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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Cantilevers can be tougher to set up sometimes, and many older designs are maddeningly so.  The newest designs are easier although there are many variables that can complicate things like the length of the straddle cable, and the width of the rim -even though most newer canti's now use bolted pads rather than adjustable posts.   

Modern dual-pivots are pretty bolt-on and go.  Although putting them on wider rims sometimes causes issues with thicker pads.

The number one way to increase brake power and feel is to just go with Kool-Stop pads.  I really don't like any other brands.  The nicer Shimano pads work OK although they really eat the crap out of some rims and make them look like ass even after a few dozen miles.   Kool-Stops just plain WORK, and leave rims looking like new for a long time.  At $20/set for the Dura holders with extra pads that isn't a fortune.   You get 2 sets of pads with each pair although the cost of 2 sets of replacement pads is the same as buying the full kit with 2 sets of pads.

They also make a thicker pad and a holder without the wings that are designed for canti brakes.   The pads, although thicker, are actually interchangeable with the dura pads. But don't put them on a dual-pivot if you are running wider rims as it'll make the geometry of the caliper all messed up and they will have poor power.  You loose a little bit of power putting dual-pivot calipers on a wider set of rims anyhow (not much) but putting on even thicker pads magnifies this even more.

But I agree with S, canti's (if properly set up) are just as strong and powerful, with every bit as much feel/modulation, as a good pair of dual-pivot calipers.  They just take a bit more messing around with to get adjusted for max feel and power.  The dual-pivot calipers are pretty much plug&play -which makes a lot of folks just believe they are better overall stoppers compared to poorly set-up cantis.

S said:

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

I bought one last month to supplement my road bike and while it will be able to have fenders and a rack to get this pack off my back, it is *heavy*.  I try to switch up every few days and the road bike is like running after wearing leg weights these days.  That and I do need a better seat for this monster...

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.

What type of touring bike did you end up getting?

Tricolor said:

I bought one last month to supplement my road bike and while it will be able to have fenders and a rack to get this pack off my back, it is *heavy*.  I try to switch up every few days and the road bike is like running after wearing leg weights these days.  That and I do need a better seat for this monster...

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.

I also support the idea of cross bikes as the perfect all rounder. 

 

I have 4000 miles on mine just this year.  For the city you can have a dedicated set of wheels with cross/touring/city tires, and for long rides a second set of road wheels with road tires.  This is quite common.  My CAAD9 gives up very, very little in terms of speed to my road only bikes.

The SKS Chromoplastic fenders are pretty light and the standard 700c size does quite well with up to 28mm tires.  Plenty of clearance is available on a cross bike with cantis to jump to the wider 700c fenders if you want to go bigger than 28mm.  

Other than fenders I'd suggest a good set of lights and a rack for panniers and you are good to go for about anything.  I prefer a dyno-hub with dyno-lighting but there are plenty of battery-powered lights out there that work well if you don't mind constantly charging them. 

I'll put in a shameless plug for Legacy Frameworks.

For your budget you could get a lightweight steel, Chicago hand built city/commuter bike, ready to ride with Schwalbe tires, alloy components, including racks and fenders.

My geometry is close to the long haul trucker, but setup to ride more upright.

Cantilever breaks for great stopping power and fender clearance.

Cartridge Bearing BB and headset for less maintenance.

They start out weight 24lb (single speed) and as a result are very quick and agile.

The limiting factor is gearing. Most of them stay single for this city, but i have done 2 and 3 speeds and Infinity Variable (nuvinci, equivilant to a 9 speed) internal gear hubs, again those cut down on maintenance.  

They are also almost infinity upgradeable with readily available parts. They can be customized to your fit and needs.

I have some built up and ready to test ride at my workshop in Bridgeport. You really won't know how much better it is until you ride it.

Check out the site http://legacyframeworks.com if you don't find answers there, ask away and I'll be happy get more specific.

Levi, Owner & Builder

Surly.  Maybe I should have given a CrossCheck more consideration but the Long Haul Trucker is very different from my entry-level LeMond, and a difference is what I kind of wanted.

Kind of like going from riding a preying mantis to a rhinoceros beetle.

Jim S said:

What type of touring bike did you end up getting?

When I first made a similar leap from MTB to something zippier I too went with a cross for all the reasons listed above. I went w a steel LeMond Poprad bc the steel absorbs road shick better thab aluminum cross bikes. But since then I've switched to a touring bike (vintage steel frame Miyata 615) and I like it infinitely better. I think the LeMond is a bit too small at 54cm ctc whereas the Miyata is 57 or 58 ctc (can't reall exactly) and has a longer wheelbase (5 cm, I think, but it makes a big difference in absorbing road shocks). I'm now a touring bike convert as well as a fan of Grant Peterson's fit style (its complicated, amd worth googling, but in a nutshell = slightly taller bikes w only a handful or less of visible seat post). Fit is so important - it is worth researching and talking to people at reputable shops like Rapid Transit or Cycle Smithy. But you can get a lot more for your $ if you can discover your fit and buy a vintage steel frame on the used market. Depending on ITA vintage and showiness, it's also potentially less of a theft hazard, although any bike should be locked w two u-locks or a u-lock and cable in the city. At least that's been my experience.

As most road bikes sold these days take no wider than 700x25 tires w/ fenders, a road bike is not necessarily a good option for commuting or around town riding. There is a wide range of tires between knobbies and 700x23,25 and cross bikes are a good option as they accommodate wider tires as well, even if one will never ride or race in dirt.


Daniel said:

[snip]

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

As a side note, braking does not only depend on the type of brakes, rims, etc. but also on the thread, size of contact patch, and make up of a tire. As far as I can recall from my physics classes, technically it is the friction between tire and road surface that decelerates the bike, and that friction is highest just before the tire starts skidding. Once skidding, friction drops a bit. Interesting stuff!


S said:

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

It's a bit more complicated.  But essentially, your braking is entirely depend on your brakes/brake pad/rims/rotors until your tire starts skidding.  At which point, you've just gone past the max braking force you can achieve.  Most brakes will let you hit this, however depending on the brakes being able to reliably hit this in different conditions may not be possible.   

The type of tire and it's size will affect the maximum braking force you can get but below the max, it's all dependent on braking system.  Most people don't usually brake hard enough to cause one or both wheels to skid so the brake feel is probably more important.  E.g. having brakes that let you reliably and easily scrub off a little speed or brake until you're almost skidding or anything in between.  

Another consideration in some situations, is how well your brakes manage heat.  It's not really an issue in Chicago, but if you're on a loaded touring bike or tandem in hilly terrain or on a long descent, your brakes can heat your rim to the point that your tube pops or the tire blows off the rim (or if you have disc brakes, your hydraulic fluid can start boiling at which point you've lost all braking).


ilter said:

As a side note, braking does not only depend on the type of brakes, rims, etc. but also on the thread, size of contact patch, and make up of a tire. As far as I can recall from my physics classes, technically it is the friction between tire and road surface that decelerates the bike, and that friction is highest just before the tire starts skidding. Once skidding, friction drops a bit. Interesting stuff!


S said:

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

I ride a late 80s Bianchi Volpe which is a cross bike (and a CL find), but it is an awesome all-around city bike as well. It's my daily commuter, but I wouldn't hesitate to do some racing on it or some serious touring. The problem is that I also have a Trek 520 (also a CL find), which tends to get used for longer rides (in order justify keeping it).  If you pay attention to CL, their are gems that come up from time-to-time. If you're going to buy new and you don't need the gearing (which you really don't if you're only using it for commuting around Chicago), those built-up legacy frames look pretty awesome (and they're hand-built in Chicago!)

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