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Cycling is a sport that people get really into, which means that people are quite passionate about their bikes and have lots of opinions about them. This dynamic can make it difficult when shopping for a bike, especially if you’re not trying to get the absolute best and are trying to save money. I’m someone who has always enjoyed bike riding, but never have been or plan on being someone who does it at a professional level. In other words, you’ll never see me in one of those spandex riding suits.
My Biking Background
Here’s my biking history: I had many bikes that my parents bought me when I was a kid. Most of them were the wrong size and very cheap; bless my parents but they are not biking experts. When I was a teenager my uncle gave me his Raleigh mountain bike and I fell in love with it. This bike had no shock absorbers and an aluminum frame making it weigh much less than I realized a bike could weigh. I lived in a rural area and biked trails, so fallen trees were quite common. I could hop off and sling this bike over my shoulder and just climb over and then continue on. Before I had a car this bike was my ticket to freedom and how I could hang out with friends after school. I took a long hiatus from biking and didn’t buy another bike until living abroad in 2015. There was a group of teachers who were biking from Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam to Hanoi, all on Giant Escape 3 Hybrid bicycles. It would be a much cooler story if I was on this trip, but alas I just bought one of the bikes from someone for $250 after they completed the marathon trip. It wasn’t even the best Escape bike, it was the Escape 3 (1 is the best), but I knew I liked it immediately. The weight of it was similar to my old Raleigh, but the thinner tires turned out to be a must have if you’re only riding on pavement.
Research / Important Factors
I sold that bike before leaving for home, but knew that I wanted something similar to it when I returned home. I did some more homework on Giant and was impressed. Giant is located in Taiwan and has a streamlined supply chain, meaning their bicycles cost less than the competition. But here’s the funny part: Giant makes bicycles and parts for other manufacturers too! So with that knowledge it made sense to me to buy straight from the source.
Here are the bike factors I considered, and ultimately what I decided on each
- Price Range: If you’re trying to save money but want a good bike, I would aim for something in the $250-500 range for something used. Just note that it might take a while to find the right deal for you. I bought something for almost $800, which in hindsight was probably overkill. Buying new in the $400-800 range and you can get a very good bike. Anything more than $1000 I think is too much unless you are very committed to cycling. Prices on bikes have gone up a bit since Covid unfortunately.
- Size: obviously I want a bike that fits me after all the bikes I’ve had that didn’t. Giant has size charts, so for me a size Large made sense for the specific bike that I wanted.
- Type: The most common bike types are mountain, road, or hybrid bikes. Cargo bikes have burst onto the scene and are a good option for those with kids or lots of stuff to haul. However, some new bike types could be a fads that will pass (I’m looking at you folding bikes and bikes with the giant sand tires). Living in a city meant that a mountain bike no longer made sense. A road bike would be good, but I find the trade off of high speed vs lack of stability when hitting a bump in the road to be too extreme, and I don’t enjoy the road bike stance. Hybrid is the happy medium, and I like that you sit in a stance that is more upright and normal for me.
- Brakes: available in either disk or rim style. Rim is the type you’ve probably seen the most, where a rubber pad clamps the metal rim when you clamp the hand brakes. Disk brakes have a special rotor disc towards the center of the wheel which is clamped instead of the tire rim, and work much better if there are wet conditions. They work better in general and I decided it was worth it to go for disc even though they tend to be on much more expensive bikes. They are more difficult to maintain, but need less frequent maintenance (I’ve had my bike for years and still haven’t touched it). You can get hydraulic or cable disc brake, with hydraulic having even better performance / higher cost / more complicated maintenance.
- Level of seriousness: How far are you going to go with biking? Are you going to ride 100+ miles? Are you just commuting or going for the occasional joy ride? I am in the latter group and honestly probably ended up with a bike that is better than what I needed. However the extra level of safety in my brakes was worth it to me. Also, because I wasn’t planning to do pro level riding, I felt comfortable doing my own research and buying without assistance. If you want to do serious riding, it is worth consulting with an expert or at least a knowledgeable sales associate.
- Accessories: Don’t skimp on your helmet, lock, and night lights (front and rear). The helmet can save your life, a lock can save your bike, and lights make you visible to others and also illuminate your path.
After pouring through blogs / reddit posts / Youtubes for far too long I decided to get a Giant Escape 1 disc model. I managed to get one that was a prior year model for a hefty discount, as the only discernible difference in the older model was a different paint job. I paid ~790$ after tax, which is a lot, but I got the best possible bike. As someone who has suffered a concussion and broken wrist in the past from biking, I didn’t want to skimp out on anything quality wise. Plus, the bike I got would have been well over $1000 for a similar quality bike from another brand. The biking prices are a little different now, with disc models of the Escape at the following prices:
If I were buying today I would likely buy an Escape 2, as the jump in quality of parts from 3 to 2 is huge, but less of a jump from 2 to 1. This is mostly related to the gears/shifting components.
A Note on Buying Used
Buying a used bike can be a great deal. Let’s face it, probably 90% of bike buyers use their bike much less than they planned to. This means that you can sometimes get a used bike that is in great condition. However, some people don’t care for their bikes very well. The main thing I see is bikes that are stored outside, exposed to the elements year round. I’d rather buy a well used bike that was cared for and tuned than a bike with rusted components that sat outside through a a few winters. If buying used, check things like the condition of the chain/cable/shifters, as well as the condition of the tires, and rust areas such as the frame. If the parts are rusted or the tires are cracking, it might not be worth the money since you will want to repair those things. Also, take the bike for a spin! Does it shift properly and smoothly? You can always get a bike tuned and repaired but it’s better to start off needing minimal work done.
Take everything I said with a grain of salt, as your budget and usage could be completely different than mine. I still overall think that Giant is the best for most people, with models starting at $500 new. With bicycles, I don’t think it’s worth buying something such as a random bike you might see at a department store, since the quality of the bike has a huge impact on not just your enjoyment but also your safety.