Hi, first post. Been riding for about 3 months and I’m now on bike no. 4.
My name's Robert, from Sydney Australia. And this is a short story on how not to choose a bike.
I'm a 49yo fat, round, accountant who has decided to get into shape and try and defer an untimely obesity-induced death. It would probably be nice to be around to see the kids grow up.
Many years ago I used to ride a bit, and a few months ago figured I should get back into it. I started lurking on these forums.
I figured I would start riding between my home and my office. It's a 13km (8 mile) ride each way, with some reasonable hills along the way. (Concord to Balmain, for those other Sydney residents on here).
So I dragged my mid 90’s trek 700 hybrid out of the garage, gave it a cursory lube and service, and started doing some riding.
This included some early morning and late night rides and taking the kids (8yo and 10yo) for rides on some of the local cycleways. I even managed to get my wife my wife on back her Diamondback hybrid.
And I totally loved it. Surprisingly, it didn’t take my tub-of lard body too long to get into the rhythm. Sure, there was some serious pain and exhaustion the first few times, but within two weeks I did my first home to office ride. It was at night, I had to push the bike up a couple of the more serious hills, and the 13km ride took me an hour, but I made it. Woohoo!!.
Then on the way back home, something went very wrong. I pushed on the pedals, and they turned. The crank turned. The chain turned. But the back wheel didn’t turn. I took the bike back to the office, caught a cab home, and took the bike to the LBS the next day.
Apparently the freehub was shagged.
Now I had never been happy with the 700, for the simple reason that it didn’t suit my body shape. I’m 5’10, but I have short legs, a 79cm (31”) instep, and a long torso. I needed the top-tube length of the 19” frame (plus a 120mm stem), but the stand over height of the 19” 700 had no clearance to my "undercarriage”, and it was a nuisance whenever I had to pull up at traffic lights or wherever. This also made it a bit ungainly on the slowish cycleway rides I was doing with the kids, particularly if I had to dismount in a hurry. All in all, I didn’t feel like buying a new wheel for it, and I was told that getting the LBS to replace the freehub wasn’t commercially worthwhile. (They tried to sell me a Nexus-7 atb instead).
I figured I needed something a bit more appropriate to my proportions. I was conscious of my own lack of knowledge of all things bikey and decided I didn’t want to spend a great deal of money in exploring options, but at the same time I wanted to keep riding. I wanted something that was fine for tootling along with the kids, but also capable of doing the commute. My 118kg (260lb) mass and intended use made front shocks a complete waste of time and money, and wanted something pretty strong.
So I jumped onto eBay bought one of these:
A 1998 Diamondback Wildwood – an old-school rigid steel mountain bike. The bike was hardly used, having sat in a shed for most of the past 10 years. I stuck a set of Geax Streetrunners, some bar ends, and a set of mid-rise handlebars on it, got the LBS to lube the thing, and resumed cycling.
It has its good and bad points. The primary good point is that the frame size is much more suited to me, with a much lower stand over height, and it’s just the thing for taking the kids out. I can jump of it in a hurry if I want to, it will climb anything, and the slicks make it a decent ride on the road.
Its hi-ten/cro-mo frame makes it pretty heavy, but given the load of blubber it’s carrying that’s not really an issue.
The main problem is it’s slow. Even my utterly unathletic body has it spinning out in top gear on the road.
It's fine for riding with the kids, and I'll keep it for that purpose, but for my solo riding I decided I wanted something (a) faster, (b) low maintenance, and (c) a bit sportier. So I jumped back onto eBay and bought one of these:
A 2006 Avanti Blade-8. Alloy frame, sharp handling, Nexus-8 drivetrain – and a big, big mistake.
When I say it’s a mistake, I should note that there is nothing wrong with the Blade-8s themselves. When they come from the Avanti factory they are a fine, well built, beautifully finished bike.
But there was a problem with the particular example I bought – it had been used on a trainer for two years in a cycling school. This meant that it hadn’t been properly serviced in that time and body sweat from riders had soaked into everything. There was surface rust every where, the spokes had frozen, the headset was knackered and it was generally a mess. I shouldn’t have bought it, but seeing as it had been inside all its life and never been on the road, I didn’t think it could be so bad - right?.....Wrong-oooooo.
Of course, I don’t have the technical expertise to properly evaluate a used bike, although I am rapidly learning.
I wound up leaving it with a LBS (not the usual one) to sort out. The guy was extremely helpful and reasonable, particularly as I hadn’t bought the bike from him. Amongst other things he lubed the spokes, replaced the 7 or 8 that broke anyway when he adjusted them, generally got the bike roadworthy, and didn’t charge me very much money. I thoroughly recommend Beacon Bicycles at Padstow. Dave is a top bloke and he’ll be getting more of my business.
So much for the low-maintenance aspect of the purchase.
So the Blade 8 is working, and I’ve done a few 30-50km rides on it, but there remain several problems with the bike, or I should say, my compatibility with the bike.
Firstly, the bike has flat bars, and I have mild arthritis in my wrists. More so than with the Trek 700 or the Diamondback, I found I was getting serious pains in my wrists after each ride on this bike - even though I spend a lot of time on the bar ends. I could always put riser bars on it, but I have been trying to get away from a sit up and beg riding position. Drop bars are not a viable option on this bike as the 570mm top tube is too long, even with a shorter stem, and devising a shifter solution for the Nexus-8 hub is a PITA. Something like On-One Albatross bars might be OK, but they don't really appeal to me.
Second, the Nexus 8 and 118kg of unfit accountant just can’t get it on when there are serious hills involved. I thought of changing the rear sprocket, but the road speed with the existing 38/19 setup is already pretty compromised. I don’t want to lower the high speed any further.
Third, this is the first aluminum framed bike I’ve owned, and I just can’t get used to the ride. It’s hard, and it’s noisy. I suspect it is also partly to blame for the wrist pain I’ve been getting.
Fourth, the wheels are going out of true, less than 6 weeks after I had them fixed. I’ve only done about 400km, all of it on the road, no curb hopping and no significant potholes. They just can’t handle my weight.
This bike has to go.
So what do I replace it with?
A 21” 2003 Trek 520. Excellent condition, comfortable, smooth shifting with a reasonable gear range, very sturdy 36 spoke rims with eyelets, and heaps of braze-ons for racks and fenders. $730 will seem like a lot of money for one of these to our North American friends, but in Australia these things retail for $2,400.
A couple of rides on this bike have me convinced that I’ve finally found the bike I’ll keep.
A previous owner has removed the drop bars. I intend fitting a set of these:
45cm Nitto Randonneur bars, Tektro RL520 brake levers and 7700 bar-end shifters.
I haven't used drop bars before though, and I would appreciate any suggestions or advice......
And my think my new-found love affair with cycling is here to stay .