Monday, January 16, 2006

adventures in buying gear: the bike

Last year I started a zine called TriGirls and published a great first issue... but then financial constraints and some mental blocks prevented me from publishing the next issue. I wrote the second issue almost to completion and several readers have asked me to publish it. I like the idea of having a piece of paper in hand to read rather than just reading something online. Alas, I am going to do what I don't like and put the articles online because it is easier and cheaper. This is the first one.

Adventures in Buying Gear: The Bike
(written in february 2005)
In mid-January 2005, I went to the Cronometro Bike Swap, a local bike shop’s expo of used gear and sale stuff with booths by individuals and retailers. This is a paradise for bikers in need of gear. You can get padded shorts, slightly used jerseys, and other clothes for as low as $10. I saw a complete set of used panniers for $20, tons of new and used shoes around $30, and pretty much everything a biker would need. You could build a great bike from scratch by buying parts at the Bike Swap, if you were so inclined. And yes, they also had complete used bikes for sale by individuals. I went in with the idea that I would buy a triathlon bike if I found the right one. After a cursory browse through the booths, I had narrowed it down four contenders which I then checked out in full detail:

1. Quintana Roo tri bike $1500
It was a beautiful dark blue (my preferred color), had full aerobars and aeroframe, had a rear disc wheel, and included a computer. The guy selling it clearly loved the bike and told me he had done several races on it. It was in very good condition and looked like it might fit me, but sadly turned out to be way too small. Given that it was a size 53 and the owner was several inches shorter than me, this wasn’t very surprising. According to my biodynamic fitting, I am more like a size 56. In every instance that I have talked about buying a bike with male salesmen who are also bikers themselves, they cannot believe that I need a bike that large. Who knew that so many male egos are connected to bike frame size? Anyone ever heard of a woman with long legs? This bike was definitely out.

2. Cervelo P2K tri bike $1900
My second contender was a bright red Cervelo P2K, size 56. It could have been my dream bike, but closer inspection revealed that it wasn’t in very good shape. It included disc wheels, aerobars, and computer, but had clearly been ridden a lot and/or not taken very good care of. The brake pads were worn, and there was duct tape holding a cable and part of the aerobars together. The wheels weren’t exactly straight, as when inspected with frontal view while spining, they were dented, maybe from a pothole. Disk wheels are not good for everyday training rides, so this bike would require a whole new wheelset. The frame was also somewhat scratched up. Not worth the price. Oh well.

3. Fuji road bike $1200
This bike looked brand new, despite the fact that the owner had ridden it over a thousand miles and used it in last year’s Wisconsin Ironman. It was a road frame though, not specifically a triathlon geometry, and only mid-range quality. The components were Shimano 105, which is what I was looking to upgrade. After measuring the frame with a tape measure and referring to my biodynamic fitting report, a knowledgeable salesperson determined that the size could work with some adjustment, but it would never fit me like a glove. The top tube was too long for my short torso and therefore the reach would never be quite right. This just wasn’t the perfect bike for me.

4. Cannondale tri bike $1600
My final contender is the bike that I purchased, and it was an extremely lucky find. The frame is a Cannondale Multisport 700, 2002 model in bright yellow with silver and black. Nothing from the original setup remains other than the frame, because everything else had been upgraded by the previous owner. It was a steal for $1600 (including everything but the handlebars). The frame and components are in perfect condition, taken very good care of. It has a full aero frame, carbon aero fork, Selle Italia carbon seat, Thompson carbon seatpost, Mavic Kyserium SSL wheels, complete Dura-Ace components, and Cane Creek 200SL brakes. The aerobars it came with were uncomfortable for my wrists when I test rode it, so I purchased it without them. The seller agreed to reduce the price from $1800 to $1600. I test rode the bike indoors in the exhibition space, up and down the aisle. This wasn’t much, but I got a sense that it fit well even with no adjustments. The frame measurements matched those on my biodynamic fitting report. (Later, while doing my final adjustments at the bike shop, the mechanic told me that other than a custom frame, no bike could fit me better. Awesome!) This bike is so light, I can bicep curl it with one arm. For the aerobar setup, I decided on a Profile Design bullhorn bar (40 inch), and Syntace C2 Clip aerobars. I wanted my aerobar setup to be comparable in quality and proportional weight to the bike itself. It took about a month and a half to get all the parts I needed and have the final adjustments made, which seemed like an eternity of looking at an unbelievablely fast yet unrideable racing machine sitting in my living room. There was snow on the ground so I couldn’t have taken it out anyway. It was a complete stroke of luck that I found this great bike with high-end components at such a good price. It would have cost probably $1000 more had I bought everything new.

There was some tweaking and additional parts to get besides the bike itself. This will be a continuous work in progress. Here is the complete rundown of my bike setup (as of Feb 2005):

Cannondale 2002 Tri-bike (used) $1600
Profile Design Bullhorn handlebar $30
Syntace C2 Clip-on Aerobars $150
Profile Design Stem $30
Speedplay X2 Pedals $165
SIDI T-1 Shoes $150
Water System: aero bottle, regular water bottles, carbon cage, dual rear cage $100
Bento Box $15
Computer $35
Biodynamic fitting $165
Labor for final setup and adjustments $70

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