Monday, February 7, 2011

My New Bike

After putting together a budget for my Big Ride, lots of at-home research, and test-riding 3 bikes, I decided to buy this wonderful bike. It's a Surly Crosscheck and I bought it from Salvagetti Bicycle Workshop in Denver. Sadly I've only had a chance to ride this bike for about 24 miles so far because of that white stuff outside, but knowing Colorado, it won't be long till I get to ride it again. This is officially the most expensive thing I've ever bought besides my education (which costs me half the price of this bike every single month) so it's a pretty big deal for me. It didn't come with pedals, so I bought some cheap bright blue platform pedals to put on it.

This was traditionally built as a bike jousting bike (hence the name "Crosscheck") because of it's toughness, but was later adapted to be a cyclo-cross bike. Cyclocross is apparently a kind of racing where you race around a dirt course and half the course is unridable so you have to carry the bike half the time. I know it sounds kind of dumb, but it means you get a tough road bike with a nice, upright body position.

The three main things I wanted in my bike were for it to be comfortable, fun and able to carry lots of junk. I'm planning on mounting a 20 in. battery-powered tv to the front of the bike so I don't get bored on my tour. Who wants to look at the ocean when you can watch Wipeout? Obviously, a touring bike would be ideal for a tour, but might be less fun for non-tour riding. So my two categories of bikes to consider were a touring bike or a cyclocross bike since cyclocross bikes can be used for touring and are also fun.

In the 3 bikes that I test-rode, I was amazed at the differences. I've always kind of wondered what the big deal about different road bikes was. They all look the same to me. How could they be that different? It's pretty crazy the difference a couple degrees or a couple inches makes.

The first bike I tested was a Jamis Aurora.
This is a steel touring bike. The bike I normally ride is a racing road bike and I couldn't believe how different the Jamis felt from my Bianchi. I tried turning back and forth on the Jamis and it only did nice, slow, smooth turns. It felt like I could wobble back and forth as hard as I could and never fall off. It was extremely stable and very very comfortable. The riding position was much more upright compared to my Bianchi and it was like a Cadillac compared to a Mustang. So comfortable.

The next bike I tested was a Kona Jake.
This is an aluminum cyclocross bike. This one was a lot more fun to ride than the Jamis because the turning was much faster and I felt like I had a lot more control over the bike. It just felt fun. But it was also a good bit less comfortable. It wasn't because of the riding position. The Kona was as upright as the Jamis, so the position was nice. It was because of the material. Every crack in the side walk was a much bigger deal on this Kona than it was on the Jamis. Aluminum is lighter than steel, but does a bad job absorbing shock compared to steel.

I rode each bike again just to confirm my observations. If I had to choose between the two I would have chosen the Jamis because it was that much more comfortable than the Kona. But I wasn't that crazy about it. The problem was that the Jamis was very comfortable, but the Kona was fun. I wanted both, but neither bike offered both. The solution was the bike that I was hoping to test-ride in the first place. My hope was that I could test ride a Surly Crosscheck, but they didn't have one in stock. The Crosscheck beckoned me with its offers for both a fun ride and a comfortable ride because it's a steel cyclocross bike. Scott at Salvagetti was very generous and ordered the bike for me without any obligation to buy it and it would arrive in about 6 days. He even told me about his friend who rode the Southern-Tier route across the U.S. and gave me a link to his blog.

So the next Saturday (9 days ago) Salvagetti called me saying the bike was in stock. So I took the bus to the shop anticipating that this would be the exact bike I was looking for and would buy it on the spot and ride it home. I showed up and test rode the Surly and the Jamis, comparing the two. It was exactly what I was hoping for. The Surly was very fun to ride and it was as comfortable as the Jamis. The Jamis was significantly better than the Kona, but the Surly was significantly better than the Jamis. It was exactly what I wanted. So I bought it. I would have bought some tire patches too, but they threw the patches in for free!

Later that day I went on a 20 mile ride, basking the happiness of my new purchase. I'm getting closer and closer to actually doing my tour. I'm getting in shape and now have a great bike to take me from Canada to Mexico, so it's exciting.

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