I have been at this bicycle retailing thing for a pretty long time but I still get excited each year when the new bikes come out along with all the new accessories, jerseys, shorts-Heck, I even get excited about new improvements in car racks! On the other hand I sometimes feel a bit jaded about the fact that bike companies sometimes make changes for the sake of change without really advancing the state of the art. But one thing I now know and appreciate is that there are definitely very different bikes with very different personalities to appeal to virtually any rider. Whether you ride road, mountain, fitness, Triathlon, BMX-there are hundreds and hundreds of models to choose from. So many, in fact, that it can create a kind of shoppers paralysis when it comes to figuring out what model of bike is right for you. Certainly there is no shortage of information from manufacturers, gear review sites, magazines, friends with opinions, on-line forums-The only problem with all of that information and all those opinions is that ultimately you are going to be riding the bike you choose-no one else. It’s a big investment for a good bike and you don’t really want to make a mistake.
So let me tell you a true story-As the owner of a bike store I have my pick of the litter. For the 2013 season I picked, for my mountain bike, a Cannondale Carbon Scalpel 1. Let me tell you, it was a pretty spectacular bike! Four inches of travel on a race tuned platform that weighed in at a scant 23 and change pounds. With a super quick steering angle and a short-ish wheelbase combined with 29 inch-wheels, this bike was a racers dream machine. Several members of Team Bulldog/Cycle Craft race the Scalpel and are on the podium with predictable regularity. Lots of my friends were jealous of my bike buuuuut……I hated it. Well maybe hate is too strong a word but I really didn’t love the bike but I didn’t really want to admit it to myself or to anyone else for that matter. The truth is the bike scared the hell out of me. You can’t really ride the scalpel slowly-it demands to be raced. It’s super aggressive capability just seemed above my ability to ride it. I compare the experience I was having with trying to drive a race tuned Porsche at the mall on a Saturday afternoon. The thing is, I don’t race-I haven’t raced in 15 years. But for $6000 how could I not be in love? I suspect that the truth is lots of people buy bikes based on someone’s glowing recommendation or compelling marketing only to be disappointed with end result but don’t dare say so because they spent a bunch of money on it.
Fast forward a year-For the 2014 season I started out with a Giant Trance, which I loved! Sadly I gave it up to customer who wanted this exact model and it was sold out at Giant. Now I have a Cannondale Trigger Carbon 2- and I truly love it! Let me explain why. Both of these bikes are five-inch travel all-mountain bikes with 27.5-inch wheels. The all mountain platform is a lot more stable at speed than the Scalpel was. The longer suspension soaks up the rough stuff like nobody’s business and the 27.5” wheels accelerate out of turns quicker than the 29”. A little bit slower steering geometry and beefier tires help me feel much more confident on the bike and hence-I am having lots of fun riding and regularly grinning from ear to ear and blurting out spontaneous “woohoos!”
Herein lies the crux of my tale-All of these bikes worked as advertised when set up properly. But it turns out that the bikes that worked for me specifically were the Trance and the Trigger because both are really well designed bikes that are made to do the kind of rides that are suited to me. Don’t get me wrong- I am not trying to convince you that those bikes are the best for everyone, just that they are best for me. My point is that finding the right bike for you starts with a really honest conversation with yourself about what kind of riding you are really likely to be doing and what your expectations are for your rides. Even with very little experience, making a list of what is important to you about your bike before you start seeking out specific model information will help you focus on the right kinds of bikes and cut through the marketing chatter and untold thousands of opinions based on scientific studies of one. Most of the bikes you are likely to find in reputable bike stores will be of high quality and offer good value for your money. Focus on getting the right fit and the right set-up. Whether it’s a road bike, a mountain bike, triathlon, or anything in between, picking the right tool and using it properly should provide you with many years of ear to ear grinning and spontaneous “woohoos!” of your own.