How to pick the right bike, for noobs:
First of importance is style:
Road Bike for distance and speed on paved roads.
Cyclo-cross for gravel roads, some single track off-road trails and groomed gravel trails (can be fitted with road tires for speed on paved roads
Randonneuring for long, slower treks with racks for luggage, great for commuting too.
Hybrid for a mix between a road bike and a mountain bike for crushed gravel trails, paved and dirt roads
Mountain bike for off-road riding, dirt roads – an all-purpose bike (can be fitted with tires for more efficient road riding)
By the way, the notion that a road (or cyclocross) bike is uncomfortable on the back is a myth. Do NOT shy away from picking one up based on that myth, but if you have problems, probably best to consult the Doc. I can say that road biking helped eliminate my chronic back pain.
The idea is to pick the bike that suits your needs best, the two most versatile being the cyclocross and the mountain bike (with a suspension fork that can be locked out). A case could be made for the randonneur or the hybrid but the hybrid, unless it has a front shock, is really not suitable for single track riding, while with a cheap set of road tires, you can make a mountain bike quite road worthy.
My first bike was a mountain bike – exactly for its versatility. I was able to dress it up and do two Olympic triathlons on it and still take it out on the trails with a few simple changes and fifteen minutes.
If money is no object, custom dictates that you buy one of each. In Realville however, making the right choice is a bit more important. If speed is what you’re looking for, there’s only one choice. On the other hand, if you like to play in the dirt, go with a mountain bike. Commuting? Probably a hybrid, maybe a cyclocross bike. Just be careful – I was absolutely certain that a mountain bike was what I needed. Out if the 4,000 miles I’ve ridden so far this year, maybe 200 of them were on the mountain bike.
Next is frame material:
Steel is heavy but an gives an exceptionally comfortable ride. It is also the least expensive of frame materials.
Aluminum (with a carbon fork for road bikes) is relatively inexpensive. though it is less forgiving on bad roads.
Carbon fiber or composite is extremely light and very forgiving. It’s also expensive.
Titanium: if you’re looking at titanium, you’re not a noob and certainly don’t need this post.
Next up is choosing components; shifters, derailleurs, etc. The main rule for components is this: pick the most expensive components that you can reasonably afford. A good group set makes a very big difference in riding enjoyment and durability.
Now, as far as brands go, any of the major brands will make a fantastic ride. The question comes to whether or not you can afford to get out of the big-box bike brands. Going with Specialized, Giant, Trek, Scott, Cannondale – any of the major brands (Fuji, Kestrel, Bianchi, etc.) will provide superior quality, fit and finish. The higher end of the big-box bikes (Diamondback…) are decent as well. As someone who has worked on several of the cheaper big-box brands, my main concern when shopping is staying away from anything with a plastic components like brake handles and shift levers. I personally loath anything with a plastic brake lever, though my wife and I settled for one when we didn’t know any better.
I began, a while ago, putting together a somewhat comprehensive page that has links to the important bike maintenance and fitting issues I’ve had. It’s finally done and published.
A fellow who writes a blog I follow has been smacked by reality:
“The purpose of this web site is to broaden the perception of sport, to show you sports you haven’t thought of watching or playing to encourage to watch or play them. In the spirit of shining lights where they should be shone, I was going to present to you netball.
But I won’t, they just rang and asked me not to, so I won’t.
They should be more explicit about the fact that they view every man who attends one of their games with a camera who isn’t related to a player in some way as a pervert preying on underage girls and so we should stay away and leave their games as a female only free zone to be enjoyed purely by the participants and their nearest and dearest and no-one else.”
For those men who take the “support women in sport, equal pay for play” argument at face value, let this be a shining example: You are trying to play fair in a game that is skewed so you have no chance to be the good guy. What the discussion is really about boils down to this (if you want to win): Just send us a check and leave us alone – and while you’re at it, make sure there are a lot of zeros after that first number.
Women want their own facilities to workout in so they can avoid the perverts, oglers and the hookup seekers. On the other hand fellas, it’s sexist for men to have their own exclusive clubs simply because they want to avoid the incessant nagging for a minute. Women want equal pay in sport but only if a certain segment of the population supports it, you pervs, stay away. No looky-looky.
Now ladies and gentlemen, without getting too carried away here, there are a few things that must be understood. First is that the game is rigged – you cannot win, no matter how “pure as the driven snow” your intentions – you will piss someone off.
Let’s get the low hanging fruit first: If you are a pervert or a dog, please get some help or something would you? It’s not okay. Civilized people don’t act like that. If you’re not civilized people then please purchase and wear one of my “I’m not civilized” tee shirts so we can tell who you are.
With that out of the way and assuming you’re just a normal guy, If you shy away from women in sports, you’re a sexist (reasoning doesn’t matter). If you follow women in sports, you’re labeled* a pervert because only perverts follow women’s sports (unless you have a daughter in said sport, in which case it’s okay – unless of course, you have a daughter in said sport but you just show up because you’re a pervert in which case revert back to the pervert rule).
*Being labeled a pervert is not the same as actually being a pervert – it’s more an assumed pervertedness. This label is not your fault but the fault of the labeler, but good luck getting by on that little tidbit of reality.
Now, to support women in sports – if you’re the male of the species, it can be done in several ways but because of the rules above, the standard: Show up, pay for tickets, watch the games and buy stuff don’t apply – but this depends widely on the sport. Guys can’t be caught wearing a WNBA jersey because that’s too weird (I think – or maybe that’s sexist too – I’ll find out in the comments I’m sure). On the other hand, I’d probably wear a woman’s cycling team jersey assuming no butterflies and stuff of course. Fellas, good luck wearing a women’s beach volleyball uniform in public… Not only will you likely be arrested for indecent exposure, you should be arrested! No guy is that good looking!
Women can’t escape the malaise either! In order to attract men to support their sport, women are encouraged to “sex it up” – low cut cycling jerseys that expose the cleavage are one of my personal favorites (just ask Mrs. Bgddy) – after all, who can argue with the popularity of women’s beach volleyball? Of course down side is that “sexing it up” brings out the perverts and losers (those who have abandoned decorum and decency) in droves! All of a sudden some stupid asshole thinks it’s okay to hoot and holler at a chick riding her bike because the pros show a little boobage from time to time. Hell, under the way the rules work even the women can’t win!
The answer, of course, is a lot simpler than trying to conform to everything which is purposely impossible anyway: Be yourself. Be kind, courteous and decent. Don’t watch what you don’t like. Support what you want but don’t be too offended if some put-off dad jumps to the wrong conclusion – it’s not personal, some of us dads get a little weird about our daughters (as do moms).
Ladies, pepper spray – just remember, don’t spray into the wind – or buy one of my “I’m not interested” tee-shirt – I’ll try getting one made into a cycling jersey in the near future – maybe even with its own pepper spray pocket. Come to think of it, maybe I’ll make up a second tee shirt: “Not interested, unless you’re a six figure income”. 😉
Just remember this: the whole game is made up to keep everyone pissed off in the first place. If we play, we’ll end up pissed off.
Oh, by the way, ladies I need a ruling here: What’s the rule on women’s only triathlons? If my wife does one can I show up to support her for that? I’d get points from her for it but what about everyone else? Is it bad form to show up to a women’s only triathlon to support your wife?
I’m leaning toward just following my solution: The game is rigged, what’s important is that my wife is happy (if she even goes that route). Everyone else can jump in the lake.