For whatever reason, the internet seems positively abuzz with "What bike should I buy?!"threads. And the internet is usually pretty horrible about giving some kind of coherent answer. Thus, I see many people running headlong towards the same mistakes I and others have made with our first or first in a long time bike. Perhaps a different approach is in order. What'd you buy? How'd it work out? Would you do something different?
So I'll start....
In March of 2007, after wrestling my weight down to maybe 265 from 300 or so and having spent all winter reading Mike Magnuson's Heft On Wheels, I decided I needed a road bike. I think about the only consensus I could find on the internet as far as advice was that I needed 105. And a triple, but only if I ignored the 49.799% who swore a compact double was just as good.
One fine laundry day, I found myself in the bike shop and talking road bikes. If you've bought a bike or two before, you know how this works by now. You somehow get in a mode where You Will Not Leave Until You Have Purchased A New Bike. $1000 deeper in debt to MasterCard later, I was the proud owner of a new Trek 1500. I liked the color. The internet would have approved of the 105 and Ultegra drivetrain bits.
After a short spin, I called a few of my derelict friends up to celebrate with a beer or eight and promptly forgot all about the aforementioned laundry. The next morning, I had to restart the whole laundry process, but managed to get home in time for a 35 mile ride. I discovered two things, 1: road bikes can just gobble up the distance (compared to my old, ill fitting MTB) and 2: A good long ride does wonders for a hangover.
Got many miles in on that bike over the course of the summer. That rear 24 spoke wheel gave me some grief, but always got me home. Eventually trek replaced it with a slightly better 24 spoke wheel that was slightly less drama prone. Found myself down around 220 by the time fall came around....
...and then I bought a cyclocross bike. With Sora. The internet was horrified!
And really, I've never looked back. I sold the Trek a few years later. That same CX bike has been hauling me to work, touring, gravel road racing, trail riding, and ever CX racing.
Would I do it again? In a heartbeat. Although I discovered a skinny tire road bike is the least appropriate bike for how I like to ride, it set the hook. And really, all those lightweight, slick components made getting started a lot easier. Now that I'm stronger and more mechanically knowledgeable- I don't mind pushing some ~30lb battleship down the road on fat tires with klunky components. It's fun to think of how much money I might have saved if I had just bought the CX bike first. But if I didn't have that Ultegra going snick-snick-snick and those lightweight easy spinning wheels with the skinny tires to lure me in, would the CX bike just be a drying rack for some 40"+ pants right now?
After watching many people try and fail at the bicycle thing, the one thing I've learned is that more than anything- it's a lifestyle commitment. Not only does it take a lot of time and money, but it changes a lot of things in your life. I've done things I never would have dreamed I was capable of. I have a whole new set of friends I never would have hung out with before. Even my career has gone down a path I never would have expected.
Buy into the whole deal. The fancy bike. The dorky shorts. The snobby bike shop. You'll get out of it what you put into it. Look around at those who've made the cycling lifestyle stick. Do what I did and do what they do.