The boss of my good friend Elizabeth, who I have never met - yet both of whom have been avid emotional supporters of my goal - emailed his thoughts on bicycle purchasing via Elizabeth this week, which I've summarized below:
- Fit - Of all the decisions to be made about a bicylce, the most important is bicycle fit. Whichever machine is selected, the bike shop should carry out some type of formal approach to "fit". Various methods exist; ask the shop about their approach.
- Shop - Select a reliable bicycle shop.
- Materials - Ride, comfort and value should determine material selection.
- Steel - a traditional material; too heavy (unless it's a very high-end product); too much maintenance (e.g. rust)
- Aluminum - the lightest material, but harsh riding; a good value at $2k; if purchased, get a carbon fork
- Carbon - the most popular material; used by most professional teams); compared to aluminum, it offers heavier, softer riding; compared to steal, it's maintenance free
- Components - Shimano components (e.g. brakes, derailleurs) are excellent and offered at various price points. Some bicycles have a sloping tube. These are popular, contemporary-looking and may offer more fitting options, but is not necessary.
- Pedals and shoes - Many bicycles do not include pedals and must be purchased separately. Get pedals with the "clip in" feature (Look, Time and Shimano make good platforms); SPD pedals and cleats are recessed to ease walking - unlike racing cleats - which would be preferred while touring. Shoes should have stiff carbon soles.
- Saddles - Selection is important; styles range in male and female styles; try to test various saddles if possible.
- Helmets - Specialized, Bell and Giro are all good brands.
- Cycling clothing - Performance Bicycle is a popular mail-order company; their products are inexpensive. Better quality, but more expensive, options include Colorado Cyclist or World Cycling Productions. Pearl Izumi is a well-known and respected clothing and accessories manufacturer.
- Recommended shopping list for a transcontinental road trip - cycling shorts, lightweight tights, knee warmers, arm warmers, cycling jerseys, socks, short fingered - and light-weight, long-fingered gloves, a vest, a jacket, shoe covers, a rain jacket, a lightweight cycling cap (fits under the helmet), base-layer tee shirts, sunglasses with substituteable lenses (e.g. for dark or bright days), sunscreen, chamois cream.
- Most important components of all - fun and joy.
Giant Avail 1
Jamis Ventura Elite
Giant Avail Advanced 2
Cannondale Six Carbon 5
Cannondale Synapse Feminine 4
And just to keep my mind spinning, I read through the Editors' Choice 2009 Road Bike nominees. I'm indecisive in nature so it sufficiently aided in further complicating my decision process. Oh, and here were the winners, which added the Jamis Ventura Elite to my pool of consideration.