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Bike recommendations?



  • ahimes39ahimes39 Member Posts: 116 Member Member Posts: 116 Member

    $300-400 is not an easy price point to hit with a bike. As a commuter you don't need the top of the line, but you need something of enough quality to be reliable and not give you mechanical difficulty so you can arrive at work on time. It's also hard to find sales right now because it's very much a buyer's market.

    I would call local bike shops to see if they have anything in your range. I'd also consider used. Finally, and as a last resort, I'd consider bikes direct and similar places. I'd also watch enough YouTube to learn to do basic maintenance for reliability and budget reasons.

    Here's an example of something near your price, it's an upright bike which makes you a little more visible in traffic, and has disc braking which is useful if you'll be commuting in the rain. The gearing goes down to almost 1:1 which is good for hills. I'm not recommending this, just using it as an example. PS - ignore the list prices on this site.

    If you commute by bike, check with your car insurance company to see if you can get a discount by having your car classified as a pleasure vehicle.[/quote]

    Thanks for your sound advice and example of a bike close to my price range. My husband is afraid I'll spend $500 on something I'm not actually going to use--I'd like to prove him wrong! :) I need to learn bike maintenance, too. My brother learned how to fix the family mower from watching Youtube, so I'll start there. And thanks also for the tip on car insurance. All very helpful.
  • NorthCascadesNorthCascades Member Posts: 10,012 Member Member Posts: 10,012 Member
    The most common thing people have to do is fix a flat tire. Your sort of bike is less prone to them, and it's typically every several hundred miles or even less frequently. But sometimes bad luck strikes.

    The other thing is you'll want to adjust your brakes every now and then. The pads wear down with use, so you bring them in closer to the rim.
  • mjbnj0001mjbnj0001 Member Posts: 936 Member Member Posts: 936 Member

    This is straight up bike porn from a ride I like to do every couple years, from the valley floor up to Washington Pass. Stop for a photo at the top, and then it's car speed most of the way down for 45 minutes. It was hot and sunny down below.


    your pics are usually great. the scenery is awesome.
  • NorthCascadesNorthCascades Member Posts: 10,012 Member Member Posts: 10,012 Member
    Thanks! 🙂

    About the scenery there, when they were building the highway in that photo, the construction workers put the project on hold until they could get the poet laureate to come capture the place in verse.
  • cwolfman13cwolfman13 Member Posts: 38,424 Member Member Posts: 38,424 Member
    For someone interested in riding for about 30-60 minutes a go, sometimes (increasingly) for fitness, sometimes with the family for pleasure, usually flat pavement, sometimes gravel or hard packed dirt.

    I’m bewildered by all the possibilities of bike types and categories and am hesitant to walk in to a bike shop for “real” cyclists both bc I don’t know where to start and I don’t want to drop $1000.

    All I know is my girl’s sale special from Walmart I got in grad school is not cutting it for comfort or speed. I need something better. I don’t want to totally cheap out and waste $ on something I’ll be annoyed with in a month, but I don’t want to go the opposite direction and splurge on something I don’t need for an activity I’m not sure I’ll increase doing *that* much (it’s that catch 22 of I dislike biking for very long bc my bike is uncomfortable and inefficient, so I don’t know if I’ll use the new one constantly or the same amount as I do now).

    Can anyone point me in the right direction on what to look for/type of bike:etc?

    A bike shop is the ideal place to go if you don't know where to start...they can help you with that. Also, you want to buy a quality bike...the bikes at Walmart and such are generally poor performers and use the cheapest components they can get and in most cases many of those components aren't when they wear out, your bike is done.

    Your cheapest option at a bike shop is going to be a hybrid...I'm personally not a fan. I don't like anything with shocks while I'm riding on the road and they probably aren't necessary for dirt paths and gravel roads either unless they are pretty rutted.

    For the type of riding you described, I would go with an entry level cyclocross (CX) bike. That is what I bought for my first "real" bike as my early days of riding were much as you have described. They are a similar geometry to a road bike with drop bars which makes it more comfortable on longer rides as you can move your hands around. They have wider tires than a road bike with some traction for taking the bike off road if it's nothing too crazy. It won't be as fast or as comfortable on the road as a road bike, but IMO a better and more comfortable option than a hybrid.

    It would also be a better option if you ultimately get into doing cycling events and whatnot. I did my first few half centuries on my CX bike and just threw some slicks on for those events and when I was training a lot of road. An entry level CX bike will also have the little pegs to allow you to mount saddle bags if you ever get into commuting. I don't do a ton of bike commuting, but I do some and that is what my CX bike is primarily used for.

    A good bike is a worthwhile investment. I bought my CX bike in 2013 and it's still going strong. Ultimately I ended up getting into a lot of road events, and while my CX did ok, I decided I really wanted to get a road bike and just use my CX bike for tooling around some of the trails here or commuting as most road bikes aren't equipped for saddle bags. Then I got into some more rugged trail riding and the CX wasn't cutting it for that so I bought a hard tail 29er last yeah, I now have three bikes. That happens and it's a thing...

    My entry level CX bike was just under $ yeah, unfortunately cycling and owning a quality bike is expensive...but the difference between that and a big box bike is night and day and makes cycling that much more fun and enjoyable. You should also look at helmet and cycling shorts in regards to your overall budget.

    ETA: most bike shops are going to only carry one or two brands. The brand isn't as important is fit and feel as different brands will have different geometries for the same purpose. My CX bike is a Giant, my roadie is a carbon fiber Specialized and my hardtail 29er is a Scott. All great brands.
    edited June 2020
  • NorthCascadesNorthCascades Member Posts: 10,012 Member Member Posts: 10,012 Member
    This is an endurance bike. Basically looks like any other road bike, but it has wider tires for a plush ride, and the gearing is a little easier which helps on hills. And on dirt, you'll notice as soon as you leave the pavement it gets harder to pedal. A full on gravel bike takes even fatter tires, and they'd be real helpful to me on some of the nastiest roads and trails I've ridden - more comfort, more traction.

    Basically posting this to show that this kind of bike can go on dirt and gravel roads, and on tame trails. If there's a lot of rock and root, places where you drop because the trail goes down like a stair, etc, you need a mountain bike and want a suspension. But in the OP it doesn't sound like you're looking for a full on mountain bike. But for hard packed dirt, you don't even need tires with tread.

    Why this kind of bike? Since you said you're riding for fitness more often, it's easier to do. Fitness means going fast, road-ish bikes are meant for that. They handle better at speed - easier to control. It's psychologically harder to try to ride hard/fast for exercise on a bike that's slowing you down. The handlebars are built for comfort, you can move your back and shoulders and neck around while you ride. A flat bar bike always makes me sore after a couple hours, and part of that is only having one riding position.

    This is called double track, as opposed to single track which is what you think of for a hiking trail in the woods. Those aren't the most creative names, but they're descriptive. You can see that it's dirt with a very light sprinkling of gravel. This kind of riding needs 28 mm tires or bigger in my experience, a road bike is harder to control here. But you don't need shocks to ride something like this.


    This was a little rough and more difficult than necessary on 28 mm tires. Sand with a lot of embedded rocks. On a road-ish bike the tires are the suspension and in this case it would have made it faster and less effort.


    Again, bigger tires would have helped with this one too. I was all over the road trying to avoid rocks as much as possible. Each one, you feel a little impact and over a while you get really tired. Again bigger tires are more suspension, but without wasting much energy.


    So why am I making such a big deal about tires? Because if you go for a road-ish bike, the frame will only give you so much room. And since you said hard packed dirt and some gravel, you want to make sure you have room for 28s, ideally up to around 40 mm.
  • mullanphylanemullanphylane Member Posts: 172 Member Member Posts: 172 Member
    Sounds like you already know how and where you'll ride, so next decision is budget. Take all of that to a bike shop or sporting goods store that has a decent bicycle department and ask for recommendations. You don't have to buy there, and you can then compare their recommendations with other brands via the 'net.

    After a series of bicycles that just weren't "me", I broke down and asked a pro for suggestions. I ended up buying from the shop because their recommendation cost less than a comparable bike at Walmart. That was 25 years ago and, at 69, I still ride it several times/week in good weather just for fun on the same type of surfaces you described. (just not as far or fast 😜) The brand is Trek, but there are lots of comparable brands.
  • mjbnj0001mjbnj0001 Member Posts: 936 Member Member Posts: 936 Member
    Following up on what @NorthCascades wrote, here's my current bike. It's a mountain bike (actually, "cross country" bike) with mods for my 50/50 onroad/offroad, 80/20 paved/unpaved riding profile. Note the tires - nearly slick (means smoothish-tread, not knobby tires) makes it a "go most anywhere" bike, except deep/wet mud, loose sand, snow/ice. They are 29x2.35" tires. Replaced my old 1980s "road touring bike" (2nd pic, on it's way to being sold this past Saturday). Gearing on the old bike was 3x6, meaning I got some very low gears for hills and carrying loads (the 3rd chain ring [front cog] is often called the "granny gear"). The new bike is 2x11 gearing, which gives me a decently good range - not as low as the tourer, not as high as the tourer or some other road bikes and certainly not as high as real racing bikes. Not having the higher gears means I can't take as much advantage of flats or even downhills to really go fast, easily. Gearing is about efficiency in pedaling. My old bike's 27x1.25" tires allowed me some limited off-pavement riding, but nothing too primitive. The new bike is not in your price range - new - but you might get something decent pre-owned. @NorthCascades uses an endurance bike; where on my old tourer I did longer rides moderately easy (60+ miles) on rolling terrain, on my new bike, 40 in a day is a reach. Of course, I'm 65yo now, overweight and such, as opposed to 35 years ago on the old bike. You're getting lots of info on this thread. Probably some info overload. A good bike shop should be able to navigate you through your options. I'd bet $0.02 the bike you get now won't be the bike you want to be riding by mid-next-year, so don't fret too much over this first purchase. Ride what you get (stick to basic needs - but as much quality as you can afford, which might be pre-owned), then learn what you want/need for your next bike. Good luck in your pursuit.


  • moonangel12moonangel12 Member, Premium Posts: 903 Member Member, Premium Posts: 903 Member
    Inventory might be tough right now unfortunately :/ this was our local Dick’s Sporting Goods tonight... I was hoping to check out a couple bikes while the rest of the family were in the fishing section (also sparse).

  • moonangel12moonangel12 Member, Premium Posts: 903 Member Member, Premium Posts: 903 Member
    An interesting, and slightly comical note about WalMart vs. other bikes... there is a town just south of us with a couple bike shops... when I was researching where to take my bike for some maintenance I read a handful of reviews and one mentioned that this one store wouldn’t work on bikes from big box stores such as WalMart and the guy complained that they were a bit rude about it, even having a sign when you enter the store (IIRC it was semi-sarcastic). The shop I ended up going to also had a sign when you walked in, saying that they work on any and all bikes. I probably wouldn’t have thought much about it had I not read the other comment for the shop just down the road :lol:
  • gradchica27gradchica27 Member Posts: 742 Member Member Posts: 742 Member
    Thanks for the great advice, everyone! I’ll head to some local bike shops and give it a go. Birthday is coming up, so I’ll just ask for gift certificates to the shop I’m going to buy from to take some of the sting out.

    Went “off roading” with the kids on dirt/gravel/mud trail through the woods this weekend and they loved it and so did I. Looking forward to doing it again with a better bike. Will check back in when I’ve narrowed down some possibilities!
  • NorthCascadesNorthCascades Member Posts: 10,012 Member Member Posts: 10,012 Member
    Just the QR axle, or the hub?
  • NorthCascadesNorthCascades Member Posts: 10,012 Member Member Posts: 10,012 Member
    Oh man. Sorry to hear it. Live and learn.
  • MikePfirrmanMikePfirrman Member Posts: 2,246 Member Member Posts: 2,246 Member
    Oh man. Sorry to hear it. Live and learn.

    Thanks. This was 2 or 3 years ago, and now that I think more about it, it may have been this part:


    But anyway, I called the manufacturer of the bike, Schwinn, and they said a new wheel would be $75, which was almost the cost of the entire bike 🤦🏻‍♂️. I put the bike into storage for a long time, and threw the damaged wheel away, thinking the entire thing was useless. Only a couple months ago I went into a bike shop and discovered these parts could have been replaced for relatively cheap with having to discard the whole wheel 🤦🏻‍♂️. You're absolutely right - live and learn.

    I bought a Trek FX3 with rim brakes I think close to a year ago. $700 isn't cheap, but I don't regret a penny of this purchase, for a single second. This frame is so light, especially compared to the Schwinn. I had no idea riding a bicycle can be such a joy until I got on the FX3 😁

    My Schwinn Air Dyne (stationary bike, but still) pedal crank arm broke in half. I spent one month on the phone with Schwinn Customer service just to get the right pedal crank arm in (they sent me the wrong one 3 times). And this is with a $1000 piece of equipment under warrantee! Schwinn is so bad now it's not funny, unfortunately.
  • Manga23Manga23 Member Posts: 39 Member Member Posts: 39 Member
    You'll not regret if you get yourself a good bike. I ride mine every week. It's a Sensa. Bought it at a bike shop. I wanted to try out different bikes and get good advice from pro's. You dont want a bike which doesn't fit you if you wanna do long rides.
    edited June 2020
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