Biking: “Buying a Bike” or “Navigating the World of Bike Snobbery”

5 02 2009

I am planning on writing a lot of posts about subjects that I am definitely not an expert on. Actually, it will take the guess work out of it if you go ahead and assume that I am not an expert on any subject I write about.  That said, here is a post on a subject that I know little to nothing about: Buying a Bike (The kind without a motor).

I’ve known how to ride a bike for at least fifteen years, but until recently, I had not done it that often. In fact, I had not owned a new bike since Santa brought me my first two wheeler. I don’t know how old I was, but the fact that I call it a ‘two wheeler’ tempts me to use tired cliches like ‘snot-nosed kid’ or ‘bright-eyed youngster’ to describe my age.

A few months ago I decided that I wanted a bike that I could commute on, get a good workout, and start doing some longer distance road biking. In my mind, (in which there was no knowledge of the bike market) the logical choice was to go buy a nice, entry level road bike. I had a limited budget, but was confident that $500 could get me a quality ride.

I started shopping at the local bike shops. How quickly knowledge can shatter ignorant confidence! At every shop, the cheapest road bikes were over nine hundred dollars. As in 180% of my $500 budget, $900. It was no small amount of money for me, but every salesman when I asked about the bike would look at the $900 bike in question with a strange mix of disdain and guilt, like you would expect from someone peering out of their stretch Escalade window down on a Ford Pinto with ‘For Sale’ painted on the window that had pulled up beside them. They would talk about the entry level components and the aluminum forks like plague to be avoided. Online reviews confirmed that bikers were universally wary of entry-level components such as Sora found on the cheapest road bikes. Even the friends that I enlisted for help in my bike search emitted the same kind of snobbery around the cheaper bikes.

So I looked online for better deals and used bikes. I found a couple cheap road bikes on Amazon that looked okay, but reviews on them were so negative that they made me worry that they would explode upon arrival. I quickly found out that major bike manufactures sell bikes exclusively through their bike shops, so finding a killer deal on a new bike was out of the question. The Craigslist postings in my area for used bikes were very limited, and I was wary of buying a used bike and not knowing how to work on a bike myself, so the used bike market was out of the picture.

On a return trip to the bike shops a salesman introduced me to a hybrid bike. It was a road bike with mountain bike components that were much cheaper than the lighter, higher-tech road bike componets. Unlike a classic road bike, it had flat handlebars, pretty much making it a flat-bar road bike. Best of all, they started at around $400! With entry-level parts of course…

After researching hybrids a bit more, I narrowed down my search to the Trek 7.3 FX and the Specialized Sirrus, both with price points around $600 which were close enough to my price range to keep me from cringing too much, but nice enough to satisfy at least part of the bike snob that had formed in me while I was bike hunting.

I finally settled on the Trek because it had slightly better components (and was more expensive) and the shop was owned by a very nice family that I wanted to support.

Now that I have the bike, I could not be happier with it. I commute on it three days a week about nine miles round trip, and take it on longer rides about once a week.




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