Last week I announced my participation in the People With Aids/Toronto Friends for Life Bike Rally, a 660 Kilometre bike ride from Toronto to Montreal (sponsor me!). I mentioned then that my first step was to buy a bike, which started with educating myself and searching for the right one. I had no idea it was going to be so confusing!
My friend Brennon and I went out last Saturday afternoon tromping all over Toronto (literally) to about 6 different shops to learn about the different bikes they carried, sizing, equipment and prices. It was an exhausting day, but we learned a TON. That said, it wasn’t until my visit yesterday to Toronto’s Hello Velo bike shop that I was able to put all the pieces together and find the perfect bike for me.
During our research everyone talked to us about sizing, making sure you have the correct fit, making sure the equipment and accessories you buy fit you properly, etc… but there always seemed to be something missing to tie it all together. I didn’t have a basis from which to choose the bike I wanted other than “well, that one looks pretty…” and so was constantly worried that I was going to choose a bike that was fundamentally not made for my body type. Luckily, my friend Mike referred me to his friend Paul at Hello Velo and everything came together.
Hello Velo offers a sizing service for about $60 bucks (with tax) that measures your body’s dimensions and tests some basic motor skills that affect your ability to ride in various positions. Inseam, height and forearm are all measured to determine the height of the frame needed, whether you’re longer in the legs or torso (which affects which length of frame is right for you) and the amount of drop appropriate in your handlebars.
We then moved on to some basic exercises, starting with a one-leg 1/3 squat. The squat allowed Paul to see how my body reacted to pushing my weight on one foot and identify any potential issues that should be address (for instance, in my case, my right arch falls slightly which means I’ll want to pay attention to that when I purchase my biking shoes). We did one-leg calf raises, plank and an arm exercise designed to test the distance the cockpit can be from the saddle.
Once we had all the measurements and exercises complete, Paul connected all the dots. He told me why each measurement was important and how it applied to what size bike I would need and then we talked about what actual type of bike I was thinking about: Road, Hybrid, Touring, Cyclo-cross…there were tons to consider. I settled on buying a full road-style bike since I’ll be riding it long distances. Next, he pulled out a big book with all the technical specs of every bike on the market. He showed me bikes with frames that matched my basic needs and wouldn’t require a lot of adjusting with spacers, etc… and one of the nicest parts was that everyone in the shop seemed more than happy to discuss any and every bike I had questions about, regardless of whether or not they carried that line.
Once I’d chosen the type of bike I was still only ½ way there. I still had to choose frame material I wanted, what the type of brakes and component levels… The list just seemed to go on and on. With good patience though, we started narrowing down the options based on the measurements we’d taken until I was down to two or three models. It was the perfect way for me sort through all of these random pieces of information and reach a decision that I am comfortable and very happy about!
Ultimately I’ve ended up going with the 2010 Z85 model from Felt (pictured above), which is a company based out on Montreal. The frame has all the right basic dimensions for my body measurements and it’s a damn good looking bike!
I had no idea that bike shopping was going to be such an experience, but step one: Buy a bike… CHECK! (Now I just have to figure out shorts, jerseys, pedals, shoes, helmut…)