Friday, January 22, 2010

Buying a Road Bike (Part 4 of ?)

Anyone suffering from low self-esteem should not be professionally fitted for a new bicycle. The process is definitely not suited for those of hypersensitive or vulnerable temperaments. I was told that my long torso and long legs are abnormal compared to most women's frames, where most women either have a long torso and short legs or long legs and a short torso. Also, my feet are nonstandard because they are both exactly the same size (and small for my height); most people have a foot that is slightly larger than the other. And my arms are short. If one is being fitted for a bicycle, he or she should be prepared to hear things like, "You have a big/small head ... Your shoulders are large/small ... Your hips are wide/narrow." Look what a quick Google search on this topic produced. And another.

There is an exact and tedious science to fitting a bicycle, as I learned last night on my third trip to R&A Cycles. I also now know that my legs are 80cm long and the length of my torso is 23.5cm - two things I never thought or cared to figure out before. After much debate over various available-in-store-and-warehouse road bicycles and more measurements of my legs and torso (which require you to place and hold short rods in awkward places), the pro bicycle fitter at R&A Cycles was eventually convinced that the Trek 5.0 Madone (2007), which the sales representatives had originally picked out for me, would fit. His initial hesitation stemmed from the fact that he had measured my legs, but only eyeballed my torso, while I sat on the Trek 5.0 Madone. Since the saddle had inadvertently not been positioned to fit me the first time I sat on it, his first assessment was that the top tube was too long ... and he was unhappy with something about the head tube. He spent over an hour putting me on other bicycles, demonstrating the fit I needed, explaining what positions were important for my back, elbows and hip flexors. And, of course, the discussion eventually rounded down to the issue of my budget.

I was hoping to spend well below my maximum budget of $2500 for a road bike. At my preliminary estimate of $1200-1400, a mid-range bicycle would surely get me across North America in one piece, but further research (independent of what I've been told by R&A Cycles) has made me willing to invest in a bicycle that will get me through other long-distance conditioning and tours over the next few years. It may seem a little premature, but I'm already exploring the different regional tours I could take over subsequent summers. So the Trek 5.0 Madone (2007), on sale at R&A Cycles for $1895.00, was almost exactly what I wanted: carbon fiber frame, Shimano Ultegra components, no girly color schemes, and a 2007 retail value of $2,799.00 on sale. While R&A Cycles is more than willing to order bicycles from among their selection of authorized-dealer brands, they no longer carry Trek. And there is not a wealth of remaining Trek inventory from which to choose. I'm not married to the brand, but extensive discussion with a sales representative, during my second visit to R&A Cycles, had narrowed down the Trek 5.0 Madone from among their existing inventory of road bikes, and I liked what I had read in my follow-up research.

After taking thorough measurements of my torso and remeasuring my legs, the pro bicycle fitter balanced the saddle on the Trek 5.0 Madone and again inspected me and the bicycle while I sat on it. Since my torso was longer than he had perceived (apparently, it was my unusually short arms that had visually thrown him off) and the saddle was balanced in a position that better fit me to the bicycle's frame, he gave me 100% approval to move forward with the purchase of the bicycle. I made him swear that he had absolutely no hesitation. I know that the oath of a salesman is one of dwindling merit, but there is a sincere quality about him and unmistakable knowledge of his craft that makes you trust what he says about the way a bicycle fits you ... or is it the way you fit a bicycle? Oddly, his demeanor is both slightly abrasive yet equally amiable - if that makes any sense, but I found it comforting. Some might call him brazen; I would call him blunt. And I prefer blunt over excessive salesmen courtesy. Throughout the process, he was adamant that he would show me what fit and present his approval or denial, but I'd have to talk with the sales representatives about what to actually buy.

I am returning to R&A Cycles to continue the fitting next week. I'm eager to go back, but travel to Durham, NC, for the christening of my Godson and the work schedule between my two jobs [job #1 and job #2] will likely prevent me from revisiting Brooklyn until next Saturday. Before I finalize the purchase of my Trek 5.0 Madone, the pro bicycle fitter wants to make adjustments to the head tube and handle bars. R&A Cycles waived the $350.00 fitting charge - though switching out the handle bars will come at my own cost. I'm not complaining. The only other road bicycles in the store that received the pro bicycle fitter approval were a sleek red, black and white Scott that retailed for $2900.00 (not on sale and more than I wanted to spend on my first road bike) and a purple Women's-specific Felt, whose retail price and color did not sit well with me.

Since he was finally happy with the fit, the pro bicycle fitter wanted to see me spend my money on further adjusts to the Trek 5.0 Madone rather than exceed my preferred budget on the Scott or Felt models. Whether or not that was a sales tactic to clear out their remaining inventory of Trek bicycles, I'm running out of time, I have limited dollars to spend, and I'm getting an over 35% markdown on a carbon fiber frame that Lance Armstrong endorses. The components are not that of the 6.9 and my 5.0 is a 2007 model, but neither are extremely relevant to me or my purpose. To be honest, I don't know enough about cycling to know if I'm getting a good deal, but I felt good enough about the purchase last night to put down a deposit to hold the bicycle.

All in, it looks like I'm a little more than a week away from finally bringing home my first road bike!

1 comment:

Monique said...

Well keep us posted, as i know you will! Geeze, who woulda thunk that buying a bike could potentially harm one's self esteem?! Sheesh!