The Great Bike Debate

April 14, 2008 at 9:14 am Leave a comment

Over the past year of so, I’ve done my fair share of reading up on bikes both on the internet and in the various magazines I subscribe to (Bicycling and Triathlete).  One question seems to pop up continually, especially for beginner triathletes: “What type of bike should I buy?”

I’ve heard commentators give answers in both directions, but here’s how I come down on it: 

If you have no previous cycling experience, buy an inexpensive road bike.  Don’t go for bottom-barrel (look for something with at least Shimano 105 components), but at the same time, you don’t need an all-carbon bike with dura-ace components.  

Some reasons for this

  • You’ve haven’t had to share the road on a bike before.  Quite simply, road bikes have better handling than tri bikes and are more responsive to quick turns.  If you’re all alone on the road this isn’t an issue, but when you’re riding by the coffee shop in the morning and somebody parked parallel forgets to check before they open the door, you might have another opinion of the importance of this
  • You haven’t cycled for fitness before.  Sure you may have enjoyed those whimsical moments on a bike as a youth on your way to school, but cycling for fitness is a whole other beast.  At this point, you don’t know whether you’ll come to love or hate those long rides in the saddle.  Since a road bike is traditionally more comfortable in various types of conditions (climbing, city conditions, etc.) and is flexible in that you can always toss aero bars on it, it’s best to go with a road bike to start.

With that said, when I bought my bike about a year ago I did so impulsively (shocker).  I didn’t do the research that I should have and I didn’t make the right choice and choose a bike shop that was going to do right by me and not only ensure I tested a number of bikes, but also made sure I got the proper fit on the bike that I chose.  I ended up with a decent alloy road bike with a Shimano 105/Ultegra mix.  I don’t regret the bike I ended up with, but if I could go back in time, I definitely would have gone to a better bike shop.  A good bike shop will typically always make sure you try several models and will go through a full fitting for your new bike.

[Blogger’s Update: I’ve purchased a Pinarello FT1 Triathlon Bike and have posted some other reasons to purchase a road bike before a triathlon bike in Part II of The Great Bike Debate.]

I’m not going to fight the fact that I’ll eventually end up purchasing a new bike, but now the question becomes: how much do I spend?  I’ve already ruled out the bottom category of bikes, so I’m basically in the $2K and up category already.  Realistically, I’m not going to be topping any podiums any time soon, so that also rules out the top category plus eliminates the need to spend $2K on a pair of Zipp wheels (if I come within two minutes of winning the 70.3, I’ll invest in these…but until then, I have a feeling a decent set of wheels will work just fine).  

These conclusions have essentially left me in the $3K range for a complete bike (plus or minus $500 or so).  Barring any new products coming out within the next few months, I’m currently looking at three models that I’ll be testing at Nytro Sports ( in Encinitas, Ca: Felt B2, Cervelo P2C and the Kuota K-Factor.  I’ll probably test out models a step above these as well just to see the difference (Cervelo P3C and Kuota Kalibur), but unless the difference is remarkable I don’t see myself ponying up the extra coin for what will essentially amount to a slight upgrade in components and possibly a slightly higher grade of carbon.  

I’m not affiliated with Nytro, but the crew there is awesome.  They are known for their great fittings and one of the guys there took about 30 minutes out of his day to help me with the fit on my current bike and didn’t charge me a dime to do so.  That is the type of service I will always repay with my business.  


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