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To Be Determined Journal

To Be Determined is a journal of cycling, adventure and photography, curated by a NYC-based cycling team known as TBD Racing or Team TBD. From criteriums to cyclocross to product reviews and travel diaries, it is all part of the TBD Journal.

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.

Handlebar photo from my Giant Liv Avail 1 (RIP Nymeria)

Handlebar photo from my Giant Liv Avail 1 (RIP Nymeria)

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.

Giant TCRW (Freya) on top and Bianchi Impulso (Leonardo) on the bottom.

Giant TCRW (Freya) on top and Bianchi Impulso (Leonardo) on the bottom.

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.

Me with Sirena (Felt ZW95)

Me with Sirena (Felt ZW95)

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.

Nimue, my Felt ZW5

Nimue, my Felt ZW5

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.  

Luna, my Felt FR2W

Luna, my Felt FR2W

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.

My bike fit with Chad at  endurance WERX

My bike fit with Chad at enduranceWERX