Buying The Best Bike and Gear,

Bicycle Touring 

873 words

Title: Buying The Best Bike and Gear; by Terry Connellan

Buying The Best Bike and Gear, The WONDERBIKE!

I wish I had a nickel for each time I've been asked "Which 
is the best bike to buy?" At one time I'd respond with a 
long convoluted answer, unwilling to mislead the questioner, 
or offend friends in the bike business. 

Then I went to the other extreme, "What color do you like 
best?  Blue? Good, get the blue one."
 
I have two touring bikes, a "pricey" Cannondale T-1000 
I rode to Yellowknife the summer of 1992, and the GRIZ,
that I acquired last year, and rode for 7,000kms. The 
GRIZ ranks second in  affection to the "WONDERBIKE!" 

The wonderbike is a Fire Engine Red (my daughter Elizabeth's 
racing colors) 1986 BRC Megatour that couldn't have cost 
more than $500, new. It carried me and my gear for over 
40,000kms. Of the six I've acquired since 1980 it may well 
turn out to be the best bike I will ever own. 
         
On the Alaska, Stewart-Cassiar, Dempster, and Klondike 
Highways, it never let me down. It carried me over the 
length of, the Kettle Valley and the Boundary Sub-division 
abandoned railway beds, Nova Scotia's, Cabot Trail, 
and the backroads of the countries best bicycling 
province, Quebec. The WONDER BIKE has carried 
my aging body everywhere I've asked it to. 

It started life with 18 speeds, and today has 15 because the 
bike shop in Merritt, British Columbia only had a 5 gear 
cluster when I blew out the 6 gear on the Coquihalla 
Highway in 1991. 
           
I've lost count of the number of chains, tires, fenders, and 
other components replaced over time, but if you were to 
ask me the big question today, I'd reply "get a wonderbike." 
          
How do you get your own wonderbike?  Assuming that you're 
not a fall off the mountain, knuckle-dragger, that you only 
want to urban commute and weekend recreate and, once you 
screw up your courage with a little experience, wish to do some 
backroad touring, here is the plan.  

Set aside $500 for the bike, and another $200 for the extra 
equipment you must have; helmet, gloves, shoes, Lycra shorts, 
BLT light system, mirror, fenders, a side-flag, and a copy of 
John Foresters book "Effective Cycling." 

Do you have a favorite color? Good, keep it in mind, because 
you're going to use this bike for a long, long time and the color 
will add to your enjoyment.        
           
The first step is to do your homework. If you're in Canada 
dial 1-800-663-2667 to the Mountain Equipment Co-Op in 
Vancouver and ask them to send you a current catalogue. 
If you haven't been able to find Effective Cycling they can 
supply it. They don't sell bikes, but stand behind all the 
accessories they do sell. 

If you are in the USA, your best bet is REI in Seattle.

Your wonderbike should have a chromoly mountain bike 
frame and the fit is very important. Ask the sales people 
to tell you what size you need, then shop around until 
you're hearing the same size recommendation from 
all of them, and you understand how it is determined. 
           
There are some changes you need made to that "bike 
in stock" that can be done without cost. Any refusal to 
do so, and you are out the door. Number of speeds? It 
doesn't matter whether there are 15, 18, 21or 24 as long 
as the low gear is under 20 inches and the high gear 
is around 95 to 100 inches. 

Tires; tell them to get rid of the 2 inch plus knobbies 
and change to 1.5 or 1.6 inch wide city slickers. 

This is no time to be politically correct, if you're a 
woman get a woman's seat. It has a wider back 
and shorter neck. If the salesman demurs, offer 
him an on-the-spot gender change.

Any good dealer will agree to cut the handle bars 
to shoulder width. Later you may wish to add a pair 
of low cost "steer horns" for touring. Take the 
straps out of the toe clips until your feet teach 
your head how to use them. 

A couple of tips; buy from a dealer. Stay away from 
swap shops, discounters and department stores. 
This is not an impulse purchase, it's an investment. 
This is a buyers market, so take your time. The good 
bike shops will provide no cost service for up to a 
year, and put it in writing.    

The Mountain Co-Op, and REI? Ah yes, use the 
catalogue as a guide to accessory prices. It will 
help you separate the good guy's bike shop, 
you've come to know and trust, from those who 
mislead. 
        
Whatever happened to the WONDERBIKE! Terry? 
Funny you should ask. In 1995 it took on a new life. 
Adorned with a photograph taken at the Arctic 
Circle Monument, and carrying the original panniers, 
now faded to dusky pink from the original bright red, 
it became a display on the floor of the Vancouver 
Mountain Equipment Co-Op. 

In the spring of 1997 it was moved to their new 
flagship store in Calgary, Alberta. The 
WONDERBIKE! lives on. 

Terry Connellan is a veteran long distance cycle 
tourer who occasionally shares his adventures. 
He freely admits to having made every nonfatal 
mistake on the way to acquiring a significant bank 
of cycling know-how. 



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