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In the market for a bicycle...

by Terry Browne / August 4, 2006 12:05 PM PDT

Anyone knows a good site where they sell relatively cheap bicycles here in the USA? I am looking for something in the $300 range or less. No need for 21 gears, but three at least. I have thought about something like this. Unfortunately this is a British site otherwise that woudl be absolutely perfect IF it was easy to fix a flat tire... I remember way back what a PITA it could be, but I guess today's bikes are way easier to deal with when it comes to repairing.

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(NT) (NT) Walmart
by Tony Holmes / August 4, 2006 12:10 PM PDT
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(NT) (NT) Thanks Tony!
by Terry Browne / August 4, 2006 2:26 PM PDT
In reply to: (NT) Walmart
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I'd start with a local bike shop ...
by Bill Osler / August 4, 2006 1:08 PM PDT

Bike shops are probably a bit more expensive than the big retailers, but most of the folks at the big retailers are absolutely clueless about how to assemble, fit and adjust bikes.

Your bike shop can help you make sure the bike is the right size, get it assembled right, and do the adjusting. Most bikes need at least one cable re-adjustment within the first 10-20 hours of riding because cables stretch. If you buy the bike from them they will probably do the adjustments for free for at least a few months.

Many bike shops also have great bargains on used bikes. You may not get the free service on a used bike, but used bikes need less adjusting if they are set up right to begin with.

I'm told you can get good deals on the Internet if you know what you're doing, but unless you want to do all the mechanical stuff yourself it may not be worth it.

I was surprised when I saw a review in Consumer Reports that basically said the best bargain isn't usually the lowest price bike. Even they recommended dealing with a bike shop.

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Thanks Bill
by Terry Browne / August 4, 2006 2:30 PM PDT

I'll take a look here at the local store.

I really don't want a racing bike but a bike for the city. Do you know which manufacturers are good?

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There are several ...
by Bill Osler / August 5, 2006 3:49 AM PDT
In reply to: Thanks Bill

I am not familiar with that part of the market. My bikes are either road racing style or mountain bike style.

My impression is that most of the large manufacturers have bikes suitable for urban use. They come in several types.

There are hybrid or 'comfort' bikes with wide tires and (often) some suspension. The riding position is upright.

There are bikes designated as 'commuter' bikes. The tend to have front and rear fenders, upright riding position, chain guards and often have baskets or panniers for carrying stuff.

There are also 'cross country' bikes that are used for city riding. They tend to have somewhat narrow tires (but not as narrow as road racers), and the riding position is upright so they are not quite like typical road racing bikes. They are designed to take more abuse than road racers but they are not as heavy or sturdy as mountain bikes.

In your price range I think the 'hybrid' and 'commuter' types are the most likely matches.

Some of the bikes at this siterun above your budget, but the Schwinn looks like it is in your range. I have never ridden one of the 'Townie' bikes (I think it's on the next page of the article) but they sound interesting. The bikes described at the link are donated by manufacturers as a way of encouraging commuters to ride to work instead of driving. I do not remember how the recipients are chosen.

If you look for bikes in your price range you probably just need to ride a few of the bikes and see which ones feel best. Take a few sharp curves, make a few sudden stops, climb a few hills. Different bikes do have different 'feels' due to differences in frame rigidity, suspension stiffness, head tube angle, tire style and so on but I can't tell you that one is always best. It's partly a matter of preference. All of the major brands (Trek, Cannondale, Giant, Schwinn, ...) make pretty good products, and the components (shifters and such) used by each manufacturer are pretty similar for bikes at each price point.

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(NT) (NT) Great info! Thanks!
by Terry Browne / August 5, 2006 4:03 AM PDT
In reply to: There are several ...
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Mudguards (fenders)
by Terry Browne / August 5, 2006 4:14 AM PDT
In reply to: There are several ...

Mudguards and chainguards are something that I rarely find when looking at the web and that is something that I would like to have since I plan to ride even when raining and in casual pants. Also the rear rack. There are a few of them that have these, but not a lot for some reason...

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You may have to look hard for those ...
by Bill Osler / August 5, 2006 5:17 AM PDT
In reply to: Mudguards (fenders)

You can add the rear rack and such later if you can't find a new bike with them. I'm not sure about the fenders, but I suspect you can add them also. At a guess, you want to get the chain guard at the outset because I suspect some types of gear/derailleur arrangements are more 'guard friendly' than others. You may also want to get a kick stand and lights/reflectors. A lot of bikes do not come with those any more.

I don't use a kick stand on my bikes, but I've bought front and rear lights from Cat Eye that I can use if I'm riding on a major road or if I'm riding in low light conditions. The flashing LED lights I use don't help me find my way when it's dark, but they do make me MUCH more visible.

I have had good results with nashbar.com (and also performancebike.com) when I'm looking for cycling stuff, but I buy most of my equipment from a bike shop. I like being able to look at stuff, try it on, see how sturdy it feels. I'm tempted to put in a major plug for my favorite bike shop, but I'll resist the urge unless there are people from the Piedmont Triad area who are interested. I don't think Charles does mail order business right now. One of the things I've noticed at the local shops is that if they know you are a regular customer you may get a discount off the 'sticker price' even if there's no special going on.

Also, if you go to a bike shop, you can probably get a discount off sticker price for the bike itself. That will vary depending on the brand, their inventory level, the time of year and so on but I don't think we have paid full price for any of the 4 bikes we've bought in the last ~2 years.

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I forgot to add ...
by Bill Osler / August 5, 2006 5:27 AM PDT

I haven't had a bike with an internal Hub gear rear shifter since the 1970s but they are making a bit of a comeback for commuter type bikes. Hubs with 7+ gears are available. They weigh a bit more than the traditional rear derailleur shifter arrangement, but they can be shifted easily even when you are standing still. Also, the fact that the chain does not move laterally during shifting makes it easier to install a chain guard.

If I were looking for a commuter bike I'd probably want one with a hub gear shifter in the rear and no shifter in the front.

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Along with chain guards...
by grimgraphix / August 5, 2006 6:04 AM PDT
In reply to: Mudguards (fenders)

if you will be wearing slacks there are velcro and elastic wrap "garters" than you cinch up the cuff of your pants with. These will keep your pants legs out of the chain and gear teeth.

Also consider choosing a seat that is "prostate friendly" if you are an older guy. Some seats have cut outs in the hard under shell of the seat to allow less pressure on the nether regions.


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Thank you grim!
by Terry Browne / August 5, 2006 6:09 AM PDT

"Also consider choosing a seat that is "prostate friendly" if you are an older guy". I can't but laugh my a** off! That is really good. Yes I am at the age where that may be a problem so I will definitely look for a prostate-friendly seat! LOL! *Can't stop laughing*

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(NT) (NT) ;-)
by grimgraphix / August 5, 2006 11:17 AM PDT
In reply to: Thank you grim!
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Just be aware.....
by Josh K / August 6, 2006 11:47 PM PDT
In reply to: Thank you grim!

....of the extra weight mudguards and the like will add to the bicycle. This may make the bike harder to ride than it would be without that stuff.

I don't know their current address but look up Conrad's Bike Shop in Manhattan. The founder (now deceased) was my uncle's brother. Unless his wife is there (which I doubt she would be at her age) nobody will know me so dropping my name won't drop your price, but check it out.

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I know...
by Terry Browne / August 7, 2006 3:25 AM PDT
In reply to: Just be aware.....

I just want some simple plastig mudguards precisely so my back isn't full of mud/oil from the roads when it's raining. And the rack is good when you have bought something lighter. I am used to that kind of bikes anyway, so that shouldn't be a problem.

I appreciate the recommendation Josh! I'll take a look at it and give it a try in any case... Wink

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I bought a bicycle once upon a time
by Dragon / August 6, 2006 11:38 PM PDT

back when Monkey Wards was still in business. I made the mistake of not trying it out by actually riding it. I'm not sure they would have allowed it, anyway. But, I later found out that the body of the bicycle was a little bit short and sometimes the back of the front tire would hit the front of my foot.

I learned later, while looking for another bicycle, one bike shop encouraged me to ride all I wanted to, to get the feel of it and to help me decide on one I'd be happy with. Money then was a little short, so I decided not buy one at all. But, if I still lived in that town, I'd buy one, and buy it from them.

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I bought a bicycle once upon a time Too.
by Rolway / August 7, 2006 12:09 AM PDT

We had two choices. 26" with balloon tires or a 28" Bike. No gears to shift. Rear brakes only. (New Departure or Elgin brakes). A few extras like a horn, light, reflectors, etc. Loved it. Road the tires off it. I think we got it at a Western Auto Store.


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About the brakes...
by Dragon / August 7, 2006 12:30 AM PDT

It took me forever to learn not to try reversing the peddle direction to engage the brakes instead of using the hand brakes. And I still occassionally lapsed to the old way.

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by Terry Browne / August 7, 2006 3:21 AM PDT
In reply to: About the brakes...

I did the same some time ago when I borrowed a MBX from a friend's son here. It's a PITA to get used to the hand breaks. And I actually don't know which is safer... I mean the front hand break can be a problem if you pull it too hard and in high speed! I have never really understood the use of a front hand break, I guess there is one though!

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(NT) (NT) I don't either, maybe JP Bill has an idea about it...
by Dragon / August 7, 2006 8:46 AM PDT
In reply to: LOL!
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About the front brake ...
by Bill Osler / August 7, 2006 10:58 PM PDT
In reply to: LOL!

The front brake gets considerably more braking power than the rear brake. You do have to be careful that you don't over-brake with the front because it can flip the bike.

If you have just a rear brake and you brake hard the rear wheel tends to lock up and skid to the side, especially if you brake on a turn.

The safest approach is to use both brakes if you need to stop quickly. It takes practice, but it can be learned.

It also helps to push yourself back on the bike when you hit the brake. The braking effect tends to shift your weight forward, decreasing traction for the rear tire. If you deliberately shift back to keep weight on the rear tire you get better, safer braking.

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I learned to use the back brake exclusively
by Dragon / August 8, 2006 1:11 AM PDT

on the one-speed bikes. I guess that's not possible if you have 79 gears...?

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Which kind of 'one speed'?
by Bill Osler / August 8, 2006 4:01 AM PDT

It's not just about gears. Also, FWIW: I don't know anybody who has more than 30 speeds on his/her bike.

The problem is speed and braking power. The faster you go, the more you may need good braking. I can tell you that even with both front and rear brakes on my bike the braking isn't as good as I'd like once I get past 20 (and especially past 30) mph. My bike mechanic tells me that typical road bike brakes are all but useless for fast stops once you get past about 40 mph. I don't often get above 40 mph, so I can't claim any experience there, but I can tell you that using just the rear brakes at 30 mph on mountain roads can be a frightening experience. I'm just glad there wasn't a car coming when I fishtailed, slid and crossed into the opposite lane. I've learned a lot about braking since then.

But I digress. I hate to sound like a bike geek, but ... there are multiple ways to get to 'one speed'.

I'm guessing you mean an old style bike with a simple drive train, no shifters, and a coaster brake. That's what I had as a child. On that bike the only time I could have gone fast enough to really need a front brake would be on a steep downhill. In that case, use of the coaster brake would have been limited by problems with skidding as I described before.

You can still get that kind of bike, but I think that what most bikers mean when they say 'single speed' is a bike that lacks adjustable gears but typically has both front and rear brakes just like the multi-gear bikes. This kind of bike allows safer braking because of the presence of the front brake. You can choose the size of the front ring and rear sprocket based on your strength and the terrain you intend to ride on. This kind of bike may appear (at first glance) to have a rear derailleur because the bike frequently does have a spring tensioner for the chain. These bikes have freewheel hubs so they can coast.

A 'fixed gear' bike (a/k/a 'fixie' or 'track bike') has only one speed, and it cannot coast or back-pedal because it has a fixed hub instead of a freewheel hub. If the rear wheel is turning, the pedals are turning. These bikes may or may not have brakes, but I'd guess that they usually do. The Wikipedia article added one other tidbit: Fixed-gear bicycle - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Because it is possible to slow down or stop a fixed-gear bike by resisting the turning pedals, some riders think brakes are not strictly necessary. However, since the rider can apply braking force only to the rear wheel, the maximal deceleration is signficantly lower than on a bike equipped with a front brake. As a vehicle brakes, weight is transferred towards the front wheel and away from the rear wheel, decreasing the amount of grip the rear wheel has. Shifting the rider's weight aft will increase rear wheel braking effiency, but normally the front wheel might provide 70% or more of the braking power when braking hard.

I guess that also addresses the question of rear vs front brake. I've seen claims elsewhere about 70% of the braking power coming from the front brake but I don't remember where.

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More complicated than I thought
by Dragon / August 8, 2006 12:31 PM PDT

In my 'one-speed', I was able to coast without the pedals turning, just by rotating the pedals back a bit. Moving them further back engaged the back brake, with the pressure I put on it determining how hard I wanted to brake.

BTW, I did wish I had a brake on my tricycle. First time I got on it (this was Christmas), I rode it fast all the way down the hall and into the sheetrock...

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My wheels
by JP Bill / August 7, 2006 12:41 AM PDT
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Try Craig's List
by C1ay / August 7, 2006 11:40 PM PDT
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(NT) (NT) Great! Thank you.
by Terry Browne / August 8, 2006 7:17 AM PDT
In reply to: Try Craig's List
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Hi Terry
by phantazy / August 8, 2006 9:31 AM PDT
In reply to: (NT) Great! Thank you.

A friend of mine who takes his violin around with him has one of these:
and it's as majestic as an old steam loco, and they're still made with hub brakes and three speed hub gears (and a carrier)!).

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by Terry Browne / August 8, 2006 10:04 AM PDT
In reply to: Hi Terry

I wish I could find something like that here in the USA!

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