beginner road bike???

Robocop

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I have recently became interested in buying a nice road bike as the woman I am with is a pretty serious bicyclist. I was shocked to see the distances some people ride and recently watched my g/f do 150 miles for a multiple sclerosis fund raiser....good lord I can not imagine riding that far in one day but the idea of being able to maybe do so intrigues me.

I searched here but only found info on bike lights and an internet search just confused me more. From what I have been told I am not really built for road riding as the better ones tend to be very thin and lean and I am pretty much all muscle at 5-8" and 190lbs. I am really not looking to be the next Lance Armstrong either but I would like to start riding just to be able to share some of my G/F hobby with her.

Now the problem I found real quick was that one can spend some big money on bikes if they do not know what they are doing...and that would be me. Considering my heavier more muscled frame is there one type or brand better suited for me? Also if I have say 700 dollars as a limit can I even consider this figure to get me well set up to ride with other groups?

Basically I am seeking any advice for a beginner and would like to have opinions I trust rather than a bike shop who is trying to just get me to buy their bikes. I recently saw a Trek Madone that was "on sale" for 3500 dollars and this certain custom shop had very few bikes cheaper than this so again I am lost here.

Thanks for any suggestions as always and wish me luck.....
 

TorchBoy

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Good on you for wanting to do it. The mental pic of your avatar on a bike is an entertaining one.

Does your girlfriend know what she's doing when it comes to bicycles? Would she be able to assist you in buying a bike or do you want to surprise her?
 

Robocop

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She is an experienced rider however is also very muscular so she does not ride in competition but just usually for fun. She does know much more than myself and she spoke of things like sizing to fit, carbon fiber parts, hybrids, different speeds or gears,..ETC: so really she confused me as well.

I believe her bike is made by Scott and cost something like 1100 dollars. She also spent much on riding gear so maybe she has close to 1700 dollars invested. She was the one who suggested visiting her bike shop and I did just that. The costs of all those bikes hanging there kind of shocked me so I decided to do a lot more research before I jumped in.

I am not opposed to buying a used bike however from what I have read if an inexperienced rider does not know what they are looking at they can get really burned on a used bike. The shop did not seem too interested in suggestions for a used bike but again I assume this was due to them hoping I would buy new from them.

I was first shocked at the few new bikes I looked at were all closer to 3k and did not even come with the damn pedals....these are extra money and yes I know this is due to the many styles but for the cost one would think you could simply pick out the proper pedals and they would throw them into the purchase for free.....holy smoke this can get to be a very expensive hobby.

I was also looking around the shop and saw all the special shoes sold there were all over 100 dollars and even saw a plain old pair of padded spandex type shorts for 195 dollars.....not to mention the trip computer....extra tubes and repair kits....bottle holders....well you get my point.

I think I will take my G/F advice and maybe attend a learners class offered by the bike shop. She recommended talking with a few of her friends who ride and see if any had a loaner bike I could try just to get an idea of my comfort level or style or bike I like. I think what facinates me the most is being able to hop on a bike and ride 30 miles in a day. It would be nice to just ride without the worry of rising fuel costs and I was again shocked to see some of the distances covered on road bikes....even by beginner riders such as myself.
 

Robocop

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I also was really suprised to see just what an experienced rider can really do on a bike. On the 150 mile ride I spoke of earlier I was a spectator only however my g/f went as a rider with many of her riding friends.

One of these friends is a husband and wife team with the woman being very thin and wiry. She is maybe 5-2 and 105lbs while her husband is over 6 foot and maybe 270lbs but kind of out of shape looking. If I just glanced at the guy no way in the world would I ever think him to be an accomplished rider.

He freely admits to being fat and out of shape however put that man on a bike and he is a great rider. He has long been a coach to other riders and just knows his stuff....this is how he met my g/f as he was her riding coach long ago.

Well we talked a little and he said there are many things to riding other than brute power and endurance. He spoke of pedal technique and pulling and pushing as well as breathing and a host of other stuff. Long story short this bad out of shape man who could not run a mile if he had to beat many very thin and younger riders on that 150 mile ride and I was truly shocked....of course his bike was said to cost over 8k but none the less he could ride the crap out of that bike but he sure looked funny in those spandex shorts. He is a good sport and a great guy so maybe I can also go to him for advice.

Wit a little training....a decent bike....and some time I think I could be a good rider but more than anything could learn to really enjoy the sport.
 

jtr1962

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I don't really have specific recommendations in terms of brands but I've noticed people just getting into cycling often have a tendency to way overspend on equipment. You're smart to realize this possibility before ending up with thousands in equipment you'll never fully utilize. I've ridden over 57,000 miles since starting college back in 1980. Believe it or not, most of that was on really low-end steel-framed bikes like Huffys (but with better components which I added). My only "real" bike is my Raleigh. Even that I got second hand from my cousin. My point here is if you want to ride you'll ride regardless of the equipment. That being said, I do heartily recommend avoiding "department store" $99 bikes. The components are usually crap and will wear out after a few hundred miles. My general recommendations:

1) Buy a bike computer. This is the only way you're going to be able to accurately gauge your progress. When you cover x miles over the same route faster than the week before you'll know you're getting in better cycling condition.

2) Get integrated brake/shifters (called brifters). Most decent bikes have them anyway. Well worth it from a safety and ease of shifting standpoint.

3) Get decent wheels. No need to go with super expensive carbon fiber ones. A decent set of alloy wheels will suffice. Forget any bike with steel wheels. Those get dented to hell over anything but the smoothest roads.

4) Consider airless tires if you'll be riding anywhere with lots of glass or thorns. While it's true they might be a bit slower than pneumatics, fact is any other solution to mitigate flats such as heavier tires, rim strips, "goo", etc. all increase rolling resistance to some extent. Thin road bike tires have little rolling resistance, but they are also very prone to flats. The downside to airless tires? Probably the company that makes them. I'm still waiting since last August for my order. Then again, you may do fine with regular road tires depending upon where you'll ride. I just know I can't. Flats for me are a weekly occurance.

5) Consider getting one of those aero wheel disks (see the picture of my Raleigh below). Combined with an aerospoke front wheel, they'll probably give you a 2 to 3 mph speed increase. Since you're new to this, you'll need all the help you can get to keep up with your other half who does 150 mile rides.

6) Get a seat you find comfortable. This is probably one of the most important things since you'll be sitting on it for long periods. You may have to try several before finding one you like. Also, some are more sensitive than others to seats. My rear is so hardened from years of cycling over potholes that I can probably sit on a bare seat post without being too distressed.

7) Cycling clothing may or may not be for you. A lot depends upon your budget (you can spend as much on clothing as on the bike itself) and how comfortable you feel without it. I wear the same clothes and sneakers to go cycling as I do for everything else. The only thing I might recommend is to slightly underdress on cool days. You'll feel cold the first few minutes of the ride until you body warms up from the activity, but it beats sweating for the remainder of the ride. Wear gloves of some sort if you'll be cycling in temperatures much under about 45°F. Trust me, frozen fingers are not fun.

8) Buy tools such as a spoke wrench, chain tool, cone wrenches, set of Allen keys. You'll save a fortune learning to fix your bike yourself.

Here's a good site for further reading.

That's all I can think of for the moment. I'm sure you already know this, but don't expect to be flying along until you get at least few hundred miles under your belt. Even for someone like myself, if I don't ride for a few weeks it takes a while to recondition myself. It takes literally thousands of miles to feel really comfortable on a bike under all circumstances. Although exact numbers vary depending upon the person and terrain, if you reach the point where 20 mph is a comfortable pace which you can maintain for a few hours, and can burst up to 30 to 35 occasionally, then you'll know you have "arrived". Note though that with traffic and hills even if you cruise at 20 mph you'll never average 20 mph. Even on my good rides I'll seldom average more than 17 mph even though my normal cruise is 22 to 24 mph on level ground. As for long rides, that may or may not be your thing. I prefer to just do quick 15 to 30 mile rides staying within about 5 miles of where I live. When the airless tires come I might attempt something more adventurous. As hard as it is to believe given how many miles I've ridden in total, the most I ever rode in one stretch was 60 miles. The most in a day was I think 70.

Here's the promised pic of my "wheels":

Raleigh.jpg
 

jtr1962

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One of these friends is a husband and wife team with the woman being very thin and wiry. She is maybe 5-2 and 105lbs while her husband is over 6 foot and maybe 270lbs but kind of out of shape looking. If I just glanced at the guy no way in the world would I ever think him to be an accomplished rider.

He freely admits to being fat and out of shape however put that man on a bike and he is a great rider. He has long been a coach to other riders and just knows his stuff....this is how he met my g/f as he was her riding coach long ago.

Well we talked a little and he said there are many things to riding other than brute power and endurance. He spoke of pedal technique and pulling and pushing as well as breathing and a host of other stuff. Long story short this bad out of shape man who could not run a mile if he had to beat many very thin and younger riders on that 150 mile ride and I was truly shocked....of course his bike was said to cost over 8k but none the less he could ride the crap out of that bike but he sure looked funny in those spandex shorts. He is a good sport and a great guy so maybe I can also go to him for advice.
All very true. I probably couldn't run anything worth a bit either (I hate running anyway). The only time this guy's weight is a factor in cycling is going to be uphills. For a given power output he'll be going slower uphill than a lighter person. I even notice the difference the extra 25-30 pounds I'm carrying now makes. One hill which is roughly about 1 in 22 I used to climb at 17 mph when I was 165-170 pounds. Now at 200 or close to it I'm lucky to do 13 mph up that same hill, even though my speeds on level ground haven't changed much in the last 15 years.

Wit a little training....a decent bike....and some time I think I could be a good rider but more than anything could learn to really enjoy the sport.
Enjoying is the most important part. If you enjoy cycling, being good at it comes in time.
 

cy

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robo, good to hear you are considering taking up cycling. wish you were a little closer, so I could fit you up with a loaner bike. as we are about the same size.

price points have really come down. technology trickle down. sure it's nice to ride a 17lb $3k state of the art carbon bike. but not for a total beginner. at least not yet...

what you need to do is find where the price/performance break points are. discounting the $100 department store bikes, which weight like a ton of bricks. 30lb+ range

next up is entry level bike shop bikes. say $300-$400 range. then we get into next level up.. $700 range... then $1100 range. , then $1,500 and so forth. good grief... you can spend a lot of $$$ very quickly!!! accessories can rack up quickly. you need to get hooked with a discount mail order outlet. but don't let local bike shops know that. they generally will be 2x or more higher. they generally don't make that much selling bikes, but a killing on accessories.

use to be that most of the gains showed up in $700 range bikes. so bikes costing more, gains in performance would get you less return on $$. performance is measured on bikes by weight. this is really a broad statement. but generally true.

a riding buddy just listed for another friend, a trek carbon bike 18lbs, for $900. it's only a few year old, with original costs of $2,500. if you want a high end bike for cheap. that's the way to do it. it's 56cm or slightly too large for you.

depending upon how long your torso/legs are. you will probably need a 52cm-54cm frame. for example my ancient Giani Motta road bike w/full Campy is 53cm, 19lb with sewups, 21 with bomber training wheels (used to be state of the art). my favorite pedals has been mountain bike time pedals. there's been sooo much high tech equipment come out. I've long since loss track.

it's been awhile since I did any shopping, numbers above is probably off, but principle is still valid. I've long since geared up for road bikes. I'm riding a fully enclosed Lightning F40 these days.

my last long ride was from Colorado springs to Tulsa, OK. that was done self contained riding the bike centennial route that spans across US.

JTR, your bike frame is sized way too large and your seat angle looks like torture. but what ever makes you comfortable. general rule of thumb is to fit to smallest sized frame that you can get a proper fit on. 57k miles enh... you must live on your bike.. :D
 
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geepondy

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I think your G/F offers good advice. I myself have a nice road bike bought in 1993, equipped with all Shimano 105 componentry which at the time was fairly high end. Now I mostly ride my hybrid. Also I use my handheld GPS as a bike computer. It's really neat and with the mapping function, I'm not afraid to go down unknown territory as I can always retrace my steps.

If the airless tires work well then that might be a good option. When I was riding the road bike steady, I got at least a few flats every year. However I myself would do a lot of research first before purchasing them and make sure there isn't a sacrifice in comfort and shock resistance an air filled tire will provide.
 

Pellidon

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I guess I am the frugal cheap (expletive deleted) here. :party:

My main bike is a Trek 420 touring, a heavy steel framed 12 speed (I think) monster I bought at a pawn shop for $20. It uses the old 27 inch wheels and is a tank. It gets my large behind up hills with a little effort when I am in better condition.

My second bike is a Diamond back steel framed 18 speed with modern 700c wheels that I picked up also at a pawn shop for $20. Mountain bikes are the big money items here in Indianapolis. I will pay more than $100 to replace the front wheel after last summer's accident. I hit a curb and did a head over. Looks like the aluminum wheel took all the brunt but I haven't had it checked yet.

When I am in condition to ride, I go on the Central Indiana Bicycling Association's group rides and my longest was 50 miles. And I like the small hard seats over the cushy ones which is odd given my size.
 

turbodog

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Buy something used. It will save a ton of cash. Also, if you guys stay together and keep riding I can guarantee you that you'll want to replace the initial bike as you learn what you like. It won't hurt as much to sell an already-used bike.

Depending on riding goals you may find that a mountain bike that has been fitted with slick/road tires can do very well. It will also be a little better on avoiding flats.

Thicker padding in the shorts is not always better. It can get damp and bunch up.

Try the bike shop in pelham. I think they have some more reasonably priced bikes. They also may know of good used bikes for sale.
 

Steve K

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Good for you for joining the GF in the hobby!

I understand the concern about the costs. The bikes aren't cheap, and the clothing and accessories add up fast. In general, I think you'll do fine by getting some mid-range equipment, or maybe a tad lower on the line-up. The goal is to find something that is reliable. The bike weight is pretty much irrelevant for a large guy. The bike will probably have an aluminum frame, and low end Shimano parts (Sora? Tiagra?). Should be just fine. A used bike would be ideal, if you can find one that fits and is reliable. Maybe the GF knows someone in the local bike club with something for sale??

Pedals & shoes: a basic set of SPD type pedals would be fine. Shoes can be some basic Shimano mountain bike types.

Shorts: very, very useful, but can get pricey. My preference is the basic shorts from Voler. About $45. www.velowear.com , I think.

Other stuff: helmet, bottle & cage, spare tube & pump. a good idea to have these. A computer is handy too, but not essential. They can be had fairly cheap.

Overall, don't worry about the bike a lot. It's more important to learn how to pedal smoothly and efficiently, how to handle the bike safely, how to draft (important for those windy days!), how to ride in groups, how to use the gears properly, etc. Technique and fitness are bigger factors than equipment. My bikes use parts that are well behind the times, but it doesn't seem to bother me. In fact, the old stuff is typically more reliable than the latest cutting edge parts.

good luck,
Steve K.
 

cy

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fit is very important!

it's better to have a mid-end bike that fits you correctly, then a high end bike that's say... way too large. it'll put you in an always reaching forward position. cranks need to be size to your leg length. unless your legs are long for your torso. 170mm cranks should be correct. 172.5mm if your legs are long for your torso. 175mm is getting too long for a road bike. assuming you go with a 53cm frame.

mountain bikers traditionally go for a longer crank for max leverage. so it's normal for a 18in (your size) frame mountain bike to use 175mm cranks. myself... I go with same size cranks for both mountain and road.

in cycling it's the little things that add up. for instance, if you are spinning correctly. say 90+ rpm range. think of the huge numbers of reps your knees are going through. body position that may not make that much difference for a 20 mile ride, start to make a HUGE difference after 60+ miles.

we call it having mechanicals..... or if you are having pains somewhere. if you are correctly setup... riding a 100 miles pain free is not a big deal.

best way is to find an experienced cyclist to set you up. most bike shops will offer a "Fit Kit" for $75 range. sounds like a lot of $$ but one has to spent a bit of time to set you up correctly. sure wish you was closer, be glad to set you up correctly.

your hind end is the exception. get ready for it to be sore. your butt has to harden up. there's no way around it, unless you ride a recumbent. pick a saddle with a reputation for being comfortable. avoid saddles that's too big and/or overstuffed. ask your bike shop to recommend a saddle. they will take it back if it doesn't work out.
 

iced_theater

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I know I ride a bike that most people look down upon because of price and how they market it, but it's been a good bike for me so far. I ride a Dawes road bike, it cost about $400-425 or so on Ebay shipped. I compared it to the Trek 1000 and while the Trek was a nicer bike, it was also $300 more expensive and not worth it for a beginner bike in my opinion. But if $700-750 is what your willing to spend then go for the Trek 1000 as it is a nice bike and can be found nearly everywhere.
 

PhotonAddict

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+1 on making sure the bike is a good fit otherwise you won't be able to pedal efficiently and you will generally feel tired and stiff a lot sooner. The lightest carbon fiber bike in the world won't make a difference if it is a poor fit.
Also don't forget to make allowances for the cost of accessories - a helmet is essential and you can add the stuff Steve K mentioned as your budget allows. I'd say seriously consider cycling shorts, shoes & clipless pedals if you plan to do any reasonable amount of mileage. Again, make sure they fit well - don't let a salesperson pressure you into making a hasty decision. Good luck and welcome to the club!
 

cave dave

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My particular cycling bent is towards practical, commuting, touring bicycles. I don't worry about speed. I don't race yet I enjoy riding very much. My daily mileages are fairly low, yet I've ridden from Budapest to Prague, around the Fingerlakes, the C&O canal twice and plan on ridding a week around Nova Scotia this summer and Pittsburgh to DC this fall.

It is interesting to read some of the suggestions. Some of them I agree with and some of I think are totally wrong. I guess its like that with anything. One guy will say CR123 is the best and another guy say AA are best.

Do you think you will race? Road bikes (aka racing bikes) are notoriously uncomfortable. I would say discomfort is the leading factor in people dropping out and not enjoying the sport. It is hard to find a comfortable bike. Most road bikes have handlebars that are too low and too forward. This can cause pain in the neck, hands wrists and back. The guys that work at the shop don't understand this sometimes because they are young and limber and have been riding awhile. I would recommend a touring or Sport-touring bike. I think they are calling them "comfort" road bikes these days. I prefer drop bars but there also flat bar road bikes too.

If you do get into the sport you will buy another bike, that is pretty much a given. It will probably be in an effort to correct the deficiencies of your first purchase, but there is a lot of "keep up with the jone's" attitude in cycling. Try not to get sucked into that, unless of course you enjoy that.

I'll post again with specific recommendations for bikes that I think are good for beginners.
 

jtr1962

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JTR, your bike frame is sized way too large and your seat angle looks like torture. but what ever makes you comfortable. general rule of thumb is to fit to smallest sized frame that you can get a proper fit on. 57k miles enh... you must live on your bike.. :D
That picture is a few years old. The seat angle has since been corrected. You're right that the frame is too large given that I'm 5'9". The bike was given to me by one of my cousins. I've adapted to it pretty well. I just lean it a bit to either side when I need to come to a stop so that my feet hit the ground. I can't afford another bike anyway at this point in time. When/if I do have the cash for a new bike, I'm going for something like the F40 Lightning.
 
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Robocop

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Cy and others thanks for the information and I am researching several local shops now. They all agree fit is most important and also that my frame is not best suited for racing anyway. At 5-8" and close to 190 lbs I have much bulk to push with short legs. I wear 31 to 32 inch waist and 32 length pants and believe a jacket is 46 inches so I am pretty muscular and heavier than most better riders anyway.

I have no plans of ever racing however would like to ride with groups for longer distances on maybe a days ride. My legs are muscular yet leaner than my upper body from running often but again all the shops say my frame is harder to fit than a taller and lighter rider.

I basically wish to have something I can depend on and grow with as I ride farther and more often. I believe my g/f will ride close to 30 miles a few nights weekly and that would be fine with me. I like the idea of having a small back pack for a longer trip and maybe stopping for lunch at some out of the way restaurant....you know just kind of exploring and riding around out of the way places.

As I age my knees are beginning to feel the years of heavy gym work and running is beginning to not be so fun. I know cycling can be hard on the knees however I feel this will be a way to stay in shape and not be as hard on my now 39 year old body....hehe
 

cave dave

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Mostly at the shops you will find Specialized, Cannodale and Trek. It can be hard to find other brands.

At the $700 price level the market is very competitive. You really won't find a whole lot of difference as far as overall quality goes. Some of the off brands will offer better components at the same price levels, but you really can't go wrong here. They will all be a lower end Shimano stuff which works quite well. All the frames will be aluminum that are probably made in the same factory in taiwan. You might get a carbon fork but it doesn't really matter, since a carbon fork means they cut corners somewhere else.

Find a budget you can live with and test ride everything in your budget.

Your muscular build is not a really a fit problem. It actually sound like you have long legs for your height. I wear 31" pants at 5'10". Longer legs and shorter torso can create a fit problem where the bars are too low too far away. Here is how to measure your inseam for bike fit.

Here is an alternative (comfort oriented) view of bike fit:

Here is one I like:
K2 Mach 1.0 $650
 

Robocop

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Hi Dave and yeah my legs may seem a little longer for my height however my uniform pants are worn a little longer anyway...they fit better with duty boots. I am actually more closer to 30 0r 31 inches.

Thanks for the link and that is a nice looking bike. I really did not know there were so many choices to be had in bikes. I always thought there were maybe 3 or 4 makers out there but now see many more than that. One shop I spoke to has a layaway plan to make payments so this may also be an option to get a better quality starter bike.

Also many shops allow test rides in the parking lot....is it really possible to determine if a bike is for me with such a small ride? It seems like one would be better off riding a few miles at least before knowing if the bike was suited to their tastes.
 

geepondy

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Likewise for me when I was shopping for a road bike, I made sure I got one with relaxed geometry, mainly a longer wheelbase, a "sport" bike if you may. You don't turn quite as quick but they tend to be more stable. I rode my friend's strictly racer and found myself straying to the middle of the road while reaching down for the water bottle.
 

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