It had been many years since my subscription to Bicycling Magazine ran out. I had decided I knew everything I needed to know about training for a century (though I did miss Style Man). So I figured it was time to take my head out of the sand and figure out what’s been happening in the bike world for the last decade. So, rather than spending actual money on a magazine subscription, which would generate daily renewal notices, I decided to check out their web site.
I had hoped that the magazine would be on line but that was not the case. There was a picture of the cover with enticing phrases like “Lose weight the easy way” and “Get fit fast” but when I clicked on it, it sent me to the subscription form.
It took me a while to find my way around the site, the content is sandwiched between a remarkable amount of ads, but, hey, if I don’t want to pay for the magazine, I can’t complain. So I finally figured out where the articles were, and the nice thing was that they also had archives of articles past, so I could catch up on the last ten years.
But I came here to find out what was happening in the world of bikes, so I headed for the “Bikes and Gear” section. I was first astounded to see that they had no less than 26 varieties of bikes. When I was a youth there were just two types of bikes: racing and touring. Actually, in my youth there was my single speed paper route bike with coaster brakes, and by college I had graduated to a 3 speed. But once I became an enthusiast, we had the aforementioned two choices. Then some time later those zany folks out in California thought it would be cool to ride their beater bikes down mountains, and the mountain bike was born.
Sure you have your specialty bikes like Cyclocross and Triathlon, but I don’t get the distinction between “Commuter” and “Cruisers & City.” Then there were nine different types of Mountain bikes. That didn’t faze me, since in my estimation mountain bikes are just an evil invention to cause FDGBs. I mean, those guys invented the term “face plant,” need I say more? But then we came to my real interest, road bikes, and there were seven types of them:
Road - Dream
Road - Enthusiast
Road - New Rider
Road - Plush
Road - Race
Road - Recreational
Road - Women
I quickly sussed out that dream = $$$, so that category lost interest for me right quick. I could eliminate “Women” and “New Rider” off the top, though I was mildly curious to see what made a bike suitable for them. The conclusion I came to was this was the low end of the evolutionary scale, one step better than a Huffy, although even these bikes had prices circling $1K. I saw a Cannondale CAAD 9 in there, and my current Cannondale was in the CAAD family. It was, alas, merely a 4, despite the fact it cost more than double this model nine years ago. So I figured this was not where I should be looking. But then things got sketchy.
I probably didn’t want “Race” since I am really hard on equipment and high performance doesn’t equate with durable. Still, I figured I’d go have a look. After the initial shock of prices more than my first car (and second, and third) I realized that there were a whole bunch of brands I had never heard of. I finally found a Cannondale, at a price adjusted for inflation in the range of my old CAAD 4. But it was a carbon bike, and the sidebar said “FORGET IT IF: You’re stuck in the past, loving that Cannondale alloy ride.” Yes, that pretty much summed me up. Actually, the main reason I would never buy a carbon bike is that they break. Remember I am really hard on equipment, and all my bikes eventually get their fair share of abuse. If I owned a carbon bike it would be in pieces before too long. They had another Cannondale on the page at twice the price, so even though it was mostly aluminum, it was not for me.
So, we’re left with “Enthusiast,” “Plush,” and “Recreational.” I felt like I’d been put back in the minor leagues. To my untrained eye, the “Enthusiast” ones looked a lot like the racing bikes, except they didn’t have the weight next to each one. I found a Cannondale that was mostly aluminum, and cost less than my old one, but after flirting with the racing bikes, at 19.74 pounds it seemed like a real porker, and my old Cannondale had all Ultegra. Model number was Six 5 (guess Seven was taken). Then I found their Six13 1 (I doubt they would sell many cars if they had model names like that). About the same price as my old one 9 years ago, mostly aluminum with some carbon bits, and complete Ultegra. But it didn’t have a weight listed — what were they trying to hide. Then I found the CAAD9 5, weighing in at 18.58 pounds still pretty pudgy compared to those racers, but looked like the same lineage as my old Cannondale. A lot cheaper because of the 105 gruppo. By now I was dazed and confused, and that was just from looking at the Cannondales. I really just wanted a fairy godmother to come around and say “Here, Jack, this is what you want.” I remember it took me about ten years last time to finally buy a bike.
But since I was there, I figured I would see what “Plush” and “Recreational” were. I’m not quite sure what I expected “Plush” to be, maybe a barco-lounger type seat, but to the casual observer, the looked a lot like the other bikes, and cost as much. The Cannondale model cost more, and weighed less than the “Enthusiast” ones. Its claim to fame was comfort on long rides. I’ve always considered comfort and performance mutually exclusive and my long riding days are pretty much over, so that one was out.
Finally, there was “Recreational.” These seemed to be at the low end of the scale, except for the Lapierre at $10K. Had to go see what that was about. What it was about was probably a misprint, since it seemed pretty ordinary with 105 components. Then there was the Cannondale Six13 5, not to be confused with the Six 5, or, god forbid, the Six13 1. I clicked on it, and music started playing. Was this a Sign from God, I thought. Then it started talking to me. Seems I had chosen the Bicycling Magazine Editor’s choice, and I was treated to a 3 1/2 minute video on merits of the bike. Truly a Sign from God. I now knew what I had to do. But then I read the fine print: “performance came close to matching that of the enthusiast bikes.” Came close? What was wrong with this bike that the main thing the video had to say about it was that it had good brakes. And at 19.2 pounds, it wouldn’t show its face at the senior prom with those 15 pound beauties around.
Oh, well, I guess my old Cannondale has a few more good years.