This is from a series of interviews I did on my Dirt Road Washtenaw website with friends and fellow dirt road enthusiasts. At the time I called it Bike Grits, but I simplified that for this site. It’s now called BIKES. It might expand to explore all kinds of bikes ridden by real people. We’ll see. It arises out of one of the most often asked questions I get in my discussions with people interested in riding the dirt roads: What kind of bike should I buy?
The bike that excites you and fits your needs the most. The best bike is the bike that gets you riding day after day. Some people like to ride hard, others like to take it easy. Some like an upright position with flat bars, others want a sleek wind slicing position with drop bars. Some ride for hours, others ride far less than that. Some have bulging wallets, others live more modestly. Often the best bike for the summer doesn’t work during the snowy winter months. We’ll try to sort some of that out by exploring the bikes you ride, ask what you like about them and what frustrates you.
Best of all, we live in a golden era of high quality bikes and great selection. There was a time not too long ago when the choices were few and the bikes were often heavy. When I was a kid you bought a Schwinn. There were a few models to choose from, all steel. Other bikes had a European lineage, cost a lot of money, and weren’t available everywhere.
Now there are many bike companies, many frame types. Even in one category there are multiple options from which to choose, with a selection of many component levels. A road bike could be a hybrid, a commuter, a crit racer, a recreation bike, a fixie, a singlespeed, a tri-bike, or a time trial bike, to name a few. The component choices and levels are also daunting: Sram, Shimano, Campagnolo; Apex, Rival, Red, Sora, Tiagra, 105, Ultegra, Dura Ace, Super Record, Record, Chorus, Athena, Centaur, Veloce. And these are just road components. Mountain bike components are another series all together. If anything, the range of selection is too much for the casual cyclist to keep track of. So, while selection is nearly endless, identifying what you’re looking for is tough.
Hype vs. What’s Right For You
There’s a lot of hype out there. Companies always want you to buy the newest they have to offer. That’s how they stay in business. They push the latest carbon frame, ti frame, steel-is-real frame, aluminum alloy, or a combination of many these materials. It’s up to us to peel away the hype and figure out the most practical bike for our particular needs. It’s probably beyond the scope of this little series to make sense of it all, but perhaps by introducing you to the myriad interests of cyclists out there, we’ll help you learn more about the kind of bike that interests you now and the kind of bike you aspire to ride in the future. New is not always best, expensive is not necessarily right for you, and you might realize that you already own a gem that will work fine. Then again, within limits, you often do get what you pay for. Quality bikes with quality components can make your rides more comfortable and more exciting. They aren’t cheap, but they don’t have to break your budget either.
This is a series of articles on the bikes people use when they ride the dirt roads. I recently sat down for a chat with Mike Solomon and Ben Caldwell, two venerable cyclists who’ve been in the bike game for many years. Even with all their expertise and fine-honed opinions on bikes and components, their one, overriding bit of advice is ride the bike you have. Just get out there and enjoy yourself. When the budget allows, upgrade to the best bike you can afford.
If you have any suggestions for this series, please comment. We’d love to hear from you and welcome the input. If you have a bike you’d like to highlight, contact us and we’ll fit you in. All bikes and all bike riding styles are valid and deserve their moment in the sun. Most of all, ride it if you’ve got it!
If you haven’t already clicked the link above, click this one. It will get you to the same place.