Unless I have the opportunity to shop for bicycles vicariously through others.
This time it was my friend Todd from the Daily Bubble Tea. If you ever have the chance to browse his website, you will see some work by one of the most gifted photographers I have ever met.
Buying bikes can be intimidating and it can be very difficult to transition from the Schwinn Pixie of your youth, to the full-on trappings of a modern road bike. Everything from the drop bars, gear ratios and braking systems can be confusing. Throw in the deliberate marketing nonsense companies propagate to sell bikes, and it can be impossible to feel confident in making the right purchase.
Some simple questions to ask:
- What is my budget? (It is good to be willing to be flexible as to avoid buyer's remorse).
- What kind of rider am I... really?
- What kind of riding do I do now and how is that likely to change in the next few years as I improve?
- How will my bike be used? (utility, commuting, racing, touring, fitness)
- What do I like and what don't I like about my current bike? If you don't have a current bike then take your time to test how bikes feel.
- How long and how often do I expect to use my bike?
- What are my goals for riding?
I recently saw a post on a cycling forum where a guy was asking about ditching his relaxed entry level road bike (triple crank) for another relaxed entry level road bike (triple crank) for use in Time Trials, Criterium Racing and Triathlons. (Wrong tool for the job)
Too often bike shops are too eager to move merchandise and do not listen to the customer. They will dictate to the customer what the customer wants. In many Giant retailers where the sales staff is often relatively new to the sport, I have seen some serious lapses in trying to provide the customer with the bike they are looking for.
Neophytes are also struck by the sticker shock of what a bike costs these days. For a road bike the price can range from NT 18,000 to NT 400,000. A solid, lower budget, lower-end bike for casual fitness and riding should be between NT 25,000 to NT 60,000. That is not to rule out an old iron "ama" bike for really cheap, if it fits your purpose. The level of engineering that goes into modern bicycles is astounding.
Todd went in with a budget of around NT 50,000.
For Todd, he was coming off a bohemoth of a mountain bike that weighed a ton. The mountain gearing was great for his steep climbs around Wufeng, but the whole set-up was pretty inefficient for longer fitness rides and road touring. Another one of Todd's problems was that he is 193cm tall. Most of the larger bicycles are sent overseas and Taiwan maintains stocks of road frames between 45-54cm. I find this surprising as there are plenty of tall Taiwanese guys out there. I have been told by several retailers that ordering a larger frame from abroad can often take 6 months.
Michael Turton and I joined Todd on a shopping expedition around Taichung. After starting our day with coffee at Terry's, where we ran into Matthew, an accomplished cyclist in Taichung, we made our way to visit Rocky at T-Mosaic. Rocky properly sized Todd and found a solid set of Kinesis bikes that would fit Todd's size, needs and budget. At the same time Michael tried out the buttery smooth ride and fit of Mosaic's steel TYA branded bikes for shorter people.
We then checked out a few other stores that were closed before checking in with Specialized. Specialized came up with an off-year Tricross and off-year carbon Roubaix Pro within Todd's budget.
After Specialized we hopped in the van and went to Warehouse 185 to visit James Murray and see what he could do. James is also tall and understands the difficulty in finding a bike.
At Warehouse 185, both Michael and I had the pleasure of meeting Philip, a loyal reader of both our blogs. Philip is busy building up a project with the theme of having no logos-- A Stealth Bike weighing 5.9kg.
James introduced Todd to the house brand bike, which is sold abroad under a well-known brand name. It is an alloy frame with carbon stays. It is designed as a good all-rounder. The selling point was that Todd could pick up the bike fully outfitted with SRAM Apex.
Apex has recently swept onto the scene as a viable alternative to the road triple. Apex offers a compact crank (50/34 front chain rings) with a rear cassette offering cogs that range from 11-34 teeth. Although the jumps between cogs are greater, they provide an excellent option for neophytes who wish to climb without the mechanical complexity of having three chainrings. Apex also offers SRAM's patented double tap shifting system, which has received raves.
We took the bike out on a tester, which was a bit small, and had no problems. James explained everything clearly, which gave Todd enough confidence in the ride and the after sale service.
Todd was sold. He even managed to go under budget to save some cash for clipless pedals, cycling shoes and other accessories.
The components are exactly what Todd was looking for and suit his riding. If he ever wants to upgrade, he can easily do so. Apex is an excellent system for all types of bikes and the frame should put Todd in a better position to take advantage of his strengths.
I am happy to see someone get a bike they are happy with. It is always good when someone gets a new bike.
Special thanks to Rocky and especially James for his help.
James at 185 did a fantastic job of working with Todd on getting all set up for a new ride.