Bicycling Magazine (by far the largest bicycle magazine in circulation) recently named 18 bikes as 2015 Editors’ Choice winners. They have kind of become the Consumer Reports of bicycles. This is not to say that other magazines such as Velo News and Road Bike Action, to name a few, don’t offer great bike reviews, but Bicycling will definitely capture the most eyeballs. At ARB, we are obviously proud to say we carry four of these bikes, which are all in the category we focus on – performance road. Click on the photographs to get the full review of each of these winners which you can test ride at A Road Bike 4U!
What makes one bike better than another? Is Brand X better than Brand Y? We get these questions a lot. I think it is safe to say that brands which are exclusively sold through specialty bicycle shops are going to be of significantly greater quality than those sold at big box stores (i.e. Walmart, Target, Costco) or generic websites such as Bikes Direct.
Now, when it comes to those brands sold through specialty bike shops (aka Independent Bicycle Dealers or IBDs), the debate as to which bike and brand is better begins. You know the brands we are talking about – Giant, Trek, Specialized, Cannondale, Pinarello, Cervelo, Colnago, Felt, Bianchi, BMC and the list goes on in no particular order! The truth is, you really couldn’t go wrong with any one of these brands. All of these companies put a lot of effort into R&D and manufacturing. That isn’t to say that some brands don’t have it together more than others – for example, the way the bikes come assembled from each manufacturer. How much is required of the local shop mechanics to put together the finished bike on the floor? Some brands may have more warranty issues than others – and the way in which each brand handles them is different.
When it comes to ride quality, much of that is subjective. It also depends on the type of ride you are looking for. There are so many different sub-categories of bikes these days. Just on the road side, you have pure race, endurance, aero, gravel and women’s specific. The criterium racer may be looking for something different than the long distance Gran Fondo rider or the recreational weekend rider. Of course, price point comes into play here. Yes, you can get a an entry-level race bike at around $1,300 but you can also get a race bike for $10,000 or more. They will obviously ride very differently.
We usually like to get new bike buyers to test ride the same category of bike from 2 or 3 of the different brands we carry. The truth is, a bike will speak to each rider differently. You can only describe a particular bike in words so much before you actually need to see how it feels to you. Let’s take two outstanding bikes that were declared Bicycling Magazine Editors’ Choice winners for 2015 – the Pinarello Dogma F8 and the Cervelo S5. In words, we can say that they will both be laterally stiff and aerodynamic but after test riding each, one will “speak” to you and the other not as much. The aesthetic quality of the bike must say something to you as well. If you love the way a bike looks, you’re more inclined to want to ride it!
A last point which is perhaps one of the most important. Bike fit will have a big influence on how a bike “feels” to you. If you are test riding a bike 3 times bigger or smaller than what you should be on, it’s not a fair evaluation. But if you are within a size of what you need (often times people can ride two different sizes depending on saddle, bar and stem spec), then you should be fine. Of course, while you could fit on two different frame sizes, there will be trade-offs to each. This is where your bike shop’s fit expertise comes in. Post purchase, your bike fit should be dialed in by a fit specialist. Spending a thousand or more dollars on a bike without a fit is sad, but I’m afraid all too common.
Now we come back to Bicycling Magazine’s Editors’ Choice awards. What do they mean? We are a nation of lists. We all love to read about the Top Ten vacation spots, most livable cities, athletes in a given sport, fill in the blank! Clearly these are some of the best bikes in the world and the editors gave them a thorough evaluation. But at the same time, take the list with a grain of salt. There are tons of other great bikes out there – and one will speak to you!