A New Tri Bike & the Bike Buying Process

Exciting news: there’s a new member of the Breaux household and she’s a beauty!

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This is the 2013 Felt DA4W.  It’s taken me about six months to shop around for this bike (no joke!).  I knew the perfect bike would appear, I was just waiting for it.  Once I saw this one at the store, I knew I liked it, and while test riding it I had a big smile on my face – sold!   Even better, I got her on discount since it was a “scratch & dent” show model.  Basically, the bike has been used in photo shoots, so it’s not considered “new” anymore, and was discounted $700, which is pretty sweet since there are no signs of scratches or dents.  Works for me!

Oh yeah, and Kona Champion Miranda Carfae rides a Felt DA4, so I think I’m pretty much Kona ready by default now Winking smile   I’ll just need to accessorize like hers (as seen here).

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Decision Criteria for Buying a Tri Bike

I haven’t bought a bike in about eight years, so I did a lot of research to get the right, quality bike within my budget.  My decision criteria & how the Felt DA4 fit each is listed below:

  • Components – Shimano Ultegra level or better.  I know I won’t have to shift as much in triathlons, but my two road bikes are equipped with Shimano 105/Ultegra mix and Campy Record, so I didn’t want to go down in quality significantly.  I knew Ultegra would do a solid job.  Felt DA4: Ultegra.
  • Aesthetic / Uniqueness – I know looks shouldn’t be important, but I wanted a great looking bike, maybe slightly feminine, and the one thing I said was NO red.  My road bike is red and I’m a little sick of it.  I think it’s fun to have a bike that’s a little different too; if anything it’s sometimes a conversation starter and way to meet new people!  Felt DA4: Love the look, slightly girly but fast and I haven’t seen it all over the place.  I don’t care that much about women’s specific fit (it’s just marketing really), other than for the colors.
  • Price – while I wanted to get something nice and quality, I didn’t want to go overboard.  There were plenty of brands in the $1,5000 – $3,000 range, but past that, there seemed to be a huge jump to really fancy bikes.  I wasn’t willing to make that jump, and a lot of people recommend a cheaper bike frame and a nice set of wheels instead of a ridiculously expensive bike anyway.  Felt DA4: got it on sale!
  • Frame / Ride Quality – I wanted to test ride the bikes I was serious about; I don’t know how you measure this category other than by feel & internet research – I used Bike Radar a lot for reviews on aerodynamics, comfort, weight and general ride quality.  Felt DA4: love the feel so far, test rode it twice and DA series is supposed to be Felt’s premier line of TT/Tri bikes, with a great aero set up and is one of the lighter tri bikes around (I know – aero is more important, but I still don’t want to be pushing a heavy bike around).
  • Place of Purchase – I watched and really considered ebay or online since there are a lot of great deals, but in an ideal world, I was hoping to buy from a local bike shop, not only to support local, but also to get supported locally!  It’s nice to be able to go in and ask questions and have somewhere to go for help.  Felt DA4: bought it from Bicycle World & Fitness Houston, where they have a six month free maintenance period and ongoing help with bike fit after purchase.
  • Wheels – I assumed most bikes I’d get would have wheels that I’d later trade out.  Felt DA4: comes with TTR3 wheels which is a bonus; these aren’t the fanciest wheels around but are aero and are “pretty darn good” according to some forums I read, so I’m going to use them for awhile at least before upgrading.

So I’m really happy with my purchase.  While I haven’t taken her on a proper ride yet, I have my bike fit next week and can’t wait to ride next weekend, then I can give you a full report on it.  A couple other cool/interesting things about this bike, pictured clockwise from top left: TTR3 aero wheels, cool top tube with racer strip (love this), integrated stem, and rear brake tucked under bottom bracket area (never seen this). 

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Other Bikes Considered

I did a bunch of research on a number of different brands of bikes; and these are my thoughts after test riding and checking out a few.  Remember, this my very limited opinion with help from bike shop employees and internet research, so this should be taken with a grain of salt coming from someone getting their FIRST tri bike and does care about how it looks:

  • Cervelo P2/P3 – obviously great bikes (#1 in the bike count Kona by a land slide, ridden by so many pros & age groupers alike), and at a pretty good value.  My only qualm with Cervelos were that so many people I knew had them, and while they’re great bikes, no one I talked seemed super excited about theirs.  I tested a P2 and P3 and the P2 didn’t feel the best (twitchy maybe?) and the P3 had an okay ride.
  • Cannondale Slice – I have a Cannondale road bike (my first bike!) that’s been true to me through the years, but I didn’t have great luck finding a Cannondale Slice at a bike shop that was my size to test, but they’re all over the place online for pretty good prices.  I wasn’t in love with their 2012 neon green frame, but I thought the lighter blue 2013 frame was okay.  I loved Beth Walsh’s custom painted one, however, Cannondale doesn’t do custom paint generally. 
  • Specialized Shiv – I test rode this and it felt great and so smooth, but was above my price range.  I liked it okay, but felt that the wide frame was more masculine than I wanted. 
  • Trek – I didn’t visit too many shops that had Treks; I saw less than optimal reviews on the Trek 2.5, but the Trek 7 was a big jump in price. 
  • Argon – I would have tried these if I had the chance; I read online that Argons were a bit weightier than others, but I have a friend that loves his. 
  • Orbea / Look / BMC  – beautiful bikes, but very expensive!  Plus, I think I like these better as road bikes, I don’t know why.
  • Quintana Roo – The white & black 2012 Illicito looks so cool, but is crazy expensive.  They had some much more affordable options and I know a number of girls in my swim group like their QRs.  I see QRs at triathlons all the time and the CD.01 would have probably been an option if it weren’t camo-colored.
  • Scott – Supposed to be very light, but not as comfortable of a ride over long distances.  I didn’t fall in love with the gray color schemes, very boy-ish.

There are a number of others out there, these are just a few I looked at.  Am I way off on any of these?  Do you have a tri bike you absolutely love?  I’d love to hear what everyone else thinks too.

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7 thoughts on “A New Tri Bike & the Bike Buying Process

  1. This is so exciting & well deserved after 8 years! (that’s a long time!!). Have you gotten new pedals? I too fall for a bike partially by their appearance. I like how yours have that bright blue that stands out. I hope I have the guts to try a Tri one day!

    1. Thanks! I’m just going to use a set of spd pedals that are sitting on my old road bike for now. Yeah, I love the way it looks… Can’t wait to try out the aero position will take some getting used to!

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