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Gone4 01-21-2008 12:20 AM

Road Bicycle Buying Advice
First, a bit about my bicycle history so you know where I am coming from and maybe give better advice. I used to do downhill racing, bmx'ing, and mountain biking for fun and sport. I eventually abandoned it, not due to lack of interest. I was active in a few sports through high school. College saw me sitting on my butt doing NOTHING physical for the most part... a true shame given my perfect environment in a valley of the Green Mountains. This summer I got an internship at JSC in Houston, TX and a borrowed road bicycle was my only personal set of wheels. It was a 40+ lb steel Peugeot, too large of a frame, rusting, non-indexed shifters with a loose chain, etc. It took getting used to a road bicycle but I loved it. I was doing around 250 miles a week of riding, plus working out 4 days a week or so for an hour, and working ~50 hours.

Today I am looking at buying a new road bicycle and getting rid of my two mountain bikes, one a prize. I speculate its use potentially ranging from commuting, touring, and sometimes riding to see how quickly I can get somewhere. I aspire to enter into some distance cycling events like the Boston-Montreal ride, but I never intend to do serious competing. My rides will definitely include hills and the mountains of New Hampshire and Vermont.

What sort of advice would you give to someone like me, who knows nothing about components or brands in this area? Brands to stay away from? Should I definitely concentrate on used? New? Gearing to look for? Any and all tips are appreciated before I start this endeavor. :D

SVOboy 01-21-2008 12:23 AM

Where'd you go to skool in the green mountains? I'm just a stone's throw away from you, I bet...

Anyway, what kinda money are you looking to drop? Are you a clyde (nothing wrong with that)? How important are hills going to be? How well do you plan on taking care of the thing?

Gone4 01-21-2008 12:39 AM

I go to school at Norwich University, about 40 minutes from Dartmouth, up I89. I live in Nashua, NH the few days I am home.

I have no idea what a clyde is, to be honest. I am looking to spend about $1000, but I can go higher if I need to, to get something that meets my requirements and will last me. I generally take immaculate care of my bicycles because, being a college student, you know that you can't afford a second. Learning to actually take care of it will be one step in this process. I'm unsure as to how to quantify the importance of hills - I will meet them, as you know, and I want to be able to get to the top of them. Texas is the flattest piece of land I have ever seen, so I haven't taken a road bike onto hills yet.

edit: I guess one of my questions would also be, is this a reasonable amount? I have more banked money to play with but I would prefer not to.

SVOboy 01-21-2008 12:47 AM

1k would get you a good bike, especially if you're not opposed to buying used (I did and got a killer deal).

A clyde is a > 200 lb male rider, :p

It's hard to give a recommendation, since there are so many good bikes out there. I ride a specialized allez epic (AL butted carbon fiber frame), but I'm partial to the bianchis in celeste green for emotional and bling factor.

What size do you ride?

Gone4 01-21-2008 12:54 AM

I am definitely not a clyde haha. I am 135 lbs, 5'8.5". All that working out was trying to add weight... But that didn't work out too well. The bike store near my house sied me at a 54" frame with a longer length since I am a bit more torso than legs - so they recommended specialized or cannondale. 54" left some clearance and felt pretty comfortable, but online recommendations put me at a 50" frame... So should the frame be close or really that far away?

I am searching craigslist and ebay for bikes but its hard for me to know what is good. Are there are places to look for buying used? Things to avoid?

SVOboy 01-21-2008 12:57 AM

I would go with whatever is most comfortable and say screw online recommendations. I'm luckily insofar as I accidently bought a well-fitted bike I saw on the side of the road and found out my size like that.

CL and ebay are usually pretty good. I got my bike on ebay. Had an issue or too, but nothing too bad, just make sure you hammer out the details beforehand.

Specialized is a good maker, Iono much about c-dale, but I've not heard too many good things...

Do you want me to ask the cycling team on campus for you?

Gone4 01-21-2008 01:03 AM

Any advice is really great. Its overwhelming with all of these options at first and I want to try to avoid making newbie mistakes.

One thing that seems to be important is, what gearing is appropriate for our terrain and moderate fitness? Should I be as concerned with that as other people are?

SVOboy 01-21-2008 01:12 AM

I wouldn't be too concerned with gearing unless you're going to be racing or doing super distance. As long as you can get up the hillz, eh? But that's just my take and I might be wrong. I can think of at least one hill that annihilates me, :P

The way I bought my bike was to go on ebay, search all the bikes in my frame size and price range, and then look and see what gear they had and the reviews that the frames had gotten.

I spent ~300 + shipping on my CF framed epic, quite a deal.

trebuchet03 01-21-2008 02:30 AM

Shameless 'bent plug

(used for a tiny bit more than 1K shipped).

1K buys a decent amount of diamond frame road bike - and slightly better than entry level 'bent (unless you buy used like I did).


54" left some clearance and felt pretty comfortable, but online recommendations put me at a 50" frame...
See if the shop will let you do a 20 minute test ride (even 10 should do it). See how your knees/arms/back feel on different sized frames and cranks lengths. Those calculators are general guidelines (and they're pretty good) - but humans vary in proportion. Me, for instance; I'm 5'11and 135lbs - with a long "neckular" region - which throws things off...

For example

Now you say you're commuting... Have you considered something closer to a commuting/touring bike?

like this?

The handling will be less sensitive and the ride should be a bit more comfortable due to position. But if you want a go fast bike - I completely understand (my 'bent isn't "go fast" but it's not exactly "recreational" - I like going fast).

AndrewJ 01-21-2008 03:24 PM


Originally Posted by trebuchet03 (Post 6268)
For example Now you say you're commuting... Have you considered something closer to a commuting/touring bike?

like this?

Damn! I'm too slow to get in the first shameless Surly plug! ;)

To me it sounds like your looking for something more along the lines of a commuter or touring bike. Unfortunately, most of the big bike brands make really crappy (or exorbitantly expensive) commuters or tourers, but there are a few bikes out there that are really excellent for those purposes.

Things to look for in a useful bike:

Steel frame.
Steel is a fantastically durable and repairable material. Hell, it's even recyclable if you can't get it repaired for some reason. Steel frames may be a tiny bit heavier, but in everyday use a few extra grams of toughness goes a long way. And anything you hear about rusting is pure BS, I've never seen or heard of a steel frame failing because of rust. (plus you can use JP Weigel's framesaver if you're still paranoid like me)

No carbon fiber anything.
Carbon is great for racers who want to shave off some weight, but it's unnecessarily expensive for those of us who don't race. Plus CF has the unfortunate side effect of a "shattering" failure-mode. :eek:

Braze-ons for fenders and rack(s)
A useful bike is not much use without fenders and a rack.

Lots of Spokes
You'll want wheels with 32 or 36 spokes. Most road bikes come with low-spoke count wheels, which is great for weight savings. Not so much for having to ride home with a broken spoke, or just completely tacoing a wheel for that matter.

Tire clearance (and lots of it)
Whenever you look at a bike ask the following question: "What are the biggest tires that will fit on this bike?" Make darn sure you get an answer. Skinny tires are great for racing, but for commuting and touring fat tires rule. Cushy ride and fewer flats, that's why you want to make sure you can run AT LEAST 700x28c tires, preferably up to 700x38c WITH fenders.
(for MTB sizing I'd go at least 26x2", preferably 26x2.3" with fenders.)

And lastly, make sure that the bike and it's components follow the KISS principle as much as possible. When in doubt: Keep It Simple, Stupid.
That's why I use bar-end shifters instead of STI type shifters. Nothing can really ever go wrong with bar-ends, STI's break all the time with heavy usage, and they're not reparable (Campys are, to their credit)

Some bikes to checkout:

The Surly Long Haul Trucker
(as a former owner I highly recommend)

Kogswell P/R (sold as frame/fork/fenders/seatpost/headset, you build the rest)

Electra Amsterdam (Uber-classy)

Bianchi Milano (Italians make everything so darn good-looking)

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