My girlfriend has been riding casually for a few years and has moved up to riding longer distances (30 to 50 miles). She has been riding a used hybrid bike, but is now ready to buy a lighter bike... not because she wants to ride faster, but because the hybrid is too darn heavy to lug up to her apartment and she wants a bike she can store inside.
A couple questions:
(1) Is it worth considering a folding bike? That would meet her requirement of being able to store it inside, but is it uncomfortable to ride a folding bike for 50 miles? Can you even get fitted for a folding bike? I have never ridden one so any comments on folding bikes are welcome!
(2) If we decide to go with a new bike, what would be a recommended store that knows what they are doing but also sells reasonably priced, lower end bikes? She's willing to consider anything lighter than a hybrid. And I'm willing to drive further out for lower prices.
I appreciate any comments or advice!
1. The below place has all of your commuter type bikes. It's in Chinatown. You won't find any fancy smancy triathlete bikes in there. It's more of a hippy bike/urban bike shop than a traditional bike shop.
2. The below place is near UMCP. It caters more to college kids than racers.
3. Performance bikes always have sells going on. You can get stuff for $600 or less, some as low as the $300 range.
4. Once, I had a guy sucking on the wheels of the Sunday bike crew, riding one of those folding bikes ... and we don't ride slow, short, or flat either :) I will caveat that by saying that me made a few modifications to the gearing, but it's still a folding bike.
I have a friend who just bought a (Tern) folding bike. He checked out several shops that carry folding bikes, and he ultimately bought from (and recommends) Bikes @ Vienna (http://www.bikesatvienna.com/).
He bought one with 24" wheels. Rides like a hybrid, but it folds small enough to fit in his trunk.
A few notes on folding bikes from some research I did helping a friend find a folding bike (caveat, I don't ride them, so I can't offer 1st hand accounts, only what I've researched):
1) Not many are optimised for long riding- not very adjustable to dial in a fit, and handling isn't the best
a) keep in mind, riding long distances with a poor fit = injury
b) any folding bike with a good fit/geometry for longer rides is going to run about $1300-2000+. I can't make this up.
2) "Folding" bike doesn't mean "light" bike. The marketed portability is measured in size, not in weight savings. I have actually handled some in stores before in excess of 30 pounds. Lighter folding bikes = $$$$, just like in normal road bikes.
3) If keeping indoors, it would be more optimal for saving space, so that's a huge pro. For getting around town, a folding bike would be ideal, but it doesn't seem optimised for distance.
4) Since the folding bike market is small, expect to pay a higher price - those things aren't cheap! You might get a good deal on Craigslist, though.
I did look at Tern bikes, and this one is less expensive ($900), but still tipping 30lbs (http://www.ternbicycles.com/us/bikes/joe-p24)
It really comes down to what's more important to her.
There are plenty of good, light road/hybrid bikes out there at good deals. Tuan made some great store recommendations, and I'll add Bike Pro Shop in Alexandria and Rev Cycles. Definitely have her go try some out, though, just to know for sure. I've also seen a ton of used road bikes on this forum and Craigslist that might be more ideal for your GF's needs.
Personally, if I was recreationally riding that kind of distance, I'd want a bike more suited for actual riding (be it a hybrid or road-style bike). I can find so many more lighter and cheaper bikes out there that will have a better ride quality than a folding bike will. My comfort and ride quality trumps space savings.
Can a folding bike work? Sure. Optimal for most/all of her needs? I don't expect it to be...
Hope this helps.
REI might even have some good deals coming up soon to get rid of their summer inventory, too!
This bike was posted on the forum recently by a club member. May be what you're looking for
you will find a fancy smancy triathlete bike at BikeSpace, mine! I've been taking it there for tune ups and have been very happy, but I've never bought a bike from them.
Also check out DC Used Bicycle Marketplace on FB. Your gf will need to know what size she is, but I've seen some decent bikes listed on there recently.
How much is "reasonably priced?"
I got my Giant Avail back in April for $650 (it was on sale; last year's stock) at the Bike Rack in Logan Circle.
And on the subject of Giant Bikes, if she's looking for a lighter hybrid and not necessarily a road bike, one looks like a *really* affordable option (starts at $350):
Thank you all for taking the time to respond! I do appreciate the many thoughtful comments. This is very helpful.
Once we have made some progress and/or bought a bike, I'll post an update here so that others can also learn from what we ended up finding.
Bicycle Pro Shop in Alexandria has one on the floor if you want to check it out. But most people here are correct. Long distance on that bad boy is gonna be rough.