Up until I was 40 years-old a bike was a bike. I tooled around like I did when I was a kid… ten to twelve miles in an hour, on the cheapest bike I could get. Honest to God, I didn’t even know one could buy a bicycle that cost more than a Thousand Dollars, let alone the $10,000-$15,000 super-machines of today. I put about as much thought into cycling as I did which pair of socks I was going to wear for the day (that would be “not much”). I had better things to do.
Then I decided I wanted to do a triathlon… Running since my early 30’s to keep from getting fat had become boring. Running was great, it just wasn’t my cup of tea. I did it because it beat the alternative.
For this triathlon, I decided to start with a mountain bike because that’s what I rode as a kid and that was the most versatile bike I knew of. My first bike was a Huffy 21 speed with grip/twist shifters. My second bike, purchased a couple of weeks later, was a Trek 3700 mountain bike…. Once I discovered how much better a decent bike covered ground, and more importantly, road bikes, I went what can only be described as completely “bat-s#!+ crazy” over bikes. This is not, in any way, an over-exaggeration.
I’ve read countless articles and now, for my family of four, own ten bicycles. My wife and I own three each with a floating road bike that my daughter will get when she’s tall enough, and a bike each for my daughters. My wife and I each own a nice weather road bike, a bad weather road bike, and a mountain bike. My daughters each own a bike suitable to their age and ability, then there’s that floating road bike… and we just brought home a tandem road bike. It’s a base model tandem that “pericscopes” to fit a stoker (the back rider) anywhere from 4’2″ to 6’2″. It is a highly specialized bike made by Co-Motion and as far as I know, is the only customizable tandem available that can fit such a wide range of stoker. There was a problem with this bike though…
While Co-Motion makes a road version, the bike that the shop had in stock was a flat bar “hybrid” model. Road tires, ample disc brakes and road saddles, but with a flat “mountain bike” style flat handlebar and shifters. Knowing me, there is no way I’d ever have been happy with a flat-bar bike. The bike had a sticker price around $3,200 (pretty good for a premium tandem with the built-in ability to fit the bike to my wife or either of my daughters in a matter of seconds) and I was very happy with that, but I’m not going to spend that kind of money on a bike I won’t want to ride.
I paid to have it upgraded to a road bike. Drop handlebars, an obnoxiously long stem to give me the proper reach, a new rear derailleur and ten-speed cassette and integrated brake lever shifters….
The “young Jim” would have tried to make due with what was available and would have hated it. He’d have become resentful that he didn’t just buy a road bike every time he rode it and that resentment would have probably ruined the whole tandem experience. Eventually I’d have paid double to upgrade the bike later (it’s a long story why it was cheaper to do it this way – but it saved me a ton of money to just do it before I bought the bike).
Today I know better than trying to settle when it comes to cycling. My first two bikes, from the very first bicycle I bought to do that triathlon, were a series of compromises. I compromised what I wanted for price. It was the right thing to do at the time but now that I’m making some exceptional money, the only reason it would make sense to compromise is that “I want it now” rather than wait for what I want. Still, that “I want it now” is a pretty strong pull… It must be fought vociferously because “what I want” is vastly more important.
To thine own self be true.
A bicycle can be a very hefty investment. Ten bikes is almost an outrageous amount of money. My family’s bikes collectively cost more than my brand new SUV did. Having compromised early and wasting hundreds of dollars, I can provide this (which will actually be cheaper in the end, because eventually, you’ll get what you wanted anyway):
Be true to yourself. Embrace who you are and how you want to ride. Don’t change who that is for someone else’s advice – and make your purchase accordingly. Don’t settle.
You will absolutely be happier for it, every single time you clip into your bike. Hopefully that will be every day.