Schwinn Collegiate

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Search for a New Bike: Where to buy it.

So once I decided I wanted a carbon fiber bike, I had to choose which brand and which model to purchase.  I started by looking at my choices at some of my favorite bike shops.  Providence Bicycle offered Specialized, Cannondale, Felt, and Pinarello as some of their major brands.  Landry's carried both Specialized and Trek, while East Providence carried Trek and Giant (the only retailer I could find with Giant bikes in the area).  Finally, Caster's offered Trek and Scott's as their two brands.  In my never ending search I test rode Specialized's Roubaix and Tarmac, Trek's Madone and Domane, as well as Giant's TCR.  The reason that I didn't try more bikes is because so few shops had any bikes that were my size.  It was very frustrating.  I wanted a shop that had them all and had them in my size, so I could ride them and compare them side by side.

I spent countless hours reading about the various bikes and all I could determine is that everyone's opinion conflicted.  Once again I was at a loss.  I started to decide that more important than one brand over another was my commitment to one shop over another.  I started to move closer and closer to EP Bicycle and Caster's and so my choices were quickly becoming Trek, Scott, or Giant.  I was very interested in Giant, especially their Defy as it is constantly rated as a great bike and a great bang for your buck.  I went to EP, which was essentially my only option nearby, and they didn't have any Defy's close to my size.  In fact, they didn't have a TCR in my size either.  They let me test ride a 58 cm TCR, and I was pretty disappointed.  Admittedly, it may have been the fit, but it felt like a tiny plastic toy.  When I test road the Specialized bikes and Trek bikes, they felt much more substantial and responsive.

After doing more research on bike shops, I started to really focus in on Caster's.  They employees were friendly and professional and really made me comfortable.  They offered lifetime yearly tune-ups, and were willing to match the sale that EP Bicycles was having.  They also included a free fitting, which I knew was a must with a new road bike.  In fact, they were the only local shop I could find that offered a fit for free.  One finally sealed it for me was when I met with Reed Caster himself, and he really treated me with kindness and respect.

To be continued....

Friday, April 19, 2013

Thinning the Herd

With my recent acquisition of two new high budget (for me) bicycles, I've started to confront my need to thin the herd.  For one, I have many redundant bicycles.  Do I really need 5 vintage steel touring bicycles?   Well, I really want to say yes, but truth be told most of my bikes are sitting around not being ridden.  This feels like a travesty as I love my bikes and think they should all be loved and ridden daily.  As is, I often want to take out my orange Gran Turismo, but am so excited to ride my new bikes that I simply don't.  I also have a number of projects that I haven't even completed including my Bianchi Alfana and my beloved Specialissima.

So, I decided to post some of my beloved bicycles on craigslist.  It was easy to know where to start.  My golden Univega Gran Turismo is a duplicate of my orange Gran Turismo, and is in good condition as I put a lot of work into it over the winter.  I have read about people struggling to appropriately price their bikes because of their sentimental attachment, and I certainly recognize that this will be a problem when it comes to pricing the bikes.  I also would love to recoup the money I put into the bikes but realize that a lot of that money is put into consumables, and it simply isn't always possible.  That being said, I am starting  to price my bikes at how much I put into them and seeing how much of it I can recoup.  In the end though, it is more important to me that the bikes get a new home with someone who will love them than that I recoup every dollar I spent.

Bikes ready to sell:
1980 Univega Gran Turismo
1987 Univega Gran Touring
1980 Univega Sportour

Bikes sold:
Specialized Crossroads Crux

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Search for a New Bike: Aluminum vs. Carbon

So I got the Ridley XBow in January, and I am very excited to ride some trails on it, but I decided to make the dive into a new road bike.  After talking to the very nice person at Caster's On Fourth, I started to realize that even though I love my steel bikes, technology has come a long way in the last 30 years, even in steel construction.  Enjoying the ride of the aluminum XBow with the carbon fork, I figured I might really enjoy a new bike.  I started with a basic knowledge of what I wanted.  An aluminum bike with a carbon fork and 105 components.  Should have been easy, right?


Knowing that I wanted an aluminum bike should have made this all easier, but as soon as I got out to the shops, sales people immediately started to sing the praises of carbon: I was suspicious.  Were they just trying to upsell me?  Were they fanatic racers who had a hard time understanding that not everyone needed to spend the extra thousand dollars to save a pound?  I did extensive reading online and the results were clear:  everyone disagreed.  Half the people insisted carbon was a must and the other half insisted that aluminum was the way to go.  In the end I finally decided to take the plunge into carbon.  Why?  Not to save a pound, but to take advantage of its ability to dampen the feel of the road.  Most people seem to agree that steel does this well, and that aluminum has come a long way in becoming a less harsh ride, but that in the end carbon is superior to aluminum when it comes to easing the feel of the road.

Truth be told, I ride my bike a lot and often on less than perfect roads.  For me I think that carbon was the right decision.  It suits my long rides on rough roads, and because of my commitment to riding, I don't feel that I was over-investing in a new bike.  So it was a very difficult decision, but ultimately I committed to the carbon and I have yet to regret it.

P.S. One of my big hesitations was in regards to the durability of carbon.  Thankfully, I haven't been able to test this at all, but everyone assures me that it is hardier than I give it credit for.  I was also glad to see that many brands give life time warranties on their carbon frames: something I hope to never need.