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Saturday, October 20, 2012

Review: Bikes Direct Cafe Sprint

People usually ask me to recommend bikes for beginners. The reality is, I haven't bought a beginner's bike for years, so I'm rarely the right person to ask. What I did notice, however, was how nice Phil's Mercier Galaxy was: for $400, it was a steel framed touring bike that could survive multiple tour of the alps. The design and manufacturing specifications indicated a rigor that you couldn't see in many multi-thousand dollar bikes.

That gave me the confidence to order a Cafe Sprint when XiaoQin told me she wanted her own single, lightweight road bike.The bike showed up and was easy to assemble with allen wrenches, elbow grease, and a pedal wrench (which I used to install SPD pedals instead of the included toe-clips and straps) I kept the bike entirely stock and added a Sigma 1609 bike computer. The adjustable stem and quick release seat meant that I could dial in the fit and reach of the bike exactly the way XiaoQin needed it without having to resort to buying new stems and swapping handlebars.

Here's the thing: the bike is lighter than my custom-built titanium bike! Sure, it's a smaller frame, and it's probably not nearly as sturdy. If I were to put 10,000 miles on this bike, something would break, and it wouldn't be repairable in the field. But for a $500 bike, the lightness and ease of use is nothing short of amazing. I didn't expect very many miles to be on the bike since I bought it in August, but between XiaoQin and her two parents (who steal the bike every so often to run errands or go on pleasure rides), it's had 300+ miles on it! I've had to make derailleur adjustments (indexed shifters will go out of adjustment in 300 miles, but the ease of use for beginners is worth it) and fix a flat, but nothing else has needed work!

I'm very impressed by this bike and can highly recommend it for beginners or even experienced riders looking for a cheap, effective, nice riding bike. That it costs $500 and ships for free is a huge plus.

By the way, I would not recommend going any cheaper. Inspired by this ride I bought a cheaper version to tote my child around and it's just too cheap. The chainrings bent before I even put substantial mileage on it.

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