If you are looking for a new bike or want to upgrade your current bike, write down the answers the following questions so you can discuss your options at the bike shop.
Do you have bike fit concerns? A bike that fits is the most important factor in comfort and performance. If you are particularly tall or short, a woman, or have orthopedic issues such as back trouble, a standard frame design may not fit you correctly. The bike should fit the rider, not vice versa. You can modify bike fit by selecting the right components, but you need to start with a frame of the right size and shape. We describe proper bike fit in detail later in this chapter. Many bike manufacturers have frames and components specifically designed for women. Women tend to have shorter torsos relative to their legs, and these frames fit women’s body proportions better than generic frames do. Women’s bikes usually come with smaller handlebars, crank sets, and brake levers to make riding more comfortable. Erika is 5 feet, 4 inches (163 cm) tall and should look at frames made for women.
How much do you want to spend? Plan to spend close to US$1,000 for a durable entry-level bike that can withstand the demands of training for and riding centuries. Check out the websites of various manufacturers. The difference between the entry-level bikes and the top models is often the component groups. In many cases, the frames are virtually identical. If you are on a budget, you could get one of the lower-end bikes and then upgrade the components as you can afford them, although components bought later are significantly more expensive than if purchased on the original bike. Also, look for last year’s models. You may save some money when dealers clear their inventories for the next year’s models. There is no ceiling on price if you opt for a custom-designed frame with top-of-the-line components.
At what level do you want to perform? If you want to get in shape and complete a few centuries a year, almost any standard road bike will do the job. Consider entry-level road bikes, often referred to as sport, fitness, or comfort bikes (see figure 5.1), which are suited for everything from commuting to centuries. On the other hand, if you aspire to fast times and may race one day, a racing bike with lighter components may suit you better. Improving your century or brevet times requires more training, and riding greater distances generally puts more stress on the components. Higher performance bikes usually feature better components and lighter frames. Lighter components cost considerably more and are less important than other considerations for most riders.
In the future might you ride longer brevets or multiday tours? Events of 300 kilometers, 200 miles and longer, and tours require many hours or days on the bike, so cycling efficiency and comfort are essential. Racing bikes are the most efficient and suitable for many riders doing longer events. A touring bike, however, which is designed a bit differently from a racing bike, is generally more comfortable because the rider sits more upright. These bikes are more stable than a racing bike with a load of gear. The choices range from those designed to carry a very large seat pack and handlebar bag, suitable for rides up to a 1,200-kilometer randonnée, to those with attachments to carry all the gear needed for a self-supported camping trip. You could comfortably ride a century, 200 kilometers, or longer on most touring bikes, although they are heavier and less efficient.
How reliable must the bike be?Road and touring bikes by reputable manufacturers are all quite reliable. Although problems will be infrequent, some components and wheels designed for lightness and higher performance will have more breakdowns than those with more robust designs. Repair of these equipment problems may require a bike mechanic. If you don’t want to risk an equipment failure that may prevent you from finishing an event or are considering self-supported rides, pay attention to the reliability of components and the ease of repairing them.