I know there's a ton of info about buying a first bike. I read a lot of it. I still went through many of the things I was informed not to do, so I figured I'd share in case anyone else might be in the same place.
I thought $1,000 seemed insane for someone to just try out a new sport. What if I didn't like cycling? Then I thought, $1000 is like an entry level 'good' bike, but what if I spend that money then realize I'd rather have some different components?
Walmart has a nice looking aluminum bike with some Shimano components. I really liked the look which was important to me. "I at least want to like the thing I'm buying, and if I like it I'll be inspired to ride it."
I read about sizing and I'm right in the middle of "Medium" so I really didn't think there will be an issue with size. I saw one or two decent 'beginner' reviews on the bike, saw that it had Shimano derailleurs and shifters, and it was made by Kent which seems like they've been making frames for awhile. How bad can it be? For $300, I like the look, it's light enough, and I can spend $700 on the components I decide I want and make it mine. So I ordered it online and picked it up.
The next day I started looking at parts and upgrades. It has the Shimano derailleurs and shifters - and those are THE ONLY Shimano parts on the bike! Every other component is very cheap imported hardweare - the crank/sprocket is cheap stamped metal and low precision, the brake calipers feel like they grind, the handlebar works but isn't super comfortable, and it does have Shimano shifters but twist shifters on the top bar don't really make much sense for a road bike. And the brake levers were loose jiggly GARBAGE. So I looked at upgrading all these parts, and the total would be about $500 just for the parts I want to change. But then I see that it uses MTB sizing and setup in some places, the rear derailleur has a different kind of mount, it's also geared different than the road bikes I'd be riding with. Etc... Also, the bike felt BIG. I could live with the limited clearance
(oddly 32" tall for a Medium bike?
) but I also felt pretty stretched out and not in control. Sure that can be adjusted too, but how much time, money, and effort is this bike really worth?
I went to a real bike shop and looked around. They didn't have many bikes in "Medium" so I just looked at the different bikes and components. The nicer components make a difference. Then I found a bike that had a hydraulic disc brake, and immediately I could tell I'd have so much more control, it just felt really natural. Then I noticed that bike had "105" components which I read about, so I asked to take a look at it.
It turns out a 51-52 "Small" bike is a much better fit for me. I also noticed that the bike just seemed like it wanted to go! It was light but very solid. The next thing I know, I spent about 8x as much on a fancy new bike from a bike shop!
(Cannondale Caad13 disc 105.
) They didn't have many in stock but I at least got to sit on 2 similar but different bikes and got enough to know that this bike felt right to me - it fits physically and fits my personality. The other bike was carbon but with rim brakes, and the hydro disc just seemed to matter a lot more to me. This bike is just so inspiring to ride, and I know it's well more capable than I am but I'm excited to learn it and grow with it. And I know I love it because now I actually like the understated aesthetics. I also like that I appreciate it for it's components and not it's looks. It's going to get used, scratched, etc. but it will stay well taken care of: light, smooth, fast, and precise.
The Walmart bike looked nice, but once I was on it that seemed to go away and there just wasn't anything special about it. I'm sure it could be adjusted and could work for someone that wanted to try pedaling a bicycle, but it seems like you'd need to really be motivated to want to grow with it. I never thought about the Walmart bike and felt like I wanted to stop what I was doing and hit the road with it, it was just going to be a tool to learn with. Whenever I think about the new bike I daydream about riding and improving.
So, all the advice online is accurate. When people write "Walmart bike? Return it!" it might sound nasty or short but now I totally get it. I hope this helps someone!Edited by OnTrack Magic 2022-03-02 4:20 PM