beginner at 50 needs bike buying advice

Discussion in 'Women's Cycling' started by peanut59, Oct 9, 2009.

  1. peanut59

    peanut59 New Member

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    I just turned 50 and want to start biking to get fit and enjoy. I live on a farm have pastures and woodlands all around for riding and also will ride on the roads. I am 5'1" with a 28" inseam and not really out of shape, but would like to get better toned.
    I have been checking out craigslist and ebay for bikes..mainly looking at mt bikes, Trek, Specialized, Giant, and Gary Fisher. I plan to go to the nearest bike shop (an hour away) to find out what size frame I need. From what I understand this shop doesn't have much in the line of mt bikes..just bmx and some road. I want a good quality bike, but can't really afford a new one, so I want a good used one. Maybe after I learn more and also to see how well I like it, I'll can upgrade.
    Is there any particular brands/models/style that would best suit my size and needs?
    Before I shop, what other things do I need to consider?
     
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  2. alfeng

    alfeng Well-Known Member

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    Your budget is a key factor ... I think it's harder to buy a used MTB because suspension technology is a moving target AND it's easier to abuse a MTB & it's not always easy to know the riding history that the bike has seen.

    Regardless, you probably want a MTB with an XS frame ... nothing larger for someone your size!

    For riding through pastures, a full suspension bike may-or-may-not be a better option ...

    Of the four brands you mentioned, GARY FISHER would probably be my first choice. Gary Fisher bikes are made/sold by TREK, but they have their own engineering group, and are probably a little more cutting edge than the Trek MTBs.

    GIANT bikes are usually the best dollar value.

    SPECIALIZED would be my last choice of the four you mentioned because I'm not keen on their rear suspension design (at least, on their super-duper models).

    I liked the i-drive rear suspension on the earlier GT MTBs, and (if available) a GT would probably be my choice if I were buying a full suspension bike because the design controls rear wheel bobbing better (okay, based on my test ride seveal years ago, I'm a believer of their spiel); but, rear shock "technology" has improved in the past several years & the difference to the rider in how different designs handle controlling the rear end may less, now.

    It's the end-of-the-season, now, so you can usually get a ready-to-ride Santa Cruz BLUR for about $1500+ from COLORADO CYCLIST (mail order) ... that's a steep price for some, but it comparable to what you will probably pay for a TREK or GARY FISHER.

    A 2009 bike should cost 75%-to-80% of retail ... any remaining 2008 bikes should cost 60%-or-less of retail.

    I think that it's hard to find a GOOD full suspension bike for less than $1100 (retail) ... $800 at the end of the season.

    If possible, I recommend that you try to limit your selection to bikes with Shimano LX or SLX components (or, better!?!) because they will more-than-likely be on a bike with better suspension components. Shimano XT & XTR are better than LX & SLX. Shimano Deore is "okay" (actually, almost all Shimano components are good-or-better) ... but, it implies a heavier bike.

    SRAM components have compatibility issues.

    A heavier MTB is okay for urban bike paths & gravel or rough graded roads.

    If you find a bike with an RST or SunRace fork, keep looking ... bring a magnet & check to make sure the fork's "lowers" are not steel ... steel forks are HEAVY and they have limited adjustment. Basically, those cheaper forks are all but worthless & should only be considered as a place-holder for a future, replacement suspension fork.

    Most of the OTHER forks will be okay.

    I have a Marzocchi fork on my bike. It's preferred by some, not so much so by others because they are slightly heavier.

    A Hardtail would be "okay" (it's what I have) ... but, I'm not riding on anything which demands a full suspension bike (I'm not too proud to walk around an obstacle) and I'm too cheap to buy a full suspension bike because I would probably feel compelled to buy a new one every three-or-four years as improvements to the suspension components were made!

    The advantage of a Hardtail is that I think you can get an XXS frame ... but, the component's on the frame may be marginal (heavy) because I'm going to guess that the smaller bikes are usually bought for "kids" to ride.

    If you opt for a Hardtail & the only XXS frame you find has a crappy fork, then just plan to replace it in the future.

    You will need a helmet.

    You probably want gloves. The riding conditions dictate the type of gloves you will wear ... through bramble & thicket, you will want full finger gloves ... in warmer weather, you will want fingerless gloves. There are two types of warm weather "cycling" gloves -- the old style with crochetd backs & the currently popular type which have a fabric back. Although the newer type of glove is supposed to be more comfortable (that's the hype), I find the traditional glove to be (subjectively) cooler.

    I recommend that you wear eye protection.

    Cycling shoes are optional, but the stiffer sole will make riding distances of 4+ miles more comfortable. Lightweight & Midweight hiking boots which just reach the ankle have the right sole stiffness & the may be good for riding through pastures.

    Depending on how the "grass" is cut, if you use low cut shoes, you may want to wear hiking gaiters when you are riding through the pastures/woodlands.

    Don't worry about clipless pedals. The last that I heard (a couple of years ago), Jacqui Phelan (a former MTB racer) still uses toe clips.
     
  3. peanut59

    peanut59 New Member

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    Thanks for all the info, it really helps. I guess I should have stated what I was budgeting for the bike. I don't want spend over $300 for a used bike. I don't want to put much into my first bike, since I don't really have any experience at riding. I also don't know how well I'll like it. If the bug really bites I'll know what to look for in an upgrade;).

    I'm watching a XS Gary Fisher Tassajara on ebay. Even though it's a men's bike, it may work for me. According to the GF website, the standover will be low enough for me. Am I on the right track looking at a bike like this?

    I went to a bike shop today. I tried the only ladies mtb which was a 16" Trek 3900. I liked it, but I wanted to try a smaller size to compare. The others were hybrids that I didn't care for. I tried a mens Trek 3500 in a small frame, but the standover was a little high for me. They didn't have Tassajara or any GF small enough for me.
     
  4. swampy1970

    swampy1970 Well-Known Member

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    There are usual a few differences between mens and womens bikes other than a girlie looking paint jobs and a cute name. Saddles are normally different and some even offer brakes that have brake levers more suited to smaller hands. These are items that can be swapped onto a mens bike... However, womens specific bikes often feature frames that have a little shorter top tube and a seat tube that's a little steeper. There are individual reasons for both of those geometry changes but the general consensus is normally that the sum of all of the above often results in your sensitive womanly bits not getting battered and bruised when out on the bike. You'll be less likely to suffer from lower back and neck ache from over reaching for the handlebars too...

    If it's your first bike in a while, take a bit of extra time to go to a store that has a few women specific models for you to try.

    Happy cycling... :)
     
  5. alfeng

    alfeng Well-Known Member

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    FWIW. I'm going to stand by my suggestion that you get a MTB with an XS frame ...

    Now, regarding the XS GF Tassajara bike that is being auctioned on eBay, it should work for you.

    I guess if it were a NOS 2007 from a shop which were going to give you after sales service that you might expect to pay $375+ for the 2007 model -- it's three years old, now, since the 2010 are filtering into the shops now & I would be looking to pay only about half of the original retail price.

    Suprisingly, if 'I' were looking at the bike & guessing the vintage, I would have suggested that it was from 2003-or-earlier because of the era which the components are from ... not that there is anything necessarily wrong with components from 2003-or-earlier ... but, you should only be paying for what you are theoretically going to be getting.

    Since you have allocated a budget of $300 ... AND, because I find the 2007 vintage to be a little questionable (maybe, that's when the seller got it from the distributor), I might suggest that you consider bidding up to $250. With the shipping, you will be at your $300 ...

    If you want to pay more, I don't think that you should pay too much more.

    I don't know anything about the particular fork, but a quick search found a vague comparison to the RockShox JUDY ... currently, that would put the fork on the GF pretty close-to-if-not-the-bottom of the Manitou line up of forks. That doesn't mean that the bottom of the line of the better fork makers isn't good, it just isn't great (whatever "great" might be) -- generally, it means OLD technology (nothing necessarily wrong with that).

    I'm not sure that I would pay more than $250 (before shipping) because you could probably find another XS Hardtail in your price range if you have a little patience. If you get on the PERFORMANCE BICYCLE mailing list, you will see that at the end of the season they will discount their inventory more than a regular bike shop ... and, their "new" for the season biks are aggressively priced. There are OTHER mail order retailers ...

    In lieu of in shop service, you should consider buying a copy of ZINN AND THE ART OF MOUNTAIN BIKE MAINTENANCE (~25 retail --- it may be available at your local library OR you can request it through Inter Library Loan to look at for a couple of weeks). Most of the information for maintenance that you will need is also available (for free) on the PARK TOOK website (www.Parktool.com).

    There are only a few bike specific tools ... GENERIC metric tools can be used for most of the adjustments you may need to make.
     
  6. Tamryn

    Tamryn New Member

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    It is generally recommended that if you buy a mens bike you should try a size smaller than you would a womens bike. The reason for this is because women get on a bike differently to men and you have the issue of saddle height versus handle bars and pedals etc. The crossbar could also be too high on a mans bike for you to get one. Men swing their leg around the back of the saddle where as women swing over.

    I had a size medium mens Haro It was too big for me. I had to set on the very edge of the saddle I could barely get on and off the thing and I couldn't touch my feet to the ground with it. I am 5'4" tall
    I have since sold that bike to my Dad and it is perfect for him.
    I have my new bike (a Giant Alias small womens hard tail and hydrolic brakes) on layby and I am able to get on it better and I do feel it is 100% better suited to my body than the mens bike would ever be.

    You could by second hand then get used to the bike and decide you like cycling and then upgrade. Or you could buy new first off and if you don't like cycling sell it or if you do like it then you have your bike and you won't have to break in another one.

    There are some really great bikes out there and it all depends on what kind of riding you are wanting to do. You don't have to spend much to get a new bike and buying second hand may mean you could be buying someone elses problems. I suggest you look and test drive before you buy.
     
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