I was complaining to a friend about all the money I've spent on bikes over the years, and about how many of the purchases were mistakes. "You haven't wasted money" he said "You've been doing research on the perfect bike". This post is about the bikes I've owned and mistakes made along the way. This is my personal story along with some conclusions. Please send in your own story.
IN THE BEGINNING... I rode a Sears "Free Spirit" 10 speed bike. I smoked cigarettes while riding and sometimes carried an open beer bottle in the water bottle holder. I'm not kidding. What a moron. The bike was eventually stolen from my back yard. I didn't care much because I was a runner. I smoked after 10km races! I'm still not kidding.
Fast forward several years, during which time I didn't ride. I was overweight, still smoking, and in a high stress job. I suffered from chest pains. The Doctor suggested cycling. So...
BIKE ONE: Department store Mountain bike. Rule number one: don't buy a bike from a department store. It will be low quality, poorly assembled, and most important, the sales clerk will not be able to give meaningful advice. I rode this heavy monster for two years - mostly on the road. Eventually I realized this bike with the big knobby tires was not well suited for pavement. I could have put on slicks, but instead I sold it to a co-worker for 100 bucks. My longest rides on this thing were probably around 20km. Sometime around here I finally quit smoking.
BIKE TWO: A Raleigh hybrid with 7 speed rear end and toe clip pedals. Not a bad bike, but I bought it from a LBS that didn't seem to know anything about fitting. "Stand over the bike... yeah that looks fine. The seat goes up and down like this..." I rode this bike for a couple of years. The rides were getting longer - perhaps 40 - 60km. I watched all the roadies zip past me. I wanted to go faster.
BIKE THREE: I ordered a Giant Kronos road bike from a different LBS. It had 7 speed RSX components. The bike store guy said "You're about my height. I'll order you a 57cm bike." The bike comes in, and it's a 54cm. I want it real bad. Today. I gotta have it. To his credit the bike store guy tried to talk me out of it. "Looks a little small. I can get you the right size in a few days". I told him "Bikes these days are becoming smaller and smaller. It gives you a lighter, stiffer frame." I was a friggin genius. I rode this bike for ONE SEASON. I was starting to do 100km to 120km rides. The bike was WAY too small, and I gave it to my wife who is several inches shorter than me. It fit her perfectly, so it wasn't a total waste.
BIKE FOUR: From a "factory warehouse" bike store, now out of business. Still no professional fitting. It was a beautiful classic looking lugged steel frame labelled "Anquetil" in honor of the 5 time Tour de France winner. Campagnolo Veloce 8 speed. It had an aggressive racing geometry, and 21mm tires. I put clipless pedals on it. I thought I was fast. I did some century rides, and entered a couple of time trials where I finished with middle-of-the-pack times. The problem is, I'm not a racer. I never will be. This bike had such a stiff ride I was getting pounded to pieces. The reach was too long. Everything hurt. I tried putting wider tires on the bike but couldn't fit anything wider than 23mm. I rode this bike for about 4 years I guess, and did put a lot of miles on it.
THEN I STOPPED RIDING for a year. I gained weight. My friends said "You gotta get back on the bike."
BIKE FIVE: Things are going from bad to worse. Remembering the harsh ride of the road bike, I decide to buy a "comfort hybrid." Suspension seat post, front end shocks, wider tires. Still no professional fitting, but I lucked out there, and the bike fit well. This was a Giant Innova, and it was no doubt a good quality bike for it's style. I rode it for a while and decided I HATED it. The seat post and front end shocks bounced when I pedaled, taking away from my power. I felt embarrassed riding the thing and wanted a road bike again. I sold this bike to a co-worker at a huge loss, and went back to riding the Anquetil while I shopped around for a proper road bike.
BIKE SIX: I found a store that would give me a proper fitting, and ordered what was described as a "Sport Touring" bike. It took months to come from Marinoni, the builder in Montreal. This bike has Campy Veloce ten speed components. It has a longer wheel base, carbon fibre forks, and 28mm tires - all of which are designed to make the ride softer without totally giving up the feel of a road bike. In hindsight I think it's mostly the 28mm, 90 lb tires that make the difference for me. The Carbon Fibre fork probably takes away some of the "road buzz", but the tires contribute the most I feel. At last I have a bike that fits me properly, and I'm on my 3rd year with no complaints. (Picture attached.)
BIKE SEVEN: Well I still need something different for variety, right? After another professional fitting at a good LBS, I bought a Trek 7500FX to ride in the rain, and use as a commuter. (Picture attached) I now try to commute 3 or 4 days each week, round trip about 35 miles. This bike fits me properly which is probably the most important thing I've learned. GET A PROFESSIONAL FITTING. It only took me how many years to learn this? I could just cry when I think of the money I've spent, but at least I've been riding. I've done enough miles now to circle the globe a couple of times, and this year I'm picking up the pace a bit.
WHAT I SHOULD HAVE BOUGHT FIRST TO AVOID ALL THIS, and what I would buy today if I was starting all over, and if I could wait 2 years for it to be built: Mariposa Randonneur I'd buy this or something similar. Oh yes, if I could afford it...
Feel free to flame me for being such a dufus. I know already. What are some of your stories?