Buying Guide

Another bike blog I read frequently recommends products. Am I remiss in failing to do so, or am I countering consumerism by not encouraging you to buy more?

I kept my first new bike for 17 years – until it was stolen. When I went to replace it, I test rode more than 30 bikes before I said “Aha! This is my bike!” I am not necessarily recommending that.

If you are thinking about buying a bike, ask yourself: 1) what do I need? 2) what do I want? 3) what can I afford? Then think about how long you will own this bike and adjust #3 as needed. During that shopping spree 30+years ago, I started with a budget of $1000. Then I rode the bike that made me say “Aha!”. I realized that my previous bike lasted 17 years and I saw no reason to keep this one for any less time. Amortized over 20 years, $1000 is not much (even 30 years ago). The bike was on sale. It cost $1800, discounted for being old stock – it didn’t have the latest technology (Hyperglide) and it had passé technology (Biopace). For $30 I swapped out the chainrings for round ones. 30 years later I’m still riding it. (While shopping, I also rode a $4000 bike. It did not make me say “Aha!” Money is not everything.)

I read in the bike press that the number of bikes to own is “N+1” (one more than you already own). I don’t know any real people who actually think that way. That saying is a way to justify selling you things you don’t need and maybe don’t even really want. I think the correct number is “just enough”. That number could be 1; it could be more. I have a bike that I wouldn’t ride in snow, sand, and salt. That kind of riding required another bike. Could I get by with just the bike that I do ride in snow, sand, and salt? Not to ride across the country. So the answer for me is >1.

Okay, so you’re ready to buy something. Next advice – do your research, shop carefully, then go with your gut. Bike and equipment (especially clothing) choices are pretty personal. What’s right for me may not be what’s right for you. If you have a local bike shop, patronize them. (I don’t mean be patronizing – that’s the next sentence.) If you find a shop that is rude or discounts you (because you’re old, because you’re a woman, because you don’t know their lingo) find another shop. Go to a bike shop, not to WalMart. Do you know what you’re doing, and what you want, or do you need someone else’s expertise? How badly (or how soon) do you need something? Can you get it on sale? You can buy online, but don’t try stuff out at the local shop and then buy it online because it’s a few dollars cheaper. That’s rude.

Back to that personal example. When I bought the bike mentioned above, I had test-ridden a used bike from the same builder. It was beautiful (but also not available). His frame painter had a style he called “superfade”. It was not your average fade from one color to another. He started with a base color (We’ll say purple, as that’s what I saw and fell in love with. He starts at the back of the bike and paints a little over 20% of it purple. (These numbers are based on my recollection of a conversation with him 30 years ago. They may not be accurate, and he may have retired.) Then he mixes it with silver – 75% purple/25% silver. He overlaps the first coat and goes just past 40% of the frame. Now he mixes 50/50 and overlaps again, going just past 60% of the frameset. 25/75 takes him just past 80%. Pure silver (overlapping with the last coat) goes on the final 20% (mostly the fork at this point). Looking at the bike, you’re not sure what color it is. From one angle it’s silver. From another angle, it’s purple. As the light hits it differently, the metallic sheen of the silver is more or less prevalent in the mixed areas.

That was the most beautiful bike I’d ever seen. But the bike on sale at the local shop was red (and I’d been riding a red bike for the past 17 years). It made me say, “This is my bike” when I rode it. I wanted that superfade paint, but did I need it? I saved a lot of money and bought the red one. Truth be told, rather than pay full price for the bike and the cost of a custom paint job, I bought a second bike. Now I had a bike to go fast and have fun, and another bike to carry loads and ride to work.

This was to be part 1 of 2. I wrote a second post, very specific about specific products, but WordPress froze while “autosaving”. The only way to get out of that was to leave the page, so I was faced with the internet version of “my dog ate my homework”. The last recoverable version was only the intro. I decided that was god’s way of saying you don’t need to hear that part. WYSIWYG.

Author: halffastcyclingclub

We are a group of friends who ride bikes. Some of us are fast, some of us are slow, all of us are half-fast. In 2018, one of us is riding coast to coast across the US. If we meet Sal Paradise, we'll let you know.

One thought on “Buying Guide”

  1. My first mountain bike was a low-end Nishiki with no shocks. It was purple. I wanted a red bike. The kid I took with me to the bike store told the sales man just that. “But Martha WANTS a red bike!” I loved the Nishiki but I replaced it with a Trek (red and black) with front shocks. I never loved it. There was something about the Nishiki that was just friendly. I can’t explain it. My four most beloved bikes were my Hercules 3 speed I got when I was 10, my Raleigh Record 10 speed I had for years and commuted on, my Chinese Wu Yang on which I rode everywhere the year I lived in China, and the Nishiki. I have a bike now that deserves a better life than I’ve given her. I can’t decide whether to sell her or push myself to learn how to get on it from the wrong side. There have been other bikes in my life and they left no lasting mark on my memory. Those four were like living beings who wanted to do what I wanted to do. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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