I feel the wind calling me. I feel very slow on my current mountain bike, and for a few reasons including wanting to see if the slowness was just me being an Athena or the bike, and just wanting to try riding a few bikes around I succumbed to the urge of visiting a few bike shops in the last few days to see what was around. But I had a varied experience. What I told them? Ė Basically that I was leaning towards a road bike, but was also considering cyclocross and flat bar road bikes for a compromise. I wanted to see my options.
#1 Ė They arenít a pure bike store but rather whatís called an adventure store. So the bikes are a small part of what they sell. But they are a big store, so the range is similar to an LBS and the bikes of good quality. Being an adventure store they focus mostly on MTBs but do have some road bikes Ė Jamis and another local brand. They had also advertised 50% old stock, but I doubted there would be any left by the time I got there. Was talking to a very friendly salesman and was informed they donít have any of the in between bikes, only really MTBs and road bikes, but he was more than happy to let me take one of the road bikes for a spin. They only let you go around in the parking lot for now. Itís big and mostly empty but still very limited. They store also has an option of renting some bikes for a period of time (weeks perhaps) which may be good if considering an expensive purchase and want to make sure itís right. So I tried the bike he picked out, which was the only one on special and my size. ($2000 down to $1000). They did a quick check over of the bike to make sure it was shifting well and tires were up to pressure and so I put my sneakers on top of the SPD pedals and took it for a spin in the parking lot. Itís fast. I felt a bit stretched out even though I was staying on the hoods, but I hear this is usual when on a road bike for the first time. The bike also had a triple, which being soft, I would prefer. The price was very tempting but I donít want to commit to anything just yet.
All and all a good experience, and certainly makes me take more seriously the local brand and not just the big multinationals. Staff great and most informative Ė easy to talk to and laid back. A lot more knowledgeable that I expected for a non LBS.
#2 Ė The first LBS. The one I bought my current bike from and more of a roadie store. Have heard a lot of recommendations for them and have recently moved into a very nice shop. I talked to the salesman and told him my situation. Took one look at me and straight off he crossed the road bikes off the list for me. Said I would be too uncomfortable in the bent over road position. Considering I said I wanted to try out my options, he should have at least let me test ride one. He did show me over to the Kona Dew range which I had considered from my online research since they are one of the few flat bar road bikes/decent hybrids that are available with disc brakes - which I would prefer even if just for wet weather. There was a Dew Deluxe in my size so I took it for a short spin around some back streets after the salesmen rode it in a quick circle to make sure it was safe. I started off from a standing start up a medium size hill with some trepidation as on my existing bike I would normally be around the granny gear by the time I reached the top in that situation. So I was very surprised I stayed in the middle front chainring and that was with most of my attention on the pedals which a lot stickier that I am used to, so my feet were in the wrong position the whole time.
After telling me the advantages of the mountain gearing and hence granny gears on the bike the salesmen asked me how I liked the granny gears on the hill. I told him I didnít need it and I almost laughed at the look on his face. I didnít tell him I surprised myself of course. All in all, I didnít feel like I was taken seriously because of my size and the way he didnít even consider the road bikes, but I really did like the bike I tried.
#3 Ė Very small LBS and caters for the cheaper market. No real road bike stock to speak off. Has the Trek hybrid range which I was again steered to Ė because of the lack of road bikes there I wasnít too off put by this compared to the last shop. The salesman seemed less knowledgeable compared to the other stores but still knew enough. He ended up letting me take a 7.3 in my size out for a spin. He had said that the saddle height should be so that if you are sitting on it while stationary you should be able to stand on the ground on your tippy toes. I donít believe this and went along with it anyway and so the test ride the saddle was low. The tires werenít up to pressure and the shifting was horrible but after all this it was still faster than my existing bike. All in all and OK shop but they donít seem to take pride in their bikes.
So, in conclusion. Iím not sure I should continue to look at road bikes, mostly due to the feeling on my test ride. I think I would like to try one out again sometime though and perhaps even renting one for a short period. If I had to buy a bike, I would much rather buy it from the first store even though they arenít a dedicated bike shop. If that shop had the Kona Dew range, I may own one right now.
I also now know very much the feeling of not being taken seriously as a cyclist solely because of my size.
I realize this is long and likely of no importance but to myself, but these is my experiences over the last few days and helps get my thoughts together.