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Old 09-11-2008, 10:41 AM
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In the era of the bike-in-a-box from the local supermarket/ toy shop/mail-order/internet/car boot sale etc. etc. we actually take pride in being a little bit different to the mainstream. We will give you sensible, honest advice and if you just want a little chat to help understand the differences between all the bikes then that is fine by us.
We will NEVER sell you a bike without thoroughly assembling and adjusting it to make sure it is completely ready to ride. When you look on a bike box you'll often see a drawing of two or three everyday tools supposedly needed for assembly, the implication being that building the bike up is really no more difficult than putting together a bit of flat pack furniture. The reality is that most people will not be able to set up the bike properly, even if they spend all day on it. Most bikes are about 80% or 90% assembled before they are boxed up, but they are often put together very quickly on the production lines. You can find numerous components wrongly adjusted, incorrectly fitted and of course sometimes damaged in transit. We will typically spend one and a half hours setting up a new bike, and we have spent our lives learning the cycle mechanic's craft!
At the top quality end of the market some of the models can be extremely high-tech and need very careful setting up and fine tuning.
Cheaper bikes are not so high-tech, but because the components are not such high quality they can sometimes take longer to adjust up properly.
At the popular, high-volume, cheap end of the market there is, sadly, a downward trend in quality as the brands battle it out on price, and all the mechanic's skills are needed to make them good. Often the quality of some of the components, for example the brakes, is so poor that it is actually impossible to adjust them properly. Another problem can be the fitting of incompatible parts, for example a gear lever and a gear mechanism that were not designed to be fitted together on the same bike. Again, it will be impossible to make the gears work properly without changing one of them.
The cheapest bikes are so bad that they cannot be made good however long a mechanic spends on them. We will NOT stock and sell this cheap rubbish. Unfortunately there are a lot of shops out there that will sell almost anything if they think it will make them some money. The really cheap bikes are usually sold in a box or thrown together by a youngster who hardly knows one end of a spanner from the other. It is not viable for a skilled man to spend his time on a bike that sells for ?9.99. The equation simply does not work.
Some of the major high street chains are also prone to selling the rubbish bikes. Their mechanics (assuming they actually have any) would probably rather not touch them, but such things as stocking policy are decided by management executives in head office, not by the poor unfortunates who have to sell the bikes and deal with all the complaints afterwards!
We avoid stocking any bikes of dubious quality, but our crystal ball isn't always spot-on, and occasionally we will have problems. If we do have problems with a bike, but we know we can fix it, we will persevere and make it good. If we can't, then we will send it back to the manufacturer. If we get repeated problems like that we will stop stocking that model and even the whole brand if neccessary.
Whatever the quality of the bike, a lot of shops are careless about their bike builds, either because their mechanics are not skilled enough, or because the management puts pressure on the mechanics to rush the bikes through the workshop quickly. What could actually be a very good bike can be let down by bad work in the shop. This is why we say that where you buy is just as important, possibly even more important, than what you buy.
OK, end of the rant. Thanks for putting up with it!
So, back to............
Choosing a Bike

Some of the most commonly heard questions in a bike shop are:

Do I need a mountain bike?
Do I need suspension?
How much should I spend?
What gear system do I want?
Do I need disc brakes?
Why can't they fit a comfy saddle?!
Well to take the last question first, it isn't a problem if the bike you fancy comes with a horrible looking saddle, because we will be happy to swap it for one that you like [see our Service package].
Gear System

If you go back to the early 80's it was very rare to see a bike with more than 12 gears, but with the arrival of the mountain bike came 15, 18, 21 and then 24 gears. Today we have reached the dizzy heights of 27 gears on the more expensive mountain bikes!

Do you need them? Yes and No - you do need at least 15 gears for easy hill climbing if riding off-road. After that, though , the other systems don't necessarily give you any lower or higher gears, but they do give you smaller jumps from one gear to the next, just as a 5 speed car gearbox has smaller jumps than a 4 speed. The 21, 24 and 27 speed systems are no more difficult to use than a 15 or 18 speed and if you want good quality equipment these days it will probably have at least 21 gears, usually more.
Triggers v Twistgrips

There are two basic systems for changing gear - either the trigger system, which comes in several guises or the twist grip of which the 'Gripshift' is the most common. For the novice the twistgrip is perhaps easiest to use initially, but the good quality trigger systems such as Shimano's 'Rapidfire Plus' are usually nicer once you have learnt which trigger to press and when. Most of the trigger systems seem to keep working more accurately when the gear cables and transmission system are full of winter grime. At this shop we all prefer trigger systems - but twistgrips do have a following and most bike manufacturers use both.
Multi-Purpose Bikes

Do you need a mountain bike? Broadly speaking, if you are expecting to do off-road riding in a hard, possibly dangerous manner then yes you definitely do need a mountain bike.We talk about mountain bikes in the next section.

On the other hand if you want a bike that will let you explore country lanes, bridleways and farm tracks but you expect to ride in a more gentle, controlled way then a hybrid is probably the bike for you. They are a cross between mountain bikes and road bikes. Because they don't need to be as strong as a mountain bike they can be built a little lighter, and this together with thinner tyres makes them easier to ride on the roads. They are however quite capable of being ridden on reasonably good off-road surfaces at high speeds, and can cope with quite rough surfaces if used sensibly.

Hybrids tend to have a relaxed upright riding position but still have the powerful brakes and hill-climbing gears of the mountain bike.They usually have traditional rigid front forks, but some are available with suspension forks for comfort. For many adults the Hybrid is the perfect multi-function bike.
Unfortunately, although most bike shops routinely use the term 'hybrid', the bike manufacturers nearly always choose to call them something different. Some call them 'Trail Bikes'. Marin, our most prestigious brand, call them 'City Bikes'. But you wouldn't want it to be too straightforward,would you ??!!
Comfort Bikes

Confused yet? You soon will be! Recently an extra category of bikes has appeared - the comfort bike.

Essentially a comfort bike is a compromise between a hybrid and mountain bike. It has a very upright riding position, fat but fairly slick tyres and a very comfy saddle. It will usually be a bit heavier than a hybrid. Typically you would use a comfort bike for the same sort of terrain as a hybrid. It will give you a very cushioned ride but will seem a bit slower than the hybrid. We have both types of bike in stock, so you can see them for real, and have a ride on them if you wish. To see our range click Hybrids and Comfort
Urban Bikes

Still hanging on? Right - Try this one!

Yet another new category to spring up in recent years is the Urban bike. A variation on the classic mountain bike, it was developed as a heavy duty machine for cycle couriers to use in cities - bouncing off buses, taxis, kerbs etc. etc. Because it is a tarmac machine it has slick tyres and doesn't have any suspension. Urban bikes have the aggressive low handlebar position of the mountain bike rather than the upright position of the hybrid or comfort.

Of course in our part of the world we haven't got the classic environment that the Urban bike was designed for, but we have certainly got our share of badly maintained roads, so we get a steady demand from hard riders who want a bike strong enough to cope with fast riding over these unpredictable road surfaces. Because the Urban bike is essentially a mountain bike it can also be used off-road, but with its slick tyres it is not practical for slippery surfaces, and a rider planning to do really hard off-road riding would probably choose a mountain bike with suspension. For this reason we are grouping Urban bikes together with Hybrids and Comfort.

Some riders,rather than buying an urban bike,will choose a mountain bike but ask us to fit it with slick or semi-slick tyres instead of the original knobblies.They then have the potential to restore it to its full off-road capability when they put the knobbly tyres back on.The deciding factor in the urban v mountain bike decision will usually be whether or not you want suspension forks.
Mountain Bikes

If some of the newspaper adverts are to be believed you can buy a mountain bike for ?9.99. - You know the sort of thing....."Effortlessly ride up any hill with these 18 speed mountain bikes" etc. etc. On the other hand you can see bikes for sale at over ?000! We'll try to help you through the mountain bike maze......
Budget Bikes

Avoid the ?9.99 bike. If you read our opening paragraphs you'll know what we think about them!
The Price

Most people in the cycle trade regard ?00 as roughly the price at which you get a mountain bike which has both the strength and lightness to be considered for regular off-road usage. On the other hand, if you don't mind a heavier bike, and don't expect too much refinement in the general componentry you can get some very good value for money bikes below ?00, but they will not stand the hard riding that the dearer bikes will take.
Disc Brakes

In recent years disc brakes have become a feature on many mountain bikes. The cheaper systems are cable operated but the dearer ones are hydraulic, just like those in a car. Broadly speaking, the pros and cons of discs are as follows:-

More Power.
Power affected less by rain and mud.
No wear on the wheel rim.
Not affected by a damaged wheel rim.
Low maintenance, with a bit of luck!

Initial cost.
Big repair bills, if you are unlucky!
Difficult to get repairs/spares if you are riding in areas without a modern bike shop, for example touring in poor countries.
With a cable operated disc system, the power advantages are less, but they are typically only half the price of a hydraulic.
It looks like we can't make our mind up whether maintenance is worse or better with a disc brake! The truth is it can vary a lot from one bike to the next, and from one owner to the next. It is very important to clean the disc calipers regularly, particularly in winter when there is road salt about. If the caliper gets corroded and the pistons stop moving freely, it can be quite time-consuming to sort out. Also,if you are unlucky and suffer leaking seals then again you can incur a big bill. Having said that, the majority of owners don't suffer big bills, and are very happy with disc brakes. They are certainly the system of choice for most serious riders now.

Suspension front forks used to be a luxury that only appeared on top grade mountain bikes but have become so affordable that they now come as standard equipment on most mountain bikes. They make the ride more comfortable and let you go faster over rough ground. On the minus side they make the bike heavier and require extra servicing, but these are penalties most people are happy to accept.

Even more exotic is mountain bike rear suspension. This used to be seriously expensive but can now be found on bikes below ?00. With all suspension, though, whether front or rear, you can reach a point where in an effort to keep the cost down, the suspension is of such poor design that its minus features outweigh any advantages and it is then not worth having at any price. Generally speaking, cheap full suspension bikes are extremely heavy. The rear suspension can be very crude, and it can also be of an unservicable design. We don't recommend this type of bike, and we actually stock very few full suspension bikes below ?000.

At Stanley Fearn's we will not stock bikes of dubious quality, and we will be honest about the limitations of our cheaper models.
Before we give you a taste of the ranges of mountain bikes we stock, a bit of terminology needs to be explained.....

Originally from the States, this name refers to any bike with a rigid rear end, with or without front suspension.

Standing for Front and Rear Suspension, FRS is a convenient term for full suspension bikes.

Click here for more details, HARDTAIL or FRS.

Road Bikes

Just as new categories of off-road bikes have appeared in recent years, so we have gained more categories of road bikes, too:-
Dropped handlebar racing bikes

At their lightest, modern road bikes are pure, tarmac-only, drop-bar speed machines, such as you will see with our Trek,Wilier and Bianchi ranges. These bikes will not carry luggage, and cannot accomodate full-length traditional mudguards, but they are very, very light and very, very fast!
(The cheapest of our Trek road bikes,the Trek 1.2 is an exception to the rule as regards mudguards and luggage,because it has been designed to accomodate these.)
Quite a few of our mountain bike customers own a drop-bar racing bike too, and enjoy the total contrast in styles that they get from the two bikes.
Traditional dropped-bar touring bikes

This is the bike of choice for many riders who do long distance road touring.
We only stock one model in this category,the Trek 520 Touring,but it is a fine example of a well thought-out touring bike.
It could best be described as very high quality,but low tech !
Riders embarking on,say, a tour of a third world country,would have a much better chance of getting repairs successfully done to this sort of bike than to a beautiful carbon-fibre,hydraulic-braked creation ! Lightweight, straight-bar road bikes

For riders who don't particularly want the head-down, drop-bar riding position, and who would welcome the potential for better mudguards and possibly some luggage, then the new breed of lightweight straight-bar road bikes may be the perfect answer.
The Marin ALP range is an excellent example of this increasingly popular type of bike and in fact the Marin Lucas Valley is one of our most popular road bikes.
Heavier-duty, straight-bar road bikes

The Marin Sports Commuter range typifies this style of bike. They are a bit more heavily made than the ALP bikes, so more durable on poor road surfaces, but they are not quite sturdy enough to venture off-road.

On the other hand, if you were to put a wider tyre on than standard, some of the models, such as the Marin Fairfax, would actually become, in effect, a lightweight, light-duty hybrid. We do offer the Fairfax with 32mm or 35mm tyres rather than the original 28mm ones, and you could then use it quite happily for surfaces such as the High Peak Trail.
Thanks for reading,
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