How Not to Choose a Road Bike

I have, over the past couple of months, tried and failed to buy myself a new road bike. I have spent hour upon hour looking, thinking, looking again, changing my mind and looking some more. This is how not to buy anything, let alone a new road bike.

When I bought my MTB it was quite straight forward, find the one I liked, pick a size and then turn to eBay and see what was about. Yes I bought the bike on eBay purely as I didn’t have much budget and in case I packed in riding. Plus I knew I would get more for my money buying second hand and that I would get the spec I wanted for the money. Apply the same rules to a road bike and we are in business. Or so I thought.

Once I had set a small, but in my opinion a reasonable budget (up to £300), a quick look on eBay would show two potential bikes that I would be after. The first was the Giant Defy 5 which has a decent spec at a reasonable price and the second was the Specialized Allez, higher spec and higher price but I thought I could get one at the price I could afford. Being a snob I had already dismissed anything from Halfords which meant the Carrera range was out, although there were plenty about.

The one thing that was always in the back of my mind was that one of the reasons for buying a road bike is to go faster, top speed wise. In order to do this the spec of the bike had to be higher than the MTB I already own, so any old cheap and nasty thing wasn’t going to cut it. I needed something decent and wasn’t going to compromise on that, or so I thought.

After long and fruitless searches, bids and counter bids on eBay I came to the conclusion that I couldn’t afford either the Defy or the Allez, even second hand. I really didn’t  want a Carrera from Halfords (or eBay) so what should I do? Buy a new one!

From not being able to afford a bike on eBay I spotted a website that had the Giant Defy 5 at a decent price but I could pay on 0% finance. Sorted.

So onto size, if I was buying new size mattered, buying on eBay I could get away with one of two sizes as I am kind of in-between a small and medium for Giant bikes, depending on which website you look at. The one I was buying from said small and a friend of my brothers said buy a smaller one as it would be lighter and you can always raise the seat.

But was I really a small or a medium? I decided to pop to my local bike shop to try one out. As soon as I spoke to someone they suggested a medium, I tried a small which seemed to be fine but they suggested I try the medium and ordered one from the warehouse as they didn’t have one in the shop.

In the meantime the site I wanted to buy the bike from, only having small or large in stock sold out of the small. A sign from above?

Never mind I thought, the site in question had a Giant Defy 3 for only another £100 in a medium, I just needed to try the medium out to see if was the right size for me.

So having gone from a budget of around £300 for a second hand bike, I was about to buy a brand new bike for £500 on credit. To top it off the new bike would need pedals and shoes, if you are buying peddles may as well have SPD’s. Total cost of around £560. I dithered some more.

Then I decided to look around to see what else I could get for a decent price (around £400) for a known brand with a decent spec. Resale value was important to me in case I didn’t like road bikes and wanted to sell it, hence wanting a known brand. And so I found one. A Felt F95 with the same gears as the Defy 3 but with a Felt frame, All for just under £400.

But did I need a small or a medium? Looking at the size charts I needed a 54cm and reading the reviews someone with the same inside leg and the same height as me had a 54cm and he was fine. How he knew this I have no idea as I doubt he had it fitted. No point in going to the shop now as the Giant frame and the Felt frame are different so I wouldn’t get the answer I was looking for from sitting on a Defy 4 (don’t ask) in a medium.

So the Felt 95 it was going to be, from Wiggle online, with free delivery and flat pedals so at least I could ride it. All I needed to do was shuffle some cash about, count some birthday money (yes I still get that at my age) and bang it on my credit card. Just my conscience to wrestle with as we had just come back from holiday, raked up a few credit card bills and were short of cash for the rest of the month. How could I justify spending £400 on a bike when I hadn’t even been out on my MTB for nearly a month with little motivation to go out any time soon?

Having wrestled with my conscience, considered buying a Carrera TDF from Halfords for a little over £250 and thought about leaving it until next year I decided to buy a Felt F95. I Just wanted to speak to my bother who I was seeing in a few days to get his opinion, not that it would matter, bit always good to get a second opinion anyway.

So there I was decision sort of made, still not 100% sure that I could justify the cost even though the wife had sanctioned it, about to buy a new road bike. Just to make my day complete the price had gone up, only by £20 but it has gone up, which really doesn’t help when you are worried about cost.

But still no road bike. Not until next year at the earliest.

I have, in my ultimate wisdom decided to buy some SPD pedals, shoes and some road tyres for my MTB and take it out on the road. After all the MTB I have is s decent spec, you can only ride one at a time and I don’t think the performance difference between the MTB and a road bike will be that different if I have semi slick tyres on the MTB.

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Wear a Helmet

I’m not usually one to preach, or to care much about what others do themselves, but this topic is one that I couldn’t let go.

I grew up in the 1970’s and 80’s, riding a Grifter in the woods next to where I lived – did I ever wear a helmet? I don’t even recall them being commercially available at the time so no, we didn’t.

But then I grew up in an age where there were fewer cars, the pace of things was a little slower and we rode around with a little less fear of being knocked off our bikes by crazy bus drivers or people who just don’t like cyclists.

Now riding a BMX in the woods is one thing, but riding on a main route out of a city in rush hour, packed with cars and buses is another. I actually saw one person riding a couple of feet behind a bus at 30 mph (I was clocking the speed) obviously getting some drag benefit from being so close. What struck me was that the person on the bike wasn’t wearing a helmet. Of course had the bus stopped quickly I doubt a helmet would have saved them from slamming into the back of it, but it might just have saved them from having a sever head injury. It wasn’t as if they where on their way home from work, in jeans and a t-shirt. They were wearing full cycling gear – minus the helmet.

Since this I have noticed just how many people ride around on the roads in major cities without protecting themselves with a £15 helmet.

It just seems daft. The protection is there, why not use it? Don’t want to ruffle your hair? Think you look a bit of a dick. Well I can tell you now you might look a dick (I know / think I do) and yes I get the lines of the helmet in my hair when I take it off, but I wouldn’t dream of riding on the road without it.

It may not happen to you, but I saw this article – I only read the headline as it says it all – Father’s agony as cyclist son who refused to wear a helmet in case he messed up his hair is left in a coma after collision with van.

All I’m saying is wear a helmet – you never know what might happen. I’m no Bradley Wiggins but I do agree with him when he said helmets should be compulsory when on the road and iPods banned. You have to wear a helmet on a motorbike, even ones that are restricted to 30mph, a speed that most of us have probably reached on our bikes at one time or another.

A New Bike

I haven’t ridden too far on the bike I bought early in 2013 from Sports Direct. It’s a Muddy Fox Impel and to be fair as an entry level bike it’s OK, but now I’ve been advised that a new one would help, especially on some of the harder climbs. It would also help me go faster downhill as the gearing is a bit middle of the road, not great going up and slow going down.

So what to choose.

If all else fails call my brother, he knows what would suite best. He suggests all sorts of gearing and special brake configurations etc. So I just go on eBay and see what’s about. Having sent a couple of links to him we decide that a Specialized Hardrock Sport Disc would be the way to go.

Ideally I don’t want to drive too far to pick a bike up, and with a top price in my mind of £200 against a bike that is around £400 new I have already limited the field down quite a bit.

When you look around there are actually quite a few great bikes about and also sadly some real dross. I was lucky to find the bike I did. I had been watching it all week and when the time came to bid there were a couple of people interested and the price went up quite quickly.

I’m no eBay expert but I know when to bid and when to leave well alone. I also like to come in at the last few seconds, don’t give the competition any chance of upping their bid. With only a few seconds left I had placed my bid and won!

The bike was only 30 miles away so arranged to pick it up that afternoon.

And here it is, the eBay picture of my current bike!

specialized hardrock sport

Bike Stolen

I bought a new bike to start getting fit, but had no-where to put the old one I had.

Not wanting to send it to the tip we decided to give it to charity, but had to store it somewhere first. Round the back of the house should be a safe place.

We live on an estate in a rural area, you can’t get around the back of our house without either climbing over a 6ft fence or over an 8ft hedge. Unless of course you come through the massive hole in one of the fences caused by some contractors late last year. Knowing all this we still decided to put the bike around the back of the house – you can’t see it from the road, only if you are snooping around the garden.

We left it out for a few weeks until one night when I put my new bike away I realised the old one had gone. I had to double-check as I’d just got into bed. Yes it’s gone.

The next day by some coincidence I spotted the bike that had been stolen around the corner at a neighbour’s house! I went round later that evening and I turns out that the bike had actually been stolen the week before (shows how observant we are) and someone who was cutting the long grass across from our neighbours house had found it and given it to them.

The bike had been dumped no more than 50 yards from our house, probably realised that it wasn’t worth taking – which it wasn’t hence why I had bought another one.

The neighbour instantly said I should take it back, he’d called the police when he was given the bike and they said if no-one collects it he could keep it. He was going to give it to his grandson who was mad about bikes. As I didn’t want it and he was actually doing me a favour we decided he could keep it.

All ended well, but made me very aware that there are some lovely people out there who will wonder around your garden and take anything that isn’t nailed down. Needless to say we fixed the fence that afternoon.