New Year, New Bike
Posted on December 25 2019
It’s that time of year, folks - the time when glittery triathlon toys seem particularly irresistible, race entries are like candy, and a new bike is something you’d give up your first born for (we’re totally kidding...mostly).
As the calendar year draws to a close, manufacturers of fine bicycles begin discounting the previous year’s models to make way for the glitzy 2020 steeds. While some of you might have enviable willpower to ignore this, most of us start salivating a little extra when we look at what the new year’s bike inventory includes.
But buying a new bike is no small purchase. Quality triathlon bikes can range from $2,000 to $10,000 and up. Did your bank account just cringe? Ours, too.
There are some important factors to think about before pulling the trigger on a shiny new set of wheels. Luckily, our lone male ambassador, Scott Batula, is a bike nerd if we’ve ever seen one - he’s spent years working with bike brands and reviewing their products -, and he let us in on a few tips for bike buying.
Scott on the bike during Ironman Arizona
First and foremost, ask yourself, “Do I even need a new bike?”
Scott’s first tip: “The dead giveaways [that a bike needs TLC] are strange sounds.”
Even if you’re not a mechanic, any screeching, scratching, rubbing, clicking, or cranking means that not only should you visit a bike tech*, but that a couple of new pedals to push might not be a bad idea.
*Keep in mind - some parts, like bottom brackets, derailleur hangers, and cassettes may be a simple fix and a new bike may not be the best option. This is why seeing a trusted bike tech is a great first step!
Yeah, yeah, yeah. You want a state-of-the-art bike. You’re not seeing a mechanic, you’re seeing a dealer (of bikes! C’mon, now.). Your mind's made up - new bike day is coming sooner than later.
With all the different technologies available to amateur and pro triathletes alike, getting started on building your ideal steed can seem intimidating.
A quick reminder from our guy, Scott: “In the technology driven world of triathlon, more often than not, the best bike splits still come down to the athlete, not the gear.”
Sorry...we're talking about your lungs and legs, not this kind of engine
Make sure if you invest in a new bike, you’re also investing in your growth as an athlete - the two are not mutually exclusive!
That being said, there are a few things to think about before hitting “purchase.”
First, rim or disc brake? This debate can get heated, so please limit your hate mail to one piece a month.
“Disc brakes (hydraulic) are another godsend when it comes to better performance. The braking is near perfect, with reliable actuation every single pull of the lever,” says Scott.
So, yes, disc brakes are cool. But are they foolproof?
“With disc braking being perfect/true,it also has the ability to catastrophically fail or be damaged, especially after travel,” notes Scott. “Hoses can fail or become damaged, hydraulic fluid could leak, all resulting in a fill/bleed process no one that travels carries the tools to perform.”
Sorry to burst your hydraulic bubble. At the end of the day, Scott is an advocate for rim brakes as they are tried and true, have less drag in most scenarios, and are lighter - and nearly any bike mechanic will be able to fix them in a pinch.
Once you’ve decided if you’re Team Disc or Team Rim, it’s time to think about mechanical vs. electronic shifting - another polarizing topic. We’ll do our best to stay neutral, so stay with us.
“Electronic shifting is amazing and d*mn near perfect,” says Scott with enthusiasm. “Electronic shifting can be added to your current frameset, but you have to take the time to figure out what will work and/or fit.”
Point one for electronic shifting! But, if keeping your bike charged is just another worry for race day, all hope is not lost (and we totally get it - we’ve got enough to do pre-race!).
“A note I share with everyone; no matter where in the world you train or race, you can walk into any regular bike shop and they will guarantee be able to “fix”your mechanical shifting and mechanical brake issues,” says Scott. “Every [mechanic] has brake and shift cable knowledge. Not every bike shop will be able to diagnose or troubleshoot Di2, ETap or EPS as they require special tools and computer programs/apps.”
You might already be picking up on this, but a lot of these decisions come down to personal preference. You can be Team Disc and Team Mechanical. You can be Team Rim and Team Di2. It’s what works for you and what will keep you safe and happy on those two wheels day in, day out.
A few other words of wisdom from bonafide bike guru Scott include investing heavily in a good bike fit, whether on a weathered cycle or new pair of pedals. Although bike fits can be pricey ($300-$500), a good bike fit will save you money in the long run as sitting comfortably in your saddle is not something a new bike will necessarily fix, but a great bike fit will.
Discuss your goals with a coach or mentor. Are you in it to win it, to enjoy it, to finish it - or all three?! Your upcoming goals may help you determine if spending that dough on a new bike, another race, or a much-needed vacation is the right decision.
At the end of the day, a bike should be your best friend. Just kidding. Kind of. You get what we mean right? Right.
Comfort, safety, and enjoy-ability are the three most important aspects of our two-wheeled BFFs. Still not sure if a spick-and-span steed is for you? Any of our Ambassadors would be happy to talk to you about the brands they ride, like our team sponsor, Argon 18
Let us know how we can help with your new bike journey - we’ll see you out on the course!
About the Author
Kristin is a part-time writer and full-time marketer in higher education who has completed seven Ironman races to date. When she isn't hustling from work to training, she is hiking in the Colorado mountains, spoiling her two cats, or asking her boyfriend if he'll go pick up some pizza. Kristin currently resides in the Greater Denver Area. Feel free to drop her a line at firstname.lastname@example.org