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How to Buy a Bike

(46 posts)
  • Started 1 year ago by Schemieradge
  • Latest reply from gembo

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  1. Schemieradge

    I never expected it to be this difficult.

    I've never shopped for a bike in my life (my current one was inherited - I've had it 17 years).

    For ages I've been of the opinion that my bike is a bit too small (I have a 36in inside leg) and a recent flurry of aches and pains related to a seat replacement has made me determined to get a bike that properly fits me.

    With just about every other Thing I've purchased I can do a bit of reading and then notice a general consensus as to what's good and what's not - but I'm totally NOT seeing that with bikes - the more I read the more options I discover and I'm now blinded by an infinity of options.

    Turning up in a bike shop is also a bit of a frustrating experience - loads a bikes around to look at but hardly any of them the right size for me so I can't try them.

    So how does someone with very little experience of different types of bikes, who needs a size that seems to be considered unusual, go about narrowing down the selection of which bike to order?

    Currently I have a 22in ancient Bike Coop commuter with flat bars (everything on it has been replaced at some point except the frame). Have seat pretty high, also a completely unreasonable number of spacers under the handlebar riser - it's as high as it's going.

    I need it for commuting about 60-90 miles a week. Partly on-road, partly on grimy railway path. I'm not looking to break any speed records - just get to work in reasonable time without being in pain.

    I tend not to do any maintenance unless I have to, and that usually starts with poking the malfunctioning part with a stick to dislodge the caked on mud to see if that fixes it (although I am OK at maintenance when I finally put my mind to it).

    I like the idea of a gravel bike (eg. lighter than my current bike - but tough enough) although I've never ridden drop bars (maybe I'm too old to start in my mid-40s?). Love the idea of belt drives and internally geared hubs - but would they deal with muddy railway paths?

    Any pointers what-so-ever would be welcomed with open arms!

    Posted 1 year ago #
  2. amir

    I think trying out a bike is really important, particularly if you have fit issues at the moment. A bike fit may help.

    Don't rule out drops on grounds of age.

    Hub geared potentially have maintenance benefits (though you still clean the chain regularly) but for some they make the bike more sluggish.

    Disc brakes should have maintenance benfits in reducing wear on rims - could be a factor on dirty commutes (certainly is for me). Centre pull are fine apart from that though and shouldn't cut you open in an accident.

    Don't rule out the new bike making cycling so much more fun that you want to use it for more than just the commute.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  3. chdot

    “I've never shopped for a bike in my life”


    Having managed for 17 years on a bike that’s too small, it’s likely that whatever you end up with will seem better.

    At least you know what you want a bike for.

    Good time for considering if you might want one for other things - more off-road where a ‘mountain bike’ might be useful (though people were off-roading long before MTBs), or longer rides where drop handlebars are most people’s choice.

    I presume you know what you’re willing to pay. If you were thinking of spending a LOT, a bike with a Rohloff hub would certainly qualify as (relatively) low maintenance.

    Quite a few people on CCE have Genesis models, though probably not this one -

    Different and the XL should suit you.

    As Jacquie Phelan says "1 Choosing a Shop - walk into store, making a mental note of your sense of height in inches when you go in. Wait for service, observe the reception you get, talk (if you can get the fellow's attention), then take note of your stature upon leaving the store. If you feel appreciably smaller, do not return. Find another bike shop, and hope for a real human connection, a salesperson interested in what you want to do on your new bike, how you intend to use it."

    Posted 1 year ago #
  4. chdot

  5. ih

    Don't rule out drops on grounds of age.

    Second that, in fact, make drops your first choice. From my own experience and observing others, the hands are very seldom in the dropped position, but the HUGE advantage is that drops allow you at least 4 different hand position options, which helps with comfort and enjoyment. I rode a flat bar for a couple of years, and liked the bike, but the flats made my hands tingle (not in a good way).

    Posted 1 year ago #
  6. chdot

    “the hands are very seldom in the dropped position”

    Very true.

    It used to be the case that you had to be on the drops to make the brakes work.

    Now you (mostly) ride on the hoods with lots of braking power - and (in many cases) with levers that also operate the gears.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  7. steveo

    My dad (now in his late 50's (?)) inherited my Fisher road bike a couple of years ago and is quite happy with the hoods and the fact its half the weight of his old coop mtb commuter, the skinny tyres help too.)

    Posted 1 year ago #
  8. urchaidh

    I'm older than you and went back to drops recently after 30 years, no regrets.

    Do you have access to a bike to work scheme? This can save you a bit of cash but can limit your choice of retailer/bike.

    Both EBC and Evans (and others I'm sure) will bring in a bike in your size for you to try if you give a bit of notice and pay a deposit. I've done this with both and didn't feel I was put under any pressure to buy.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  9. crowriver

    If you haven't ridden a drop bar bike, I'd advise caution. It's certainly not too late to try it, but you may not like feeling a bit "stretched out" as bar heights tend to be a bit lower on bikes with drops. Possible to get them higher, but trickier on modern bikes with threadless steerers and headsets. I can certainly recommend hub gears: better in muddy conditions as sealed from the elements unlike open sprockets.

    The Smithfield looks a good buy though it's a pity there's no chainguard. I like the North Road style bars, hub gears, steel frame and mudguards. Also worth looking at some Pashley offerings* and maybe a Dutch style bike or upright hub gear hybrid. I like the look of the Kalkhoff bikes at Edinburgh Bicycle Co-op: Durban 7 is a good price with hub gears, V-brakes, dynamo lights, mudguards, straight bars, *chainguard*. Comes in XL size.

    * Countryman is very nice, maybe a bit pricey. Comes in 23" and 24.5" frames. Roadster Sovereign much more affordable, comes in 8 speed hub flavour but is a bit heavy and old school tyre size. Also comes in 24.5" with double top tube.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  10. panyagua

    It really depends how much you want to spend. As chdot says, many people (including myself) ride Genesis bikes, and if you fancy drop bars you might want to look at the Croix de Fer which is by far their most popular model and is a fairly tough steel workhorse. I've yet to meet an owner who doesn't like theirs, although if I were in the market now I probably wouldn't buy one simply because they are too common. They come in several models at different prices, are quite widely available, and often discounted at this time of year. (I think EBC, Evans, BikeTrax and Alpine Bikes all stock them.)

    It's a pity that Genesis no longer seem to sell the drop-bar hub geared bike (Day One Alfine) they used to do, as it may have been ideal for you. The derailleur gears of the CdF are the main downside from your list of requirements.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  11. neddie

    and shouldn't cut you open in an accident

    Oh. I didn't know disc brakes could do that!

    Posted 1 year ago #
  12. Ed1

    I had not had a new bike since 7 bought my first bike adult bike at 36 an Evans pinnacle hybrid for £350, they advised the size I thought it was too small and most people agreed it has a rock hard ride with flat bars that made my hands and wrists numb after an hour. It rusts outside.

    When 37 I got my first drop bar bike a revolution country explorer. A touring bike so has quite shallow angle so not too bent over. I find it far more comfortable on the hands also other parts as weight is spread better. It’s also made of steel which is meant to be more comfortable.

    I decided on a steel touring bike after much internet reading including CCE. I originally thought a Dawes galaxy but could not get one at a good price even a scrappy one still a high price. Think they may be overpriced. The revolution country explorer is similar, although they have stopped making the steel one. Its basically the same bike as the roux etape 250 sora touring bike which can be had for £500 often although 700 retail often discounted. Steel frame sora and disc brakes. I think the Genesis Croix de Fer is good but a little over priced as fashionable also more likely to get nicked. Etape bikes unknown uncool name so can get a much better price with similar features.

    May be cheaper getting a new Etape every 18 months as already spent about 400 (if include parts tyres etc) this year on my bike more than I paid for it when 3 months old, steel tourer hold value.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  13. sallyhinch

    If you really don't get on with drops I can recommend butterfly/touring bars, but you'll probably have to get them fitted afterwards as I don't think they come as standard.

    Like you I really struggled when looking to buy a bike after spending most of my adult life riding one I'd inherited (a mixte hybrid) and with no idea what I really wanted (it's possibly harder as a female as very few small bike shops had anything in my size to try without getting it ordered in specially).

    After having a few places just try and sell me what they had rather than try and work out what I wanted, I went to Common Wheel who, having established that I wanted a steel traditional-looking bike, asked me two questions - how tall are you, and how far do you want to ride in a day? (oh and 'what colour do you want it to be?'). Once they'd found a frame that fit, seen me riding it (and how uncomfortable I was with drops), they then built it up from scratch.

    Common Wheel have very definite opinions about what sort of bikes are 'proper bikes' (, but if you like a traditional bike, they will do you proud.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  14. Frenchy

    A bracket has attached itself to the url in your link, Sally.

    Fixed link:

    Posted 1 year ago #
  15. Schemieradge

    Thanks so much for the replies...

    @amir - I will certainly have a go with drops if anyone has a bike my size. I've definitely established that my commute is unkind to wheel when using rim brakes (rims last about a year then fail) - so switched to disk a few years ago.

    @chdot "Having managed for 17 years on a bike that’s too small, it’s likely that whatever you end up with will seem better."
    Right?! that's what I'm hoping - it will have to be an improvement. I would consider spending quite a lot if I can convince myself it's value for money since I'm kind of expecting this to be the bike which I'll spend the next 17 years on...
    I've got the name of mobile bike fitter (since I live in the sticks) so intend to get them round once I've got the bike in question.

    @ih "the HUGE advantage is that drops allow you at least 4 different hand position options"?
    That definitely sounds appealing - I'm always finding new and inapproriate ways to keep hold of my flat bars - would be a novelty to have a varaity of legitimate ways.

    @steveo I will take inspiration from your dad. I had a sit on a (far too small) cyclocross bike and was pretty surprised just how much of a stretch it was to reach the hoods - not sure if this was just the kind of bike though.

    @urchaidh We don't currently have the cycle to work scheme though I could possibly persude my boss to do it.
    Good to know that you can try a bike of the right size without been fully committed!

    @crowriver - I'm a bit of a expert at getting bike handlebars higher than they want to go but was hoping to avoid having to do that with the next bike.
    Yeah chainguards would make a huge difference since I use wet lube and the grim from the railway path just clogs the chain and derailer rotten.
    One of the reasons a belt drive bike appeals... if there's no lube does this mean less gunge to slowly disable my components? .. perhaps..

    @panyagua - I've come across the Croix de Fer from searching this forum... seems really popular and I rarely come across any bikey types in real life so being too common is a problem I'm not going to have. Will see if I can get a go on one. I've used derailleur for that long they clearly do the job.

    @Ed1 So when looking at the various (until recently) incomprencible website bike catgories, the Tourer sections sounds like where I need to be looking so get a more comfortable angle - that's useful to know.
    Hadn't considered the getting nicked aspect! I'm used no-one looking twice at my mud-encrusted unbranded lanky contraption.

    @sallyhinch "I can recommend butterfly/touring bars"- I've seen those - they look very appealing! (Little bit skeptical how they'll get on with East Lothian Council's penchant for overly narrow motorbike-proof gates though! - hopefully that's temporary though)
    Common Wheel looks like a great set up (organisation as well as their work) - not often over in the west though but will try to make it happen.

    Thanks again folk - brilliant advice... I've got the following to add to my shortlist now then:

    Genesis Smithfield
    Kalkhoff Durban 7
    Roadster Sovereign
    Croix de Fer
    roux etape 250 sora
    revolution country explorer

    Posted 1 year ago #
  16. unhurt

    poking the malfunctioning part with a stick to dislodge the caked on mud to see if that fixes it

    I like your first-stop maintenance approach because it resembles mine.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  17. steveo

    What height are you Schemieradge and where do you work? You could have a shot of my CDF if you are around the gyle.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  18. crowriver

    Pretty sure I saw a rather new looking Genesis Smithfield locked up near the Omni centre this evening. Did seem like a very nice bike, but also a bit theftable: would need a beefy lock I reckon to be left somewhere like that.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  19. gkgk

    Reducing weight was mentioned - not easy when increasing from small/medium frame to XL, esp with a hub gear, but the gravelly hub-geared Pinnacle Arkose 2018 is about 11kg (the Smithfield is >15kg). Or there's the straight-barred hub Lithium, though that one's not available until mid-Dec. Evans will get any bike in at any size for a test ride.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  20. Ed1

    It’s a Pinnacle Lithium that is rusting outside my house I would not recommend one myself, I found it uncomfortable not the best ride quality sore on wrists and hands after an hour. The lithium also has very wide handle bars that make it difficult on the canal. Its built on a mountain bike frame with 700, 38 wheels it seems twitchy at speed not a very relaxing or comfortable ride in my view. It is light as aluminium which may impact on comfort or may be the thick mountain bike bars that make harsh most hybrids are not on mountain bike frame (I don’t think) possibly a reason for this as design for fatter tyres so has a more ridged frame. It had good wheels Alex rims that did not need adjustment and good paint quality.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  21. wingpig

    It is usually at this point that I feel I should also mention horn bars - they have the three comfortable positions available to drops without the stretchy-out face-down unnecessariness of the drops themselves, with the advantage of the bar ends being within reach of the thumbs for bar-end shifters.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  22. neddie

    the stretchy-out face-down unnecessariness of the drops..

    But that's the most useful bit of drops when there's a headwind

    Posted 1 year ago #
  23. amir

    the stretchy-out face-down unnecessariness of the drops..

    But that's the most useful bit of drops when there's a headwind

    This all very much depends on how well your bike is set up for your body and the way you cycle. It is important to get the reach right (both horizontal and vertical) as well as the bar width.

    Touring bikes typically have the bars set up higher than a racing bike.

    So it's less to do with the shape of the bars than how they are setup

    Posted 1 year ago #
  24. urchaidh

    It is usually at this point that I feel I should also mention horn bars

    ... or even just old school bar ends fitted to your flat bars. My previous commuter was a flat bar Whyte Portobello (worth a look, really liked it) with bar ends fitted.

    The bar was maybe a bit long for this, with the heels of my hands on the bar ends my arms always felt a little too splayed, but it didn't annoy me enough to actually get around to cutting the bar shorter.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  25. Harts Cyclery

    If you're looking at the Kalkhoff Durban then give this a look too:

    Available from yours truly, in Corstorphine. Also, plenty of upright bikes with hub gears and fully enclosed chain cases available too. Orange C8 a particularly nice example.

    Or for less money:

    (Note: you can toggle between men's/ladies' pictures on the website if you don't like the look of step-through frame)

    Posted 1 year ago #
  26. crowriver

    @Harts Cyclery, those bikes look to be exactly what I was trying to spec for the OP.


    Posted 1 year ago #
  27. Harts Cyclery

    @crowriver, thanks! Comfy, practical bikes do exist, honestly!

    Posted 1 year ago #
  28. Schemieradge

    @steveo I'm 6ft3 but I rarely come further west than Musselburgh (Yes you might well ask why I'm posting on cityCyclingEdinburgh in view of that - such a good forum though!)- thanks very much for the offer.

    @gkgk have added those to the list thanks.

    @urchaidh I tried those bar ends on my current bike since I always seem to be searching for somewhere to put my hands anywhere but on the actual grip. I never took to them - partly because they stopped me getting through a motorcycle (and bar-end)-proof gate I pass everyday - the other reason was I missed having my hands hanging off the end of the grips in a 10 past 10 sort of config.

    Thanks @Mr Cyclery. They look really solid practical bikes - if a little on the heavy side. I'm not sure why I'm hesitant about bikes like that. I have them filed away in my head as being really practical city bikes you can jump on to go down the shops without getting geared up... but I can't quite imagine munching the miles down the railway path day after day with one. Probably a lack of creative thinking on my part than anything else... Thank you for the suggestions.

    Posted 1 year ago #
  29. bax

    I'm 6ft3 but I rarely come further west than Musselburgh

    oooh cheeky

    i haven't read this thread but my advice is simple

    53-39 up top and 28-11 at the back

    drop bars and a stoic disposition

    keep your chain line straight !!

    all the rest is just commentary

    Posted 1 year ago #
  30. chdot

    “you might well ask why I'm posting on cityCyclingEdinburgh in view of that}

    Anyone can join/post (note THE RULES, left).

    Generally of most interest to people in the Lothians and Fife.

    “such a good forum though”

    Yep, and you posting about the Pencaitland Path has been useful to many people here.

    It’s one one of my favourite ‘destinations’ that I only visit every couple of years.

    Posted 1 year ago #

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