Buying a Bike - Where on earth do I start?

Discussion in 'Beginners' started by MattLiverpool, 20 May 2008.

  1. MattLiverpool

    MattLiverpool New Member

    Evening all,

    Thanks in advance for replies. Any input is welcome.

    I've done a bit of cross country and a bit of bicycle trials before when I was a teenager and then rowing took over my life completely. Due to work commitments I had to stop rowing just over a year ago and I've done very little in the way of exercise for the majority of the last 12months appart from the odd game of squash or a swim each week. More recently I've started running in the morning and the fitness seems to be coming back quite quickly.

    SO, I've decided that I'd quite like to have a go at riding on the road. Due to a timely bonus from work I've got up to about £1000 to spend on getting set for the road if necessary. If it's going to make a huge difference I could probably stretch to more but who knows whether I'm going to enjoy it??

    I'd really appreciate some advice on how to go about looking for the right bike, how much to spend, other things to consider and whatever else you might think that I'll find useful.

    On the size front please be aware that I'm 194cm tall and weighed just under 100Kg at prime rowing weight. I'm a bit over that at the moment but it will strip off fairly quickly with the running. There's a possibility that I'll row again in the future so any bike needs to be capable of dealing with me at that weight and putting some pretty serious power through it.

    Over to you guys I guess, thanks again for any replies.


  2. Fab Foodie

    Fab Foodie hanging-on in quiet desperation ...

    Hi Matt, Welcome.

    Good question... where to start. I think it would help to think about what you need the bike to be able to do?

    Are you after a true single-minded lightweight Balls-out bent-double sports-bike for club riding/Time-Trials (pretty addictive stuff)?
    Will you want to be doing longer rides with some comfort?
    Will you ride all year round when full mudguards are required?
    Might you want some light luggage capacity for saya bit of credit-card touring/Audax riding?
    Need to commute?
    Need to handle tow-paths and light off-road stuff?

    There's a lot of choice for a grand, real sportsters, "Sportive bikes (comfy racers!), Audax, long distance/high pace bikes, Cyclo-cross machines, blend of road-bike with good dirt track/off-roading capability ... and so on.

    Not to mention flat-bar bikes as well...

    Give us some help to narrow the field!
  3. OP

    MattLiverpool New Member

    Thanks Fab,

    Well I've still got an Orange Evo2 in the garage. It needs a rebuild but that would cover any casual riding that I'll be doing. I'm looking for something to do some hardcore training on but probably no more than 2 hour rides to start with although by reading some of the posts on here it seems that there is some kind of cycling bug that I might be in danger of catching.

    I'd like it to be flexible enough to move on to some longer rides and maybe even some racing if I do like it and something that's going to be as fast as possible on flats/up hills. I'll be sticking to the roads, wont be commuting to start with as that's got to be nearly 70miles.

    Do all of those wishes add up? I really am starting from scratch. There used to be a group of cyclists who rode on a Wednesday night from a pub across the road from my parents house I'm regretting never having gone to have a chat with them now haha.


  4. Sounds like an Audax bike might be your cup of tea. Someone better informed than me will be along in a minute to tell you which brands to go for, and such like.
    Welcome to the forum, by the way!
  5. OP

    MattLiverpool New Member

    Thanks for the welcome everyone.

    I've been reading a bit about these audaxes and sportives they sound like good fun when I've got the hang of it. Is it basically the same type of bike for both(depending on distance to a certain extent)?

    I guess that the 'sport bike' is for really short distance balls out stuff?

    Anyone got any advice on decent bike shops in or near Liverpool?

    I've read lots of the other, buying a bike threads on here and the advice seems to be try some out. How will I know what's going to be comfortable for a couple of hours by doing anything less than about an hour on each?? I'm also a bit worried about trying bikes out as what happens if I crash it? Those tyres look damn thin.


  6. Fab Foodie

    Fab Foodie hanging-on in quiet desperation ...

    Hi Matt

    Where you based, maybe somebody can point you in the direction of a really good shop.
    Major difference between Sportive and Audax is Speed/Distance.
    Sportives are "Shorter" in general, but can be a long hard day out and there is no speed limit, it's a kinda race (mostly against yourself). Most will use road race bikes (sometimes with slightly modified gearing idf a really hilly course) or more recently a "Sportive" bike, just like a race bike but slightly "softened", more relaxed riding position, slightly more stable geometry, lower bottom-end gearing and a frame design that is designed to be a little-more forgiving than a super-stiff race-frame. A prime example is Specialized Roubaix which pretty much started the genre.
    Audax events can be as short as 50 miles or so and up to 1200km? (Paris-Brest-Paris). Audax events are a bit like cycle orienteering in that you have a route and need to stop at control points, but there is a minimum and Maximum time window to get there, i.e there's no point in racing between controls as you might get there too early. Average road speeds between controls might seem slow but on a long ride you need to factor eating and sleeping! Audax bikes are designed for more comfort, lightweight luggage, are still sprightly to ride, comfort and efficiency are the key. Mudguards can usually be fitted. Audax UK explains all... Take a look at the bikes and blurb on the Thorn/SJS cycles website for some more clues.

    I had the same dilemma when I bought my Giant TCR1 which is a bit of a 'soft' race bike, triple gearing and although made of Aluminium was not the stiffest bone-shaker around, hence it's comfortable for 100+ milers and quick enough for some club-night argy bargy.

    There are a lot of good bike to choose from. All the major brands have good offerings, Trek, Specialized, Giant, Bianchi, Cannondale etc.
    What's important is that it fits you well. When you ride them, some will feel stiff and very lively... great for short fast stuff, but less so for say 50+ milers, some will feel slightly less responsive but are not sjhaking your fillings out and can be ridden all day.
    Carbon fibre is within your price range and offers amazing stiffness with nice ride comfort. The Focus range at Wiggle are very highly recomended.

    Try a few, ask lots of questions, look at the manufacturers websites to see what they have to say, ask here for opinions betwen X and Z.

    If I was buying a bike right now in your price range for a bit of fast stuff and a bit of long-distance stuff I'd look at a Condor Fratello, from Condor Cycles in London. A nice all-rounder, no guards + Lightweight tyres in the summer... go racing/Sportives, guards-on in the winter, heavier fatter winter tyres... go for distance and winter miles!
  7. OP

    MattLiverpool New Member

    Haha, it's starting to sound like whatever bike I go for at some point I'm likely to wish that I bought something else.

    I'm in Liverpool. I've got one friend up here who's pretty seriously in to his triathlon so I'll have a word with him to see which bike shops he can recommended but if anyone reading this had positive experiences with shops in Liverpool or Manchester please let me know.

    Fab you've made Audax's sound really uncompetitive and more like a bit of a social ride with a big group of other people. Have I understood that right?
  8. dodgy

    dodgy Guru

    Check out Quinns on Edge Lane, they're pretty knowledgeable.

  9. OP

    MattLiverpool New Member

    Thanks Dave,

    I think they were at the top of the page on my search. I'll go and see them next weekend.

    Here's another question that I'm hoping has an easy answer...

    Do I go for the best frame that I can afford with budget componentry that I can upgrade as I do more riding or do I try and buy something that's not quite such a nice frame but has better quality components to start with. I'm leaning towards the first option.


  10. Fab Foodie

    Fab Foodie hanging-on in quiet desperation ...

    Better frame first. Equipment wise; Groupsets go for Shimano 105 minimum and with Campagnolo start with Veloce upwards. Wheels and tyres tend to be the best upgrade.

    Audax is not really competative, but riding 600km completely unsupported non-stop is no picnic either! Club sport is the club-run, the Time Trial 10 mile, 25 mile 50 mile and local races. Many cyclocross in the winter.

    Sounds like a Sportive or race-bike is going to be more your scene, that's cool. Oh and yep, you always need more than 1 bike!!

    The list is endless!!!

    I do most of my riding on this...

    Just change wheels & Tyres in the winter, I don't mind wet!
  11. OP

    MattLiverpool New Member

    That gives me a good place to start I think. I need to be looking at bikes where the lower-mid range spec is about my budget to get the best for my money.

    What is the difference between race bikes and triathlon bikes? I assume that they're both built for maximum speed over relatively short distances (in cycling terms)?

    It sounds to me like people who do Audaxes are the cycling equivalent of those that enjoy hiking, I'm not putting it down it just doesn't sound as appealing as something a bit more competitive.

    Your bike looks very nice.

    Winter wheels and tyres are a bit more heavy duty than their summer equivalents. Is that correct?
  12. palinurus

    palinurus Guru

    That is exactly it; no way around that one. As long as the first one you buy isn't entirely inappropriate it'll be OK.
  13. Fab Foodie

    Fab Foodie hanging-on in quiet desperation ...

    As a rower, the pain of Time-Trialling is probably right-up your street!

    As for Triathlon bikes, my thaoughts are that they tend to have more vertical angles putting the rider more over the pedals and over the bars, much like a TT bike. You're correct in that theyre built for speed over shortish distances and are designed to be used with Tri-bars. Comfort is a minor consideration. A road-racing bike with Tri-bars will cover a multitude of applications for you. Really competative stuff to longer day rides. I'll happily ride mine over 100 miles complete with heavy saddle-bag for a 2 day trip, it's a tad twitchy in that set-up but comfortable enough. Can happily TT on it run with the club night. Am 45 with a bit of a belly, but the low-bar position is peachy.

    Winter wheels tend to be more durable/cheaper as do the tyres to help keep p*nctures to a minimum, also more riding in the dark where road debris and potholes are less visible. Also you don't want salt and water eating your £400 race wheels! Many have a winter-bike. A heavier winter ride makes the best-bike feel like riding on air!
  14. That's ok, just do what the rest of us have done and buy three or four bikes.;)
  15. Chris James

    Chris James Über Member

    As a keen hiker and climber then I would agree!

    However as I teenager I was a pretty keen rower (Royal Chester BC, competed in the Nat Champs in coxless pairs). I was an untypical rower in that I was not fiercely competitive (this explains why I wasn't very good!). From the sound of it you would benefit from joining a road club.

    If it helps then think of 10 mile TTs as like 1000m regatta, 25 miles as 2000m and cyclosportives as head of the rivers. Depending on what sort of rowing your prefer might suggest a preference in cycling. I was always more of an endurance rower and much preferred heads and have no interest whatsoever in TTs but do enjoy long hilly cycle routes.

    There always used to be a pretty active bike scene in Liverpool and I dare say that hasn't changed much. I have no idea what current Liverpool bike shops are like but Quinns always had a good rep back in the day.

    From your requirements as I understand them I would suggest you get a full on road bike. You could easily time trial on it and could do cyclosportives too if the mood took you. If I were you I would just go to your local decent bike shop and see what they stock. Most bikes are pretty similar to be honest. For £1000 you could get a bike that is probably as good as the pros were on only about 10 -15 years ago (and the pros are going no faster now than they were then!).

    Buying cycling equipment and gear is addictive but the truth is that what matters is the strength of your legs and your lungs and not what spokes your wheels have.
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