ride it almost every day, and I LOVE IT. Sure, lots of people ride by on their $3-4,000 bikes and lift their noses in the air... And sometimes people stop me and ask, "what is that?" But every once in a while, I pass someone else riding the same bike, and they say, "Awesome bike, isn't it?"

I'm not saying this bike is for you. I am, however, telling you not to listen to anyone who tells you to spend more money than you have budgeted. Me, I had 200 bucks in my pocket, and acted on impulse.

However, I had a friend who had $400 to spend, and he bought this Fuji. It's one sharp bike, affordable, and within your price range. He went down to the local dealer, and sure enough, they didn't stock the inexpensive ones.. but they ordered it for him, and he got it within a week.
posted by bradth27 at 9:08 PM on July 5, 2008

Ok, looking around, it looks like the Fuji League has been discontinued. I bet you could find one around at the shops, though.
posted by bradth27 at 9:10 PM on July 5, 2008

I bought a 2006 Raleigh Grand Sport for a little over $600 and love it. [Raleigh dealer search]. One of those shops may carry used and/or new old stock. I dug through the L.A. list a bit and found this shop with some specials on Raleighs. In my experience, bike shops rarely update their sites to reflect the current stock so it may take several calls to various stores before you get any leads.

BikeForums.net could be another starting point on your quest. Helpful, opinionated folks frequent the boards and the archives may give you some ideas.
posted by bonobo at 1:13 AM on July 6, 2008

Mail me via metafilter.
posted by hal_c_on at 3:57 AM on July 6, 2008

The major price problem with the lowest end of road bikes (by which I mean drop bars) is the shifters. Drop bar integrated levers/shifters cost $250 and more.. Solid and reliable grip shifters or rapid fire shifters for straight bars cost less than $50. So, flat bars will always beet drop bars in low end price/performance trade off.

That bike you link looks surprisingly good, actually. All metal peddles (I think), a cassette style rear wheel, double wall rims, and a sealed cartridge bottom bracket. These features are a definite upgrade from 99% of department store bikes. They are saving money by eliminating the front shifter, but that isn't really a big problem - you will miss intermediate gear choices sometimes, and you will miss the granny gear for very steep hills, but it is completely livable. I bet it needs a better saddle, but that is something you can play around with over time.. At 1.75", think the tires are a little fat, but at least they are slicks.

There are lots of old AskMes about buying used bikes, try starting here. Reading that reminds me, some details about your physical size and riding style can improve recommendations.
posted by Chuckles at 12:53 PM on July 6, 2008

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