Bike threads of yore November 11, 2013 5:29 PM   Subscribe

I'm ready to buy a bike, so I've been looking through the askme archives for advice, but there are a lot of bike questions back on those dusty shelves! Can you point me to the most useful bike related threads?

I'm specifically looking for advice on shopping for hybrid and road bikes, but stuff about bike maintenance, bike safety, bike supplies, touring, and anything else I'm not thinking of would be helpful.
posted by latkes to MetaFilter-Related at 5:29 PM (29 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

Bike threads on MeFi and AskMe are a contested space; they're contentious enough where I don't know that I could recommend any single one of them as giving more good advice than bad. The good advice IS there... but it's always, always stepped on and diluted by noise.

Along with fat/circumcision/I-slash-P/declawed cats, I'd add "bike advice" to things that MeFi has historically not done well... the good, sober, helpful advice gets drowned out by a bunch of folks shouting out bullshit ignorance interspersed with others trotting out prescriptive bikie saws.

MeMail me, if you'd like, with your bike buying questions and I promise I'll do my level-best to give you helpful advice. That's the best I can do... and believe me, I sympathize with your situation.
posted by jjjjjjjijjjjjjj at 6:00 PM on November 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

Hmm... Well, not getting much response to this. I guess I should just post a new askme and ask for referrals to old threads there too. Sorry to clutter, I'll email the mods about closing this I guess.
posted by latkes at 6:30 PM on November 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

Your question is broad-ranging enough that it's honestly going to be a better use of your time to go ahead and visit a well-recommended bike shop and ask questions. If that's inconvenient or intimidating, hang out on Bike Forums. It has a section specifically for newbies to introduce themselves and ask their newbie questions, and be greeted and helped by the regulars.
posted by ardgedee at 7:03 PM on November 11, 2013 [3 favorites]

I don't see bike threads as being contentious, but they certainly are numerous, and as someone with a ton of personal bike experience, I'd say the hardest thing is finding good info that is appropriate for your needs since there is massive variability among most answers.

I can't really think of any amazing can't-miss type bike threads on Ask MeFi, I'd say just start wading through the hundreds of threads and play with search terms ("hybrid" should be pretty specific on bike type searches, "road bike" will probably get a bunch of good ones too) and just see what the general consensus is on things.

You might just want to ask a new question once you've done a bit of research and are closer to pulling the trigger on a bike.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 7:07 PM on November 11, 2013 [5 favorites]

You have mail.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 7:59 PM on November 11, 2013

This question isn't about bike shopping but I thought it did have some good advice on evaluating bike shops and the kind and amount of maintenance that a bike should require.
posted by enn at 8:56 PM on November 11, 2013

I went searching through my favorites and found these two, both from April 2006, when I was looking myself, that have useful comments about shopping for hybrid versus road bikes:

Help me find a suitable bike
Yet another bicycle question...

I ended up building a hybrid through a local bike co-op's earn-a-bike program (you took apart bikes for pieces until you'd logged enough hours to start building your own), but I'm really happy with the hybrid choice for city riding. Sometimes I long for a road bike that'd make it easier to keep up with a passel of road racers, but not often. I like shortcuts and curb-jumping too much.
posted by mediareport at 10:57 PM on November 11, 2013

Also, AskMe does indeed do many kinds of bike discussions well. The blue, on the other hand....
posted by mediareport at 11:03 PM on November 11, 2013

Man, you US folks always seem to make biking into such a big deal. To us, it's just what we do when we're too lazy to walk.
posted by Too-Ticky at 12:19 AM on November 12, 2013 [5 favorites]

Well this is a question of mine that turned up some good safety advice.

I have to admit though, I haven't been able to get my head around riding again since then. Maybe soon down a little bike path, we'll see.

Ride safe.
posted by deadwax at 12:24 AM on November 12, 2013

Oh I should add, there is a little bit of terrible advice also given.
posted by deadwax at 12:29 AM on November 12, 2013

I'd say the hardest thing is finding good info that is appropriate for your needs since there is massive variability among most answers... posted by mathowie

I agree with this. It is such a personal thing that your needs will be different to the next person. Aside from the fact that Sheldon Brown and Richard Ballantine are essential, there is very little agreement to be had because of the infinite subtitles in your needs and the bike variations available. That isn't to say you can't win a beaten-up rust bucket off Ebay and get years of service from it. It's just that sometimes people compensate "I don't know your specific needs, sorry" with "let me give you extra information that may help" through good intentions. So I'd say go speak to someone who knows what they are doing in the real world. Do you have a good LBS (local bike shop) nearby? Hit them up and have a quick consultation - try some steeds out. There is a world of difference in even having slightly different width tyres, so you need hands-on.
posted by 0 answers at 2:27 AM on November 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Has it been settled that "bike" always means bicycle? There's nothing in the question that could not be about motorcycles, and motorcyclists almost invariably refer to their rides as "bikes."
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:45 AM on November 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Do they refer to them as hybrids and road bikes?
posted by Wolfdog at 3:52 AM on November 12, 2013 [4 favorites]

Bikes are an area where professional salesmen and mechanics are often at loggerheads with hobbyists and fanatics.

- The pros down at the bike shop may not have your best interest in mind. They have to take into consideration things like margin and stock on hand and add-on sales. The paid bike mechanics often don't particularly like the home mechanics or their opinions, regardless of any validity they may or may not have. They're not interested in an informed consumer, they're interested in repeat business and sales. This doesn't make them bad people or indicate they're out to rip you off - it's just where a lot of the frustration comes from on the more contentious threads.

- The hobbyists may not care what your best interests are, because they're super-involved in their own little niche of cycling, some of which are in open war with other niches. They have their own set of "common knowledge" that may not be applicable to most cyclists, or terribly accurate for their own field. This is the biggest source of contention.

- Most people are giving honest advice from their own perspective and experience, and the bad advice and contention is drowned out by a wealth of information from a variety of cycling enthusiasts who genuinely want to help and share. There are very few definitive threads, but many interesting threads that can be taken in the aggregate. Be skeptical, be open, and have fun.
posted by Slap*Happy at 4:54 AM on November 12, 2013 [4 favorites]

The pros down at the bike shop may not have your best interest in mind. They have to take into consideration things like margin and stock on hand and add-on sales.

Yeah, I've tried out most of the local bike shops for repairs and tune-ups, like them about equally (they're bike people, how bad can they be?) and respect what they do, but sending a new customer to "your local bike shop" without also adding "they're probably going to try to sell you something more expensive than you need" seems just a teensy bit unhelpful.

The paid bike mechanics often don't particularly like the home mechanics or their opinions, regardless of any validity they may or may not have. They're not interested in an informed consumer

I'm gonna disagree on this part, though. In my experience, professional bike mechanics don't mind informed consumers at all - in fact, they tend to treat you better if you respect their superior wisdom but demonstrate at least a little knowledge yourself.
posted by mediareport at 6:06 AM on November 12, 2013

I'm a paid bike mechanic.

Bike advice threads on here are a crap shoot. Sometimes I see sensible advice, sometimes people mean well but don't really know what they're talking about. Feel free to shoot me a MeMail about anything really. If I see bike questions I'll usually hop in and share my opinion.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 6:41 AM on November 12, 2013 [3 favorites]

I was coming in here to suggest paying attention to spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints' comments since he's a mechanic.
posted by Aizkolari at 8:15 AM on November 12, 2013

Thanks folks, there was some good advice in those linked threads.

I went ahead and posted on askme, and did my best to make my question as specific as possible. I appreciate the help.
posted by latkes at 8:50 AM on November 12, 2013

Much of the issue in bike threads, IMO, is what S*H says: people speak from their own expereince and perspective, but that my not translate well to what the person asking the question needs.

Cycling has many right, or good enough, answers, so it can be hard to figure out what's "best". It doesn't help that there is a huge amount of hokum out there that passes as received wisdom even among the elite ranks (anyone remember tieing and soldering?). Also, many shops mean well, but seem to sell hybrids for the occasional Sunday afternoon riders or racers or hard-core downhillers. Commuting and touring uses are not at all well understood by LBS staff, in my experience, though there are some shops which are much better than others.

So there are lots of perspectives out there, and lots of "conventional wisdom" which isn't really based in sound engineering (see any discussion of frame materials, for example). Getting advice from anywhere, the internet, your friends, your local bike shop, has always been a bit of a crap shoot.
posted by bonehead at 9:00 AM on November 12, 2013

Do they refer to them as hybrids and road bikes?

Yes, and yes.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 9:37 AM on November 12, 2013

Yeah, sorry, the best advice is usually to go to as many bike shops around you as possible and to ride as many bikes as you can until you find one that fits you, your riding style and your budget, which can take a bit of time. But you'll usually know when a bike fits you, and that's the most important part.

It's kinda like buying shoes, where no one else can try 'em on for you.

(Just got a new roadish-hybrid a couple months ago and it's awesomesauce. But it took me about three months of weekends and waiting, though I'm at the upper edge for top-tube length, and that meant they didn't necessarily always have that many options in stock.)
posted by klangklangston at 10:29 AM on November 12, 2013

posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 1:56 PM on November 12, 2013 [7 favorites]

posted by lazaruslong at 4:04 PM on November 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

posted by bongo_x at 5:09 PM on November 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

Contentious threads, for me at least, are mostly the ones about things about which I have either more than a general knowledge or strong emotions.

That said: per your userinfo, you live in Oakland. I bet there's at least one bike co-op there, probably more than one. And there's a good chance, not 100%, but good, that you'll find some great advice at one.

(Full disclosure, I like old bikes and I'm into DIY and recycling and lefty politics and shit, so I'm totally one of the key demos. On the other hand, I would not be giving you this same advice if you'd said you were looking for a bike for mtb downhill racing or triathlons or something.)
posted by box at 7:04 PM on November 12, 2013

Eh, even given the caveats about shops, it's still a great idea to go to a couple. Caveats are easily managed: worried about upsell? State your budget up-front. Don't like the options a shop has shown you, and they don't have others? Try a different shop. As for mechanics not appreciating knowledgeable customers, I've never met one like that either. All the bike mechanics I know are pretty much delighted when customers show interest in taking care of their bike. Unless of course the customer does something silly, in which case I'm more than happy to have a pro mechanic say, "errrrrrm what did you do that for O.o" and explain a better way, which they are also usually happy to do.

I've also never experienced upsell, fwiw, I've always had the opposite... free stuff thrown in, and actually nice free stuff, like a free riding kit (bib shorts + jersey + socks), free bottles, free chain & cable lubricant, free inner tubes, free tune-ups for little stuff...

Go forth to thine local bike shops and enjoy! And keep in mind, when you cross a good one, you'll likely have a long-term relationship with them. I've been with mine for 8 years now, no intention of changing (have visited others, they're cool and all, they just don't sell bikes I want, plus the place I already know is great).
posted by fraula at 12:42 AM on November 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

fraula: "As for mechanics not appreciating knowledgeable customers, I've never met one like that either."

I've met a couple, and it teaches me which shops to avoid. If the mechanics don't actually like working on bikes or helping customers then they aren't touching my rides. It may be that I spent some years as a paid bike wrench too, but if the problem is so bad that I can't fix it or the tool so specific that I don't have it I want someone who wants to help me.

I do however agree that the best advice is to go to shops and ride bikes. When you come across annoying upsell guy or guy that has never heard of a tapered headset focus on the bike and not the deal.
posted by Big_B at 8:15 AM on November 13, 2013

I've had my same LBS since I moved here, more than 15 years ago. They've always been slightly condescending, but also always get me in on short notice and have very quick turnaround on repairs. There's no good substitute for being a regular at a bike store that feels right to you, unless you are a seasoned wrench with access to all the gear yourself.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 12:13 PM on November 13, 2013

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