Picking the bike

So, I knew I wanted a bike – but which one? Which brand? What kind?

When you get into bikes from zero knowledge, one of the first things you’ll learn is that there are three kinds of bikes – mountain bikes, road bikes, and hybrids. Mountain bikes are easy to spot in the shop, with their super thick tires and sporty frames. Your road bikes are really more like race bikes, designed to get you from A to B as fast as possible – the kind of thing that athletes cycle. You can spot these because of their super-thin tires and aerodynamic bodies. Then, there are the hybrids – the bikes which are good for those who’d like to take their bike to work, and maybe to the forest on a weekend, bikes that straddle between sporty and hardy, the sort of thing that, if you don’t know much about bikes, you’ll naturally gravitate towards right away, like I did.

But then I scratched the surface and realised there was a whole lot more to this hybrid lark than I had originally thought. Sure, all the catalogues had ‘hybrid’ sections, but then again, some bikes were hybrids and weren’t labelled as such. Some bikes were more sporty than they were for road use, some were more for commuting than they were flying through muddy tracks. My life was made a little more difficult because I’d decided to plump for a Trek – as advised by my friends, who both had Treks – and it seemed like a lot of their subbrands were secretly hybrids in disguise. Like the FX range, designed for ‘sporty types’ – which is more on the road end of a hybrid than the mountain bike end, but is never really called a hybrid. There are countless examples of this, but it made my life very difficult. I just wanted a bike I could cycle with my friends, mostly for road use, but which wouldn’t prevent me from cycling on some trails in the forest if I wanted to.

Unfortunately, I’ve found that the bike salesmen in two local shops were less than useful, and not remotely interested in selling any bikes. I won’t name names because I assume they are anomolies of the biking world – people who neither know anything about bikes, nor about selling products. Anyway, I ended up pouring my knowledge of bikes onto them as if to have them validate my experiences so far, whilst they gave me monosyllabic answers and really did nothing to try to help me select a bike. In the first shop, my opening question was about the difference between different bike brands ‘because my friends like Trek so I wondered if you could help me about the differences between the different types’. The guy then proceeded to tell me how great Trek bikes were for several minutes, which really didn’t help. At the second shop, I wanted to know what the difference between the Trek Allant WSD was, and the Trek FX range, and all I got was that the FX was for sports. What does that even mean? Will the FX be acceptable for use in badminton matches or something?

Anyway, in the end I narrowed it down to three bikes from the Trek range.

The Trek 7000 WSD

The Trek FX 7.2 WSD

And the Trek Allant WSD

Now, I have to admit, I had seen an olive green ladies’ bike with leather saddle and wicker basket in the window of my local bike shop a few weeks ago, and felt my heart stir… There’s something about the combination of a sophisticated, restrained green frame and the elegance of a leather look saddle that just really sings to me. But at the time I had the word ‘HYBRID’ in my mind and wasn’t looking for anything else.

Still, I couldn’t get that bike out of my mind, so I decided to ask a few more questions about the Allant, read some reviews, and lust over Google image searches of it, until, finally, I told myself, ‘well, if you like that damn bike so much, why don’t you just buy it?’. To which the reply came, ‘maybe I will’.

2 thoughts on “Picking the bike

  1. cycler says:

    Welcome to cycling- I get a lot of enjoyment from it, and I hope you will too!
    If you haven’t yet bought a bike, I have a few suggestions about the process more than the specific bike.

    What do you want to do with a bike? Do you want to take fun rides on the weekends out to the country?
    Do you want to ride to work, or to the market?
    I’m gathering that you don’t want to ride into the untracked wilderness or try to train for the Tour De France.

    Unfortunately “Hybrid” or “comfort” bikes are often the red headed stepchild of bike manufacturer’s lines. They’re not really fast, not really sturdy, sort of the worst of both worlds.

    As you can see from perusing my blog, I’m a big fan of bikes with fenders, lights racks and chain guards, as I like to be able to hop on the bike whenever in whatever I happen to be wearing to cycle to the market, a restaurant, the movies, etc.. In the US, there’s a growing number of bikes that fit this description, at a entry level price point. Linus and Public come to mind. but you could probably find more dealers who carry European brands like Gazelle, Batavus or Bella Ciao. You could also find a lovely old Raleigh sports in olive green, although it might be heavier than you may want.

    I’d suggest branching out from Trek, a brand whose strengths are not necessarily in hybrids, and spend some time poking around the website Bikes for the rest of us, http://www.bikesfortherestofus.com/ which has great reviews of all kinds of bikes for people who are not racers or mountaineers- you know, the rest of us!

    “Let’s go ride a bike”, and “Lovely Bicycle” are also great sources for reviews of different bikes, and how to integrate them into your life without looking like that guy in the bib shorts (shudder).
    Good luck to you, and welcome!


    • distractedgourmet says:

      Wow, thanks for my first comment, and a really informative one at that!

      At the moment, I’m not really sure about where I’m going to be riding my bike, which is what makes it so difficult to pick the right one. I know that a lot of people have found the way they cycle changes a lot from when they first start out, as they get more confident and start to learn more about the capabilities of their bikes and what other types can do for them. At this stage, I just want to make sure that I’m not going to be limiting myself in my choice of bike – my friend’s Trek is a mountain bike, but is mostly being used for road use, so I know she was thinking of buying a new one quite recently just for that reason. I also looked into buying a second hand bike, but I know nothing about how to maintain or repair them, and I think the saving is always a bit of a gamble. I do love those vintage Raleighs though – I had a bit of an eBay battle going on, but unfortunately it’s very hard to find a second hand bike in my area for a decent price! I see people on blogs talking about picking up a vintage bike for $20 or even $50, and I’m a bit jealous!

      I’ll definitely check out that site, thank you for recommending it! I do love the Allant though – it’s one of those heart over brain things I reckon!

      Thank you for such a warm welcome too, I really appreciate it!


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