If I only knew then what I know now about buying a bike… and what it means to a cyclist with a limited budget.
The Specialized on the left, at just under 16 pounds, is a $5,000+ work of art on two wheels. It’s everything I imagined a super-bike should feel like when riding… Decently light, fast – slippery even, stiff where it needs, but compliant enough to be comfortable (especially on 26mm tires).
At 18-1/2 pounds, I have about half the money into the Trek, but double the effort. With the new drivetrain and a mountain bike saddle (of all things) to soften the otherwise slightly harsh* ride just enough. Also, changing the old, tired Ultegra triple drivetrain for a fifteen years’ newer 105 compact double drivetrain was probably the best upgrade I’ve ever slapped on a bike (followed closely by the S-Works crank, then the Ultegra groupset on the Spec.).
Getting to the nuts and bolts of this, I’m not going to sit here from on high and proclaim the Trek to be just as good a bike as the Venge. That’d be ridiculous, over the top and not even close to the truth… Alan Grayson comes to mind. It’s not close to the Venge in terms of sheer awesomeness and raw speed. On the other hand, if I throw the good wheels from the Venge onto the Trek, well all of a sudden the Trek becomes a fantastic and fun ride.
Now, I don’t want to discount the purchase of my Specialized. Without that bike, my journey through cycling would have been different – who knows where I’d be today. On the other hand, I just threw money at the Venge. When it came to the Trek, while I wasn’t the one to physically paint it and I didn’t install the King headset (I wouldn’t know how to do that, better left to the pros who have the proper tools), I’ve got a lot of sweat equity into the Trek. I took the bike apart for the frame to be painted and cleaned every part before putting it back together after I got it back. I handle the tune-ups myself, I handled the complete upgrade of the drivetrain myself… I dialed it in, including the set screws. I installed the leather bar tape (leather is the way to go, btw – it’s like butter). Most of the attention to detail goes right back to me – everything is exactly as I wanted it.
In other words, I have a lot of “me” invested in that bike, so riding it is just that much sweeter.
So what I know now, that I didn’t know then, is that it’s possible to get an older, used bike built for about half the cost (or less) that of a new super-bike – and because I’ve got so much into working on it, the Trek’s a great go-to every day ride bike. Truth is, I’ve only ridden the Venge a couple of times since I got the Trek done… I save the Specialized for Tuesday nights, when fast is absolutely, entirely necessary. Otherwise, that Trek is a lot of fun to ride nowadays.
Take a good frame ($600 – $800), get it painted ($500), put on a decent, newer drivetrain ($400-$600, give or take), add pedals, saddle and bottle cages ($250), and a good set of wheels ($600) and for less than $3,000 you’ve got a spectacular steed that you built from the ground up to your liking. Granted, if you’re a noob like I was, you’re going to need some help building the bike, but you get my drift. If I knew then what I know now – if I had known the Trek could be as good as it is today, I don’t think I’d have bothered buying the Venge. It wouldn’t have been as necessary. I’m sure glad I did, though.
*When I refer to the Trek as “slightly harsh” in its ride, this must be taken in context. An aluminum frame is ridiculously harsh next to the Trek. When compared against my Specialized, fifteen years worth of carbon fiber advancement means a much improved ride. Matched against even a modern aluminum frame, the ’99 Trek is still vastly superior in ride comfort.