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I have many loves: aviation of course, cooking, French impressionism (not sure how that one got there), but one of my lifelong loves has been bicycling.

I think I've had a bike almost as long as I've been old enough to ride one. Like most suburban kids of the 1960s I started out with training-wheels, then got the "banana-seat" bike with the tall handlebars that were all the rage back then. Somewhere along the way I upgraded to a my first "grown up" bike, a three-speed from Sears back when they sold bikes under their own brand.

I got my first Schwinn 10-speed when I was in High School. Kept it all the way through my senior year in college before some bastard cut through a 3/4 inch cable to get it.

Unlike many people, I didn't give up my love of biking once I got my driver's license. To this day I still ride for the exercise and the sheer enjoyment of it.

Now I'm sure there's somebody here who rode in the Tour de France or has managed a bike shop for the last 30 years. If so, by all means listen to them.

This thread is for the people who were thinking about getting a bike and maybe never had one or haven't had one since they were a kid. I'm gearing (heh) this diary for those people. The folks who ask me "what kind of bike should I get?".

Why get a bike?

They're fun.
They're efficient.
They don't run on fossil fuels.
Less pollution.
A bike is faster than walking but can go places a car can't.
Riding is good exercise but fairly easy on your joints.

What's the best bike? The simple answer is, the one you like to ride. Because that means you'll ride it. It does you no good sitting in your basement collecting dust.

The more complicated answer is, the one that meets your needs. If you've been away from bicycles for a long time, they've become pretty specialized. I can't suggest what to buy until you tell me what you want to do with it.

Let me give you two pretty good rules before we get deeper into this.

Rule #1 - Don't by the $80 bike from the big-box store.
Unless your only goal is to ride around the block with your kids, it just won't do. Most of them are cheap junk and they won't hold up. Entry level price for a decent bike is in the $400 range. This is one of those times where you actually get what you pay for.

If money is tight, I'd suggest looking for a decent used bike that fits your needs. There's no shortage of them on the market. I'd rather have a used name-brand bike than a "Brand X" special from you know where.

The other problem is the clerk at the big-box store probably doesn't know any more about bikes than they know about lawn mowers or patio furniture, which they're also selling.

I would highly recommend going to a reputable bike shop. If that's not an option I'd at least go to a sporting-goods store.

Rule #2 - Make sure the bike fits you.
This is very important. Bicycles are not "one size fits all". Bike frames come in different sizes and a decent bike shop can fit the bike to you. If it doesn't fit you, it will be awkward and possibly even painful to ride. You're not a kid any more. You won't "grow into" a bike that's too big. It will always be too big.

OK, now that we've got that out of the way, let's see what type of bike you need. It all comes down to what you plan to do with it.

Are you going to use it for commuting, recreation or both?
Will you be riding in the city, on roads, trails or completely off-road?
How often do you think you'll ride and how far?
Are there hills where you live or is it relatively flat?
What kind of physical shape are you in?

It's a matter of picking the right tool for the job. Sure, I could ride my much-too-expensive Italian road bike down a mountain - exactly once. That would be one very pricey ride even before we got to the hospital bills. Likewise you could probably pedal a full-suspension mountain bike 50 miles but it's not going to be much fun.

So let's take a look at some different types of bikes. I'll start with the general purpose and go to the more specialized.


Here's the do-everything hybrid bike. Most of the time I recommend people buy something like this.
Hybrids are the jack-of-all-trades of the bike world. They're not the best at any one thing but they can do a lot of things well. They're kind of cross between a road bike and a mountain bike. They have an upright sitting position so they're relatively comfortable. They have multiple gears for helping you climb hills. They be ridden a fair distance on the roads or they can be ridden on trails. Add a luggage rack and you can commute on it.

They lack the big tires and advanced suspensions of a full-fledged mountain bike so keep them off the really rough stuff.

This is the bike I recommend to most people. I had one of these for years before I started doing really long rides (50+ miles) and got a road bike. Even then I hung on to that hybrid and used to throw it in the back of the KC-135 when we went on deployments.

Hybrids mostly follow the same pattern. A fairly lightweight frame with moderately sized tires and multiple gears. Beyond that there's a lot of variation. Some are practically a road bike with straight handlebars while others are much closer to the mountain bike end of the spectrum.

City Bikes

Here's a good example of a city bike. Note the fenders and chain guard. This is a woman's model with a step-through frame.
If you're my age, these are the kind of bikes that were popular when we were kids. Travel to Amsterdam and they're all over the place. They seem to be making a comeback here. I like them because they're cool and retro looking.

These bikes have no off-road pretensions. They're meant for riding around town and looking good while you're doing it. They often have some nice features like full fenders and chain-guards that let you ride them in street clothes. They can be had in the standard (men's) frame or step-through (women's) frame, in case you were planning on wearing a skirt while riding.

There seems to be a lot of variation in city bikes. Some look like hybrids with fenders added while others have more of that old-fashioned look. Some have as many gears as a road-bike while others have only one. Some are pretty affordable while some cost as much as a high-end road bike.

Road Bikes

Here is a pretty typical road bike. This one has an aluminum frame and is sporting toe clips on the pedals.
When I was a kid we called these "10 speeds". That's because they had 10 gears back then. Today they have more. Sometimes a lot more. I'll explain later.

Road bikes are meant to go fast and to go long distances. How fast? I average around 15 mph and I'm usually getting passed by people. I hit 30 once on level ground but I was being chased by a very large, angry dog.

How far? I've done 100 miles in a day. Some people have done a lot more. My average weekday ride is probably 20 miles but I may do 50 on a weekend.

Road bikes are built for speed rather than comfort. They're built as light as possible, and that includes the seat (actually called a saddle). That's why we wear the dorky looking padded shorts.

There is a fair amount of variation between road bike frames these days. Some are geared more for racing and some are a little more set up for comfort. Frames can be made from steel, aluminum, carbon fiber or even titanium. More on that later.

Keep in mind that you're mostly buying the frame, as the other components all come from different manufacturers.

Touring Bikes

Touring bike doing its best impression of a pack mule. Under all that stuff is essentially a road bike.
A touring bike is basically a road bike that has attachment points for racks and saddle-bags. These are favored by people who like to go long distances and then camp out. If you're going to bike across the country this is what you'd need. They do make decent commuter bikes however because of the luggage capacity.

Mountain Bikes

Here is a full-suspension mountain bike. If you live in Moab Utah you probably already have one.
I've only done a little bit of mountain biking so I'm hardly an expert. Mountain bikes are the Jeeps of the bike world. They're meant to be sturdy and to handle rough terrain. They have wide, knobby tires and some have very sophisticated suspensions. Generally the more suspension it has, the greater its capabilities (and its price tag).

They're not much fun to ride on the road because of the knobby tires. The suspension also causes some of your pedaling efforts to be wasted just making the bike bounce up and down instead of making it go.

In short. If you think you want a mountain bike go talk to someone who really knows mountain bikes.


Beach cruiser bike. Lots of style and fun at the expense of being very heavy.
Cruisers are those almost cartoonish looking bikes you see people riding at the beach. They have big fat tires that let you go over sand. They're built for looks and comfort but not much else. Fun for a day at the beach but not my first choice for commuting or going any distance.

Fixed Gear

A "fixie". If you want one of these you probably already know it.
A "fixie" is mostly an urban phenomenon. They usually look like a road bike or a city bike but they only have one speed. A true "fixie" can't even coast. The pedals are turning as long as the bike is moving. Some don't even have brakes. Stopping is accomplished by forcing back against the pedals, or I suppose running into something.

These are favored by bike couriers for their simple, rugged design. They're also favored by hipsters for the same odd reason that makes them drink Pabst Blue Ribbon.

If you want one of these you probably already know who you are. Personally I think brakes were a good invention.


I call this the "Easy Rider" style recumbent because it looks like a chopper.
Recumbents are well, different. People who like them swear by them. There are a lot of variations but I mostly see two main types: the kind that look like something out of Easy Rider and the kind that look like a go-cart with bicycle wheels.

The idea behind a recumbent is to get greater comfort than on a conventional bike. The seating position ranges from laid back to almost laying down. I would guess that some of the low profile models can go pretty fast due to less wind resistance.

The disadvantages are: hill climbing can be tough because there's no way to stand up for greater pedaling power. They usually have some extra low gears to offset this.

Some of them sit so low to the ground that they would probably be hard to see in traffic. Transporting them can also be a problem because they often won't fit a standard bike rack.

I guess if it has three wheels it's technically not a bicycle. This is an advanced looking recumbent that sits low to the ground.
Tandems run the gamut from built-for-comfort to built-for-speed. I'd say this one is somewhere in the middle.
I've never ridden a tandem but they look like fun. They can go plenty fast. I've certainly been passed by enough of them. Hills can be a little tough because it's tough to stand up unless you and your partner really know what you're doing.

Since they're so long, they can also be tough to transport.

Tandem bikes run the gamut from casual cruisers to full fledged racing bikes.


Cyclocross - If you like mud here's the sport for you!
If you need one of these you already know it. Cyclocross is a weird form of racing that involves biking over various terrain and often dismounting and carrying the bike. They look like road bikes with off-road tires.


Once again, if you're doing triathlons you probably don't need to be reading this. The main difference between a triathlon bike and a road bike is the frame geometry. I'm told that Triathlon bikes are set up so that you use different muscle groups than what you'd use for running. Otherwise they look pretty much like a road bike.

I think that covers the major types of bicycles. Now let me give you a quick primer on what's changed technology wise since you last had a bike.


Steel was the go-to material for years. I still have my old steel framed road bike and I think it has a better ride than my newer carbon-fiber bike. Steel is heavy, however.

Aluminum became popular in the 90s and is still used today. Aluminum is lighter and stiffer and makes for a very responsive bike. I have found aluminum frames to be rough riding although using a carbon-fiber front fork can improve the ride a lot.

Carbon fiber is now a popular material, at least for road bikes. It's supposed to offer the lightness of aluminum with the flexibility of steel. My carbon fiber road bike is light as a feather but I don't think has as supple a ride as my steel bike.

Titanium. Ti is very light and very expensive. Titanium framed bikes are big dollar high-end bikes and if you're shopping for one you probably don't need to be reading this.


More properly called a "gear set". One question I'm frequently asked is "do you use all of those gears"? Yes and no. I use some a lot more than others.

I'm going to spend a lot of time on this because, after the frame, the gear set is the most important part of the bike. It's what makes it go after all.

In short, the human body is only efficient pedaling around 90-120 RPM. In general you're better off pedaling faster (spinning) in an easier gear than "plodding" slowly in a harder gear. Why? Because one is aerobic and the other is anaerobic. You know how you can only lift a heavy weight a few times but you can do a whole lot of reps with a light weight? It's the same with riding a bike. You can spin all day but you can only plod for so long before you wear yourself out.

This is kind of counter-intuitive. Novices equate pedaling slowly with "easy" and pedaling fast with "hard" but it's actually the other way around.

Now the idea behind having multiple gears is to be able to keep your body in that "sweet spot" over a wide range of speeds and or road conditions.

Back in the day if you were cool you had a 10-speed. They had 5 gears in back and 2 chain-rings up front. 5 x 2 = 10, hence 10 possible gear combinations.

Today my bike has 11 in the back (these go to 11!) and 2 chain-rings giving me 11 x 2 = 22 possible combinations. My older bike only has 9 in the back but it has a triple chain-ring for 9 x 3 = 27 speeds.

There are a few combinations that are off limits. Trying to use the rightmost chain-ring with the leftmost gear puts a lot of stress on your chain. So while you technically won't use all those gears you'll use most of them.

It sounds complicated but it's really not so don't get intimidated. If you shift the wrong way and it gets harder to pedal then go the other way and it will get easier!

Now the cool part. Most gear sets today used what's called indexed shifting. If you remember the old 10-speeds you had to hunt to get it to shift just right, with the chain going ka-chunk! ka-chunk! ka-chunk! the whole time. Not any more. Now you can just click click click from one gear to the next. If your gear set has been properly adjusted it's almost fool proof. Mind you nothing is fool proof to a sufficiently talented fool.

I've noticed that some city bikes have their gears enclosed inside the wheel hub like the old 3-speeds did. The good thing about this setup is that the works are protected from the weather. No muss no fuss. I've even seen 11-speed internal hubs (these go to 11!).

Most of this stuff is made by a Japanese company (I won't name any brands). There is also an Italian company that's been around a long time and an American company got into a few years back. I'm fond of the Italian stuff, but it's just personal preference. I'd rather start an Apple vs PC or a Star Trek vs Star Wars flame war than Campy vs Shimano (oops I said it).

There is a lot of variation within the brands. Cheaper bikes come with the cheaper Japanese gear sets and more expensive bikes tend to feature the more expensive Japanese  sets. I can't tell you what to buy, but with most things I avoid the cheapest and the most expensive and pick something in the middle.


Most Cruiser bikes still have the old-fashioned "coaster" brakes. Press backwards on the pedals and it applies the rear (only) brake. It's simple and works well enough at beach-Cruiser speeds.

Most other bikes use "caliper" brakes that squeeze the front and rear rim independently. These work pretty well unless they get wet. Oh, and be careful with that front brake. It is possible (difficult but possible) to launch yourself over the handlebars. I tested that theory once years ago.

Mountain bikes and some of the high end city bikes are starting to use disk brakes. These work a lot better in wet conditions.

Whatever brakes you have, make sure they're properly maintained and adjusted. The laws of physics can be harsh.


You may notice that higher end bikes are pictured without pedals. All that money and you don't even get pedals! That's because higher end bikes are normally ridden with "clip in" pedals and shoes. Your shoe has a metal cleat that locks into the pedal, letting you pedal on the upstroke as well as the downstroke. More power! Twisting your ankle will cause your shoe to unlatch from the pedal.

Forget to do this at a stop and you fall over. We've all done it. What's that? Just me? Really? Sigh.

I actually use a mountain bike pedal on my road bike because the cleats are recessed into the bottom of my shoe. That way if I get off the bike I don't have to walk like an elf. Personal preference.

Now if you want to just wear your street shoes I'd suggest either old-fashioned toe clips or just skip it altogether and use regular pedals.

That's about it. In summary:

Avoid big-box stores.
Get a bike that fits you!
Get the right bike for the type of riding you want to do.
Keep your bike properly maintained. Take care of it and it will take care of you.
Know the rules and follow them. Don't be the person who makes drivers hate us.
Wear your helmet. Please.
Have fun.

Oh, and if you see the guy who stole my Schwinn in 1984 tell him I want it back!

Originally posted to Major Kong on Mon Aug 11, 2014 at 08:49 AM PDT.

Also republished by Central Ohio Kossacks and Velocipede Vanguard.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (154+ / 0-)

    If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

    by Major Kong on Mon Aug 11, 2014 at 08:49:53 AM PDT

  •  Thanks, tipped, rec'ed and saved nt (16+ / 0-)

    I voted Tuesday, May 6, 2014 because it is my right, my responsibility and because my parents moved from Alabama to Ohio to vote. Unfortunately, the republicons want to turn Ohio into Alabama.

    by a2nite on Mon Aug 11, 2014 at 09:00:36 AM PDT

  •  I only skimmed this, (18+ / 0-)

    but I'll be back. I think I'll be in the market for a bike this fall, after no riding for years. One of my step-son's friends, who is in the bike repair business, suggested an Electra Townie, in part because I told him that I have arthritis in my hands and don't want to ride a bike with weight on my hands. So I need to be pretty upright on the bike.
    I realize that this is putting you on the spot, but do you have any general suggestions? TYVM in advance.

    Support Small Business: Shop Kos Katalogue If you'd like to join the Motor City Kossacks, send me a Kosmail.

    by peregrine kate on Mon Aug 11, 2014 at 09:07:01 AM PDT

    •  Funny you should mention that (11+ / 0-)

      I bought my wife the exact same bike your step-son's friend recommended.

      In her case she has back problems that prevent her from riding in a bent-over position.

      She's very happy with the bike.

      If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

      by Major Kong on Mon Aug 11, 2014 at 09:13:13 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Go for a recumbent! (7+ / 0-)

      The only thing you need your hands for is steering.  They let you sit up fully and have the cushiest seating.  They are on the heavier side of the equation, so you need to take your terrain into account (if hilly then maybe not a good choice, but if mostly level, then they are great).  They also tend to run on the more expensive side.

      If you're not wanting to spend a lot and want upright and hills aren't much of an issue I would also recommend the cruiser style of bike.  Easy shifting, nice fenders for weather, and comfy seating.

      •  rent recumbent before you buy (8+ / 0-)

        I tried two recumbents and didn't like them. Three reasons:

        1. Because you can't stand up on the pedals when you go over a bump, all the bumps go straight into your lower spine. You can get a recumbent with rear suspension to smooth out the bumps, but for higher cost and weight.

        2. The darn things needed constant small steering corrections; they would never track straight like a conventional bike. I suspect this is because they had a smaller front wheel and thus correspondingly weaker gyroscopic force. That may not be a problem with recumbents with larger front wheels.

        3. When you stop at a traffic light or stop sign, it's awkward to balance with your thigh sticking out front and your knee bent 90 degrees down. Perhaps not a major concern if you're only doing long trips with few stops.

        "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals."—Barack Obama

        by HeyMikey on Mon Aug 11, 2014 at 12:12:55 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Yes, renting or trying recumbents makes sense. (8+ / 0-)

          There are so many varieties of recumbents that it is almost fair to say the only commonality is that they are more comfortable. It's not just the wide, foam seat but also the absence of strain on wrists, hands, necks, and shoulders.

          My two-wheeler is a short wheelbase RANS V-Rex. Because the length from the from axle to the back axle is about the same as most upright (diamond frame) bikes, it will go in the bike rack many city buses offer. That can make one way commuting an option. I've got it set up with 27 gears but distinctly lower gearing so that I can climb big hills.

          My three-wheeler has shock absorbers on all three wheels and 81 gears. In effect, I have the same gearing one would get the usual three chain rings up front plus an additional two even smaller rings for unstoppable hill climbing. There's a very steep hill near home with dirt but no pavement for a shoulder. I could never climb that on the two-wheeler but the trike went up it slowly but surely and comfortably.

          It does take a little while to adjust to the steering but now I think both my bike and trike go straight with little special attention. Nonetheless, recumbents vary in how much "pedal steer" they exhibit. Trial rides and info from experienced owners can help assess whether the steering on a particular model might be a long term issue or just a matter of familiarity.

          Stopping and starting do take a week or so to perfect, but that's a small transition cost.

          I've gone coast to coast four times now on my recumbents and am planning another go for 2015.

      •  Gotta tell my joke now.... (0+ / 0-)

        When I get a chance to talk to a recumbent rider, I sometimes say....."Hey, you should be in politics!" they say "really? why?" I say "because I always hear how in elections....recumbency is a HUGE advantage!

        They don't always laugh.....

    •  Electra (7+ / 0-)

      I know a lot of people really like the Townie and Electra in general -- they're solid bikes.  Fit is always the most important thing, though, so you want to try one.  

    •  Another vote for the Electra Townie. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      peregrine kate, waterstreet2008

      Up until a couple years ago,I rode whichever bike was around here. Castoffs from the kids mostly. Including bikes that didn't fit me or my non-existent skill set.
      One day,I had enough  of all that and went and bought myself a Townie. Didn't research much just had a friend who liked hers. Epiphany! Comfy,safe feeling and now would rather give you my car than the bike.I ride to somewhere nearly everyday (except in iciest winter) on rather quiet city streets and even some well maintained trails. Helps my equilibrium ;)

      "George RR Martin is not your bitch" ~~ Neil Gaiman

      by tardis10 on Mon Aug 11, 2014 at 04:36:21 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Far and away the best bike I've ever owned. (19+ / 0-)


    Full suspension.
    Full fenders.
    Yes, that's a halogen headlight.
    Blinking LEDs.
    Retroreflective tape and all the stock reflectors.
    Rack and small paniers.  
    Leather jacket, boots, and gloves.
    Big hard smooth tires.

    Strictly a road bike and a solid commuter.

    Written off after an accident. So was the jacket and gloves.

    Stolen three times but only recovered twice, sigh.

  •  Early 60s Raliegh Pony (9+ / 0-)

    with a 3 speed Sturmey-Archer hub and coaster brakes.
    Loved that bike!

    If I ran this circus, things would be DIFFERENT!

    by CwV on Mon Aug 11, 2014 at 09:15:08 AM PDT

  •  Outstanding diary (21+ / 0-)

    Republished to Velocipede Vanguard.

    Here's s couple of my bikes.

                                                   My Cargo Bike  

                My Folding Bike on a tour along the Midi Canal in southern France

    "The Democrats and the Republicans are equally corrupt where money is concerned. It's only in the amount where the Republicans excel." ~ Will Rogers

    by Lefty Coaster on Mon Aug 11, 2014 at 09:15:45 AM PDT

  •  I am a lifelong cyclist (43+ / 0-)

    In 1979 my friend Gary Fisher and I rented a garage where we assembled a new type of bicycle, made for dirt roads but built as beautifully as an Italian race bike.  We called our company "MountainBikes."

    Within three years every major bicycle manufacturer brought out a version of our design, the original "mountain bike."

    These days I ride a very expensive, full suspension mountain bike, but most people do not need that.  If you look around there are 30-year old versions of the original mountain bikes (before suspended forks), still being used for town bikes because the robust design was so practical that even a cheap version of it is durable and useful.  You won't find a 30-year old cheap road bike still in use.

    I had the best bicycle adventure of the 20th Century, and my book on that adventure will hit the shelves next month.

    Orwell was an optimist.
    My Home Page

    by RepackRider on Mon Aug 11, 2014 at 09:16:07 AM PDT

  •  Fixies (13+ / 0-)

    My teenage son has a pseudo-fixie that you can set to be fixed or not fixed (he generally leaves his on the not-fixed setting), and his also has brakes. That way he can look good but also not die, which as his mother I am a fan of.

  •  I've never seen a tandem (9+ / 0-)

    with the woman up front. What's up with that?
     If the taller guy is in the back he can see over the top.

    •  The guy is up front steering, on a shortcut (7+ / 0-)

      The woman is in the back with the GPS telling us where to go. The guy is still not going to ask for directions and will drive in circles for hours because he knows where he is.

      As Red Green says:
      I'm a guy
      but I can change
      If I have to,
      I guess.

      •  height; control issues; divorce; togetherness (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        IL clb, RiveroftheWest, BYw, kurt

        The top bar of a tandem is often lowest at the back and slopes upward from there. So it's easiest to step over if the shorter rider is in back, and that's usually (not always) the woman.

        Soon after my wife and I got our tandem, we met another tandeming couple who said it would either be wonderful for your marriage, or terrible for your marriage.

        It was neither, but only because we had the good sense to stop riding it. My wife doesn't want to deal with stepping over the taller top bar in front, but also gets very uncomfortable when she is not in charge of the brakes and gears (which are both controlled by the front rider). I have given some serious thought to asking my local bike shop to move the brake and gear controls to the back set of handlebars, which I've never seen or heard of, but should be doable.

        Why bother with a tandem? Because on separate bikes, if I go fast enough to get a decent workout, then my wife can't keep up with me. On the tandem we can both pedal as hard as we like, yet we stay together close enough to talk the whole time, and we end up at the same place at the same time.

        "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals."—Barack Obama

        by HeyMikey on Mon Aug 11, 2014 at 12:04:17 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  tandem on a car rack (0+ / 0-)

          Oh, our tandem fits crosswise just fine on our car-mounted bike rack. It sticks out a little on both sides of our small car, but it fits just fine within the traffic lane.

          "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals."—Barack Obama

          by HeyMikey on Mon Aug 11, 2014 at 12:06:31 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Some friends hadda mtn tandem.... (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          HeyMikey, waterstreet2008, IL clb

          On steep downhills Ellen would commonly hafta forcefully whack her husband repeatedly on his back to get him to "Cool it"....

          "Ronald Reagan is DEAD! His policies live on but we're doing something about THAT!"

          by leftykook on Mon Aug 11, 2014 at 01:31:18 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Might be harder for the lighter rider to steer (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mr Robert, HeyMikey, KenBee

      but one of these overcomes the cranker's vista problem problem.

      "The Democrats and the Republicans are equally corrupt where money is concerned. It's only in the amount where the Republicans excel." ~ Will Rogers

      by Lefty Coaster on Mon Aug 11, 2014 at 10:12:12 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  80% of steering is weight shift; the handlebars (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bobinson, BYw

      follow along.  

      Of course I made up the %, but the principle is sound. You don't turn a bike by simply twisting the handlebars unless you are going very, very slow.  You turn by shifting your weight and trimming the front wheel heading in concert.  So the rider who controls the most weight is the natural person to control the handlebar.

      I've lost my faith in nihilism

      by grumpynerd on Mon Aug 11, 2014 at 12:28:27 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I think this is why recumbents are so awkward (0+ / 0-)

        At least, that is my working hypothesis. Reclining like that makes it much harder and/or less natural to shift my weight.

        'course, it doesn't help that most of my recumbent time is on a recumbent unicycle. They're both harder to start/stop from, it seems to me.

        The big advantage of recumbents is lower drag. With an efficient fairing, they can go extremely fast. Another downside is that even upright, you're just at bumper height for motorized traffic.

    •  This year on Tour Divide (0+ / 0-)

      Katie and Sam something or other rode a tandem. She was the captain (front) and he the stoker(back). They did the entire race, 2700 miles on dirt over mountain passes in the Rockies, in something like three weeks, and that's with carrying camping gear.

    •  Comments above mostly right on tandems (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      IL clb

      My wife and I bought our first tandem 41 years ago, have never been without one since.  Honeymooned on that bike - Portland Oregon to Arcata California.  Currently on our 4th tandem.  It is much harder to control a tandem, especially at low speeds, if the rear rider is heavier than the pilot.  (the standard tandem terms are "stoker" and "captain").  And most tandems, unless you get a custom one, are built bigger in the front than the rear.  I do know teams where the woman captains, but they are mostly where the man is visually impaired. The biggest reason couples choose to tandem is a significant difference in strength and/or skill.  My wife didn't learn to ride a bike as a child.  I taught her to ride when she was about 28.  So she never learned the comfort level of a kid who grows up playing on a bike.  She's totally happy to let me be in control.  Us leftists should like tandems - I call them the communist bicycle: "from each according to his ability.....".
      We've taken our current bike to Europe 7 times now - 5 of those in various parts of France, once in Italy and once to the Netherlands (bike heaven).  
      As to relationship issues: My formulation is that a tandem will accentuate whatever is going on in your relationship.  If you are communicating well and getting along well, time on a tandem will make it even better.  But if your communication is poor, a tandem will expose all the weaknesses.  I've introduced lots of folks to tandems over the years and, in my experience, with a few exceptions, the more experienced and skilled the potential stoker is, the harder it is for them to accept the lack of control that comes with the rear seat.  The very best first-time stoker I ever had was a blind teen who had never been on any sort of bike before, but was totally ready to trust me and "go with the flow" - no effort to take control from the rear.  The scariest tandem ride I ever took was as stoker for a co-worker who rode on the track sprint tandem in the Pan Am games.  We did a few things tandems were not meant to do! And did them at high speed.

      "Wouldn't you rather vote for what you want and not get it than vote for what you don't want - and get it?" Eugene Debs. "Le courage, c'est de chercher la verité et de la dire" Jean Jaures

      by Chico David RN on Mon Aug 11, 2014 at 09:33:58 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I think you too easily dismiss Cyclocross bikes (10+ / 0-)

    Cross bikes have larger tire clearance and slightly relaxed geometry as compared to a road bike so they can make a great commuter if you have a longish ride and you want to have something fast. They also normally have a flat top tube that makes it easier to carry up stairs if you don't live on the ground floor.

    I'm in the south west and I find cross tires also very helpful because they grip better after the summer rains when the streets are filled with sandy debris, and still allow you to keep a decent speed.

    No War but Class War

    by AoT on Mon Aug 11, 2014 at 09:28:21 AM PDT

    •  I recently bought a Cyclocross Bike... (7+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      AoT, IL clb, Tracker, Mr Robert, BYw, HeyMikey, kurt

      for daily use and I absolutely love it. I replaced my old Raleigh road bike with a Giant Anyroad. The Raleigh had a frame that was slightly too large for me, so I didn't ride it very much. Additionally, it was set up with the extremely skinny tires and aggressive geometry of a racing bike that just didn't work very well for the all-purpose riding of bike trails and running about the city. The geometry is a bit more forgiving on the body (and I'm not a peak specimen of fitness, so I need all the help there I can get)

      If you live in a city like mine (Cleveland) where their idea is to ignore the roads until they look like the moon, then toss some pebbles and tar in the holes and hope it holds up; a bike like a Cyclocross becomes necessary for the increased comfort and ruggedness on the rough roads (if a collection of barely patched potholes can even be considered a road). Bigger tires means less pinch flats and the increased tread works better than the slicks on my Road Bike when I ride on some of the crushed limestone bike paths we have around here.

      Basically I describe my Cyclocross bike as the road side of the hybrid bike coin where the normal hybrids are more the off-road side of the hybrid coin. Either way, test drive a bunch of bikes and I'm sure you'll find the where as soon as you hop on, you just know it is the right one.

      All that being said, as I get into better shape and start thinking about entering events, I will probably look into a racing style bike again for racing and keep my cyclocross one as my all-purpose bicycle.

    •  I totally agree with this (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      AoT, Tracker, Mr Robert, HeyMikey

      Cyclocross bikes are far and away the most versatile bikes out there. They're very close to what road bikes were like 30 years ago, and would be far more popular if the bike manufacturers weren't so busy selling snake oil.

      Hybrids are ok for short commutes, but are horrible for anything lasting more than a half hour or so. Anyone who thinks they might like to go on longer rides is wasting their money on a hybrid.

      To believe that markets determine value is to believe that milk comes from plastic bottles. Bromley (1985)

      by sneakers563 on Mon Aug 11, 2014 at 10:24:42 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Cross Bikes can be ridden (or carried) anywhere (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      AoT, Mr Robert, HeyMikey, kurt

      I have a nice Cross bike, a Santa Cruz Stigmata. It replaces a stolen KHS, which replaced a stolen Kelly Cross (that one STILL hurts)....

      The thing has expensive parts and wheels, and I paid a fraction of what it would cost to buy new.

      It weighs less than 20 pounds even with 700x40 tires.

      I ride it mostly on the road, but it works very well on dirt, and I've ridden it on mtn bike trails a lot, the caveat being that it has little floatation due to narrow tires and you can't rail thru rockpiles like you can on a mtn bike. I've even ridden it in Moab, it works pretty well on jeep roads and slickrock, but I can cruise on smooth surfaces at 18 mph, unlike my mtn bike.

      It doesn't have low enough gears for real back roading or trail riding, and it would take too many compromises and replacement of expensive parts to get lower gears, so I live with its compromises and push it up super steeps and carry it over logs and rocky sections.

      Anyone who wants a bike they can ride nearly anywhere, yet isn't ponderous and slow should look into cross bikes.

      "Ronald Reagan is DEAD! His policies live on but we're doing something about THAT!"

      by leftykook on Mon Aug 11, 2014 at 10:27:46 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I think I've seen exactly ONE (6+ / 0-)

      The bike shops around here don't stock many of them.

      If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

      by Major Kong on Mon Aug 11, 2014 at 10:31:45 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  If your local bike shop has the QBP catalog (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        AoT, Mr Robert, leftykook, HeyMikey

        (They do)

        They can order the Surly Crosscheck. It's not super cheap (approx. $1000) but it's a great bike. There may well be other bikes / frames in the QBP catalog, I'm not sure, but I know that the Surlys are included.

        To believe that markets determine value is to believe that milk comes from plastic bottles. Bromley (1985)

        by sneakers563 on Mon Aug 11, 2014 at 10:51:00 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  yes! (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      AoT, HeyMikey

      There's an emerging segment of bikes specifically built more to this market -- 'cross utility bikes.  Basically cyclecross bikes that are coming with racks and are at least fender-capable.  

      There's only minor differences between cross bikes, touring bikes, gravel grinders -- they're all road bikes with somewhat wider tires and more relaxed geometry but the varied hand positions of drop bars and improved performance over an upright hybrid.  

  •  I bought a bike over the weekend.. (14+ / 0-)

    A hybrid - mainly for commuting as my road bike doesn't handle well on the rough paths that we have.  But I have a long list of things yet to purchase:

    Tail light.  Bell.  Bottle cage.  Extra tubes (will keep one at the office).  Mirror.  U-Lock.  SPD pedals.  Bike computer.

    I already have a rack on the the thing, and I have a spare headlight (which I really won't need until the days get a lot shorter).

    •  $10 gets you a front and back blinky (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BYw, kurt

      they are pretty good to leave in place for whenever, cheap, if someone steals them I hope they put them to good use.

      I now have a pair, they have lasted a year on the original batteries.

      They are not bright, but my night vision and hopefully common sense get me home. key point is people can see me, I can see the road well enough

      Keep the $300 night light for special rides, but do get these simple unobtrusive  $10 lights, they wrap and clip around tubing. The latest has two batteries in it, but the original Bugs were they called..still are working as blinkies with the original single pancake battery.

      good diary Major Kong.

           I have a Lightning short wheelbase recumbent I ride sometimes, it's pretty fun and fast feeling, a whole different sense of riding. There are also the Cruz bikes, a lay back recumbent with full size front wheels and front wheel drive. They sell a kit to convert an ordinary street bike/low bar to a recumbent for less than $500, Maria Cruz took fourth in a recent Race Across America race even after losing a day due to being run over by a drunk out in the wilds of the sw at 2 am.

          Recumbents can be very fast and some races ban them, they are slower on hills most times altho there are some designs with a fit rider that equal most 'regular' bikes in races.

      This machine kills Fascists.

      by KenBee on Mon Aug 11, 2014 at 03:35:51 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Rule #1 is most important (18+ / 0-)

    Many articles have been written on how bad bicycles purchased in big-box stores truly are.

    Forks installed backward, loose handlebars, etc.   If you buy one of these bikes, you'll be so frustrated with it's operation and weight that you will likely not want to even ride it.

    If you're looking to buy a bike, go to your local bike shop.  Those people aren't working there to get rich, they are working there because they love the sport.  Use them.

    For most people looking for a bike to ride for recreation on occasion, something in the $400-$500 range should be plenty.  Start there and if you get the bug like I did, you can upgrade parts or get go ahead and upgrade to a new bike because you know you are going to use it.

    You can bomb the world to pieces but you can't bomb it into peace - michael franti

    by FarmerG on Mon Aug 11, 2014 at 09:29:59 AM PDT

    •  If you can't afford a good bike.. (8+ / 0-)

      There are good used ones that come up - you just have to be patient until you find what you want.

      But what is critical is that you know the brand names of all of the cheap big-box bikes so you can avoid them.

      Upgrading parts can get expensive - it depends a lot on what you are upgrading.  For example, upgrading from rim brakes to disk brakes probably isn't practical on most bikes - the wheels would need to be rebuilt, and the frame won't have the right mounting brackets.

      Sometimes people try and upgrade things just because they can - not because they make the most sense.  I saw a guy in a store who wanted to put a triple on the front (3 chainrings instead of two), and the person at the bike store was sort of trying to talk him out of it, but the guy sounded pretty determined.

      •  If you have a local bicycle co-op (8+ / 0-)

        or a bike recyclery, those are great places to get some cheap entry-level bicycles. That way you can get into the sport and get a better feel of what exactly your needs are for less $$ without sacrificing quality and safety.

        Plus, it is a much better way to keep your dollars in the local economy as opposed to giving them to some multi-national chain store who will likely use a tax inversion to park them somewhere where they won't do anyone but a few of the shareholders any good.

        •  bike 'kitchens' they are called as well (5+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          RiveroftheWest, BYw, GeorgeXVIII, kurt, IL clb

          a very good experience if you are lucky to have one near you, a cooperative effort that brings experts and beginners together for bikes and bike activism in general. Bike safe street are a big issue that bike kitchen-coop people work one, with good results.

          I am lucky I have two I deal with, and the nicest folks ever.

          This machine kills Fascists.

          by KenBee on Mon Aug 11, 2014 at 03:39:21 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Upgrade the tires. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        SMWalt, IL clb

        That's the biggest bang for the buck.  Not only will the ride be smoother and more responsive on a good pair of tires, you'll get fewer flats.

        After that, upgrade the wheels, although that's not cheap to do by any means, it's the next biggest bang for the buck.  You also get less warping.

        So buy a cheap department store bike at a yard sale for $25, add $100 in tires and you've got a different animal.  Add another $150 in wheels and you get a very different animal.

        I've lost my faith in nihilism

        by grumpynerd on Mon Aug 11, 2014 at 01:02:59 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Spot on (0+ / 0-)

          I almost wrecked my first bike in a head-on at high speed with a moped.  Both wheels were destroyed, as was the fork, handlebars, pedals, and seat.  Only the frame, rear rack, and rear reflector were salvaged.

          I got upgraded wheels and tires, it was like getting a whole new bike.  

          Used bikes seem to depreciate even faster than cars.  You can get a decent bike for next to nothing.  Put better rims and top notch tires on it and it will fly.

    •  Advantage to the big-box cheap bikes... (8+ / 0-)

      for college kids who need something to ride around campus. The $80 bike is a little less likely to be stolen. And, if the $80 bike gets stolen, you're less upset than if the $400-1000 bike gets stolen.

      -7.25, -6.26

      We are men of action; lies do not become us.

      by ER Doc on Mon Aug 11, 2014 at 09:53:11 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Living in Boston as an undergrad (5+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ER Doc, Mr Robert, KenBee, BYw, kurt

        I ran with a circle that included bike couriers and other serious urban riders, the kind of guys who spent a lot of money (relatively) on good fixed gear bikes and then painted them flat black.

        One of them lived in a building with lots of casual riders, like you are describing with he box box bikes. The rack was this overcrowded mash of frames that stacked sideways, so one bike was always "underneath" all the others.

        He had had his courier bike stolen multiple times and was fed up, so he found a shitty free bike that no one wanted, kept it locked up at the "bottom" of the pile and when returning unlocked and removed it and locked up his good bike in its place. That way the bike was at least hidden and more difficult to steal

        The shit bike he left against the wall of the building unlocked and living on Mission Hill, crime ridden as it was at that time, it was never stolen.

      •  The $80 bike will last 5,000 miles. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ER Doc, Mr Robert

        Or five years. Whichever comes first. That's not a bad deal.

        My 34-year old Panasonic would have been stolen if the thieves saw "Schwinn" painted on it. Same bike, same factory in Osaka. I've got extra craziness on it to discourage theft.

        Then there's my Cannondale Q-6. Lighter, MB tires so it's better for pot holes, but iffy for carrying much beyond lunch and spares. That's $500, except I got it like new off craigslist. $200 with two lock thingies.

        Thank God for craigslist.

        People spend $500, $800, $1200 for bikes and don't ride. Then they move. Yeah, CL. And to Hell with choice of color....

        •  5000 miles? Not if you want them to ride well (0+ / 0-)

          They may technically last that long, but by a thousand they'll be so difficult to deal with that you may as well walk. And that's not taking into account safety issues if you hit any sort of speeds, and the weight.

          Something used off of craigslist is the best bet if you want to spend not too much and get something useful.

          No War but Class War

          by AoT on Mon Aug 11, 2014 at 12:08:42 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Even at 80$, they aren't always a bargain. (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Mr Robert, elfling, AoT, BYw

        Yeah, I get the part about not wanting the things to be stolen.  But the 80$ bikes oftentimes don't perform well, and people who might otherwise enjoy cycling will come to hate it instead.  Getting a decent bike that is used, and then painting it to look like an old beater is another way to deter theft.

        Using a good U lock also helps.  Those flexible cables are child's play to cut through.

        The 80$ bikes are noticeably heavier.  They use a cheap and substandard grade of steel, which is heavy and prone to rust.  The parts they use are substandard - in some cases the bearings aren't properly heat treated so they wear out prematurely.

        I have heard many cases where people get the things home and the brakes don't work - probably because the guy at the store didn't know what he was doing.

    •  Ugh the weight (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      AoT, Mr Robert, KenBee, BYw

      I haven't bought a bike in something like 20 years -- my 1990-vintage Trek 1100 road bike still does me fine since for most of those 20 years I haven't lived in the most bike-friendly territory.  But anyway.  A couple of years back it was time to buy the first "real" bike for the kiddo, and everything from Toys R Us and Target and the like made me want to cry, it was so heavy.  How a 40 pound kid is supposed to pedal around a 30 pound bike I will never understand.

      We wound up splurging on a Specialized from a bike store, for 3x the price but half the weight.  Probably time to get a new (bigger) one for Christmas this year, unfortunately.

    •  A quibble.... (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mr Robert, IL clb, grumpynerd, BYw, chimene

      ....the bikes at Wall-Mart are not complete junk anymore, because the Taiwan guys invested in China and taught them how to make fairly decent bikes.

      Many bikes at Wall-Mart are made by Pacific, a China firm, and they are commonly made out of welded aluminum and the parts are versions of Japanese components that are five levels down from the high-priced spread but have much the same design, there's a huge amount of trickle-down in the component lines.

      The main beef with a bike from WM is that nobody at WM knows how to work on a bike and they have a poor selection of tools to use if they did.

      Those dirty elitists at yer friendly local bike shop dont want to work on them, at least not without a lotta cajoling.

      I suggest that anyone who wants a bike, no matter where they get it, should get friendly with a bike shop. Not all shops will welcome big-box store bikes, but many do, and some, like my friend in WV, would gladly take in such a bike and give it the new-bike workup, as long as you realize they are going to want at least $50 and maybe more for initial checkout and proper adjustment of the bike. (They will actually do something for the money, they'll make sure the wheels are round and straight, make sure the various bearings are adjusted and greased and that the parts are all firmly attached to it!)

      They'll also try to sell you a helmet, a lock, a light and probably a tool kit. They have a narrow profit margin, go ahead and buy something from them, it helps to keep the doors open.

      "Ronald Reagan is DEAD! His policies live on but we're doing something about THAT!"

      by leftykook on Mon Aug 11, 2014 at 10:57:57 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Those components are the key difference (0+ / 0-)

        I was in the market for a bike recently for my pre-teen daughter to get her first "real" bike.   The best fit and affordable was at Walmart, and I agree that the frames are decent.    And it was put together really well.

        But a bad omen to start. Within a week the free wheel started going "clunk clunk."  Took it back and got a replacement bike.  I do all my own bike maintenance and when it came time to adjust the brakes, that's when I began to see the issues.   The tolerances were bad and hard to adjust.  And the derailleur needed adjustment more often than normal.  I got so frustrated with the bike that I took it to a bike shop for them to do the  adjustments and the pros concurred that the components were a problem.

        I suppose this wouldn't matter for many buyers who probably never get their bikes maintained, and who get bikes for kids that quickly become beater bikes.  

        •  Not always (0+ / 0-)

          I "upgraded" my old Trek mtn bike recently to a Costco model. All mid-grade Shimano components including my first disk brakes. Got it in early Fall....right when they clear em out for winter and paid $300. My first 29' wheels too. All I had to do to it as put smooth tires on it for smoother road riding, since I don't like those knobbies.

  •  Thanks for some great information here MK. (7+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    AoT, ER Doc, wader, leftykook, Mr Robert, BYw, kurt

    I suggest also buying a good quality lock, and using it whenever not on your ride. Bike theft has sadly increased along with the price of today's far nicer equipment. Recording the serial number is a wise measure as well. It's the first thing police will ask for if you are robbed, and is almost their only tool for recovery or to make an arrest stick. The number is usually on frame bottom where pedal crank set mounts.

    We are all made of star stuff, so please be kind to dust bunnies.

    by jwinIL14 on Mon Aug 11, 2014 at 09:32:14 AM PDT

  •  One other type of bike - velomobiles. (6+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    AoT, ER Doc, Mr Robert, Lefty Coaster, KenBee, BYw

    You don't see them much here in the States - the Dutch are really into them - the fact that they don't have much in the way of hills probably helps.  I did see a fellow riding one a few months back however.

    What they are is essentially a 3-wheel recumbent with a lightweight  aerodynamic shell that surrounds the thing.  You have a bit more weight to carry around, and a significant reduction in wind resistance.

    Are they practical?  Who knows.  But some of them really do look kind of cool.

  •  wanted to read about commuter collapsibles (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    AoT, Mr Robert, Lefty Coaster, kurt

    Warning - some snark may be above‽ (-9.50; -7.03)‽ eState4Column5©2013 "If we appear to seek the unattainable, then let it be known that we do so to avoid the unimaginable." (@eState4Column5)

    by annieli on Mon Aug 11, 2014 at 09:43:28 AM PDT

  •  Wear Your Helmet!!! (13+ / 0-)

    How much is your head worth?  Mine is worth $109.

    Good article.  Recent mountain bikes have a locking rear shock so they don't bounce when riding on the hard or climbing.

    Lube your chain every 100 miles.  A drop of oil on each roller will do the job.

    Replace your chain every 2,000 miles.  If you don't lube and replace at those distances you'll be replacing worn out chain rings and cassettes, a much pricier option.

    Don't be fooled by appearances. In Hawaii, some of the most powerful people look like bums and stuntmen. --- Matt King

    by hobie1616 on Mon Aug 11, 2014 at 09:44:52 AM PDT

    •  Yes! Helmet=biomarker for brain worth preserving (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      hobie1616, Mr Robert, KenBee, Alumbrados, BYw

      That's what I tell my students, anyway. You'd be amazed how many people with public health or medical background still ride around without helmets. Not to mention the folks who put a helmet on their child but ride with them, sans helmet, setting a dim-witted example for when the kid gets a little older, or out of sight of parent.

      I haven't ridden much lately as I need to have a car at hand for emergencies (with 98-year-old parent, they happen more than I'd like.) But I have a beloved old 3-speed Hercules from circa 1968. Works great, and it looks sufficiently mangy that it is unlikely to get stolen. One of my friends in the Netherlands was very offended when someone stole the fancy lock to his "train station" bike of about the same vintage as mine, but left the bike.

      The advice here is great - now I know what to look for (probably a plain vanilla city bike) when/if I get around to upgrading from the Hercules. I live in one of the country's best bike cities so I am looking forward to getting back to riding.

      •  Most ER staff have a name for (6+ / 0-)

        helmetless riders.  Organ donor.

        Don't be fooled by appearances. In Hawaii, some of the most powerful people look like bums and stuntmen. --- Matt King

        by hobie1616 on Mon Aug 11, 2014 at 10:10:04 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  That would be motorcylists, not cyclists. (9+ / 0-)

          The fatality rate is much, much lower for cyclists because of the speeds involved. And while helmets are an important aspect of safe riding they are not necessarily the largest contributor to safety. Having more bikes on the road is the best thing we can do to make cyclists safer.

          No War but Class War

          by AoT on Mon Aug 11, 2014 at 10:22:29 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  A friend of mine died that way (6+ / 0-)

            That's probably why I'm so emotional about helmets.

            It was a freak accident. He had just got a new bike and took it out for its first ride. He was in such a hurry that he didn't bother to get his helmet.

            He was going pretty fast downhill when the front wheel came off. That was it for him.

            If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

            by Major Kong on Mon Aug 11, 2014 at 11:39:17 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  It's certainly a threat (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              BlackSheep1, RiveroftheWest, BYw
              He was going pretty fast downhill when the front wheel came off. That was it for him.
              Oof. Yeah, there's a lot of things that can go wrong. On of my coworkers went down going about 25 and luckily had a helmet. Any time I plan on going any significant speeds like that I always have a helmet. Or I go slow.

              As long as we're not stopping people from riding because of the danger then it's an appropriate amount of warning. People should use helmets.

              No War but Class War

              by AoT on Mon Aug 11, 2014 at 12:04:55 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

          •  Gotta disagree brah, (6+ / 0-)

            I hit a wet spot in a turn and went down.  Was probably doing 15 mph.  I broke my clavicle, all the ribs on one side, punctured a lung and bruised my heart.

            Head had no damage because my helmet gave up its life for me.  I would have been a veg without it.

            Wear Your Helmet!!!

            Don't be fooled by appearances. In Hawaii, some of the most powerful people look like bums and stuntmen. --- Matt King

            by hobie1616 on Mon Aug 11, 2014 at 02:14:25 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  Best thing... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            IL clb

            is separate paths, so that bikes and cars don't mix. I sold my bike many years ago, and only recently bought another, now that the Twin Cities has an extensive set of bike paths with little/no mixed traffic.

            I'm not a serious cyclist, but I know far too many people who have permanent damage from being the bicycle rider in a bicycle - car accident.

    •  I prefer a dry lube for the chain.. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mr Robert

      Regular motor oil or all-purpose oil will cause dirt and grime to collect.

    •  Price... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Lefty Coaster, grubber

      Cheap helmets will generally protect as well as expensive ones, they're just heavier and less well-ventilated.  What you pay for as you go up is the ability to protect that well with less material.  

      Anything with basic certification (i.e. anything a shop in the US will sell) is fine, as long as it fits.  

  •  My 1987 Trek 8000 - "Lucy" - 100,000 Miles on It (18+ / 0-)

     photo Lucy_at_Delta_BF_zps355a8e13.jpg

    I think I got my money's worth.

  •  I'm a bike commuter (10+ / 0-)

    You might want to mention something about knowing good biking do's and don'ts if they live in the city.

    "The oppressors most powerful weapon is the mind of the oppressed." - Stephen Biko

    by gjohnsit on Mon Aug 11, 2014 at 10:11:05 AM PDT

    •  Here's a dumb question (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mr Robert

      I live & work near Atlanta.  How do you get to work in the summer without your clothes getting drenched in sweat?  Do you change at the office?  If so, how do you avoid your clothes getting wrinkled?

      This plus price is seriously one of the big stumbling blocks I have right now.

      •  There are options (5+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        MPociask, gjohnsit, Mr Robert, elfling, BYw

        I can't complain because

        a) I live and work in San Francisco


        b) my commute is only 1.75 miles. Not enough to work up a real sweat.

        oh, and

        c) dress code in my office is fairly casual...I wear a sports shirt and jeans.

        People I know who have longer commutes will store their work clothes at their office. I don't know what it's like where you live; in SF at least some of the larger office buildings have rest rooms with showers, so that could be an option. Or if there's a gym nearby it might be worth joining just so you can use the locker room to shower.

      •  Our office... (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        MPociask, gjohnsit, Mr Robert, BYw

        has a locker room with showers in the basement, which is about as good as it gets.  But I bet most people in our building have no clue it is down there.

        In reality there is a workout room next door to it, so I suppose the showers were put in for that purpose.  But they suit my needs quite nicely as well.

        Some people will drive in once a week and bring the nice clothes to their office so they have something to wear when they get there.

        I just carry my work clothes in my panier, but our office is pretty casual.  But I do leave an extra pair of shoes at the office so I don't need to carry those.

      •  I have a saddlebag on my bike (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        MPociask, Mr Robert, AoT, BYw

        which I carry my work clothes in, and then change in the office.

         Of course I can wear just dockers and a polo shirt, so wrinkles aren't a big deal to me.

        "The oppressors most powerful weapon is the mind of the oppressed." - Stephen Biko

        by gjohnsit on Mon Aug 11, 2014 at 10:45:26 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Wet wipes :) (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        MPociask, Mr Robert, AoT, BYw

        I wear work clothes to commute in most seasons.  In the summer I take it slow to avoid sweating.  What's a few extra minutes?  I sweat less biking than walking anyway.

        We do not forgive. We do not forget. The whole world is watching.

        by Tracker on Mon Aug 11, 2014 at 10:46:41 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Join a nearby gym and shower there. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        MPociask, AoT, BYw

        You'll still save on the car expenses and then you'll have the gym membership too.

        Otherwise I'd commute only in the winter.  There's no way you can bike ten miles on a muggy Atlanta summer day and then make yourself presentable for work without showering.

        I've lost my faith in nihilism

        by grumpynerd on Mon Aug 11, 2014 at 01:09:39 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  I wrote a diary sort of on that subject (6+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mr Robert, AoT, elfling, jcrit, Alumbrados, BYw

      recently:  Road Rules

      We could certainly use more cycling diaries - why not write one of your own?  I bet you have a lot of experience to share.

      We do not forgive. We do not forget. The whole world is watching.

      by Tracker on Mon Aug 11, 2014 at 10:44:44 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I strongly recommend a front suspension (6+ / 0-)

    I guess my bike fits the first "hybrid" class.  It's mostly a mountain bike with a front suspension.  Rear suspensions aren't worth the cost and complexity for anyone riding on paved trails and streets.  But a front suspension is great for soaking up bumps, and for those occasional jumps over a curb.  I'd never ride to work on a city bike.

    As for tires, make sure you have hard rubber road tires if you're not actually riding on dirt. My bike came with more off-road tires and I wore through the tread in one summer.  Changed over to road tires and they still look new 5 years later.

    I need to get a rear luggage rack, but slinging my shoulder bag has always worked well, so I just keep doing that.

    •  I have seen other opinions.. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Norm in Chicago, Mr Robert

      The problem with the front suspension is that it is a bit heavier than a fixed fork.  Some people I know have said unless you were doing true mountain biking and jumping over logs, you probably don't need it.

      That being said, the bike I just got has one.  So go figure...

      I did put a rack on mine already - I needed it to hold the pannier that I use to get to the office.

      •  I count curbs as logs (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Mr Robert, RiveroftheWest, BYw

        Riding through the suburbs, to not die on busy streets often requires taking every short cut one can find.
        I've got a great route, but part of it involves taking a quiet back street that dead ends at the parking lot for a little office building.  I jump a curb at the end of the street, ride over a little patch of grass, then jump down the curb at the parking lot.  Reverse that for the ride home.  In my opinion, it's well worth the extra weight.  Which is also nothing compared to the spare weight I'm trying to lose by biking.

    •  Continental bike tires cost more than (6+ / 0-)

      low-end tires like Bells. I'm hooked. The better road tires, e.g. Gatorbacks, last years and years. When you hit a patch of sand you'll understand.

      At least with internet shopping, there's competition.

    •  I ride worst streets in America without them. (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mr Robert, elfling, Norm in Chicago, BYw

      With a billion dollars worth of unfilled potholes and constant subsidence, New Orleans streets are challenging for cyclists. I have yet to find any bike with a front suspension to be all that useful for commuters here though. It allows you to ride through deep holes and jump curbs with greater ease, but if you are a commuter you would likely be avoiding that kind of riding anyway. A good steel framed pre 80s vintage Schwinn or Raleigh (and many other bikes) which will often cost you no more than a new modern aluminum hybrid with front shocks will handle any pavement with ease and it will give you a much more pleasant ride. You are completely correct about tires though. Slicks are far superior to nobby tires on pavement, even rough pavement. It is impossible to hydroplane on a bike and unless you ride on something other than pavement, they offer no benefit, but do present issues with far greater rolling resistance. You would really notice the difference in tires on longer rides. It makes a big difference.

      Patriotism is the last refuge to which a scoundrel clings. Steal a little and they throw you in jail. Steal a lot and they make you king.... Dylan

      by bywaterbob on Mon Aug 11, 2014 at 10:53:58 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Conti (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mr Robert, Norm in Chicago, BYw

      I've got Conti Top Touring rubber on a full suspension GT "mountain" bike that I use for town and (paved) trail riding . . . worlds easier on the old body than my now-never-used "road" bike.

      Stolen once, recovered by an observant cop.  I loath bicycle thieves.

      Fake Left, Drive Right . . . not my idea of a Democrat . . .

      by Deward Hastings on Mon Aug 11, 2014 at 10:58:16 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Depends. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      AoT, BYw

      You can easily get by without a suspension.  It's just a different style of riding that takes a bit more awareness and body control.  For most people switching to a higher floatation tire will be plenty.

      Back in the 80s I did a lot of aggressive off-road riding on completely unsuspended bikes -- suspensions didn't exist back then.  One of my customary rides was singletrack strewn with 15"-20" bounders -- which I rode my primitive bike over.  Another had a right angle turn followed by an abrupt 4' drop then a bunny hop onto a ledge in the middle of a creek and then a wheelie to get the front tire upon the far bank and another hop to get the rear wheel up.

      Of course 30 years later that is all physically far beyond me; I recently revisited those places and humbly carried my bike over obstacles I used ride over without hesitation.  Still, you don't absolutely need a suspension for most off-road riding, and you certainly don't need it for on-road riding.  You just need awareness and a few riding skills.

      You can certainly hop a curb with a non-suspended bike, although of course you should not ride on sidewalks.

      I've lost my faith in nihilism

      by grumpynerd on Mon Aug 11, 2014 at 01:39:06 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Wide tires do the same job (0+ / 0-)

      If your bike takes 2" tires and you run them soft, you soak up a lot of bumps.

  •  I also strongly recommend ebay (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    AoT, Elizaveta, Mr Robert, BYw

    I bought my bike right after Hurricane Katrina hit, when gas went to $5/gallon.  I didn't search ebay for long and found my bike (Schwinn, hybrid, front suspension, 18 gears) for $79.  Guy was Chicago suburbs, not far from me.

    If the bike was used it didn't show, looked brand new to me.  I've been riding it since '05 and it's held up great.  All I've had to do is replace the tires once.

    I don't know what that bike originally cost or why it was for sale for so cheap, but it's the best ebay purchase I've ever made.  So I do recommend looking there before paying $400 or more.

  •  THE answer (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mrkvica, Mr Robert, elfling, leftykook

    black Raleigh 3 speed
    $10 crescent wrench
    few ounces of motor oil
    $50 for good new tires and tubes
    20 years of dead reliable transportation.

    I buy and sell well trained riding mules and American Mammoth Jack Stock.

    by old mule on Mon Aug 11, 2014 at 10:34:17 AM PDT

    •  Boom (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mr Robert, AoT, old mule

      Although I posted on here about not wanting to tell people what first bike to get, this is the one that will offer the most satisfaction and the fewest problems for most new riders. Sturmey-Archer hub is great for the city and indestructible. Fenders and rack always standard. Plus it's sweet looking. Great first bike that you'll want to ride for fun even if you geek out later.

  •  How do you know the used bike was not stolen? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mr Robert, BYw

    I would buy a used bike but here in NYC, I wonder who might be missing that bike.

    "The poor can never be made to suffer enough." Jimmy Breslin

    by merrywidow on Mon Aug 11, 2014 at 10:38:38 AM PDT

    •  Bikes from eBay and Craig's List are suspect (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      merrywidow, BYw

      just for that reason.

      If you're going to buy a used bike find a bike store that specializes in selling them. And then check their reputation just to be on the safe side. You don't want the police showing up at your door to take away "your" bike.

      •  You can normally tell on craigslist (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        merrywidow, jcrit, BYw

        in my experience.

        You don't want the police showing up at your door to take away "your" bike.
        I've never heard of this happening if it's the real worry. I don't want to buy a stolen bike and I've bought a few off of craigslist. You can normally tell when they're stolen.

        No War but Class War

        by AoT on Mon Aug 11, 2014 at 12:10:34 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  I've bought two spendy Cross bikes on Craig's... (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        AoT, BYw, chimene each case the bikes were semi-rare enthusiast bikes, and in each case the guy selling me the bike was a Bay Area Yuppie who invited me to his home, and in each case they didn't really want to sell it, but they both wanted to buy EVEN SPENDIER bikes, and both of them had level-headed wives who screeched "No you CAN'T buy another expensive bike til you get rid of THAT ONE...." It was like they hadda script!

        I don't think yer typical bike thief invites you over to pick up the bike (because they don't want you to see the collection of bikes in their garage!) and they don't typically live in fancy townhouses in trendy Bayarrhea neighborhoods....

        "Ronald Reagan is DEAD! His policies live on but we're doing something about THAT!"

        by leftykook on Mon Aug 11, 2014 at 01:52:01 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Use a U-Lock! (8+ / 0-)

    I am a daily rider of 44 years and my experiences closely match the diarists. The biggest change in 44 years is not the bike itself, which has seen only marginal technical improvements and in some ways have slid backwards. The biggest change is the enormous increase in bike theft. I highly discourage anyone from using a cable lock. There isn't a single one on the market that cannot be defeated with simple unpowered, easy to conceal hand held tool within a few seconds. If there is such a beast, it would so expensive, heavy and large as to be less practical than a U-Lock. Anything other than the very cheapest older generation U-Locks usually requires an angle grinder to defeat it. They are loud and cause sparks to fly in the dark. They usually are the weapon of last resort for a bike thief and usually only safe to use in a place where its unlikely you would leave your bike locked overnight. A bike thief will almost always pass on a U-Lock bike when there is easier prey to be had. There are more than a thousand known bike thefts in New Orleans every year and not a single known case of theft by angle grinder. A U-Lock is often only marginally heavier than a robust cable lock and with decent U-Locks available in the $25 range, they really are not much more expensive. Also learn how to properly use a lock securing both wheels to the frame and then properly locked to a heavy metal object that cannot be pulled out of the ground or taken over the top like many street signs you will encounter. Yes there are a handful of decent bike locks that use other technology. Many are just gimmicks but a handful are effective, but often much more expensive than a U-Lock, or heavier and do not offer more in real world protection. Its possible to defeat any lock, but a U-Lock is by far the most practical option and the best bet for 99% of cyclists.

    Patriotism is the last refuge to which a scoundrel clings. Steal a little and they throw you in jail. Steal a lot and they make you king.... Dylan

    by bywaterbob on Mon Aug 11, 2014 at 10:39:13 AM PDT

    •  Were they around in 1984? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bywaterbob, BlackSheep1

      I don't recall them existing back then. Good advice, though.

      If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

      by Major Kong on Mon Aug 11, 2014 at 11:36:21 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  No, but neither was theft nearly as bad (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Old school bike locks changed little until sometime in the 80s. The lock mechanism was usually a simple pad lock/combination lock. There was usually a chain inside a vinyl sleeve or sometimes even a short cable that locked directly into the lock. A hammer, bolt cutters, a big rock...just about anything could open one of those. I don't recall commonly seeing U-Locks until perhaps the late 80s, maybe early 90s. They might have existed in 1984, I just don't think I had seen one yet.

        Patriotism is the last refuge to which a scoundrel clings. Steal a little and they throw you in jail. Steal a lot and they make you king.... Dylan

        by bywaterbob on Mon Aug 11, 2014 at 12:22:15 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Major: if you can still get the good stuff, (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        3/8'' twisted stainless cable plus a good lock is a high-end lo-dollar solution. You want about 40'' with a couple cable-eyes.

        I still mourn the cable my dad destroyed to save the $7 padlock that held the spare in the bed of my first pickup (my kid brother endoed it off an I-20 exit ramp in Stanton, Texas in the summer of '86).

        It took him three hours to get thru it. Boltcutter broke. Four hacksaw blades.

        Yes, as a matter of fact, I did have a piece of aircraft cable....

        LBJ, Van Cliburn, Ike, Wendy Davis, Lady Bird, Ann Richards, Barbara Jordan, Molly Ivins, Sully Sullenburger, Drew Brees: Texas is NO Bush League!

        by BlackSheep1 on Mon Aug 11, 2014 at 02:27:04 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Sorry, but U-Locks (6+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      AoT, bobinson, BYw, chimene, fumie, kurt

      have been compromised.  

      The tool that removes them is two pieces of pipe, different diameters so one slides inside the other for concealment in a coat sleeve.  At one end of the outer pipe are two welded on pegs about 2" long and 2" apart extending at right angles.  The thief puts the pegs on either side of the shank, extends the pipe to full length of five or six feet, and applies leverage that shatters the lock.

      Newer versions have a set of links instead of a solid shank.

      Lately I have heard of locked carbon fiber bikes sawed through so the thief could sell the components.

      If you leave a bike in the same place every day, it is vulnerable.  Leave a stout hardened motorcycle chain too heavy to lug around at the parking spot.

      Orwell was an optimist.
      My Home Page

      by RepackRider on Mon Aug 11, 2014 at 01:49:45 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  no method foolproof, u-locks still best (0+ / 0-)

        Most bike thieves are drug abusers who get surprisingly little for even very expensive bikes. Most of the time they are fenced for 20 or 30 bucks. Whether the bike is actually worth 150 or 1,500. New generation U-Locks are much more resistant to the two pipes method. Even when a refrigerant is used to freeze the lock and make it more brittle.  There is no lock that can't be defeated but a good strategy will  send the thief elsewhere for easier prey. Multiple locks are highly encouraged. I ride with 2 U-Locks. Crabon is easy to break. You don't even need a saw. A hammer will bust a carbon frame with a single swing.

        Patriotism is the last refuge to which a scoundrel clings. Steal a little and they throw you in jail. Steal a lot and they make you king.... Dylan

        by bywaterbob on Tue Aug 12, 2014 at 09:51:20 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Once While I was Visiting... (0+ / 0-)

      ...New York City, I saw a bicycle locked to a rack via cable wrapped around the frame and rear wheel. In fact, that was the only thing left of that bike - the frame and rear wheel. Literally EVERYTHING else had been stripped off.

  •  Frame materials for road & mtn bikes... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mr Robert, Lefty Coaster

    ...can be different.  I love my carbon fiber road bike frame because it eats up the nastiest of the bone-jarring bumps a road will throw at you, and it's still fairly stiff (in contrast, my older aluminim-frame road bike was lightning fast, but seriously rattled my teeth).  For a mountain bike, however (particularly dual-suspension), the fat tires and suspension eat up the worst of the bumps, so aluminum is the way to go, IMHO (stiff for climbing, but cheaper than carbon fiber).

    As for the disk brakes - watch out!  On my then-brand-new mtn bike with big, grabby front disk brakes, I was coming fast down one trail, went around a turn to find a small tree across the trail, hit my brakes (the same way I'd hit the old caliper brakes), and found myself rotating over the now-locked front wheel and smashing to the ground.  I managed to bruise a rib and my jaw on that one.  I did learn to feather the brakes after that.  :-D

    "Democrat" is a noun. "Democratic" is an adjective. "Republican" is an idiot. Illigitimi non carborundum. Regardless of Party. The license plate I want? OMG GOP WTF

    by TheOrchid on Mon Aug 11, 2014 at 10:43:12 AM PDT

  •  If you don't have a bike yet (10+ / 0-)

    I'm a very committed commuter/pleasure rider. I've noticed that lots of folks on this thread are giving advice that looks suspiciously like "the thing they bought." I will resist that temptation (yes, of course I have an opinion about what bikes are most appropriate for newbies). Instead, I offer this tidbit:

    If you are new to riding and don't know anything about it, DO NOT go buy a new bike of any kind. Rather, find a bike cheap and just ride it for a while. Go to a garage sale, or check Craigslist. Maybe a friend has an extra bike you could use for a couple months. Just find something that comes close to fitting you and ride it. Don't worry about riding gear. Don't go and buy a bunch of stuff. If you're really a newbie, you'll most likely buy the wrong stuff anyway.

    Ride this bike for a few weeks. It's probably not the best bike in the world, but what do you like about it?  What do you hate? Is it too aggressive for your style? Too laid-back? Do you have the right gearing? Can you go fast when you want/need to? Is it okay on hills? Now you have a context for actually getting a decent first bike, and you may discover that the best bike for you is available at a very low cost on Craigslist (yes, you can find amazing bikes used for $300 if you know what you're looking for).  In any case, after 3 weeks on the "whatever" bike, you'll know a lot more about your riding style and capability. Don't spend any significant money before you have this knowledge. You'll just be rolling the dice. And you'll likely end up with an expensive bike that you never ride anywhere. And you'll tell people that riding's just not your thing...

    Kong's advice to avoid dep't store bikes is solid. When you're ready to buy a bike for real, get as good a bike as you can afford. You're going to ride it for years! You're going to love it! You can certainly get a decent used bike of just about any type for the same price as a new crap bike.

  •  Careful using mountain shoes (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mr Robert, AoT, Lefty Coaster, kurt

    with road pedals. I did it myself for several years, and it has caused me no end of problems with my knees. The problem is that road pedals are designed for treadless shoes. If you use a different style of shoe, the pedal may not operate as the manufacturer intended. Specifically, the tread on the mountain shoe will probably limit the amount of float (lateral twisting of your foot) that pedal allows. It may also push your foot into an unnatural position. In my case, I developed patellar tendonitis in both knees.

    If you want to wear shoes with a tread, either pair mountain bike shoes with mountain bike pedals, or wear plain old sneakers on platform pedals. Studies have shown that the "clip-in" style of pedals (ironically called "clipless") actually do very little to increase power transfer. Even professional cyclists generate a negligible amount of power on the pedal upstroke.

    To believe that markets determine value is to believe that milk comes from plastic bottles. Bromley (1985)

    by sneakers563 on Mon Aug 11, 2014 at 10:46:28 AM PDT

    •  I have mountain bike pedals as well (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      They're both SPD.

      You are correct about not mixing and matching.

      If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

      by Major Kong on Mon Aug 11, 2014 at 11:34:59 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Another category (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    IL clb, Mr Robert, BYw, fumie

    There are also the crank forward bicycles - a hybrid of recumbent and city bikes.  My friend and his wife swear by theirs.

    Me - just a plain ol' hybrid I bought used for $100.  I live in an urban area, so don't need a car - my bicycle is my commute vehicle, combined with trains and buses that will carry bicycles. Small purchase I carry in my backpack, and grocery bags hang from my handle bars for the short trip home.

    For the one or two times a month that I just gotta have a car,  I rent a Zipcar.

    ...there is NOTHING--absolute nothing--half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats. - Ratty

    by John Q on Mon Aug 11, 2014 at 10:47:24 AM PDT

  •  Great Advice (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mr Robert, Major Kong

    This is must reading for someone new to bicycling.   I've seen a lot of neophytes throw money away on a mountain bike when they have no intention to ride anywhere but paved streets.  I'm a lifelong touring bike owner.   I've enjoyed all of them.  However, they all came with saddles that were torture devices designed by Nazi war criminals, intended for the bony assed.  I always asked the dealer to replace the saddle before buying the bike.

  •  Over the past 24 years I've owned 4 bikes (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mr Robert, AoT, Alumbrados, BYw

    A 1990 Specialized Crossroads that I now use for commuting. No picture. I keep it looking ugly on purpose.

    Three road bikes.

    Road bike #1. A LeMond Buenos Aires. It was great as a first road bike. Steel frame and fork; Shimano S-105 components.


    Next was a Mikkelsen. Bernie Mikkelsen is a custom frame-builder who works in Alameda, CA. Also steel; carbon fork with Shimano Ultegra components.


    And now I ride a Wilier Triestina Gran Turismo.


  •  Recumbent Trike (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    elfling, AoT, PugetSound, BYw

    My wife's arthritis in her wrists & shoulders doesn't allow her to carry weight on them, so a performance standard bike is out.  She got on a recumbent trike and hasn't stopped smiling since.  This year she completed the 203 mile Seattle to Portland ride in two days, ending before 3:30 each day.

    Recumbents have disadvantages--heavy, not the best ergonomics for performance--and advantages--seating position, aerodynamics.  Her's works great for her.  She started on a TerraTrike Rambler, and within a year upgraded to an ICE Sprint full suspension.

    Me, I roll around town on a "fitness" bike--road frame, mountain gearing (hilly town), flat handlebars that I changed to backswept bars and raised steering stem for my comfort.

  •  I have a KHS XC-104 Mountain Bike (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    elfling, BYw

    that I bought back in 2007 and I always take it with me when I visit Yosemite National Park.

    You necessarily spend some time on dirt when you're going around Yosemite and the wider tires make getting around safer I think.

    A bike is almost a necessity if you visit Yosemite in the busy times of the year. Otherwise, you spend all your time trying to find a parking place.

    My invisible imaginary friend is the "true" creator

    by Mr Robert on Mon Aug 11, 2014 at 11:10:39 AM PDT

  •  Power Grips (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Major Kong, elfling, AoT

    You've done an exhausting job with bikes here.

    Near the end of the article, you mentioned pedals and all things pedals, including cleats and clips.

    But there is a relatively new thing out there called Power Grips, which are just a heavy duty, but thin, strap that goes over the top of the pedal diagonally, into which you can twist your foot to lock in or untwist your foot to unlock.

    Search Amazon for Power Grip Straps to see what I'm talking about.  

    With Power Grip straps, you don't need any special pedal, or any special cleat on the shoe, or any special biking shoe.  And, if you don't want to use them for some reason, you just flip the pedal over and let the straps stay on the bottom of the pedal.  

    I have used these and they are wonderful replacements for anything meant to keep your feet fastened to the pedal and to get power on the upstroke. And I think they are a little bit safer that the lock-in cleats. They are way easier to use that all the other stuff.  Just a twist of your foot locks or unlocks your foot from the strap.

    PS:  They make a model with police markings for bicycle cops.

  •  Nice diary! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I was thinking of getting back into biking but now my free outdoors time is taking up walking a rescue dog who is scared of everything--including bikes.

    For a few years I rode a hybrid bike on the quieter streets and the paved trails through the city parks, but work responsibilities curtailed my riding.

  •  Road for the first time 10 years (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    AoT, IL clb

    On Saturday I got on a bike for the first time in a decade.  The last time I was on a bike I ended up in the ER with a broken nose, concussion and road rash.  And yes, I had a helmet, gloves and full clothing on.  Had I not I probably would have been dead.  It was my 4th major bike accident and yet another concussion.  My docs told me I blew past "too many" a while ago.  

    It was a short ride - 10 miles - but it felt great and reminded me how much I miss riding.  I only live 6 miles from work and would love to ride but bottom line Im scared.  2 months ago the husband of a friend was killed on a ride in California.  I see videos like this one ( and cringe.  For each of my bad accidents I have had a hundred near misses.  

    Im close to getting a new bike.  Probably the REI Novara Strada (  But Im still scared.

    It is well that war is so terrible -- lest we should grow too fond of it. Robert E. Lee

    by ksuwildkat on Mon Aug 11, 2014 at 11:29:08 AM PDT

  •  easy on your joints (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    AoT, Alumbrados

    I agree with that.  I gave running all I had but it left me sore and with little sense of gratification.   I might get saddle sore after long distance riding for consecutive days but that's it.  I supplement cycling with cross-country skiing during winter.  Another low impact sport.

  •  Folding bike (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    AoT, IL clb

    I too never lost my love of cycling, but I did take a hiatus of about a dozen years because between a round trip commute of a hundred miles and shuttling kids around I didn't have time.  I even donated my road bike, although I kept my old Serotta-built mountain bike.

    So when I ditched the job with the long commute and my kids were older I decided to get a folding bike because I envisioned using the bike in conjunction with public transit.  However I quickly discovered I didn't really need transit; although I wasn't in the shape I was in fifteen years earlier I had no trouble riding twenty or twenty-five miles.  Nor were even rather intimidating hills a problem; those are largely a matter of attitude.  

    So I ended up with a folding bike which I hardly ever fold.  But I found I really enjoyed the cheap Dahon D7 for other reasons.  The ride is extremely harsh because of the small wheels, but on the flip side the steering is extremely agile.  I found this combination really fun to ride.  This bike is not fast; the riding position is too upright and the gear spacing too wide if you want to get from A to B as fast as possible, but if the journey is its own point it doesn't matter.  I later fixed the ride by upgrading the tires to Schwalbe Big Apple 20" x 2.0" -- although this required modifying the fender mounting slightly.   Big Apples are a "poor man's suspension" , and with them I can ride over unpaved fire roads with not much problem.

    I've lost my faith in nihilism

    by grumpynerd on Mon Aug 11, 2014 at 11:37:41 AM PDT

  •  My approach: (0+ / 0-)

    I bought a used mid-90's steel Lemond Reno from a local bike shop and rode the heck out of it for 5 or 6 years. It didn't take long to get hooked on riding and by then I didn't mind buying an expensive frame and doing my own build. Spending some quality time on a bike is a great way to figure out what you do (and don't) like.

    Some other tips... don't buy a bike in the summer. Wait until fall/winter and you'll get a better deal. If you're going to spend money, spend it on a frame first and wheels second. Those are the two areas that will impact your ride the most.

    It's always good to support your local bike shop, but if you really need to save money get fitted properly and then search on-line for the right deal. A single speed is another great way to save money because you're skipping out on some expensive components.

    Finally, in my experience, folks who ride LOVE to talk about their bikes, routes, shops, etc. Ask someone for advice and you're likely to get plenty of help.

  •  Nice (0+ / 0-)

    I have a decent low-end road bike from Raleigh, I like it a lot, but I just bought a used Specialized hybrid to keep in my office and use to go to lunch.  At first, I didn't really like it but once I got used to it I love it for going around town, down the gravelled creek trails and generally low stress cruising.

    I really like biking because its easy on my feet and legs.

    "I said, 'Wait a minute, Chester, You know I'm a peaceful man..." Robbie Robertson

    by NearlyNormal on Mon Aug 11, 2014 at 11:47:42 AM PDT

  •  Bell Helmet, blackburn flea, serfas lites (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    the bell helmet has places to attach the headlight and taillight from Blackburn.
    Serfas lites are very bright.  A guy told me at the train station in Princeton Junction that he could see me half a mile away.

    I am Specialized.

    •  SOME Bell helmets (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Bell makes a wide variety of helmets. I have the Bell Muni that has those light attachments (and is also the best-fitting helmet I've ever owned). But most Bell helmets don't have them.

      "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals."—Barack Obama

      by HeyMikey on Mon Aug 11, 2014 at 12:17:03 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  hills/cruisers; Craigslist, eBay (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    AoT, Alumbrados

    I second the diarist's recommendation that you're better off getting a used bike of one of the better brands, instead of a new "department store" bike.

    There are some good deals on eBay and Craigslist.

    You might be tempted to get a cruiser because they look cool and run a bit cheaper than other styles. But the hills turn out to be a lot steeper on a bike than they seem from your car. And unless you're a Zen master or only take short trips, you'll get impatient at the top speed of a single-speeder.

    So get a bike with plenty of gears, unless you're only making short trips in someplace flat as a pancake.

    "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals."—Barack Obama

    by HeyMikey on Mon Aug 11, 2014 at 12:21:14 PM PDT

  •  Fixies? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    IL clb

    That looks to me like a track bike. Now I have a failry small circle of experience, so I don't know what bike messengers ride, but while the idea of single speed is not foreign to me (I was a kid once), the notion of riding a bike with no brakes just doen't jibe with any sensibilities.

    A track bike, however, has all those features, including the direct gearing. I've watched track racing periodically when they're televised (infrequently—mostly during the Olympics on one of the secondary or tertiary coverage channels, like CNBC—less accessible than curling). They have events like pursuit, team pursuit, sprints, etc., and they are interesting to watch, if for nothing else, to see two racers each doing a track stand on the banked track. They'll hold those positions for ridiculously long times before one or the other has to ride or fall. Then the real race starts.

    I'm a big fan of racing (watching, not doing). I've been watching full coverage of le Tour de France since the '90s (when there wasn't much). Nowadays, bride and I have our le Tour staycation where we watch each day's stage and do reps on our bikes up on trainers in the media room.

    This year was the first year I was able to get all of the Giro d'Italia and similarly, watched every stage (Quintana was amazing, as was Nibali in le Tour). I just finished watching the Tour of Utah and the Pro Challenge comes up soon. I also get to watch a lot of the classics.

    I've done some riding, too. Fuji has been my bike of choice, for the most part (had one stolen—is there any one of us who has escaped cycle thievery?) I have a page on my website devoted to my bikes with some ancillary information.

    Strong believer in helmets since the '70s. Oh, and both my Fuji's had cantilever brakes, which are mounted on bosses on the forks and are much grippier than frame mounted calipers.

    As I point out in my article, my current bike is so old it's "vintage" and is from the class of "steel bikes" built from chrome moly, back in the day.

    Great diary.

    LRod—UID 238035
    ZJX, ORD, ZAU retired
    My ATC site
    My Norm's Tools site

    by exatc on Mon Aug 11, 2014 at 12:42:33 PM PDT

  •  some cheap DIY cargo buckets . . . . (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jcrit, AoT, BlackSheep1, BYw, IL clb

    . .  that I made for my bike and used for years.

    Take two empty plastic cat litter buckets--the kind with the "rim" running around the outside edge. Drill two holes in the rim along one side of the bucket. Now get two of the bungee cord tie-down thingies, and take the metal hook parts off.  Feed these through the hole in the bucket rim so the hook part extends out the top and the windie part is against the bottom.

    Now you can use those hooks to hang your buckets on the rim of your cargo rack. Put the lids on, and voila.

    They are lightweight, waterproof, hold a lot of cargo, are dirt cheap, and are pretty tough and won't break easily.


    In the end, reality always wins.

    by Lenny Flank on Mon Aug 11, 2014 at 01:03:18 PM PDT

  •  Clip-ins -- falling over (0+ / 0-)

    Just did this a couple weeks ago while riding up hill. I unwisely switched gears on the hill, the chain popped off, and I lost all momentum and fell over before I really knew what was going on.


  •  Major impediments to cycling-hands and butt! (6+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Major Kong, AoT, Alumbrados, BYw, kurt, IL clb

    Comfort is one of the main beefs new cyclists have, they complain about the seat hurting their butt and their hands go numb.

    In response to deadbutt, people brow-beat the shop guys into installing a tractor-seat on their lightweight.  This doesn't really help, because even the biggest tractor seat still kills yer butt. I am told (because I'd NEVER be found dead along side the road next to one) that recumbent riders get deadbutt, and they're sitting in a lawn chair!

    The reason for deadbutt is the same as the other common complaints cyclists have, deadhand and deadfoot, CIRCULATION.

    The biggest solution to all these complaints is to increase blood flow to the affected body parts.

    An additional solution is to spread the force the body is experiencing, hence the demand for tractor seats.

    The standard sorta-narrow saddle cyclists use work by providing a spot for the bony shapes on the bottom of the pelvis to perch, and they make saddles of varying shapes go accomodate different body shapes, frinstence saddles made for women have the bumps spaced farther apart than those meant for men.

    These saddles aren't soft and fluffy, and the solution to deadbutt is to get off your ass and pump the blood back into it periodically.

    Hands and feet are subject to circulation issues as well.

    There are a variety of types of grips and padded bar tape, my mtn bike has some radically shaped grips with flat outer portions and built-in bar-ends, they are made in Chermany and they are kinda spendy, there are some others that are similar designs but not as nice. The shape of road bike bars is specifically intended to provide a variety of hand positions, you can change the force your hands are enduring by moving around in different positions.

    MAD Magazine's Don Martin usta draw people with feet that have an extra hinge, and after a long ride a new rider might feel like changing his name to "Fonebone" because her feet are getting badly pressed by the pedalling force, this is the reason why they have cycling-specific shoes. Some of these shoes are so cycling-specific that they're nearly impossible to walk in, certainly not particularly useful for most cyclists, but that's okay because there are cycling shoes that look like sneakers while still being reinforced for pedalling.

    Cycling shoes have very stiff soles, the more performance-oriented the shoes, the stiffer the soles, in order to provide a shoe that doesnt give you "Fonebone Feet" from stomping on the pedals.

    A common mistake made by new cyclists is to tightly lace their shoes; this restricts blood flow and greatly contributes to deadfoot. This issue illustrates why you should pick riding shoes that fit the upper part of the foot as well as the sole fitting an outline of the foot, because a well-fitting shoe holds your foot WITHOUT being tied tightly.

    The bottom line with a these comfort issues is that all body parts require a fresh supply of blood, and much of the discomfort experienced by cyclists is caused by inadequate circulation.

    Flex, stretch, wiggle yer toes, move your hands around, and get off your butt while riding!

    "Ronald Reagan is DEAD! His policies live on but we're doing something about THAT!"

    by leftykook on Mon Aug 11, 2014 at 01:18:38 PM PDT

  •  And...Driving makes you fat (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    "Work for something because it is good, not just because it stands a chance to succeed." -- Vaclav Havel

    by greendem on Mon Aug 11, 2014 at 02:08:25 PM PDT

  •  Great diary (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    AoT, Major Kong, IL clb

    I remember when three speeds were called English Racers.
    I now have a Marin Lucas Valley and am happy with it. Rarely change gears though.

    I am sure someone has mentioned a good bike helmet.

    My beef is not with cars though I am not sure when it became okay to drive in the middle of the road on suburban streets, but with pedestrians.  They step right out in front of you and then, if and when, they become aware of you, they give you this deer in the headlight look like they've never seen a bike and don't know what to do. Step ahead, step back, just stand there? And you don;t know what to do, if they don't do something.

    I am a Liberal. I am not a Progressive. If you are a Progressive you are part of the problem, not part of the solution.

    by LemmyCaution on Mon Aug 11, 2014 at 02:15:06 PM PDT

  •  Thanks! Mr pixxer and I just replaced our (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    fumie, IL clb

    ancient, rusted bikes, buying used, refurbished ones at a place in west Berkeley that also trains kids to work on their bikes, and offers tools and a workshop. Cool place.

  •  Awesome diary. (0+ / 0-)


  •  My First Bike Was... (0+ / 0-)

    ...a "fixie." I think I got it when I was eight years old, sometime in the last century. It was red and had a bell and was the coolest toy I'd ever had up until then. I got it for Christmas and as soon as there was no snow on the ground my dad taught me how to ride.

    I had that bike until I was 13 and started a newspaper route. Once I had saved up enough money I bought myself a black three wheeler, which ended up becoming my younger brother's bike when I left for the navy.

    I currently own a purplish 16 speed hybrid. I don't get to ride very often, but do enjoy biking when I can.

    Thanks for bringing back memories.

  •  My favorite bike... (0+ / 0-)

    has a steel frame with curved steel forks, bull horn bars with bar end brake levers, single speed with Shimano freewheel, geared 46:18, running 700c road tires. I've got brakes front and back and good lights at both ends too. I've got over 4000 miles on it so far this year.

    To be first in the soil, which erupts in the coil, of trees veins and grasses all brought to a boil. -- The Maxx

    by notrouble on Mon Aug 11, 2014 at 04:13:37 PM PDT

  •  i think from my handle (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tardis10, IL clb

    you can tell where my sympathies lie

  •  How do you dismount from a bicycle? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mother Shipper, IL clb

    Later tonight I will talk about my brand new bike.

    In the meantime, I need your assistance.

    One of the things I learned is that on a regular bike, only the tips of your toes should touch the ground as you sit on the saddle.

    I am working on getting used to this, but still I struggle.  That's not safe in traffic.

    (Btw, there are many wonderful new bikes made so that your feet do connect to the ground as you sit.  Bless them all, but they are too heavy to carry up to the second floor.  Besides, I want to be a bad-ass 62-year-old lady.)

    So how do you dismount without falling WITH the bike (as I do)?

    •  Stand on the down pedal.... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Chico David RN, IL clb

      and then take your foot off of the high pedal and put that on the ground. You have to get off the seat with most fits.

      Starting out again is exactly to opposite....push off....standing on the lower yourself and put the other foot on the pedal.

      I use clips, but it is still basically the same process.

  •  I know who stole your Schwinn. (0+ / 0-)

    It was Gary Ruppert, I saw him.

  •  anybody know what the big deal is about (0+ / 0-)

    making trikes SO LOW to the ground! Our gut reaction is that low is bad for visibility, much overweighing streamlining or whatever?

    "real" work : a job where you wash your hands BEFORE you use the bathroom...

    by chimene on Mon Aug 11, 2014 at 05:31:20 PM PDT

  •  mine is a hybrid, and i've had it almost 10 years (0+ / 0-)

    talked to the people at the trek bike store and got the right size and I love it. Even added a rack on back for carrying things if needed.

    "We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them." - Albert Einstein

    by pickandshovel on Mon Aug 11, 2014 at 05:33:34 PM PDT

  •  Nice work, Major :-) (0+ / 0-)

    ridemybike is a fixie boy ;-)

    (really glad you included it!!)

    every adult is responsible for every child

    by ridemybike on Mon Aug 11, 2014 at 05:40:39 PM PDT

  •  also (haven't read thru yet so hope I'm not (0+ / 0-)


    anybody have ideas on "handlebar" constellations that are easy on carpal wrists? I NEED some way to hold on and stear that does NOT involve leaning all my upper-body weight ON MY WRISTS!

    mostly I just sit up straight and don't go terribly fast, and stear with fingertips or the outside of fisted finger bones (proximal phalanges, the diagram sez'). I hardly ever need to brake (go slow, right?), and I make sure I don't get tangled up in stuff, and can shift easily.

    this issue is one of the reasons I'm interested in trikes, the kind that the working handlebar parts are straight down from your shoulders, beside your seat. Also the seating... I can no longer use a regular saddle, so am currently using a "sit-bone" nose-less arrangement, which works, but a chair-seat would be much easier!

    I HATE exercise, but need to do a fair amount of it; I'm overweight; I hate "competition" like poison. We have grocery-shopped by bike in years past, but I've currently lost my wind (may be HBP)! I need some way to get back to the biking, for my health! So would appreciate any ideas!

    "real" work : a job where you wash your hands BEFORE you use the bathroom...

    by chimene on Mon Aug 11, 2014 at 05:41:20 PM PDT

    •  Sounds like you may want a recumbent (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Your wrists and hands don't have to support any of your weight and some of them have chair-style seats.

      There's an awful lot of variation between different recumbents so I'd look at several.

      If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

      by Major Kong on Tue Aug 12, 2014 at 02:43:57 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  we have looked at a few... (0+ / 0-)

        terribly expensive and not available even to try out without a 200 mile drive! which we have tried -- got a trial ride on big-city streets with no info from shop staff about how it works! not much impressed with that shop's sales process!

        will have to keep trying, i guess!

        "real" work : a job where you wash your hands BEFORE you use the bathroom...

        by chimene on Tue Aug 12, 2014 at 01:39:40 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Perhaps a comfort hybrid? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I just bought last year's model of the Raleigh Venture.  

      It has what they call ergonomic grips and you sit straighter with this style bike (though not 100% straight).  It also has a twist shifter which is way more more comfortable for me.

      I previously had a Trek 800 mountain bike and couldn't hardly stand to sit on it; the Raleigh has far more comfortable seat.  Both the seat and forks have suspension, I definitely like the fork suspension so far.

      I'm not sure this a 'forever' bike, I'm still working at getting comfortable riding again, but it currently suits me.  If possible, go to a bike shop that will let you ride for a bit - I took several bikes out for several minutes, and came back another day and did it again before I decided.

      Good luck!

  •  How rugged and long-lasting are carbon frames? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    IL clb

    Professional cycling teams seem to go through several per rider in a multi-day road race like the Tour de France, and I keep reading how they don't last that long even for average riders. A bad spill or accident and you're out a $2000 frame. Any truth to this, and how well do they fatigue over time? Closer to steel and titanium, which can last forever if properly treated, or to aluminum, which eventually wears out? I've had my titanium road bike for nearly 11 years and have put close to 11k miles on it, and the frame looks and feels like I just bought it. Plus it has a really nice road feel, absorbing minor bumps pretty smoothly, almost rubbery. It didn't even cost that much, $700 for just the frame, just over $2000 for the entire bike (that I built up myself).

    Btw that was probably me passing you. My trip average is between 14-15mph but that includes a lot of city riding where I have to slow down for lights, stop signs, cars, pedestrians, squirrels, etc. On open stretches I average around 18-22mph. I can hit 30mph on the flats if I really push it, and think I once his 40moh on a downhill. Personally I think that professional racers, who often exceed 60mph on mountain descents, are clinically insane.

    Also, I think that the coolest thing about cycling is that it can get you to places that are hard or impossible to get to by car, or where it's hard to find free or affordable parking, with zero emissions.

    Finally, to folks who ride on the wrong side of the road, that dirty look you got was from me. Ride on the right, wear a damn helmet, and have working lights front and rear if it's dark. If you're not going to ride safely, then DON'T RIDE.

    "Reagan's dead, and he was a lousy president" -- Keith Olbermann 4/22/09

    by kovie on Mon Aug 11, 2014 at 06:18:15 PM PDT

    •  Depends on the stressor (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      kovie, IL clb

      I'm far from a materials expert, but my impression is that a carbon fiber frame will stand up to a lot of hard use - mine has on the order of 20 K miles of rough roads with no problems so far.  On the other hand, a minor crash that might leave a small dent in the tube of a steel frame could seriously compromise the integrity of a carbon frame.  And a lot of folks worry about the failure mode - that a failing steel frame is likely to give you some warning, but a failing carbon frame may fail catastrophically all at once.  It's certainly worth inspecting regularly for visible cracks and such.  And, while I've ridden a carbon frame for several years, the once piece I would not want to have be carbon is the steer tube (the part of the fork that is inside the frame).  Both because that makes it invisible and hard to inspect, and because a failure there is so very bad in terms of the kind of crash it causes.

      "Wouldn't you rather vote for what you want and not get it than vote for what you don't want - and get it?" Eugene Debs. "Le courage, c'est de chercher la verité et de la dire" Jean Jaures

      by Chico David RN on Mon Aug 11, 2014 at 09:42:56 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Glad to hear that your carbon frame (0+ / 0-)

        has lasted through this many miles through normal use, including rough roads. That's more what I was asking, as any frame will break if the accident is bad enough, although I'm guessing that carbon and aluminum do the worst in bad accidents. But it's the day to day wear and tear that most riders should be concerned about. A bike that won't last more than 5-10 years is not worth it IMO unless you put 5k+ miles on it a year on rough roads.

        I really like my Ti bike, but aside from the frame and pedals, it's made up of mid-range components that are showing their age, especially relative to what's available today, e.g. electronic shifting, disc brakes, carbon parts, etc. At some point I'm going to want a new bike, not to replace but to complement this one. It's probably going to be carbon, so I'm asking people with carbon bikes how tough they are. I might take a different route, though, and buy a decent steel frame and put my current components on it to use as a backup bike, and build up a new bike with all-new components on my current Ti frame.

        Btw, my fork is all-carbon, including the steerer tube. It's got over 10k miles on it with just a few minor gravel dings on the blades that I keep an eye on, and the tube has held up well, and I check it occasionally for cracks. It isn't name brand, either, but a Performance-labelled re-brand (Kinesis I think) that with headset and stem cost me around $180 over 10 years ago. Including the tires and tubes I probably have around a dozen brands on my bike (including a weird Campy/Shimano drivetrain), making it a hybrid in its own way. :-)

        "Reagan's dead, and he was a lousy president" -- Keith Olbermann 4/22/09

        by kovie on Tue Aug 12, 2014 at 07:32:53 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Other bike styles (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    waterstreet2008, IL clb

    Dutch Style City bike: it's an upright sitting cruiser-like bike that is designed for comfort. Also called a comfort bike. People who ride road or mountain bikes will use a whole new muscle set riding these. They can be good for people with back issues.

    BMX: Unless your name is Matt Hoffman, you wouldn't want to be seen on one of these if you're older than 14.

    Track bike: A fixie with drop handlebars for going in circles fast.

    Time trial bike: very similar to a triathlon bike (fewer places to hold water bottles). Short wheelbase and hard to handle, you are better to have already lost those 15 pounds before you get on one.

    E-bike: Basically, a bike with an electric battery and motor for assistance. Before you turn up your purist nose at these, they can be useful for casual riders who live in hilly areas but cant get over hills on a regular bike or for those people who are completely out of shape but want to get out of their car.

    As for myself, I prefer my 30 year old Schwinn KOM chrome-molly hard-tail frame with the strap-in pedals and straight handlebars. Since I live in the town where they design Specialized bikes, I can never keep up with those guys. Or afford their bikes.

    There are 10 kinds of people in this world. Those who understand binary and those who don't.

    by bobinson on Mon Aug 11, 2014 at 06:27:39 PM PDT

    •  If temperatures go into the 90s, the E-bike (0+ / 0-)

      option can be a life saver.

      And if you're in your 40s or older, or much older, or have some extra weight then this applies to you.

      The standard E-bike uses plug-in rechargeable batteries. Good ones start at around $700 new. Cheaper than heat stroke.

  •  I have to have 2 bikes. (0+ / 0-)

    For my "commute" which includes some curb-jumping and some off-road dirt paths...I like a mountain bike with fat yet smooth tires for stability and good road rolling.

    For a recreational ride, where I know I'm on good pavement the whole ride I take my road bike. Much lighter, smoother and faster. I love them both for what they do.

  •  I have a 1974 Peugeot 10 speed (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Chico David RN, waterstreet2008

    and I am the original owner.  It is still in good shape, but the bent over handles are no longer comfortable for me at age 59 to ride. Is there any market for these older "classics"?  Or is it worth it to ask a bike shop to change out the handlebars for me to something a little more comfy and with a more upright posture?  

    The GOP -- Hating Women, Gays and People of Color since 1854
    PS Despite the dumb screenname I picked, I'm female!

    by Former Chicagoan Now Angeleno on Mon Aug 11, 2014 at 07:18:21 PM PDT

    •  Yes, there is a market. (1+ / 0-)

      There are definitely collectors who like old French bikes.  If it's fairly original, you might be surprised.  If you are willing to go to the hassle of shipping it, eBay might be surprisingly productive.  
      I worked a bike shop selling those at the height of their popularity - 1971-74 - and assembled literally hundreds of them!

      "Wouldn't you rather vote for what you want and not get it than vote for what you don't want - and get it?" Eugene Debs. "Le courage, c'est de chercher la verité et de la dire" Jean Jaures

      by Chico David RN on Mon Aug 11, 2014 at 09:46:06 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  thank you! (0+ / 0-)

        It is pretty original except for some scratched paint that I dabbed in the matching repair paint and for the decal my college required for registration, which I'm sure would come off with some effort.  It also has newer brake pads as I didn't want to die the last time I rode it and the old ones were crumbling!

        The GOP -- Hating Women, Gays and People of Color since 1854
        PS Despite the dumb screenname I picked, I'm female!

        by Former Chicagoan Now Angeleno on Tue Aug 12, 2014 at 09:39:55 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Change the bars !! (1+ / 0-)

      And get a 2" or 4" riser while you're at it.

      I've got the same setup on my big grocery bike, but use lever bars for normal braking and ride with hands on top of the curl.

      It's not quite as comfortable as the straight-ish bars on my C-dale hybrid. But I love the long brake levers. My setup has full pull getting me a slow-down, not a lock-up.

      You can buy a full set of metric wrenches for less than a bike shop charges at a minimum. Leftie loosy, rightie tightie....

    •  They ought to be for those prices! (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      waterstreet2008, Gottlieb

      Wow! I've bought cars for less than some of their models.

      Neat bikes but I won't be shopping for one anytime soon.

      If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

      by Major Kong on Tue Aug 12, 2014 at 02:41:08 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  If you like the Moulton setup, DLT makes a (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        commuter version with standard 16" wide tires, same as kids bikes.

        DLT DaHon Licenced Technology.

        I just sold one cuz I don't commute regularly and don't need the folding bike to get on rush hour trains.

        My DLT California worked solidly for a decade. Maintenance once a year. Really couldn't ask for more and this thing has a very broad range for size adjustments.

        Citizen has a similar model for $399. A folder. All these bikes are built like little tanks.

        •  I'd like to have one to take on trips (0+ / 0-)

          I've flown with one guy who brings his regular bicycle along in a very large, wheeled suitcase.

          I wouldn't mind having something a bit more manageable that I could ride while on layovers.

          If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

          by Major Kong on Tue Aug 12, 2014 at 07:36:24 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  the Moulton is a separable (0+ / 0-)

          not a folder, so not as convenient, but an AMAZING ride. The smoothest bike I've ever been on, plus, super maneuverable at low speed - you can easily thread your way on a sidewalk through thronging foot traffic. And at speed, it's terrific. What a machine. A bit ungainly looking in the area of the front suspension, but still a cool bike.

  •  Utah here. Yep, most guys I know have a mtn bike. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Not sure its like the one in the picture, but these guys are serious riders and suspension is important. You nailed that one.

    me? I have a 20 year old hybrid. Still rides great.

    The word 'politics' is derived from the word 'poly', meaning 'many', and the word 'ticks', meaning 'blood sucking parasites'. ~ Larry Hardiman

    by shel3364 on Mon Aug 11, 2014 at 08:58:51 PM PDT

  •  My first bike was a Sting-Ray (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    waterstreet2008, IL clb

    with the tall handlebars and a banana seat with a sissy bar. It was awesome and I rode it everywhere around Mpls-St.Paul. Back then kids could roam safely and it extended my "range" from a mile or two to 10 - 20 miles. It was freedom, literally. I remember riding it to the Lake Nokomis beach (about about 10 miles from home) in the late 60's to check out the girls, listen to AM radio, eat ice cream and swim.

    My next (serious) bike was a 10 speed Motobacane with Shimano parts and I rode that (in season) to college and was able to get to class about 7 miles in a consistent 23 minutes. That's about 18 mph and I pushed it with toe clips and a route that avoided traffic and hills.

    Now I have a used big box "mountain" bike that I got from a buddy at a bike store who totally tuned it up and sold it to me for $20. I just use it to tool around town.

    Thanks for the great topic and discussion!

  •  One unfunny: if you spend more $$$ to get lighter (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    IL clb

    frame and parts then you'll give back the weight saving when you add on the massive U-bolt super lock you'll feel you need to keep it from being stolen.

    Here's Columbia University in NYC:


    They take the problem seriously. NO CABLE LOCKS starts the discussion.

    And Kryptonite U-Locks have bike insurance plus optional extensions.

    Good luck fending off crooks.

  •  Might've mentioned ebikes . . . (0+ / 0-)
  •  FWIW, a biking buddy recommended (0+ / 0-)

    if you're getting bikes to ride with the wife, spend more on her bike.  And don't get her a 'girl's' bike.  Spend the money to get her the better bike so she'll want to ride more often.  Don't get the girl's bike because the frame isn't as stiff as the traditional boy's bike, so she'll spend more energy 'bending' the bike than moving it forward. It's not like she's going to ride the bike with a Victorian dress on or anything...

    “that our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, any more than our opinions in physics or geometry.” Thomas Jefferson

    by markdd on Tue Aug 12, 2014 at 01:19:10 PM PDT

    •  Start flat. Women's knees typically need to (0+ / 0-)

      tighten up -- literally, measurably -- before they get comfortable riding bikes. That goes fine where it's flat.

      Half as much is better than one too many. Never truer.

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