I’m not embarrassed by my bike today.
Because today, I own a brand new bike.
And it rocks.
When I got back into cycling two Augusts ago, I was about to get married and complete my last year of grad school. Translation: I had very little money. I also knew next to nothing about bikes anymore; I knew what was cool 25 years before, when I last owned a bicycle, but that, of course, was woefully out of date. So, I did the best I could, knowing that I’d probably be buying another bike sooner than I wanted to. I bought a Giant OCR 3, which is actually a lot of bike for the money (and I got it way below retail, on closeout). The only one the LBS had in my size was a triple chainring model, so I went for it.
The OCR got me through roughly my first 4,000 miles (not counting endless roller hours). The granny gears did me good when I first moved to hilly Western Massachusetts. And the double-butted aluminum frame, done up in a spiffy black and silver paint job, might be a bit heavy, but it’s stiff in the right places and compliant in the right places. Not bad. It's not going anywhere now that I have a new one; I hope to start commuting once a week in the spring, and the Giant’s the rig for that. And if the new bike is too stiff for long-haul stuff over three or four hours, I always have my trusty OCR in the stable. Likewise if I decide to tour: Great bike for that, braze-ons and all. Finally, it will continue to be my winter bike, taking the brunt of the endless sand and slush on the roads out here.
A couple months ago, I decided that – even though we still have very little money, due to two new jobs at lower salaries than expected, it is time for me to own a bike that reflects my ever-deepening commitment and skills, not to mention my broadening quads. 21.5 pounds and a relaxed geometry are fine when I’m slow-pedaling myself into shape, but when the season hits, I want to be on something that will respond to me like I'll respond to it.
Since I had to buy used, and therefore smart as can be, I dove headfirst into research. My poor wife! My head was buried behind the laptop screen for too many Saturday mornings in a row. There was so much to learn – not just brands and models of bikes, but the various wheelsets that came with each, and all the other fine points. This was the education I didn't get before I bought the OCR.
After many weeks of reading and pestering my friends for opinions and information, I decided that the very best bang-for-the-buck in my very low price range would be a slightly used Cannondale CAAD frame hung with good components and a decent entry-level racing wheelset.
Though I’d originally had my eye on the Cervelo Soloist Team, a truly drool-inducing aluminum bike, I don’t actually mind riding a less sexy (and less-expensive) design, because this bike has a storied history and quite a lot of palmares. It's a highly-evolved descendant of the first aluminum frames the company built, back in the early ‘80s, when C'dale was an aluminum pioneer. When steel was still king, they revolutionized the industry with oversized alloy tubes featuring thinner walls, the combo of which increased stiffness and minimized weight. Over time, instead of doing the typical corporate-waste ritual, the company remained faithful to the CAAD design, continually advancing it through many iterations, making it ligher, stiffer, more comfortable. In that process, they incorporated feedback from top-drawer Euro-pro riders from C’dale-sponsored teams like Saeco; these guys rode the frame to victories in three editions of the Giro d’Italia (Signores Gotti, Simoni and Cunego consecutively) and four consecutive stages of the ’99 Tour de France (Il Gran Signor Cipollini).
Even better, I couldn’t find one substantial bad review of a CAAD bike in the many, many places I looked online. CAAD owners are sort of fanatical. The icing on the cake is that this internationally successful frame (at least until recently) was 100% Made in the USA, as the lovely lettering down the seat-stay proudly proclaims.
The CAAD might not be sexy – but it’s as proven and respectable as a bike can possibly be. I pictured myself feeling not the least scintilla of shame riding next to someone on the latest $6,000 carbon-fiber private jet.
Next came the really agonizing part: The waiting. I scoured eBay and Craigslist daily, passing up near-misses with gritted teeth, determined to wait for the one that met my specs. A few days ago it showed up, and I set my inner timer for ten o’clock last night, when the auction was to close. At the appointed hour, my wife and I curled up on the couch and watched as the minutes counted down: Just one other bid! How is that possible? And it was at the starting bid level. As the clock wound down to the final seconds, I slapped my cash on the barrelhead, and the other guy blinked. It was mine. Mine!
Okay, you’ve been very patient. Here are the pics and the specs. I promise to post some better photos once the bike arrives. (And don't worry, the dork disc and reflectors will be gone.)
From the eBay page:
Fork Cdale Slice Premium carbon/carbon steerer, Headset is integrated, Stem Cdale Fire 31.8., Shifters Shimano Ultegra10, Brake levers Shimano Ultegra10, Saddle Cdale road saddle, Seatpost Cdale carbon wrapped, Crank Shimano Ultegra10 39/53, Pedals (NONE), Chain Shimano Ultegra10, Cogset Shimano Ultegra10 12/25 10spd, Wheels Mavic Ksyrium Equipe, QR's Mavic, Tires Hutch Top Speed folders700x23, Fr Der Shimano Ultegra10, Rear Der Shimano Ultegra10, Brake Calipers Shimano Ultegra10. The color is red. MSRP on this bike was $1999.99.Okay, here’s the best part: Total price? $1035. For full Ultegra and Mavic Ksyrium wheels. And a bike with under 50 miles on it. (Yes, you read right. And only $50 shipping.) A steal!
* * *One final word: I owe buckets of thanks to three guys who were patient and extremely helpful as I endlessly plied them for their expertise. First, Suitcase of Courage, who has owned virtually the same bike for a few years and has nothing but good things to say about it, in response to my many questions. Next, my friend Rob, a talented local racer on- and off-road, who patiently fielded email after email containing multiple eBay links. Finally, a prince of a guy named Sean Brennan at Belmont Wheelworks in the Boston area, where I used to live. Sean gave me outstanding service back when I had fit problems with the OCR, and when I contacted him again out of the blue a couple weeks ago, was generous with insider info about Canndondale fit and general tips for my particular needs. If you need a bike fit, you can’t do better than this guy; other folks I know have confirmed this independently.
And now I’m off to sit like a pining dog at the front window, waiting for the FedEx guy.