Bike Selection and Purchase 101
Matt Russ, CTS coach
bikes will range in price from $500 to over
$5000, and vary greatly in design, materials,
and performance. The first decision you
need to make is road bike or tri set up.
What type of riding are you going to be doing?
Are you purchasing the bike for multi-sport
competition or strictly for road riding, training,
and / or racing? A tri bike
is used in triathlons and other multi sport
events, has aero bars and a more forward (less
comfortable) position, can be slightly
heavier than a road bike, and is generally less
comfortable. The position
puts your body more forward over the front wheel
and has your torso almost parallel to the ground.
The more forward position makes the bike
less stable and harder to handle.
On some tri handlebars your hands are
far from the brakes, and the handling is quick
and less controllable. I
do not recommend this type of bike for beginner
riders. You may sacrifice
a bit of weight for aerodynamics, but unless
you are moving pretty quickly, the aerodynamics
will not pay off much... About 80% of
your resistance while cycling comes from the
air around you, but you must be moving above
20 mph to gain the full advantage. If
you are a slower beginning cyclist the more
aerodynamic position is not as much of a factor.
I would start off with a road bike.
decision; recreation or competition? This
is really more about your budget and how competitive
you are. A $500 road bike
can actually be pretty reliable, but is heavier,
requires more maintenance, is not as ergonomic,
and the parts wear out faster. There is
a trickle down in technology from top of the
line road bikes, and an entry level bike can
be of surprisingly good quality.
Furthermore some entry level bikes can
be easily upgraded to make them perform better.
An example of an upgrade would be switching
to a better wheel set, which perhaps will have
the biggest effect on increased speed.
bikes usually start at around $1000.
Competition level bikes usually start
with a Shimano 105 component group or better.
Shimano 105 has all the features of the
more expensive groups (Ultegra and Durace),
is fully race able and durable, but is a little
heavier. Campagnolo also makes excellent
bicycle components, but they are usually found
on more expensive European models. I have
had 105 bikes and full race Durace bikes.
The differences are definitely there, but will
not be significant to the newer rider.
If you are just getting into the sport,
an entry level bike may be good enough for you.
But if you think you are going to stick
with it, and want to be competitive, you should
spend the extra money.
decision; frame type and material. I believe
your best value is aluminum. Aluminum
is extremely light, stiff, and relatively inexpensive
compared with titanium and carbon fiber.
Some complain that aluminum transmits road vibration
more than other materials, but manufacturers
have gotten much better with this. Carbon
fiber is more expensive, but will dampen road
vibration over long rides. Titanium is
even more expensive, and is no longer the lightest
most exotic material. If you buy a ti
frame you are buying a long term investment.
I prefer the latest technology (I buy a bike
every 2 years). Aluminum is going to give
you the most bang for the buck.
Manufacturers are starting to use a combination
of aluminum and carbon fiber in their frame
sets. Another consideration
is geometry- compact or traditional. The
industry has moved towards (sometimes) lighter
compact frames. These frames have a sloping
top tube and look smaller. There advantage
is quicker more precise handling, but you do
not want to take your hands off the bars.
The disadvantage can be that they often do not
come in as many sizes, and can be more challenging
to fit. My preference is a compact, but
I am a smaller rider and I find a good fit with
or used? Buying a new bike is like buying
a new car. As soon as you drive it off
the showroom you are out considerable money,
but there is nothing like that new bike feel.
If you are not handy, it is going to need regular
maintenance (I recommend you learn the basics).
Some shops offer a free lifetime maintenance
policy. This is a good deal; a full adjustment
can run $40+ a pop. If you buy a used
bike off of Ebay or from an individual, you
may get a lot more bike for the money or you
may get a piece of junk. If
you want to pair the price down, go used, but
don't go cheap. If you are
not sure if you are going to stick with cycling
this may be the way to go. Either way
I highly recommend you get professionally sized,
and that does not necessarily mean the sales
guy at the shop. An expert will spend
a good hour with you examining every aspect
of the bikes fit (as many as ten different aspects).
believe you get your best value with large manufacturers
such as Giant, Trek, and Cannondale to name
a few. The bikes are mass
produced, but are generally very high quality
and offer the highest component level for the
price. Think of them as the Hondas'.
The European models generally have more
"panache" with custom colors and even custom
fitting. The Porshes' can run up to $8000 but
are beautifully hand crafted works of art.
A personal recommendation of mine; the
Giant TCR2 which I think is one of the best
bike values. I believe they are going
for around $1300. This puts a world class,
extremely light bike in your hands for not a
lot of money considering the weight and features.
The fall is a great time to buy a bicycle
because shops are clearing out the old models
to make room for the next years and the Christmas
rush. You are also going
to need shoes, helmet, water bottle cages, computer,
a good pump, flat kit, padded shorts, perhaps
a rack, and tool kit. Be prepared, this
is not a cheap sport even for the beginner,
and there is an initial investment. You
can find good prices online for accessories
at Nashbar.com, Performancebike.com,