SIEVERT: The Right Bike
I’ve got some pretty exciting news: I bought a new bike this week!
I started cycling with the Quincy Bicycle Club back in March and have quickly become addicted to the sport. I’ve made so many friends and learned so much about cycling this summer. It’s just been wonderful. It occurs to me, though, that I got lucky with my first bike purchase. A friend had one for sale, and it just happened to be a good fit for me. At the time though, I didn’t know enough about road bikes to make an educated purchase. It can be pretty intimidating to shop for a bicycle, and being an informed buyer and getting a bike that fits your needs will greatly enhance your enjoyment of the sport. So, today I thought I’d write a quick guide to buying a bike that will help you Get Out and experience cycling.
Bikes are like shoes. You’ve got to get the correct fit, or you’re going to be pretty unhappy and sore. There are a lot of elements to finding out the correct size bicycle for your needs, but the main one is frame size. Everyone has different leg/torso/arm measurements, and a knowledgeable bike shop can help you find exactly the right bike for your size. I’m about 5 foot, 5 inches tall, and my fit is a 52 cm bike. My husband is 5 foot, 10 inches, but because he has a longer torso and shorter legs proportionate to me, he only rides a bike that is 2 cm taller than mine. Don’t just depend on a height chart to fit your bike, get measured and find out exactly what size you need.
There are many styles of bike on the market today. Road bikes, hybrids, mountain bikes, race bikes … the list goes on and on. It’s important to determine your goals as a cyclist before you go shopping. For example, I like to bike lots of miles at a medium/fast pace. I’m not a racer trying to go as fast as possible, but I’m also not a “touring” type of rider who wants to sit up straight and keep a slow, easy pace. For me, a Sport Road Bike was the perfect answer. For some riders, the more comfortable upright position and wider tires of a Hybrid Road Bike might be the right style. Some riders are racers, and there are very aggressive bike styles made for speed and agility available, too. Still others are all about getting off road on uneven terrain, and mountain bikes with rugged tires and frames are more appropriate. The point is, knowing what kind of rider you hope to be will help a bike shop determine what style you need to select.
There are four main materials that modern road bike frames can be made of: steel, aluminum, titanium or carbon fiber. Each has advantages and disadvantages in terms of stiffness, weight, durability and price. Steel offers the advantages of being relatively cheep, durable, but is generally a heavier bike. Aluminum bikes are also relatively cost effective and weigh less than steel frames. Aluminum frames can have more of road noise though, so you’ll often see carbon fiber forks on aluminum frames to reduce vibration. Titanium frames are durable, fairly lightweight, but also more expensive. I rode a titanium Litespeed Vortex for my Metric Century, and I was impressed with the relatively low road noise and the responsiveness of the frame to stresses like big hill climbs. Carbon Fiber bikes are the most popular type of bikes for professional riders and serious amateurs alike, and this was the type I selected to purchase. Carbon fiber is very lightweight. In fact, some of the best carbon bikes are under 15 pounds total weight- wheels and all! The frames are stiff and offer a quiet ride. The disadvantages to carbon frames are that they are fairly expensive and that they are somewhat less durable than the other types of frames.
Shifters, Deraillleurs and Cranks, Oh My!
You could definitely write an entire book on selecting components to a bike, but luckily for most recreational riders, you’ve only got a few decisions to make. The most common brands of shifters and derailleurs — derailleurs are the part of the bike drive train that moves your chain from one gear to another — on the market for road bikes are Shimano and Campagnolo. Once you’ve selected your bike brand and frame material, you’ll probably only need to pick a package “level” of components. It’s not as intimidating as it seems. For example, for Shimano packages, there are five main levels: Sora, Tiagra, 105, Ultegra and Dura-Ace. Just think of those as entry-level, enthusiast-level, serious-level, race-level and pro-level. My new bike has the “serious-level” 105 package. I’m really happy with this combination of performance and affordability. There are a few options on types of cranks too, and a good bike shop can explain the differences in detail. A quick overview is that there are usually single, double or triple cranks, and the number of cranks and their size determines how many total gears are available on your bike. I got a double-compact crank, which was one of only two options on the bike I selected. I chose this because it was enough gears that I felt like I’d be comfortable on most hills, and it is also lightweight compared to a triple-crank bike.
Which brings me to my last point: Go to a bike shop! It’s just my two cents, but if you really want a great bike that will serve you well for many years, don’t head out to Walmart. I highly recommend Madison-Davis Bicycle Shop at 912 South 8th Street in Quincy. Greg, Carl and Ryan will walk you through each step of selecting the perfect bike for you. They’re an authorized Trek retailer and can service Trek or most other makes of bikes. Trek bikes are made in Wisconsin and buying a quality American made bike from a local small business is great for everyone. Madison-Davis also has all the accessories you might need for your bike — pedals, shoes, flat tire repair kits, helmets, mirrors, computers, kids bikes, tool kits, jerseys and even little bicycle bells. It’s a particularly good time to shop right now because — just like a car dealer — bike shops will be clearing out their 2011 model bikes and getting 2012 models in. It’s a great time to get a good deal.
I hope this quick guide gives you a starting point for shopping for a bicycle of your own. I am extremely happy with the bike I purchased — a 2011 Women’s Specific Design Trek Madone 3.1. It’s a carbon fiber bike with the right combination of components for the way I ride. If you’re interested, you can read all the specifics on my new bike by clicking here. Happy cycling!
|Print article||This entry was posted by jmartin on August 30, 2011 at 6:13 pm, and is filed under Biking. Follow any responses to this post through RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback from your own site.|