select a new pair of running shoes by going to a serious sports shop, put on a
few shoes that don't fit, then jog around the parking lot? No, that would be ridiculous.
Yet every day, people select bicycles in this misguided manner. After all, a sales clerk
will say, "That's the way we've always done it." And beware especially
of the "experts" that say they can fit any rider to any bike; that is as
misguided as it sounds.
The truth is that even a pro will need at least 150 miles
over varied terrain on a perfectly fit bike before he can evaluate its genuine quality.
500 miles is probably a more realistic number. Sure, many bikes are dogs right out of the
blocks. But even these bikes sell thousands a year. That is because most riders,
even pros, are not knowledgeable enough to pick a peach from a lemon on a misfit
bike in a parking lot.
- if the "bicycle specialist" that you are "interviewing" suggests that you pick
your new bike by sampling a few in the parking lot, move on!
OK, what should a rider do? The answer is,
"Rather than select your bicycle,
select your bicycle specialist." After all, it isn't your job to know all the details
necessary to select and fit a truly high quality bike. Even the pros can't do that. They
leave it to an expert, you should too. Of course, finding a genuine bike expert is not
that easy. Your local bike shop probably has an "enthusiast". But as most of you
have already learned, an enthusiast is not the same as an expert.
- interview the "experts". Figure out who really knows their stuff, whose
expertise has been tested and proven to a very high degree.
In interviewing an expert,
|How well does the specialist ride?
That is of some importance, you surely don't want a novice. But just as in any sport, the
best athlete is rarely the best coach. Look for extensive riding expertise, but don't put
this criteria at the top of your list. Pro riders rarely follow their own advice, why
|How well can the specialist weld, braze, or file?
Countless times, we've seen custom one-of-a-kind frames doing much more harm than good. It
is obvious that just because a person can braze two tubes together does not mean that
he or she can design an excellent geometry or fit a body to the design.|
|How many different top builders has the
specialist worked with? Absolutely, a good fitting expert learns
something from every great builder that he works with. Look for an expert that thoroughly
knows and appreciates the work of the true top builders like Masi, De Rosa, Confente,
Look, Pinarello, Cinelli, Merckx, Pegoretti, Rossin, Merlin, Pogliaghi, and
|How well does the specialist listen to your
riding goals? Certainly, make sure the expert intends to select a
frame or bike for your needs not his own agenda. Give extra points to the specialist that
will help you clarify your actual needs rather than just taking your first explanations at
face value. |
|A large inventory of quality equipment? Not
necessarily. We were very small at one time and still did top shelf work. But, a wide
selection of high level frames and parts is a pretty good indication that the shop has the
dedication to do the job right. Check to see that the majority of the inventory is
current. A preponderance of older stuff probably means that the pocketbook was more full
than the brain. You as a customer, may become a convenient place to dump old inventory
regardless of your needs. |
|Expertise of the mechanics?
Don't overlook this important point. Quality parts require a darn good mechanic to perform
near their potential. We regularly see high dollar equipment out
there that is working poorly because it is incorrectly put together or wrongly
adjusted. Remember, most bike mechanics rarely work on the good stuff; your bike becomes their academy.
Make sure your mechanic works on the good stuff all the time. That's his job, he needs to
know it inside and out. |
|Ask around? Good news and bad
news both spread quickly. One good or bad reference rarely tells much of the story, but a
pattern can probably be relied upon. If the shop is filled with happy, repeat customers
you are more likely to be headed in a good direction. But, try to make sure those
customers are knowledgeable. You may in with a group of well intentioned
enthusiasts but relatively shallow knowledge,
so do your homework. |
|Trust your instinct? Yes, you
are the one who will have to make the final call. Forget the magazine hype and the fancy
brochures. Do your homework by finding a genuine bicycle fitting specialist. Let your
brain along with your gut feelings lead you. With these guidelines in mind, you will have the
best chance of selecting a bicycle or frame that will make you the best cyclist that you
can be. That is the formula for more riding miles, more fitness, more fun!