Tuesday, June 7, 2011

To Buy a New Bicycle

It may seem appalling or crazy that a month after buying a second bicycle I am talking about getting another one while I am still massively in debt and already have two that work (for the most part). I shall of course explain my thinking.

My road bicycle is a 1980s Miyata Professional with Shimano Dura-Ace crank and Campagnolo other components. I started riding it in high school after my dad traded a car for it when I was eight. In it's day it was the top of the line bike. My limited research years ago indicated that this particular model was ridden in the Olympics and Tour de France. It's hot stuff, but it's 22 pounds of unaerodynamic and flexible steel. People say it is not about the bike but I have been dropped going down hills and on moderate sprints by carbon bikes and I have to say, when seven locals drop me like I'm standing still and I'm a 2:34 marathoner, I feel I am at least in a little better shape than my bicycling performance shows.

I have been shopping for a top of the line road bicycle since at least the summer of 2007. I have put thousands of miles on my bike and I have no plans to ever get rid of it, but I want something that will allow me to go faster and in a race of some sort be competitive. Basically for the price of a used car I can get a brand new top of the line bicycle that has a frame that comes with a lifetime warranty. Let's see Ford do that.

So this isn't a whim, entirely. After four flats and a broken spoke in six days over maybe 120 miles I am a little frustrated. Secondly, no one drops me in an endurance sport that easily. I may be very aerobically strong, but I am not strong enough to keep up while on my 30 year old bike. Third, the whimsical part is that my uncle gave me a pair of aero bars last weekend, and I think they are the greatest thing. I plan on doing an Ironman or several when I get done with my more serious running and to be competitive you need a triathlon bike.

So as I browse the local offerings I see that about $2,500 gets a nice tri bike with most of the good features like carbon frame, internal cables, aero specific handle bars. However, on the road biking side you have to go up to about $3,200 to get the internal cables. I know it is just one ridiculous feature compared to the overall like frame material and choice of wheels, but I think it shoes the comparison between bicycles well. The problem is I already have a road bike, it just weights 22 pounds and is too flexible.

Then there is my general attitude of go big or switch hobbies which has a voice in my head telling me to shell out another $1,000 to get the next step up carbon frame, which I felt in the store and it is lighter. Because the truth is whatever I buy will thrill me on every ride, this summer. But what if next summer I get a little more serious and do more races and those 14 ounces of weights and extra flexibility slow me down noticeably compared to my competition. Then what do I do? Get another new bike?

Then there is the miser in my head which says thing like, 'if you save the $4,000 you could retire six months earlier or spend a month at the Trango Towers basecamp.' I have all sorts of loans and other financial goals that buying an expensive bike seems crazy. On the other hand, every year I am getting older. Now it means I am coming into my prime, but in 10-15 years I won't be getting faster. If there is ever a time to be using the best athletic equipment in my life it is now.

How is this going to play out? I don't know. I do know my current road bike is very nice and I enjoy it. My new cyclocross bike is great and I run errands on it probably four times per weeks or so, especially on the weekends. Finally, I am going for a test drive. Wednesday night the local bike shop is letting me take out a carbon mid grade (women's) bicycle for the weekly group ride. So we shall see how that goes.

I have not gotten around to writing about instant gratification versus delayed ultimate gratification yet, but any bike purchase at this point would fall into the instant category, which is often not the best category.

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