Photo: Chris DiGiamo, Flickr Creative Commons
I've told you I have obsessive tendencies, right? Well, I do, and when I realized that I had no real reason to spend money on a time trial bike for triathlon when I don't even have a good mountain bike, I immediately started researching off-roaders. Should I go with a Novara because REI's house brand tends to already be about as cheap as you can find for a bike with a given component set? I get 20% off if I buy in the next week plus 10% on my membership return next spring. I can get a bike a bigger name in the business would charge $1,200 for and only pay about $850 after tax. That's not a bad deal. Or should I go with Bikes Direct and get an even better bike (and make my stable an entirely Motobecane affair), for basically the same money since I won't have to pay shipping or sales tax. The problem there being I'll need to do some assembly and maybe buy a few tools, but I've been considering getting more into doing my own bike maintenance anyway. Maybe I'll volunteer this summer for a week or so at Free Flite in exchange for some free training. It could be...
Wait. I'm doing it again. Ooh, look, a bike with racing-level components for barely more than a thousand dollars! Sure, it's a little over my slightly arbitrary budget but...
Seriously, I put up with that all week last week. I don't even know if I got anything accomplished at work. I have no memory of it whatsoever beyond looking at bikes. Like this one.
Dammit! That's not even a mountain bike and wouldn't be in my budget even if I had saved that much money. Wait, what was the order of the SRAM component tier again? How does that compare to Shimano's hierarchy? Did you know Shimano also makes fishing equipment? Do they let you mountain bike in a Wildlife Management Area?
Oh, and I found $250 in dividends sitting on my credit card account that I didn't realize I had. That should be enough to increase my budget enough to just buy this, right?
To finish up my week of obsessive research, I visited three bike shops this weekend. (I stopped at a fourth, but they were closed because it was Easter.) First, I hit Free-Flite in Marietta, which is definitely a shop I recommend. The people working there know what they're talking about and I've gotten good advice from them in the past. I feel guilty that I didn't go with them, actually, but I'll explain my final decision later. I tried out a Trek X-Caliber and I really liked it. It had all SRAM X7 components which was the level I wanted to get at the least and a really good racing-level fork (the shock absorber that holds the front wheel). I liked the way it rode. I liked the way it felt. I did not like the $1,500 price tage. By the way, Free-Flite had that bike listed for about $100 lower than MSRP, so they weren't gouging me, either. They didn't have any bikes in my price range that I was happy with, but I got a bit of an idea about what to look for in sizing.
Too be honest, if they had been open on Sunday, I may have gone back and asked about the 12-month, no interest financing I heard them mention. I'm glad they weren't. I didn't need to spend that much right now. It was my favorite bike of the day.
Next, we went to REI to try out the Novara Ponderosa. I was not impressed. Honestly from talking to the bike tech there and reading the reviews online, I think the Ponderosa was unfairly presented. It has the same components at the X-Caliber, but a less expensive fork. It was a little hefty but struck me as flimsy feeling for some reason. The suspension was squishy and it didn't shift cleanly. The bike tech said it probably just needed to have the air spring pressure bumped up and since this was a floor model, it's likely it just needed to get tuned up to shift better since there's no reason SRAM X7 shifters would suck on the Novara and rock on the Trek. Still, that bike kind of fell off my radar despite the preferential pricing.
We finished the day at Performance Cycle, which was a waste of time for me (not a single bike that lived up to standards in the entire mountain bike section of the store). I did at least get an idea on how sizing is affected by the 26" wheels versus the increasingly popular 29ers.
By the end of the day, I was heavily leaning toward the BikesDirect.com option. Of course I had to start modifying my plans. After learning about the sizing, I had to throw out the bike that had been my leading option on that site. All the options were too large or two small. After fiddling around and researching all of the bikes in my price range, I settled on this: the Motobecane Fantom 29 X7. I went with the matte copper option because they didn't have my size in the matte gray.
The bike has shipped and I should be getting it late this week or early next week. I'll be making a few posts as things progress about the process of buying the bike, putting it together, and riding it in the next couple of weeks. Tomorrow, using the site.