Buying a Bike
What Kind of Bike?
What's your budget and what kind of bikes are you looking for? Front suspension? Carbon frame, drop bar, flat bar?
Following are recommendations for those who are looking to bike recreationally, possibly with kids, on mostly paved and relatively flat trails (or those with moderate elevation gains).
Below I listed the good brands that each bike shop in this area carries (if their inventory hasn't changed). Cannondale, Specialized, and Trek are probably the top brands within your use. Follow by Scott and GT. Cannondale are known for their aluminum frames while Specialized and Trek are known for their carbon frames. But these days, most of these frames are all made oversea so I wouldn't be surprise if they actually comes from the same factory. I still think Speciailized and Trek has the edge on carbon frame though. These brands are exceptionally good for road bikes and urban bikes. Scott makes some very nice city and urban bikes. GT are good for their mountain bikes, built like tanks and probably last forever but they also weigh like tanks. However, they seem to have been lightening up their bikes the last time I looked. Suspension frame will be heavier also, not just for the suspension mechanism but the frame has to be re-enforced to handle the torque/load with the geometry change from the point where the suspension is fully extended to where it's fully compressed and the shock from/when the suspension bottoms out (at least on paper/ideally). I don't know much about REI's new lineup of Ghosts but they seem pretty nice though so they should be okay. I am not a fan of Novara and Fuji. The weld on their frames seem a bit too big/not well-made to my liking.
In general, carbon fiber frame is going to be the lightest in weight and most comfortable in terms of shock, followed by titanium, aluminum, and then steel (steel is an interesting one). Carbon frame is exceptionally good at dampening high frequency vibration. Major drawback of carbon fiber is that you have to be more careful handling them because they are more brittle than the other materials, and they are not ideal if you plan to mount racks, trailers, or kick stands on the frame. For day-to-day use where the bike may be subject to banging and falling (and I am assuming you want to pull trailers and mount rack on it), aluminum is still probably your best bet, or if you want to go more exotic, titanium frame would be the next choice over carbon IMHO. Steel actually has pretty good ride property; however weight is a going to be a factor unless you pay more for custom. And any scratch on the paint will rust.
Personally, for flat bars urban/road bike, I like the Cannondale Quick, Specialized Vita, Specialized Sirrus lineups. They span a pretty big price range also so you still have a choice of how expensive you want to get. The Cannondale Quck CX line also comes with suspension in the front if that is a must. As for drop bar, they are all pretty good from the main brands depending on how comfortable you are with the individual model geometry and weight. Unfortunately, bikes are not something you can really buy on paper. Even if you know how the geometry affects the ride, the stiffness of the frame between model and size can still change the feel completely. You gotta try them out in person to see for yourself. Drop bars will offer you more positions to place/rest your hands on longer rides, but they are also more sensitive to fit and adjustment to get comfortable.
As far as comfort goes, the frame geometry and size will play a big part. It's hard to describe and talk about it in text, you will have to test them out to see. A bike that's more upright will ride and feels great for short rides where you stop often. But on longer rides will put more stress on your lower back. A bike that leans over more will go faster and put more weight on your wrist but easier on your back on longer rides. It's a balance that you will have to test for yourself depending on your body strength and flexibility. Some minor adjustment/changes can be made using the stem and some spacers but the frame geometry is locked. Within the 'proper' range of sizes, a bigger frame will ride more comfortably, but the frame is not as rigid and is heavier. Smaller frame will be more responsive/jerky but lighter. You will have to test it out to see what's your preference 8 ) Please note that if you haven't biked for a long while, do not jump in and buy a bike that you are comfortable with right away. Your body will adjust, and you will outgrow that bike and feel it's lacking and sluggish in a very short time once you start biking more often. Might be a good idea to borrow or rent bikes to get your body back in riding shape before deciding on a bike.
If you do plan to keep the bike for a long time, I would focus on the frame more as components can and will wear out over time. You can upgrade and change those much easier than the frame.
Test ride them before deciding!!!!
Bikes for Kids
I have also compiled a list of kid's bikes that should be relevant. You should be able to source them in local bike shops. I have filtered out suspension bikes as they are really not necessary for the kind of trails and biking that most kids do (If you and your kids are devoted cyclists and doing cyclo-cross or full mountain biking where suspension is pretty much a must, you wouldn't be reading this. 8 P) The suspension will just be another wear/maintenance item with the seals and oil/air inside and extra weight on the bike. Please take a look at the list. I put in a rough weight number in there with what I found online and from people posting when available. They are in order of quality and what you get in my humble opinion based on what I can see from pictures and specs; not in terms of price.
Bike Shops in the South Bay Area
Here is a list of the bike shops that I know that you might want to take a look.
|66 Eth Ave, San Mateo, CA 94401
This shop is actually right near where we bike on Foster City on the other side of the freeway exit.
|Specialized, Cervelo, Evo, Niner, Pinarello, Pivot Cycles
|1180 Lincoln Ave, San Jose, CA 95125
|BMC, Brompton, Cannondale, Cleary, Electra, Future Motion, Gazelle, Giant, GoCycle, Juliana, LIV, Momentum, NS Bikes, Orbea, Public Bikes, Rondo, Salsa Cycles, Santa Cruz, SCOR, Serial 1, Stromer, Unagi, Urban Arrow, Yuba
|111 Curtner Ave #80, San Jose, CA 95125
|Trek, Santa Cruz, Sun Bicycles, Electra, Juliana, Pivot Cycles, Batch Bicycles, Brompton, Cervelo, Evil, Evo, Forbidden, Frog Bikes, OPEN, Pinarello, Radio, Rocky Mountain, Strider, Sun Seeker, Tern, Van Dessel, Yeti Cycles
|400 El Paso de Saratoga, San Jose, CA 95130
|Cannondale, Diamondback, Electra, GHOST, Strider, Yuba, Brompton, Burley, Haibike, Salsa, Strider, Tacx, Tern, Wahoo Fitness, Yuba, Zize Bikes
|Wheel Away Cycle Center
|402 E Hamilton Ave, Campbell, CA
|Hyland Family Bicycles
|1515 Meridian Ave, San Jose, CA 95125
|Trek, Giant, Liv, Electra, Strider, WeThePeople, 42, Radio, Ritchey, State Bicycle
|1875 S Bascom Ave Suite 240, Campbell, CA 95008
|Cannondale, Felt, Scott, Ibis, Transition Bicycle, Jamis, KHS Bicycles, Breezer, Charge
|The Off Ramp Bicycles
|2369 El Camino Real, Santa Clara, CA 95050
|Giant, Liv, Brompton, Dahon, Electra, Haro
|Palo Alto Bicycles
|171 University Ave, Palo Alto, CA 94301
|Electra, Trek, Evo, Kona, BMC, Surly, LOOK, Ritchey
Closed Bike Shops
Unfortunately, the following bikes shops have permanently closed:
- Performance Bicycles
- Calmar Cycles