Road/Commuter/Urban Bike for Seattle?
First, let me preface this post by admitting I know how obnoxious it can be when a beginner asks a question that has been answered thousands of times across the breadth of the internet. But I feel like I'm drowning in the information I've found so far, and am looking for help to parse it all out.
Growing up in Colorado I've always been on mountain bikes. My most recent purchase from a few years ago was a Trek 6500. I wasn't much of a discerning consumer back then, and I honestly couldn't tell you why I chose that bike over others. But it provided many lasting hours of fun in the mountains. Eventually I grew to my full height at 6'2" and began to feel like my center of gravity was somewhere between my eyebrows. There was a lot of tumbling and falling - that combined with college sort of had me falling out of the hobby. I didn't really know anything about bikes. I just sort of rode them and had a great time with it.
Now I'm living in Seattle and would really like to get back into it. Mountain biking doesn't have the same appeal as it used to - I'm much more attracted to the idea of a bike to get around Seattle, and to enjoy the occasional ride along a path, pavement or gravel.
A road bike seems attractive, but it seems like there are things like commuter and urban bikes that might fill a user niche like mine. Like I said, I wouldn't be racing over boulders, but a ride over gravel path would be nice here and there.
I visited a bike shop and they reommended a Cyclocross for Seattle, which seems like a good choice, but of the bikes available, also seemed pricey.
My budget is tight (circa $1000) and I'm perfectly fine buying used (as long as I can figure out the condition of the bike) but what models should I be looking at specifically? And what factors should I be considering in a new road bike? I see a lot of bicycle jargon that I don't quite understand, like "aggressive posturing" that it seems I should understand before investing in a new bike.
Apologies for my ignorance in advance.
A hybrid will be more comfortable and probably better suited for traveling around in the city. It will put you in a more upright position but also be a bit slower unless modified (see: So what makes road bikes so fast?).
A road bike (with drops) will be faster without modification but also put you in a more bent-over position. The really expensive roadbikes are built up like the race bikes and can be very uncomfortable for someone not used to them. In fact it will be!
A commuter bike will probably be somewhere in between. It might have drops or be built like a road bike but will have a position somewhere inbetween a hybrid's upright position and a pure race bike's bent over position.
Bikes to check out - I am only going to post Trek because that is what I know. Other manufacturers are just as good so be sure to test ride many of them.
Trek 1.2 - road bike, more bent over position but not as aggressive as something like a Madone 6.9.
Valencia - a hybrid with a little bit of an aggressive position
7500 - what I would call a commuter - very upright positioning
Portland- road like geometry and features (bars with drops) but with commuter friendly features (fenders, not very aggressive, tough)
There is a lot to choose from, so go out and start test riding! See what you like...
I recommend the Bianchi Volpe. It is a solid cyclocross bike that is roughly 1000. It has pretty good components if you are just commuting and riding around, also the treaded tires will work well on dirt and gravel trails. The reason I recommend the bike is because I have first hand experience as an owner of one. I went into my local bike shop basically asking the same thing as you, looking for the same thing. My lbs recommended the Volpe and I was satisfied and purchased one. The posture is relatively relaxed so you are not bending you back too much much while riding. Also you can mount a rack on it if you want. I hope this helps.
Thanks for the recommendations so far.
I should clarify, what are the principle differences between road bikes, commuter bikes and hybrids? Which "category" if bikes can be genuinely categorized, fits most appropriately for my needs? For example, the Volpe looks like a great fit, and it's described as something of a cross between road and commuter bikes. Is this common?
First things first. That being, fit. If this is your first road bike, I suggest against going used, because you get no assistance with sizing/ fitting. Also, in your price range giving up a warranty or after the purchase services isn't the best course.
Working with LBS's that carry the brands/ models you're interested in (more on that later), get sized and fitted to the bikes and head out on rides... on roads, not parking lot rides. This way, you get a sense for the ride and handling characteristics of the bikes. If any of the bikes are ill fitting, your body will tell you, but be aware of how the bikes function (shifting, braking...) on the test rides. Everyone has their preferences.
With the plan for sizing/ fitting and test rides outlined, we look at what you want to do with this bike. Once you said gravel, I crossed off road bikes. Sure, you can put mulit purpose tires on it, but you'll still end up compromising. Why bother when there are better choices.
While I agree that the Bianchi looks to be a good choice, I'd suggest that if it piques your interest, visit the LBS and ride it. If there's a size available that fits well, then I think it's a good choice, but I don't care for the sizing Bianchi uses. Sizing bikes from 52 to 55 to 60... isn't going to accomodate everyone, so keep that in mind on that model.
For a variety of reasons hybrids/ finess/ commuters (their names change with brands) may end up being a better choice. Considering your mtn biking background you may prefer a more upright position that a flat bar bike provides. You can run 25c to 32c + tires so anything from road to gravel is doable. Lastly, there are more choices in your price range and actually pricing in this market segment is generally lower than road or cross bikes.
Assuming they'll fit, some good choices?
MSRP $1,450 - discounted can probably be found for around $1,200
It's steel, so it'll be a little heavier, but... it's steel
Another steel offering..