Fall is glorious. It’s prime time for riding because the temperatures aren’t too hot or too cold yet. It’s that golden time of the year when it seems like every sunrise and sunset is Mother Nature’s attempt at showing off.
The skies have these marvelous mood swings and a ride that starts out sunny could end up in a ferocious storm. Every moment seems more impressive than the last.
I keep my rain gear close at hand and just go. I enjoy the seasons changing it up and skies spreading their wonder and I pedal on breathing in and out and in and out. Thrilled to ride.
Have you ever helped someone buy a bike? Even though the cyling math rule says the number of bikes a person should own is three, the rule says, (N+1) because you can always use another bike. I’d love to buy a bike whenever the whim strikes or something catches my eye. It’s fun to shop and see what’s new in bikes. When I buy or help someone on the road to buying a bike I have a few things in mind.
Purpose: Consider what you want to do first and foremost with your new bike. Is this a bike that you will use to train for an event such as a triathlon? Or is it for some other purpose? Thinking of saving the planet from the harmful effects of CO2? Do you plan to ride year round? Be honest with yourself about what you want. Half of my garage is devoted to my bikes and gear. When I was a kid, that was my dream. Actually, it was the whole garage! All the bikes in my small fleet get used for different tasks. Plus, they represent an evolution in my biking life. I have sold two bikes in my life and I wish I hadn’t. I’m glad they went to good homes, but I don’t like parting with my bikes, so I’d prefer not to sell.
The Browse-About. It’s not a official term, but it’s browsing around and seeing what catches your eye. Along with that there’s the test ride. Start looking and test riding. It doesn’t cost anything to look, except time. Be realistic about your timeline. I think most will agree that if you’re in training for an event you should train with and on the bike you will use for the event. But I’m not an expert on event training. If you’re looking with the intent of buying in a few months then let the person assisting you at the store know you’re looking and hope to purchase in the next six months. Do your homework and visit multiple bike stores. Even if you have favorites, visit others and get a feel for their expertise. Introduce yourself and tell them about what you need.
If the thought of going into a bike shop is overwhelming, then find a bikey friend and tell them what you’re thinking. Don’t buy until you’ve tried out the bike. There’s no rule about how many times you test ride, just ride. I’d even suggest you test ride at least three bikes. You might have your heart set on one in particular, but still if I were your friend, I’d insist on trying a few others which are comparable to the one you’re considering buying. Know your budget. Talk about what you can get for $500, $800 and up. Disc brake will cost more than pads, but they are worth it! That doesn’t mean you have to have disc, brakes, but you should ask to try one with pads and one with disc just to feel the difference. If there’s some wiggle room then ask the bike sales person to show you something in a range of $whatever to $thelimit with similar components.
There might be someone in your life who says they’ll go to Wal-Mart or Target and get a bike. Reconsider that relationship. Just kidding! If you’re in that situation, counsel the buyer to have a bike mechanic put it together. It might cost $50 to have someone else do it, but at least it will be done right. Another option is to go with them and ask what they like about the bike they’re looking at. See if you can get them to elaborate on what exactly is drawing them to that bike. It could be about the color or the basket or something else. I’m not trying to be a bike snob about it, but there are countless reasons NOT to buy from the bike box stores.
When you decide to buy a new bike consider the other gear you might need. Locks, water bottles, kickstand (don’t let anyone shame you out of a kickstand) helmet, tire pump, extra tube, bike bell and other items since you will likely get a discount at that time. If you are an avid rider you probably know that you should get a new helmet every 4-5 years.
The test ride is very important. Wear clothes you would most likely wear for a bike ride. Put on that racing kit (road bike) or wear your shorts and Birkenstocks (cruiser or commuter) and see how it all feels. Remember that you can always upgrade your saddle so if you sit on the bike and decide right away you despise the ride, tell them what you don’t like. “This saddle feels like a plank of wood on my ass.” Use your words and explain what isn’t working for you so they can help tailor your needs. If possible, test ride the bike on a path that has some ups and downs. When you ride the new bike candidate you should get a feel for how the bike will perform in different situations. If that’s not an option because you live someplace flat and that’s not a priority for you then it’s not an issue.
Ask the good folks at your bike shop about getting a bike fitting. It will cost between $65 and $150. I strongly recommend it. A bike fitting isn’t always necessary, but I think if you are small or tall or maybe if you have issues with your shoulders or knees, a fitting can help dial in exactly what you need.
Last week I went to San Diego to visit family and one of the family wanted to buy a bike. I consulted with my cousin on buying his new bike. He has been biking with Zwift over the last year and he was interested in a bike that would do more and feel better. About a month ago he called me and we talked about what he was hoping to do. We talked about the purpose of the new bike.
It was great to be on the advice side of buying. I also enjoyed being present for someone else’s New Bike Day!
Danny bought the bike on Monday and we rode around each day of my visit. After four days of riding around together he went back to the bike store and Greg dialed in the ride a bit more with some fine adjustments made to saddle height and shifting. Bikes aren’t that different from any machine that needs attention. I take better care of my bikes than my one car, but often people think they don’t have to do anything except ride. You have to check tire pressure and look over your bike each time you ride.
Buying a bike is an investment in your health, wellness and well-being. If you love it, you’ll ride and find reasons to ride, so be sure you’re happy with every pedal stroke and every spoke. Plus, it’s good for the environment. Mother Earth will thank you. Another reminder. Ask the bike shop about their return policy. If by some chance you decide it isn’t the bike for you there might be a 30-day period when you can change your mind and choose something else. Talk about the details at your bike shop.
Now maybe you’re wondering how if I took my bike with me to San Diego. I didn’t. During Danny’s test rides I also took the bikes he was considering for a ride. We could compare notes and experiences. Also, I rented a bike for the time I was in town. Danny and I went out every day for a ride. I rode an FX1 and loved it. It’s a basic bare bones sort of bike. Nothing fancy and this bike is affordable. Riding it reminded me of my road bike except the FX felt more responsive and agile.
Yep, the rule is N+1. I was helping my cousin. That’s what family does. I learned that even when you’re not looking sometimes a bike finds you. I didn’t buy, but it was fun to look.
Thanks for reading. Now get out there and ride.
What suggestions do you have for buying a new bike? Leave them in the comments below. Thanks!
As a child, my favorite crayon in the box was copper. It still is. The reddish-orange-brown gleams in the sunlight and shimmers under the moon. You don’t need to coax a sparkle out of copper. There’s a luster to it all the time. My obsession started early with gold and silver too, but copper was my go metal in the crayon box for everything. Yes, I was the kid with the whole color page in copper, silver and gold. When I first saw hammered Honjo mud guards I started scheming. That was over a year ago. They wouldn’t fit one of my other bikes, but I never forgot the copper wink.
But that’s not the whole story. In December I was pining for another bike. I was thinking of doing the Rapha Festive 500 but I didn’t want to use my Cannondale road bike. With rain and snow in the forecast there was little chance of me logging any serious miles on it. If the bike shop had my size in stock, this would be a different post. However it was out of stock and not just for the bike shop, but for the brand. I couldn’t even get a test ride on my size. I was bummed and left to consider some other options.
My old commuter bike, the 2006 Trek Portland, was a great bike. I say was because I relegated it to the basement on the Wahoo trainer I bought about a year ago. That was working out fine, but frankly a waste of a great bike. It had skinny tires and I put the original seat on it. I stripped it down to the essentials and took off the old fenders and rack. I rode it on the trainer only. The back tire was shiny with Zwift miles. It would have been easy to leave it that way, but the thing is that bike is a great bike. It has disc brakes and it can climb with more speed and grace than my carbon fiber. Excellent gearing and overall it was a serious investment back in ’06. My big mistake with the Trek was when I put skinny tires on it for a century. Also, some of my friends were getting new sleek road bikes and I started to think I needed a new road bike. That means my Trek Portland was sidelined and the new carbon fiber was getting all the attention.
New tires, tape and fenders.
It was right around Christmas that I started to consider what if. What if I brought the Portland out of basement biking and back into the riding fleet. A Strava friend posted a picture of his bike and I was blinded by the copper fenders and I started to get organized.
I considered doing the upgrade with the carbon bike, but the Synapse doesn’t have disc brakes and I always feel uncoordinated and tentative on that bike. I kept thinking about the Portland. It has everything I want and with a little love and clever bike mechanics, I can pay for an overhaul and get the bike back on the road where it belongs! That was about two weeks ago. My 2006 Trek Portland looks better than ever and rides like a dream. Again!
Keep your eyes on the road and try not to be distracted by my amazing not-new bike. My Miss Portlandia is geared up for some touring. First 35 miles completed and another 1000 ahead. Easy!
If you’re on the fence about your bike options, my advice it to consider how you can make the most of the bike(s) you have. Again, I can say this because that other bike just wasn’t available, but the whole incident was a challenge and I feel like I handled it well and saved myself some money and got exactly what I wanted.
Considering a renovation of an existing bike gives you an opportunity to customize the bike exactly the way you want. I never had major issues with my Trek, I wanted a slightly wider tire and some bling. Plus having bike mechanics overhaul your bike and clear out all the built up gunk is a good thing.
The results amaze me. I can’t take my eyes off this bike. I ride past windows trying to get a glimpse. Riding around I saw heads turn and people raise their eyebrows in approval. Some people say it’s just a bike. Just my bike!
Some little birds think I did a great job! I am thrilled with how she looks and most importantly, how she rides! What do you do to update, upgrade and otherwise renew your ride? Leave your thoughts below.
I am a creature of habit when it comes to my daily ride. It feels like I’ve veered off into the ditch of doom when I don’t get my daily spin. The biggest obstacle with the start of the 2017 year has been wind, freezing rain and snow. I ride through most weather conditions, but ice is not nice. I got out yesterday on the fatty bike since we had something more than a dusting, but less than an inch of the white stuff. A short, cold ride was totally worth it until I couldn’t feel my hands or take pics, but then today the freezing rain started and the wind is about 38-45 mph and the temps drop to the teens and I’m spending time researching Zwift and smart trainers. I can’t go out and buy something because of the aforementioned snow and ice, but I am learning about some of the desireable features.
Please feel free to tell me what you think in the comments. I’d appreciate constructive feedback on trainers and Zwifting. My budget is $550 or less. I am not training for something other than life, y’know. Being a healthy, fit person. I like to ride everyday and when weather derails the day, I want a back up. Truth be told: I will always be a slow poke. I have an active imagination, but I know the podiums exist only in my imagination. I don’t care! I do enjoy the competition I see on the Zwift boards. I mean it doesn’t matter to me if I am on a ride and I’m dead last. I’d prefer being alone and going at my own pace. Now I hope my performance doesn’t adversely effect the peloton, but from what I can see I can have a nice workout and enjoy some interesting scenery. It won’t be the same as outside, but I’ll have a ride which isn’t compromised by the weather.
My list and musings:
Smart trainers under consideration:
TACX Satori Smart Trainer gets decent reviews and price point is okay.
Kinetic Road Machine Smart Trainer is one I’ve seen in bike shops. It costs a bit more than the Tacx and that’s about all I can see that’s different besides the look of it.
Elite QUBO Digital Smart B+ comes in at about $250, but gets low marks on its Bluetooth connection.
KickR Snap by Wahoo is very cool but it’s over budget. I’m also considering the usual suspects like Cyclops and giving up on the resistance training. But then I stop and consider the resistance is probably one of the big selling points of indoor training. Maybe it would be a motivating factor for me to ride more, train harder and actually have a different riding experience. Less utilitarian and more endurance.
I already have Strava Premiere subscription, so I’m not factoring that into my budget. There’s space in the house for me to dedicate a spot to Zwifting. I even have a yoga mat I could use for the mat that everyone seems to show as well.
Months ago when I talked with someone at a bike shop about trainers, there was a deluge of details about the back tire. Seriously! I couldn’t handle the info. By the time I heard about changing my back tire and rim, I was done. I don’t want to get into that. Get me to the Zwifting start line and if I’m using it so much I wear out the tire, well, I’ll deal with that when the time comes.
Frankly, there are two potential bikes I could use on the trainer. One is my actual road bike which is a lovely carbon fiber Cannondale Synapse sweetheart.
She’d love to be on a trainer. Poor dearie, doesn’t get much time at all. I am skittish as a kitten on ice when I’m on a road bike. Rollers are not an option. But we’ll talk about that in another post. I know I need about $100 for the incidentals like the Ant and other bits, but am I missing anything other critical parts?
Here’s a great video from this guy, Shane Miller, I found on YouTube. This was extremely helpful. Shane goes through a set up from start to finish. I have checked CraigsList for a Cyclops or even someone’s cast off. I’m still in the research phase. I need to try out a few trainers and see how they work and feel.
If you got out today, good job! I’m hoping we have some warmer temps in the forecast this week, because bottomline, I don’t like having my rides interrupted.