Commuting in Houston Texas

Discussion in 'Bike buying advice' started by PMitchell08, Sep 1, 2012.

  1. PMitchell08

    PMitchell08 New Member

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    As the category would imply I am investing in my first real bicycle, and I am seeking the guidance of the kowledgeable cycling community. I am a 22 year old runner/swimmer with no serious bicycling experience. I am 5'9"-5'10" and 135-140 pounds.

    My basic needs:

    I am going to be using this bike primarily for my daily commute as well as relatively non-competitive evening/weekend workouts. Houston streets and trails are pretty rough, lots of potholes and uneven pavement.

    My priorities:

    Number one priority is durability. I'm willing to pay more for a bike that will hold up, even in less than ideal conditions. It will be stored indoors, but may be parked outside during my workday, locked up in an unforgiving community bike rack. I am good at keeping up with maintenance, but I am not sure what that entails on a bicycle. I maintain my cars and motorcycles obsessively.

    Next priority is smooth components in terms of shifting and braking. I am not hugely concerned about efficiency since I will not be racing, but I know that smooth operation naturally lends to efficient transfer of energy. Mostly I just want something that won't be clanking, missing gears, and popping chains like the Walmart bikes of my childhood.

    Less important but still relevant to my interests is a reasonably lightweight bike in terms of cost/benefit ratio, I do not need to have a lightest finest carbon frame, but I would prefer not to pedal a tank either.

    Style and related factors are of no serious concern to me.

    My questions:

    What brands and components should I be seeking? Everywhere I see this question asked, it is always answered with "Go with what is best for you," is anyone willing to make a shameless referral to the brand(s) or bike(s) that they feel is/are truly the ideal for the average end-user? More importantly perhaps, can anyone name some brands/models/components that they would avoid?

    What price range should I plan to be in? I had hoped to spend around $400, would really rather not exceed $500, but I can if it would be of great value to do so.

    Mountain bike or hybrid? Pros/Cons? All of the hybrids I have seen strike me as very big, heavy, slow, type bikes, I think I would prefer something slightly sportier. Given the pavement conditions here, I'm pretty confident that a road bike is out of the question. So I was thinking a mild mountain bike with more dual-sport type tires? Open to all suggestions.

    Hardtail or Full suspension? I know for sure that I want at least front suspension, and if not a full suspension, maybe a suspension seat post?

    Are the advantages of disc brakes worth looking into for my purposes? (possibly commuting or working out in rain). I have never used them on a bicycle, but find myself very interested in them, and if nothing else I think they look cool.

    What style controls should I be looking for? I don't know anything about what is good or bad here.

    Is there an affordable deraileur, wheelset, crankset, etc. that falls into my price range?

    Should I consider buying a used bicycle, (ie Craigslist)? I like the idea of getting a lightly used, newer bike for a good deal, but I am concerned about not knowing what to look for in bike wear and tear. How old is too old for buying used? Is it ever worth what is sacrificed to buy used? Also concerned about ending up with someone else's stolen bike, but it seems reasonably easy to avoid that: deal seems too good to be true, it is.

    Should I invest in fenders? I have never used them so I don't know if they are very helpful, or the pros/cons of them.

    Buy from a bike shop, online, or elsewhere? I like the idea of having a shop in the area that I can go to for help, service, and advice, but I don't know if that is worth the high premium they charge for a decent bike. My thought is that if I buy service and accessories there (where they make all of their money anyway), then they will hopefully treat me with equal respect even if i get the bike elsewhere. There are some great deals to be had online with previous model-year closeout deals, but these seem risky with shipping and questionable partial assembly.

    Models I have been interested in so far:

    Trek 3900 Disc - $540 Seems like a great option, not sure if I want to spend that much, might try to find one lightly used?
    GT Transeo 3.0 - $500 Seems like an ideal balance, still on the high side of what I would prefer to spend, I don't know much about this brand, doesn't seem as nice as a Trek.
    Diamondback Trace Sport - $450 Very similar in components to the Transeo, not sure I trust the brand though.


    Any other issues you can think of addressing, or any suggestions you have on the ones I have raised, I would really appreciate it. Thank you in advance for your insight, I am looking forward to the responses.
     
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  2. PMitchell08

    PMitchell08 New Member

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    I apologize for the excessively thorough post, but I thought too much information may be better than not enough. I went to Bike Barn in Houston and talked to some very helpful sales personnel, I test rode a couple of bikes and liked them, but I haven't made a decision yet. Any thoughts are still very much appreciated, I know that there is enough experience in this community to help me make the best choice.
     
  3. kdelong

    kdelong Well-Known Member

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    There is a lot to respond to so please excuse me if I miss a point or two. I would rather be out riding but the weather really sucks here right now with the remnants if Isaac coming through. As always, going to several shops and test riding their bikes and then buying from one of them is the best way to go for an inexperienced rider. That way you will get the right fit and a ready local resource for any questions or problems that might arise.

    There are some good hybrids out there that are not heavy or slow, but they might be a bit more than what you want to spend. Specialized Sirrus is one that comes to mind. Anyway, a decent MTB with commuter tires will also serve your purposes. A front suspension is good from a comfort standpoint. Don't get a full suspension bike unless you are going to be using it for really technical trail riding. All those shocks and links look cool but they add weight, cost, and maintenance; and they reduce your riding efficiency from the flexing. A suspension seatpost might increase comfort slightly but the ones that I have had tended to wobble a little and did not give a nice firm surface to sit on, and when they wear they can effect the seat height adjustment.

    The drive train that you are looking at in your price range are going to be Shimano's Altus and Acera. Do not buy a bike with something like Shimano Tourney. This group is for children's beater bikes but is sometimes found on adult bikes to reduce cost. From personal experience, Altus and Acera is a good, durable setup. It can be a little noisy at times when it gets dirty (but not clanking) and a little balky if not adjusted spot on, but it will work well. It doesn't drop chains and won't miss gears unless it is badly maladjusted.

    Disc Brakes, if you can get them in your price range, then do get them. They are worth getting and work much better then rim brakes in wet weather.

    Fenders are good if you are going to be riding in wet weather, but they do add a little weight and can be a hassle if they get bent so that they are rubbing on something. You might look into snap on fenders that can be easily removed in good weather.

    Buying used can save you a lot of money but only if you know exactly what you are doing. You need to be fairly experienced to ensure that you are getting the right size which is a lot more than just the stand over height. With the frame geometry on newer bikes, stand over height don't mean squat anymore anyway. You have to know a little about what materials and components are are good and what aren't so good. You have to know what to look for to see if the bike is a rust bucket internally or if it has been in a serious crash that has compromised its structural integrity. You also need to know the 30 different areas to check to see if it is completely worn out. Also, you lose the support of a bike shop if you buy used. Yeah, they will work on it for you but you probably won't be treated and charged like a loyal customer would.

    About the bikes that you have listed, they are all reputable brands. Trek is well known for making a good bikes at an affordable price. They are like the GM of bicycles. They sell more bikes per year than any other manufacturer, mostly on reputation and price. You won't have any regrets buying a Trek.

    GT is an old bicycle brand that has been reborn as one of the Pacific Bicycles brands. They also own Schwinn, Mongoose, and Iron Horse. GT is a good bike, just not as well known as some others.

    There is nothing wrong with Diamondback. They were purchased in 2000 by Derby Cycle who also owns all of the Raleigh brands. However, Derby was just this year acquired by Pon, a Dutch company, as part of their new bicycle group, which also owns Gazelle and Cervélo. Derby made good bicycles, Pon makes great bicycles.

    Just one last thing, don't forget to budget for a helmet. All helmets are made to the same safety standards. A cheap $15.00 helmet will protect you as well as a $300.00 helmet. The price difference arises from styling, weight, number of vents, adjustment features, and of course the biggest factor is the name that is affixed to the helmet. Budget for a hydration system. Water bottles or a Camelback type system are vital, especially in a location like Houston. Over time you might want to invest in cycling specific clothing and upgrades to the bike, but the helmet and hydration considerations should be taken care of before you even start riding.
     
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  4. CAMPYBOB

    CAMPYBOB Well-Known Member

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    I maintain my cars and motorcycles obsessively.

    You will have no problem keeping a bicycle maintained then.

    Keep a clean machine...you already know that detailing a machine gives you inspection time, familiarity with the overall condition and makes doing the little jobs an almost automatic maintenance function.

    Inspecting tires for debris...keeping the chain and gears clean and oiled...learning to adjust the wheels for true/roundness maybe. If you can keep a motorcycle safe and in tune, you can easily keep a commuter/sport bicycle in good working order.
     
  5. vspa

    vspa Active Member

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    +mountain bike +hardtail +rack and panniers on the back +back and front lights (being them easy to mount and easy to remove) +U-Lock (robust chain lock)
     
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  6. PMitchell08

    PMitchell08 New Member

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    Thank you for the replies!

    I've been getting out to a few of the local bike shops and testing out some different makes/models. I was a little bit unimpressed with the Specialized and Trek bikes I tried. Their price/component ratio was pretty bad compared to anything else I have looked at, and they didn't seem to have any advantages in weight or geometry, but they look good and have a recognized name, so I guess that's where their prices come from.

    I tried out a couple of Fuji Bikes and was extremely impressed. They have components from Shimano groupsets that are 3 and 4 steps up from other bikes with comparable prices. So I think at this point I have narrowed it down to a couple of bikes again. It's the Fuji Nevada 2.0 vs. the Fuji Nevada 3.0 (links will take you to their specs/components from Fuji's archive).

    The major differences in the bikes:

    Bike Nevada 2.0 Nevada 3.0 Current Price/(msrp) $550 / ($830) $430 / ($650) Rear Deraileur/Front/Shifters Deore SGS/Alivio/Alivio Alivio/Acera/Acera Brakes Hydraulic Discs 160mm V-brakes Crankset Alivio Acera Fork Suntour XCM 100mm Lockout Suntour XCT 100mm Lockout
    The 2.0 is clearly the superior bike, and I can afford it, but I'm just not sure if it's worth the extra $120. When I rode each of the bikes, I think I actually liked the 3.0 a little bit better, but I think it may have more to do with the shop not having the 2.0 tuned as well as the 3.0 was. I noticed the 3.0 would coast much longer than the 2.0, it seemed to be because of some drag in the disc brakes on the 2.0. I liked the feel of the Acera Shifters on the 3.0 better than the Alivio shifters on the 2.0, although the Alivio are the more expensive and supposedly superior shifters.

    However, I love the look and color scheme of the 2.0, and I love that it has all around better componentry. I am leaning toward the 2.0 because I worry that if I buy a 3.0 that I will be wanting to upgrade much sooner, whereas the 2.0 puts me in the position of being future-proof for a long time to come. I also expect that the 2.0 would have a higher resale value if I ever wanted to get rid of it, considering the many very marketable features, especially the hydraulic discs.

    I'll post again when I make a decision. Any thoughts or input in the meantime is welcome and appreciated.
     
  7. vspa

    vspa Active Member

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    yes disc brakes are worth the higher price, and you also get a better Shimano group,
     
  8. alienator

    alienator Well-Known Member

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    If you're only going to be on the road or groomed bike paths, I think getting a bike with passive suspension (rear shock, suspension fork) is a mistake. You can make your ride over potholed roads much nicer just by getting a bike that will allow you to use wider tires, like 28mm wide or larger. Suspension will only make your bike less efficient...well, unless your suspension can be locked out.
     
  9. Conniebiker

    Conniebiker New Member

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    The 2.0 model would be a much longer lasting component mix. The Deore group has held up well on my daily commuter, which also gets XC raced. The disc brakes are sensitive to adjustment but highly reliable once set properly. It is very likely they were not centered when you test rode it. The clearances between rotor and pad are very tight(sometimes business card thickness), so it is easy to skew it when putting a wheel on. That said, if you do not take your wheels off, or are careful reinstalling the wheel it can go for increddibly long times without adjustment(like almost a year sometimes). If contaminants such as lubricant are kept off the rotors(like excessively wet chain lube slap) the pads should be good for 2000mi +.

    Compare that to a rim brake bike and you will likely be making the cost difference in adjustments and pad replacement, not to mention the operational feel and rim wear. I beg to differ with the above poster about the front suspension. Seat suspension is optional, though a post(what I have) takes the edge off. Front suspension can be the difference between a pothole being painful or just being a thud, or in the case of a road that has traffic and turns it could be maintaining control. Losses due to suspension "bob and sag" are highly overrated. If you pedal in such a manner where bobbing becomes a factor then you need to smooth out because your tires will be eating the pulsations as well.
     
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  10. alienator

    alienator Well-Known Member

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    Explain "overrated"and why.
     
  11. PMitchell08

    PMitchell08 New Member

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    All very helpful points. I think that's all the extra convincing I need to talk me into the 2.0. Both bikes are hardtails with lockout front forks, so balancing efficiency vs. ride quality is a non-issue.

    My concern now is finding a competent bike shop employee to do business with. When I was there I had to explain to one of them that lower model number Fuji Nevada bikes are superior to higher numbered ones, he insisted the opposite was true. I then had to show another one of them that although the tag on half a dozen of their bikes said 29er, they in fact had 26" tires. Then they told me they had my size in stock, but later figured out that they had accidentally sold it under the wrong model number. When they realized that they did not have my size, one of them insisted that "Getting a bigger bike is always better anyway, you definitely want to get the biggest one possible." They had a 21" in stock when I clearly needed a 19", I guess they're more about sales than customer satisfaction. Meanwhile, one of the guys in the back who was changing a tire over-inflated the tube, causing a very loud blowout. Another employee told me that Fuji is a new brand, I let him know that Fuji was founded in 1899, but the brand has changed hands many times. I liked the staff at the Specialized/Trek dealer a lot better, but I guess that's part of the reason that this shop is able to sell so much cheaper. All of my complaints on the quality of the staff can't justify spending an extra $300 to get a bike with comparable components. Sorry for the rant, but had to share all of that with a community that can appreciate how outrageous some of it is.

    Thanks again!

    -Pat
     
  12. PMitchell08

    PMitchell08 New Member

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    Quote: Originally Posted by alienator .


    Explain "overrated"and why.

    I think what Conniebiker means by 'overrated' is that for an individual like myself who will be primarily a casual rather than a competitive rider, the benefits of a mild front suspension outweigh the costs in efficiency. For me, I would prefer to have to work a little harder or go a little slower, rather than bend a front rim on a sharp pothole. The give of a front suspension might even be the difference in preventing a flat tire. Having a lockout with adjustable preload also means that I would have the luxury of a plush ride when the terrain is more hazardous, or when I want to be comfortable and relax, while also being able to engage the lock and go faster anytime that the terrain permits. It also means that although I will normally be on relatively forgiving trails, I have the option of going into slightly more technical terrain without too much worry. Of course in the most competitive sense, a rigid frame will pretty much always be the fastest.

    I've come up with another question. The shop offers an extended service warranty. $90 for 3 years, $140 for 5 years. It claims to cover 'almost everything' including parts and labor on flat tires and any other repair or adjustment. It does not cover worn tires and it makes no mention of bearings, but it does include brakes, shifters, deraileurs, chains, wheels, spokes, hubs, frame, crank, etc. My concern is that the small pamphlet that outlines the protection plan is not specific about any limitations, so I am wondering if something goes wrong and I take it in, if they could just say I must have abused the bike and not help me. I don't think these guys would do that, as disorganized as they were, they all seemed to at least be friendly, reasonable and eager to help. I'm just not sure if it is something worth investing in. Anyone have any experience with bike warranties or suggestions about which way to go with this one?
     
  13. kdelong

    kdelong Well-Known Member

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    Your best bet is to forget the extended warranty and use the money that you would have spent on that on a good bicycle repair book, and tools, and spend a little time watching You Tube bike maintenance tutorials, visit Park Tools DIY webpages, and checking out Sheldon Brown's website. I don't think that I would let your LBS touch any of my bikes if they are as disorganized and incompetent as you have stated, so you are better off being able to to your own maintenance and minor repairs.
     
  14. alienator

    alienator Well-Known Member

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    +1. Here is Park Tool's repair tutorial page. Also it's good to remember that all the component group makers--Shimano, Campagnolo, SRAM, Microshift--have tech support pages where you can find pdf's and/or videos of installation instructions, maintenance instructions, exploded diagrams, and other things of similar nature. I keep pdf's of every Campy component I've got as well as pdf's of any other parts I have (when available).
     
  15. PMitchell08

    PMitchell08 New Member

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    Well, after a couple of months of shopping I've finally made a purchase. I test rode many bikes, and looked over many more, I was just about ready to buy from a shop, because they had what I wanted at a decent price, although I was unimpressed with the customer service there. Then an ad on my local Craigslist caught my eye, a bike that would have been out of my price range, but supposedly had "only 3 miles" on it. I was of course skeptical of such a claim, but I decided to go look at it anyway. It is a 2012 Specialized Hardrock Sport Disc 29er. When I got there I was stunned to find that it legitimately looked cleaner than 90% of the bikes I had ridden at various bike shops, and was better adjusted than any of them. So my question is, did I get a good (or at least fair) deal? I paid $450 for an honestly like-new 2012 Specialized that retails for $700, and includes an aftermarket saddle ($50) and a matching helmet ($40). Are there any weakpoints in this particular model or its components that I should be concerned about or try to look after? A short list of components:

    Rear Derailleur - SRAM X4
    Front Derailleur - Shimano Altus
    Shifters - SRAM X4
    Brakes - Avid BB5's
    Fork: Suntour XCM 80mm Travel, MLO
    Rear Cassette - Shimano 8-spd
    Bottom Bracket - Shimano, Octalink spline, cartridge bearing, 68mm
    Rims - Alex HR Disc 29 inch, alloy double-wall, disc, pin joint, 24mm, 36h
    Tires - Specialized Fast Trak LK Sport, 60 TPI, wire bead, 29x2.0 inch

    [​IMG]
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  16. kdelong

    kdelong Well-Known Member

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    You got a good deal. No real weak points to speal of. I am not a fan of the Sram RD but that is just a matter of preference on my part. I don't like a bike that has too many different brands of components in its drive train as you can run into compaibility issues when replacing chains, cassettes, and chainrings if you don't replace them with the exact same model number. Be prepared to go shopping for a new saddle. The one on the bike may be perfect for you, but the chances are that you will need to find one that fits your posterior better. Backsides are like finger prints, no two are exactly alike. You are going to have some initial discomfort in your rear end while you get used to sitting on a bicycle saddle and that is normal. The pain should reduce over a period of two to three weeks and be completely gone after a month. If you still feel pain after a month or if the pain increases over the course of several days, you either need to get a different saddle or have the saddle on the bike adjusted. A different LBS than the Fuji Dealer should be able to help you with any saddle difficulties that you might encounter. Good luck and happy trails.
     
  17. vspa

    vspa Active Member

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    awesome bike, well done.
     
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