New Bike Purchase Advice
This is my first time posting so I apologize if this isn’t the proper forum for this. But, I’m simply looking for some thoughts and advice from fellow Pittsburgh riders.
I have been riding primarily the same bike since 2004 and I think it’s time for an upgrade. I’m just not sure which “style” of bike would be best for me.
I ride a lot in the city streets and on the bike trails. I want something good for commuting but also for longer distance rides. I am leaning towards a road bike but I am concerned with the many potholes, cracks, and gravel on the roads. I also ride a lot on the north shore’s crushed limestone trail. I’m not sure if a road bike would perform well on trails like that.
Perhaps a cyclocross, “commuter bike” or hybrid would be best…
Any thoughts or advice from anyone who has been in situation would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
A viable solution is a cyclocross bike and two sets of wheels: one set with semi-knobby or what I’d call “commuting” tires, and another set with 23c or 25c road bike tires. Ride the limestone trails, hit the potholes, etc. with the larger tires, then throw on the other set for when you are riding smooth pavement or longer distances (which I’d define as 60+ miles). The extra set of wheels wouldn’t be cheap, but is the easiest way to get maximum versatility out of one bike. Also, a road bike does work fine on crushed limestone, unless it’s wet. But, not all road bikes will accept 25c tires and above, so you may have trouble mounting larger tires on a road bike frame. A ‘cross frame would let you mount road tires.
As for hybrids and whatever might amount to a “commuter” bike, if we are thinking about the same thing I doubt they will be efficient enough for longer rides, depending on what you define as “longer.” Others may disagree but I don’t think the hybrids or commuter-specific bikes have anywhere near the versatility of a cyclocross bike.
As Jacob said, cross bikes are a great middle ground.
That said, unless you’re racing, skinnies aren’t really that necessary IMHO. You can have just as much enjoyment on 25-28mm tires, pump them up and ride them fast, maybe lower the pressure a bit for limestone trails.
I’m thinking like a Continental GP 4 Season?
I am not yet, but hopefully will be on the market for a bike in spring. I have a cheap hybrid that’s served me fine really, just thinking about a real road bike because I want some more speed, especially going on Panther Hollow / Blvd of the Allies.
My wife of course, is not a huge fan of the multiple bikes answer to the problem but I’m not sure I’m ready to make a road bike my only bike. Was thinking again just the other day about putting some knobbies on my commuter to deal with anticipated mess a little better. That, + close to a lot of trails in Schenley and Frick parks.
It’s not like my hybrid would fetch me anything… I bought it for only 100. But I don’t really think I can get a road bike and … just try and see if it’s comfortable/suitable for me. Unless maybe that is the answer, wait until Golden Triangle bike rental is open and try one of their road bikes. But I’m not sure if they’d be too happy with me taking a road bike on sidewalk (I’ve never come back from downtown to squirrel hill without using at least a little, except when I went straight up greenfield and 3rd day of that had my mirror clipped) and I’m feeling a bit impatient to boot (that, and my birthday is coming soon… was kind of planning on guilting folks into making this my combined gift.).
I don’t know, would you steer me toward a cyclocross, too? What should I know about them vs. the 2 bike option.
A sturdy cross-bike is a solid option for someone looking to upgrade beyond the average hybrid/commuter rig but yet arent sure if a road bike is going to be the best investment.
they are built a bit more rugged, so they would be fine handling the trails, potholes, and random as-needed sidewalks of our area.
also they can handle longer rides without any issues either, so the 20-35 mile ride can isn’t ruled out when the weather is good and the spirit is feeling rambunctious.
byogman: CX bikes tend to have taller, more relaxed headtubes than a road bike. They also lengthen the chainstays, and raise the bottom bracket (although BB height tends to vary widely between brands). Standover height might not be as plentiful either because carrying your bicycle over your shoulder is a big part of the sport; the top tube is often near-horizontal so you can jam your shoulder in there. The raised BB gives you better clearance over small obstacles (mostly a European design philosophy, it’s not as common with bikes designed here), but along with the taller headtube, it will raise your center of gravity and won’t feel as racy when you’re bombing a descent. The longer chainstays will make your bike not feel as snappy out of the saddle, and turn-in won’t be as sharp.
That said, it’s all relative. Most road bikes on the market have pro-racer geometry, which isn’t really necessary for your average ride.
Also, CX bikes have cantilever brakes, which are pretty horrible. They have good mud clearance which is what it was designed for, but are powerless and at times noisy. You can switch to mini-V brakes, but fender clearance is sacrificed. Or you can hop on the disc brake bandwagon, although that market is largely in flux right now with no real standards emerging. Everything is passed down MTB technology, that people are attempting to adapt for cross bike use.
There’s a segment of “endurance road bikes” that has been growing as well. It has all the aforementioned geometry differences as CX bikes, minus the raised bottom bracket and horizontal top tube. You can often fit 25-28mm tires as well on those frames, as the bikes were built for cobblestone’d classic races. They still avoid the use of going to a suspension, but various companies have been trying things to reduce road buzz like decoupling the seat tube from the rear of the bike, adding in vibration absorbing elastomers, etc.
^^ what rice rocket said, that’s an excellent summary of information.
For the record, I do disagree with what Jacob said regarding versatility… you’ll find as much variation between bikes marketed for cross as you will between cross bikes and bikes marketed as commuters. You really need to judge bikes on their own merit, on a case-by-case scenario rather than what group they are marketed to.
For example, look at what Focus offers. All of their CX bikes have the lower bottom bracket (which I prefer). Their entry level CX bikes are very versatile but when you move up to their mid-range and beyond, you loose a water-bottle mount and the rack mount on the seat-stay.
So yeah, most manufacturers are aware that the intro level CX bikes are being used as commuters and they are building them to fit that market as well. The higher end CX bikes are not all that versatile and may make for a terrible choice in commuting/light-touring. It really depends on where they fit in the market.
@Forest, what is your budget? Drop bars or flat-bars? (both bars are equally good for long distance so long as a) there isn’t a lot of wind resistance and b) you have appropriate bar-ends on the flat-bar).
Cross bike. The Surley cross check is nice, all city nature boy, and the Raleigh furley are the bikes I was looking at.
What about a touring bike? Some people have been weary about their weight, but I always ride with heavy stuff so I’m not sure I could tell the difference
Personally, I feel that weight is a non-issue. Oddly, my 520 is lighter than any of the bikes I currently have built up at 26#. I think several touring bikes (without racks) fall right around 25#. Given how few bikes fall below the 20# mark unless it’s an all out racer, it seems like a non issue.
That said, touring geometry sucks. I mean, it’s great if you have a load but it doesn’t make for a very “fun” bike that likes to hop onto curves, corner fast, and dance around in the pale moon light…
But, it’s all about compromise right? So a few more questions directed at the OP.
Are racks important? Will you be carrying a load? Can you clarify what you mean by “commuting?”
Are you tall, do you have big feet?
How do you ride? In groups? Fast?
I think your best approach is to figure out an ideal geometry and then go from there… rather than looking at touring vs road vs cyclocross vs commuter, etc.
If you plan to carry panniers, the chainstay length is an issue. Then there are problems with reach and toe overlap and low speed cornering and what not.
And again, there is the issue of budget!
This is an excellent thread, with lots of good background info. As soon as the OP indicates s/he has the info desired, I may jump in with my own set of questions. But I do not want to divert attention.
Lots of good advice here, and good questions. One thing to keep in mind is that cyclists love advising others on bike purchases, and also have definite opinions based on their own experience and preferences that may not apply to you.
I would start by writing the features that are important — fenders? a rack? upright position? wide tires? price range? and then narrowing your choice down using those features as guides. You’ll find that narrows the options considerably.
If you are seeking guidance you will probably want to find a bike shop you like to help. People here have lots of opinions on bike shops, too. But it is pretty easy to visit a few of the most liked ones to find one whose vibe you like. You can also do a lot of research on bike types and prices on the web.
Since you mention it, I would stay away from “hybrid” bikes. They have a bad reputation for rideability, causing problems with knees, etc.
To further add to the confusion, salsa has some great bikes geared toward gravel road racing that would make awesome commuter/rail trail adventure rigs.
Personally, I think that “hybrid” is too vague of a term to have much meaning… what knee problems are you referring to, jonawebb?
I fail to see why a (properly fit) flat-barred hybrid would be any harder on the knees. If anything, I’d think that the MTB style gearing would make it easier on the knees? Anywho, I’m not arguing with you… just curious where that comment came from?
@cburch, thus why I asked the OP what the budget is… the new Salsa’s are sweet, but, not easy on the wallet!
Specialized has a steel tricross out now and Kona has the Rove. I’m not sure who else has gravel-oriented bikes out?
@drewbacca, that is something I’ve heard repeatedly on the Lovely Bicycle site. I don’t have much experience with them but she does, and her experience is corroborated by others there.
cburch – about how much is the all-city? and does it have brake levers on the straight part of the bars? I might have to start saving for one of those.
it could, i suppose. if one were so inclined as to install bar end shifters instead of brifters. but as a complete, no. its a road bike, with gears and stuff.
you should totally check out the nature boy or the big block if single speed bikes w/interrupter levers are your thing.
I don’t know enough to make any recommendations of specific bikes, but I will repeat a theme that is constantly discussed on this board. Make sure that whatever bike you choose to purchase fits you correctly. A very expensive bike that fits you poorly will be miserable, and I believe this applies to all styles of bikes. So make sure that when you are testing bikes that they are the correct size and adjusted to at least be close to where you need them. If you test a bike that is not the correct size you will think you don’t like that style, when you might actually love it if it fit you better.
Not so big on single speed. I was looking into the space horse, but I love the color on the one above.
Side question: is it unusual for a bike to have brifters AND interrupter levers? My current bike does, and I don’t think I could ever handle having bar-end shifters or not having the second brake levers.
No doubt! the Ti Warbird and AC MrPink are both on my short list should I run into some money! (*scratches head* actually, they ARE the short list…). Although I kinda killed the Mr.Pink itch when I bought the 853 Paramount frame (now I just need to get it built up so I can compare).
@others, yeah… Rove was probably not the best name. At least it looks more like Kermit the Frog than any political figure.
@erica, it’s not common… if anything, it’s a cyclocross feature, but there is no reason that you couldn’t install them on any frame you like. It would be an odd paring on the Mr.Pink as it is designed to be a steel race bike. Whatever works for you, I won’t judge! ;)
Good thing you clarified the interrupter bars… I think cburch was thinking you meant flat-bar style brakes without the sti + interrupter.
and out of time to edit… grrr
@cburch, I have no experience with the interrupters.. different cable pull? er… um… nevermind. I need to get some coffee.
@erica, the Mr. Pink is designed to use road brakes, not v brakes or discs… so you can’t use an STI with that type of brake given the cable pull. You might be able to get away with it using some 3rd party part…but that just starts to complicate things. To use interrupters with STI you would need to be using mini-vs or discs.
*correction* The CaneCreek levers are “Compatible with caliper or cantilever brakes.” So I think you’d be ok with them… unless cburch knows something that I’m missing. *shrugs*
i just dont like the cable mess that interrupters create with STI style levers. also i was speaking to the complete bike package, which doesnt have them. you could totally install them after market, i would just rather run bar end shifters if i was going to have them.
you can totally run interrupters with regular road brakes btw. pretty much every singlespeed commuter out there is set up this way.
“Now you know! …and knowing, is half the battle.”
Thanks for clearing that up.
I think I’m the poster boy for “touring geometry is no fun”. I traded my Cross-Check for a Long Haul Trucker and it’s definitely not as fun. I want my CC back. The canti brakes did suck (and squeal) though – I might check out the Salsa Vaya (again) for the discs especially since the new one comes stock with BB7’s. I do miss the higher BB too, I used to be able to pedal through any corner without worrying about pedal strikes – but no more.
I’d put slick 28s or 32s on there and not worry about a second set of wheels. If you want something wider and knobby or studded for the winter those will fit too.
You think the Vaya is closer to the CC than the LHT? For a touring bike, the 520 has a decent amount of zip but I struggle just to hop the front wheel onto a curve to reduce the impact if I’m stuck riding on a sidewalk; I blame the length, primarily. It rides like a train on rails… so long as I stay on the rails.
I didn’t think the Vaya was much different, but perhaps I should give it another shot?
I’m quite happy on 28s but I wouldn’t mind having a second set of something close to 40mm for bigger gravel on fire-roads (i.e. not “crushed limestone”).
The vaya is somewhere in the middle – its weird geometry makes it a little tricky to compare. I almost bought one and I think I decided on a 57 or 58cm vaya vs a 60 for the lht.
Although, that is one wild card, my cc was a 58 – and maybe it was a tad small for me but I think that contributed to the perceived nimbleness. I rode a 60cm cc not long ago and I didn’t really feel like “the magic is back”, at least not enough to drop the cash on it.
I think the moral of the story is, I really loved my old cc and I probably should have left well enough alone because now I’ve ruined myself. I like the LHT – it’s a fine commuter, not having to shove my panniers so far back is a plus, and the discs are great and make a lot less noise – but the ride is definitely harsher and it’s not as sporty.
fwiw: i have a vaya and i love it muchly. my only regret is that i didnt have assloads of cash to throw down for the titanium version. i find it very stable when loaded and very nimble when its not.
Wow. I am overwhelmed by the vast amount of quality advice that this post has received in such a short amount of time. Thank you all very much for your input. It is much appreciated. I think this small sample really goes to show how great the Pittsburgh cycling community is and how great BikePGH is.
I have a lot of new information to digest but I definitely think that a cyclocross is the way I want to go.
I’ll try to answer some of your specific questions:
@Drewbacca … I’d like my budget to stay $500-$1,000 but much closer to $500. That leads me to another question: Does anyone have any experience with online wholesalers such as bikesdirect.com and bikenashbar.com. The deals there almost seem too good to be true. I do like supporting local shops, though, but it’s hard to pass on 60% savings. Also, do you all think it is bad etiquette or “shady” to look around at shops, get a feel for bikes, get fitted and then purchase a bike online?
@Drewbacca … I’ve always had flat-bars but I think I want drop bars for this bike. Racks are not critical to me. I would like to have some form of fender or mud guard. I really don’t plan on carrying a load. I am 6’2″. Size 12 feet. I usually ride solo (which is when I like to go fast) or with my girfriend (which is usually more leisurely).
@stuinmccandless … Please feel free to jump in with your questions.
Thank you all again for all of your help!!
PS. Just to add another wrinkle, I heard that “MTB shoes” used on “road bikes” are better than “road bike shoes”. Thoughts?
I never had any problem ordering from BikesDirect but of course, local bike shops, etc… You can always assuage your guilt by buying accessories and service from the LBS.
MTB shoes besides the obvious refers to having a recessed cleat so you can walk on the shoe when you’re off the bike. That is why they are more generally useful.
Bikesdirect works for people who wouldn’t normally buy bikes at a shop anyways (i.e. you know how to assemble it yourself, know what top tube length you need down to the millimeter, etc)., and don’t mind waiting for warranty service to be fulfilled through mail.
Shops will begrudgingly assemble bikes you don’t purchase from them (who wouldn’t be a little peeved?), but they’ll charge you for the assembly, and also charge you to properly fit you on the bike. You run the risk of buying the wrong size and being stuck with it. You’ll also pay full price on accessories + labor on installation, which shops usually discount (or throw in free labor) if you’re buying a bike from them.
If you’re a new buyer, I wouldn’t recommend it.
MTB shoes work for road, I found road shoes and pedals to cause less pain in extended mileage. They aren’t as convenient if you’re putting your foot down a lot.
Also, $500 won’t get you on anything useful that’s new, you might want to look at something used. See if Thick Bikes has anything in your size.
Hmmm… I must disagree on the $500 figure being too low for a “useful” new bike. It’s a little elitist. There are plenty of decent bikes at that price. Sure, they’re made from aluminum, have entry level components, but they’re definitely “useful”. Man, I’ve disassembled twenty-year old Ashtabula crank bikes at FreeRide that were still “useful” — would get you from place to place.
Hmmm… I must disagree on the $500 figure being too low for a “useful” new bike. It’s a little elitist. There are plenty of decent bikes at that price.
Show us then.
The OP wanted an upgrade, I don’t know why you’re trolling the free bikes from FreeRide suggestions.
Not to keep harking back on one event, but I kicked several guy’s asses on the dirty half dozen with a $20 Schwinn Caliente frame from the 1980’s, $35 rear wheel and freeride front wheel. They all had pretty decent bikes, but the guy with the carbon fiber wheels sticks out in my mind.
What are you upgrading from? How much work would you be interested in doing? You could get a zippy steel frame from freeride, then use the frame widener from Kraynick’s (if you get an old frame) and then put some decent components on it.
Over the last few years, that’s what I did.
Got a nice handbuilt wheel. Just added some dual-pivot brakes, got clipless pedals, nice fenders. And now I’m moving the parts over from my destroyed frame (car accident) to a newer (but actually older by date of manufacturer) frame
I’ve been waiting to pull the trigger on a serious bike purchase. I’ve been using either second-hand or clearly obsolete equipment for so long, it’s hard to imagine being on a new (read: made in this century) bike. I’ve come *this* close, a couple of times now, to buying a bike from people I know on the board and IRL, but it hasn’t happened for one reason or another. So when I see someone I don’t know coming in and asking the obvious questions, it prods me to start thinking again that I really need to spend some serious money.
To me, serious is three digits, but I know not to buy on price, and I know not to buy at a big box store. I also have an aversion to buying anything on Craigslist. I fear that everything out there is a bike stolen in some other city and sold here to reduce the chance of someone recognizing it. Maybe that’s irrational, and given an opportunity to deal with someone I know, I wouldn’t have any problems with it. But because of that, I never look there.
Anyway, I do need to do everything the OP was suggested to do (sizing, fit, equipment analysis, tires), and will likely end up dropping either $150 for a decent used bike, or $500 for a new one, just because I think that’s what should be spent. My last three bikes *combined* cost $30; yes, thirty. If I’m putting 1,600+ miles under me a year, it’s time I did myself a favor.
Get mountain bike shoes. You will be happy. Have you seen people in road shows try to walk around? They have a difficult time because they are slippery. I was going to offer to see if you want to try my Furley, but it is many sizes too small for you.
There are fenders you can mount on the frame. I have some on a bike that is not drilled for fenders or a rack.
I like the MTB shoe approach as well. Both of my pedal sets are made for SPD (Shimano PD-A600 and PD-A530). You can get cheaper options through Performance but you get what you pay for (plastic instead of metal, but just as functional). I’ve tried on a few pairs of road bike shoes, and there’s just NO WAY! LOL
As for ordering from bikesdirect, nashbar, etc. The deals aren’t really as good as they look. That’s not to say you can’t get a good deal but it’s hit&miss.
The Schwinn LeTour Legacy looks solid, but they are sold out of large and the XL (62cm) is likely too big.
At the very least, if you go the mail order route, plan on having a local shop adjust the wheel bearings and retension the spokes. The wheels will be the weakest part of such a purchase. But it can be a good approach to pick up and Ultegra or Rival groupset on the cheap.
To understand those business models better, I recommend the following (and the links therein). Who Made Your Bike?
Several members of this board have the Motobecane cross bike, so maybe you’ll have an opportunity to check one out in person.
Something like thismight be good, but again, it might be too large as the XXL(60cm) is the only one left in stock.
But I personally agree with what was said above, if you are trying to stay close to $500 the best bet is to find a used bike. You’ll find some solid hybrid types in that range (new) but it’s the absolute bottom starting point for road bikes. Jamis makes some nice bikes in that general area (and you can just upgrade the Sora shifters if/when they break). The Fujis at Performance are also a good bet.
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