This section of my website used to be dedicated to triathlon training, personal race results and certification reviews, like Turbo Kick. I am expanding it to include more generic health & fitness topics. Also, I talk a lot about "D" -- he's my husband (Dave Liu)!

Saturday, April 03, 2004

Test Riding a Trek 5200 WSD

D & I were scheduled to attend a wedding today, but there was a three hour gap between the ceremony and reception. In an effort to be productive, we went to Chain Reaction in Redwood City to test ride road bikes. I've been itching to get one for a few months now, and D is considering getting one so he can accompany me on centuries.

So I am finally back on "Trek" (pun intended) to purchase a road bike. I chose Chain Reaction for their location, the brands they carry, the sizes they have on hand to test ride (there are surprisingly few stores in the Bay Area that have a built-up 47cm Trek 5200 WSD) and most importantly, they allow people to take the bikes on a fantastic 4-mile loop that includes hills so you have a great sense of how bikes will perform on climbs and descents. As a comparison, Palo Alto Bicycles told me the only way to simulate a hill was to ride up and down the levels of a nearby multi-storied parking lot. Right.

It was a busy day at Chain Reaction in Redwood City. Lots of people looking at and test riding bikes. I lucked out and found a very attentive sales person named Mike (later found out that he's one of the owners). Mike spent a ton of time with me: he fit me on the bike, pumped the tires, watched me ride in the parking lot to make sure no further adjustments were required etc. He also showed me the "trim" feature on the front derailleur. If you hear a lot of rattling due to chain rub, you can sort of "half shift" your rings in the front to eliminate it. I'm surprised he let me out on the 4-mile loop given my lack of confidence. Maybe it was because I was with D.

Meanwhile, D was intent on test riding the cheapest thing he could find in the store. The sales person showed him a Trek 1500 and a Trek 1200. Of course, he opted for the Trek 1200. Actually, he wanted to see the Trek 1000 but the sales person refused to show him. D is such a hoot. Given how much he'll ride a road bike, he wanted to spend as little as possible. He's also claims that he can't tell the difference between an expensive bike and a cheap one.

I thought the loop was going to be in a quiet residential area, but no. We were out cycling in the Real World with cars on the road. Granted, it was relatively low traffic, but I was once again gripped with road bike anxiety. Surprisingly, I was much better riding this time than the time I tried the Serotta. Even D noticed the difference.

Everything was going well until we headed up the hill. I tried shifting, the chain didn't quite catch, and I fell. Thank goodness I wasn't in clipless pedals! I deliberately requested platform pedals for the test ride in case I dinged up the bike. I landed on my feet and the bike was unscathed. Phew! I was on a pretty steep incline and I was almost at the top, so I pushed it up the rest of the way.

Next came a descent. I forgot to go down into the drops, and hurtled down this hill trying to brake from the hoods. There was waaaay too much braking going on because this was before I learned how to descent properly. Let's just say my forearms got a great workout that day. The rest of the ride was fine.

I didn't end up buying a bike that day. All other things being equal, however, I would highly recommend test riding and buying one from Chain Reaction. The guys there are just super. They were ready to bend over backwards to make sure the bike would fit. For example, I asked how they could raise the handlebars to be higher than seat level and they said they'd swap out the stem, no problem. Unfortunately they don't price match (for instance, they wouldn't match the sale prices that Mike's Bikes was having that weekend) but I'd ask anyway just in case they ever change their policy.

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