Doris Diaries Chapter 2: How Not to Buy a Bike
I started out on a Trek Hybrid because I was intimidated by drop handlebars and thought it would fit my riding intention. After a few months, my riding intention changed and I switched to a used Giant Avail 1 (a road bike with drop handlebars) that I found on eBay. This bike was great because it had extra brake levers on the top of the handlebar which served as training wheels to boost my braking confidence.
I essentially learned how to ride on this bike and after several more months, found myself wanting to try racing. I’m a very brand- loyal person so I searched for a good deal on eBay for a used Giant race bike. I found a TCR Advanced W that was blue in the same size (S - 46.5cm) as my Avail 1. This bike was ridiculously lightweight compared to my other bike, it handled the road a little differently, and my riding position was a little more stretched out based on the geometry. I did n’t realize that fit could vary so much between bikes of the same size. After riding my TCRW for a while, I thought that maybe my Avail 1 was a little small. When I turned my front wheel too sharply, my foot would brush against the tire and I didn’t think it was supposed to do that.
One day, when I was commuting to work, I got hit by a car. I was in the green protected bike lane when it happened. Luckily, my Avail 1 suffered no damage and I was not seriously injured. About two months later, I was hit by a car again while riding in the green bike lane, but I wasn’t so lucky this time. I’ll spare the details for another post, but long story short, I needed a new bike.
When I had initially tried to figure out my bike size, I used an online bike fit calculator and it gave me a bunch of numbers that I didn’t know how to use. I am 5’2.5” with long legs. The top tube measurement that I was given on the bike fit calculator was between 52.5-54.1cm long so I used that number to size myself. Based on that number, I could ride a 50cm frame . I wanted something fancy this time so I chose a Bianchi from a bike shop. They convinced me that, given my long legs, a 50cm was right for me and the top tube fell into my range, so I bought the bike.
I loved the color scheme on this bike, which became my new commuter. I quickly realized, however, that it was way too big for me. I had shoulder and knee pain during rides and for a little while afterward. I didn’t want to sell it because I had paid good money for it (hello, bike shop prices!), but buying this bike was a huge mistake. It was heavy and I couldn’t get a water bottle in or out of the rear cage, which was positioned too close to the top tube. In the end, I couldn’t make the bike work and sold it.
I was on the hunt again for a new commuter bike. I found a used Felt ZW95 on eBay that was in a color that I could not resist, though it was only 43cm. This is the smallest size Felt makes and I was a little nervous that it would be too small, but it was just so pretty! So I bought it, upgraded and swapped out the drivetrain for SRAM Rival, and changed the wheels to Fulcrum Racing 5’s. This bike was a perfect fit, like Cinderella’s glass slipper. I felt so right on this bike, that my racing bike (which I named Freya) started to bother me. My shoulders hurt when I rode and I could not get comfortable no matter how hard I tried. Unfortunately, I had to let her go.
I decided to get another Felt but this time I got a size 45cm because I was a little crunched up on descents on my ZW95. My elbows would overlap my knees by a few inches and I thought this wasn’t supposed to happen. I liked this bike also. It was a ZW5 and I named her Nimue because of her sea green and black carbon color scheme.
One day I began to get saddle sores pretty much every time I rode this bike so I changed the saddle. I could not believe how much this little change altered my fit. Now I was sitting back further and the reach became too long for me. I also changed the saddle on Sirena (my ZW95) and that made a difference as well. Now I wasn’t crunched up while descending. I realized that you can’t buy a bike based off of what saddle you’ are currently using because your saddle can change, your bike geometry can’t.
I sold my ZW5 (Nimue), which mean I was without a race bike again. By this point, I had done the last few races of the season and Black Friday was approaching. After seeing all my bike- related issues, my teammate, Liz, told me to get a bike fit. But I was already so far down the rabbit hole that I knew I was a size 43cm. So when I found a Black Friday deal on a blue Felt FR2W, I couldn’t resist. I bought the bike. It came equipped with a power meter, DI2 electronic shifting, and sprinter shifters. Other than the rear brake caliper being in a weird spot, the bike, which I named Luna, is perfect.
In the end, I ended up taking Liz’s advice and I scheduled a bike fit with enduranceWERX. It’s what I should have done from the start. By trying to save money, I ended up wasting hundreds of dollars, a lot of time, and had to go through 7 different bikes to figure out what was right for me. Moral of the story: Get a bike fit first.