new commuter--need help!

tkm1288 Posts: 2
edited April 2009 in Commuting chat

I'm a female college student from Washington DC and I'm interested in getting a bike to commute to school everyday. The problem is I know nothing about bikes and I don't want to splurge on something very expensive if I don't need it. I need some guidance!

My ride is about two miles, a little hilly, and pretty residential--not too many major streets. I'd like a bike with a few speeds (I don't need a lot), a pannier rack for the back tire, and an upright position while I ride. I'm also pretty small--about five foot three--so I don't want anything too big.

I'm looking to spend around $200, though less/more would be fine within reason. I'm on a college student budget :) Any sort of help I could get would be great! Thank you!


  • Greg T
    Greg T Posts: 3,266
    You are a long way from home TKM, most of us are Brits here but I'm sure we can help you - however I think we'll struggle with local bike shops to recomend to you.

    If your budget is circa $200 I think you may struggle getting a new bike for this that isn't really bad - if you can find one at all.

    Your best bet is probably second hand - get one for $100 and give it to a bike shop to service and spruce up for you for an additional 100.

    If you go down this route you'll probably be looking at available bikes rather than a named bike that you just buy....

    There are probably campus free sheets (I'm showing my age now - imagine something printed on paper) with student adds in them that I'd start with or a cycle scheme ran by a local bike shop (LBS)

    Craigslist maybe a good place to look.

    I found this


    in DC

    Which has student written all over it...

    You may be best off walking into your LBS and asking them for help... If their help is them trying to sell you a new $500 bike then just smile and walk out.

    You need a good tame LBS to get you going and look after you until you can do your own basic maint....

    Let us know how you get on
    Fixed gear for wet weather / hairy roadie for posing in the sun.

    What would Thora Hurd do?
  • artaxerxes
    artaxerxes Posts: 612
    Also do not buy a cheap bike from Walmart (or another supermarket), they sell bikes with brand names like Mongoose, but these have nothing to do with the models a company like Mongoose sells from specialist bike shops. They use poor quality components and are basically throwaway bikes for sale from supermarkets only.
  • sarajoy
    sarajoy Posts: 1,675

    For a two mile distance, you have the freedom to get almost any bike, just one that you feel looks nice! I'm almost jealous!

    Any longer distance and you soon start to realise that you need something different, bits of you start to ache and you're unsure why...! After 10 or so miles you know when something's up!

    Well, I say /any/ bike within reason. As said, avoid supermarket specials, or mountain bikes with lots of suspension and knobbly tyres, as you won't need that - a squishy ride sounds like it might be comfortable, but in reality it's just hard work! :)

    That bike picked out by Greg T looks ace!

    I agree with getting an old bike spruced up by a local shop. Take time to learn how to change inner-tubes too, I was amazed how easy it was - I'd been a bit scared of doing it for too long! I've been lucky so far but now I'm a lot less worried about future p*nctures.

    Finally the only thing I wanted to warn about was hills, and upright riding positions. I always found hills very difficult on my more upright bicycle. I may be fitter now, but I also think I've got a bike more fit for purpose.

    If the hills aren't too long or steep, you'll be fine, though :)
  • biondino
    biondino Posts: 5,990
    The bike Greg found is likely a bit big for you, but it's a lovely one! Definitely go for second hand - it's very much worth asking around your friends and classmates to see if anyone is selling one - it could even encourage someone with a bike they never use to offer you a bit of a bargain.

    At that kind of price level, getting a bike you're happy with - primarily in terms of fit, condition, use for purpose and how much you like the look. So peruse Craigslist, eBay and any local or college papers and websites, and see if you can organise test rides.

    As has been said above, you'll struggle to find new bikes for $200 or less that are sufficiently decent quality, so unless you find some great bargains - reduced from over $300 AND fit you perfectly, ideally from a reputable local bike shop rather than a Walmart type - I'd focus on the second hand market. If you have any friends who are bike enthusiasts, recruit them to help you - it's always a pleasure getting someone on a bike!
  • lost_in_thought
    lost_in_thought Posts: 10,563
    As already mentioned, craigslist, ebay, see if your school has a second hand bike scheme.

    In the UK contacting the local police or the council to see if they run an auction would be a good plan, don't know if it would work in the US of A.

    Reading the above about walmart bikes, I am the (not enormously) proud owner of two such really rubbish road bikes, one from a dodgy website, and one from K-Mart in Australia, both of which are fine. Not good bikes, but bikes! However, if you're going down that route, make sure you have a try of a demonstrator bike in the same size as the one in the box, both the 'standard' ones I have would be waaaaay too big for someone of your diminuitive stature! :D

    Good luck! Let us know how you get on!