Many project decisions have been clear and easy, but bicycles are the difficult exception. Until the project I never paid attention to bicycle features unless I had to buy one. Then I just went to a local bike shop and let them tell me what I wanted for my purpose and price range. That price range has never been top dollar. I like my current Giant Avail. In a trusted shop, asking the experts is not a bad way to go. For our purpose, I’ve confirmed with more exploration that our bikes are the best option in the price range. But, they are 9 years old, and everything is pretty worn, again. While it makes sense to keep it in operating condition for a back up, it doesn’t have the features that will make the project better. A new bike seems the way to go, but in a crowdfunded project, it’s not just the right decision that matters, it’s also how apparent it it that you’ve made a considered and appropriate choice and you can get that across. Pricing is a big part of that…and, there’s such a spectrum, in users, use, and price sensitivity.
Searching “How much does the average bike cost” returns this article suggesting an entry level quality used bike at $1,000-2500. But then, our use will be far from average. For instance: while trying to find out if my cables should need replacing now, I worded the search badly and got the answer that they should last 20 years, but that article also mentioned that the average bike was ridden 200 miles in the first 5 years and 200 more in the next 15. There was a time when I looked like that average, but my tires aren’t dry rotting in the garage anymore. I’m wearing them out. And, I’m adjusting to a new perspective. While it seemed like this set of cables was prematurely needed, I do have the 2-3000 miles on them that they are supposed to last. Mileage is the metric more relevant to the project and my current use. I’ll likely never reach that place where the cost of my bike eclipses the cost of my car, but over the next year or two, I may ride as many miles as many of the people who do.
The pandemic, wreaked havoc with bike availability, so I’ve been watching things shift and considering every option. Now that wave of unavailability could produce a wave of used bikes from people who didn’t keep riding, or those who moved up into more expensive bikes. Reviews like this one have helped with information as simple as what size is available in a certain make and model. I liked the fit of my large women’s bike when I got the Avail, but not many bikes come in a women’s large. Part of my trouble in even finding a used bike was not realizing that my search criteria didn’t exist.
For size, going used probably puts me in a mens or unisex bike (which I might end up doing in a new bike as well). Another part of my lack of confidence in getting a used men’s (or women’s) bike is related, fit. Not having the knowledgeable advice of a local bike shop for fit is suboptimal, especially when we plan to spend so much time on the trail. That advice could probably be hired, but it would be a matter of taking someone with you and seeing if that one bike we went to look at fit well enough. There would be no “actually this other bike fits you better” in that scenario. Over the kind of miles we’re doing, the better fit is important to keep us riding. Small departures from the optimal fit wear on a body over the miles.
While in concept, I have no problem with used bikes. (My childhood bikes were second hand. I saved up in high school to get the first new one, a bike with “speeds” I got from Kmart.) The only second hand bike I ever bought myself was a Fuji to leave at Russ’s parents house to ride while visiting. I took it in for a check up and the bike shop recommended more in work than an entry level bike would cost. I didn’t intend to have that much in a stashed bike and ended up riding it only a few times just as it was. It was less trouble than carrying my own and less money than a rental or two, but I’m not sure the bike really needed that much. I know more now, but the experience made me leery of a repeat and project needs are quite different from “Getting a ride in while you’re away”. All these things together mean it likely that I’ll end up on a new bike.
I haven’t spent much time considering a belt drive. It’s not a competitive race so the 5% loss in efficiency does not bother me and the extra quietness is appealing, but there isn’t really any discussion on them in the groups and I just haven’t taken the extra time to explore the makers and the models.
The tubes or tubeless tire decision may be initially made by what ever comes on the bike we end up with and changed after those wear out if we feel the need. Five other criteria have really simplified the optimal endurance bike decision. 1. Full carbon frame for the smoother ride so that the cameras vibrate less. That’s easier on the riders too. 2. A fork that accepts wider tires in case we decide to smooth the ride further. 3. Disc brakes because the longer duration of our rides increase the chances of all weather rides. 4. Electronic shifting for smoother faster shifting and less noise on the video. 5. It has to be available in the right size. It’s obvious from a distance that Russ’s 6’6″ height makes fitting a bike a challenge, but it’s less so with me. I don’t feel so very tall. I spend plenty of time around men and women taller than 6 ft, but the average woman in the US. is 5′ 3.7″ inches. I’m almost 5 inches taller than that.
Those criteria pretty much narrow things to two bikes for me. The Cannondale Synapse, or the Trek Domane. The Synapse has some uniquely handy features, but also some I don’t want. I’m leaning toward the Domane right now. That little storage compartment on the Domane feels hyped and gimmicky, but I think it is actually pretty useful. Having my carry along bike pump tucked away (downsized and stowed in an anti rattle sleeve) out of the weather and trail grit makes it last longer. Even if I decide I still need the bigger pump, the compartment is pretty handy for tools and small electronics too. It’s not enough space for everything we’ll need to carry but it will help. They’re both good bikes. Small differences will make the decision.
Russ’ height limits him considerably in choices. I can move into a men’s or unisex bike and still have a lot of options, but he’s on the high end of humans.
All the bikes get a lot more expensive fast as features are added and my comfort zone is in not having the bike that thieves most want to steal and It looks like either bike with my chosen features will really push what I’ve allowed for a bike, as well as the extra I’ve allowed for the unexpected.
When looking at my trade offs, electronic shifting hits the cutting block first. Some people think it’s the future, and I hear that manufacturers plan to stop making the more expensive group sets (replacement wear parts) for bikes that don’t have it. I may adapt, but my feeling is that once the project is over, I’m not going to want a bike with electronic shifting anymore. The idea of having to charge a bike that doesn’t have pedal assist ahead of time in order to be able to ride seems impractical to me (and if it were the Synapse, the “always on” headlight and the integrated Garmin Varia will require even more energy). I know. There was a time when I thought seat warmers in the car were ridiculous too, but I sure have enjoyed them this winter, especially when my back aches or after a cold ride.
What ever bike I choose may be the best friend I can’t part with before this is over. Even if that happens, I see myself keeping a trusty simple mechanical bike that doesn’t require anything but pedal power ready to ride at any time. We’ll see how it all works out. Hopefully the search for comfort zone endurance bikes will fit our budget, bodies and needs.