There is way too much to know about purchasing a road bike, especially when I realized I was not going to get it for $30.00 like my mountain bike. For the last couple weeks I started researching a few things about road bikes, starting with the best one to get. That lead me down more and more bunny trails. One thing I learned that wound up being very important was fit and the size of the bike.
The size of the bike is measured in centimeters, so based on a few charts, I found out that I should have a bike that is about 61 cm. WOW! My mountain bike is tiny. It is 42 cm, smallest road bike I found was 48 cm, so maybe that isn't right, but again the mountain bike is too small for me and it was time to upgrade before I hurt myself. Apparently if your knee does not extend far enough, you will get pain in the front of your knee and if your knee extends too far, you will get pain in the back of you knee. Not only is my mountain bike too small it is a mountain bike and is a freaking tank weighing in at 40 lbs or so, far too heavy.
Anyway, back to buying the road bike. After researching what I could, I went shop to shop to shop, about 10 shops in town, here are the ones I remember:
- High Desert Bicycles
Hands down the BEST bike shop in Albuquerque. They are open EVERY day and are the friendliest group of people you will ever meet. The owners are there every day too and they are very knowledgeable, I picked their brains for many hours and on multiple occasions. It didn't stop at the shop, we actually exchanged a few emails about all kinds of things (more on this below). This is where I wound up buying my bike. You will read more about them below.
- Fat Tire Cycles
Highly recommended around town and it was obvious why, I really liked it, but it didn't have as good of deals as some of the other places. I would recommend them for service and tune ups though for sure.
- Two Wheel Drive
Not too bad, lots of Bianchis and for cheap too. Nothing my size that I liked.
First place I went, they really pushed Giant. But they have Bianchi too, I really liked the C2C 928 that I tried, what a freaking awesome bike!
- Albuquerque Bicycle Center
Treks galore. I tried a few and despite their name didn't actually approve, sort of a rougher ride compared to the other bikes I was interested in.
- Cycle Cave
Mom and Pop shop, didn't have my size in anything I was interested in, but was still very informational.
- Bike World
They don't deserve a link. It had to be a joke, this place was flat out awful! Never go to a bike world if you want good service or any service really and I went to two of them in town just in case.
- Performance Bikes
They don't deserve a link either. Walked in and waited for about 20 minutes, looking at bikes no one even spoke to me, so I left, wasn't what I was expecting at all.
So after all of this, the question I have to ask myself is did I pick the shop or the bike? I would like to think that it was coincidental that the BEST shop with only two brands was where I ended up finding the BEST bike for me. Is that possible?
Yah, well obviously it is possible, I wouldn't get a bike that I didn't like.
So let's start from the beginning. My shopping around started with Kickstand on Friday of last week with the Giant Defy for cheap. I knew nothing about components, barely knew what shimano was and definitely didn't know if dura ace was better than sora. I really thought - "Ah heck, I am going to go buy a bike real quick, buy a nice one for $500.00 and move on." So it was a slow start. For those that didn't know, there aren't any real road bikes for $500.00, well not in the retail stores anyway. Real road bikes start at around $800.00 and go up with varieties of componentry and frames. So the Giant Defy was Amazing compared to the mountain bike I was used to, but at $1,050.00, I found out that I had a lot to consider and learn. Plus I only road the bike around their parking lot, not really a good test before spending over a thousand dollars. This meant I had to go home without a road bike and with a ton of questions.
Ok, so Saturday rolls around and we hit all the shops in town - Kickstand (again), Two Wheel drive, Cycle Cave, Fat Tire Cycles, etc, the others aren't really worth mentioning again, luckily I got them out of the way early. I tried a dozen different bikes, I really didn't want to stay at any one shop for too long. I sort of had it in my mind that I would do the "Tour de Cookie" the next morning (Sunday) and I needed a road bike. But Saturday came and went and still no road bike. Ok, so instead of doing the "Tour de Cookie" I wound up at High Desert Bikes, the only bike shop open on Sunday, so I thought, "why not?".
Well, from the first second I walked in to High Desert Bicycles I was greeted promptly and measured for size and fit almost immediately. Ok, not too different from the other shops, everyone was all about "fit". But, next when they found a bike in my size, they mounted it on a trainer and had me get on. I sat on the bike and they measured the angles of my knees and placement of my hands, etc. I felt like an athlete that was being studied. Oh ... and my wife was with me and they fit her the same way they did me to a bike her size JUST so she could ride around with me.
The bike they put me on was the Specialized tarmac comp double (rival componentry). After getting fit and measured, etc, I took it for a spin. They positioned their bike shop along a bike path ... didn't see that much anywhere else. I took the bike out for about 30-40 minutes, just riding up and down hills. It was fun, it was effortless, I feel in love and as far as I was concerned at the time it was $$ expensive $$. Too expensive I thought and took off. I did research and found out that it wasn't all that expensive really; 2010, full carbon frame, high end components, perfect fit. Well, never-the-less I continued my search, back to a few of the same bike shops throughout the week, but now with a higher price range in mind and better bikes to look at. So I tried a whole new range of bikes and the close second was the 2009 Bianchi 928, full carbon, ultegra parts, from Kickstand. I road the 928 one day then the tarmac the next, then the 928 again and then the tarmac again ... back and forth for the rest of the week. I knew I was going to get one of them, just wasn't sure which one.
Well, it came down to the tarmac, and I'll tell you why. First, the bike felt just a slight bit better, but what really did it for me was actually the shop. I knew that if I had any problems the team at High Desert Bicycles would take care of it and make everything better. So just yesterday (Friday, a week later from when the search started), I went in to High Desert Bicycles and found the guy I've been dealing with the whole time to make a deal, to see what my options were. I left feeling like I got a great deal, they charged me for the bike and threw in everything else I could have asked for, for free, no additional cost. I left with some winter biking gloves, bicycling shorts, water bottles, pedals, cup holders, etc.
I took the bike out that night, road it until dark and everything was perfect. I highly recommend the Specialized Tarmac and if you live in Albuquerque or near by, you have to check out High Desert Bicycles, they really did good by me.
By the way, some of the questions and concerns I had for getting a full carbon are as follows (and this may help some of you make your decision):
- Can I put a rack on it, like for commuting?
Well, the answer is yes, but with some concerns. High Desert Bicycles contacted Specialied to talk about a rack I had found that connected to the rear hub and the rear brake - meaning most importantly that it did not clamp to the frame itself. They suggested to get an aluminum seat post and connect there instead of the rear brake mount.
- Can I use the current car bike rack that I have? And I only have cars, so it is this bike rack that attaches with rubber hooks around the trunk, nothing special - it has two arms that come out with velcro straps. Reading the forums, I found lots of scepticism and people claiming that it could damage the carbon frame when the car went over bumps. Specialized and High Desert Bicycles both suggested a wheel or front fork mounting system but said that the bicycle rack I had wouldn't do much if any damage. The only thing they were concerned about were scratches since there is a cable for rear components that goes along the bottom of the top tube. So apparently it is no big deal, but for now I just take the front wheel off and lay the bike gently in my trunk.
- Can I mount my cyclocomputer (uses zipties) to the frame? (yah, I was pretty naive) Anyway, they said that is not a problem at all, and so far, so good.
Can't wait to get out and ride ...