Older guy needing to get in shape bike buying advice.

Discussion in 'Bike buying advice' started by jungleexplorer, Jan 12, 2011.

  1. jungleexplorer

    jungleexplorer New Member

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    I need to find a a decent bike to get in shape with. I moved out into the country last year and I have a lot of open road (paved and unpaved) to use. I am not looking to compete, just get in shape. I use to ride a lot when I was younger and lived in the Amazon. All I had then was a single speed Brazilian made Monark bike. It was absolutely bulletproof. I used to ride on average 60 miles a week down rough dirt roads (muddy roads in the rainy season) with it. But that was 25 years ago and I was as bulletproof as the bike. Now I am old, 40 pounds overweight and have back problems. I bought a $100 dollar bike from Wally world and it is an okay bike for riding around the block, but it sucks for long distance road trips. I have trouble making it to the creek just 3 miles down the road and back with it. I used a friends bike and it was much easier, so I know it's my bike. I am now looking for a better bike because I would like to work up to making a 30 mile trip eventually (kind of a loop made up of a bunch of roads). I will be doing mostly pavement with a couple dirt roads mixed in. Can you guys suggest decent bike for me in the $200 to $300 range? Thanks in advance.
     
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  2. jungleexplorer

    jungleexplorer New Member

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    I guess I said something wrong, because I see a lot of other questions about buying bikes getting replies and mine is not. I really hope this is not one of those elitist forums where common people are sneered at because they are not completely consumed with a single sport or don't want to spend thousands of dollars on the best equipment available. If it is, please just tell me so I can go somewhere else. Maybe my question was too basic and I need to be more specific. I will try that and see if I get some replies. I am not up on bike terminology so bare with me. My current bike is a one-piece aluminum frame bike. It does not have any springs or shocks, it’s just a normal men’s bike. The frame is fine with me for what I want to use it for, but the problem seems to be with the gearing or tire size. It is a seven-speed bike. I am not sure where the problem is with it, whether it is with the gearing or the tire size. It has 28X175 tires. I am guessing these are odd sized tries because it was almost impossible for me to find a replacement tube for one that blew out. I am 5’9” tall with a 30-inch leg (pants size). I think it might be the larger then normal tires because riding this bike wears me out quickly. Other people have also said that it seems to wear them out faster then normal. My thinking it that the 28” tires put the center of the rime higher off the ground and that means the seat has to be lower for a person with shorter legs like me, putting the seat closer then normal to the padals. This might be why it wears me out faster then other bikes. But then again, even when I am in 7th gear, this bike is very slow, so there may be something with the gear ratio. I know that the best way to choose a bike is to test ride it. But in general, for a person of my height and leg length, what size of bike and tires would be a good starting point? Also, if there is such a thing, what are some numbers to look for in gear ratios? I know that $300 dollars is not a lot for a good NEW bike, but what I was hoping was that if I could get some specs to look for, I could find a decent used bike in my price range on craigslist, ebay or a local garage sale. I appreciate any help I can get.
     
  3. Steve_A

    Steve_A Member

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    Welcome to the forum. Be patient with us, there's lots of good advice to be had, but everyone is on a different schedule, and subject to our whims about what/when/why we might post. If you're mostly on paved roads, I'd suggest either a hybrid/comfort bike, or a non-racing road bike. However, I recommend that you get a bike with tires about 32mm or wider. Pure road bikes generally won't accomodate anything larger than 28mm. This is for 700c wheels, as you will find on modern road bikes and many hybrid or comfort bikes. Mountain bikes use mainly 26" tires, with widths measured in inches. Then there are "29ers," which I won't go into now. Anyway, there are some thoughts. Steve
     
  4. jungleexplorer

    jungleexplorer New Member

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    Thanks Steve. Not sure if I understand what you are saying. Are saying that wider tires are better for road? I always thought it was the opposite.

    Let me ask this. Do think my bike (700c Men's Mongoose Paver) is something I can build on, or should I scrap it and start over?
     
  5. CalicoCat

    CalicoCat Member

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    I'm not quite sure what you mean here. Seat height needs to be determined relative to the pedals/center of the crank arm, not the wheels, or the height of the bottom bracket (distance from pedals to ground). Having a seat too low can definitely compromise power output and can put a lot of undue strain on your knees. So, before you do anything else, I would have someone knowledgable (like your local bike shop, or at the very least a friend who is a cyclist) take a look at your "fit". You can even try posting pics of you on your bike for us to look at.

    . . . but there are lots of things that can make a bike "sluggish". One major thing is wheels. A well-built wheel will roll uphill all on its own - ok, I'm exaggerating a little. But bikes from big discount stores have heavy wheels with the weigh badly distributed and hubs/bearings of questionable quality/smoothness. So, up to a point, investing a little money in a bike gets big performance rewards.

    In terms of what kind of bike is best for you, I will side with steve and suggest a hybrid bike. The reason steve recommended fatter tires is because you said you'd be doing some off-road stuff. Depending on the surface (and your weight), you might be OK with 32s - heck, I've raced my 23s on gravel without a problem.
     
  6. Steve_A

    Steve_A Member

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    I had to cut my post a little short, other duties called. Anyway, since some of your riding will be on dirt roads, you want a tire that will be good all-around. I'm adopting the philosophy of Rivendell; you should check out their site as there's a wealth of information there. I put 28s on my current road bike (the widest that would fit my frame) and found that I can at least ride through the occasional mud. 32 or 35 tires, with a suitable tread, they would be fine for road and would get you through the unpaved roads. They will also be more comfortable to ride than typical road tires like 23s. I can't really answer your question about your Mongoose, but my feeling is that you should keep an eye on Craigslist; you find some really good deals there. Buying parts for your old frame is probably an expensive way to go, and you still may not end up with a very good bike. One big question that you need to think about is drop bars vs. high, flat bars. Look at the thread here about choosing a bike for older riders, or something like that. We discussed bars there. I recommend that you do some more reading on this forum and the other subforums here. Also check out Rivendell, Velo Orange and Harris Cyclery (Sheldon Brown). There are sites that advise you and walk you through bike sizing also. With some more specific info and questions, I'm sure that the folks here can help you a great deal. Cheers, Steve
     
  7. jungleexplorer

    jungleexplorer New Member

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    "Seat height needs to be determined relative to the pedals/center of the crank arm, not the wheels, or the height of the bottom bracket (distance from pedals to ground)."

    I agree, but when you have short legs and you raise the seat up high, then you have to stand on a chair to get on your bike. LOL! But like I said, I am not totally sure that it does not have something to do with the gear ratio. Well one thing I forgot to mention earlier, is that this bike has the weirdest handlebars I have ever seen. You have to sit straight up to hold them by the handles. If I am pedaling against a head wind (I live in west Texas and 20 to 30 MPH head wind is normal) and have to lean forward to reduce wind drag, I end up with my for arms on my cross bar (very uncomfortable). It is almost as if the distance from the seat to the handle bars on this model is shorter then normal.

    I will check out the sites that have been suggested. I will look at hybred bikes as suggested also. Thanks for the advice.
     
  8. Steve_A

    Steve_A Member

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    je, it sounds like you're a candidate for trying drop bars, perhaps with the bars set higher than the level of the saddle. That's sort of the definition of an all-round road bike, not a racing bike. Yes, with the saddle set a proper height (which is important for our old knees), you may have trouble mounting the bike. Try this: stand a bit away from the bike, on your preferred side. Tilt the bike toward you at an angle. Have the pedals positioned so that the opposite side pedal is at about 11:00 (as you see it through the frame). Put your leg over the saddle, and engage the pedal as you tilt the bike to full upright and sit on the saddle. Easier to do than to describe. A common specification which you will see for bike frames is standover. This is the distance from the top of the top tube to the ground. The general consensus is that you want about an inch of clearance between yourself (ahem) and the tube, but that's not set in stone either. I do agree with you that the distance from the seat (properly adjusted) to the ground is somewhat critical for your comfort in mounting and dismounting. But once you get accustomed to the bike and riding, it doesn't seem to be such a big deal. As long as you can stop at a light with one foot's toes on the ground, you should be good. Steve
     
  9. jungleexplorer

    jungleexplorer New Member

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    Well, I have been looking around at hybrids online. I live way out in the country so I can't run to town all the time. I found a bike sizing chart on About.com (http://bicycling.about.com/od/howtoride/a/bike_sizing.htm) that indicates that a person my height and inseam should get a bike with a 54 to 56cm frame (about 22"). If this is true, then my bike (26") is way to big for me. Do you think this chart is trust worthy?

    There are some nice Schwinn hybrids on Amazon.com in my price range that have some pretty good reviews (I shop a lot on amazon.com because of the user review base, even if I end up buying it somewhere else.) Of course there is a lot of terminology that I am unfamiliar with. Are there any key features I should look for or avoid? The one thing that seems to be agreed upon by all is that no matter where you buy a bike, you should have it tuned by a pro.

    This bike (Men's Schwinn 700C Trail Way) has a lot of good reviews but I can't seem to find a frame size for it. Abilene is the closest city to me and the next time I go there I will try to find a dealer where I can look at some bikes, but until then I hope you guys don't mind me trying to learn all I can.
     
  10. Steve_A

    Steve_A Member

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    je, I'll try to provide an answer later, but for now, there's a good post on the Cycling Equipment sub-forum here. Go to the post, Big Country Bikes, and scroll to the response by dabac. It's a good summary of the online bike-buying experience (well, it's a negative summary, but that doesn't mean it's not valid).
     
  11. Steve_A

    Steve_A Member

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    je, I looked at the Schwinn Trail Way online this morning and here are some random thoughts: For $229, or whatever it is, it may not be a bad bike. Having said that, sadly, that is a very low price point for bicycles these days and, even entry-level. It's based on a mountain bike frame, hence the 15" size designation. I have no idea if this would fit you. I can't compare road bike sizing to mtn sizing, but maybe some here can. It has Shimano components, which is a plus for me, even if they are low-end. I've heard it said and I believe, that lower Shimano components function well. The difference being that low-end components may not keep their adjustments as long, or last as long. It has a suspension fork. Good for those rough dirt roads, but not much use for regular road riding. I'd also have to question the durability/utility of a suspension fork on a $229 bike. The bike has 700c wheels, good. However, I'm somewhat puzzled by the 24-spoke count. Most standard road (not sure about mtn) wheels are 32 spoke. The lower spoke counts are found on lightweight racing wheels, but those are more expensive. Maybe there's a reason for this on this bike. But how much do you weigh? If you are overweight, you'd generally want to go with more, rather than fewer spokes.

    If you were in a metropolitan area, and had the benefit of a knowledgeable advisor, I'd say keep looking at Craigslist. You could find a bike that originally sold for say $700 or more, in your range. However given your location and circumstances, I think that you already have a good plan: visit a shop or shops in Abilene, talk to the people and look at (and ride) some bikes. Don't be surprised if you are urged to buy (and walk out the door with) a bike that is over your stated spending limit. But if it's a pleasure to ride and keeps you riding to your goal, it will be worth it. Keep us informed and good luck. Steve
     
  12. jungleexplorer

    jungleexplorer New Member

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    Thanks Steve. That is the kind of advice I need. I am a 220 pound guy that wants to be 180. I would like to get to the point where I could do 20 or 30 miles a day without struggling. I know I need to spend more on a bike but I have daughter getting married in 5 months and you know how that is. I want to be in shape for the wedding but money is tight. You said I should keep looking for used bikes on craigslist, but I don;t know what to look for. Could you give me a few names or models to look for?
     
  13. Steve_A

    Steve_A Member

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    je, To clarify, I think you'd be better off going to some bike shops and talking to them and seeing what you could get. Given your somewhat remote location, Craigslist is probably just not a realistic option for you. At 220, you probably need to be somewhat concerned at least with the wheels on the bike that you buy. I'd be leary of the Schwinn that you mentioned in your post above, just because of the wheels. I wish I could narrow down the makes and models for you, but looking back 10 or more years (in the used market), there are just too many for most anyone to keep track of. I'm hoping that others here might chime in. Hopefully you can make a trip into town in the near future to check out the new bike market (and some shops do sell used bikes). On the positive side, this is the off-season, so shops should have good deals available. That will be a good starting point. Steve
     
  14. Steve_A

    Steve_A Member

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    je, I just Googled Abilene bike shops and found about 3. the VT one looks like it might have the most bikes (Felt brand) close to your price range. but I would try to visit them all if you can. You never know what specials they may have, especially this time of year. Good luck, Steve
     
  15. jungleexplorer

    jungleexplorer New Member

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    Thanks a million Steve. I will look at the VT one you mentioned when I go to town next. I understand about you being hesitant to mention any models because there are just to many variables. I am a computer technician (it is one of my many skills) and it is the same way when recommending anything computer related on a tech forum. Everybody is quite until someone recommends something and then it is all out war with everybody defending their favorite piece of hardware,OS, software etc. But in the end, I know that you are right about trying a bike before buying. I made that mistake when I bought the bike that I currently have and hate. I just hope that the shop owners don't rip my flesh off my bones trying to sale me because of the down economy and it being winter and all. LOL!
     
  16. SierraSlim

    SierraSlim Active Member

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    Hi, Explorer, and welcome to the forums!

    You said, "I really hope this is not one of those elitist forums where common people are sneered at because they are not completely consumed with a single sport or don't want to spend thousands of dollars on the best equipment available. If it is, please just tell me so I can go somewhere else." You really don't need to worry about that at all, here. I should know, because I started cycling for the first time in 40 YEARS this past August, and have been pestering these friendly guys with the most elementary questions borne of ignorance (I didn't even know the difference between a racing bike and hybrid and cruisers!), and they have all been so friendly and helpful it's unbelievable. Sometimes it takes a day or two before your question gets seen by the right person to answer it, but they get there eventually, and are unfailiingly patient and compassionate with newbies. Steve_A and CalicoCat are two of my favorites, always jumping in to help with questions. You will likely also hear from people like DaveReo and BHOFM and Paramount64 and many others (sorry to put y'all on the spot, lol).

    I, unfortunately, don't know enough about bicycles yet to be of assistance in suggesting a specific bike. But if you're looking to cycle just for fun and fitness, I can tell you that this is a great place to start. When I started in August, I could barely go a mile my first day without collapsing into the recliner and dying afterward, at 100+ pounds overweight and totally sedentary. Today I just finished my first 15-mile ride without much problem at all, and loved it -- and in the meantime, I've lost 50 pounds having fun biking outdoors! I plan to lose another 80 or so, and love the confidence that cycling gives me, knowing that I can do it. I also have back problems, as well as knee and ankles needing replacements at some point, so I know where you're coming from. The right bicycle will help ALL those things. Unfortunately, the wrong one can make things hurt worse. So my biggest suggestion would be to go to a bike shop and get fitted so you know exactly what size bike you need. It took me a few weeks to find a bike shop that was willing to work with a 60-year-old fat lady, but the one I finally found is wonderful, and ended up selling me a bike for hundreds less than I had planned to have to pay because it was 'last year's model' -- (like I care). But there was absolutely NO pressure to buy the bike even though they had fitted me; I simply chose to buy there because they had what I was looking for in the size I needed.

    The right bike shop will ask you a lot of questions about what kind of riding you're going to be doing, to make sure they can point you toward the kind of bike you really need. Looking back, the bike I THOUGHT I had wanted before I got fitted at the bike shop was NOT the bike I needed. They could see that after interviewing me, and sold me the bike I ended up with in spite of the fact that the one I'd wanted was hundreds more. That kind of input is invaluable.

    And once you know what size and type you need, I would absolutely look at Craigslist bikes. I've seen some wonderful deals on bikes there, and next time I'm shopping for one, that's probably where I'll go, now that I know what size and geometry I need. Who doesn't like saving half price on a bike that's barely been used??

    Good luck in your search, and let us know what you find. We all drool over everybody else's new babies, lol.

    Have fun shopping!

    Sierra
     
  17. sitzmark

    sitzmark Member

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    Explorer - hard to give you much more help than has been offered. The key is to identify what is an acceptable level of performance for you before making any purchase decisions. In cycling (and any other interest) it is possible to cheap your way to a very expensive end. You already have a $00 premium tacked onto whatever final bike decision you make. Unfortunately $200 - $300 doesn't buy a very high level of engineering/technology in today's world of bikes. So my suggestion is to be careful and not raise your final price premium by $400.

    Brad (BHOFM) has posted of his success with Wal-Mart and reclaimed bikes. You may want to strike up a chat with him . He appears to be mechanically inclined and does his own work/modifications. If you're in that cam p, he may have some suggestions for you using the bike you have. Unless something is badly out of adjustment, you should be able to get 3 miles out of it without great difficulty. It may not shift precisely or roll without a bit of drag in the hubs, but not enough to prevent a 3 mile ride .. or even much more. If you can identify the source of your discontent - hub bearings over torqued and dragging, or poorly performing bottom bracket bearing that make pedaling a chore, etc. - then it will be easier to define a level of performance (new or used) you're looking for and put a plan together for finding it in price range that fits.

    If your current bike is tuned properly and not meeting your expectations, then a step "up" in key components will need to be a focus... either upgrades added to your existing bike (probably not the best course) or on a new bike. More info will help steer the discussion.

    P.S. - also check for a dragging brake pad on your rim which might be adding to the effort needed to get your bike rolling.
    .
     
  18. jungleexplorer

    jungleexplorer New Member

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    Thanks sitzmark. I will look into Brad's post. The main problem with my current bike is pedal position. I adjusted the brakes so they would not drag. I have never opened the hubs up to see about grease, but the bike seems to roll pretty freely if I get my speed up and let it drift for a while on a flat road.I can't really put my finger on what it is. I have tried moving the seat high and low and it still feels like it is not right. I am not the only person that feels this way about it either. It might be a defect in the frame or something. For the first 20 years of my life I was an avid bike rider. I don't know for sure but I would say that I have logged several thousands of miles on bikes in my life. I lived for two years in the mountains of Veracruz Mexico. I had an old Schwinn men's 3 speed bike that was stuck in 3rd. I road it all over those mountains and never got off to push it once, no matter how steep the hill. I was just a young teen then and I had legs of steel. It was common for me to ride 10 miles up a mountain each afternoon just to do some hunting. Needless to say, riding bikes is not new to me. What is new to me is to have a choice of what bike to ride. I never had a choice growing up. I had to ride the bike that I had. But back then, all bikes were made simple and good. Now days, you have a lot of complicated crap. I wish I could find a brand new Monark like I had back in the 80s in Brazil. I rode mine for 6 years on roads where it was common for mud to be as deep as the hubs and not once did it break down. I bet I put 2000 miles on it, and aside from some worn our tires and some flats, it was still a good bike when I left Brazil to come back to the US in 1989. I think I paid $50 for it brand new in the store back in 1983. Those were the days when you could buy quality without have to take out a second mortgage.
     
  19. Kayhold

    Kayhold New Member

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    I'm sure the OP may have already decided on something, but I wanted to add.

    My Trek mountain bike turned hybrid was stolen Friday, and I had a ride with friends today. I saw that the return policy for the Trailway was 90 days, so I figure what the hell, and bought it. I could return it when I got a new bike, and tell them the Schwinn was crap as my reason. Because it is a bbs bike, it's true, right?

    I enjoyed it so much, I'm keeping it. Those rapid fire shifters pretty much sold me. I can work on it myself, which will go a LONG way in extending the life. I also have a co-op nearby, where I can get parts for an hour or so of volunteer time (or $5 a part).
    I did double check everything on it, and it was very well put together - the tires were even true. I don't know if all Targets have it, but mine has a place in-store where they repair/assemble them,run by an honest-to-God bike mechanic, so maybe that's why it was assembled so well.

    Anyway, if you haven't decided, maybe this will help.
     
  20. doctorold

    doctorold Member

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    Given your price range, I would suggest craigs list. You can always find good conditioned bikes that someone bought new and never rode.
     
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