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Need bike - Where do I even start?
#1
Hello, folks. Clueless newbie on board. I recently went through a cross-continental move and got rid of most of my possessions at the same time, bicycle included. I used to commute by bike 25-35 kilometres (15-25 miles) more or less every day, but I lived in a nice flat country with ample biking trails and I could use a monospeed WWII bike that I never had to service except for an anual cleaning and oiling, so I never learned anything.

Nowadays I have no commute at all, but I do need to be able to get around every now and then so I thought I'd get another bicycle, but I have no idea where to start. Much as I'd love a nice looking retro monospeed again, I now live in an area where the altitude varies from 200 to 400 metres. The road to the grocery store includes a hill with a 20% slope. I'm more than a little out of my league. I don't know the first thing about gears or breaks, and I'm guessing both are of very high importance in my case. I'm more than willing to learn how to do repairs, install new parts etc., but I'm having a hard time getting over the initial bump and everything I find online seems to assume that you know what your situation requires.

So, what would you say are the minimum overall requirements for a bicycle for me?

[color=red]TLDR: very hilly, sometimes very steep, weekly-ish riding, needs advice on minimum requirements for these conditions.[/color]
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#2
OK. So you are looking for a utility bike to ride around town, you have some good mileage in the past years, so I assume you are reasonably fit. The 20% slope is... wow, a tough one. If this is sort of representative for the area I would get a bike with a triple chain ring and a real granny gear in the rear (34T). Now's actually the time to shop for new bikes, here (Germany) the dealers are currently getting rid of their old stock, so getting a new bike for 20% less should be possible. The rest depends on what you prefer: road vs. off road, stuff like that. If you get a bike with road components, consider the SRAM Apex. It is a bastard between road and MTB components, though it does not have a triple crank set (I believe). Look at the gain ratios offered and compare those. Maybe slap MTB stuff on an old road bike (though those sometimes cannot accommodate the triple crank set).

For shopping etc. I'd probably try getting a VSF bike (I like the idea of randonneurs) and a set of Ortlieb bags, though you'll also have to buy two decent locks for the bike... this is also something to consider: if the bike and the components are too good somebody might steal them and most insurances don't cover component theft...
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#3
If you'll mainly be riding for practical stuff, I'd say get a more standard upright city bike. I assume there's a pretty wide variety available in France. But if you really have 20% slopes near you, you will want something with wider gear range than might come on a normal 3 speed or something like that. A mountain bike set up for road riding might be a good option. Just make sure it is made so you can put a good rack and bags/baskets on it. You might go to a shop and test ride a few things (even if you plan on looking for something used.) It would give you a chance to try a few things so you have a better sense of what you want to look for.
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#4
Thanks for the advice, guys! I really appreciate that you took the time to set me off in the right direction.

A bit of a follow-up question: is it difficult (and does it make any kind of financial sense on anything other than a highly customised bike) to upgrade a bike to more gears if what's on it turns out to be insufficient?

That's probably a stupid question, and I get the feeling the answer will be yes (and no on the money front). But, you don't know until you ask, right?
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#5
It depends...
On some bikes, you may be able to get a slightly wider gear range just by changing the cassette which is not very expensive. If you want to change from double chainring crank to a triple it starts getting somewhat expensive, though it still depends on what shifters you have, etc.

On internal geared hubs, you can shift the whole range up or down fairly easily by changing the cog/chainring, but you can't make the range wider or narrower.

In general, it will cost you more to upgrade than to buy what you need to start with. But it's not the end of the world.
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#6
First question: What is your budget? That will pretty much determine what you get.

Many of on this forum build up our own bikes, you do not yet have those skills, nor likely the tools to do so.

Given my guesses; I would suggest that you look for a flat bar bike with a triple front crankset (22-32-42 probably being pretty close to what you need for a 20% grade), and a 11-34 cassette or 13-34 freewheel in the rear. The number of speeds is not critical, it is the range of those speeds (more correctly ratios). You are accustomed to a single speed bike, so you have developed the ability to pedal at widely varying rates.

As far as brakes go; modern linear pull or dual pivot side pull brakes should be fine. Go pads and cables are critical. Make sure that the cables are properly lubricated. I would also make sure that the brake levers are well made and strong. I have seen some plastic housings on lowend bikes that came apart - not good if you are going down a steep hill.
Nigel
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#7
(01-20-2013, 03:17 PM)eyðimörk Wrote:  Hello, folks. Clueless newbie on board. I recently went through a cross-continental move and got rid of most of my possessions at the same time, bicycle included. I used to commute by bike 25-35 kilometres (15-25 miles) more or less every day, but I lived in a nice flat country with ample biking trails and I could use a monospeed WWII bike that I never had to service except for an anual cleaning and oiling, so I never learned anything.

Nowadays I have no commute at all, but I do need to be able to get around every now and then so I thought I'd get another bicycle, but I have no idea where to start. Much as I'd love a nice looking retro monospeed again, I now live in an area where the altitude varies from 200 to 400 metres. The road to the grocery store includes a hill with a 20% slope. I'm more than a little out of my league. I don't know the first thing about gears or breaks, and I'm guessing both are of very high importance in my case. I'm more than willing to learn how to do repairs, install new parts etc., but I'm having a hard time getting over the initial bump and everything I find online seems to assume that you know what your situation requires.

So, what would you say are the minimum overall requirements for a bicycle for me?

[color=red]TLDR: very hilly, sometimes very steep, weekly-ish riding, needs advice on minimum requirements for these conditions.[/color]

in addition to the very useful advise these guys have given you spend some time doing some reading on sheldon brown's website which can give you some very useful understanding of bicycle components and bicycle language
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