RAGBRAI LI Route Announced on Jan. 27!

what is the best bike for your buck?

I’ve been looking into buying a road/hybrid bike for RAGBRAI this year. I’m new to the bike scene and have about $550 to invest in a bike. been looking at treks at my local bike shop, along with models on-line specifically the Fuji Absolute 3.0(2011 or 2012). dose anyone know about this bike and is there a better bike for your buck?


17 Replies

Csprint, March 5, 2012 at 1:29 am

Hey Guy,
The Trek 1.1 road bike is okay. (I had two or three
customers who were quite pleased with it). I would go
just the little bit more and get a road bike, as you
will be happier with it in the long run. At the
very least, remember that a road bike gives you three
hand positions, a hybrid only one.

As with all bikes, how happy you are with it has a
almost direct ratio to how well it is adjusted when
it goes out the door. It should be well adjusted both
on the test ride and when you take it home. Make sure the
saddle is about 2/3rds of the way back in the clamp
(depending how you’re sized). The saddle level.
The handlebar drops ends pointing slightly down, the line
bisecting the rear triangle. If they charge extra to
fit you, say in a stationary trainer, or by calculating
seat height and so on, it’s probably worth it.

I wouldn’t be afraid of used bikes, either. Just
have to be careful with the sizing. Sometimes a good
deal can be had.

In regard to sizing, and to make sure a bike fits: Here
Have a significant other help with the measurements.



longrider42, March 23, 2012 at 7:55 pm

Having ridden the roads in Iowa, I think a Hybrid or a Mt. bike fitted with road tires would be a good thing. As for the handle bars only having one hand position, you can fix that with either Bar Ends, or why not put a set of road bars on said hybrid or Mt. Bike. Either way, road bikes are nice if you dont mind the pain they cause after many many miles on them :)


ehlent, March 23, 2012 at 8:45 pm

I have to disagree with longrider42. An actual road bike is much more comfortable on longer rides than anything else. My first ragbrai I road a shwinn super sport flat bar road bike. That bike is a nice bike for general riding but to be honest is not a very good bike for ragbrai. It has 2 problems in my mind. The first being You only have the one hand position. the other problem is that you sit up to much and catch more wind.

A standard roadbike is by far the best choice. You can either buy new or used. If your price range is only about $550 then I would try to find a used one.


Anonymous, March 23, 2012 at 9:11 pm

The Absolute is aluminum frame…not as forgiving absorbing road shock as a steel bike
1 1/8″ Hi-Ten Aero fork ?? Does that mean the fork is steel?
SWitching a flat bar to a drop bar requires more changes/cost than just the bar…..Pick the bar and buy the bike that has it.
You can put an aerobar on a flat bar for more hand positions


Susie, April 6, 2012 at 12:32 pm

I rode an old, bulky and heavy hybrid during my first RAGBRAI. It was fine. I could still beat people up hills. :) I only got a road bike because I do triathlons and wanted that slight edge.


Tony, April 6, 2012 at 2:47 pm

You really want a road bike, It’s made for the job. Hybrid’s are for trail riding. Iowa does have a lot of crushed lime rock trails that are perfect for them. But RAGBRAI is on paved roads. Road bikes are very efficient machines on paved roads. You will go further with less effort than any other style of bike. You have seven days of distance riding on paved roads. Something to think about. Using a MTB for a road tour is like tring to peal an apple with a butter knife. Having road my first RAGBRAI on an MTB. I can tell you road bikes are more comfortable by far for road riding. I still ride my MTB but its at the MTB park about a mile from my house.

All the major bike companies have entry level road bikes in the $700 range. Trek 1.1 has one of the highest consumer ratings. Specialized, Gaint, Orbea, Scott, and Cannondale are all good companies to look at too. Note an entry level road bikes are a cut above most other bikes. Entry level does no mean low quality level. A good example of this is Shimano components. Entry level to Pro level are all basically the same design. Material and weight are the difference. Entry level is made from aluminum and brass. Pro level is titanium, ceramic, and carbon. Do not forget to ask your LBS about used bikes. There is a good chance you can pick up a quality mid ranged bike for the price of a new entry level. I got a Trek 2100 for $150. Had to put about $200 into it to fit me. So there are deals out there.


Borasam, April 11, 2012 at 9:59 am

Get real. Hybrids or mountain bikes with slick tires are OK if you are 21 years old and hi on redbull and vodka. For the rest uf us there is plenty of choices.

First, you can’t get anything safe, lightweigt or modern for less that $700. I say modern and safe because every clown on the internet can sell you a frame with 2 wheels and call that a bike when in fact they are selling you a toy.

Get a bike with a steel frame, 9 speeds and 3 chain rings. Ideally you want 700c diameter wheels but avoid the sporty 23c or 25c wheel width (for reliability reasons), go for 28c a wheel with those dimensions will cost you less and will be wide enough to still be able to get to 100PSI.

Check out cyclocross or touring bikes. Also, some uban commuting bikes are realy good for touring including foldable bikes and some that have 26in wheels and can carry a lot of weight.



mclousing, April 11, 2012 at 10:15 am

Hey there, all advice you get on the New Bike subject is purely personal opionin. As you can see some people say only Road Bike, others say get a hybrid. Some will say go Aluminum others Carbon Still others say only Steel. Others say fit by site, (I am sorry CSprint but adjusting saddle position by positioning over the seat post is not a good idea, the saddle needs to be in the correct position to orientate your knees and legs properly).

So saying that here is my advice, DO NOT buy a bike specifically for one week a year. Buy it for what you would most likely do the other 51 weeks (or in Iowa 28 weeks :) ). If you are doing a lot of road riding get a road bike, if you plan on riding more trails get a Hibrid or Mountain bike.

For the Tires I would agree for this purpose you may want a set of tires for this specific week, if you buy a mountain bike knobby tires are awful annoying on a 480 mile bike ride on road. Get a set of slicks, as for width of the tire whatever you feel comfortable with. I personally ride 23mm and never had any issues, others prefer a wider tire at a lower pressure to make a plusher ride.

The only Bike I would tell you to steer away from would be any box store bike, they may look shiny but I think of it as putting lipstick on a pig, they will become problematic very quickly.

Test ride and get what you feel comfortable with.


BillDana, April 11, 2012 at 12:33 pm

Once you sort though all your options and know what you want. Think used! You are in that price range that allows you to move up in quality in the used market. You can buy something lighter, faster, with better components. Bikes are like any other exercise equipment. Folks spend a lots of money on bikes that ends up in the garage. You have plenty of time in a buyers market. Shop around, find something that fits…then make an offer. Be prepared to walk away. In the end you can have something special.


Jacob, April 11, 2012 at 12:53 pm

When I got into the sport, I did what you suggested. I set a budget of less then a $1,000.00 the bike I choose was Trek FX 7.3 which is the bike I will use this year on Ragbrai and Bike Across Kansas. I love the bike and I will get another bike that is more expensive. Now that I have fallen in love with the sport. I have done over 1,500 miles on the bike since I bought it and I am able to do 70+ miles on it with comfort. Things I change, seat, and tires I put 25mm on it for my current training and for my rides. My wife has a 7.5, carbon fork more gears you can get the 7.5 if you argue a bit for the price of the 7.3 both bikes are solid and that is my two cents :)


Csprint, April 12, 2012 at 12:42 am

Others say fit by site, (I am sorry CSprint but adjusting saddle position by positioning over the seat post is not a good idea, the saddle needs to be in the correct position to orientate your knees and legs properly).hr>

Hey mclousing, not quite what I said, I said:

Csprint: Make sure the
saddle is about 2/3rds of the way back in the clamp
(depending how you’re sized).

Being in the cycling business I have fitted scores of people. I would do it at the shop I managed as an above-and-beyond service on each bike sold. But to elaborate…

Most of the time in the shop when a new bike comes out of the box the average mechanic is in a hurry and doesn’t readjust the saddle position, or even bother to level it or tighten the clamp.

Will the shop do a “Knee Over Pedal Spindle” (K.O.P.S.) sizing, putting the bike in a trainer and leveling it? That is, dropping a plumb bob from the tibial tuberosity under the knee joint to bisect the pedal spindle and ball of the foot while the crank is level and the foot forward. (This is after raising the saddle to the right height). Many shops don’t. Some do for an extra charge. (To be fair, some industry folks, including Keith Bontrager, think that KOPS is a myth, and I have seen lately a post by Joe Friel on his blog where he is putting the pedal cleat smack in the middle of the shoe(!) still assuming the seat is right).

If the shop doesn’t fit you to the bike, (except for telling you “yep, that’s your size”), then what? Knee-over-pedal is hard to do on your own, leaning against a bench and holding a string with a nut tied to it.
The average new rider doesn’t have a trainer to clamp the bike in. So, if the saddle is at least pushed back at least 2/3rds on it’s rails and leveled, it will begin to get the rider to where he or she should be.

Any other bike shop employed people want to comment?



mclousing, April 12, 2012 at 10:05 am

Corey, you are correct that a true fitting is not only a nice to have but truly a necessity. The fittings I have done and have done have always been a 30 minute to 1 hour process that spends the majority of time getting the knees in the correct position.

I just didn’t want people reading the post as if my seat is in this position that is good enough (sorry if I misread your original post).

Thanks for your clarification.


Borasam, April 12, 2012 at 12:49 pm

You guys are way out of the subject. Guy has a $600. budget, and you guys are selling him a fit?

I sell Surly bikes (amoung others). I would recoment Guy to get a LHT or a Xcheck. Unfortunately for that budget I think a Hybrid is all he can aford. Maybe a hybrid with a $120 fit job. LOL!!!


Guy, April 13, 2012 at 1:04 pm

Hi everyone! I originally posted this same form in both Rarbrai XL and in training, I did however, forget about you guys lol. Since this post I did buy a bike! I purchased a 2011 trek 1.2 from my LBS and have fallen in love with the bike. I did end up upping my budget when i saw the bikes available for sub $600 and payed $800 for the model. over all Im happy i spent the extra money and bough a true road bike instead of the hybrid. since I’ve been on multiple 30 mile rides and just completed my first 50 mile ride last weekend, feels good. working on getting the miles up to RAGBRAI level, wish me luck!!
Thanks for all the post support!


petra, April 13, 2012 at 1:17 pm

The other item to consider is the saddle itself. After you ride it a bit you may find that while the fit is great the saddle just does noit get comfortable. Many riders wind up changing the saddle. Some LBS will even swap it out for you. Don’t be too hasty in judging a saddle. It can take timte to appreciate it or for problems to show up. The good news is that expensive is not always better! Good luck with the new bike.


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