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    Tell me about buying a bike.  
    See also Why do I need a Bike Fit?

Unless you really know what you are doing with bike fit, you are better off buying the bike fitter, not the bike. Find a good fitter and follow his/her recommendations.

Mark Ramsby

General consensus regarding people getting serious about bikes: FIT IS EVERYTHING! Don't buy the brand or even the general type of bike if it doesn't fit you properly. Brand or frame material won't make you feel better if you're too cramped or too stretched out for long periods of time.

The old "inch between your crotch and top tube" fit test just doesn't answer all of the questions that your body needs to answer. Try to find someone in your area who can help determine the geometry that's right for your body and your riding style. After that, you can pour over catalogs and spec sheets to see if your "dream bike" has the angles and inches to match your physiology. This is particularly important if you're already dealing with a lasting injury. If your "fit guru" has any background in physical therapy (or at least a good contact in the field), so much the better. Who knows, you might be able to solve your neck and/or back problems just by tuning the fit.

Scott Saulsbury

Not all bikes of a given size are created alike, and I'm not just talking about materials. There can be significant differences in the relative lengths of the frame tubes between manufacturers.

A Trek 52cm will likely be quite different from a LeMond 52cm, and so on. So, before you get too set on a brand and model, get some help with the fit. (Sorry about the repetition, but it's important.)

Like Don, I used to go by standover height and some test riding. The kind of test ride you can usually do out of a shop will not tell you how you'll feel after 25, 50 or 100 miles, though. A fit specialist with a trained eye can help avoid unpleasant surprises.

Left to my own devices and "conventional wisdom" in choosing a size, I never would have gone with a frame as large as my current one, but my back has never felt better on a bike. Climbing or sprinting while standing is also far more comfortable, and I can stay very relaxed when climbing in the saddle.

Now when I see pictures of me riding my old bike, I just wonder how the hell I lasted for 22,000 miles on it. I looked like Quasimodo's American cousin.

Scott Saulsbury

It's true, it's true! I have two frames, both 56 cm -- one is perfect for me and the other is too big. My Trek 56 cm, which I rode CO on, is perfect. My Guerciotti 56 cm, on the other hand, is too large.

It's actually sort of scary to ride my Guerc, as much as I love it during the actual riding portion, because stopping and starting is a real challenge -- my Look cleats just barely contact the road enough for me to put my foot down when stopped and push off the foot when starting back up again.

Granted, some of that has to do with the Look cleat being so "slippy" (sorry, Pittsburghese!) on the tarmac, but the frame is definitely a bit too large to be truly perfect. Being the "racer hidden in the body of a couch potato" I am, though, I can't bear not to ride my ill-fitting Guerc at least a few times a week LOL.


My two `mechanical design' cents (and some change)

I agree to all the other comments on cycle size made by the gals and guys. Getting a complete custom frame did it for me. I wanted a carbon frame, but I could not afford a custom carbon frame even if I could get one (duh). I want to address the issue that design and construction methods make a big difference in the performance of a bike.

Serotta builds excellent bikes with hand set frames. Most manufactures have pre-set jigs to mass produce frames and have automated manufacturing methods to keep cost down. Serotta hand builds their bikes with Colorado `tapered' tubing. They invented the S-Bend chain stay that resist bottom bracket deflection by boosting drive train rigidity 10-13% over conventional chain stays. Translation, more power to the wheel per crank.

You can also order the F-1 Carbon Fork. While an after market fork may work, why not get one that is designed for your bike. These carbon are designed to be shear resistant.

Now Serottas are not cheap, but the best money that I've ever spent was getting myself measured by a professional. I risked divorce court to get my Serotta but it was worth it. It rides great for these reasons.

1. I had a pro-fit by Michael Silvester at the Bike Gallery for the frame and all components.
2. He stood by the frame and said that if it did not fit he would work with me till it did.
3. He paid attention to details that I never considered, like crank length and handle bar width.
4. He watched me ride on the fitting trainer for 10 minutes coaching me on position (he raced the pro circuit in Europe).

He fitted me on my mountain bike and the result was I shaved 10-15 minutes from my regular bike commute. I rode that bike for 5,000 miles with the seat 3 inches too low and was reaching to far for the handle bars.

Anyway I'm sure everyone on the list can give you `free' advice on buying a bike. When asking advice always ask them, `Would you buy that bike again from the same shop?'. My answer is yes. When I can afford to upgrade I will get the F-1 carbon fork and some sort of carbon rims. I'm still analyzing the data from Don `the Spinergy' test pilot' Bolton.

The best time to buy a bike is in the dead of winter after Christmas. Bike shops really want business to keep their employees busy until the spring cycle season starts and will give you good service and prices in January. The Bike Gallery has a pro-sale in January. I saved about $800 dollars by buying my frame and kit at this sale. I even met Ben Serotta.

Do your research now and figure out what to buy. Get sized and then watch the sales and then pounce on it.

Lonnie `the cheep skate except when it comes to bikes' Wormley

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Finally, should I get a triple to begin with, or wait and see?

John Carr

triple, TRIPLE, TRIPLE !!!


Unless you are a real hardbody with knees of steel you are going to want a triple for CO. Those hills are very lllooooongggg and you will want to have a low gear and just sit there spinning away - forever.... Seriously, it often takes me a good hour or so for the common CO uphill and some take much longer than that. Most people can't pump a high gear for that long and still enjoy life.

Rox Heath

FWIW, Day 2 of CO12 was "do-able" with a double chain ring - I'd've mugged someone for their triple IF I'd had the energy. ;-p Wondering if I can swing a retro-fit......


As far as I'm concerned, there are two main things to look for in a bike: Proper fit and a TRIPLE!

Nanette "wait & see about the double" Hoheisel

The triple chainring is a serious matter of religious dogma (much like the B foot on a flute). I have a double (39-52) on my Lemond. I did Cycle Oregon XII with the double on the front and the stock 12-25 on the rear. Just didn't know any better, since it was my first Cycle Oregon <grin>. However, I recently spoke to a fellow on Bainbridge Island who has my bike with the triple Ultegra on it--he wished he had the double! Evidently the different gearing meshes (so to speak <grin>) with your riding style.

For me, I think I'll never put a triple on the Lemond. I have a lot of brute strength in my legs. When I get really tired I stop spinning and start mashing, with nice <grin> square strokes.

To contrast, my wife rode her first season with the double chainring, and she would run out of sheer Newtons/dynes on the hills. Forget about watts; she just didn't have the raw <oomph> to make it up the hills. With the triple she's fearless. She might be proceeding at a pace slower than a walk, but she won't ever run out of leg strength.

If you're concerned about leg strength, by all means opt for a triple. I have one on my mountain brick, and I've actually used it going through Washington Park (esp. Park Place heading up to the entrance). If you already have a double, I'd recommend leg presses, leg extensions, leg curls, and machine squats for a couple of months; it's all I've ever needed...

Jason Penney

Okay, so here we are trying to narrow down what we really want in a bike and we have come to the big question - another hybrid or something touring-style with drop handlebars.

I know several people have switched from one style to the other. And I know a lot of people rave about drop handlebars and they seem to be preferred on things like CO. I have wondered though if the people who switched like their new bikes because of all the neat new stuff and the superb fit or if the change to the drop handlebars was really the big thing.

One of the local bike shops told us that the touring riders seem to be changing to mountain bikes with slicks. He said this was because for long trips the mountain bikes were a more comfortable position. He also said that touring bikes are not made that much anymore. Many of the current models do not even have all of the luggage mounting options they used to.

I think I am after comfort over speed (within reason).

These bikes are being bought for long distance multi-day touring - either CO style or towing a trailer with gear.

One thing I really like about the straight handlebars we have is that we have long heavily curved and padded bar ends mounted above them. When we use these we are then sitting upright. This is nice for stretching and relaxing your back (as the recumbent riders know). Naturally we can't do this in heavy traffic, headwinds, etc.

Rox Heath

The important thing is that YOU are comfortable (your body and your mind) with your choice. That being said, some information: Flat bars vs. Drops. The flat bars give you 2-3 riding positions. Drop bars give 5-6. That usually means more comfort for the drops (assuming they are properly set up in both cases. I have one bike setup with "mustache" bars which offer fewer positions than the drops. At about 40 miles I yearn for the drops, because they are more comfortable.

So where am I going with this? Ride some bikes! Take your saddle and pedals, take along your saddle height measurement, and then ride a good distance on the prospective candidate. Make sure the bikes (several) you ride fit you, that you are able to get the bars high enough. (if you are forty/fifty-ish and not in an elite level of fitness, make sure your bars can be at the same height as the saddle.) Make sure that you are not stretching out too far (especially women, who tend to have shorter torsos in relation to leg length than men).

(As an aside, on this subject of "stretching out" on the bike. I have one bike that I've owned for 27 years. When I bought it, I used a 13cm stem. Now it's fitted with a 9cm stem. The difference: 27 years of wear and tear on my body! 27 years of loss of flexibility. It happens! Get over it! Ride on!)

Mark Ramsby

Have you thought of buying a drop-bar bike for its' better component package, and converting to flat bars? This might give you the best of both worlds.

Have fun, whatever you choose to do!

Mark Ramsby

For future bike buyer's reference the handlebar question boiled down to 3 advantages for drop handlebars over straights:

More aerodynamic - but if you are too stiff (as we were) to get that low they raise the handlebars and you end up at about the height we are at right now.
More hand positions. Our bar ends are each about 10 inches long (VERY hard to find) and curve around in a loop back towards the handlebar. This gives us plenty of hand positions. They are also covered with nice cushy foam.
The other cyclists on CO, etc. tend to go that route. Copying the neighbors has never really appealed to me as a reason to buy something.
BTW, Beaverton Bike Gallery is happy to swap straight and drop handlebars on any bike so that ended up not even being something we looked at on a bike.

Rox Heath

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  Page Last Updated: Jan. 20, 2003  
    CyclingSite > CO Collected Wisdom > What to Take > Bikes > Buying a Bike  

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