So, you are buying your first REAL road bike? Before I share a story about how to buy a modern road bike, my first bike story seems appropriate.
As a poor kid growing up in the mountainous part of New York State, I rode whatever my parents put in front of me. That meant big store and discount style. For four years, I spent 330 days a year riding a 3 speed bike that was permanently stuck in third gear.
This gearlessness issue was consequential. Going downhill was great fun, as my bike was in the right gear to go downhill fast. However, going uphill was more than difficult. I felt compelled to stand up and power my way up hills that others would either walk up or downshift into lower gears for. I thought it made me tough and helped me earn the respect of the older boys. Since we lived halfway up a hill, and there was no way I could go out and see my friends without tackling that hill. This turned out to be a blessing, and it still affects my recreation choices today. My legs were made strong, and my speed both up and downhill was always good. I could keep up with the older kids, even when their little brothers that were my age couldn’t maintain the pace. Louis Paige was 4 years older than me, but I could always bike with him.
This probably played a role in my success in this sport, now that I think about it.
Fast forward from 1975 to 2013. Do let yourself be duped…the components on even the lowest end road bikes today are better than what the top Tour de France riders used back in 1975. Sure, there are differences between components and styles. Those differences will always exist. Let’s focus on what changes the least, and yes, I will connect this to Kenny G.
Perhaps 6 months ago, I bought my first tri-bike. The experiences, both the good and the bad, of my first bike affected what I was looking for in this bike. I didn’t care at all about color, manufacturer, built in Wi-Fi, 1080P HD Color displays, air bags, seat belts, or associated insurance. My decision making criteria were exactly 3 in number.
1) Did the bike fit me? As a multisport athlete, you get on the bike in the middle of your event and you get off of it long before you are finished. That riding experience has to be comfortable. Borrowing Uncle Elroy’s bike that has been sitting in the garage for 12 years is great for a Sunday stroll, but it won’t do anything to motivate you to get out and bike more. Most certainly, get yourself fitted at a bike shop by someone who knows what they are doing. I would put the decision to buy a bike online in the same level of stupidity in decision making skills as buying a wife online. You need to try out the ride before investing. There are ample comparisons between bikes and wives to be made here. I am at a loss to determine which one has more moving parts, though.
2) How did I feel about the mechanics of the ride? If it were possible to put the essence of Kenny G into a bike, that is what you would want. Every part of the riding experience needs to be smooth. I wanted both sitting and standing to be smooth. I wanted gear shifting to be smooth and predictable. I wanted turning at high speed as well as stopping on a hill to be predictable. I wanted to know that for a given effort, the bike would respond the way I wanted it to. When you are an hour into a ride, and you experience anxiety about your bike’s reliability or its mechanics, you will not trust your bike.
3) Price. If I could get exactly what I wanted in fit and “essence of Kenny G,” I would sort out the decision based on price.
I narrowed my choices down to a Cervelo and a Quintana Roo. The QR had a greater Kenny G quotient, but it cost more than the Cervelo. I paid the uplift to get the extra smooth of the QR. It had an electronic gear changing mechanism and it was very natural to ride on it both downhill and uphill. I rented a Cervelo at Nationals, and it was a fine bike, but it was not as smooth at the QR I test rode.
There are lots of good stories about there about the differences between carbon frames and metal frames, as well as blogs about components, wheels, seat types, etc. Those all vary, as technology changes. Getting a good fit is not about technology. You need to know your bike size and have someone help you experiment with handle bar height, seat position and the like before you commit.
What do you buy? Why did you buy it? More importantly, would you recommend it to others?