I want to get into biking

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Apr 9 2013 at 8:13pm #

Hi everyone,

Hello all,

I recently just bought a house in the squirrel hill / greenfield area and now with the weather getting better my fiancé and I have been thinking about getting into biking, at least casually at first. We’ve actually been thinking about it for awhile, but we keep delaying it. We’ve rented bikes a couple times in the southside works and really enjoyed it.

Unfortunately I have no idea the best place to shop for a bike, and what the hell I’m even looking for, or how much is a good amount to spend. Spending 1000 on my first bike seems steep. I suppose frick/schenley (main drags) and things like the Eliza Furnace trail would be good places to start to get used to biking again, so the bike would have to be at least somewhat decent on that terrain.

Can anyone give me suggestions on the above?

Thanks everyone!


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Apr 9 2013 at 10:51pm #

Do you plan to use it (eventually)…

on the road?
in the woods?
as a commuting vehicle?
for social gatherings?
packed with gear?
for fitness?
for endurance (charity rides, “centuries”)

Check out older threads, there is one that is less than a day old which has links to other threads.

For gravel paths, you want at least 28mm tires (700 x 28) but 32mm and up might be more comfortable.

You’re probably looking for one of the following types of bikes:
“Flat-bar hybrid,” either a “fitness” style or a “commuter” style. The primary difference being what market it is geared towards although there can be some slight differences in frame geometry and components; in most cases, they are one in the same.

If you are comfortable with road style drop bars, than either a “commuter” style or a “light-touring” (aka “credit-card touring”) which are generally one in the same… there is some overlap with intro level “cyclo-cross” bikes which, more often than not, are really just commuters.

Search the forums for any of the terms mentioned above, plus relevant terms “beginner bike, newbie, etc.”

Tire size is a good place to start since road/race oriented bikes usually take a 23-25mm tire (and a 28mm is the largest that can be mounted on such a bike in most cases). The types I mentioned above tend to take anything from 28mm to 35mm (and beyond in either direction).
Mountain bikes take even wider tires (closer to 40mm plus, but they are labeled by the inch measurement instead of metric and start around 2.2 inches; however a mountain bike can be mounted with a narrow 1.5″ or narrower “road tire” which might be useful if you just want to pick up something used).


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Apr 10 2013 at 6:01am #

And yes, $1,000 is too much to spend for an entry bike, unless in the process of looking you come across something that makes you burn with desire. Could happen, ask anyone.
$400 is kind of the low end for something that’s going to continue to work for you and not be completely disposable.
There’s a sweet spot in there somewhere.
For casual riding around the neighborhoods and trails,
Triple front chainrings (24 spds min)
“Flat bar hybrid” is probably the genre most generally useful.
Bikes that are properly sized and adjusted to you is the single most important thing, so a good bike shop will set you up right.
GOOD LOCKS. Don’t assume that if it is on a porch, balcony, or even garage that it is safe. Bikes have been stolen from unbelievable places. Also it will allow you to go to coffee or ice cream places and such, and go in and enjoy. Proper destinations and snack stops are important.
All other advice can be found elsewhere.


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Apr 10 2013 at 6:56am #

Thick Bikes on the south side has new and used bikes, so I am sure there is something they can find for you in your price range. Adam is very knowledgeable and helpful. Just tell him what you want to do with the bike and he will find something for you.


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Apr 10 2013 at 7:45am #

Ditto what Stefb said. Thick is good people.


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Apr 10 2013 at 8:02am #

$.02, I think it’s good to buy from a shop if it’s your first bike -either new or used. That way they can help you determine the proper size and fit (which is hugely important), and will be there to help fix things later should something break or when you need normal servicing. I’d avoid craigslist and other person to person sales for now; you may save a few bucks, but a poor fitting bike will just gather dust because you won’t want to ride it.


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Apr 10 2013 at 8:21am #

The prevailing advice of the board is probably wiser, and will confirm that I have bough some stuff at Thick (and other shops). But I didn’t buy my bike there. I scouted craigslist looking for something CHEAP. At that point I thought of biking in a recreational context only.

I didn’t do a lot of due diligence, I got lucky, but if you hardly spend any money, and make sure you ride before you buy, pay attention to how the bike fits you, and test brakes and shifting thoroughly, it seems to me like the downside is low.

If you scouted a deal and it later turns out you don’t enjoy living with the bike, I’d think you could probably resell it for not much less, and you will have learned some valuable things about what you like and what you don’t along the way. The key piece to getting into biking isn’t the bike but the riding. Just keep riding something, and trade up when you want to and money allows.

At some point I do plan to treat myself to something a little faster and more road oriented (I almost bought something from Thick maybe it was a month ago or so?), but was thinking of keeping the cheapie hybrid around and throwing some knobbies on it for the trails. In any case, an upgrade is not a priority the way I thought it would be, was just looking to treat myself for my birthday and we’re pretty far past that now, so I think I’ll be riding my cheap beater another 10 months or so before an upgrade. YMMV.


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Apr 10 2013 at 9:15am #

There are a lot of directions to take this conversation, but I will reiterate what byogman said. Get on something and ride it. If something is keeping you from riding, what is it? If it’s uncomfortable, then it’s a fitting issue; talk to someone in a bike shop (see above). Is it fear of traffic? Join one of the group rides; look for discussion about a Flock ride Friday 4/19 at Dippy, among others. Clothing? Lighting? Equipment? Accessories? Rack for the car? Again, talk to us here, and come out to a group ride.

One of the great things about group rides is to see what everyone else is doing. Some people are riding $5,000 bikes; others are using 30-year-old gee-I-haven’t-seen-one-of-those-in-decades bikes.


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Apr 10 2013 at 9:45am #

icantthinkofausername – I echo what everyone said about buying from a local shop that can help you out.

On the where to ride front – since you’re in the sq hill/greenfield area consider checking out the Steel Valley Trail at the Waterfront as well. This is part of the Great Allegheny Passage. You can access it anywhere along the Waterfront (just look for the trail behind the restaurants and next to the river. This trail literally goes all the way to D.C., so it’s great for new riders to test out distances. I’d suggest riding out toward McKeesport (about 7 miles from the Waterfront) for a nice trip; and you’ll be able to ride toward town after the construction ends in mid June. This will link you to the jail trail, southside trail, etc.

And do pick up a Bike Pgh map and Friends of the Riverfront map showing street and trail routes.


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Apr 10 2013 at 10:00am #

In the original post I noted the word “fiance” so, for relationship-ical peace, yes, do go to a bike shop. If it were only you, sure, poke around CL or something for a “deal”. As a married fellow, take my word.
Also, since it sounds like your fiance shares your interest in taking this up, by god you are already lucky. It’s not entirely clear from the post which gender role in the relationship you play, but holy crap nurture and care for that interest. That is a valuable thing.


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Apr 10 2013 at 10:12am #

I’ll toss in a mention to check out Free Ride.

I had no idea what kind of bike to get, hadn’t ever bought one, and didn’t know if I could even make a go at commuting (I live in the burbs, work in the exurbs). One free ride bike cost me $20 and maybe two hours of repairs (guided by some truly awesome people there, as I had no idea what I was doing), and I used it to work up to a commute 20 miles/day for a few months.

It died a horrible, painful death, but by then I knew both what I wanted, how much I should pay, where to get it, and had confidence that I’d use it enough to justify the purchase.

The first thing to do is to get on a bike, as much as possible. Once you do that, you can better sort out what your goals will be and how to achieve them.


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Apr 10 2013 at 11:21am #

ejwme wrote:The first thing to do is to get on a bike, as much as possible

Hiya, Ejwme!!! Good to see you.

Yes, get on the bike! That’s the thing.

For many people, getting a low gear (and 2nd lowest gear) that is lower than most even on 24-speed bikes can be helpful.

It sounds like you might want to be going up Greenfiled Ave alot, so you or your fiance might be some of those people – dpending on a lot of things. Other people neither need nor want super low gears.


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Apr 10 2013 at 12:16pm #

Thanks for the responses and suggestions everyone! Both about the places to go for a bike, and the places to get a bike. In the next couple weeks I’m going to follow what most everyone here echoed and go to a couple bike shops and get a general feel for everything and see where that takes me. If I see a deal or something that really jumps out at me from the advice given, maybe I’ll just pounce on it :)

I think it’s a bit early to tell where this will go, but hopefully something concrete comes of it, and I can start exploring it for other things like commuting, or more for the social aspect, which seems pretty strong here in the burgh.

Thanks again!


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Apr 10 2013 at 1:37pm #

In terms of general road going, social rides are excellent to calm the nerves, meet people, and learn the lay of the land. Also, venturing out solo at low traffic times (Sunday morning is pretty nice) is a good bet.

The bike pittsburgh map is helpful and available on this site or in glossy print at any of the local bike shops. has a comfort zone cycling map which is a nice resource especially when you’re getting started. The biking directions on google in my experience aren’t too bad most of the time. I usually start there and drop to street view and/or cross check one of the other maps if I have doubts about the route.

Getting ahead of things here, but if you do decide to commute, in the bike-pgh site, under “Projects”, I just scanned the “Bike Commuting 101 Guide”. It’s quite good, and actually equally well to rides for any purpose.

In terms of commuting specifically, you can always share your starting/ending points here to get recommendations and maybe find someone to ride along with if that makes you more comfortable. has some good material and if you register it should theoretically be able to do matching for you, but I’m less sure how many have registered that it can search against.

Happy bike hunting and happy riding!


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Apr 10 2013 at 2:20pm #

I haven’t had a bad experience at any of the local bike shops and I do like to support them. That said, consider REI. Especially for someone that isn’t sure what they want, REI is a great place to shop. Most of their folks are as good at advice as the bike shop folks I’ve encountered AND (great big PLUS here) you can return anything you buy there for any reason that you don’t like it. Buy a bike, ride it for a month and decide it just doesn’t work for you for what ever reason and you can take it back. They’ve never hassled me about a return and have actually ENCOURAGED it when I mentioned that something wasn’t 100% perfect for me.

The other thing I’d like to recommend is that if you’re going to do anything more than a few miles at a time you should get a good bike fit. Yes, the bike shops will “fit” it to you, but I doubt that any of them can do for you what Matt Tinkey can do at UPMC Sports Medicine. Best $100 investment I’ve made in years.

Enjoy. Hope you both find a bike you love.


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Apr 10 2013 at 2:34pm #

Also some background info for you, in case you want to bus your bike to someplace and bike home: How to use the bike racks on the front of buses.

Very handy to be able to use a bus to get past some sketchy traffic, hills, whatever to get to some otherwise sweet spot for riding. (And yes, that’s me in the video.)


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Apr 10 2013 at 2:36pm #

Personally, I think a bike-fit is overkill for someone who is new to cycling… right off the bat, you’re suggesting a +$100 premium on any bicycle bought.

Find a shop that will actually try to fit you, within reason, to an appropriate bike. The way to identify a “good” shop, is to find one that will swap out the stem and adjust the seat (not just the height) for you before you even take a test ride. I’m not sure what shops in Pgh offer such a service, but this is a reason why I continue to drive out to State College and visit Freeze-Thaw cycles once in a while… their services is just THAT good. Sure, it takes 15 minutes to prep a bike for a ride when you may not even buy from them… but that policy says a lot.

I’ve had terrible luck with REI’s cycling department in the past (albeit, not in Pittsburgh so mileage may vary). Fortunately, they do have a great return policy which I ended up using with my first new-new bike (it hurt too, because they honored a pricing error when I bought it that slashed $100 off of the price… but, it wasn’t the right bike for me).


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Apr 10 2013 at 3:12pm #

BTW Matt Tinkey isn’t at UPMC Sports Medicine anymore. He’s in Wexford, at Top Gear Cycle Shop, 412-916-7728. UPMC still has bicycle fitting on their web site, though, but when I called they weren’t actually doing it anymore.
Edit: but I agree bike fitting is overkill for a new rider. A good bicycle shop will take the time to adjust your bike so the fit is reasonable close. It makes sense to get a fitting if you get serious about cycling.


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Apr 12 2013 at 2:45pm #

Dirty Harry’s in Verona took the time to put me on a bunch of different bikes, and translated my vague feedback (“this one is too pushy *gesticulates awkwardly with arms*”) into useful meaning and managed to not just find a frame that fit me, but one that fit the posture I was most comfortable riding with, and then fit the bike to me (and show me how to adjust it when i changed shoes). They were (and continue to be) incredibly awesome.

(hi Mick! *waves happily*)


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Apr 12 2013 at 3:30pm #

You aren’t the first to report a positive experience at Dirty Harry’s. I believe the owner is a petite woman… so that might have something to do with the positive feedback regarding finding a good fit.

buffalo buffalo

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Apr 12 2013 at 3:51pm #

My experience is that Big Bang, on 885 about halfway up the hill from Glenwood to Century III, just over the line dividing Hays from West Mifflin, is pretty good about getting the bike fit to you properly, and they are not merely encouraging but downright pushy about having you take the bike out and ride it before you buy it, to make sure it really, truly fits and rides the way you want your bike to ride.

(That said, my experience–more accurately, my ex’s experience–is nearly five years old, so it could be that things have changed. but i sure hope not, they were awesome.)


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Apr 13 2013 at 6:14am #

Pretty good article from Bicycling Magazine that may help.


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Apr 13 2013 at 9:10am #

There’s some good advise buried within, but I’m not sure that I’d call it a “good article.”

The point of the article seems to be “you get what you pay for, so know what you’re buying.” That’s fair, it’s important to know why one component over another will raise the price by $100 or more. The statement about buying ”parts made by reliable brands” seems to be a jab at department store bikes using Suntour or something along those lines instead of Sram or Shimano (I’d hardly call Suntour an off brand, however and I doubt that the bottom end Shimano or Sram are much better).

I’ve seen better articles, I’ll post links if I can find any of them. I’m not a fan of bicycling magazine myself… reviews are worthless when they are based on ad revenue as opposed to objectivity; that magazine is just one big advertisement.

(edit to add)
Some of the articles here, might be useful:


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Apr 13 2013 at 10:40am #

^Agreed. Right off the bat it begins by implying that $1,000 is entry level. That’s just Bicycling Mag tm bias.


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Apr 13 2013 at 7:32pm #


What floors me is that the article is supposed to be “How to Buy a Bike for $1,000 or Less”. But then talks about everything BUT the basics. I love the idea of a dyno-hub… but you aren’t going to find that on too many intro-level bikes. Then there is the suggestion of paying $150 for a fit?!?! I assume that the <$1000 target market isn't too worried about an "exact" fit.

To be fair, I can't stand bicycling magazine. I had a subscription for the last two years but I'm letting it run out. I'm tired of 90% of the content being geared towards $5k bikes. It's a magazine geared towards, as BikeSnob would put it "Freds" with a loose wallet.

I've seen a few good articles, but they are few and far between. As one blog comparing Sram, Shimano, and Campagnolo once put it (and I'm paraphrasing): If I reviewed any one product as better than another, I would lose ad revenue from the product(s) with the lowest scores. These mainstream publications should be read with a huge grain of salt, especially when the majority of the content is ads.

While the article itself doesn't do this all that much, the articles linked on the page telling you what the "top 10 of this style of bike" is… I don't know, maybe I'm over reacting but buyer-beware.

OK [end rant]. Sorry Elmo, I'm not trying to be a dick about it, I just have an overactive sense of fairness.


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Apr 13 2013 at 9:53pm #

Equipment you buy should be tight one otherwise it’s going to be like this:



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Apr 14 2013 at 4:57pm #

read bicycle times. honest reviews, everyday cycling, pittsburgh folks writing it.

urban velo is another great, and local resource, but its probably a little more hardcore than what you are looking for at the moment.

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