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What's the C&E BBB equivalent for bicycles?

Gents,

My wife and I want to get bikes (as in pedals, not motors). Thankfully, here on B&B, we have a point of reference I think can communicate very succinctly what I'm after: What's the C&E BBB equivalent (if any) for bicycles?

I guess I'd characterize our plans as family rides of modest to moderate length. Mostly easy trail and road riding; nothing particularly challenging, lengthy or hilly, as we'd have our two younger children with us on their bikes.

Oh, we live in a smallish town with only Walmarts, Targets and Costcos as reasonable sources for any reasonable distance. Would basic Schwinns in the $150 range be OK? (See what I mean about my sources? That's what I've seen so far.)

Remember, my goal is BBB: If we like it, we can upgrade; but, we also don't want such utterly crappy quality that the quality turns us off to the experience. That said, shelling out even $400-500 each seems (given my barely educated status) a bit beyond the BBB equivalent I'm looking for.

Any ideas?
 
You don't need to spend a fortune on a bike, but a Big Box store bicycle are always a bad ride. They are poorly put together and they will end up broken in no time.
I've work as a mechanic, I've fixed bicycle for free for a bicycle advocacy group and I saw many horror stories.

I would suggest a Kona Smoke http://www.konaworld.com/08_smoke29.htm

It's around the 300$ range and will be a good ride.

You cannot upgrade a 150$ bike, it's not worth the money to add a 100$ Brooks saddle to a bad frame.

How fast do you want to ride?
Do you intend to do any off road riding?
How far do you want to ride?
Are you interested in a road, mountain or hybrid?
How comfortable do you want to feel on a bike? (there is a world between a cruiser and a road bike)
 
I have several bikes and speaking from decades of experience my advice is to buy your bike from a LBS - local bike shop. These businesses maintain and fix what they sell. You'll get better advice and better quality than buying at a big box store where the clerk won't know a derailleur from a headset.

jim
 
+1 on the Kona, great bikes. You will probably need to spend a bit more, probably around the $300 mark. But, you will get a good quality bike.

Steve
 
Wow...I don't know if there is one! My local bike shop guy I've known since I was about 10 and he's went through a lot of brands over the years. He's been carrying Giant for quite awhile now and they make some really nice bikes. Even for $150, you can get a pretty decent bike. My brother recently bought a commuter style Giant and didn't spend much more than that and I was actually surprised at how nice of a ride it was. The shifting was pretty decent, it peddled well and it felt like I was riding on butter(compared to my I-Drive, anything would!). Just my $.02.
 
There's a big problem with buying a bike from a big box store. Bicycles come to retailers in a partially assembled state. The quality of the final product is hugely affected by the expertise of the assembler. At a good local bike shop (LBS), the bike will be inspected, the brakes and shifting mechanisms will be properly adjusted, and the spokes will be tuned so the wheels are true and round.

At a typical big box, the bike will be assembled by the same kid who builds barbeque grills and patio furniture. I spent many years in the bike biz, and I saw some scary, dangerous stuff roll in the door from Target, etc.

If there's a problem with the bike, the LBS will have the parts and the know-how to fix it. The big box store gives you a great price, then washes their hands of you. And most LBS will give you at least one free tune-up with your bike. Some shops even have free classes so you can learn to maintain the bikes yourself.

All that being said, (rant over,) you don't need to spend $500 to get a decent, bike-shop quality ride. For casual riding, you can get a basic hybrid or mountain bike for around $250-275. At that price, the bike will have parts that will last, and aluminum rims rather than the steel rims on a $150 special. They will roll better, be stronger, last longer, and brake much better. If you're feeling confident that you'll keep riding--and you can afford it--there's a "sweet-spot" jump in quality at around $450-500. You'll get a lot more bike for your money, though it might not be necessary for you.

This may seem like a lot of money for bikes, but you will get better performing machines that will last longer, bikes that you can ride for many seasons. In that respect, they'll be like the BBB brush--honest workhorses that can give years of reliable service.
 
I worked at a Sports Authority selling bikes. I actually sold just as many bikes for the local bike shop than i did for our store. Bike shops are filled with people that know about bikes and love to ride. My favorite brand is Trek, but Giant and Canondale always look good to me. Giant is probably your most bike for your money. I dont know why i never bought one from them. I am due for a new road bike lol. Sorry ADD. Most people think that a rear suspension on a bike makes it better than one with out. The real truth is most people dont need it and cheaper bike companies throw it on to make it seem like its a deal. When in fact it adds so much more weight that it would ever be functional for a normal rider. When you do start riding please dont be one of those people that buy a huge gel pad that sits over your saddle. Your butts going to be sore. Getting a gel seat doesn't help. Buy cycling shorts with a built in pad they work wonders. Keep us posted and let us know what you decide on.
 

Suzuki

Moderator Emeritus
I agree completely that $150 isn't likely to get you much of a bike - sure, it will have pedals, wheels, gears and will roll, but that's all you're going to get.

As others have said, the cheap (meaning quality) bikes are heavy, have inferior components, as well as being harder to service/maintain. In particular, they have inferior gearing and brake components, both of which seriously impact functionality and safety.

If you want a decent bike I think you're looking in the $300 range - but now's a great time to buy, as its still low season and you can often get great deals on previous year's models.

What Schwinn model are you looking at - Schwinn makes some good bikes, and some good value bikes, but their low end bikes have the same issues others have mentioned as being endemic to low-end bikes generally.

Just out of curiosity, if you buy your bike from Target, where will you take it to get it repaired/tuned up?
 
Just my thought, but I would find the closest bike shop and plan the day around going there if necessary. You will be fitted properly and get the bike that suits you and most importantly your wife. I made the mistake a few years ago of purchasing a bike for my wife that she thought she liked. The shifters were all wrong and she hated it, it was a total waste of time and money. It adds more enjoyment to have the proper equipment, it's similar to the difference between a disposable razor and a quality Merkur.
 
+1 on not getting a gel saddle or heavy suspension.
Sometime, the simpler the better. I'd would rather have only one speed than a super heavy bicycle.

Actually, I do have only one speed and the hardest saddle on the market made out of hard leather that will take time to mold on your butt.

I ride a track bicycle with only a front brake, it's the straight razor of the bicycle world, it's pretty, functional and need a strong learning curve.
http://www.fixedgeargallery.com/
Fixed gear gallery is the B&B of track bike

I would not recommend this type of bike to everybody, but if you are looking for pure riding pleasure, I would recommend any bicycle intended for city riding, the Europeans have been building amazing utilitarian bicycle for years and we are slowly catching up. If you can get a used one speeder with fenders and all, you will be in heaven.
 
Just a few more thoughts:

You may have noticed that you're getting very few recommendations for specific models. The biggest reason is that entry-level bikes are really pretty similar. At this price-point, the manufacturer's all have the same parts bins to choose from. The frames are all made by a handful of factories--Giant is actually the biggest framebuilder in the world, and makes frames for many popular brands.

Yes, different makers do spec bikes differently, some better than others, but there's only so much latitude on a $300 ride. Perhaps the biggest differences you'll see at this range are differences of fit. Some bikes will be better proportioned for folks with long torsos, for instance; find the one that's most comfortable for you. Go to a good bike shop, and try on a few bikes that have been sized for you. Work with a patient salesperson who is ready to try different bikes for you, and make some basic adjustments to the fit for a test ride.

Agreed that you should keep it simple--rear suspension is for $4000 downhill race bikes, not around-the-neighborhood cruisers. That said, most bikes in this range will have some sort of shock-dampening seatpost. Most serious cyclists (including myself) disdain these, but they do take some zing out of the ride for casual riders, and they don't add a ton of weight or complication.

There are a lot of reasonable bikes in the $300 dollar range. Giant, Kona, Trek, Specialized, Jamis and others all make nice rigs, but there are many others. Check a few out--the shops are all dead until the end of February build-up. You'll still find some deals on 2007 models, but the selection will be thinning out by now.

Finally, plan on spending a few dollars for accessories. You'll need a lock if you're going to leave the bike. (Just how heavy-duty depends on where you live...) A helmet is a must--I don't care what your excuse is, just wear one. If nothing else, you owe it to your kids to set a good example.

That's probably more info than you need. Something tells me this thread could drift into an enthusiast's debate on the relative merits of Brooks saddles and 16-tooth fixed gears...
 
That's probably more info than you need. Something tells me this thread could drift into an enthusiast's debate on the relative merits of Brooks saddles and 16-tooth fixed gears...
I bought two Brooks for my Fuji track and my specialized Tricross and I have a really hard time riding my other saddles, a Kona and a Specialized.
So, I'm not the only fixie on this forum? Sweet!

There is a certain addictive nature to track bike, a little bit like razor or fountain pen.

It's -18° tonight, so I left my bike in the garage.

Is there such thing as a relative merit to a Brooks? I believe this saddle need some braking in and patience, but once it's broken in, my god.
 
Buy something that will be compatible with component upgrades.

One bad thing about wal mart bikes is, they aren't compatible with a lot of nice metric Shimano or Campagnolo stuff.

Go to your local bike shop and look at used bikes. Sometimes they have roadbikes from the 90's that look almost new. I got an Italian Columbus steel campy C-record equipped Giordana Roadbike for $300. It looked new. The Campy hubs were the longest spinning, fastest I've owned.
 
Where do you live Mr. Igg? Like the others have said, steer clear of the big box department stores.

It will be well worth the time and effort to find a locally owned bike shop, even if it 60 miles away.
 
I just bought my first road bike 3 weeks ago. Prior to then, I hadn't been on a bike since I saved-up and bought my white powder-coated GT Mach One (1985-ish).

I spent several weeks at the local bike stores, eyeing Cannondales, Orbeas, Treks, Giants, Specializeds, and so on. I was fully prepared to spend $2500 on a new bike.

And then, one of the LBS managers said, "You know what? You should check out our message board. We have a pretty decent selection of used bikes on there." (Mind you, I live in a town of 25,000 people, so I wasn't sure how this would be possible)

I visited their message board, and two days later, I owned a "steal" of a bike. I got a 2002 Trek 2000 bike, 60cm frame (just what I needed), with about $2500 worth of goodies on it (carbon stem, seat post, fork; Mavic Elite wheels; Ultegra components; new Specialized seat; new shoes (nike); new pedals; and spare parts galore). I paid: $600.




So... my suggestion: look for a used bike. People are constantly trading in their bikes - the one that I bought was from a guy who just bought a new Specialized road bike ($4200-ish), after he had upgraded his "old" bike...

It rides like a dream - I put on 15 miles last weekend in one ride, and it was wonderful. I'm training for a triathlon (sprint distance), so the bike is perfect for that.
 
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