After doing some riding out in CO this fall, I am trying to get back into doing a lot more riding here at home in MN. Also after riding a new bike (Specialized Crosstrail Sport Disc) out in CO, my nearly 30 year old Raleigh just isn't cutting it anymore (Man, have bikes gotten a LOT better in 30 years!).
First thought was to get the bike that I rode in CO; however, the reality is that I am very unlikely to leave the pavement here at home and therefore don't need the extra bells and whistles (and weight) of things like a front shock and disc brakes. Also ruled out getting a true road bike, like my Raleigh, as I need a more upright posture for my back and neck. Which leaves me with the flat bar road bike style which every manufacturer seems to call something different: hybird, fitness, street, commuter, etc. Some seem to be more of rigid mountain bike geometry, while others look more like they just swapped the old ram's horn handlebar for a flat bar. I also find the array of component mixtures to be totally bewildering. Is a bike with an M301 shifter, M191 front derailleur, Alivio rear derailleur “better” than a bike with an EF65 shifter, Altus front, and Deore rear? And what part does the “cassette” play in this discussion?
So, after doing some test riding and searching through various websites and my pocketbook, I’ve settled in to a price range of $600-800 to make this purchase. So far, I have narrowed it down to 5 brands/model lines: Marin Fairfax, Trek FX (7.3 or 7.4), Cannondale Quick (3 or 4), Jamis Coda Sport, and Specialized Sirrus Elite.
For overall fit (geometry), I’d give the edge to the Trek’s, then the Cannondale’s and Specialized. For comfort (absorbing shocks, etc), the Jamis, and Trek’s have the edge. For performance, the Quick 3, which has a SRAM set-up as opposed to Shimano in all the others, was hands-down the best – incredibly precise and smooth. Most of these have 700x32 tires, a few claim to have puncture-resistant tires or “run-flat tires, just like some cars do” as one salesman said. I’m leaning more towards that size of tire as they feel a bit more stable than the skinnier 28 tires on a couple of the models, but it isn’t that big of a difference to me on the short test rides I’ve done.
So, I realize that most of the talk on this site is about mountain biking, but I’m hoping that there are enough riding bears out there that also ride the streets and can give some feedback here. Anyone ridden these bikes? Any thoughts about reliability for these brands? Any advice about which gear mix is better, i.e. is the cassette more important than the rear derailleur? I’ve seen a few postings that, like skis, getting the right size of bike is the first and most important factor, and not just step-over height, but the rest of the bike’s geometry which after riding several different bikes I can appreciate this a bit better. Is it just a case of having to get out and ride or are there certain measurements that I should look for given my height?