Advice for a big fellow's new bike

Questions about purchasing bicycles and parts

Advice for a big fellow's new bike

Postby TriggerFish » Sat Jan 06, 2007 6:27 pm

Howdy all,

I have found this place while searching for information to aid in the purchase of a new commuter bike. So I hope noone minds if I poll the collective experience that seems to abound around here.

I am looking to replace my current mountain bike that I have been using to do a little commuting. I am building up to riding to work 5 days a week with riding to work one day and back the next, availing myself of Canberra's big orange limo (bus) service when not riding. Round trip home to work is around 40kms. I was hoping that some of the more experienced riders here would be able to advise me on the purchase of a new bike for such riding. Basically it will end up being used for 100-200km per week of travel.

My main reasons for the new purchase are the slowness of the mountain bike on the bike paths and little bit of road that I ride on as well as the problem of my spokes breaking all the time. I bought a new wheen not long ago to try and rectify the problem, but to no avail. The main reason I started riding was to get fit and lose weight. I am down to 125kg from 140kg and plan to lose a lot more if possible. Unfortunately at the moment I am busting back spokes frequently. My local bike store proprieter, helpful man to be sure, tells me that with a 7 gear back wheel, I am going to find it very hard to find a new back wheel that will be good enough quality that will fit, given that the better wheels are all made to suit more gears and therefore wont fit without extensive changes to the bike. With all the changes I may as well buy a new bike as the current one is nearly 10 years old.

So I was thinking about a flat bar road bike. It will need to be big as I am heavy as I said and I am also reasonably tall at 192cm (6'4"). I would also like to attach the panniers that I have been using as well, so will need the parcel carrier to attach them to, which, I can take off my current bike. I think that is about it.

I don't have a great deal of knowledge of brands. I basically want something that will be reliable without spending a fortune and am not adverse to second hand bikes if the right one comes along. So any advice and help would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks for reading.

*edit* Forgot to mention, it might need to tow the kiddie trailor to swimming lessons if I cannot get the kgs down quick enough to keep doing that on the old bike :D .
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by BNA » Sat Jan 06, 2007 9:46 pm

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Postby europa » Sat Jan 06, 2007 9:46 pm

We can't really offer much model orientated advice except for owners of bikes mentioned to offer their feedback. You're a big boy, both in height and weight and so the best test is going to be for you to sit on the bikes, take them for a ride, then buy the one that fits best.

At 20km, I'd normally advise a drop bar bike for the variety of hand positions, and I'd still suggest you look at them - not the racer types though (many come with wheels that just won't carry you and the extreme riding position probably wouldn't suit either), go for something like the Mongoose Randonneur (a few people on here have bought them recently - do a search to find their bragging), the Specialized Sequoia or if you can afford a bit more, my Trek520 (road test here on BicycleWA). Your size and weight wouldn't be an issue with them.

However, if I'm picturing you correctly, you may indeed be more comfortable with the more upright riding position of a commuter and consider having trekking bars fitted when new (you'll find them mentioned on here too - they are flat but curve away from you then turn back towards the centre again and offer lots of different hand positions).

Sorry mate, the old advice of lots of bike shops, lots of sitting on bikes and as many test rides as you can scrounge applies here. I'd also look at what bike hire places are offering - hiring a bike for the day offers you an decent test ride and it's a good way of trying out a particular style of bike or riding position.

Don't be scared to come back with specific questions, we love spending other peoples money :D

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Postby TriggerFish » Sat Jan 06, 2007 10:02 pm

Thanks for the response and the advice. I have been doing some more reading here and in some of the flow on linkage. I think you are right regarding the shopping around. I found that spoke thread in this forum a very interesting read too!

Thanks again for taking the time.
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Postby tinstaafl » Sun Jan 07, 2007 4:56 am

G'day TriggerFish,

The only hard advice I can give you is to buy as large a frame as possible.
You should really consider a higher number of gears on the cluster as this will give you far more flexibility to upgrade your rear wheel.
Have you considered a bike with rear suspension.
I ride a Trek Fuel and it is basically bullet-proof.
I have hit pot holes at full speed with the rear wheel hard enough to knock the brakes out of line but the wheel cared not one jot. I did lose a front wheel in a collision with a fwd but that was my fault. A dear friend trucky hurt his foot when he tried to hurt my bike by kicking it. It was hillarious but the frame didn't notice him (one water bottle carrier got concussion but that was it).
I think that a reasonably good MTB would suit your needs admirably. I have a few spare tyres but run slicks most of the time and it handles very well.

Good luck.

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Postby TriggerFish » Sun Jan 07, 2007 8:45 am

Thanks again for the response.

I hadn't thought of dual suspension. I always wondered if I would lose any drive from my legs having suspension on the back. Is there any truth in that?
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Postby europa » Sun Jan 07, 2007 10:46 am

Rear suspension, and front suspension too, does soak up some of your pedalling power. However, GOOD suspension can be adjusted. Good front forks can be turned off too - I don't know about rears. So you can adjust the amount of damping to suit your needs. Be prepared to pay for good stuff though.

And Robert, please stop assaulting innocent truckies with your water bottle carriers :D

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Postby TriggerFish » Sun Jan 07, 2007 12:30 pm

So my suspicions were correct eh :) . Didn't know that the fron suspension did as well though. Interesting.

Well, off to do some browsing and information gathering this afternoon. Hopefully with some knowledge of the local suppliers as a result.

Anyone in Canberra reccomend any of the local retailers over another?
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Postby europa » Sun Jan 07, 2007 12:39 pm

TriggerFish wrote:Anyone in Canberra reccomend any of the local retailers over another?


Not sure how many forum members come from Canberra but Peterjleach (sp?) and he's a regular here ... but he's off on a scout jamboree at the moment. He'll be able to help but it might be a while before he's back to give an answer (now that I've dropped him in it :twisted: )

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Postby mikesbytes » Sun Jan 07, 2007 1:59 pm

Peter will definently be able to advise, once he is back from Jambaroo.
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Postby Mulger bill » Sun Jan 07, 2007 2:04 pm

Good rear suspension systems soak up suprisingly little power these days, Robert's Trek is a beauty that way, but you'll have to pay a bit more, especially if you want one with lockout. The extra weight and complexity of dual suspension has to be considered too.

Road versus MTB is the hardest call for the job you're contemplating, each has a different appeal, it depends on whether you want more speed or a big tyre soaking up road shock.

My personal choice in your situation, for that distance would be a beefy roadie with a suspension seatpost, not that I'd really know, I haven't been on a roadie for years :oops:
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Postby TriggerFish » Sun Jan 07, 2007 7:55 pm

I look forward to hearing comments on the local shops in my area once Jambaroo is over. As for today, well mostly I was being pushed towards Giant as a brand by the salespeople.

I am leaning towards a road bike at this stage. Mainly because, once I am a bit lighter I can still use the current MTB to take the offspring to her swimming lessons etc., while keeping the new one for commuting.

I saw and OCR 3 2006 that looked ok, but, it had a "compact" frame that seems to be a trend forming..... Compact is not a word I am looking to associate with the purchase of a bike for myself. But, are there opinions good or bad about the concept?

After today, the two bikes that I think looked ok (yet to ride any) are below. Any opinions good or bad?

CRX 1

OCR 2

From the prices that I have seen, they would be about as much as I would want to spend. Prices I have been quoted have been around $1,400-$1,500 mark.

I haven't found anyone selling the Mongoose Randonneur as yet, so have not yet had a look. I was also pushed towards a light green road bike made by an Italian mob whose name I remembered right up to when I sat down to write this *sigh*. But it was $2K which is more than I want to pay. Having said that, I don't want to spend $1,500 on a bike to then have to turn around and fork out $400 on better quality wheels or whatever as per the current situation.....

Thanks again for the input. Much appreciated.
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Postby europa » Sun Jan 07, 2007 8:31 pm

I wouldn't buy an OCR2. They are a very good bike, I bought the 2007 version for my son, but the wheels are narrow and lack spokes. A very good ride for my son who is a hyper fit 14 year old but I'd question how the wheels will last considering your weight - I would worry about them under me and I'm 20kg lighter than you.

In fact, I'd be wary of the CRX1 for the same reason, and the wheels aren't a lot wider. The CRX1 also lacks a granny gear and to be honest, if you are facing any sort of climbing, the granny is a very useful gear - even my son uses his.

If you were buying either of them, I'd be asking for tougher wheels (more spokes at least but colletted nipples would be an advantage) as part of the purchase price (not the full cost of the wheels added on, but a large, discounted price to cover any price difference in the parts). Personally, I also wonder why you'd buy the CRX1 which appears to be a drop bar bike without the benefits of the drop bars (multiple hand positions).

The first thing you do when you walk into a shop is to look at what they have on the floor - in most cases, that is all they are interested in selling which sucks because very few shops have a decent range. Watch the sizing too as I found one shop here in Adelaide that wasn't even interested in ordering in a larger bike for me, instead, they tried to convince me that an obviously oversized bike was the right one for me. This is why you need to visit a lot of shops.

The second thing to test is how interested they are in reaching for the catelogue. Good bike shops know they can't stock everything and admit it. When you ask for something that isn't on the floor, they reach for 'the book' and go searching. These shops are common but are the minority.

Go to a Specialized dealer and check out the Sequoia - that's closer to what you want than either of these two. Orbea also have some bikes that'd suit. The perfect bike for you would be the Trek520 but you'd be spending $1900 and would probably want to change the bar end shifters to brifters (brake and shifter) and so would have to spend something in the order of $2,500, but that bike is bullet proof and has wheels and hubs designed to carry a heavy weight (it's a tourer).

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Postby TriggerFish » Sun Jan 07, 2007 8:53 pm

Scratch those two off the list :) . An independant eye with experience is very useful and I thank you for it!

I went to the trek site and found their dealer in Canberra. I will take a walk at lunchtime tomorrow and have a chat and a gander. I hope they stock some.

Guaging by the mix of a little of trying to sell what was on the floor with a fair bit of consulting the book, I think the two places I went today were fairly balanced from what you are saying. Having said that, I was really surprised at the eagerness to sell giant....

Regards,

TF.
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Postby Bnej » Sun Jan 07, 2007 9:07 pm

I'd go cheapskate:

Giant Boulder, Trek 4300 or similar low end MTB
Set of Trekking bars
26x1.5" slicks that will take 80 psi

A 5kg lighter bike isn't going to do you all that much good, and will likely have lighter, more expensive wheels that might not even be as tough.

26" wheels are generally tougher than 700c.

The mid-bottom end bikes like the Boulder & 4300 have a suspension adjustment that lets you stiffen it right up for better efficiency pedalling.

Alternatively, you might want to look at some of the new bikes coming with the new Shimano Alfine group set, there is a new Mongoose I have seen advertised (Sabrosa Ocho, http://www.mongoose.com/bikes/detail.ph ... brandID=82 ).

These are "commuter bikes", so they're meant to run for ages with minimal maintenance. This also means they tend not to have fancy light wheels, as they have to handle the torque from the disc brakes to the rims.
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Postby TriggerFish » Mon Jan 08, 2007 3:13 pm

I did some more pounding of the pavement today. I managed to find a place with a Mongoose RANDONNEUR EX that I must say impressed my quite a bit. They had it for just under teh $1,500 mark so it is within my budget too. Although for $2,200 they had a Cannondale T800 and it looked really nice.

They had them both in my size already built, so I am hoping to go for a test ride later this week. They guy was very helpful and offered the test rides without wanting to predudice me one way or the other from what I could tell. I also spent some time at the two local Trek dealers trying to chase down a 520 without success. Apparantly, the ones that were made in Taiwain (??) are no longer available, so the ones that are here now are made in the US, cost more and are not quite up to the same quality. I felt like I could take the guy's word for it as he wasn't going to show me a single bike in the store because he didn't think he had one to suit. He actually sent me to the shop up the road to look at the Randonneur, which is where I saw the T800 as well.

The guy who showed me the two bikes said that I had been getting good advice in referring me to it and that style of bike, so thankyou to those who have been sharing your knowledge and experience. At least I didn't look like I had no idea. I was able to walk right up to the bike in question :).

The other Trek dealer I went and saw, also didn't have the 520, but, put me onto the Surly brand. But their mainstay appears to be frames and components with only 1 bike sold complete. It was comparable to the Randonneur in some ways, but, had the same gear levers as the 520 that would be costly to replace. One interesting thing was one of their frames truly designed with the big person in mind, the karate monkey. Looked good, but not sure I am ready to have a custom built bike and the cost seemed prohibitive. Nice enthusastic shop though.

So at the moment I am up to whether I want to go for the predetermined budget, or spend more but get what appears to be better quality, particularly in the wheels. Has anyone got any opinions on the following 2 bikes?

Cannondale T800 at $2,200.

Mongoose Randonneur EX at $1500.

Heart is saying Cannondale. Head is saying Randonneur. I guess a test ride will help too. Who knows, may not be either!

Thanks in advance.

*edit* Also going to do some hunting around for prices.
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Postby Bnej » Mon Jan 08, 2007 4:14 pm

I think the cannondale would be great if you can afford it, though both bikes are great, and the Radonneur's dynohub is a big plus...

Cannondale has lower gearing at the bottom, with a roughly 20" low gear vs the Mongoose's 27"ish low gear, so it'd be a fair bit easier up hills. Suspension seatpost could be good too, but I'd want to try it first. :)
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Postby europa » Mon Jan 08, 2007 7:12 pm

The comment about the American 520 being of poorer quality than the Taiwanese one is sheer crap :x The basic difference is the shifters - the international model has brifters and the US one has bar end shifters (which I took off). We're getting the US model, that's the one I've got and it's a fine machine in all respects, and both come with the lifetime guarantee on the frame - I think the US model still has the US made frame and if so, it's one of the top end frames that Trek is maintaining production of in the US rather than farm it out the Taiwan where their bottom end frames are made. Sadly, the Trek dealers (and Trek themselves) in this country have developed some sort of predjudice towards the model, preferring to push the racing bikes, which is damned stupid, especially when you consider the popularity of the model in the US.

My 520 cost me about $200 more than the Cannondale. For that I got Ultegra shifters (vs Tiagra and the difference is very noticeable), spd clipless pedals (vs toe clips), 105 front shifter (rather than Tiagra, again, comparing the two side by side with Tiagra which my son's bike runs, the 105 is noticeably better), I'm assuming that when Cannondale say 'LX' parts they mean Deore LX which is what the Trek has. Wheels seem compatible.
The 520 has a conventional diamond frame, not a compact, which I prefer. The Cannondale has a lower granny gear which is nice for carrying a heavy load but not needed for normal riding. The Cannonale doesn't need modifying which the standard 520 does, but the standard 520 is cheaper than the Cannondale anyway (and still better optioned - you may even like bar end shifters).

Frankly, I think if you are spending that much money, the 520 is a better buy, but it might cost you more (depending on how well you hustle with the price of fitting brifters to the 520).

Sorry, but the Australian bike industry makes me angry sometimes (quite often actually).

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Postby TriggerFish » Mon Jan 08, 2007 8:07 pm

Sorry about the raw nerve. I guess I have a lot to learn. It's hard to work out the good from the bad with what these people are saying.

I must say that I prefer the idea of the brifters. Although am yet to try either style. I saw a bike today with the bar end shifters and it looked altogether awkward. Although from what I understand they are for long trips (ie more than commuting) to keep the componentry more simple so it is easier to fix or keep going with as it has a greater tolerance for bending\misalignment in the event of a bingle. Again, just taking the word of a salesman.

I will see how the ride tests go.

Regards,

TF.
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Postby europa » Mon Jan 08, 2007 11:19 pm

You didn't hit a raw nerve, the dear friend shop assistant did. It's that sort of ignorance that has spawned many a post on this forum.

Bar end shifters are popular in America because you can carry a handle bar bag on the bike - brifters get in the way. There is also this idea that somehow, brifters are more unreliable which is a comment on cable stretch, something bar ends suffer from as well ... to the same extent. To avoid the issue, you go to friction shifters like bicycleWA has but do you want to know something? In the first 600 km of travelling with my 520, the time when most stretch is going to occur (new cables), they lost none of their crisp shifting, they did not stretch out of adjustment. Frankly, I put bar end shifters down to an American fashion and nothing more. I and most other riders ride on the hoods (of the brakes) and having the shifters under your finger tips is a great move in every day riding. Having a ruddy great big handlebar bag in the way would cause problems, but unless you are touring or using a basket, that isn't going to be an issue.

As for 'bending and misalignment' in a bingle - pulease! Bar ends are more vulnerable (they are right by your knees for heaven's sake) and I wouldn't have thought either system is more likely to be damaged than another. My son has been pushed into to bushes by a car and although his brifters were pushed well out of place, they still shifted cleanly and showed no signs of ill health once moved back into their proper place (though they do show quite a bit of cosmetic scaring)

Sorry, sales bull gives me the tom tits sometimes.

Ride and you'll soon see what you like, and what you like varies from person to person, so decide your preferences on the bike.

Richard
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Postby TriggerFish » Wed Jan 10, 2007 2:34 pm

Well the decision has been made. I ended up riding the Randonneur and the T800. I have to say I was really surprised at the difference. I would not have thought that I would have preferred one over the other quite as much.

I went for the T800. I really enjoyed the ride and got some odds and ends to go with it. The interesting thing is, the one I rode was the XL size, which I thought at the time was the largest available. I thought that with a non suspension seat, the height would have been pretty much spot on. Then one of the guys at the shop sparked his and my memory that there was a jumbo size (I forgot in the heat of the moment). So that is being built for me to ride tomorrow. If I like it more than the one I rode today, I will take it. If not, the one I rode today was great! I am guessing that the jumbo will be better again though.

The lifetime warranty on the frame was a big selling point too. Although the 520 did offer that from what I recall. At the end of the day, I felt comfortable with the bike and the service I received. I would have spent nearly 3 hours there over 3 days and spoke to 4 or 5 of their staff at different points who were all very friendly and helpful. Surprised me actually. I was expecting at least a bit of condescension but found none at all.

I wanted to thank all who took the time to offer their opinions, advice and experience, it was genuinely appreciated. I felt somewhat empowered when I could walk into a shop and ask to look at a specific bike and then look at comparitive bikes with some level of confidence, certainly more than I had before coming here.

So thanks one and all. I look forward to many moons of riding away the commutes, stress and kilos!

Regards,

TF.
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Postby europa » Wed Jan 10, 2007 2:58 pm

Hmm, if you leave Canberra on Saturday, and I leave Adelaide about the same time, we'll meet ... :D

Good onya. And good onya for waiting to try the next size up. You're getting a fine bike and it sounds like you've found a fine shop. Makes the whole experience a lot more fun.

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Postby MJF » Sun Jan 14, 2007 8:35 pm

I had to jump in on this one.

I'm 6'3", and weigh 126.5Kg at the moment. Most of my serious commuting cycling was fifteen years and 40Kg ago. Amazing what a desk job, marriage (contentment spread) and four children can do to you... not to mention a fast car I like to drive.

I'm back to commuting ~ 100Km a week at the moment, and my hassle is bent rear axles (spin on freewheel, not cassette). I haven't broken a single spoke.

Before Christmas I pulled the rear off to change the tyre to a semi-slick, and discovered a bent axle - which was also an odd length, so I had to order a replacement. In the meantime I bought a quick-release wheel (yes - wrong choice for the frame. Thank you local bike shop :x) until I could get the original repaired. I put about 400Km on the quick-release before switching back to the original wheel now fitted with a chrome-moly axle. 70Km later, it's bent again... but at least the quick-release wheel still has a straight axle.

Anyway... I just bought a Shogun Metro GS, with a 9-speed cassette, which hopefully will hang together over the next 26.5kg of weight loss.
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Postby TriggerFish » Mon Jan 15, 2007 6:33 pm

Howdy MJF,

Nice to have some company on this trip so to speak. Although I am sure that we could both do without it having to be done in the first place. My problem stemmed from a similar situation to yours, but, I also used to be a very active sportsman. As a result, I could pretty much eat what I wanted and stay pretty fit. After stopping all the sport and taking up the activities that you mentioned, unfortunately my appetite didn't adjust so well to the new lifestyle.....*sigh*.

I did the commute for the first time today on the new wheels. It was really great. I took 5 mins off my previous best times each way without even trying! I felt quite refreshed at the end of the rides even after the ride home in 35 degree heat! (even if I was quite a ball of sweat) I hope this is a common thing from now on, not just the thrill of having new wheels. Time will tell. I am putting a cycling computer on the bike tonight, so that will give a better indication of travel times rather than just the watch in my pocket trick :D .

Ciao,

TF.
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Postby LuckyPierre » Mon Jan 15, 2007 9:16 pm

Hi guys!
Looking through the thread, I can pretty well pick which shops were visited and who said what in each one!
The Cannondale is a good bike, but I think it's a pretty expensive 'beginner'.
The guys that were trying to sell you a Bianchi should be shot - they are lovely bikes, but what if you didn't really like riding?
Now that there's a few more ACT guys on here, we'll have to catch up. Let's put some suggestions in the 'Meeting Point'.
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Postby europa » Tue Jan 16, 2007 12:33 am

If you have anything like nerdish tendancies, you'll love your bike computer - there's something satisfying about seeing numbers justifying the gasps and sodden clothes (yes, I identify with the 'ball of sweat' image).

Richard
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