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Generally, I think the Bicycles.SE community frowns on product recommendations and we close a lot of questions of the sort.

However, there is a decent number of questions such as "I would like a bike for commuting, is this one good"?

I was thinking of something similar to the big-list tag on Math.SE for two common questions we have, which we can point to instead of just closing the question.

The first would be "What should I look for when buying a bicycle?". The answers would be community wikis dependent on the intended use of a bicycle - General advice which holds over all classes (e.g. the fit is important), commuter (e.g. if its wet weather, you probably want fenders), touring (e.g. you don't want that spiffy new road racer), downhill MTB, etc. and feature general things to look for when buying a bike of this type, as well as a description of bikes which fall in this region. By sending people to this question, we can give them useful advice (which holds over time), rather than just closing questions on particular bike recommendations. PeteH had a similar idea with a flowchart (in chat) but I think that would be too complicated to maintain.

The second would be drive train compatibility: "Which drivetrain components are compatibile with which others?". Community answers would be "General advice", "Shimano - Road", "Shimano - Mountain", "SRAM - Road", "SRAM - Mountain", "Campy", and people can add for other drivetrains like Suntour and what not.

Eventually, I'd like to aggregate at least the "What should I look for when buying a bicycle?" question (which is useful for buying new or used) into a blog post on the Bicycles.SE blog if it builds up a decent number and quality of answers.

  • You may be interested in reading about community FAQs on Super User, which is similar to this. – nhinkle Sep 17 '14 at 1:08
  • Related: See freiheit's answer to this question about "what type of bike should I buy" questions. – jimchristie Sep 17 '14 at 14:45
  • Holy sevens @Batman! – andy256 Sep 18 '14 at 1:34
  • @jimirings I'd forgotten that I'd asked that question, funny how despite freiheit's answer it keeps on coming up – PeteH Sep 18 '14 at 6:35
  • On the second question, I'm not sure there is a canonical answer. As a rule of thumb I'd set Campy to one side and say "not compatible with anything", then for the other brands go by sprockets-on-cassette. But then you get people saying they mix-and-match and everything works just fine. Bottom line it is subjective as to what "fine" is. – PeteH Sep 18 '14 at 6:39
  • Having made a start (below) I can see that there's a ... load of work in the current approach. – andy256 Sep 18 '14 at 7:35
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I'm not a fan of this idea.

The first question about how to choose the right bicycle has already been covered. The consensus there is that what is really needed is a canonical answer. Webmasters SE provides a couple of good examples of how to implement this. I think the best way for us to do this would be a single question that covers an overview on choosing a bike (e.g., fit, benefits of old vs. new, etc.), how to choose between different styles of bikes (e.g., CX, XC, road), and then how to choose within each classification. It would be a monstrous answer for sure, but I think it would be a better catch-all than individual questions since newbies are often asking all of those questions bundled together.

The drivetrain compatibility question is significantly thornier. I like the idea overall since it would be nice not to have a thousand different compatibility questions, but I think it would be too unwieldy to be realistically attainable. Even if we confined it to the more common brands (Shimano, Sram, Campy, Suntour, etc.) you practically need a flowchart to keep it all straight between companies, number of gears, road vs. mountain, etc. Throw in the odd balls (Rohloff, Sturmey-Archer, NuVinci) and it gets really hairy. And what happens when technology progresses? Electronic shifting and belt drives are sure to offer potential new realms of compatibility issues. There are rumors floating around that 12 speed drive trains in the works. And then there's the question of what to do about combos that work, but sub-optimally? It really gets dizzying and I just don't see how it can all be contained in a single question.

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Yes, good idea.

Picking up a point you made: we can't really address the question of is this a good deal / good buy / good price.

I guess we'd want a separate answer for each "point". For now though, some ideas are listed below. Feel free to edit at will, especially at ellipses ..., certainly at ???

  • Intended use We assume that if you are into competitive sport your needs are more specialized than this general guide. The main general use categories [add more] are

    1. Road - sport Used for athletic exercise and recreation, and also racing. The bike must be well-fitted to you, and is often custom built. It will have narrow wheels and tires, drop handlebars, a high seat, "clipless" pedals, and no mudguards / fenders. Often used for commuting.

    2. Road - commuting Used for sport, commuting, recreation. The bike needs to be a good size for you. It may have a variety of features: flat handlebars or drop bars, mudguards / fenders, pannier fixing points, pack rack(s). It could have tires 23mm wide, 25mm wide (commonly), or 28mm up to about 32mm. It must have good lights.

    3. Road - touring Used for longer rides while carrying loads. Can be used for commuting and general recreation. Such a bike must be a good fit for you. It will have mudguards / fenders, stronger wheels, mounting points for panniers, a pack rack, lights.

    4. How many categories do we want? Hybrid, General recreation, Carrying / towing kids, MTB, Downhill, Trails, ...

A few ideas on the kind of features to be mentioned ...

  • Handlebars The choices are

    1. Flat bars Many commuters use bikes with flat handlebars. A bike built to have flat handle bars will generally feel more relaxed to ride and be more stable.
      Advantages: More relaxed upright riding position, can see more of the scenery, ...
      Disadvantages: Only one riding position can be tiring if you ride far or try to go faster, ...

    2. Drop bars More athletic commuters use bikes with drop bars (like on a racing bike). A bike built to have drop bars will generally be more sensitive to small movements and feel less stable.
      Advantages: Five or six different hand positions allow different riding positions and improve comfort when riding further and in varying conditions, the lower body position means you can ride faster for the same effort, ...
      Disadvantages: More stress on your body - especially your back and neck, hands can sometimes be away from the brake levers, can be harder to look behind to see traffic, ...

  • Wheel sizes See also Tire width. The diameter choices are

    1. 700c This is a world-wide standard, common almost everywhere. Check that your Local Shop stocks tires and tubes in this size.

    2. ??? [mention MTB sizes?]

  • Tire width On rougher roads you'll be more comfortable on wider tires. The bike frame and wheel rims must be able to accommodate the tire width. A few choices are

    1. 20mm Suitable only for good roads and a "racing" bike.

    2. 23mm A fairly narrow general use width, more suited to good roads and faster riding.

    3. 25mm A good general use size.

    4. 28mm A wider tire for rough roads and slower riding.

    5. Tires come in widths up to 45mm. Wider tires require wider rims and larger frames.

Phew! Once you get started the list can get BIG!

  • agreed, it is very big. You can obviously go to a low level (such as wheel sizes), but you could even start off at a higher level, for example to determine whether a "normal" 2-wheeled bike is suitable (compared to e.g. trikes or recumbents or velomobiles). This would have to be a collaboration between several people. – PeteH Sep 18 '14 at 10:55
  • Also, it would be just as valid to include combinations that are unsuitable. For example, if you're riding trails, don't go for 19mm tyres. Or, if you're climbing hills, do not go single speed. The dont's can be as helpful as the do's – PeteH Sep 18 '14 at 11:02

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