Bike Buying 101

So I want to start a new hobby of mountain biking. Yes, I know there are no mountains in Harlem or Central Park, however, I do have a shiny new SUV with a nice rack and feel it would be good for me to get off the pavement on the weekends and do something exciting, enjoyable, and healthy.

So I ask the AF brethren, how do you go about buying a Bike. I have a feeling price and quality will have a strong coefficient of determination, however, I don’t want to drop $1k on a bike that I’m leisurely riding around various trails around NY/NJ.

I assume the $100 bikes from WalMart and Target are complete junk. But that is based on nothing. How should someone like me relive my elementary years and obtain a bike to go riding?

Just to clarify, I’m not going to be one of those sally road bike zips in fruity rainbow clothes acting like Lance Armstrong. I want a mountain bike to take on some rugged terrain!

Did the old Expedition finally bite the dust?

When I was in DC, I rented a Trek Verve 3. It was a “hybrid”, which means it falls somewhere between a mountain bike and a road bike. Might be good if you’re wanting to hit the trails, but also want something to ride around the mean streets of Harlem.

And I have an el-cheapo bike at home that I bought at Target. I could definitely tell a difference.

(FYI - I don’t know much about bikes. Just wanted to throw out one experience that I had.)

I sold the Expedition to some brown dude for $2500. He paid straight cash. I now have a luxurious Navigator, but it takes premium fuel which I’m not a fan of.

My rules about buying a bike:

Does it have 2 wheels?

Does it have a seat?

Does it have pedals?

As long as the above 3 are ‘yeses’ - buy away my friend. If you really want to explore biking then you are better off starting with the $100 walmart bike.

For a new person, I highly recommend that you get professionally fitted in a bike store. Poor fitting can result in injuries or wear on your joints.

Bikes are very similar across brands; they all use the same Shimano shifters, and some of the different brands even build the frames in the same factory in Taiwan or wherever. Read about the frames before you buy though, since this is the major differentiating factor between brands, other than the label.

For MTB, supposedly don’t get the full suspension unless you do aggressive jumps. The hard tail is cheaper, lighter and has better power delivery.

Since you sound like you dont really want to do anything serious on the bike you dont need a serious bike. Front suspension only, non-steel frame, and have fun…probably $400 on craigslist and $100 for tune-up/fixes out of the gate. If you were to take it up a notch I’d say disc brakes and start paying attention to the components, but doesnt sound like you are there yet.

I’d also take a look at cross bikes. Not hybrids, but cross (CX) style bikes which look like road bikes but have bigger tires and other items meant to take on trails/off-road riding but could still be used to cruise town. Also wouldn’t dismiss the road bike scene, its more accessible than loading a bike up to get to a trail 1x/wk and going fast is fun.

Either way, pedal power is a good thing.

CFM - as a road biker, we could have words about fruity cycling togs. I actually choose the loudest, most butt-ugly, burn your retinas out from 200 yards stuff to wear as possible when I ride. Every time I get a new shirt ma wimmen folk (wife and 13 yo daughter) give me looks of extreme disgust. But people in cars get stupid around bikes (and vice-versa), so I want them to be able to see me coming from a half mile away. And extreme ugly in neon catches their eye.

But seriously, get thee to a reputable bike shop. Ask friends who bike what store they go to. Ask questions, tell them what you’re looking for (and listen to how they ask questions). Then go to another and repeat. If you’re going to do this at any length, having a good bike shop in your pocket is key.

I do road biking only, and even then, lots of crap happens. My wheels seem to have some issue every couple weeks (the shifters seem to get FUBARed regularly for some reason), and more often than not, they don’t even charge me for simple stuff. Folks who ride trails seem to have even more shite happen to their bikes. So unless you want to learn how to do all the fixing yourself (not hard, but it is time consuming), you’ll need the guys at the shop.

Since you’re a big guy, make sure you get a sturdy bike. Most major brands (Trek, Cannondale, Giant) have good bikes at the low end. But don’t go el-cheapo - expect to pay $600-1000 for a decent bike (at least that’s the sweet spotpoint for road bikes - not quite so sure about MTBs).

CvM … if you are actually gonna go on rugged terains, don’t cheap out. last thing you wanna do is have your bike fail on you on a trail and brake your face. Do some ER-quality research on get yourself a gently used bike of - check it out, they have buy/sell section there from serious enthusiasts. They generally take good care of their bikes and like to upgrade a few years after. You can usually pick up a bike that used to be 2-3g’s retail under a grand after only 2 years or so. Much better choice than paying a grand for a brand new one (which is hardly entry level for MTB).

Go to some decent bike shops and try out a Specialized RockHopper and a Trek Mamba. Both a great bikes in the $1,000 range. The Specialized is one of the stiffer bikes out there, so might be a good call for a big guy such as yourself. Go with what feels comfortable though and don’t get sucked into buying a full suspension bike, as you only need rear suspension if you’re doing downhills.

I mountain bike regularly (a couple times a week in nice weather) and have been doing it for a long time. I race too. The trails I ride are pretty rugged: one of the local trails is where the USA nationals were held. This is just to let you know that I’m not blowing smoke and really just ride flat paved “trails” and call it mountain biking.

Here is my advice: do not care too much about the weight of your bike. Lowering the weight drastically drives up costs and often decreases durability. Instead, focus on durability because the less maintenance you have to do on the bike the more you can ride it and the less of a PITA it is. For my everyday bike I actually like a steel (chromoly)frame as it doesn’t flex as much and is tough as nails.

First up: 26 inch wheels or 29 inch wheels (commonly called a 29er). 26 allows you some more maneuverability in tight spots but 29er lets you just roll over some obstacles that would be an issue with a smaller wheel and allows you to carry more momentum (lower roll angle). I like 29, and I think you’re bigger so that would probably be good for you.

I’ve had several bikes over the years. I think the key is: what are you really trying to get out of it? A lot of people here have recommended a hard tail with a front suspension and that is a very popular set up that works for a lot of people. I still own one of those. They are great, and it’s how I started mountain biking. You do not need full suspension. As a training bike I got a single speed (Redline Monocog Flight) and that has become my main bike. There are a couple things that are great about single speed mountain bikes:

  1. They are much harder to break than geared bikes. Other than tires, the most common thing to break on a bike is something in the geared system. This is not a problem. Other than greasing the chain, I haven’t had to do much maintenance and I’ve never had a real repair.

  2. It teaches you how to charge a hill rather than shifting in to the lowest gear and spinning up a lazy line. In some ways it makes climbing easier since it is over faster. You may need to walk more, but people riding up a hill in they lowest gear are usually just as slow as somebody walking.

  3. It teaches you how to conserve momentum and only use the brakes when necessary. With gears you can always downshift. With a single speed momentum is like gold.

  4. It will get you in better shape than a geared bike. Even as a casual rider, you will be a much more powerful rider.

As a first bike, a single speed mountain bike could be a bit much, but I would definitely recommend trying one out. You save some weight by not including the gears and everything and it often costs less. However, it really depends where you think you’ll be riding. For example, if you are riding pricipally on flats then you’ll want gears since a single will be too slow. On hilly terrain, though, a single is as fast or faster than a geared bike, as evidenced by all the single speeders winning races these days.

I’ve just joined up and am absolutely thrilled that my first post is totally off the CFA/finance topic.

I’ve ridden the same steel non-suspesion Kona since 1998. Components do break and some wear out, but considering how rough and jarring off road riding is, I’m very pleased with how well components last. Since putting the Kona into service I’ve also had other bikes and I’ve broken plastic pedals, snapped seat bolts, buckled wheels, and caused head stem failure; chains and sprockets have worn out, cables have snapped and frayed, shifters have had to be rebuilt, and seats replaced.

For off road use my number one suggestion is to get a bike with solid components and rate toughness over weight (as brain above suggested). Start with good solid wheels, frame geometry that’s comfortable to handle off road, and you might want to consider a “one-by” gear set up to reduce componentry (I considered going with a single speed setup and kept the bike in one gear for a while to see how I would cope - not well as it happens).

Unfortunately, going with a cheap bike won’t get you components that will last, and it probably won’t get you the bike shop service that’ll help you get the best fit and initial tune-up/maintenance and service, in fact, some cheap components simply aren’t serviceable.

I’m 32 and still use the Trek 970 I got from my parents when I graduated 8th grade. If you’re graduating 8th grade soon, ask for a Trek 970. It’s been a very good bike for me.

I’m going to get a cheapo Wal Mart Bike. Don’t hate.

I have never seen a brother on a bike CFA v MBA. Deeeeaaaad GIVEEEAWAAY.

You’ll be hating yourself later for cheaping out. If you absolutely insist on buying a cheapo Wal Mart bike though, at least go out and buy some decent clipless pedals for it (despite the name, clipless pedals actually do clip to your shoes. They’re called clipless because they don’t have the old fashioned toe clips). Being locked into your pedals might seem a bit intimidating at first, buy you gain a ton of power and control. You’ll likely fall once or twice because you can’t unclip in time, but it will only be when you’re going really slow so no worries.

One last very, very, very, very important tip. Buy bike shorts (don’t worry, they make MTB shorts that just look like regular shorts).

That’s it, I quit posting here.

Buying a cheap one until you figure out whether or not you like it actually might be a good idea.

The first grill I ever bought was a $99 Char-Broil from Lowe’s. I didn’t want to spend a grand on something that I’d never tried before. I used it for a couple of years, realized that I really enjoyed grilling, and I replaced it with the Egg and a Weber Genesis. Now I have around $3,500 worth of grills (and grill toys) in my backyard. But I couldn’t have justified spending $3500 on something I’d never tried before.

If you are going to do the Walmart route, you should skip pedal bikes altogether and get this “Hyper” electric “Motobike”. While it is designed for boys 12+, this bike can be enjoyed by adults too, according to the reviews. Nothing says boss like pulling up to some busprof types in tights while riding this cool Hyper Motobike.

Pictured (a Hyper Electric Motobike):