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need to upgrade bike

Last year rode part of RAGBRAI for first time, and had a ball. I want to ride more this year, but need to upgrade from my “garage sale bike”. Any advice one what to buy withoput spending lots of $$? I don’t ride much so don’t want to spend the big bucks. Thanks much!

13 Replies

Jboz, March 14, 2011 at 5:40 pm

Craigslist is one option.  Another option is to ask at your LBS if they know of anyone who is selling their old bike.  Also, not sure where you are located but if there is a university nearby, you might find some decent used bikes in the campus newspaper around the end of May.  Often, foreign students are heading back home and don’t want to ship or store their old bikes.  


Sandaltan ., March 14, 2011 at 6:21 pm

Bike Iowa is another good source if you are in the state.  Four out of the last five bikes I have purchased have be used.  Check with your local bike clubs, they may  have some bargains.



SFC JKL 2, March 14, 2011 at 7:01 pm

Assuming everything works properly, wheels are your biggest bang for the buck.


CyclingCyclone, March 14, 2011 at 9:29 pm

Regardless of how good a deal a bike may be, if it doesn’t fit, it doesn’t fit. If you’re buying a used bike local (non-internet-mail order) see if you can take it to a bike shop to look it over to give you their 2 cents.  They may find things that it needs that others may overlook.  


ts, March 14, 2011 at 11:12 pm

You can find a very decent entry level road bike for right around $1,000.  Brand new bike, shiny new paint, good components.  The April 2011 issue of Bicycling Magazine has a buyer’s guide section that lists several excellent choices.  I’d recommend getting one of these at the local LBS over searching the used bike ads or buying online.  You’ll know exactly what you’re getting, and you’ll have made some new friends at the LBS who will help you keep it in good shape and give you whatever riding, clothing, or maintenance tips you might need.


indianafrank, March 15, 2011 at 7:36 am

Tell us:
Exactly what kind of bike do you have and what components.
What is your budget.


SSC1, March 15, 2011 at 3:03 pm

I posted a pretty long response to this question – as we recently went through all of the issues associated with choosing a bike………it didn’t make it to the forum.  I will see if this goes through and reconsider resubmitting if it does.<input id=”gwProxy” type=”hidden”><!–Session data–><input onclick=”jsCall();” id=”jsProxy” type=”hidden”>


SSC1, March 15, 2011 at 3:16 pm

Ok – it went through.  Don’t know what happened before.

I have had real good luck finding used bicycles in superior condition from craigslist.  I’ve seen good bikes up on eBay, but they seem to go for more than those on craigslist.

I’ve been riding road bikes since I was a kid.  Back in the 70s, if you didn’t have access to a car always, a 10 speed bike was nearly as good (well, not for some things….LOL).  Lots of changes since then……..mountain bikes, hybrids, just to name a few.  My wife upgraded from her 1962 Raleigh 1 speed to a mountain bike a few years back (1995), and now that we are getting ready to give Ragbrai a shot, she let me convince her to look at road bikes.  We ended up with a Specialized Ruby – and she has become used to the more horizontal ride with the standard road bike feel.  The fact is, because shifters are now incorporated into the brake levers, the problems with riding road bikes from early on (how did we ever manage with the old Schwinn Varsity or Trek 420 levers on the downtube???) are now pretty much gone.  Because of materials, multitudes of geometry sizes to fit literally every person, and the availability to be fitted by a pro – you will have great cruising success on a road bike.  That would be my suggestion before considering a hybrid or something similar. 

Having said that – please – you hybrid folks – they work fine.  I’m just responding to the question.  I hear that someone did all of Ragbrai on a unicycle a few years back – so I guess you can ride just about anything.

The biggest issue is to be sure that the bike fits you.  I purchased a Bianci Imola (2005) bike a couple weeks back, had it fitted to me, and it turns out to be a better size for me than my 2006 LeMond Tourlamet.  The bike shop that sold me the LeMond didn’t bother to take time to be sure it was the perfect size – they were more interested in selling a bike.  The standover height was all they checked.  The bike was 1 size too small.  Luckily – my son fits it, and he needed a bike for Ragbrai – so I gave him the LeMond and I’ll take the Bianchi.  The Bianchi retailed for $1400 new in 2005, all Shimano 105 components – and it is in mint condition.  It has a Flight Deck computer, clipless pedals, and came with brand new Specialized bike shoes that were used twice.  Total cost was $475 – a steal.  Craigslist – looked every day until I found something.

My younger brother, who is going to ride with us, purchased a 2002 LeMond Zurich for the parts to add to the LeMond Sarthe frame he purchased a year ago.  The frame was $75 and the Zurich was $less than $500… cost for a $1600-1900 bike was less than $600.

There are advantages to purchasing from a local store – you get support and you get tuneups.  However, you’ll save a lot of money buying used.  Just be sure to be careful and have the bike checked out carefully.  If it is the correct size, be sized on it and have it worked over by a pro technician until it is not only road worthy, it is in primo shape for riding Ragbrai.

Good luck!
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papawheelie, March 16, 2011 at 9:46 am

Agree with many of the points – most important: FIT. If the cockpit is too agressive and you are uncomfortable, if the frame is too tall and you are short, or vice-versa, they can wear on you over the course of a week.

Another consideration (that is relevant to me): my body, my age, my comfort level. Aluminum bikes are the rage because… it’s lighter. But ALU is also stiffer and over the long haul (for some) the jarring vibration of the road may take it’s toll. You younger riders and many ‘mature’ riders don’t mind it, but in my 50’s I like comfort, so I go with a steel frame bike. They are harder to find new. Trek 520, Jamis Aurora, Jamis Satellite, Surly Long Haul Trucker, some Bianchis, etc. Otherwise an update late 80’s or early 90’s bike. 
Getting a deal: Local Craigslist is good (you can go see it) Ebay? Too easy to get caught up in the bidding excitement to get great deals. Lots of bike shops have late winter sales, so a $1000 bike might be had for $5-699. Get fit at the shop and then shop around. 
Oh yeah… to be really comfortable in the saddle, you have to ride a BROOKS SADDLE! *grins*


mclousing, March 16, 2011 at 10:03 am

I would agree that SOME steel bikes are smoother than SOME alu bikes.  But any material can be made to give a certain level of smoothness.  Most alu bikes are stiffer but it is not always a given.  Now I found my CF bike with a good sadle and either cf bars or double wrapped bars is a nice smooth ride.


mstrange77, March 16, 2011 at 7:16 pm

If you are ever down in the Des Moines area, Bike World has a warehouse for ‘trade in’ bikes.  I was there over Christmas and they had a large selection with good prices.  They inspect the bikes, tune them up, and will make sure it fits you.  I can’t remember where the store is, but if you call the Urbandale store they can tell you where it is.

I have no affiliation with Bike World.


papawheelie, March 22, 2011 at 10:49 am


Good point about the CF bikes.
Personally, I’m a little leery of CF bikes. Since I use my tour bike for fair weather commuting and day rides, I prefer to have a bike that can stand a little abuse. No one wants to wreck, but a wreck on a CF bike is basically the end of that. A steel bike can be welded and repaired. Plus CF frames don’t have much in the way of braze ons for racks and knick knacks. This is just my take on things.
CF is cool if you want to go really fast… really fast is not critical to me anymore. But I respect that technology for that function.


papawheelie, March 22, 2011 at 10:50 am

Awesome news!


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