In the aftermath of yesterday’s AirTalk program — which you can still hear by downloading the podcast — I received the following comment from Mario:
Really enjoyed your talk today on KPCC. I am mostly a mountain biker and have been thinking about buying a road bike…it is tough riding in paved roads on a mountain bike. So making our roads safer is one of the most important considerations for me in road riding. The second is the selection of a good bike (not too expensive). Would appreciate any advice you may offer on selecting a good road bike for under $2,500.
I wish I could offer an answer. I really do.
But choosing the right bike is a highly personal decision. It depends on how, where and why you intend to ride, what kind of deal you can get, and what feels right between your legs.
For instance, I don’t do a lot of bike commuting. I do most of my work from home, so there’s not a lot of need to ride from my bedroom to the living room. And one reason we chose this overpriced neighborhood is because almost everything we need is within walking distance.
So the overwhelming majority of my biking is recreational, which in my case means riding fast and far.
On the other hand, a lot of it is done on the mean streets of L.A. — which means my bike has to be responsive enough to carve through traffic, and sturdy enough to absorb shocks without making me feel like I’ve been riding a jackhammer all day.
So before you go shopping, make a list of the qualities that are important to you. And let that serve as your roadmap in selecting the right bike.
Another bit of advice is to buy the best frame you can afford. As time goes on, you can upgrade all of the other parts. But your frame will be the backbone of your bike for as long as you own it.
For that price, you can get a good steel or aluminum frame, or an entry level carbon frame. Personally, I don’t like the ride of aluminum frames — or aluminium, for any subjects of the queen who may be reading. Steel tends to be durable and shock-absorbing, and these days, usually weighs a lot less than you might think. Carbon offers light weight and speed; its ride and durability depends a lot on frame construction and geometry.
REI offers a good, simple primer to get you started.
The key is to ride a lot of bikes before you narrow your focus. Visit a bunch of bike shops and ride a variety of brands, types and models to determine what feels right to you.
As you narrow it down, pick two or three bikes that best fit what you’re looking for, and take them for extended test rides under a variety of conditions — fast, slow, cornering, hills, city streets.
I fell in love with my bike based on a quick spin around the shop. But it was only after I bought it that I discovered the handling gets squirrelly at faster speeds in an upright position; I have to ride the drops or risk a wipeout.
On the other hand, once I’m in the drops, it carves corners like a Ginsu knife.
But if I’d taken it on more extensive test ride, I would have known that handling issue before I bought it. And that might have affected my decision.
I’m also a big fan of local bike shops.
It may seem like you’re getting a great deal online, but the service you’ll get from a local dealer before and after the sale can make a huge difference in how much you enjoy your bike.
When I walk into my local shop, they know me, they know my bike and they know how I ride. And that makes a big difference. They’ve also gone out of their way to solve any problems I’ve had — from patching it up after the Infamous Beachfront Bee Incident, to replacing broken wheels and sending it back to the factory when the paint blistered.
While Helen’s is popular, I’m not big on their flagship Santa Monica store. However, I’ve found the staff at their I. Martin store to be helpful and knowledgeable, without the attitude. And Chris at the Westwood Helen’s is both a great wrench and a great guy; tell him I sent you.
That said, if I was shopping on your budget, I’d start by looking at the entry level Trek Madone, though you might have to bargain a little to get it out the door at that price. I’ve ridden Trek almost as long as they’ve been making bikes, and I’ve been lusting after the new Madone since the day it came out.
You also can’t go too wrong with anything from Specialized or Bianchi.
So, readers, what do you think?
If you had $2,500 gathering dust in your bike budget, what would you buy — and where would you buy it?
No offense to any bike shops not named here; my observations are based on my own personal experience here on the Westside. If you think your shop and/or bikes deserve consideration, leave a comment and tell us why.
Dr. Alex asks where Councilman Rosendahl has gone now that we need him. Speaking of Flying Pigeon, the next Get Sum Dim Sum Ride rolls out on Sunday. The upcoming Bike ADventure to The End of Civilization doesn’t sound half BAD. Santa Barbara sees more bikes on city streets. Proof that silence is not always golden when it comes to bikes and hybrid vehicles. Colorado’s Department of Transportation puts bikes and pedestrians on equal footing with cars. Evidently, the debate over aggressive cyclists has gone on for over a century. Master framebuilder Dave Moulton says there’s not much difference between a right and a privilege if they can take it away. Note to Idaho bike thieves: don’t mug a cyclist while the police are watching. A great examination from Copenhagenize on how to reach cyclists to change behavior — without discouraging riders. The view from Budapest, where bike shops close for the winter. Maybe this will sound familiar: a British driver is convicted of intentionally striking and seriously injuring a cyclist. Finally, prepare to get pissed off — a former Aussie roads minister says bikes don’t belong on the roads. Maybe that’s why he’s a former minister.