My third triathlon, the Montauk Point Lighthouse Sprint Triathlon, is just five days away. But triathlon training without a bike is difficult. I rented a bike for my other two triathlons—the Subaru Triathlon Series Peterborough Sprint in Ontario and the Long Island Gold Coast Triathlon in New York. And since I didn’t own a bike, my triathlon training for the cycling leg of the race was lackluster at best. It’s hard to get better at cycling if you never cycle. And if you want to cycle more, you have to own a bike.
So I decided to take the plunge this season and buy a bike.
Every triathlete and cyclist I talked to advised against getting a triathlon bike unless you’re very serious about the sport.
So I reached out to my aunt who is an avid cyclist and got some recommendations from her for buying a road bike since I don’t know the first thing about them. Cranksets, frames, and geometry were all Greek to me.
She gave me a list of the basic components she thinks every starter bike should have. Her best piece of advice was to buy new, but also to get an older model year that hadn’t sold yet in order to save money. I went to a few stores here in New York City to get an idea for size and style and started looking aggressively online, including Craigslist, for a bike that fit my needs for triathlon training and my budget.
Since I’m not a gung-ho cyclist and will be using it mainly for triathlons and triathlon training I wanted to spent less than $600, but also get a decent entry-level bike. It was a tall order, especially if I wanted to get all the components my aunt recommended as a baseline for a new rider. Most of the bikes I saw that fit the bill were more in the $1,000 range.
But thanks to being tall, I found the perfect bike for me: a 2011 Trek Lexa S Compact, a women’s geometry bike with an aluminum frame and a carbon fork. Bicycle Habitat in Manhattan had some left in the largest size the manufacturer made. The current 2013 model retails for $989.99. The best part: the 2011 was marked down to $530 and met most of my aunt’s suggestions for components.
Here she is:
After reading online reviews, which were largely positive, I ran—literally—down to the store to try the bike on.
The salesperson told me that so many women had tried it hoping to take it home, but it was always just slightly too large. Not for me! At 5’8 with long monkey arms, I was thrilled to hop on and find it a comfortable fit. At two other bike shops, salespeople had told me I might be better off with a men’s bike because of my height. That didn’t excite me for one reason: all the men’s bikes I looked at came in boring black or red. Blah. I like fun colors!
So I was very glad to find a women’s ride that fit and came in a fun turquoise blue and happened to be under my budget. So I bought a helmet and a water bottle cage to match, naturally.
I’ve ridden it a few times and feel like I’m finally getting the hang of cycling. I’m still not super comfortable, but feel like I’m getting there. How bad could I possibly be, you ask? Only last week was I able to ride with one hand and drink from a water bottle with the other. Before I bought my bike that would have resulted in an accident—one-handed cycling was a no go. But try triathlon training—or racing a tri—without being able to drink water. Not so much fun!
As a newbie cyclist, I have yet to futz with cycling shoes, clipless pedals, aerobars and the like. That will come with time.
For now, I’m really excited to head into Sunday’s triathlon on my very own bike. Montauk, here I come rolling into town…