Ten easy steps to get your perfect bike

Titanium or Carbon, Shimano or SRAM, Compact or Standard and we have not started on color choices yet. So there are a billion bikes out there and in order to help you select your perfect ride I have outlined 10 easy steps.

1.  Go to Costco…get a case of Corona’s…do not consume

2.  Borrow a friend’s bike and ride it a few times. Repeat this step if you have willing friends. You want to get the feel for the frame, the responsiveness of components and your desired body position. Reward your mates with some Cervezas

3.  Figure out your size by using on-line tools (competitive cyclist) and getting measured at your LBS (local bike stores such as Pacific Bikes, Mike’s Bikes, Sports Basement). Key measurements are inseam (floor to crotch but not the standard slack size), torso and arm and key outputs are top tube length, center-to-center seat tube and reach. Evaluate bike geometries – comfort (tour, general road) vs. aggressive (tri, race)

4.  Rent at least 2 different bikes (Blazing saddles rents Kesrtels and Pacific Bikes rents Giants) and ride them for the day, preferably from the store that you may end up buying your bike from (most places will apply your rental fee toward your purchase)

5.  Narrow down your search to a handful of bikes and components. SRAM and Shimano shifters are very different. Where you are in the Gruppo (hierarchy of components within a brand) will significantly impact price. Shimano 105’s may suffice for you in which case you do not have to spend an extra $1,000+ just to look cool with a full Dura-Ace kit. On the other hand perhaps you only want SRAM red because you just love the way it feels

6.  Read forums (Harrisbikeforum, cyclingforums) and reviews (bikereviews, Bicyclying) on the short listed bikes and the different components but only to get a sense of what to test for. Almost all reviews are based on personal preference and will probably NOT apply to you. This is a very personal decision. For example (warning: lame vanity excuse coming up) I am unable to own a Giant or a Trek. I know, I know, most of the bikes in the world are Giants and a number of super cyclists ride them, but imagine this phone call. Tribaby calls his uncle in India

Tribaby: Hi Chacha (uncle in Hindi), how are you? I got a fancy new bike!

Chacha: Why beta (son in Hindi), can you not afford a car? You know your cousin is doing very well at Infosys and is about to be manager of 5,000 staff. He drives a Mercedes S class with built in nav and Bose speakers. Should I have him send you some money?

Tribaby: Ummm, no no, I am doing fine, I was only laid off for six months but I have a great job now…

Chacha (interrupting): you were fired! Oh my goodness, I knew you should have gone to Stanford and not that silly state school….

Tribaby (interrupting): Anyway, I have a car and a new iPhone 4 so I am doing ok, I bought a new bike for my triathlon race

Chacha: An iPhone 4 Oh, okay! What bike did you get?

Tribaby: I got a $3,300 Giant TCR2 Carbon frame with Shimano Ultegra…

Chacha (interrupting): Your cousin bought his Giant at a garage sale for $15 and my new Giant in India cost me Rs. 500 (about US$10), perhaps we can all ride our bikes together when I come visit. But why did you pay $3,000 for it, you should talk to your cousin about how to negotiate…

Tribaby: *click*

7. Go to your bike shop in full gear and test ride each of the bikes on your short list for no less than 10 minutes and make sure there is a climb. This step is an all day or multiple day event. Dispense a couple of beers to the shop staff to make sure they do not get annoyed at you taking up all their time

8.  Fine tune your selection and sizing and repeat step 7

9.  Come up with your final short list and research prices/components. On line stores (bikesdirect) may have better prices than shops but be careful of shipping, needing a fit ($150), tune-ups ($90), replacing minor things like stem ($100), warranty and repairs

10.  Haggle (c’mon, I am Indian afterall), then drink and haggle some more. When the beers are finished pay for the bike and go home with a big smile

Although not highlighted as a step, probably the most invaluable resource in your bike hunt is a solid group of advisors and a supportive family. Your family will put up with you as you obsess for weeks and months over a single purchase (little do they know that this is just the beginning). While your advisors will help you with each one of the ten steps above and also help you make sense of the jargon, for eg. “my crotch to floor is longer than yours but your top tube is bigger than mine but at the end of the day we both just need a good stiff ride.”

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18 responses to “Ten easy steps to get your perfect bike

  1. funny! particularly

    “I have a car and a new iPhone 4 so I am doing ok…” :)

    • Thanks Nilesh, I generously use my “I have an iPhone 4″ card to trump several objections, getting out of tickets, doing the dishes. I think Jobs should think of a new marketing program

  2. You forgot two steps:

    4b. Make sure you confirm the bike shop actually rents bikes before investing hours at said shop.

    9b. Consult trusted advisors to receive external validation that your short list is worthy.

    • Well put Craig. on 4a That is their hook afterall to get you commited to a larger purchase with a simple “oh, we will apply your rental fee of $75 to your MASSIVE purchase of $5,000, what a deal”….think sunk cost

      I had to edit the blog entry to accommodate your 9b comment, take another read and let me know if you agree..

  3. okay…“my crotch to floor is longer than yours but your top tube is bigger than mine but at the end of the day we both just need a good stiff ride.”

    This just confirms my suspicion that most cyclists are gay (whether they know it or not) … not that there is anything wrong with that.. :-)

    • This from the Dad who spent hours on making sure his son got a nice bike. And every time I visit you insist on riding it around to show me that it can support an adult. Wonder what that says about you Nilesh…

  4. hahaaha! You forgot another rule..do not take your bike and your kid to the same outing, there may be a circumstance when you have to pick one over the other and your wife may not appreciate your choice :)

    oh!, and can I just say, your Indian rebel soul that prevents you from buying a Giant should also steer you towards buying a non-honda (esp. Civc, accord), non-toyota(esp. Corollow, Camry) car soon?

  5. This was indeed a funny post. Although, I think the exchange deserves a post of it’s own. In fact, you should turn this entire blog into your conversation with “Uncle!”

  6. I think you need a setp on how to talk your wife about getting a $3,000 bike, so she suuports you.
    Specially if you are replacing your one year old bike.

    • That can be an entire tutorial. I can make it easy for you Juan. We can work out an arrangement where I “crashed” the bike that I borrowed from you and now you have no choice but to get a spanking new Cervelo…thanks again for letting me borrow your bike

  7. Hey tribaby

    Came across your blog through sheer randomness of google search (although I did have ‘orbea onix ultegra’ in my keywords so can’t blame google a whole lot).

    Kudos on the century ride and the olymipic tri! I am hoping for my first century ride next summer. And thanks for the hilarity w/ chacha conversation. I had a similar chat with my mum few months ago after i got my orbea. She said something along the lines of “Hey bhagwan, itne mein to ek Maruti aa jaati!”.

    Anyways, ride on man. Atleast you have the fortune of good weather all-year around.


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