As Jon proposed after my first, ill-conceived (but well intentioned!) attempt at bike-buying for him, we have now taken a step back, and we’ve started the process again, from scratch. And as it happens, he and I both agree that we’re glad things worked out as they have because we’re having such an unexpectedly good time with the process of vetting potential rides for him, together.
We’ve been emailing each other bikes to check out; we’ve visited bike shops for test rides, and most nights lately, after the kids are in bed, we’re both looking at bikes online, discussing what the pros and cons of each one are, and just generally having fun with the whole thing. My original bright idea (“Hey! I’ll bet Jon would really enjoy riding a bike!”) has now turned into something about which he’s actively enthusiastic. He is really looking forward to finding and riding his new bike, and I’m enjoying learning a bunch about bikes while helping him.
When we went back to square one in the shopping process, the first thing we did was make an informal list of what Jon definitely wants in his bike-to-be. Of course, the first item on the list was pretty obvious:
New bike must have only two wheels, not three.
After that, the rundown includes…
-At least 8 speeds (we live in a pretty hilly area, so while there are some nifty three speeds out there, he’s gonna want more options if he rides regularly.)
-A city bike – more of an upright bike than a road or mountain bike. Nothing too sporty looking, in other words.
-Substantial build but not excessively heavy.
-He’d like shocks up front.
-Chain guard. Maybe fenders
- Rear rack for carrying stuff
- Solid brand reputation so he can either plan to ride the same bike for the next 20 years, or alternatively resell it pretty easily and at a good price if he finds he doesn’t love what he got and would like try a different bike instead.
(In making this list, and cross checking it against potential bikes, it’s becoming clear that it’s not possible to find the perfect bike that meets every single criteria. If you find a possibility with 80% of what you want, that’s pretty good.)
So with this basic list of Jon’s preferences in mind, we’ve been checking out various options. There are several bike shops locally, but their in-stock selections lean heavily toward traditional road bikes and mountain bikes, neither of which Jon wants (although he’s test ridden several). Unfortunately, many of the specific bikes he’s interested in aren’t easily available for him to test ride here in town. He’s trying to decide whether he could ever be comfortable buying a bike on specs alone, without actually having ridden it himself before ordering. That’s a toughie, and he’s not sure. And we may also visit some shops in larger cities before he decides.
Of the bikes we’ve scoped out, here’s the list of possible contenders so far. If any of y’all have experience with any of these specific bicycles or brands, we’d love to get your feedback. Even if you aren’t familiar with these particular bikes, we welcome input from folks who know more about bikes than we do. A good bike is a big investment.
And now… THE LIST – (some of these bikes are beyond our price range, so if Jon decides he wants one of them, he might have to wait longer until we can find a used one.)
This bike seems to get a lot of love from real city commuters and it’s easy to see why. Compared to the other bikes Jon is considering in this general range, the Uptown has a lot of “extras” that come standard – like integrated lights and an internal hub. Not available locally.
This is a hugely popular bike, we’ve discovered, although maybe more popular with women than men. Jon likes the idea of a full 21 gears, and also the fact that this one is actually available locally. He hasn’t ridden one yet but probably will this weekend or next. It’s priced pretty competitively but you would have to add basically everything – lights, rear rack, etc
This is a new company and both Jon and I love the look of their bikes (actually, Jon loves everything but the cool wooden crate, but that’s okay, if he gets a Brooklyn Cruiser, I’ll happily take that beautiful box off his hands. ) So far they only produce 3 speed models but their website is promising 7 speed models in 2013. These bikes have standard leather seats and internal hub gearing, both “would be nice” items on The Big List. (I have to say that this is a bike that I’m really drooling over myself right now. Just look at the women’s version in blue! Swoon. Okay, back to men’s bikes.)
Lots of possible options here from a bike company that gets rave reviews. They offer a very proactive “love it or we’ll take it back with no problem” guarantee, which is appealing if Jon were to order without being able to actually test ride. These bikes are lighter weight than some of the other ones he’s looking at, and he likes that feature.
Again, not available locally.
This one only has three speeds, but the price is super competitive and it gets great reviews. Also, available locally, which is a plus. But would he regret only having three gears?
This isn’t the male version of the iconic Pashley women’s bicycle, but is instead an altogether different Pashley model. Like the cheaper Breezer (above), this British bike comes fully tricked out, and everything is sealed up and enclosed for low, low maintenance. This particular bike is heavier than Jon thinks he might want, but folks who love these bikes say the excellent geometry compensates for weight. This one would definitely be an investment bike, and just as definitely isn’t available locally for Jon to actually test ride.
AAAANNND…. THE DREAM BIKE – A FAMILY METROFIETS
Jon and I both agree that when one of us wins the lottery, we’re calling up the guys at Metrofiets to build a cargo bike for both of us to ride, and cart the littles around in, and it will look a whole lot like this. We are both enthralled with these amazing, beautiful bikes.
So that’s the list of top contenders at the moment. Anybody have any experience with any of these specific bikes – positive or negative? We’d love to hear it!