Getting back into it

Hey guys - first post here, so be gentle.

As a young lad, I was a fairly avid biker (road bike), and loved it. However, life got in the way, and have not done any serious riding in 20+ years. With all that being said, I have a number of questions.

  1. Where should I be looking for a new bike (or new to me would be better!)? As I am just getting back into things, I don’t want to break the bank.
  2. Where is a good location where I can begin to build up stamina (within HRM), without riding on the road (want to get my confidence up before I ride with the cars). I am fine with a 400m track if thats all that is around.
  3. From a brand perspective, I see that Cannondale, Trek and Giant are all well regarded. Any other brands I should be considering?
  4. I live in the Prospect area, and some of the roads out this way are not paved. Should that rule out a road bike (thin tires)?

Look forward to hearing from you.


Whenever a friend is looking to get into biking and asks me what to get. I usually suggest a Giant Talon or similar with disc brakes.

I realize you may have been thinking a road bike but this is an MTB site and a good hardtail is a pretty versatile rig. It would be great for crusher dust, roads and trails.

Personally, I like disc brakes because nothing gives you better confidence than good stopping power.

I would talk to both @riderx (from Vally Stove and Cycle) and @rossw (from Ideal Bikes). I have had wonderful experiences with both. As for tails the BLT trails would be good. A good portion off of Joseph Howe Dr is paved and completely separate from cars. After a few km it turns into smooth crush gravel.

Thanks for the tips Jeff. Only reason I am interested in a road bike, is that is what I grew up, and like the feel of the handlebars for longer rides (I may be using the wrong terminology here).

Sounds like disk brakes need to be added to my list of “must have” items for the bike.

I completely forgot about the BLT trails. I work extremely close to Ashburne Golf Course (which I think has an entrance to the trail there), so that would be perfect.

I will check out both Valley Stove and Cycle, and Ideal Bikes. I would love to support local!

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I’d check out a bike like the Kona Rove at Cyclesmith. It’s puts you in the perfect position for a beginner on the road. Not super aggressive, but able to pull you along for some good distance in comfort. Great on the rails to trails or out on the road. If you want a little more speed, then the Kona Jake the Snake series, or the Trek Crossrip are great choices.

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Welcome, and happy to hear you’re getting back to biking!

“Cross” (Cyclocross) bikes are a lot like road bikes (they use drop handlebars), but generally have gravel-friendly wheels, and tires, and have disc brakes. They are very versatile - pretty good on road, paved or dirt, pretty good on gravel. Not as high performance on road as a dedicated road bike, not able to handle rough terrain that a dedicated mountain bike could, but great for in-between. The Jake the Snake and Crossrip are Cross bikes. Actually, now that I look at their websites, the Kona Jakes are listed as cyclocross/commuter, and the Trek Crossrip a commuter/gravel bike. Trek’s entry level cyclocross bike is the Crockett. It seems the bike manufacturers are building more hybrid bikes these days.

A cool place to road ride right now is the Indigo Shores subdivision just outside Sackville. Since it’s a new subdivision, it’s got good new roads, but hardly any traffic. It’s like a backwoods ride on nice paved roads. In and out with a loop is about a 45-minute ride for me.

Probably most of us here ride mountain bikes (although a lot of us ride road too). Have you thought about trying that style of riding out? Much safer than dodging traffic on the road, and getting out in the woods is a great escape and adventure. You can probably get into a used mountain bike cheaper than a good quality used road or cross bike.

Rail-trail and park “crusher dust” trails are relatively easy rides and suitable for a mountain bike or Cross bike. Point Pleasant, Shubie Park, Sackville Lakes, Hemlock Ravine, Clayton Park powerlines, Salt Marsh Trail are all good gravel rides in HRM.

Try to avoid buying department store bikes (Walmart or Canadian Tire), or at least test ride at bike shops before buying, so you’ll get the right size and know what to look for. The quality and assembly of department store bikes are way below bike store bikes. Giant, Trek, Specialized, Kona, Norco, Cannondale are probably the biggest names in bikes. However, each manufacturer has a range from cheaper, lower quality components, to high-end mortgage-the-house practically gold-plated bikes. You can often gauge the quality of a bike by looking at the rear derailleur - it will help to estimate the level of components:

In mountain bikes, from worst to best:
Shimano: SIS, Tourney, Altus, Acera, Alivio, Deore/Zee, LX/SLX/Saint, XT, XTR
SRAM: X3, X5, X7, X9, NX, GX, X1, XO, XX

In road bikes from worst to best:
Shimano: Tourney, Claris, Sora, Tiagra, 105, Ultegra, Dura-Ace
SRAM: Apex, Rival, Force, Red

If the rear derailleur doesn’t have a label, it’s a generic very cheap component. If it says Shimano, but doesn’t have a model name, it’s probably bottom of the line SIS.

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Welcome! Glad you’re getting back into cycling!

The best advice I can give is to try several bike brands and get the one that fits the best. This sounds like a non answer, but it’s the truth. We sell three brands at Valley Stove and Cycle and I aim to get the right bike for your application and fit.

Gravel grinder bikes are a great category of bike to look into. They can handle both rails to trails, dirt roads, and the paved road easily with disc brakes. The geometry is such that you are a little more up and less stretched than a traditional road bike.

Giant make a couple great models in the Toughroad and Anyroad. Specialized makes a great model in the Specialized Diverge. Drop by the valley and check some out if you wish and be sure to check out other brands too.

See you on the trails!

Also, don’t forget about the new crusher dust trails at long lake from Tim Hortons to the end of the lake by spryfield.

You can connect from BLT too if you don’t mind hike a bike.


I’ll add a +1 to the gravel bike suggestion. You might want to add the Norco Search to the list. Comes in a variety of trim levels, including an XR version which is basically a mountain bike with drop bars. Prices start a little over $1000 and head toward the unobtainium level, but even the base level is a good start. Banks Bikes in Wolfville can hook you up as well - although a bit of a hike from Prospect

I’m primarily a roadie with an XC hardtail mostly collecting dust in the basement.

Thanks for the super detailed response.

I checked out Indigo Shores this weekend, and I will be hitting that on my bike, once I manage to get my mits on one. A lot folks I know that ride semi seriously, have all echoed your comments about avoiding the big box stores. Honestly, I prefer to shop local whenever possible.

With all of the reading/reseach I have been doing, I have devided to NOT go with the road bike route. They are just not as versatile as a mountain bike.

What exactly should I be looking for in a derailleur? To my amateur eye, they all kinda look the same.

This brings up the inevitable question, how does one try a bike without buying it? Is there some kind of rental program that I should be looking at while I kick the tires?

Is a gravel bike the same as a mountain bike? As for disc brakes - everyone I talk to seems to say it is a must have for any decent bike.

If you ever feel like shaking the dust off the hardtail, let me know!

A gravel bike typically has drop bars vs flat bars on a mountain bike. The geometry of the bike will be different, and a mountain bike will come with suspension. There are three common sizes of wheels on mountain bikes, 27.5", 29" and available in plus size which indicates a wheel width of 2,8 - 3.25" typically.

Yes, disc brakes are a must! The vast majority, if not all bikes now come with disc brakes (mechanical or hydraulic). Get hydraulic if it’s in the budget. More power, better modulation.

Any reputable bike shop will allow you to test ride a bike. We have a rails to trail system very close to our shop to allow folks to try out bikes.

Yes, all derailleurs pretty much look the same. To identify a derailleur, I need to look at the label on the derailleur. It should have a manufacturer name and model name. For example, see the label on the picture of the Shimano Deore derailleur at the link below:

The derailleur just gives me an idea of the level of components on a bike. If you see a bike with an XT derailleur on it, it’s probably a high-end bike. If you see a bike with Shimano Tourney, it’s probably near the bottom.

For example, consider 2 bikes, both Giant Talons (just for example, not necessarily recommending).

Giant Talon 3 -

rear derailleur - Acera
That tells me that the components on this bike are low-middle, which is a decent entry-level for serious mountain biking
retails for $700

Giant Talon 1 -

rear derailleur - Deore
That tells me this bike is higher-end than the Talon 3 - solid middle range bike. For someone a bit more serious about their riding - looking for lighter, more reliable components.
Probably the same frame, but if you look at the specifications, almost every component on the Talon 1 is upgraded over the Talon 3. Better fork, better wheels, better derailleurs, shifters, brakes, etc.
retails for $1200

Note that sometimes manufacturers specify a higher group rear derailleur than other components on the same bike. For example, they might have a Deore (higher groupset) rear derailleur, but use Alivio (lower groupset) shifters and other components.

For example, the Specialized Rockhopper below uses an SLX rear derailleur, but the front derailleur and shifters are Deore, one tier down.

In general though, a new bike with an SLX (higher groupset) derailleur will have better components (and cost more) than one with an Acera (lower groupset) derailleur.

And when out at the LBS, also take a look at the fatbikes. The ones with the 4"+ tires that can go anywhere . . . even road if you don’t care about rolling resistance and sounding like monster truck. :slight_smile:

Oh . . . welcome back to the sport.


I think it’s important to remember you can have fun and get radical no matter what you’re riding!


As @riderx Riderx says, almost all bike shops will let you test ride. It’s really the only way to know if a bike fits and “feels right”.

However, it might take longer than a neighborhood ride to know if you really like a bike, especially mountain bikes, where you really want to give them a shakedown on a trail.

Some shops do bike rentals - Valley Stove Cycle, Bank’s Bikes, and I think Ideal Bikes. A rental will give you the opportunity to take a longer ride on a bike, and in the case of a mountain bike, get it out on a trail. However, the shop’s fleet of rentals may be limited, and not be exactly the bike you’re looking for.

Some manufacturers do demo days where you can take a bike out for an extended demo. Keep your eyes peeled on ECMTB for notices. This is a great way to try out a variety of bikes on an extended ride.

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Cyclesmith and Kona are doing demo days next weekend…

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We (Valley Stove and Cycle) will be having a Giant demo and a Specialized Demo dates pending.