After completing my first (metric) century, I’ve feel like I’ve been bitten by the road bike bug. It’s been five years since I bought a new bike, and that seems like a reasonable amount of time to wait. Besides, think of all the money I’m saving by not owning a car, right? So, what kind of bike to get? Well, I spent an entire post on that a while ago, and now Project Cignal is sitting down in the bike rack at Recycle-a-Bike, waiting to be dismantled.
In the meantime, I’ve got bike fever. I’m always checking out other people’s rides to see what else is out there. I probably look like I’m leering at cyclists that I pass on the street, or I look like I’m scoping out bike racks for something to steal, but I’ve just got the craving for a new ride. I’ve even taken a few test rides at a few different LBSs. I’ve kept the test rides pretty short so I don’t feel like I’m leading the LBS on. Then I remembered that there’s this thing called Craigslist where people sell all of the crap they don’t want anymore. If they live in a big city, they may even write an entertaining ad with carefully composed pictures. We’re not so lucky here in RI. I’ve found some interesting things including a Surly Pacer frameset. I kind of like the idea of Surly bikes, but I’m not sure if it would be the right bike for me. Basically, they make their bikes out of steel and put basic, no-nonsense parts on them. They’re not made for racing, they are made for people to enjoy riding. They also seem to have a very loyal following, almost like one of the hand-built American bikeframe makers (except Surlys are made in Taiwan like 75% of the bikes of the world, thus they cost a fraction of a US made bike) and I saw tons of them in Portland, each one looked like it was well taken care of and well loved (I’m totally not projecting here, right?) Since my Portland trip, I’ve seen a few of them around town. My small LBS carries them, but they basically only order one when someone wants one because they are kind of a specialty item.
I dropped by the small LBS to see if I was crazy to buy a frameset and then hire them to put together a bike. (In bike parlance, this is known as “building” or “building up a bike.” It sounds way cooler than “assembling” which is more or less what it is.) Basically, I want a road bike or a sport bike or possibly a touring bike (still not sure of the difference there), something with drop handlebars, but not a super-aggressive racing bike. I want this next bike to be significantly better than my current Roadmaster. But what the hell do I mean by that? What will I get from spending $1,500 on components that I wouldn’t get from spending $1,000? How about just spending $1,000 on a complete bike? You always get a better deal when you buy a complete bike from a shop, because the manufacturer has done so much of the work (and buys the components at a volume discount). But it may not be exactly how I want it (I know I’d have to get a different saddle, for example). Would I notice the difference between a Shimano 105 and my current Shimano Tiagra? Hell if I know. And then there’s bike geometry! So many thousands of little differences: this bike has a longer head tube, but the bottom bracket is higher, while the other bike has a sloping top tube and no toe clearance. I think I’m running into the paradox of choice: i.e. too many choices leave the consumer feeling unsatisfied no matter the choice made.
Speaking of unsatisfied, back to our old friend: Craigslist. Frankly, I’m a little surprised at the quality of bike that I’ve seen in just a a couple weeks of keeping an eye on the postings. Sure there’s tons of crap BMX bikes, shitty full-suspension mountain bikes, and more big-box store BSOs than I’d care to admit exist in this world; but within that, there’s a few gems. Or at least, bikes that sold new for $1,500 or more.
Like this Specialized Roubaix, a full carbon fiber frame & fork with Shimano Ultegra & 105 components. I’m guessing it retailed anywhere from $2,000 to $2,500 plus an extra $150 for the pedals. Here’s my favorite part of the posting, “LOW MILES!!! Only been riden [sic] in a few group rides, approx. 100-120 miles and has never been riden hard.” This guy dropped maybe $2,500 on a bike so he could ride it in group rides. Now, in all fairness, maybe he has another bike that he rides on a regular basis or something. But really, why would you do that? I’d read about people who decide they want to start biking, so they drop a ton of cash in order to get the fanciest bike they can, only to let it sit and collect dust in the garage. But I didn’t think there would be so many of them!
How about this post. I’ll save you the link, here’s the full text: “2008 cervelo P2C – $2200 Bike barely used with Dura Ace components. Bottle cages and aero cages included. 51cm.” What the hell? How do you buy a bike with one of the most high-end component groups available – and then never ride it?
I’m tired of linking, so here’s a few select quotes from my perusal of the bike listing:
This bike has only 15miles on it [on a Fuji road bike]
Custume Bike4 sale
i have a 2009 stolen pattywagon frame no parts i only rode this frame twice lookin for 250 also have a 07 fit trail 2 its not in the best condition i thought i had parts to fix it but i dont sellin it 100 bucks
this bike used to be my everyday bike but since ive got a car i have no use for it i gave up bmx and into dirtbiking so any reasonable offer wont be denied 200 obo
Girls first bike Very nice. Shwinn Helmut included
Okay, enough with making fun of peoples’ spelling errors. Here’s one more. “It only has about 250 miles on it. The bike has Shimano 105 front derailer, 105 crank set, and 105 shifters. The rear derailleur is Shimano Ultegra sl and the brakes are Tektro R520 Dual Pivot.” $750. Hmmm…. I wonder if I could take the components from this bike and put them on a different frame….
Shit. Now I’m just talking crazy. What sort of rabbit hole have I fallen through?
I’m also starting to think: There sure are a lot of semi-expensive, barely ridden road bikes for sale on the craigslist. Are there that many idiots out there, or is there just something inherently uncomfortable about these bikes?
You know what I don’t see? Basic steel touring and sport bikes. Maybe I’m onto something here. Or maybe there are just a lot of idiots in the world.
Update: I drafted this post almost two weeks ago, and since then I emailed about a few of the bikes mentioned above. None of the road bike owners got back to me – probably sold by now. I did have a brief correspondence with the Surly Pacer owner, we even went so far as to arrange a day (but not a time or place) for me to check out the frame. Then he flaked out on me – not sure what is up with that. So, no frameset build-up for me… at least not yet.
One more gem from the “Bicycles” section of Craigslist: