My decision in choosing to get a triathlon-specific bike versus an aero road bike was driven primarily by two factors: first, I already own a road bike (a crappy one, yes, but a road bike nonetheless), and second, I see myself doing many more triathlons in the future so I'm looking at it as an investment. A well fit, good quality tri bike is also one of the easiest ways to gain speed. Granted it also takes a lot of hard work and time in the saddle, but it's simply a fact that the same person (i.e. me!) is faster on a tri bike than a road bike.
And so, with all that said, let's get to today's shopping experience! Per recommendation I'd made an appointment at Davis Wheelworks to take a look at some bikes. One issue with shopping for tri bikes is that most bike shops either don't carry them at all or only have a few models to try (often not in a range of sizes). DW is known for having the best selection in the region and also has an excellent customer service reputation. I wasn't quite sure what to expect going in, but it ended up being a fantastic experience and I left with so much more information than I expected.
When I walked in I was introduced to Cody, who I'd be working with, and then later Joe, who helped out, too. Both were great! Cody started off with an overview of tri bikes, asked if there was anything specifically I was looking for (ideally, a carbon frame) and then started to set up bike no. 1 for me to test! First up was a Cervélo. I know these have an excellent reputation and I know several people who have them and love them, so I had high expectations. He set up the P1 on the trainer, Cervélo's entry-level tri bike, and had me hop on.
For the next 15 minutes or so I was off and on the bike as he and Joe assessed my position and fit and made adjustments accordingly, including switching out saddles (what a difference!). It felt surprisingly comfortable, even being down so far in aero. Finally, they asked the big question: would I like to test ride it? I hesitated because I was extremely nervous about riding in the aero position and handling such a fancy bike. Both were very encouraging though and highly recommended test riding to get a real feel for the bike. I knew I'd have to do it eventually anyway, and I knew there was no way I was letting myself drop that kind of money on a bike I'd never actually rode. And so, after getting directions on where to go, I was out the door and riding my first tri bike!
First impression: it wasn't nearly as scary as I expected! I sat up on the handlebars as I rode out of the little downtown area but once I was out on the straightaway I took a deep breath and dropped down to the aero bars. It was actually really comfortable, and only a little bit scary : ) The handling was a little touchier than I'm used to (I was later told that is normal with tri bikes), but otherwise I could hardly believe the difference it made! I felt like I could ride for days, and I kept wishing I had my Garmin so I could see how fast I was going! After a ways I crossed the street and turned around to make my way back. I guess I was enjoying my fancy ride a little too much though because at some point I made a wrong turn and found myself completely lost : / I got plenty of practice stopping/starting at lights and stop signs as I wandered around, looking for something familiar. Finally I asked someone for directions and eventually made it back to the shop in one piece.
When I got back they had the next bike all set up and ready to go for me. It was a higher-end Felt, the DA4. I'd heard of this bike before and knew that it was waaaaayyyy out of my price range, but I went ahead and hopped on. Same thing, off and on followed by adjustments, but from the start this one just didn't feel quite as comfortable, especially in the arms. Once we got it dialed in I took it out for a ride, this time not nearly as anxious. I didn't go quite as far with the Felt because even on the road, something still just didn't feel great. I also paid close attention to my route and managed to make it back to the shop without any detours : )
So where do I stand now? Well, they aren't sure when exactly they'll be getting their P2s - sometime in March most likely. Normally this wouldn't be an issue, but I was hoping to have (and have practiced on) my new bike for Oceanside 70.3 on March 31st. I'll be heading back again soon to test out the P3 they have in stock to get a better feel for the P2. One of the great things about DW is that after a fit session they save your measurements so that any future fits are faster and more efficient. In the meantime, I'm crossing my fingers that they'll get their P2s in asap!