Buying The Best Bike and Gear,
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
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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