Or Subtitle: Steph’s Bike Shopping Adventure
If you’re not into bike stuff, you can probably go ahead and skip this post. It’s a cool bike. That’s all.
I want to go into a little detail to how I got to buying the bike, especially since I’m not a huge bike nerd/expert. I felt like there wasn’t a lot of good guidance on how much I should have expected to spend, what component groupset I should look for, what accessories I should buy, or even what brands I should look at. There was a lot of generic advice (road bike vs. tri bike, carbon frame vs. aluminum, etc.). I did a good bit of research, but I think I was more confused after all that reading than I was before. So, I want to at least give my personal experience and hope that it can be useful to someone looking to buy a bike (or upgrade from their current bike). I am going to talk a little about money because I feel like the hardest information to find was on how much to spend, which is incredibly frustrating! I feel like money is such a taboo topic, but it matters when you’re trying to make a big purchase and you need to know up front when writing a budget. Bikes ain’t cheap.
I really wasn’t planning to buy a tri bike for a few more years – basically when I was planning to sign up for an Ironman. I have a road bike that I love and it has mostly served me really well through 2 seasons of triathlons plus some general recreational riding in college. My dad bought it off a guy at my church back home as a birthday gift for me for like $150. He told us that he was “too old” to ride it anymore and it was the right size for me (way too small for my dad).
I knew this was a pretty old bike, and a nice one, but I didn’t realize exactly how vintage it was. Every time I would take it into a bike shop the guys would kind of drool over it a little, but I didn’t really think anything of it. Finally, I decided to search for the model year to figure out why they kept offering to buy it off me. The Specialized Allez Epic was made through the mid 1990′s (correct me if I’m wrong), and mine is in pretty good shape so I assumed it was one of the later year models. Nope. This bike is the 1989 Specialized Epic. The first Specialized carbon frame road bike. Dang. This bike is almost as old as me. And I was racing on it. With the original components. There was apparently an issue with this bike that caused the lugs and glue on the frame to fall apart and a lot of them didn’t make it past 10-12 years. I have no idea how hard the previous owner rode this bike, but I’ve had it since ~2004 and I’ve maybe not taken as good care of it as I should have.
This discovery was enough to make me think that I should start looking for a new bike sooner rather than later. But first…I called my dad. He’s pretty into cycling and generally knowledgeable on road bikes. We talked about some things we could do to upgrade my current bike to make it a little more modern – aerobars, upgrading the downtube shifters, pedals (which I’ve already upgraded). We found that our options were pretty limited since the components are so old. We could add aerobars to the bike, but I would have to sit up every time I wanted to shift to reach the downtube shifters. As hilly as Greenville is, that would be pretty pointless. We found some parts to upgrade the shifters at least to integrated shifters, but then found that it would be really difficult since the cassette is only 7-speed. It all looked to be more complicated than we wanted to get into, and seemed to be more cost-effective in the long run to buy a new bike.
This happened right before Labor Day weekend. That weekend, my dad made a trip down to the big bike store in Indy (BGI) and called to tell me that I’d better ask around at some stores here in Greenville because everything in that store was on sale, including this Specialized bike…a little out of my price range, haha. My dad also told me that to get a bike of similar quality to the one I already owned, I needed to be prepared to spend around $3000-$4000 and that the best deal would be to get a good frame with Shimano Ultegra components (which is what is on my road bike).
Anyways, I set out on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend to visit some bike shops to see what was available and what was on sale.
First was The Great Escape. They only carry Trek bikes, and had one Trek Speed Concept 7.0. It was the right size for me, so they stuck it on a trainer for me to try out. It felt really clunky and uncomfortable and I wasn’t super impressed. It was on sale for $2000 (from $2700). I know people who have Trek tri bikes and love them, but I really didn’t like it. Maybe the higher end models are nicer, but I didn’t have one to test ride and they were also not on sale.
Next, I headed to Carolina Triathlon. I’m always happy to visit them because they have great customer service and support my tri club (which means discounts!). They carry Specialized, and had a Shiv Expert for me to test ride. It was pretty awesome, but it was also a little higher end than I had planned to buy. They could order me the next grade down (Shiv Elite) on sale for $3000 (originally $3400). It seemed like a nice bike and of course, it looked pretty cool too.
Almost all the shops were closed on Sunday and Monday. I was able to sneak over to BikeStreet downtown for a little bit, but they didn’t have any tri bikes in the store. This was kind of annoying since they’ve been marketing that location as the “triathlon” store. They told me that the location over on Woodruff Rd. had a “guru” machine to help find a bike to fit each person.
I didn’t have any time to continue shopping until again until the Friday after. In the meantime, I solicited some advice from Victoria (she seemed like a pretty trustworthy souce) and my dad. Victoria advised me to check out Felt and QR bikes, so I searched for some shops that carried those brands and put them on the “to visit” list.
The first place I went on Friday was to BikeStreet again. I went to the location with the so-called “guru machine” to find that it was by appointment only and it cost $250 to have it done. Keep in mind that this is not a bike fitting, it just tells you what bikes will fit you, then you still have to buy the bike. They didn’t have any bikes to actually test ride, and I was not about to buy a bike that I couldn’t test ride first. They did have some Cannondale Slice’s on sale for a good price (~$2000), which was a bike I was interested in. They told me that I should do the “guru” thing first, then they would order me the bike based on what size I was and oh, I’d better hurry because there’s only a few left, but oh, we can’t get you in until next Friday, maybe. Yea. I left feeling pretty irritated. I definitely see why they are not the most favored bike shop in the area.
I left, feeling all grouchy, and headed to Sunshine Bikes. I was hopeful for this shop since they had both Giant and Felt bikes. They had a Felt B16 in the store (in my size, no less) for me to try, so they threw some pedals on it and sent me out for a test ride on a neighborhood street behind the shop. It felt really good. I asked them about some of the higher end bikes because I really liked the bike, but had anticipated spending more than the B16 cost (~$1800). They pulled out a catalog and started showing me the other Felt bikes, and and we found the DA4, which was more of what I was expecting. They said everything was on sale, so they called their distributor (or whatever) to get the amount and the sale price. The DA4 was originally $3800, on sale for $2400! (!!!)
I was pretty excited about this bike, but I had one more shop I wanted to stop at. Gusto Bikes was recently bought out by BikeStreet (booo!), but they still had some of their old brands including Cervelo and QR. They had bikes of both brands for me to try. The QR was definitely a size too small, but it seemed like it would be a really cool bike from the very uncomfortable test ride. (NOTE HERE: Don’t get a bike that’s too small! So unpleasant!). The Cervelo was my size and was a nice bike, but I didn’t love it. I asked about the QR bike with the Ultegra components (QR Seduza) which was $2400, on sale for $2000.
At this point, I was a little torn between the Felt and the QR. I really liked the feel of the QR, but the Felt was also really nice and a waaaaay better deal. So, I called my dad again, of course. He said “that Felt bike looks really fast!”. No kidding. But he assured me that either bike would be really nice and a big upgrade from my current ride, but I was getting a much better deal with the Felt. After some “hemmmm”-ing and “hawww”-ing, I agreed and drove back to Sunshine to order the DA4.
Of course, I had to wait a full, agonizing week for it to get here. OMGS.
So, some takeaways:
-Plan to buy around Labor Day-ish. All of last year’s models were on sale
-Test ride as many bikes as possible.
-Buy local if you can.
-Spend as much as you can reasonably afford. You definitely get what you pay for!
-Start looking well before you’re ready to buy. Making the decision on short notice was way more stressful than I thought it should have been.
Also, I’m selling the original saddle on eBay since it’s a pretty nice one, so if there are any dudes out there looking for a nice bike saddle, let me know. It’s a Prologo Nago Evo Tri 40.