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Runner needs bike advice
June 13, 2012 8:55 AM   Subscribe

I'm a runner, trying to become a triathlete. Help me find a bike please!

I did my first sprint triathlon last weekend, using a borrowed bike that is small for me. I'm comfortable with the swim, and the run was great, but I absolutely hate cycling. I think this will be improved when I get the right bike, so I'm looking now. I've done 2 marathons in the past year, and have a goal to do the Ironman Miami 70.3 in late October.

I've done my research, and I know what I want - aluminum bike, carbon fork, Shimano Tiagra/105 components. I'm looking to spend around $1000, hopefully a little less so I have some budget room for clips and accessories (new seat, pedals, aero bars).

I've shopped around at the local shops, and I found some bikes I like in the $900 range - Felt F95, Trek 1.2, and other entry level road bikes. However, I have started looking online (bikesdirect) and found comparable bikes for $600, or much more bang for my buck at the $900 price point. I'm confident on my mechanical abilities for putting the bike together. Does anyone have any advice regarding purchasing online (specifically BD) versus brick and mortar? Anything specifically I should look for, or look out for, either with the store or with the bike?

However, my other concern is sizing. I'm just under 6'1, so I need a 58 or 60 cm bike, and will probably go with the 60. After that, are there any resources for sizing the bike to my frame, specifically the seat, handlebars, and pedals? Or should I forget online and go with the local bike shop? FWIW, the local shop charges $250 for a bike fitting, or they do it free with purchase. Since I'm struggling on the bike now due to fit, proper sizing is pretty important to me.

I am way overthinking this purchase (I've been looking for about 6 weeks), but I'd like to take action and have the bike by the first week of July so that I can do a good brick on 7/7 before my next sprint tri on 7/14.

I appreciate your help!
posted by I am the Walrus to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
I have purchased two bicycles from BD. One was $300, the other was $2,000. I had the $2,000 one checked out by my mechanic. It ended up being way cheaper than their usual "check out internet bike" quote, because everything was already pretty much set up perfectly.

I didn't get the $300 bike checked out, but I did work on it myself and a few tidbits (headset, IIRC) were a little sloppy but adjustable.

The benefit of a brick and mortar store is that you can try bikes until you find YOUR bike. I mean the bike that feels perfect. Once you have a bike that fits perfectly, you can use the measurements from that bike if you ever need another bike.

You may be better off buying a bike that is already set up as a tri bike. Then you'll save a little bit on swapping out bars. But then it might be harder to find a tri bike in your price range.

The $1000-$1100 carbon fiber BD bikes look great. I have one carbon bike (a Scott CR1 Comp) in the stable and it's my favorite by far. It is such a fantastic ride I don't care if it ends up shattering in 5 years when I drop it on the curb or something. I can just ride and ride and ride on it and it soaks up road noise happily.

It sounds like you might need to find another bike shop. Charging $250 for a fitting or free with purchase is not a practice I have ever heard of. Even the pro shops only charge $150 for a fitting but you don't get it free with purchase.

It's way easier to deal with a bike that's a little too small than one that's even a little bit too big. They don't make very short stems nor can you mount your seat below a certain point.

If you want it to fit right the first time, test ride a lot of bikes and buy one locally.

If you don't mind doing some mild wrenching yourself, like possibly swapping out stems, saddles, seatposts, and saddles, and have a local store that won't charge you a ridiculous amount for tightening, lubing, and adjusting your internet bike, get a BD bike.
posted by MonsieurBon at 9:30 AM on June 13, 2012


However, my other concern is sizing. I'm just under 6'1, so I need a 58 or 60 cm bike, and will probably go with the 60. After that, are there any resources for sizing the bike to my frame, specifically the seat, handlebars, and pedals? Or should I forget online and go with the local bike shop? FWIW, the local shop charges $250 for a bike fitting, or they do it free with purchase. Since I'm struggling on the bike now due to fit, proper sizing is pretty important to me.

Exactly. This is why you buy from a shop rather than Bikes Direct. In addition to hands-on fits, a shop will likely offer free tuneups for a time period or for life, discounts on accessories you buy with the bike, and the relationship you build with the shop will be important in the long run. BD also cuts corners in really weird places, so while the spec may look similar or identical, there are places where they're saving money and probably shouldn't be.

Also, a 60 is probably too big for you unless you have a really long torso (difference in sizing metrics between manufacturers notwithstanding). I'm 6'1" and I know a lot of other guys in the 6' to 6'3" range and we all ride 58cm bikes. I actually had a 61cm Specialized for a while and I thought it was fine until moving to a 58cm Fuji which actually fits me. A larger bike will also make it harder for you to get you into an actually-aero position since the handlebars will be higher relative to your saddle due to the longer headtube.
posted by The Michael The at 9:33 AM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm also a runner turned triathlete. :)

I'd suggest looking at entry-level tri-bikes, although with the exact fitting (each one is specifically fit to it's rider) it may be more like $1,500, but check out Trek, Specialized, Fuji, Felt and Scott.

I bought a Cervelo P2 last year (it was a splurge) and that bike is worth every penny I put into it!
posted by floweredfish at 9:35 AM on June 13, 2012


MonsieurBon: "You may be better off buying a bike that is already set up as a tri bike."

I looked at this, but decided against it. I'm told that with the focus on the aero bars and not on the side bars, it's harder to control, and being in the down position (away from the brakes) takes longer to stop, so not a great idea for a first bike. The local cycle group won't accept riders with tri bikes.
posted by I am the Walrus at 10:14 AM on June 13, 2012


Unless you've got a lot of riding behind you I'd say stick with bikes you've actually ridden and tested, and the one you're most comfortable on.

The size is really only one factor in fit, a lot of it will depend on the geometry of the bike itself. Go to multiple shops (different shops will have different brands) try every bike they have in your price range. Just getting started with long distance bike training I'd say comfort should be your single most important concern right now you're going to spend a lot of hours on that thing.
posted by bitdamaged at 10:48 AM on June 13, 2012


Exactly. This is why you buy from a shop rather than Bikes Direct. In addition to hands-on fits, a shop will likely offer free tuneups for a time period or for life, discounts on accessories you buy with the bike, and the relationship you build with the shop will be important in the long run. BD also cuts corners in really weird places, so while the spec may look similar or identical, there are places where they're saving money and probably shouldn't be.

There are no shops in our city besides REI (where you pay full retail and don't get much help in fitting) that do free tune-ups. That just doesn't happen, whether you buy a $10,000 bike from the racing shop or a $300 used bike from the community non-profit bike shop. Unless you are actually a real friend of someone in the shop, you are still going to pay about 2x what you could pay online for accessories.

As for cutting corners, really the only place I've seen that at the $1,000-$2,000 mark is in things that aren't really a problem. I don't think it matters if a bike that claims to be outfitted with Ultegra components actually has all Ultegra except for the crank set, which is still a high-end FSA. It certainly isn't worth paying 80-100% more for a bike for a difference like that.

Of course, I would not have found my perfect bike if I hadn't gone to a local store. So weigh your needs.

Oh yeah, if you are going to be doing things other than triathlons, definitely don't get a tri-only bike. You can get pretty inexpensive clamp-on aero bars from Nashbar if you need them.
posted by MonsieurBon at 10:50 AM on June 13, 2012


The Canondale CAAD8/9/10 bikes are great aluminum pricepoint bikes. It's worth an extra few hundred to get 105 if you're going to be riding this for a long time, including races (though tris don't exactly require precise shifting!) - but check out the SRAM groups, I prefer the shifter design and feel over all Shimano save D-A.

You can definitely get by for a few years with a road bike and clip-on aero bars. It won't be your limiting factor for a long time. You can upgrade your wheels before that point as well.
posted by kcm at 10:58 AM on June 13, 2012


There are no shops in our city besides REI (where you pay full retail and don't get much help in fitting) that do free tune-ups. That just doesn't happen, whether you buy a $10,000 bike from the racing shop or a $300 used bike from the community non-profit bike shop. Unless you are actually a real friend of someone in the shop, you are still going to pay about 2x what you could pay online for accessories.

Sucks, man. In Philly, at least two of the shops in town give free lifetime tuneups for bikes bought from the respective shop. These aren't strip-the-bike-bare-and-rebuild-it level tuneups, but they'll set the derailleurs and brakes and tighten everything up at least. And it's de rigueur to get 10-15% off any accessories bought at the time of purchase, or up to 1 month out at some shops.

As for cutting corners, really the only place I've seen that at the $1,000-$2,000 mark is in things that aren't really a problem. I don't think it matters if a bike that claims to be outfitted with Ultegra components actually has all Ultegra except for the crank set, which is still a high-end FSA. It certainly isn't worth paying 80-100% more for a bike for a difference like that.

I'm talking about things like star fangled nuts in carbon steers, that sort of thing: weird bullshit cut corners that shouldn't ever be cut. I'm no LBS apologist—anything I can install easily on my own, like bottle cages, pedals, saddle, handlebars, tires, etc, I buy online or from bike swaps and install myself—but I'm all for buying a bike from someplace I can actually touch and ride it and work with knowledgeable professionals (i.e. not REI) to get the right size and fit.
posted by The Michael The at 11:55 AM on June 13, 2012


A suggestion - post a WTB (wanted to buy) ad in the classifieds section of the Slowtwitch.com classifieds forums. Maybe you can find someone local who is upgrading from their starter road-turned-tri bike.
posted by de void at 1:51 PM on June 13, 2012


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