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I would like to get into biking. Haven’t ridden since I was a kid. Back then everyone had a one speed bike. The 10 speed English racer was the bike you dreamed of getting. I never had one.

I’m in my early 70’s and live in W. Massachusetts, very hilly terrain. Up until a couple years ago I did a lot of inline distance skating (K2’s w/90mm wheels). My usual loop was 13 miles (21 km) and my longest trip was 26 miles (42 km). My legs are strong and I think I would enjoy biking.

I’m finding the world of bike choices a bit confusing. Sport/hybrid, road bike, touring, fitness etc. Will be riding almost exclusively on back country roads and as I mentioned, I live in a very hilly area. Would like to work up to riding a 50 miler (80 km) eventually. I am 5’8” (172 centimetres), 145 Lbs (66 kilograms) 32” (81 centimetre) inseam, if that helps.

I did some research and have come up with what I think I need, but am not really sure.

  • Sport/hybrid
  • aluminum frame
  • Flat handle bar
  • Triple chainring
  • 9 speed rear cassette
  • Fully hydraulic discs brakes (because of the hills)
  • rapid fire shifters
  • 700c tires
  • carbon fork?

Would like to find a used bike for around $500 for my first bike to see how I like it. Hoping someone could tell me if I’m on the right track with my choices and maybe recommend a few used models I could look for that would work for me.


Thank you, thank you for all the great input! I found and purchased a used bike which is like new and had exactly what I was looking for.

I decided to go with a double front chainset rather then the triple as recommended by a couple posters. Since I’ve never ridden a geared bike I felt that it would be a lot less confusing. This bike also has a carbon front fork and hydraulic brakes.

I’m going to use a flat parking area up at our high school to familiarize myself with using the gears.

  • 3
    Go to a bike shop and do some test rides and chat with them about your preferences. They'll be able to provide better feedback than we can here. And all the online research in the world is nothing compared to hopping on a bike and seeing how it feels. Also remember that this doesn't have to be the perfect bike forever. Just a bike good enough to get you to ride on. Once you're into it, then you can worry about bike nuances and trade up to something else. – Ross Jun 25 at 13:17
  • Fifty miles is getting into multiple hours on the bike. Sport/hybrid bikes with a straight bar give you one hand position, and after a few hours all of them can get very, very uncomfortable. Road bikes don't have drop bars for aerodynamic purposes - they have drop bars to give you multiple hand positions for hours-long rides. You can get road bikes that have very aggressive configurations that allow you to be very aerodynamic when you're holding on to the drop bars, but you can also get road bikes with relaxed geometry that are every bit as comfortable as a "comfort" bike. – Andrew Henle Jun 25 at 15:04
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    Your first bike should be used, borrowed from a friend or bought at a garage sale for $20. – Daniel R Hicks Jun 25 at 22:56
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    You mentioned "back country roads", are those tarmac, or loose gravel? – Superman.Lopez Jun 26 at 9:00
  • Tarmac some with shoulders. I skated them exclusively. –  Nick Jun 29 at 12:19
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Bicycles Stack Exchange prohibits recommending products, but we can offer principles to use when shopping.

The key to choosing the right bicycle is matching the bike to the kind of riding you want to do. I apologize for the length of the post - this is a complicated topic.

Generally speaking, you can narrow your search to just a few bikes by:

  • Identifying the type of riding you want to do
  • Match a bike type to your need
  • Select a brand of bike
  • Filter for bike type and your price range

Matching a bike to your need
Starting with the beginning of the decision making process - you may have already thought all this out but I want to be thorough.

Bicycles are designed for different kind of riding styles. Bikes are like shoes; there is a different shoe for every activity.
Looking at one bike maker's website offers examples:

  • Mountain
    • Cross Country
    • Trail
    • Cross Country/Downhill
  • Road
    • Performance
    • Gravel
    • Cyclocross
    • Triathlon
  • Active
    • Fitness
    • Transportation
    • Comfort

What's the difference?
The different types of bikes are designed for a type of activity, most of the names are pretty descriptive. What's different about each type are things like:

  • Frame geometry: this will determine how the bike rides, handles, and the seating position
  • Tire size: generally narrow tires are faster and less comfortable, wider tires are slower and offer more comfort and/or more traction for off-road
  • Appropriate drive train / gearing for the task
  • Appropriate brakes for the task
  • Wheels to match the application

In the original post the type of bike mentioned is "sport/hybrid". This style of bike indicates that the bike

  • Will be used on streets or paths
  • The rider prefers a more upright seating position
  • Tires in the medium-wide to wide range for greater comfort
  • Focusing more on comfort than speed

If these qualities match the kind of riding you have in mind then you have selected the right bike type.

The original post mentions some specific parts. My thought is that some of the parts are "must have" (meet a riding need) and other parts are "nice to have"

  • Triple chain ring: this feels like a must have given the hills described
  • 9 speed cassette: if you found a great deal on a used bike with a 7 speed cassette would walk away? 21 speeds will give you plenty of gear choices.
  • hydraulic disk brakes: nice to have. Any quality brake system will get you stopped on hills.
  • 700C tires: for the riding style described the tire width seems more important than the wheel diameter. Do you want 40mm wide tires? Wider or thinner? If you find a great deal on a used bike with 26 inch tires is that a deal breaker?
  • Carbon fork: seems like a nice to have

Selecting a brand
Major bike makers are very competitive with each other in each type of bike and at each price point. Every now and then one maker introduces something that gives it an edge over another maker. Usually, it's only a perceived edge and not a measurable edge.
All that to say - in a given category and price point bikes are very similar.

The one large exception are bikes sold in department stores. Department store bikes are built to hit a very low price point and large compromises are made in quality of materials and workmanship to achieve a low retail price.

One way of narrowing your brand choice would be to look at parts availability and support.

Used Bikes
The original post indicates a desire to purchase a used bike.
Evaluating the condition of a used bike is easier than evaluating a car but it still takes some bike knowledge to do a good job of evaluation. Here is a link to a previous question on buying used bikes with some helpful answers.

Even if you are looking for a used bike, drop by your local bike shop. A good shop is interested in helping people learn about bikes. They should be happy to answer questions and let you test ride a few bikes. The test rides are critical to verifying that you are looking at the right type of bike.

  • Thanks for the info. Would a ‘2011 Specialized’s tarmac comp compact’ bike work for me as a first bike with the type of terrain I’d be riding on? There is one available in good condition I may be able to get for $600. –  Nick Jun 29 at 11:15
  • @Nick When I search for that bike all I see are pictures of drop handlebar bikes. No flat handlebars - is that what you are looking for? – David D Jun 29 at 13:35
  • From what I can gather dropped handlebars can be more comfortable because there are more positions to place your hands. If that’s true then that would work for me. –  Nick Jun 29 at 14:20
  • @Nick I recommend test riding some bikes to get a feel for the different styles. A good local bike shop will be happy to help. If they are not happy to help try a different shop. – David D Jun 30 at 13:27
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Hydraulic disc brakes - yes. These are now available on Shimano's lower end Altus, Acera and Alivio groupsets so there no reason to not have them.

A 3x9 drivetrain will give you the low ratios you need to tackle hilly country. A 2x10 or 2x11 drivetrain will also work if the cassette has large enough small sprockets.

If you are riding on roads, you will benefit from a more road oriented flat-bar hybrid. That means: rigid forks (as opposed to suspension forks, which on inexpensive bikes mostly add weight), slightly higher gearing (it's easier to ride on tarmac than dirt) narrower tires approx 30-40mm, 700c/ETRTO 622 wheels, slightly more leant-forward riding position.

You could also consider a drop bar road bike. The major benefit is more hand positions on the bars which help comfort on longer rides. 'Gravel', 'adventure' or 'endurance' bikes have lower gearing, wider tires and more upright riding positions that would suit hilly backroads riding.

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    I always discourage people from buying triples. The system is outdated, complicated, heavy and it carries so many double gear ratios that a 2x10 is a better investment. – Carel Jun 26 at 19:06
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    I would do that too, except in the case where the buyer's budget limits them to 9 speed drivetrains and they need a good ratio spread. The OP could spend a little more and get to a 10 speed drivetrain with a 11-34 cassette and possibly 48/32 chainrings. – Argenti Apparatus Jun 26 at 19:11
  • For low gears you need large gears on the cassette, not small ones. – Ross Millikan Jul 5 at 1:18

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