The Chainlink

Buying first decent bike; want to make an informed decision. Help?

I've been riding a mountain bike all summer and I've reached a point in my conditioning and commitment where I want to take the plunge and invest in my first decent bike (budget $1,000 to $1,500). 

Any input would be much appreciated, especially from anyone who has recently made the leap from mtn->road or mtn->cyclocross and either been pleased or disappointed with their decision. 

Thanks in advance!

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It all depends on what kind of riding you plan to do, but the key is this: find a shop where the owners and workers listen to you and what you plan to do.  Pony on Chicago Avenue in Evanston is great, as is Comrade Cycles on Chicago Avenue in Ukrainian Village, and any number of other bike shops are excellent (though not all are as good).  You leave hybrid out of your decision tree, but are you planning to ride year-round, or just good weather, commuting to work or just training/racing?  All of these questions come into play in picking a good bike in your price range.  It's a good time of year to buy a bike, as lots of shops will have inventory they need to move before Spring, but if they just try to foist a bike they have sitting there on you without first listening to how you plan to ride, then Nod at them and GTFO.  You will want to shop around, and if you plan to have the people you buy the bike from work on it (tuneups etc) then starting in the area where you live is sensible.  But be prepared to go farther away if that gets you better service and the bike that will fit your plans best.

an entry level cross bike will be a very versatile bike, most have eyelets for fenders and racks, and depending on what tires you run it can handle just about any condition the city can throw at you. Ride as many bikes in your price range as possible, and if you can find someone who will make sure the bike fits you well before you leave on your test ride. Now is a good time to bike shop because dealers are trying to clear out last season's stock to make room for the new stuff. Happy shopping

I'd echo the comments about trying out bikes. I made a similar purchase in the Spring of 2011. There are a few websites that had decent reviews on these types of bikes (I have them saved at work), but nothing beats test riding. Besides the placesentioned above, Other shops I liked/had good selection were Rapid Transit, Johnny Sprockets (Salsa and Masi), and Boulevard Bikes (Bianchi). Most new bikes also come with one year of free maintenance from the shop, so not only are you buying the bike, you are starting a relationship with a local bike shop. BTW, Comrade Cycles wasn't yet in business when I was shopping, but I've since gone there for repairs and have had nothing but great experiences there.

Cross bikes are the best all arounder when it comes to commuter and multiuse bikes out there.

I also agree that if a shop does not ask you about the type of riding you want to do, how far, how often and what you want out of the bike you should go elsewhere.

I have a touring bike that serves me very well.  Like most hybrids, it has a fairly sturdy set of wheels, making it well-suited for city use.  I've also found it highly suited for the occasional camping rides I do.  Makers of touring bikes include Trek, Jamis, Bianchi, Raleigh, Kona, Surly, and Salsa.  Any one of these makers will give you a great all-around bike.

I feel like everyone who has a surely, esp the long haul trucker, loves theirs. So maybe a touring bike?


Barry Niel Stuart said:

I have a touring bike that serves me very well.  Like most hybrids, it has a fairly sturdy set of wheels, making it well-suited for city use.  I've also found it highly suited for the occasional camping rides I do.  Makers of touring bikes include Trek, Jamis, Bianchi, Raleigh, Kona, Surly, and Salsa.  Any one of these makers will give you a great all-around bike.

Unless you want to race cross, i'd get a road bike. I'm partial to the cannondale CAAD series. The caad10 with 105 components is listed at $1700 but i'm sure it will be marked down at a LBS. 

With your budget, I wouldn't necessarily lock in on a certain model.  What you want is a bike that fits you well.  It really does depend on your usage.  I went from a Hybrid style->Road bike this year and I love it.  I've put 1600+ miles on it since may.  I'd suggest checking out the local bike shops.  

If you are looking primarily for a city bike, the Surly Cross Check is a good, versatile bike. Steel frame, can fit the lighter, thiner road wheels, or thicker, more durable cross/touring wheels.  Has cantilever style brakes for better stopping power.  However, there are lots of good cross bikes that will fit  your needs.  

Regardless of what type you settle on make darn sure the bike fits your size.   A bike that doesn't fit your body is not going to be fun to ride and if it isn't fun to ride you won't want to ride it.

A cross bike is a good choice if you want to work up to more distance.  It can be outfitted with fenders easily and wider tires that are comfy while eating miles.  Drop bars can be placed on a higher stem so that the reach to the top of the bars/hoods isn't a stretch, but the drops are still usable when riding faster or into the wind.  Drop bars afford a LOT more hand positions which allow you to vary your riding position, and still allow you the positioning on the bike for faster/longer riding that hybrids don't tend to excel at. 

A hybrid will tend to be more upright which gives more comfort and a less-aggressive riding position.   With a more upright position you'll be putting more weight on your sit bones and pedaling less hard so you will need a wider saddle to support more weight.  Since you won't be pedaling as hard or as fast a wider saddle won't chafe your thighs as much.  

Hybrid vs Road

The reason why I'd choose road here is that if you are riding for any distance, you will find that hybrid bikes will significantly slow you down. Also, if you're riding for distance you will find the handlebars of the road/cross bike significantly more comfortable than the flat across handlebars (It's great having 3 hand positions to switch between when riding for hours). Personally, the only reason why I would ever suggest someone buying a hybrid is if they have a back problem which doesn't allow them to use a road bike. Also, keep in mind that most companies have a bottom end road bike with a "less aggressive" geometry which is more comfortable.

Cross vs Road

Knobby tires aren't meant for roads, so they're louder, slower, and have less traction than slick tires. Also, as TehDoak mentioned, they can't break nearly as well as a road bike (and on the bike path you will find yourself needing to break fast when someone does something stupid in front of you). I would get a cross bike if you're planning on riding it in snow/mud/dirt as well as road, but if it's just for pavement, I would definitely get a road bike. Plus you will still have your MTB

Tires that come with a bike are like gas that comes in a car.  Would you not buy a car because the gas wasn't from the gas station you liked?   Tires are consumables.   Serious riders burn through tires every season or more.  I'm on my second rear tire this year.   Bikes last for decades.  Who cares what tires come on the bike as long as suitable replacements can be found to fit

You can even swap out the knobby tires right from the start at the LBS for real road tires.  There are plenty of tire choices in 700c as cross bikes and road bikes pretty much share the same wheel size and the rim width on a typical cross bike would allow riding down to even a 25mm tire.  I wouldn't suggest putting a 23 on a wide rim but I've seen it done.  WHY?  Get a 28mm or even a 32mm touring/rando tire and bask in the comfort of higher-volume, lower-pressure tires that not only are compliant on the bumpy roads -but actually ROLL EASIER since high-pressure tires bounce so much more on bumpy roads and that bouncing actually steals energy from the bike.   Lower-pressure also means fewer punctures on the road as well, and wider tires means fewer pinch-flats.

And hybrids ALSO usually come with way-too-knobby tires as well, so the knobby tires argument is a moot point (although not a mute point as knobbies sure are loud) when comparing a Hybrid to a Cross bike.

I agree that the Hybrid will have a much more upright riding position.  But bar-end adapters help with this a little bit.  For riding in the city/commuting in traffic an upright position is often very nice as it affords more visibility to see traffic and you don't have to hold your head up as much looking further ahead.  But you pay for it with a less-efficient/powerful leg/crank position that just isn't as fast or as easy to put power to the pedals.   The racer's crouch isn't all about wind-resistance. it's about getting your legs into the cranks at a better/stronger position to really push on them against the bars.  You can't do that nearly as well in an upright position without getting up off the saddle. 

That's not entirely true.  Cross bikes with linear pull brakes have just as much or more stopping power as road bikes.  Cross bikes that are outfitted with disc brakes have ridiculously more stopping more than road bikes and the braking is much better when the weather gets nasty with rain or snow or freezing temps or a combination of these.


Daniel said:

Cross vs Road

Knobby tires aren't meant for roads, so they're louder, slower, and have less traction than slick tires. Also, as TehDoak mentioned, they can't break nearly as well as a road bike (and on the bike path you will find yourself needing to break fast when someone does something stupid in front of you). I would get a cross bike if you're planning on riding it in snow/mud/dirt as well as road, but if it's just for pavement, I would definitely get a road bike. Plus you will still have your MTB

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