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  1. #1
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    Blank Slate - Intro and Questions

    I am completely new to (serious) biking. Like most people, I rode a bike frequently as a child and a teenager. About 5 years ago, I resumed riding my old Wal-mart special mountain bike, and did so on paved trails until it was stolen a couple years later (yay, Atlanta). I haven't been motivated to replace it - until now. I will likely be moving away from Atlanta in the near future, either to the mountains of North Carolina or central Wisconsin, depending on how things come together at work. I'll own a home, with a garage in which to store a bike, and live in an area more conducive to biking.

    I do a bit of work on cars, so I have some mechanical aptitude (I am also a mechanical engineer). Hitting my mid twenties (I know I'll hear about that one) and sitting behind a desk all day have started to take their toll, and my weight is steadily climbing.

    In any case, I will soon be interested in purchasing a new bike. In reviewing these boards for a few days, it seems fit and feel are emphasized over all else, with higher end components available for those willing to pay for them. I am looking to spend in the neighborhood of $300 - $500, I am 5'6", and weigh about 180lb (hoping to get back to 160 with a lot of riding). I have extremely short legs (28" inseam) and a relatively normal upper body.

    As I'm not looking to rock jump nor street race, I believe a hybrid is the bike for me. I'm looking for recommendations based on my size, use, and price range. Thanks in advance.

  2. #2
    Domestic Fowl
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    Hi Steve,

    This question comes up very frequently in this forum. I'd suggest scanning the forum a bit and using the search function. There's also a product review section on this site that will help guide you if you have questions about certain bikes or components. Some names to look for in your price range are Trek, Giant, Gary Fisher, Specialized, KHS and I'm sure people will suggest a few more.

    Good luck,

    FRC

  3. #3
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    The most important thing to do would be to check out a local shop and have them fit you for a bike and give you some advice based on your needs. You won't have any trouble finding a bike that fits.

    If you're planning to do any offroad riding, I wouldn't really recommend a hybrid. Although, a hybrid would be more comfortable for casual road/path riding. Low end hardtail bikes like the Giant Iguana or a Trek 4900 would be a bit more adaptable to various riding styles, and bikes in your price range tend to be set up rather conservatively. The riding position is usually somewhere between what you would find on a hybrid and an all out cross country race bike. It's not an overly aggressive riding position, but it alows you to climb and navigate trail much more easily than a hybrid would. Of course, you can always change the seat, stem, bars to fit your needs.
    Last edited by bacchanal; 08-10-2004 at 07:12 PM.

  4. #4
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    Thank you for the replies. I appreciate that this question probably comes up fairly often, and being a regular on tuning message boards, I understand the frustration that comes with answering the same noob questions over and over. I appreciate your patience with me.

    The recommendation against a hybrid gets at some of the concerns I've had about doing so, and I will likely steer clear. I'll start digging a little more into manufacturers and styles, and soon you'll likely see an overdone "What are your experiences with ____ bikes?" question from me.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by bacchanal
    The most important thing to do would be to check out a local shop and have them fit you for a bike and give you some advice based on your needs. You won't have any trouble finding a bike that fits.

    If you're planning to do any offroad riding, I wouldn't really recommend a hybrid. Although, a hybrid would be more comfortable for casual road/path riding. Low end hardtail bikes like the Giant Iguana or a Trek 4900 would be a bit more adaptable to various riding styles, and bikes in your price range tend to be set up rather conservatively. The riding position is usually somewhere between what you would find on a hybrid and an all out cross country race bike. It's not an overly aggressive riding position, but it alows you to climb and navigate trail much more easily than a hybrid would. Of course, you can always change the seat, stem, bars to fit your needs.
    My thoughts exactly. Especially if you are moving to W. NC (I don't know anything about Wisconsin), you will quickly outgrow the usefullness of a Hybrid.

    As to your other queston, "what is your experience with _____ brand?" I think you will find that there is a core group of brands in your price range that will all work well.

    Giant is my choice at that range. Also Specialized, Trek, Gary Fisher, Kona and Maybe K2, plus I'm sure there are others. Quality is going to be pretty much uniform in this range, and the deal is going to be that different manufacturers will fit you differently, so you'll need to see what works for YOU.

    The other thing is to educate yourself on the various components in that price range, so that you can compare bike to bike. You'll be getting a hardtail (you should anyway), so look specifically at the Front Fork and the Rear Derailure as two main functionality points. Brakes also will be a thing to look at, and weather the bike is V-brake, Disc, or V-brake with Disc-compatible wheels. (The last one is a nice feature to get a less expensive bike with the ability to upgrade down the road).

    FWIW: If you move to WNC, you will be moving to one of the top MTB areas in the country, and I'll be very jeleous....

  6. #6
    Domestic Fowl
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    Quote Originally Posted by steve8091
    Thank you for the replies. I appreciate that this question probably comes up fairly often, and being a regular on tuning message boards, I understand the frustration that comes with answering the same noob questions over and over. I appreciate your patience with me.

    The recommendation against a hybrid gets at some of the concerns I've had about doing so, and I will likely steer clear. I'll start digging a little more into manufacturers and styles, and soon you'll likely see an overdone "What are your experiences with ____ bikes?" question from me.
    No problem Steve. Hope you didn't feel I was brushing you off..... it wasn't my intent. I've been out of the loop for a while regarding bikes at your price point, so I couldn't give any specific recommendations.

    Just an FYI, there is a "What bike to buy" forum here too that may be of some help.

    Happy hunting.

    FRC

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by FreeRangeChicken
    No problem Steve. Hope you didn't feel I was brushing you off..... it wasn't my intent. I've been out of the loop for a while regarding bikes at your price point, so I couldn't give any specific recommendations.

    Just an FYI, there is a "What bike to buy" forum here too that may be of some help.

    Happy hunting.

    FRC
    Not at all. Most of what I've read seems to indicate that all $300 bikes are essentially the same. That having been said, people will likely have opinions based on their personal experiences, and unless there was some catastrophic failure, people tend to like their bikes/cars/etc. So then, if I happen to get a reply from someone who's owned a Trek, they'll tell me to go with a Trek. At this point I think it's just a matter of personal preference, perhaps taking into consideration the frame weight and potential for future upgrades.

  8. #8
    Domestic Fowl
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    Quote Originally Posted by steve8091
    Not at all. Most of what I've read seems to indicate that all $300 bikes are essentially the same. That having been said, people will likely have opinions based on their personal experiences, and unless there was some catastrophic failure, people tend to like their bikes/cars/etc. So then, if I happen to get a reply from someone who's owned a Trek, they'll tell me to go with a Trek. At this point I think it's just a matter of personal preference, perhaps taking into consideration the frame weight and potential for future upgrades.
    Most of what you say is true. First and foremost, make sure the bike you buy fits correctly. You can get a really nice bike and if it doesn't fit right, its not worth poo. Buy as much bike as you can afford. The frames on these bikes at this price point will be pretty close to the same, so pay attention to the other components when comparing bikes. Here's my short list of components that can make a huge difference in bike performance:
    1) rear deraileur - try to get at least an LX level rear deraileur
    2) shifters - again, try to get LX or better
    3) fork - familiarize yourself with some of the common name brands for forks and stay away from no-name brands

    There are other components that can make a difference in performance(such as brakes), but those are probably my top 3. Any bike you buy at that price point will likely have v-brakes.

    Keep in mind that if you find a bike that you really like and fits you well, but has a really low-end rear deraileur or really low-end shifters you can probably get the shop to upgrade it for a very reasonable price(compared to buying the part seperately and upgrading yourself). Also, if you can stand to wait just a little longer you will probably be able to capitalize on some end of season sales that will be popping up soon.

  9. #9
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    Here’s my $.02:

    A hybrid doesn’t sound like quite the right bike from what you describe. If you were going to ride mostly street with an occasional smooth (non-technical) gravel or dirt path, then a hybrid might be the bike. But if you are going to go mountain biking on real trails, a hybrid is not the best choice. I don’t dislike hybrids (in fact I have one myself that gets lots of action), I just don’t get the impression thst it’s the right bike for you unless you have not described your intended use accurately.

    Steer clear of any SR or Suntour fork at your pricepoint. The RS Judy TT (specifically the TT model) should also be avoided as well. It’s a shame about the Judy TT because it cancels out some otherwise decent bikes. The forks most desirable at you pricepoint would be the RS Pilot, the Manitou Six or maybe a Marzocchi MX. These are OK for an entry level fork. Don’t be too put off by the term ‘entry level’. It’s where you should be until you can decide exactly what type of riding you love.

    Another thing is to try to find a bike that has separate shifter and brake levers. That way if you break one or the other (or just want to replace / upgrade) you won’t have to buy both. You can find some bikes that have them like the Giant Iguana or Gary Fisher Tassajara (two of my favorite picks for a worthy entry level bike). It’s going to be tough to find LX shifters on an entry level bike. DEORE is likely what you’ll end up with, but if you can find LX, so much the better. If it came down to being able to get LX shifters that have integrated brake levers or Deore shifters with separate Avid Levers. I would go for the separates. Cheap brake levers would make the decision harder, but I think I would still go for the separates.

    If you can put yourself in the $500 to $600 range, you can do very well for yourself. This should get you a bike that you could actually be happy with as is (except for possibly seat and/or bars which are a very personal thing) for at least a couple of years of frequent riding. If you could wait until you move to buy your bike, you could possibly find a local bike shop in that area and start off on a good relationship by buying from them which will give you a shop that may be more willing to go an extra mile in the service department. Not always, but it helps in many cases.

    Since you have stated that your measurements are not exactly ‘status quo’, you should probably get fitted by a knowledgeable shop. A Fisher hardtail with Genesis geometry might be a good place to start your search.

    If you ride a lot, there is a good chance that the stock seat will not be to your liking. This happens on bikes in every price range, so don’t feel bad or unlucky. However you need to give it chance by using it for at least half a dozen rides while your rear gets ‘seasoned’ to riding regularly.

    Take your time shopping for a bike. Ride lots of them. Bike shopping is fun and you will get lots of attention from the shops. Don’t be afraid to ask them to make minor adjustments to things like seat height, tire pressure or if the controls don’t work well ask them to make them work properly during your test ride. Good shops will be happy to do so.

  10. #10
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    Wow, thanks a lot for the thought put into that response. My only question is this - you list the Giant Iguana and GF Tassajara as bikes in my price range, though the retail on those seems just OUT of my range. I started looking at the Giant Rincon, though again, it is just a start. I notice you recommended against the fork that comes stock on that bike, so perhaps I'll keep looking.

    I definintely noticed a pattern in reading through the reviews - some bikes are either extremely popular or extremely common - I have yet to determine which. But you'll go from bikes with 3-5 reviews to bikes with over 100 reviews, with very few inbetween. It seems to me as a complete beginner, it would probably be a good idea to go with a fairly common/popular bike as a default. But ultimately I think I just need to get into a shop and take a good look around.

    I think I've answered my initial questions and at this point I don't feel like I know absolutely nothing about bikes, though it will take some time to get more comfortable with them. Now it is just a matter of moving and finding a local shop in my new home. Thanks for all of the help.

  11. #11
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    Steve,

    If you shop around and have some patience, I think you may find one discounted enough to be in your price range. I also think it will be worth your while to do so. The next few months is when a lot of new models come out and there will be deep discounts on 2004 stock. Many times it makes good $en$e to go with these models. Not always because sometimes the trickle down effect of newer technologies makes a newer bike a better purchase, but you need to properly evaluate that newer technology and how much it would be worth to you.

    Even if you cant quite find them in your price range I still think it would be worth it to save up the extra dough to be able to get one of these bikes as it will be worth it in the long run.

    Hope that makes sense. If you cant swing it, there are still bikes that would suit your purpose in the $400 to $500 range, just not as much bang for the buck. JMHO, Happy shopping.

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