Bike for buyer's remorse.

Tue, 01/22/2013 - 12:37pm

Triathlon is an expensive sport: registration fees, travel, nutrition, multiple costume changes, and the cornucopia of expenses wrapped up in the bike. I get it. It costs a lot. That’s okay. It’s worth it to me given how much I enjoy the sport. Plus, I like to budget, save money, plan purchases, etc.

One bike expense many recreational cyclists and tri enthusiasts foolishly forego is the bike fit. Unfortunately, the one-size fits all principle does not apply to bicycles. I know this and respect my body enough to have each of my bikes fitted. In fact, I look forward to it. To me it’s kind of a guilty pleasure – similar to how others may feel toward a day at the spa. Although the two may seem dissimilar, both are all about making sure your body feels good.

I had my road bike fitted at The Bike Rack last spring shortly after I purchased it. It cost about $300 at the end of the day after replacing the bike stem, purchasing new pedals & cleats and paying for the fitter’s time. Due to budget constraints, I held off until this season to fit my tri-bike.

My tri-bike was fitted when I originally purchased it at the Bicycle Pro Shop two years ago but since then I’ve had hip surgery and decided it was time for another fit. I chose CycleLife for the bike fit. They offer two fits, one more technologically advanced (& expensive) then the other. Although I thought the approx $400 price tag was steep, I rationalized the splurge by convincing myself that the bike fit would be that much better. I was wrong.

I wasn’t entirely wrong, just mostly. The bike fit might be great. I won’t really know that until I put some hours in the saddle. Overall, the experience was disappointing and left me full of buyer’s remorse.

So what was wrong about it?

  1. It took way too much time. I spent a total of 6 hours and 15 minutes in total over two visits to the shop. Granted, I purchased a new saddle for my road bike, which the fitter adjusted for me in addition to the handlebars, but 6.25 hours is still a lot of time. I think if you’re spending approx $400 on a fit you should be the sole focus of the fitter’s attention. The space in CycleLife where the fit is done is not secluded from the rest of the shop. Clients visited during the fit. Staff asked questions. Directions were given to the bike technician. But that wasn’t the bulk of how the time was spent…which takes me to:
  2. I feel like I paid for a sales pitch. I was pitched new shoes ($400 price tag), pedals ($180), shoe inserts ($30), and a new crank (no idea how much $). After telling that I had recently purchased a power meter, the fitter suggested I check out the return policy on it and consider some cheaper alternatives the shop offered. Now I stupidly exposed myself to this trap, but I’ll get to that in a bit.
  3. The fitter made wrong assumptions. My focus was the bike fit. His focus was increasing the bottom line by way of pricey add-ons…which is why those expensive add-ons took center stage early on in the fit. I get it – he’s running a business…he’s just doing so in a short-sided fashion (in my opinion). I would have preferred the bike be fitted w/my respective shoes, pedals & crank before presenting some options to consider in the future. That would have been a great way to open the conversation for future visits and purchases.
  4. I think the technology component of the fit is overrated. I wasn’t really sold on the value of the video analysis. I’ve had one fit done w/plain old sight and think that’s sufficient if the fitter has enough experience watching other cyclists. After all I don’t use video analysis to critique form when clients perform their exercises. I use my plain old sight. I’m so sensitive to people’s movement patterns that I can tell bad body mechanics by simply watching someone bend over to take a sip of water at the water fountain.

So how did I expose myself to getting hosed?

  1. I told too much too soon. I needed to get a lot of stuff done. In addition to the bike fit, I wanted to get some maintenance work done on both my road bike and tri bike. I also said shortly into the fit that I wanted to purchase two new bike seats and a trainer. Basically, all that implicitly conveyed to the fitter is “This guy has money to spend. Drive up the receipt.”  In retrospect, I should have had just the fit done and assessed the experience before committing to ancillary purchases.
  2. I was too nice. I should have been assertive and said “Listen, I appreciate the information about those cool pedals and shoes, but I’m not ready to make a purchase so let’s just focus on the fit.”
  3. I didn’t do my homework. This is more related to the bike maintenance work that will be done to the bike. The technician said I’d need a new chain ($50) and new cassette ($83). I was surprised to hear this and then asked the question “Well, what’s the average miles put on a chain and cassette before it needs to be replaced?” He didn’t have an answer. I can probably find this out myself by searching cycle blogs.
  4. I didn’t respond to my intuition. After the first visit, I definitely had buyer’s remorse and felt like I was being taken for a ride. Rather than leaving my bikes at the shop for maintenance work, I should have taken them elsewhere.

To be fair, there were some positives to the experience. For one, the bike shop is clean and full of nice people - the staff and other cyclists. They accommodated my parking situation, which makes a difference when trying to park in Georgetown during an inaugural weekend. The bike fitter was knowledgeable and a nice guy. But don’t be fooled – nice guys can still hose you. Of course that’s only if you let them…which I won’t whenever I drop some cash again on my next bike, maintenance work, upgrades, etc.



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