What to know when buying a road bike
I’ve bought bikes before. And usually I just pick one that suits my needs – sturdy wheels, comfy seat, great price and on sale, and a nice colour. But I’ve never bought an investment bike.
As I gear up for the Ride For Karen, a charity event with 100K, 160K and 200K courses north of Toronto, I’m getting schooled on why it’s so important to get a bike that is not only comfortable for the long rides (and the long training) but also worth the money.
I met with Josh Welbes, manager at Trek Toronto, who not only fitted my new road bike but also gave me some tips along the way.
1. Buying A Road Bike Takes Time
A road bike can cost from $1,000 to $20,000 plus. “The sky’s the limit,” says Welbes. “You’ll want to do research beforehand. Some people expect to buy a bike with one trip [to the store]. But it really depends on the level of bike you’re looking for. It can take a long time.”
He recently sold a triathlon bike that was a two-month process, he tells me. But for the average shopper buying a road bike, it can take about a week. “It’s like buying a car, you’ll want to read reviews, take road tests, talk to the staff.”
As a beginner, how much should I spend? “If you know you’re going to like the sport and you know you’re going to do it regularly, it would make sense to spend a bit more, like $2,000 to $3,000. That’s about the range for something of good quality that can grow with you as a beginner rider.”
2. Don’t expect to walk out with your road bike the day buy it.
“When you buy a bike, you get it sized,” says Welbes. “That means picking the appropriate-size frame for you.” After that you’ll make an appointment to get the bike fitted.
Welbes gives me a comparison for buying a suit, but I relate more to buying a bridesmaid dress. When you buy a gown, you pick the size. And then you get a fitting done to have a seamstress make alterations so that the dress is made for your body. It’s customizing your bike.
The fitting for a road bike takes about 45 minutes to an hour. (Mountain bikes aren’t usually fitted as the rides tend to be shorter and you’re not on the bike for as long as a road bike.) So, book that time knowing you’ll be at the bike shop for that time. Don’t rush it.
3. Wear your gear for the fitting.
I made the mistake of wearing my work clothes, and I learned the hard way that my espadrilles and jeans could hamper my fitting.
“If you don’t wear the clothes to the bike fitting that you’ll be wearing when you’re on the road, it’ll be very difficult for you to move for the bike fitting.” That means my posture and positioning could be off, which can affect where the saddle and handlebars are positioned. “Whatever shoes you’ll be wearing to ride in, wear them too. The soles thickness can change the saddle height.”
4. The fitting is customized for your goals
Once my bike was hooked up to a trainer (a contraption that allows you to ride your bike as if it were a stationary or spin bike), Welbes tells me that as a beginner doing a charity ride, he’s fitting my bike to help with my endurance. “Comfort is the upmost importance. Nothing will be done to make you faster, but because this is a charity ride, I’m fitting you so that you can do the race without…” I ask: My body hating me? “Exactly,” he says.
Here’s what he adjusted:
Saddle fore and aft (how close it is to the handlebars)
Handle bar height
Stem length and angles (the bar that holds the handlebars)
5. Book yourself back in a month later
Just because a road bike is new, you paid a lot of money for it and you did your research on buying it, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t need some love. Bring it back in for a tune-up.
“The initial tune-up should be done within a month of good riding because all of the cables tend to shift and stretch out on a new bike,” says Welbes. “After that, we see most people two to three times a year, usually in the summer.”
After all that’s said and done, the price on the ticket isn’t the price you’ll end up paying. Tune-ups can cost as much as my previous bike I bought a box store. And that’s why buying a road bike is an investment.