For those of you that have been following the saga, you may have wondered if I was going to write about the trials and tribulations of buying a bicycle. Indeed I am, but just wanted to get to the end of the story, with a bike I plan to keep, before recounting the journey…. Today said bike arrived. What was so difficult?
Death of the high-street
I am a fan of the physical world retail high street. Period. I will even put up with diabolical parking, inconvenient logistics and odd opening hours to make use of the local high street. It’s an asset to the community (in my opinion) and therefore needs to be used (supported?) else it will disappear.
But strangely I draw the line at the typical ‘local bicycle shop’. And frankly, with the exception of one establishment which offers a very different experience (strangely the one that I always end up sourcing my bikes form and they look after me really well), I honestly think we would be better of without most LBS’s – reuse the buildings for more cafe’s and charity shops!!
Why such an attitude? Uniquely to the LBS I have experienced the whole gamut of rubbish service over the years. From being completely ignored by one of my most local ones that thinks its a race team (I went there pre-weight loss and was completely ignored as I assume I didn’t ‘look the part’) through to some very local shops that open randomly, stock nothing you might want and can never offer work in a timely fashion. The only thing they seem to stock is ineptitude and horrendous service. Through to the chain store that does have good kit, but you better know what you want, because none of the school leavers ‘working’ there seem to have a clue what anything is!
Time Trial Tribulations
But I wanted a TT bike, because lets face it they just look awesome! You can talk nonsense about aero this and triathlon geometry that so you can run better when you get off… But bottom line they are just sexy looking bikes that you can suffer on when the sun comes out!
I also new that getting the right size was a bit more important with a Tri bike than with a normal road bike. I went to three different LBS and at each had what they described as a bike fit (from the laughably superficial to the quite thorough). Whilst they all came up with different recommendations the one thing they did all have in common was that the bike they had in stock was the PERFECT fit for me! I smelled a rat… I take exception to people taking me for a fool and trying to mis-sell to me. I spent my career in sales… So honestly I get it!
OK I understand that they need to sell the stock they are carrying. And I also appreciate that within reasonable scope you can build out a variety of sizes of frame to match the rider. But still… How much do you want to compromise the handling of the bike?
Fortunately you can pay for a bike fit to be undertaken by an independent bike fitter. This should work better, because they have no product to sell (beyond the fit) so should be independent and impartial. Not so 🙁 What I learned in this process was that advice was shrouded in opinion and their views. What I wanted was fact / science based data not someone else giving me their opinions (and tastes) coupled with a slight leaning towards what their mates at the LBS could supply…
But I had yet another set of data, which was helpful and stood up in it’s own right and could be taken without the ‘opinion’ and psedo recommendation.
The online High Street
I decided I would have to educate myself (rapidly) about bike geometry, the supporting principles underlying ‘fit’ and what really mattered. A little complex, but ultimately not rocket science!
Armed with a good grasp of my ‘geometry’ I researched frames online. CANYON was the answer!! They had a frame that would fit me perfectly and because they are a pure online play they offer brilliant value for money. Even more important I didn’t have to deal with a shop – although I did feel a bit bad about not buying from my favourite bike retailer who have always looked after me…
CANYON were just outstanding! They were responsive and very helpful online. They made buying easy, they delivered early… The day arrived. My new Tri bike…
Oh My God… I unpacked it, assembled it in no time and then there it was in the middle of my bike room. My new bike. It was hideous! Honestly the most ugly looking bike (IMO) that I had ever seen.
CANYON were just outstanding! A quick phone call explaining that I didn’t like it and might it be possible to return it? Led to the slickest return process I have ever experienced. They even organised UPS to collect it from my house at a date and time that suited me. All at their expense.
And to prove that they really ‘get it’ as soon as the bike was back in Germany they emailed me saying ‘they were sorry I didn’t like their bike’ and as gesture of good will they would refund the entire order and I could keep the couple of accessories for free!
CANYON absolutely get it. Just awesome. If you like the aesthetic then you really are onto a winner with them.
So what did I learn? Online retail really can work for bikes regardless of price. There might be a case for online retailers have concept stores? There is also a place for boutique bike retailers that ‘do it differently’, understand their market and prioritise service. I confirmed to myself that the latter are less common than hens teeth! And my friends and trusted retailer might be the only one in the UK that exists!!!
I bought a FELT
The first TT bike I saw was a FELT many months before I got into Tri. I have always liked FELT. I wanted a FELT from the get go… But they are a tad hard to source in the UK and you have to buy them through retail. The only thing that had stopped my buying the bike I loved and wanted was that I had fallen out of love with retailers!! How ironic is that.
The only sane thing to do was to buy the bike I really wanted and loved from the outset… Prepared to eat a portion of humble pie, I decided the best place to go would be my normally favoured retail outlet… As mostly they ‘get it’ and importantly they ‘get me’!
I made it super clear about the story to date and that I would faff about some more but eventually make decision and would they be willing to tolerate my moodiness and supply the bike? Have to say they were extremely gracious and super helpful (as they have been over the years). I eventually applied all my new found knowledge, data from what seemed endless fits and a tape measure… And came up with the spec I wanted.
And today my gorgeous new FELT AI arrived. Super happy and secretly loved waking into a retail outlet, being greeted with a coffee and chatting about my new bike…
A sting in the tail… It just NEVER ends FFS
What I love about FELT Tri bikes are the massively oversized tubes. I drive a coupe. It has a Thule bike rack as you can’t really get a bike inside it so well. The bike rack has a grip jaw. The gripper jaw on a Thule bike rack does not open wide enough to take a FELT oversized down tube. Fact. For F**k sake sprang to mind as I pondered how I would get the bloody bike home (could CANYON organise another courier… No stop it!!)
Turns out that if you take the wheels and bars off, and peddles, you can actually get said bike into my coupe. OK. It was a hiccup.
I got it home. Put it together. Obviously took pictures for its social media debut… and stroked it as I told it what a beautiful bicycle it was… 🙂
Had to ride it. No time to get changed, lets just take it up the road and check out the new Di2. Got to the top of the road and I absolutely loved it. Fits like a glove, feels amazing and promised to go like a little bat out of hell… I wanted more and I wanted it now.
Sod going up the road, lets hang a left and see what its like on the long four mile straight to the next village. It was brilliant and very fast. And comfy. And the Di2 was a dream. And lets be honest it looked like sex on two wheels which was the whole point! I reluctantly turned around to get home before sunset. No lights, no bike gear and no helmet…
Flying back my new best friend laughed at the inclines and rocketed on the declines. Whilst I was in a world of my own thinking what fun this will be in the Summer.
Had I not been in a world of my own, i might have seen it sooner. My first thought as I hit a bloody great pothole and careered towards the verge (after the obligatory Oh Shit!) was at least my helmet won’t get damaged… And then as it became obvious to me that I was going to part company with the bike I was pleased that it was grass not tarmac that I was about to land on…
It’s strange how many thoughts you can have in those last few moments as a ‘ride’ becomes an ‘accident’ 🙁
The bike is OK it landed on soft grass so just needed cleaning. I am OK other then pride and a swollen cut knee. And yes… After all the shenanigans of buying the damn thing, I really did manage to crash it on its first outing!
What isn’t OK is the front wheel that hit the pot hole… Completely buckled. But ‘luckily’ they were just cheap stock wheels that FELT put on it. They weren’t staying on the bike.
And that my friends is the end of the saga and a very memorable New Bike Day. I’m off to buy some new wheels now… Which of course I desparately need! Every cloud really does have a silver lining 🙂