Budget Bikes: What's Your View?

As more beginner cyclists are in the market for new bicycles, I receive more and more questions from readers asking what I think about various makes and models listed on the Budget Options page. People want nice bikes, but, understandably, they also want to save money - and my vintage bicycle recommendation is not for everyone. What about a simple, basic new bike that is classic and comfortable, at a reasonable price?  After all, it seems that more and more manufacturers are starting to offer exactly that.

[screen capture of video via tankww2]

The latest that has been brought to my attention in that regard, is this promotional video from Bikes Direct - an online seller of extremely inexpensive mass-produced bicycles. The video shows cyclists riding colourful mixtes along a path lined with palm trees. The caption reads: "single and 3speed Windsor retro city bikes, style which was popular in the 50s, 60s and early 70s". These are not on the Bikes Direct website yet, but I imagine they soon will be - most likely priced in the $300s. What do you think - Do they look good to you and would you consider ordering?

I am always torn when asked for my own opinion: While I want to be objective, I simply don't like most of the lower-priced bikes that are out there at the moment. I have tried 80% or so of the bicycles on my Budget Options list, and so far very few of them have made me feel that they are worth the price.  It's one thing to spend a couple hundred dollars on a bike and not care, but a price tag in the range of $500-600 is a lot of money to me - too much money to spend on something that I believe is shoddily made, will likely require upgrades, will not feel entirely comfortable even with those upgrades, and may fall apart on me within a year. In the long run, I believe that such a bicycle may cost more than an "expensive" bike. And I am especially surprised to hear of people choosing the lower-end bikes, and then buying Brooks saddles, leather grips, fancy lighting and expensive pannier systems to go with them. By the time they are done upgrading, the cost of the bike can reach a price point at which they could have gotten a higher-end bicycle - with many of those upgrades already included, not to mention with a better frame and higher quality components. 

Beyond that, I am not really sure what to say when asked for suggestions. I believe that a well-made, comfortable bicycle can be mass-produced at a reasonable price in the Far East. But I don't think it's happening yet. What has your experience been and what are your views on "budget bikes"? 


  1. I bought my Gazelle 2nd hand - it's an ex hire bike and apart from some inevitable scratches is perfectly serviceable. Buying such a bike 2nd hand is one way of getting a bargain.

    Two things in my mind will make a budget bike not such a bargain are unreliability & being unpleasant to ride.

    My Wife had a Decathlon B'Twin for a while - a steel unisex framed mtb style of bike, with 6 speed cassette & v brakes. We added full mudguards & rack - but with hubgear/brakes, dynamo lights, wider saddle & northroad type bars as well, it would make a decent bike for everyday use.

    The basic bike cost £119 - manufactured with even some of the suggested improvements to sell at around £300 in the UK would make such a 'budget bike' a real bargain.

  2. I have a budget Bianchi Torino (in a "ladies" frame). I like it quite a bit but would I say I would have paid $500-600 for it? no! I only paid $300 and go it as a year end closing, trying to get rid of older inventory price. I bought it to be a comfortable, easy and light-weight ride and if it gets stolen, not a disaster. But, over the year I've put a Brooks saddle on it, a rack, panniers, basket, etc. My skirt got caught in its rear brake pads this past summer so now I've ordered dress guards but I'm not sure if they will really fit correctly. All in all, it's a nice ride for the price and it doesn't give me any headaches. My wonderful vintage steel Schwinn LeTour gave me the pleasure of having its chain just fall off mid ride, even though the bike has had tune ups and been thoroughly serviced by good bike techs. In the end, if I had to give my opinion after a year of analyzing all of this, I would say that for the average bicyclist who doesn't know what they are doing but wants a reliable ride for commuting, groceries, etc, and intends to use it religiously several times a week, spending more money on a quality bicycle is worth it.

    I'm still planning to use my Bianchi because it for the most part has not cost much and everything has been in solid working order. It doesn't worry me parked outside a store, is attractive, and very hop-go ready once I've doctored it up as I have been. (Still needs fenders too.) But, if I start becoming a 3-4 day a week commuter as my goal is for 2011, I will start considering a Pashley or Retrovelo. Something along those lines. Insurance should cover theft to ease my worries there. And the cost of saved gas should make up for the cost of the bicycle fairly quickly. I also have a few vintage fun bicycles, lighter-weight ones that I plan to ride too. But, nothing beats having a well-quality and solid bicycle and unfortunately, one must spend a bit for it. Used or new, the cost is there, just what it is. If you are lucky and know how to be your own bicycle tech, then you can experiment more with various options and save some money.

  3. In my experience, if there is going to be price cutting with a budget bike, it should not be the frame.

    And realistically, its going to cost more when you get better components. With my Big Shot mini velo, I had to get new (Albatross) bars, brake (Shimano BLR-770) levers, a long reach (Tektro 365) brakeset and leather (Brooks B-67) saddle, a shorter (Origin 8 165 mm) crank, a 406 (Weinmann) wheelset and a set of new (Greenspeed Scorcher) tires.

    I'm pleased now with the way it rides - fast and fun for a 20" wheel bike. I've liked them after I saw one in Japanese online bike stores but the shipping costs were always prohibitive. But now that a good quality one was here at a good price, I didn't hesitate to buy it and I'm happy I did. Its a light bike even though it doesn't come from a "major" established bike brand.

  4. I agree that it doesn't make sense to purchase a an inexpensive bike and upgrade the cheap parts over time. Building a frame up with components can also result in something more expensive than a pre-build complete bike, though the end result is custom made to the owner's preferences. However, someone not well familiar with bikes and components still could wind up with an inferior end product if mistakes are made with component selections.

    Used / vintage can be a good option, but here in Portland, OR, good used bikes at reasonable prices aren't readily available. And even a decent set of tires (which many used bikes need) can add $80 to the purchase price. Further more, it can be difficult to find the correct frame size. That said, I have owned and riden Raleigh Sports and a Superbe and find them to be a really nice ride - not too heavy, sturdy and comfortable. I'd would recommend that choice if the bike is sound and it fits well.

    So my vote is . . . a nice, older Raleigh or Raleigh-like bike or a decent bike in the $600 - $800 range. The later may not seem like a great budget choice at first glance, but over time, it could work out to be just that.

  5. My first non-roadbike was a 2007 Jamis Commuter 3.0. I think it cost about $550 retail. I bought it at Harris Cyclery. It has an Alfine 8-speed internal hub, came with fenders but no rack (although I think the newer models come with one). It also had reflective sidewall tires in 700 x 32, an adjustable stem & seatpost (which I think is good for many people, although I personally don't love this). For what I paid, I think it was a very good buy and has been relatively problem-free.

    I've ridden this bike all over Boston for 3 years. It's not flashy, so I don't feel uncomfortable leaving it locked up anywhere, and the only upgrades I've made are lighting, a rear rack, and the saddle. And when I get my new bike (an ANT), I'll keep the Jamis as my winter commuter and swap the tires out. It's not a beautiful bike by any means, but it's solid and reliable, and I think that for most people that is the main concern.

  6. Great question. I think that a key here is perspective. If one thinks of a bicycle here as a transportation machine, then even a couple of thousand dollars wouldn't necessarily be that much. Understandably, that is a lot of money to fathom spending, but people often spend many hundreds of dollars just on repairs to keep their cars running. So, if a bicycle might actually supplant the role of a car to some extent, then all of a sudden even a moderately priced bike seems economical. In other words, think of a bike like a car and it'll seem cheap!

  7. Bicycle pricing is an incredibly nuanced and complicated topic. That being said, there are some truths that are almost universal, the first being that, if you're budget-conscious, you DON'T want a new bike. Seriously.

    Now, with bikesdirect.com bikes, i've put a few of these together for friends, mtb versions, and they weren't bad *for the price*. But, seriously, at that price, they're going to seem pretty bad to us jaded types. If you've dropped a few grand for a custom mixte, and you have a cycling blog that you update daily, you won't be impressed with most of what bikesdirect has on offer. (except for maybe this one: http://bikesdirect.com/products/motobecane/gran_premio_pro.htm haha!) The standard advice for ppl who want a cheap, reliable bike is to find a co-op or make friends with some bike-nerds, and get a used bike-shop brand bike from local classifieds for about a hundred bucks, and budget another $150 or so for repairs/upgrades in the immediate future. More money will have to be budgeted on stuff moving forward, but that's true regardless of the bike's vintage or original msrp.

    Now, it seems that these days, a lot of ppl want to spend very very little on their bike, but they want to be very particular about the style and quality of the machine. This is fine, if you have lots of time to research and ferret out lucky deals. In the meantime, however, you'll need something to ride, and a specialized hardrock from the turn of the century might be about perfect for ya. For those who can't stomach such a thing, that's where things like Linus, bikesdirect, and Public come in. But, let's be honest: if you're snobbing about the bike's style and quality, those brands aren't hittin' the mark, either.

    Every potential rider needs to consider his/her needs, budget, and preferences, and try to educate him/herself enough to make an informed purchase. But, if it's a new, trendy bicycle at $500 or less, it's probably not going to cover all the requirements very well.


  8. On the whole I agree with Grant Peterson on this one; buy the best bike you can afford and grow old with it. I'd add this caveat; that the best bike you can afford is almost certainly going to cost more than you think you can afford. Bikes, unlike cars, are not poverty generating machines. They do not suck money out of your wallet by the thousands even when you aren't using them and if you can "afford" to drive even a $100 clunker car, you can afford to own a very nice bike; if you ditch the car.

    And yet I own not only a Rivendell, but a few next to the bottom of the line department store bikes.

    And there's the problem with "bargain" bikes, they are suitable for people who are only going to ride occasionally - and the expert who knows what he wants and how to get it. They are not suitable, out of the box, for the utility/commuter cyclist who doesn't even have the knowledge to tell which bargain bike is a bargain and which is just crap.

    At the very least all of these bikes, especially those with loose bearings, will require a complete disassembly in order to assemble them properly. Wheels will have to be hand tensioned and trued.

    If this isn't done at the very least the lifespan of the bike will be shortened dramatically. Enough to make a more "expensive" bike considerably cheaper over only a few years. And it can only be done at reasonable expense if you can do it yourself.

    And if you're going to go through all of this anyway, you can get a better bike by rejuvenating a used one.

  9. For myself, I'd look for a good vintage bike. However, I can repair anything (as long as I have the right tools) except a frame and waiting for the "right" bike does require some patience.

    The good frame/cheap parts can actually be a good option for some riders. For example, the cyclist who started riding again a year or two ago after a long layoff and wants to ride every day may know what kind of bike he or she likes, but is still learning about his or her preferences in things like saddles, pedals, and shifters, and in such areas as gearing. So, when the cheaper parts wear out, such a cyclist could replace them with ones that are more to his or her liking. The higher-priced bike may not be equipped with those parts.

    That said, I'd advise anyone who rides, or expects to ride, regularly to spend at least $500-600. In particular, Bianchi and Jamis offer some good bikes in that range: the frames on such bikes are worthy of upgrades, and the parts are decent if not stellar.

  10. Here's something else for budget-oriented buyers to consider: Most reputable local bike retailers provide free tune-ups and warranty for one year, even though their bikes have a higher price point. They also provide expertise in proper bike fit, which many online retailers and department stores don't provide. Is a bike really a bargain if you can't ride more than 5 miles without discomfort?
    During a recent visit to my LBS, I was quite impressed with their end-of-season discounts. They're clearing out inventory to make way for the 2011 models.
    It pays to shop around.

  11. Bikes Direct, among other things, is the outfit that markets road bikes branded as Motobecane, which I understand they (or whoever actually makes the bikes) bought from the original, fabled, failed Motobecane. Bike snobs depise them as a result--and I don't use the term "bike snobs" in an entirely pejorative sense either.

    But I think Bike Direct is worth considering. I've read a few negative comments about workmanship and failed parts on various boards, but I've also seen positive comments and at least one review on some major bike site that basically concluded: Worth it for the price.

    I'm more familiar with road bikes than the vintage school that V writes about so beautifully, so taking a look...

    Their cheapest road bike is a 14-speed aluminum-framed "Dawes Lightning Sport" with a (no-name) Shimano drivetrain for $259. Free shipping, as with all their bikes, and somewhat disturbing "free pedals" with pointers to updgrades. The cheapest alum frame with carbon fork is a 24-speed item with Shimano Sora rear derailleurs; the cheapest carbon frame is a 27-speed that runs $997 with a Shimano 105 in the rear (have it, love it), Shimano Tiagra shifters (ditto) and Tiagra front derailleur (I have a 105 in front). Tektro brakes. In comparison, my beloved steel Soma smoothie ES ran around $1360; the components were expertly chosen with cost savings in mind by Oasis Bike Works of Fairfax, Va. Also, my Soma price included The Shimano SPD clipless pedals; once you go up the price ladder a little bit with Bike Direct the pedals are often extra. Other than that these are complete, rideable bikes....

  12. ...On the high end at Bikes Direct I see carbon frames for $2800 (Dura-Ace etc.) and a titanium number for the same. No doubt you can spend more there if you work at it.

    Bikes Direct ships the bikes mostly assembled. Judging from their online info, none of it is major and they have some sparse video to help; perhaps attaching the headset stem would be the most disconcerting for someone who's never held a wrench though it's very simple; brake cables would annoy me the most since I'm not patient. Sizing and fit, of course, is another challenge, but they have very detailed specs and recommendations on frame sizes.

    Some Bikes Direct customers bring their bikes to the local bike shop to be assembled, which as we know isn't always welcomed. Partly because of the bike-mechanic culture (I'm an artist! You call this a Motobecane? In the old days this would have been accompanied by a dismissive flick of a Gauloises). And partly because an LBS is understandably non-overjoyed that you spent most of your bike money elsewhere. Also, lots of shops offer free or deeply discounted tuneups on bikes you buy from them, so you might spend more money in the long run for that. And obviously if you have a major problem with the bike, you may be looking at the deeply frustrating experience of shipping a bike back or trying to get any satisfaction from a distant online retailer (maybe they're great, I have no idea).

    But I would definitely consider it, especially for anyone with even the most basic mechanical skills. I didn't go this route in the end because I did want to support an LBS active in the local biking community, and because I fell in love with Soma. But I will definitely keep looking at the site to see when these vintage bikes show up--I've had half a mind to buy something with internal gearing for slushy winter riding (Velouria, in my day we generically referred to a lot of what you're writing about as "English" bikes--I'll bet you know that, but I believe that's been out of use for years. English 3-speeds were the slightly exotic bikes in my 1960's and early 70's childhood).

    If I were buying something from Bikes Direct I'd recommend going mid-level, where the components can be pretty darn good--and they have detailed spec sheets online. The only Cro-Moly road bike I see is a "Windsor Tourist" 27-speed. For $579, you get a "free" aluminum rear rack, TruVativ or FSA crankset, Shimano Tiagra front derailleur, Shimano Deore in the rear, Tiagra STI shifters, SRAM 9-speed cassette, Kenda tires, and Tektro brakes. All kinds of braze-ons for fenders and racks and stuff. This is very good for the price. Oh, and charming old-school clips on the pedals.

    Apologies for the overly long post on a lazy Saturday. One last thing on budget bikes: My childhood bike was a one-speed coaster that I think my parents got at Sears. I beat the crap out of that thing and it was indestructible. Given what my public-school-teacher Dad was making at the time, this by no means an expensive bike.

  13. That said, I'd advise anyone who rides, or expects to ride, regularly to spend at least $500-600. In particular, Bianchi and Jamis offer some good bikes in that range: the frames on such bikes are worthy of upgrades, and the parts are decent if not stellar.

    Excellent advice. One way or another you can do quite well in that price range, if you're willing to accept some compromises and understand these are most likely temporary compromises. And I don't see it mentioned here and maybe it's too obvious, but in major metro areas especially, Craigslist has lots of used bikes listed.

    Same goes on year-end closeouts. Again, not in the vintage department, but one of my best biking friends pretty much stole a high-end carbon mountain bike that listed for something north of $4500--got it in the very, very low $2000's as I recall.

  14. IMNSHO, a used bike is the only way to go. It doesn't have to be vintage/classic bike. It could be a year old Surly Long Haul Trucker or a two year old Madone. It's really hard to break or abuse a bike, so there are less concerns than buying a used motor vehicle. As long as it wasn't used on salted winter roads, a one month old or a 25 year old used bike will most likely be a great bike for a long time still!

    The key consideration is that the buyer needs to RESEARCH and understand bikes a bit. The money they're saving directly translates into time sitting in front of a computer and talking to bike geeks.

    The best part of buying a used bike, is that you can re-sell it for close to what you paid if it doesn't work out. It's hard to nail the size the first time, and your interests or abilities can change after putting some miles on it. At that point, put it on Craigslist (or sell to your new-found cycling friends on the interwebs!) and move into a better bike for you.

    That's my $.02 for the day.

  15. The problem we are struggling with is one of value. People new to cycling don't understand the relative value of cycling. It's been 4 decades since I was in that position, but the first bike I bought was an entry level Panasonic at $125. Within a couple years, I could see the value of a $600-$800 bike. Keeping newbies away from the department stores is the real challenge, that is really where they will buy a frustrating piece of junk which will end up decorating the garage rafters.


  16. Marc - The flip side is that it's perfectly easy to go into an LBS and spend way too much money for an impulse appeal pile of "Meh!" (Electra tankers come to mind).

    These are businesses out to make a buck in an industry with high competition, high overhead - and razor sharp margins. It was internal Schwinn policy that if you had to spend more than 10 minutes selling a Varsity or World Sport that you should hustle the customer out the door to another shop.

    10 minutes or get the fuck outta here, ya bum.

    While there certainly are some very good shops, they are no guarantee of quality, value or even customer service. Most of them simply can't afford the two hours it takes to assemble and sell a $300 bike properly and virtually all of them are willing to sell you a bike with a nominal value of $300 for $800 if they can get away with it.

  17. You may be asking the wrong people ... remember, beginning cyclists won't have been spoiled by riding really nice bikes. I cycled for years and years on the same bike I'd had at Uni, and it wasn't much better than what we'd dismissively call a 'bike shaped object' now - a hybrid, with a reasonable frame, but its mudguards falling off, its rack all but useless, flat bars, slipping gears, no chain guard, useless brakes, saddle too low. Didn't matter. I loved it, I rode it everywhere, it did me fine until I got to about 30+ miles a week. Now of course I find it all but unrideable because I've got a bike that really fits me like a glove and suits me and the riding I do down to the ground. For a beginner, I'd advise them to ride the bike they have, or one they can borrow, scrounge, pick up second hand, or even cheaply at a chain store. As long as the bike is safe, more or less fits, has two wheels etc. then any beginner is going to have a blast on it - why wouldn't they? It's a bicycle, it's freedom on wheels. Once they're hooked, *then* they can buy the bike they want to grow old with. But asking people to start at $500-600, or fix something up from scratch - it's just too much of a barrier to entry for something that they're not sure they're really going to like that much until they've given it a decent go.

    I'm sticking my neck out here, but I really don't think anyone was put off riding by having the wrong bike. Even the worst of the chain store bikes. The wrong roads, maybe, but not the wrong bike.

  18. " In other words, think of a bike like a car and it'll seem cheap!" Dave's response hits the nail on the head. I agree.

  19. Most people will remember their bike from child hood as a base point to buy their next bike. It's only if they survive that cheap big box mart bike that they will start to learn ,and understand, what makes up a quality bike.

  20. This is a dollars and cents issue for a lot of people. Most newbies I know are not gear heads and are just looking for a reasonably safe bike to try out. I think people need to start with the best bike they can reasonably afford and if a person is just experimenting with a bike as transportation, he or she is reasonable to start out with a budget bike. I didn't feel right about buying a new Breezer Uptown 8 ($1100 at the time) when I didn't know if I'd be able to commit to it. My husband rode a Target comfort bike for 2 years. It was fine for about that length of time. He was convinced and just upgraded to a new Breezer this past summer, okay about the purchase because he new he'd use it. When friends ask me about this question I encourage them to go into their purchase clear about what they want the bike to do and what their main concerns are. If it is safety I encourage them them to consider paying extra for a good lighting system but ultimately money has to guide most people's decision making. I'd rather help get someone on a bike when he or she is uncertain than ask them to make a big investment when he or she is on the fence. When I'm in the position to spend the extra money on a Workcycles Oma, I will because I'll use it forever. At the moment, it's not in the budget.

  21. The ultimate budget bike for me is a used one. Even if it's not EXACTLY what I want, toss in $150-200 more, and you'll have a bike you want.

    As far as city bikes - the Phillips cost me $50. $150 later, I have the perfect city bike. Why would I want to spend any extra money on something that doesn't have the quality or the looks of the vintage bike?

  22. In my opinion, you need to remove that Trek Belleville from the "budget options" list. It photographs beautifully and looks like a decent commuter bicycle on paper. In reality it is a horrible pile of crap.

    I say this as someone who got stuck with one for two months. The story is far too long to post as a comment here. So many components need to be replaced (the pedals, saddle, grips, brakes, fenders, kickstand at a minimum) that you will spend more than you would on a new Pashley or Breezer. And yes, those beautiful fenders render the bicycle a nightmare to ride if the road you are on has the slightest hint of texture. The rear fender rattles so badly that you have to replace it. The heavy racks mean the bike tips over without a double kickstand -- and that's without any load. The pedals are the worst things I have ever felt under my feet.

    And I did not just have one of these bikes, I had two. After a month with a completely unrideable new bike (the shop closed for "reorganization") the DAY AFTER I bought it, Trek gave me a new one. Although it was 100% functional I had to make all the upgrades that I listed just to be able to use the bicycle.

    I got very lucky and the shop reopened and refunded my money. I would literally have felt bad GIVING this bike away.

    Townmouse is right, though, we are the wrong people to ask. It has taken me several "wrong" bikes to figure out what I wanted. Just five months ago, there is no way I would have paid what I just did for a Retrovelo Paula. You really have to get on some bikes and ride. That can be very frustrating in an area with low population density and choices between big box store BSOs and mail order.

  23. I choked on my coffee a bit when I saw Breezers listed as a "budget" choice. I saved up obsessively in order to purchase a new Breezer Citizen in 2004 ($569.95 at the time) and have ridden and loved it ever since. But please know that for many of us, that's a lot of money.

    By the way, you don't write nearly enough about Breezers!

  24. Lynne - I agree to some extent, but if I remove that bike, then I might as well remove most of the other options on the list. The quality of the other bikes is similar - some a bit worse, others a bit better.

    I take the trouble to compile and maintain the Budget list, because I really would like to reach out to readers who feel that they categorically cannot afford a bike in a higher price range and don't feel up to buying vintage. I do have a lot of those readers, and while many of them are not comfortable posting comments (however, see the comments on this post for some idea of what I mean), they do send me emails.

    So... I am trying to be fair and see beyond my own perspective. Maybe my expectations are too high. Maybe I ride my bike more than others, and so I am more demanding of it than the average person would be. I would love to hear about some good experiences with budget bikes from those readers who own them and love them, so that I can point other readers to this post and show them those positive comments along with the critical ones.

  25. Frances Gentile - As I wrote in the post, it is a lot of money for me as well. But by "bike industry standards" it is an "inexpensive bike", whether we like that or not. I have never tried a Breeze, as I do not see them in local shops. From readers, I have heard some good things about them, some not so good. Judging just by pictures and descriptions, what I don't like is the aluminum construction (which I find uncomfortable), and the aesthetics are a little too shiny and sporty for me. But I would like to test-ride one if the opportunity presents itself.

  26. I believe that a well-made, comfortable bicycle can be mass-produced at a reasonable price in the Far East and it is already happening. =) If what you are looking for something beyond a humble bicycle, then you probably won’t be happy with a mass-produced bicycle produced anywhere.

    People who are really into bicycles (or anything for that matter) generally know and appreciate the finer details. I wouldn’t say their standards are higher though. But their preferences are more particular. The construction method, the builders reputation, the history/nostalgia, etc. All this stuff means something to all cyclist but at different levels.

    Just look at the mass-produced vintage 3 speed bicycles. I doubt they are designed, engineered, or use higher quality parts than the modern “budget bicycle” in the $500 range. Yet so many of them have survived though out the years without much care or thought. You’re not gonna get a hand made bicycle for $500-$600. But you won’t be buying a bicycle that will fall apart, or is shoddily made either.

    It may not come with a Brooks saddle, leather grips, fancy lighting and expensive pannier systems but not everyone needs or wants them. I think any bicycle you enjoy riding is worth upgrading to your needs. Even if it’s a department store bike. But let’s be real. I don’t think anyone riding a department store bicycle is gonna buy a Brooks Saddle, leather grips, fancy lighting or expensive panniers. Any one of those purchases will probably cost more than their bicycle.

  27. Good point, Veloria. Of the other budget options you listed, I've ridden the Electras and one not listed, a mixte that Giant sells for $380-$550 (the Via-W http://www.giant-bicycles.com/en-us/bikes/model/via.1.w/7385/44532/). The Giant has no hub dynamo, but it was a MUCH better bicycle and I truly wish that I had bought it instead of the Trek. So, maybe it deserves a spot on your list? And the Electras definitely beat the Trek.

    We do begin to sound alarmingly like car dealers when we try to tell people that they can really afford more than they can really afford. A BSO *will* get you around and *will* save you just as much on auto expenses as one of the luxury bicycles that we adore.

  28. Anon - I understand what you are saying, but no - I am not talking about the finer details and the bells and whistles. I am talking about things like inherent frame construction, choice of tubing, geometry. Without bashing any specific brands, I think that the "imitation classic" bikes very often get the geometry wrong, with the seat tubes either ridiculously slack or too steep, and with things like toe overlap on a loop frame city bike. Also, on many of them it is impossible to ride over cobblestones or bumps without feeling as if you are on a boneshaker. That is the kind of thing I am talking about when I say that they are not worth the pricetag. I am all for a "humble," simple single-speed or 3-speed bicycle, a la the vintage Raleigh Sports, which I love. But these things are something else entirely.

  29. I would recommend finding a rebuilt bicycle as a budget build. In Chicago, there are plenty of private shops whose business mainly involves re-cycling vintage frames and components, and completely rebuilding them to ride most likely better than anything new in the price range of $300-$400 for which they usually sell. As one of these re-cyclists, I'd rather see a vintage frame get new life than a new discount bike being purchased or even manufactured.
    Craigslist, while definitely an option, is iffy at times though for beginning cyclists, because about 95% of the bikes sold need to be rebuilt, not to mention any racks/fenders or other customizing one may want.

  30. Anonymous said...
    "... But let’s be real. I don’t think anyone riding a department store bicycle is gonna buy a Brooks Saddle, leather grips, fancy lighting or expensive panniers. Any one of those purchases will probably cost more than their bicycle."

    Um... believe me, it happens. The accessories do end up costing more than their bike, effectively doubling the bike's price tag - and that was my point.

  31. "we are the wrong people to ask."

    If you ask me, and you ask me very nicely, I can provide anyone with a comfortable, reasonably good and reliable local (say a five mile radius) transport bike with lovely vintage looks, but brand, spanking new - for about a hundred and fifty bucks. You're likely to have to put another fifty into it for the second year, or maybe the fourth - depending on various factors.

    There are some caveats:

    1) It will be delivered when it gets delivered. Speed costs money.
    2) You will learn to love it. Choice costs money.
    3) You have to ask VERY nicely, since I don't get a damned thing out of the deal but labor.

  32. "Any one of those purchases will probably cost more than their bicycle."


  33. kfg - you say that, yet offer no contact info : )

  34. "you say that, yet offer no contact info : )"

    Nobody's asked nicely enough yet. :)

    And of course if you want to specify the point of delivery you'll have to ask UPS very nicely. That's not my department.

    Of course the comment was a rather Socratic argument, rather than a legitimate offer, but I'm shallow enough that if you're cute enough . . .

  35. I love Lovely Bicycle for exactly these kinds of discussions. I agree completely with She Rides a Bike and townmouse that cheap bikes have a place in the biking universe. The riding itself is such a freedom and joy that in some ways the bike doesn't matter.

    And I say this even though I am having to admit sadly that riding my Oma for around-the-town has ruined me for riding my 12 yr-old, thousand+ miles hybrid on longer tours despite the many long and happy biking days I've ridden. Now I know enough and biking is enough a part of my life that I'm willing to save up for a better long-distance option.

    But I would have been discouraged from even beginning if my choice only offered out-of-range Pashleys and Sam Hillbornes. I wouldn't have even begun.

    I think we need $200 bikes for people not ready to commit a bigger investment in money just yet. And why not?

    The point is - get more people out riding so they know in their own flesh what they need a bike to do.

    And keep writing your wonderful blog so that even newbies have the words and information to ask the right questions and make the right demands and keep pushing bike sellers and bike builders closer and closer to the ideal - - which would certainly include bikes imminently affordable, reliable, and nice-looking, wouldn't it?

  36. "I think we need $200 bikes . . . And why not?"

    Because it might be your child that gets snagged and eaten?

  37. I think at the budget end of things you have to compromise and IMO it's on the look or "classic"ness. There are just too many $600ish bikes on the market priced purely on their "classic" looks that are either badly designed and/or specced with lousy parts.
    I'd go for a steel frame bike from a reputable company like Kona or Jamis where the lower cost bikes have the same frame as their higher cost brothers.
    Before the great aluminium revolution of 2011, Kona had some fantastic overbuilt steel single and 3 speeds at very good prices. I'm very very happy with my Kona Humu (the last steel model!)
    I see changing out the saddle and grips (and sometimes bars and pedals) as a fact of life when buying any bike and so it pays to talk to the LBS and try to get a good deal. Often I think bikes should be priced without these parts and chosen by the customer at point of purchase as you'd get a better deal and not have to throw crappy stuff in the bin after your first few rides. And as previously mentioned, very good bargains can be had when the shops have to clear stock out for the next years model which is often only a change of colour.

  38. I'll echo the "Lovely Bicycle" gratitude expressed by Emma J. Within 7 months, I've gone from being bikeless to selling my car and gathering a small fleet of bikes, each offering different pleasures and purposes (it would be very hard to live where I do without either car or bike, unless I gave up eating! My Pashley heaves the groceries.) When I first started researching bikes, I knew from discussions with a like-minded friend that I needed a lovely bike (as defined by Velouria), but had no idea where to start. I was considering Electra and Linus options, which would have been too big for me, and I depended entirely on virtual research because of the area I live in. I would never have felt able to splurge on a Pashley if I hadn't come upon Velouria's diary of her experiences, and for me riding such a well-fitting, stable, beautiful thing completely changed my experience of bicycling.

    The budget thing is a huge issue, though. When I was a grad student (and an alien, unable to work part time jobs and save) it was a choice of bike or feet or buses (a car was out of the question), and I couldn't possibly have spent more than $150 on a secondhand bike (maybe the equivalent of $250 now?). If the web had been then what it is now, that initial investment $150 would have gone a lot further, and I'd probably have become an addictive bicycler (I did have a bike, but gave up riding for various reasons, mostly because I didn't really love it then).

    But I agree that if one can get together the money, it's best even for a beginner to start with the loveliest bike that s/he can possibly afford, because of comfort and security, and because of the commitment and enthusiasm that can be inspired by the beauty of a machine. Thank you for all your help with that - commenters as well as Velouria!

    Sorry not to be offering what this entry was looking for in comments, though, which is personal experience of one of those mid-range (expensive/budget) bikes on the list.

  39. My first mountain bike back in 1989 was a budget bike from K-Mart. I had it six weeks before I sold it to a friend and bought a slightly better one, albeit still 'budget' from a bike shop. I had that six months before splurging on a gorgeous frame, transferring some components over, buying new ones, fitting road slick tyres and building myself the precursor of the modern hybrid. That taught me a lesson - save up and go for the best you can get, because you probably won't be happy with budget in the long run.

    If I was spending money now to buy a brand new bike, I would expect to spend at least $700 to get anything half decent. Or I'd hunt out a nicely-specced bike second hand for similar money. (Which I did with my mixte two years ago.)

    Having said that, budget bikes do have their place in society - they get people up on two wheels, and if you're starting to ride again after not having ridden for years, and are unsure about whether it's a long term joy for you, then a budget bike is a good place to start. There are many, many people who will be happy with a budget bike; the trick is NOT to test ride anything better, ever, or you'll be filled with desire to upgrade!

  40. I have a little experience with bikesdirect, having helped my stepson assemble a Dawes single-speed from there this summer.


    The tires, saddle, and pedals were not much to write home about, but sufficiently good to last for a few months until one could save for higher quality parts, then sell off via Craigslist or the like.

    Based on that experience, I would say that the "city bikes" they are advertising will be decent values, especially if one has access to a co-op or can do basic assembly themselves.

    Seeing the range of components offered by BD, I would not be surprised if they contracted the same factory as Linus Bicycles to build their city bike frames and wheels.

    You will need to be nice to your local bike shop if you want them to do your maintenance, of course...Our favorite LBS did some maintenance and mods on the kid's BD bike, and the owner pronounced it a pretty decent value.

    (they are Trek & Bianchi dealers, and ride cool old lugged-frame bikes themselves. Rod brakes and Sturmey hubs are spoken there. They were proud to display my DL-1 on the floor last spring.)

    As far as the suggestion of waiting for end-of-year sales, this too is a good way. This last summer my partner-in-roadster-crime Cyndy The Neighbor picked up a (2008) Masi Soulville with SRAM 7 hub on clearance at 1/2 off. This was a brand-new boxed bike from the Masi warehouse, not a floor model. It was literally cheaper than the used equivalent on Craigslist.

    (So I have anecdotes to back up everyone else's anecdotes. Is it Data yet?)

    Used bikes are often the kings and queens of value for money, foremost being the English 3-speeds followed by Japanese road bikes and the 1980s mountain bikes from the Japanese and the better Taiwanese makers. Somebody selling a used bike typically doesn't use it to cover overhead.

    The very best way that anyone can save themselves money and get the best bike they can afford is via education. Once you get an idea of what you are truly looking for, you can do a much better job obtaining a bicycle that really suits your needs.

    Of course, If I were to represent myself as really cute to kfg, I might be in high cotton anyway...

    Corey K

  41. I make a point of getting trusted friends to test-ride my Pashley.

    I suppose getting on a cheap bike afterward must feel a little disappointing.

    That's why I do it.

    I wish people would stop making cheap bikes. It's not THAT much harder to make a good quality one.

    And if you put care and effort into your job and produce work that people value - why not buy a product that's made the same way?

    All these companies making crap should look at the quality bikes out there and instead of just trying to fake it - with products of similar style - they should be finding their own niche and making bikes that THEY like.

    The good people at Trek should get off their computers and hipster "Porter" design committees and start riding their own products.

    Mass-producing a good design doesn't necessarily add value, either - though the technology becomes cheaper per unit, labour is still expensive - and getting more expensive. So the things that have to be done by hand will still add up.

    I'd love to see a few more competitors turn up the heat on the $1500 to $2k semi-hand-made city bike market.

  42. Cory K - "Is it Data yet?"

    Only with the emotions chip installed.

    "If I were to represent myself as really cute to kfg"

    Well, I like long hair and although your photo is a bit low-res you seem to have that going for you; and if you give good fret job we could talk about taking it out in trade.

  43. I am with the "buy used" camp, but craigslist is a tough place to navigate if you are a beginner. Here in Nashville we have an awesome used bike shop (Halcyon) that builds/refurbs great practical rideable bikes. For the $100-200 extra you pay over craigslist, you get a relationship with a mechanic, which is worth it if you are not one. All for leas than $500 for a bike that will not lose much value while you save up for your dream bike.

  44. I just don't buy the idea that expensive bikes save you money. In practice, it's the people who buy expensive bikes who spend the most on upgrades, accessories, expensive repairs, AND purchase bikes most frequently.

    They think they spend less, because all the extra expenses are small compared to the bicycle's price. I've been to Wheelworks enough times to see that the same people who think it's craaazy to spend $300 fixing and upgrading a $50 bike, but a $500 crankset is totally reasonable on their $5000 bike.

    If you want to talk $/mile, you just can't beat a $50 Craigslist beater which gets dumped when it needs major repairs or a refurbished used bike or a Wal-Mart special rebuilt at an LBS before being ridden.

    beat a $50 Craigslist beater (which gets it's hard to a Wal-Mart bike rebuilt at an LBS before being ridden.

  45. I just don't buy the idea that expensive bikes save you money.

    Bearing in mind that expensive is relative, and also that one anecdote doesn't prove anything--my Soma smoothie ES, as you poor people have heard me say a few times now, ran about $1360 (alot of money for me) and I bought it with the specific intention to own it until I die. I'm 54 and my Dad is 84 so... hopefully that long would be nice. Yes, people with money and a fixation on bikes can end up spending even more, over and over, but the only thing I anticipate doing is possibly upgrading my derailleurs someday, just to play, and it's possible my Brooks B-17 won't last 30 years if I do. Other than that, maintenance items, and I'll bet there are a lot of people like that.

    By the the say, the step-throughs at Public look pretty sweet for just under $500; Velouria has Public listed on her budget bike list though I think they've changed the lineup a bit. http://publicbikes.com/p/PUBLIC-J7

  46. Bikes in Canada cost much more in the US so a cheap bike is going to be even more expensive. In my experience the low end bikes are not worth it. My husband used to work in the bike industry and he said that the bike manufacturers have very different build standards between high and low end bikes. I bought a giant cypress a few years ago as I needed a bike asap and the only local bike shop sold giants. It was around $400-500 and a loop framed aluminum bike that I foolishly tried to pretend was a dutch bike. It didn't come with fenders, or lights or anything extra for that matter.
    The ride was terrible and components low end-not to mention a terrible TERRIBLE one size fits all type design. At some point I was going to upgrade the parts, but the frame was not worth it. We look at bikes alot and they just don't have the build quality of bikes of yore. Not to mention all the aluminum horrifically designed bikes. Also some of the lower end bikes are designed for occasional riders-they aren't meant for daily rides, long rides etc.. So a rider will only get extremely frustrated and either feel like a lousy cyclist or give up because it was so dreadful.

    my husband and I got asked again recently about how much our bikes cost. People quickly retreat without giving us a chance to explain why bikes cost what they do and how you can get an affordable bike.
    I'm all for rebuilding a fantastic vintage, semi vintage or contemporary 2nd hand steel bike and being very careful about buying new. My surly cost $$$$$ in Canada and I still had to spend a great deal on saddles, pedals, tires, fenders etc.. I fully understand that a really fine bike for life is going to cost a great deal more than $500. I just hope my dream bikes will fall out of the sky one day!

  47. I think that once we start talking about the guys with the $5000 bikes coming in to the bike shop to buy new $500 derailleurs and $300 cranksets every season, we need to stop and consider context.

    First, we are talking about bicycles purchased for transportation cycling here, and not for recreation or sport. And we are also talking about bicycles purchased for practical need, not as a hobby. I know many people who purchased wonderful, hand-built commuter bikes in the $1,00-2,000 price range several years ago and have not once spent money to upgrade them. Those bikes are actually being used for transportation, on a daily basis, and not as trophies to show off on roof racks. I believe the scenario with the $500 crankset upgrade is different.

    And price-wise, there is a huge difference between a $1,000 bike and a $5,000 bike. I am obviously not suggesting that readers who are considering getting a $500 bike spend 10 times more. But I do believe that most of the time (and taking it as a given that they will not buy vintage, period, as vintage would be my first recommendation) - they can afford to save up and spend $1,000, which will save them money in the long run.

  48. Velouria -- I hear you, but I guess the point I wanted to make is that subjective value and "budgetary" value shouldn't be conflated.

    In terms of subjective value, I think $1,200 is indeed a sweet spot. A lot of terrific, long-lasting bicycles are available for that price and most people with steady employment *can* afford that. It's probably the most reasonable budget for those who know what kind of bike they want.

    But you are *not* going to minimize $/mile with a $1,200 bike. (Not that you should necessarily, of course.) That's all I'm saying.

    I mentioned Wheelworks to provide an extreme example of how the two measures of value are conflated. People who buy $5000 roof trophies always love to talk about well-made and long-lasting those $500 cranks are, which they promptly dump when the hand-polished version comes out.

  49. Re: "What about a simple, basic new bike that is classic and comfortable, at a reasonable price?"

    Well, there are plenty of comfortable, reasonably priced 3 speed bikes being made, if you count $500 as reasonable. We have featured a number of them at Bikes for the Rest of Us. (See the list: http://bikesfortherestofus.blogspot.com/search/label/3-speed) Many of them may not look like "classics," but that's a subjective issue.

    Personally, I think these are the nicest looking new, affordable 3 speeds:
    The Giant Via 1 (http://bikesfortherestofus.blogspot.com/2010/10/giant-via-1.html), The PUBLIC D3 (barely affordable at $690): http://publicbikes.com/p/PUBLIC-D3
    The Bowery Lane 3-speeds (Made in the USA, of American steel! $700) http://bikesfortherestofus.blogspot.com/2010/05/bowery-lane-bicycles-breukelen-white-3.html
    Linus Dutchi and Mixte ($600)
    Raleigh Classic Roadster ($440 now at REI):
    Milano Parco ($500)
    KHS Green ($330!)
    Torker t-300 ($<400), with a mixte-esque frame:

    I know the KHS Green is reliable, at least in dry weather (a friend has ridden one for transportation, for a couple 1000 miles), and the Torker feels solid as well.

    Kronan makes an aluminum 5-speed for $700 with pretty nice, classic looks (for an alloy frame bike), but I don't know anything about the quality: http://kronanusa.com/bike_unisex_5_speed_aluminum.php
    They also make 3-speeds for $550, but I've heard to bad reviews about durability. Too bad; they have the classic Swedish look.

    Torker makes the t-530, with an 8-speed Nexus hub, chaincase (!), roller brakes (!) and a mixte-style frame. I believe my LBS said it would cost me about $650

    Less "classic", but still well made and affordable, incude:
    The Breezer Uptown 3 ($600)
    The KHS Cidi ($430)
    Batavus BUB (under $600): http://bikesfortherestofus.blogspot.com/2010/04/batavus-in-usa-bub.html
    Felt Cafe 3 ($430 MSRP)

    REI makes the Novara transfer, with a 7-speed Nexus rear hub, dynamo front hub and LED lights, for only $650. And it's steel. You and I may not like the way it looks, with chunky welds and crazy tube angles, but it's a good deal and some people like this sort of look:
    This is probably the best deal for a new bike with a dynamo hub and more than a 3 speed rear hub.

    Just up in the price category, Raleigh makes a bike with a Shimano Alfine 8 speed hub (top of the line!), Alfine trigger shifter, Alfine dynamo hub, front and rear LED dynamo lights, roller brakes and a weird-looking integrated rack, for $800:

    My Breezer Uptown 8 cost only a little more than that, but the MSRP is closer to $1000, which probably doesn't fit your list.

  50. So I'm one of those beginners who doesn't usually post (but loves this blog - thankyou for the wonderful posts and pictures!), but this touches pretty closely on my recent experiences.

    I just started cycling again, after a 15 year break, and a few months ago I bought the Electra Ticino 8 speed mixte. I'm having an absolute ball. The bike is working out OK so far - I like it, it's acceptably comfortable, and I could afford it (though at $1300 AUD I wouldn't call it cheap - bikes are more expensive in Australia). Maybe I'll have problems on longer rides (I've only gone 6 or 7 km so far - but eventually I'll be riding it 15km to and from work every day), but nothing has cropped up yet to discourage me.

    I read the advice on this blog before I bought it, that if you can't afford a high quality custom bike, you should buy a vintage bike and build it up. But that created too many extra barriers to cycling for me, on top of the already not insignificant barriers of lack of skill, fear of crashing, lack of fitness, and lack of knowledge that I already face. In the absence of a knowledgeable friend, to successfully buy the right vintage bike, and put it together with the right parts, and to do running repairs when it does what old machines do and plays up, would have required a massive knowledge overhead that I just can't support yet.

    Buying a new bike is easier. You can reasonably expect that it will work right away, and that problems won't appear for a while. You hopefully have the support of the bike shop you bought it from if problems do appear. Honnestly just learning enough to know what style of bike I wanted took me a huge ammount of reading. The rest I want to learn while I'm riding.

    I read somewhere, in all my recent research, that you'll almost certainly upgrade or change your bike after a year or so of riding. It takes that experience to learn what works for you and what doesn't, and you can't really expect to get it right first time without that experience. So I stopped worrying about getting the perfect bike, and just bought something that got decent reviews, that I liked, and that I could afford.

    My advice to people like me? Just buy a bike and start riding. Have the fun, and worry about finding the "bike to grow old with" when you know more about what you want from a bike. Getting brilliant value for money is something that comes with expertise that beginners don't have.

  51. Belated thanks to Corey K on relating his experience with the Bikes Direct Dawes--very interesting to me since I spent a lot of time on that site.

  52. Joseph E - I love Bikes for the Rest of Us, and I love the fact that manufacturers - even the big name manufacturers that were previously focused on racing and MTB - are trying to come up with useful and reasonably classic commuter designs. BUT: My problem with most of the bikes you listed (most of which are already on my list BTW), is not that they do not look "classic enough". Many of you seem to be assuming that this is my problem, but you are incorrect. As John wrote above (Dec 4, 5:45pm), "There are just too many $600ish bikes on the market priced purely on their 'classic' looks that are either badly designed and/or specced with lousy parts." That is my problem. These manufacturers quite literally look through flickr pictures of classic bikes to get the overall look, but they clearly have no experience in classic frame design, because the geometry and handling are off. I can't say that I am happy when stuff like that is put on the market. In the list you posted, there are a couple of bikes that I consider to be a good deal - the KHS Green, most notably.

  53. My personal thought is if you're just getting into cycling, get a cheap bike to see if you'll ride, ex-rental etc... Then do simple things like changing a handlebar to try out different riding positions. Only do this with the understanding that the bike is temporary. After you figure out what you want, buy a "good" bike.

    When I started riding again, I bought a cheap mountain bike to park at the train station. It was too small and pretty uncomfortable, but showed that I would ride. I rode it about 5 miles every day for two years. When it was stolen, I got a cheap hybrid, I played around with some different configurations. I had some major life changes and now I ride almost every day. The hybrid was ok but I realized what I need in a bike to be comfortable for over 10 miles, 20 miles etc...

    Now that I ride regularly, I know what my needs are, and I bought the 'right' bike for most of what I do. I spent around $2000 and built it from a frame, but I'm sure that I wouldn't have had a positive experience with cycling if I hadn't had the cheap bikes to start with.

    When I listened to a large bike shop, I ended up with a frame that was much too small. If I listened to my brother, who is a more avid 'cyclist' than I, I would stick with an aluminum bike since "steel is too slow." I would have preferred buying a used frame, but have had issues finding them in my size (I'm 6'2" with longish legs.) Now I have a steel touring frame that has big fat tires, mountain drop bars and makes me smile very very wide every time I take it out. Serves as a distance bike, shopping tractor and kid carrier and very well for zoom zoom papa. But it took me two years of fiddling to experiment enough to find out what my needs were. I've still got the hybrid and am slowly converting it to winter riding and a 1x8 setup, all of the good parts to be moved to a better frame later.

    The process is working well for my wife too, who we bought an ex-rental bike two years ago, had never really ridden. Now she rides most days in warmer weather. Next summer we'll probably build up something for her but she made it clear that she didn't want to learn to ride on a nice bike. It was an ex-rental bike that I've put about the cost of the bike back into it (total cost now is around $400.) But all of the items that I've upgraded can go onto a new frame when she wants it.

  54. I own a 69 Schwinn Suburban, a 50s Hawthorne, a 92 Giant Innova and a 2010 aluminum hybrid with 24 speeds, gearing which is mostly redundant. You'd think I'd like the newest bike the best? Nope. My faves are my older bikes. They're just better in some intangible way. If you find an older bike that fits you and sings to your heartstrings, you've found a true gem.

    Thanks for the great blog! All the best! :D

  55. This is a bit of a hot-button issue with me. There are plenty of decent new bikes to be had at $400 and under. Above that, about half the time you get value for extra money spent, and the other half you just get marketing hype.

    The thing that gets me is going to some of the cycling forums and seeing beginners say "I can only spend $400" and then seeing an onslaught of diehard cyclists posting messages saying "wait until you save $2,000" or something similar. What a great way to turn people away from cycling.

    If a person has a $400 budget limit and wants a new bike now, fine, let's get them on a Schwinn Coffee/Cream, a Dahon Boardwalk, an Electra Townie, a Giant Cypress ST, a Trek 820, a Fuji Adventure, a Breezer Uptown 7, or sometimes near year end you can even catch a decent beginner road bike for under $400. These are perfectly fine bikes, though not the stuff that makes aficionados drool.

    Sure, in the long run people may spend money on upgrades and eventually change bikes. But people with $2,000 bikes often end up spending money often on upgrades too. So, let's help people start riding within their current budgets. The more, the merrier!


  56. For myself, I would rather buy an old beater of good quality and do an adequate rebuild than try and rely on budget lack of quality.

  57. "sometimes near year end you can even catch a decent beginner road bike for under $400"

    2009 Breezer Freedoms on sale at Performance for three and a half.

    "people with $2,000 bikes often end up spending money often on upgrades"

    Other than replacing the stamped sheet metal ring guard with one cut from plate, I'm not even sure how it would be possible to "upgrade" my good bike.

  58. Wow, that Breezer is a handsome bike. I don't know the citybike components that well, but I see brand names that shouldn't blow up.

    Clearance/end of year is a great way to go.

  59. Cedar in Fort CollinsDecember 8, 2010 at 4:59 AM

    My wife and I bought matching Schwinn Coffee and Cream single speeds for our "daily drivers" about a year ago from Performance Bike Shop. These are elegant, extremely well built, beautifully finished bikes that are delightful to ride. With the Performance Bike member discount, net cost was $203 each, including good quality bike racks. Since purchasing these we have become true fans of the "collegiate" style Schwinns, and have acquired several vintage examples which we hope to soon post on some of the vintage cycling websites. This is a true bargain commuter

  60. You'd almost think that they thought of that when they named them. Keeping the theme does tend to limit one's color choices though. I guess that's why god invented Rustoleum.

    These are bikes I've been very interested in, but haven't gotten to see one of them in the metal. Two years ago I didn't think much, well, at least much good, about Pacific's products. Now I am a happy owner of one. I don't think they're quite "there" yet, but they're getting damned close.

    I've been conducting my AW hub test on a '68 Schwinn Deluxe Racer. Despite my continued misgivings about AW hubs, it's a damned fine townie and I might look to hoarding a few of these.

  61. Not everyone needs a $1000 or $2000 or $3000 bike. For some folks, a decently made, middle of the road bike will do just fine.

    I bought a Trek Belleville on sale for $585 back in July. No doubt it's not a Rivendell or VO or carefully restored vintage bike. But the frame itself is quite solid--it's steel and all the components are steel, so there's no chance it's going to fall apart. I've ridden about 750 miles on it and haven't even gotten a flat yet. The fender hardware broke about 6 weeks after my purchase...annoying but not the end of the world.

    I own a Brompton, so I understand that you get what you pay for when it comes to bikes. But I wasn't ready to drop $1500 or even $1000 on another bike at the time I purchased the Belleville. Since I spent less money on a fairly solid bike, I can afford to upgrade to an Alfine hub/thumb shifter and a Brooks saddle (the only upgrades this bike really needs, IMO) and approach the performance of my girlfriend's $1,200 Raleigh Superbe Roadster. Eventually, I might replace the stem/handlebars, but they suit me just fine for now.

    If I'd gone with a custom build, I'd still be buying parts instead of having a comfortable bike to ride for the past 6 months. If I get tired of it or decide to upgrade to another bike, I can always sell it...no big deal.

  62. what's your take on buying used from LBS? me and my wife are going to visit the Old Roads in search of a pair of vintage Raleighs or perhaps Schwinns. any advise would be so greatly appreciated.

  63. hihik - See this post about Old Roads and the topic in general
    : )

  64. thanks. found that discussion right after i posted here :)
    one suggestion: in addition to budget options you have (very helpful!) could you compile a similar list including brands/models worth buying used. call it, maybe, down-right cheap options ;)
    love your blog, was very glad to discover it. we're from davis sq. so fellow somervillites (?). maybe we'll meet on a bike path someday. keep up awesome work you're doing here.

  65. hi - just wondering if there is an updated opinion of the Windsor Oxford 3-speed that is now available from bikesdirect.com.

    last fall my restored 1969 Hercules black 3-speed was stolen from my garage... super duper bummer. i've started looking around for the next city ride (i'm in chicago).

    i've been riding english 3-speeds since i was 7 or so when my dad brought my first 3-speed, a raleigh, home in the early '70s. while i'm skeptical ($299 shipped?!), i do like the 'looks' of the Windsor. i also have been peeking at the linus line-up.

    i only learned about these Windsors today. a friend of mine suggested i check out bikesdirect to see what they have at the moment. he had a very good bikesdirect experience last year purchasing a road bike. reviews of the outfit lean toward "pretty good."

    i have to say at first glance my heart rate went up when i saw the Windsor. i was encouraged to see your post. i'm hoping you or someone out there has had a chance to ride one of these and can comment?

    thanks for a terrific blog -

    p.s. yes - chicago is full of vintage 3-speeds! and yes - i'm considering going the vintage route AGAIN. however, I am intrigued by this new generation of 3-speeds, and sorta just want a brand new bike -- would be the first since my aforementioned '70s raleigh (and I've had a lot of bikes since then...). so yeah - more just looking to expand my options. :)

  66. hi - it's LB again...

    of course, i'm obsessed with this windsor 3-speed review thing. I have found a lot of reviews, mostly on tech discussion boards, that claim windsor road and mountain bikes are a good value. while few and far between, i did find a few blogs/sites that mention the oxford - actual purchasers! here are links for folks who might be in decision phase or just curious:

    Design Sponge
    Blog seems a little more concerned with style..., but there are actual Windsor rider comments available.

    See Rach Play
    This person just received a Windsor Oxford as a present. Loves it. And answered a question I had about the weight of the bike -- says it's approx 28 pounds.

    Slickdeals.net Forums
    Discussion about value and parts used on the windsor.

    Hope this helps someone!

  67. I'm late but will comment anyway. I bought a cheap bikesdirect "Motobecane" last year for $280, and it has been a much better friend to me than the Motobecane I had in the early eighties. I commute every day, and I love it that my sub-$300 bike only weighs about 20.5 pounds. I have ridden pretty nice bikes (I had a Cannondale touring bike that I built up from the frame and rode down the west coast, and I've ridden pretty nice road bikes), and I really don't think there's much difference. Riding a bike is a great, great pleasure, no matter what you're riding. Even department store bikes are fine!

  68. Bikes Direct and similar bikes can be a good way to go. But consider this, I am a bike tech and at our shop we charge 35 USD to assemble a new bike not purchased from us. Sounds OK right? But then after about a month of use EVERY new bike needs what we call a 30 day check. Again a free service if purchased from us, but a normal tune-up is 35 USD. The reason for the 30 day check is because cables not only stretch but the little plastic ferrules on the end of the cables can "seat" and throw off the shifting as well. PLUS the spokes can seat, untwist, (if not properly built) and often need truing just to keep everything running great. The reason so many of these "bargain" bikes get a bad rap is that, they are not assembled right the first time around. (when they go in the box) and many do not get the 30 day tune up. So if you get one, shop for the best parts you can afford and have it assembled RIGHT and be ready to have it tuned up after about a month of use. SO whatever the price is on the website add about 70 to 100 dollars on top of it right away, and when you do that you MIGHT just have bought a new or leftover shop bike anyway. Shop wisely.

  69. I purchased a Schwinn Voyager IG3 from Bikes Direct (actually it was their discount outlet Bike Island). The first thing one needs to keep in mind is that the Schwinn brand name (as well as most other old school major brands) have all been sold off when the companies were dissolved, went bankrupt or otherwise wound up on the auction block. These bikes are all now made on the same Assian factory assembly lines with the major difference being the applied decals (and maybe the name on the carton).

    I have had the bike for about a year and use it as primary transportation (i.e. it is the grocery getter). Am I happy with it? ABSOLUTELY NOT! However that is mainly because I have developed an undying hatred for suspension forks. I was also disappointed that this aluminum frame bicycle weighed in at 33 pounds. The biggest problem that I have had with it is that the cheesy "nutzerts" spun out when I tried attach a rear rack (they have been replaced with epoxyed in steel inserts). The wheels were darn near perfectly trued out of the carton (according to my dial gauges). All those 'required' monthly tune ups have amounted to nothing more than checking that nothing is out of kilter. To be fair I do note that I need to break out the spoke wrench for a very minor flutter in the rear wheel.

    I am now looking to replace the Schwinn (I really do hate that fork). High on my list is a Windsor Oxford from Bikes Direct (the alternatives are KHS Cidi or building up a used Redline Crosstown frame from scratch). My point is these cheap, junky, utilitarian bicycles may not be suitable for hood ornaments, marathons or competition. They are suitable for casual use and basic transportation (and certainly much better quality than the 'english' SA 3-speed I used to deliver papers in long past youth).


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