Help me choose a bicycle.

Back when I was a young punk rock dude, I had a GT Tequesta on which I performed many stupid stunts. But gradually life began to erode away my biking hours: I met a girl in another city, went back to school, got jobs that were too far to bike, got married, got addicted to this place, got out of shape. My bike, lovingly plastered with such phrases as Primus, Mr. Bungle, Sick Of It All, and People Suck (right on the headtube for all to see), got out of shape too: chains and gears rusted, cables lost tension, rubber cracked. One day not so long ago, I decided if I was ever going to ride a bike again it would be cheaper to buy a new one, but I couldn’t just throw away Ol’ Fireball (a name I just now affectionately gave it, because it was black with red and yellow flames). So I gave it to a friend of mine who has a knack for scavenging old parts and rigging them together.

But now I miss the hum of the pavement under my wheels or the mud spattering my - well, everything really. I miss doing wheelies over small logs and rocks. I miss the way my eyes water when speeding along in cold, dry air. I miss racing to BART at midnight to go see available light (OK, well now I just have to go to the next room, but you know what I mean), then waiting for the train while steam made a halo around me like some Hindu god who lost a few arms. I miss passing cars while attempting to reach relativistic speeds down Bancroft Ave in Berkeley, or even better, down Carlos Bee Blvd from Cal State Hayward. Like I said, stupid stunts.

While I would perhaps think twice before indulging in some of those insanities from days of yore, I would at least like to go tooling around some local trails. But at the moment all my wheels run on decayed dinosaurs, which brings me around finally to my point. What form shall this new steed take? I ask you Dopers because I trust to get more detailed answers here than from a bunch of crummy logheads elsewhere.

I’m probably more inclined to a mountain or hybrid than a road bike. Rear suspension is a luxury for now, but front suspension might be nice. Grip shifts were new and somewhat unreliable when I bought the Tequesta, but how do they compare to index shifters these days? I’ve looked online at GT, Giant, and Trek, but what other brands are good? How do they stack up against each other? Do they make clipless shoes in 11 EEEE? Just how much difference do clipless pedals make, anyway? Should I get cantilever or disk brakes? How good of a bike can I expect to get for, say, $700? Anything else I should look for?

Also, the bike must be sturdy and large. I am 6" and 220 lbs, and I’ve been known to break or bend frames on cheapo bikes.

Both of my bikes are Raleigh-one mountain and one road. Well made-they have a wide line from very inexpensive to dressed out with top end options.

      • I haven’t seen any ultra-expensive bikes lately, but there’s “less-expensive” shifting components and “more-expensive” ones, and honestly–they all work about the same. Functionally there’s not a lot of difference.
  • Disk brakes do work better than rim-brakes. How long they wear I don’t know yet. The current (road) bike I have has the “cheapest” type of cable-operated disk brakes, and they still stop way harder than the best rim brakes would. They stop when wet about as good as they do dry. A lot of $400 and up hybrid and MTBs have disk brakes on the front end now; some have them on both ends. If you can keep from bending the disks up, you will like them better.
  • Recumbents are my preference now, but they are lousy for off-road (or urban “bouncing off curbs” style) riding. Among the conventional-style bikes, many of the lower-priced bikes use frames made in China now. Once again, unless you pay for something custom-built extra strong, there’s probably not much difference.
  • On the other hand, if you want to ride longer-distances over mild trails or road comfortably, get a recumbent. You can get them with wheels that you can mount “off-road” size tires on (mine for example has a 20-inch front and a 26-inch rear) and yet run narrower slicks for on-road use. The lowest-priced ones in the US now are $450-$500. For off-road technical riding MTB’s are still best, but for on-road, I’ll never buy another upright again. I have an EZ-Speedster CX.

You, sir, are insane.

Insane people ride cyclocross. Check out the Fuji.

Ok, so it’s a bit over your budget. Look around, I’m sure you can find a deal on a cross bike.

Oh yeah, they are fun.

But not when you race them.

Ok, that’s fun too, but it’s hard.

For $700 you can get a perfectly serviceable, new mountain bike. Or a pretty good used one, which is what I would do if I were you. Unless something besides your feet is unusually sized, you should be able to find a good one. (I have a GT that cost less than a $2K three or four years ago. I would think you could find a used one that is maybe a grade or two cheaper for your price range.)

You might consider that since you are older, full suspension is more desireable than in your wilder days.

:wanders into thread, does the Mr. Bungle fan secret handshake, wanders out:

Whatever you do, do not buy from Wally-Mart, Big K, or any department store.
Bikes are shipped in boxes, & assembled onsite.
Therefore, no bike is any better than the guy who put it together.
If you buy from a Bike Shop, you get a guy who is a skilled bike mechanic.
If you buy Sears/Monkey Wards/Wally-Mart, you get some guy from the back room named Mookie, who has maybe seen a bike. Once. Or an 85 year old retiree named Imogene. who has never held a tool in her life, but everybody who has is off-shift.

Buy from a bike shop. I learned the hard way.

Now, I own a lovely, red Trek Cruiser. And I’m very happy.

I’ve got a Bianchi Boardwalk that I just love. It’s a hybrid, so it’s perfect for hitting trails, as well as pavement. Very comfortable, and very solid feeling.

Lots of gears, so hills are cake. Brakes work great.

It’s really all around a fabulous bike. I purchased mine gently used and in great condition from an owner who was reluctant to give it up. She just raved about it. I can see why. When the time comes for me to purchase a new hybrid, I know which one it will be.

Your best bet is to go to a bike shop with an idea of what you have in mind and get fitted, test drive a few, etc. Definitely put the Boardwalk on the list of ones to look at while you are there.

Take a look at, which posts consumer reviews of everything MTB: bikes, components, trails etc. It should get you up to speed with what you can get for your money right now. You need to be aware of the negativity that naturally pervades the reviews (the one guy who blows out his rear shock first time out is pissed off and wants everyone to know about this heinous product, the hundreds of dudes who are really happy with the shock have less of a motivation to get online and chat about it), but it should give some pretty good info. The forums are pretty helpful too, if you were to ask what the best value MTB to be had for $700 I would think you’d get some good, specific recommendations.

It’s been a while since I bought an entry level bike (I ride a cannondale scalpel 2000 right now :stuck_out_tongue: ), but I think you’re spot on with just focussing on a major MTB brand who have been building bikes for years. You don’t want to buy a shiny full suspension toy bike for $300 that falls to pieces the minute you hit the trails. Kona, Specialised and Cannondale are three good bike companies to add to the others you mentioned. Good Luck!!

I ride a cross bike in the city just because a) I like knobby tires and b) it’s cool. I have no intention yet of riding a cross race. I got a KHS CX-100 with rear suspension. The actual spring is an MCU bumper in the seat stay. The bike total was about $800.00.

I don’t know how much you want to spend but I would look for a good used bike. If you take BART you are in an area where there are lots of bikers and bikes for sale. The new breed of bikes are strong becuase people are using them to jump and ride hard off road. There are several places where I have looked for my son and his friends for nice bikes. Check Craigslist and MTB Review for used bikes. If you are somewhat patient you can find a nice bike at a good price.

I bought a Cannondale F400 in June, and I have loved every minute on the bike. Some of the reviews on that page give the shock a hard time, but mine has worked fantasically on the trail and on the street. Very light bike and you can find them for about $650-700 US.

The frame is hand made in the US and is guaranteed/ waranteed never to fail. My buddy is 6’4 240 lbs and he has ridden this one and his Fisher with out any problems. With the bike at least :smack:


Yeah, I know all about that. I snapped the rear triangle on a Murray and bent the top tube on a Huffy. It’s not just the department store people putting the bikes together wrong, it’s also the low grade steel and sloppy welding used at the factory. That’s when I got the GT.

About the recumbent bikes, how well do they handle hills? On a regular bike you can stand and lean forward for more power and better traction on the front wheel.

Is there a difference between a cross and a hybrid bike?

Nah, same thing, different name.
I did want to say something about front suspension.

I’ve also got
Gary Fisher Mamba that has front suspension. While it’s a pretty decent mountain bike for a beginner (like me), I’m not so sold on front suspension, which this bike has.

Could be a personal preference, but when we go out on the trails and I take the Gary Fisher, I always end up feeling a little more winded. That front suspension just feels like it’s eating up my efforts, like I’m never really ‘digging in’ I guess.

Demo had another one he just recently gave away that didn’t have front suspension, and for awhile when we went out, I’d use that bike, since he’s a better rider than I am, and I just felt like I was in better control and was going at a better pace without the front suspension.

He recently purchased a Kona Cinder Cone himself, and while I haven’t taken it for a spin, he’s been raving about it like mad.

Uh, a cyclo cross bike (what a couple other posters have mentioned in this thread) is VERY different then a hybrid

A “hybrid” is (roughly) a cross between a road bike and a mountain bike designed for recreational riders who probably won’t be putting a lot of miles on it (compared to a competitive or fitness cyclist).

A (cyclo) cross bike is a bike designed for the sport of cyclocross. This is a sport where a bunch of hideously in-shape mutant freaks ride laps on a dirt loop with impassable man-made obstacles that require the rider to hop off the bike, lift the bike, run over the obstacle, and then get back on the bike. They’re going to have a different posture for the rider then a “hybrid” (more like a road bike), knobby tires (more like skinny MTB tires), and other differences…

As to the OP, my favorite riding was on the road (track was also fun–check out the velodrome in San Jose some Saturday morning ;)). But if that ain’t your thing, I’d get a decent front-suspension mountain bike over a hybrid. You could always buy a cheap second pair of wheels and put slick tires on them (they make slick tires in MTB sizes)–this would give you one of the biggest advantages the hybrid will have for “urban” riding, but still leave you a quick wheel-change away from something you can have some real fun with off-road…

Ahh, my bad. I did read the posts about cyclocross bikes, I didn’t realize sturm was asking about the difference between those and hybrids.

Thanks, Meta.

Oh man…not only has this thread helped me in my search for a new bike, it really got me thinking about my young-crazy-rock-freestyle trickin days. I was the coolest kid on my block with my Redline RL-22. It had dyno ‘feet’ tires, GT mags, odyssy gyro…Man that was cool.

allright. I wasn’t cool at all. But I loved that bicycle.

Heh, I used to do that actually. Well sort of. Sometimes when I was riding with my friend we’d come upon an inconviently placed chain link fence, so one of us would sit on top and pass the bikes over. I mean, who would put a fence in the middle of good riding terrain?

Do did you decide on anything yet? It seems like you’d mostly be riding in the city and along somewhat urban trails(is there such a thing? ;)) so I also think a hybrid would be your best bet. If you do decide to get a mountain bike, it would be kind of silly to get a bike with suspension unless you’re really planning on doing some serious offroading often. My main mountain bike for years didn’t have suspension and I used to tear shit up. The other benefit in foregoing suspension when you don’t really need it is that it will allow you to go for a bike with slightly better components while staying within your budget.

I think a cyclocross bike would be cool as hell to ride in the city though. For me, if I’m just tooling around town I’ll take my Bianchi Pista, but that’s anything but an all purpose bike. :wink: Seriously though, even though the cross bike suggestion was made in jest, I would seriously consider Fuji, as they make some excellent bikes. I’ve owned a Fuji Team (road bike) for years and it’s the best bike I’ve ever ridden. Something off this page under the “cross-trekking” category would probably be perfect for you.

Gotta love the Specialized… I have the Hardrock Comp for 2 years, and this is my third Specialized. They have a whole range as well, with the S-works being the professional grade and coming in around £2000 (about $4500)…

The HR Comp is pretty inexpensive but pretty good bang for your buck, and I wouldn’t have bought another if I didn’t love the first one… and I will be upgrading next year again.

And I second the comments of Bosda - buy from a good bike shop, not from some chain department store, and get it serviced once a year at a good bike shop as well - you’ll be happier and the bike will last longer, too.