's Forum Archives - General

Archive Home >> General(1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 )

New bike hunt frustration.(50 posts)

New bike hunt frustration.Mike Tea
Oct 31, 2003 1:04 PM
I'm possibly in the market for a new high end roadbike and my recent search has left me with only frustration.

I've got a fairly good idea what I'm interested in and have narrowed it down to two bikes. So, of course I browse their websites for info and local dealers.

Of course websites only provide written word propaganda, specs and pictures and actually seeing a bike in the flesh (or in carbon in this case) and test riding one will provide much more information as in "Is this the bike I want to drop my 5K (canadian) on and ride for the next x-years?"

So the next step is to phone a few local dealers.

This is how it goes -
"Hi do you have a XXXX in stock?"
"Errr, nossirr we don't."
"When could you have one in that I could see and ride?"
"Errr you'd have to come in and order it sir and we don't allow test rides."
"Ahhh I have to buy it sight unseen because you don't want to tie up your money and I can't even RIDE it?"
"That's correct sir."
"Errr I get to test drive an in-stock XXX car for 1/2 a day before I plunk down my 40K though!"
"That's the rules sir and all bike shops are like that."
"But how do I know how it will ride?"
"Do you know Pinarellos?"
"Errr I've seen them."
"Well it's better than that sir."
"What do you ride now sir?"
"Ummm a Masi."
"Ohh it will be MUCH better than that! (him not knowing which model I've got, what material and the age of it)
"Let me get this straight. I have 4-5K to spend on a bike and I have never seen one in the "carbon" and you expect me to pay upfront so you don't have to tie up YOUR money in a demo?"
"Yessirr that's correct."
"Ho-kayyyy, thannnnnk you!" I say and hang up.

Is this why mailorder places are booming? If I can't see and ride the flippin' bike I may as well browse the 'net for the cheapest price.

Am I being unreasonable? How ARE top-end bikes bought & sold? What IS the purpose of the LBS?
re: New bike hunt frustration.No_sprint
Oct 31, 2003 1:27 PM
That's why it's real good to have a seriously true roadie shop around. Here in SoCal we're lucky to have plenty. Get to know them and they'll work with ya. I don't know where you are, however, perhaps you have one or more in your vicinity. Many will deal with you and a deposit. Hopefullly they're not strapped to have to stick it to you. Several around here will take some of your money and order you something. Should you not want it, they'll stock it and order you something else, all along as you stick with them.
Tell meafrican
Oct 31, 2003 1:55 PM
is Canada the 51st state?
No, Canada is the land of the free (nm)ismellcabbage
Oct 31, 2003 2:16 PM
True. And the US is the land of the Brave butafrican
Oct 31, 2003 2:26 PM
not free, as Bush has us all in his grip. Imagine bush is in charge, he he.
re: New bike hunt frustration. EXACTLYcollectorvelo
Oct 31, 2003 2:03 PM
This is one of the reason I like buying online (bikes and other items also).
But watch out! there are many bike dealers on this broad who are about to log on and tell you to not buy a new bike on EBAY, Supergo, Bikesdirect, Coloradocyclist, or anywhere expect a 'real bike shop' {and the lower the prices offered by any seller the more they will slam their products!}
The LBS guys in my area are very nice; but they will not stock Track bikes, DuraAce bikes, Touring bikes, Cross Bikes, Womens road bikes, Reynolds 853 bikes, or any sizes other than 54, 56, and 58. Everything else is Order up front and pay - no returns
go figure how these shops will last
How close to the US are you?andy02
Oct 31, 2003 2:33 PM
All of the shops I have worked with have order stuff for me to try out first.

And we are Capitalist that can buy are least if you have enough money!
what's the big deal?gtx
Oct 31, 2003 2:42 PM
If you're dropping that kind of cash I'd expect you know what will fit you. What else is there to know? At that price point you can't really mess up if it fits and you've done the most basic kind of research in terms of quality issues, geometry, handling, etc. Test rides aren't always that helpful, unless somehow the bike is perfectly dialed in for you (something which usually takes days or even weeks). Most shops are just scraping by and can't afford to stock every frame in every size and color. They certainly can't afford to build up a high end frame just cause some guy off the street wants to take it for a test ride.
My LBS gave me a spare tube and pump ...RoyGBiv
Oct 31, 2003 2:55 PM
... just in case I got a flat while out on a test ride. He assumed I'd take it out for a couple of hours just to be sure. And, if I recall I did two test rides on two different bikes from two different shops that day.
GTX is right, though, you can't expect your local bike shop to have every size and colour option. And I'd bet you'd get a better reception if you went to your LBS in person, rather than trying to broker a deal over the phone.
My LBS gave me a spare tube and pump ...Mike Tea
Oct 31, 2003 3:10 PM
you can't expect your local bike shop to have every size and colour option

I never said I expected that. The bikes come in one color only - carbon. Plus I'm the most popular size - M (55cm).

I have a Seven bike. Their dealers must stock two of their bikes - they told me that.

And I'd bet you'd get a better reception if you went to your LBS in person, rather than trying to broker a deal over the phone.

I just got off the phone with another dealer. He fully understands and will call the maker on Monday to see if a demo can be shipped to him. THAT'S the kind of service that gets MY money.
In person, not on phoneChainstay
Nov 1, 2003 10:26 AM
If you want a shop to work with you by advising you on sizing and setup and to arrange a test ride then they need to know that you will buy a bike from them. If you phone they figure that I've never seen this guy before, I help him out with a test ride and if he likes it then he will phone around or buy the bike on line.
tell us wher e you aretoomanybikes
Oct 31, 2003 3:06 PM
The people on this board can direct you to good shops in your area - some of us are in Canada too!
1.5 hrs west of Toronto. {nmm}Mike Tea
Oct 31, 2003 3:23 PM
1.5 hrs west of Toronto. {nmm}toomanybikes
Oct 31, 2003 3:27 PM
I'd take a trip into the big smoke and go see La Bicicletta, good starting point.

I think they are now on Castlefield.

Check the address at
Pack up your cash, go to Toronto and deal for what is in stock..Spunout
Oct 31, 2003 7:47 PM
you'll get a better price, and service if needed. LaBicicletta has great inventory (Colnagos, Merlins) or phone around to RacerSportif, etc. What are you looking for? I can tell you what is in Ottawa: Nice Bianchi EV4s, Looks, Casati, etc. Let me know your size and I'll run down what I've seen lately michaeldNOSPAMATiosphereDOTnet
Couple of good shops in HamiltonRoyGBiv
Oct 31, 2003 3:47 PM
Central Cycle - sells Colnago, Marinoni, KHS, Argon 18 (he raced for Canada in the Olympics in the seventies.)

Pieriks (sp?) - sells Cannondale, Specialized, others
1.5 hrs west of Toronto. {nmm}witcomb
Oct 31, 2003 4:27 PM
Also, try Dornella's in just east of Toronto in scarbough, they had some nice bikes at the bike blowout the other week.

- Neil
go visit Mary Ann in MTL..._rt_
Nov 3, 2003 6:15 AM
and go to the shop Mike works at! kill lots of birds with one drive (so to speak), visit MA and Mike, visit your offspring who are living dans la belle province, test ride & buy a bike!


Ahhh..............Mike Tea
Nov 3, 2003 7:39 AM
.....I've been talking to Ma on this very subject and I *was* up in Montreal last week but unable to connect with her due to family duties.

bg's store sells Trek and Guru as their top line stuff. I'm not terribly interested in a Trek (good enough for Lance but not for moi!) and she was gonna get him to give me a price on the top line Gurus.

We'll see what transpires. Thanks for your interest! My quest continues and I'm just about to phone Cervelo in Toronto any minute. Tyler did wonders on one of those so maybe it will improve me ;o)
Be a big boy and buy on lineterry b
Oct 31, 2003 3:33 PM
I've bought all my bikes via the internet. If I held out for test rides and putting my hands on them, I'd be limited to middle of the pack Treks. One of the major benefits of the web is that it grants you access to products you'd never be able to have otherwise. Very few bike shops are going to be willing to order a frame such as you're describing and then watch it turn to dust when you decide you don't like it and no other customers are fortcoming.

If you know what you need, and know how a frame fits you, buy the darn thing, save some money and start enjoying it.
I work in and around the car biz.....Lone Gunman
Oct 31, 2003 6:01 PM
Did you know that 95% of the biz done by the local Porsche, Audi dealership is done on the phone? No test drives, little to no negotiation, just "This is what I want, this is what I have, the keys will be in that vehicle, drop off the new one..." Test rides are overrated, really when you get above $2500 for a full bike, you are splitting hairs on the differences and may not be able to discern one brand from another.

The local LBS purpose is to sell bikes to the general populus that knows little to nothing about bikes except their kid likes the red one. You, wanting to spend 4-5G's on a bike makes you an elitist, why would the shop stock that bike just for a smidge of populus that might buy one every 5-6years? Not good biz sense for the shop that is just scrapping by. You want high end equip, better to shop the net. I suspect deep down you know what you want, riding it just puts you a little closer to saying I'll take it. So look at or a few other high end sites like and find what you want and buy.
Couldn't disagree more....lyleseven
Oct 31, 2003 7:05 PM
The car business is decidedly different than the bike business. Most cars can be purchased without a test ride because you don't need any special fitting, unless you are a midget or a giant! If you are going to spend 4-5K on a bike you want to know how it fits, rides, etc. Many brands the same size (supposedly) fit different depending upon geometry, stems, handlebars, etc. Buying on line is great as long as you have test ridden something that fits you. There can be huge differences between two bikes costing 5K. Many LBS do carry high end bikes. In fact, many bike shops carry more high end than low end shops as the bike business has scaled upwards in terms of selection and price over the past few years. Of course, there are shops that only carry a few models and the mass produced bikes, but that isn't the shop you want to buy from in the first place. There are plenty of upscale bike shops that carry many sizes and options to test ride. If you consider spending 5-6K to be the mark of an "elitist", then you should know that there are thousands and thousands of "elitists" out there!
If I'm dropping 5large, I EXPECT, no DEMAND a test ride!TNRyder
Nov 1, 2003 5:21 AM
I'm finicky about these things. While working with my insurance co. to replace my broken Specialized, they threatened me with a buying service to replace my bike with one of "comperable value". They could not get Specialized so they wanted to steer me towards Cannondale. Cannondale makes great bikes, but I just don't care for the way their lower end bikes ride compared to Specialized's lower end bikes (around $1000). Tiny things can make a big difference in ride!
You are spot ondgangi
Oct 31, 2003 10:40 PM
Your analysis of the high end bike market is spot on in my opinion. I have been going through the exact same struggle as you, but for a high end XC mountain bike (fortunately for me, I found the road bike I wanted at an LBS, which was a mid-level Ultegra bike).

Try and find any high-end mountain bike to demo at a dealership, especially the "boutique" brands. You can forget it.

Titus Racer-X (only can demo one if you live near the plant in Tempe, AZ)
Foes FXC (out of production now...but try to find *any* Foes!)
Giant NRS Air (NRS1, but no Air)
Intense Spider
Ventana El Fuego
K2 Razorback SL (Team, but no SL's)
KHS XC904R (704, but no 904)

The *only* high end bikes I found at any dealership are the Trek Fuel 100 and Specialized S-Works, the 2 biggest brands in the business. For what it's worth, I didn't like either bike but at least I was able to demo them.

I have asked just about every shop how I can demo the high end bikes. They all say "sorry, special order only".

Why would I want to plunk down $3-$5k on a bike sight unseen??? I want to be able to touch, feel, and handle the bike before deciding to buy it. Even a crummy parking-lot test spin will give me an idea whether or not the bike fits me, if I like the geometry, and how the bike handles.

So if the bike I want is only available special-order through an LBS -- and at full price -- why wouldn't I want to shop on-line and get the best price possible? At least then if I get the bike and hate it I will be in the hole for less money.

YOU are spot on!Mike Tea
Nov 1, 2003 3:38 AM
"if the bike I want is only available special-order through an LBS -- and at full price"

Ooooo my pet peave! Why do shops who don't stock a certain thing but are willing to order it almost always insist on charging full retail? It's a in & out done-deal for god's sake. They don't even have to pay interest on the money tied up in the part (or bike) while it sits on the shelf (or floor) for six months.

What they should do is to charge maybe 10% above their cost for their trouble.

This is the verbal exchange with my LBS the last time I shopped there, about ten years ago -

"Do you have a Campagnolo bottom bracket, xxx model & size?
"No but I can get one in a week or two."
"How much?"
"Errr, ummm, it looks like $150canadian." Says she while looking in the parts book.

So I phone 80 miles up the road to another store in Toronto.

"Do you have a Campagnolo bottom bracket xxx model & size?
"Yep, got it right here eh."
"How much?"
"$99 sir."
"Good, how can you send it to me?"
"Errr I can throw it on the Greyhound, you'll have it tomorrow."
"Done. Thanks. You Da Man."

No wonder I let my fingers do the walking in ALL my shopping now - and 98% of that is mailorder from across the border.

I like this paragraph you wrote -

"Why would I want to plunk down $3-$5k on a bike sight unseen??? I want to be able to touch, feel, and handle the bike before deciding to buy it......."

Precisely! Having a bike in stock that we can touch and drool over fills one of our basic needs doesn't it? The need to dream and make the "impulse purchase" (wrong phrase but you know what I mean).

It also shows committment on the part of the dealer for such a bike (or part). How much faith do they have in the product that they rep if they can't even have ONE in stock? They don't have the confidence or committment to lay out their money but they expect ME to?

Sorry, but I'll NEVER buy from a place like that.
customer is always right blah blah blah...gtx
Nov 1, 2003 9:47 AM
Try running a bike shop like you say and keeping your head above water. 99 out of 100 guys who come in drooling over stuff and talking big don't buy anything. I've seen plenty of shops that stocked a lot of high end stuff and had great customer service go out of business. Regarding special order the statement "What they should do is to charge maybe 10% above their cost for their trouble" is so unrealistic it's funny.

btw, are you MikeT from
I would have to disagree..gav
Nov 1, 2003 3:28 PM
I think that shops are fully justified in charging full price AND a deposit for special orders, especially hard to find ones.. First of all, the shop owner would definitely prefer that the customer buy a product off the floor because that stuff IS what is sitting around accumulating interest.. So if the staff has to order an item, that obviously isn't happening.. I think that a pet peeve for store owners would be why can't the customer buy what the store has in stock rather than making us special order it and then complaining about the price? The profit margin for an item that is special ordered would also be alot less because there wouldn't be any discounts on it, there may be a special order fee, and shipping would cost more for that item than if it were part of an existing order.. If the item has to cross the border because the company doesn't have a canadian distributer, duties and taxes would have to be factored in as well. And of course, you also get the customers that flake out on you once the item is in stock, not to mention that the customers that make you order stuff tend to be more of a pain in the butt in general.. I think that rather than you thinking that you're doing stores a favour by making them special order stuff for you, you should see it as them doing you a favour because it really is a pain in the butt to order stuff.. And having them order something for you over the phone AND expeciting give it to you at cost + 10% because you're a nice guy is delusional. There's no guarantee that the staff even gets that price buying from the store (non pro-deal)
With that attitude...dgangi
Nov 1, 2003 5:41 PM
Any shop that shares the attitude displayed in the previous post deserves to go out of business IMHO.

You are basically telling me that the small amount of hassle a dealer must endure is not worth $5K that I want to spend on a custom bike?? What kind of business sense is that?

If the LBS model is not set up to accommodate people like me who want a high end bike without screwing me on the price AND charging me up-front without a test ride, then the LBS model is broken and I will do all of my business on the Internet.

The point of an LBS was to give me local service with a hands-on approach (as I can put my hands on what I am buying *before* I buy it). If the hands-on approach is removed from the LBS, what advantage do they give me over Internet shopping?? None. In fact, it the LBS is worse as I get to pay FULL price and buy sight-unseen.

I cannot see any justification for such a crazy business model.

With those expectations..gav
Nov 1, 2003 6:14 PM
Just for the record, I don't own or even work at a bike shop, but have worked in high-end outdoor retail that did alot special orders.. I hate to break this to you, but in your other post, you were looking at 7 different bikes, did you expect a store to order in all 7, build them up and let you test ride them so that you could, at best buy one at a discount?? And what would the store do with the other 6? Keep them on the floor and hope they sell as lightly used?? And if you're still trying to decide between 7 bikes, I'm afraid that you really don't know what you want and a test ride really wouldn't help very much.. I could be wrong, but what I think that you might also need to remember is that special orders for a store isn't like borrowing a book from the library, the chances are that the store can't just send it back if the customer doesn't want it.. Sometimes the store can work something out where the rep will drop off a sample, or the distributer will take it back, but no guarantees, especially if you want a specific size and model.. And until you've actually worked at a store that does special orders, you have no idea how many tire kickers there are out there that have no problems with ordering something in and not taking it, or not even coming down to look at it if the store doesn't charge a deposit.. If a store ordered stuff in without a deposit for every customer just because they asked, it wouldn't last very long. Especially if the person is just calling on the phone. So before you start saying that stores are screwing you, you might want to think about what you're doing to the store if you don't take what you order and they can't send it back.. That being said, if you have a good relationship with the store, they will usually try to help you out.. And for the record, I do buy alot of things online, and don't special order from a store unless I know exactly what I want and am willing to pay MSRP.. Even though I know what cost is and what the margins are..
You are completely missing the pointdgangi
Nov 1, 2003 8:41 PM
It appears you just don't get my original point. I am not expecting a single store to carry all 7 bikes that I was shopping for. Why would you even say such a thing? No store in the world is going to carry all 7 brands, let alone these particular bikes.

I DO expect that the KHS dealer can get me a 904 to demo; the Foes dealer can get me an FXC to try; the Titus dealer can get me a Racer-X; the Giant dealer an NRS Air; etc. etc. etc. I expect that the 7 bikes on my list require me to travel to 7 different bike shops.

If the LBS has to call on the local rep to get me a demo of the bike I want to try, then that's their job. I personally don't care how or where the bike comes from...I want to try it out before I am going to spend 1 red cent on it.

If the dealers can't get me the bike I am interested in, then they should just admit that I am not their target market and direct me to go to another shop that caters to people like me...including custom on-line shops -- Speedgoat, Wrenchscience, Hammerhead, etc. But for them to expect me to hand over my cash for a bike sight unseen, then they can forget it. And when I told a few of the local bike shops that I was shocked that they expected me to do so, they acted like I was crazy.

Let's see. I get to try my car before I buy it. I get to watch a TV before I buy it. I get to listen to stereo speakers before I buy them. I didn't buy my house sight unseen. I try my clothes on before buying them. So why is a bike so special?

Tire kicker or not...I want to see what I am buying before I buy it. I am still in shock that anybody could defend such shaky business practices. You make it sound like the LBS has to go through so much trouble to get a bike. If that truly is the case, then something is wrong with the industry...

Doug, 98% of all the bike shops in the US don't cater to...russw19
Nov 1, 2003 10:50 PM
the high end market.

For most shops, their bread and butter is in bikes ranging from $300 to $600. And I sell 20 $300 bikes for every $3000 bike I sell. And the funny thing is that the shop I work at is over twice as profitable because of it.

High end bikes are fun to sell, to the right customer, but for the most part, they are a pain in the ass. Sure, it's nice to build them and test ride them, but then they sit on the showroom floor for months costing a lot of revenue because of it. That's the same reason most shops don't bother to stock them. And if you came to my shop and said "call your rep so I can demo one" I would just laugh at you. You have to understand that you are half the equation in the bike buying process, but that also means you have to give and take just like the shop. I would gladly order the bike for you, but I am not going to waste my time calling my rep so you can take a $4000 bike for a joy ride. Either you want the bike and will buy it, or not. But I don't care one way or the other because it's way too easy to sell a $300 bike to a first time bike buyer. And it takes about 1/3rd to 1/2 the time it would take me to sell a high end bike.

Here's the ugly breakdown from the shop's perspective... I figure if I explain it to you, you will either understand more when you deal with the shop, or you are going to think I am an ass... either way, not a big deal to me. But I am not trying to bust on you or anyone else when I say what I am going to say, so don't take it as anything other than an eye opener for you guys.

Shops would rather sell 10 $300 bikes than 1 $3000 bike. First, that's 9 more bikes under happy customers. Next, a customer who buys a $300 bike is much more likely to pay with cash or check. Every $3000 bike I sell, if the customer pays with a Visa or M/C, I just lost about $100 right off the bat, more if they use Discover. But not too many people drop 3 grand in cash at the shop, but 3 hundred is another story. Next, it is way easier for a shop to hold a margin on a $300 to $500 bike. Add that to the fact that most shops will sell mid-level bikes at a ratio of 10:1 over high-end bikes means more profit for the shop. Thrid, every single product on the showroom floor is costing the shop money everyday. The longer it sits, the more it costs. High end bikes sit longer than low end bikes unless they were special ordered. The more they sit, the less you make on them, plus it may take a hefty discount to move them. Now, you can just as easily get a feel for Lemond's geometry on the Tourmalet as you can for the Tete d' Course (2 bikes we sell)but I am not going to stock a Tete d' Course for someone to joyride. If you want one, I will get it for you, but I won't stock it.

Next, not saying you, but most customers who take out the high-end bikes for rides are simply joy riding them. I can think of better things to stock if that's the case. Lastly, most shops are not run by rich people or mega corporations... they have a specific budget as to what they can spend, and like you shopping on the net for best prices, the shop has to stretch their dollar as far as they can as well. That generally doesn't include stocking lots of high end bikes. What you will usually see is employee or shop owners bikes as the high-end bikes in the shop. My Pinarello is always available for you to check out at my shop on weekends when I ride it to work, and my boss has his Tete d' Course sitting in the shop, but we don't stock high end bikes. It's just not worth it.

Now after all that, there are a few shops in the country that specifically cater to the ultra elite, but most shops don't. Most shops are in the business to sell bikes to first or second time bike buyers. The majority of customers in any bike shop across the country are not the type of person you find on these boards, and they are not buying the bikes you all are talking about. For you guys to demand a shop carries high end bikes to demo is li
Interesting insight russw19. Thanks. nmNatC
Nov 2, 2003 5:56 AM
Thanks for the insight Russdgangi
Nov 2, 2003 6:57 AM
Thanks for the insight you just provided. Obviously, the bike dealers need to swing for the "sweet spot" to make the most money, and the sweet spot as you mention is low-mid range bikes. I'm sure the $500 bikes move 20 times more than a $5000 bike.

My main gripe is not that my LBS does not carry the bike I want, it's that they expect that I will happily purchase an expensive bike sight unseen. I've already had this conversation with many bike shops:

"I'd like to try out bike XYZ"

LBS: "Sorry, we don't carry those in the shop but you can always special order one"

"Well, what if I want to try one first?"

LBS: "It doesn't work that way. We don't stock such high end bikes. All we can do is special order the bike. All I need is a credit card desposit. Trust me, you're gonna LOVE bike xyz"

"Well, how do I know I'm going to love it? I want to see if it will fit, how it rides, etc"

LBS: "Read the reviews - bike xyz is the bike to have this year. Order one and you will not be disappointed"

"Ok, so I have to pay $4000 for a bike and I don't get to try it first?"

LBS: "That's right. If you want this other model, I have one coming in next week"

"What size will I need? Based on the literature, the size small looks like it may be too small...and the medium might be a bit too big. Proper fit is important, you know..."

LBS: "You are a medium, trust me. But if you like a shorter tube, then get the small"

"So how do I really know if I cannot ride them to decide?"

LBS: "Just take my advice and use the type of bike that you like as the determining factor. If you are an aggressive rider, then you might want the small..."

With a situation like this I am supposed to happily pay $4000 for the bike and take a "risk" on getting a bike of the wrong size? Can you see, from a customer standpoint, why this is maddening? What would you say to a car dealer if they gave you this same line?

If the LBS's can't cater to people like me, then why can't they just admit it and point me to the high-end on-line shops OR another shop that does cater to high end people? They want to have their cake and eat it too -- sell low end bikes by the droves but also get people like me to hand over a wad of cash to get an expensive bike.

Sorry if I sound like I am so frustrated...but I am. I have never been so frustrated in my life as with this recent attempt to purchase a high-end mountain bike. It looks like I am going to take a risk and order one on-line. I still have to get the bike sight-unseen, but at least I can save some money in the process...

Perfect.Mike Tea
Nov 2, 2003 7:25 AM
My feelings exactly. Since my inital post and thanks to RoyGBiv above I found that Central bike shop in Hamilton Ont has BOTH the bikes in stock that I'm considering AND the right size too!

Guess who's going to get a visit on Monday? No it's not the three shops that told me I'd have to plunk down the green before I'd even get to see one. Oh yeah I can understand their situation perfectly but two of those shops couldn't understand mine.

Note to yourself - if you're at all considering a "sight unseen" purchase and spending that much money then consider a custom builder with the ultimate in custom fit program and I'll suggest Seven Cycles.

I nervously went that route 5 years ago and couldn't be happier. Their experience, fit kit and CAD program guarantee that the bike will fit you like a glove. And yes I'm considering another one this time around too.
No ones perfect. On occasion they fit like OJ gloves:) nmdivve
Nov 2, 2003 8:44 AM
Be Realistic, and find a shop you trust...hackmechanic
Nov 2, 2003 8:55 AM
Say you wanted a Pinarello Dogma Ego, but were unsure between the 55cm and the 56cm. You really expect your LBS to bring in two of these bikes to make your choice? This is a much bigger ticket item and by your reasoning they should have this bike in a 55 and 56 and 57 just to be sure, and then spec all three with different crank lengths and bar widths, because you are about to spend a lot of money and how can they possibly expect you to buy something without seeing it and test riding it?

Buying a bike is a process. There are steps. Get fit first. If you don't know what length of top tube you need you shouldn't be buying a $5000 bike anyway because even the best fitter will only be able to tell you what the math says and you're the one who will make the ultimate decision about what feels good. Anyway, get fit properly and include looking at your existing bike to figure out what works for you. This means more than saddle height and reach, but figure out setback, stem length, saddle to bar drop, compare bars to rule out differences in reach to drop and reach beyond stem. Include seat angle in this equation. Once you've found your setback you may find that certain bikes won't work for you because the seat angle is too steep or too slack to work with conventional seatposts.

Once you know what works look at the geometry charts of the bikes you're interested in and find the one that works. Learn trig and work in mm's. Head tube length is a measurement that is often overlooked, make sure that the headtube is tall/short enough to put the bars where you want them without using too many spacers. If you like a lot of drop you'll find certain frames won't work simply because the head tube is too tall.

As per your conversation regarding small vs medium sizing and not being sure about which is better, this shouldn't be an issue once you have fit sorted. And with any manufacturer only offering s,m,l,xl sizing, you might find they don't have a bike for you. You shouldn't have to order one and see it to figure that out, and I don't blame your LBS for not wanting to bring it in just for you to see.

Any bike in your price range is going to be pretty good. There is nothing a test ride will tell you to make your purchase any easier. You really can't tell much about a bike when taking a spin around the block or even on a quick 30 mile ride, except that it might not fit so well. At that level of bike purchase you really won't get a good feel for the bike until you've got about 1000kms on it. You'll be tweeking your position a bit here and there, maybe swap out a saddle or bar for something of a different shape, put in a hundred km ride with a stem and then swap it out for a 1cm shorter one and do another 100km ride to make a comparison. This is where your LBS will be invaluable, and why you might pay a little more than online, and where you'll find your zen experience with high end bikes.

I work with high end road bikes every day. I've had the pleasure of riding a number of different bikes from different manufacturers at the $5000+ level and even I wouldn't expect Pinarello or Colnago or any other manufacturer to send me a bike to try and ride before I bought it and I also realize that what you're demanding as a right before spending that much makes no difference to your ultimate happiness with what you're about to buy. With the right shop walking you through the process you won't go wrong but you're being completely unreasonable by expecting any shop to bring a bike of that caliber in just so you can take it for a spin around the block first.
I work in a shop, but I am a consumer too... so I understandrussw19
Nov 2, 2003 9:20 AM
My conversation with you at the shop would be simaler, but I would tell you I can order you the bike, but I would strongly suggest you do a lot of research first and make sure you know what you are getting. I would gladly loan out my bike to you for as long as you wanted to ride it, and my boss would do the same. If you are worried about size on a high end bike, my first thought would be to steer you well clear of any minimum sized compact bikes. I like Giant's Carbon TCR, but I hate the idea of it. Only 5 sizes (last I checked) is a bad idea. It's a huge deal to miss by a size. That is the whole reason behind Colnago or Pinarello or Serotta offering bikes in 1 cm increments. If you miss judge your size, it's not that devestating. You can adapt with more or less post and a stem swap. I like that idea personally. That is something I hate about compact geometry, among other things...

But I would tell you if you wanted a Pinarello to drive up to Jacksonville, Fl (85 miles away) and see if you could test ride one and get a quote, then if you wanted to order one, call me and see what I can get... at best, I get a better deal and you get the right size, at worst I tell you I can't match that deal and tell you to get it there. Not a big deal to me. I know I can't sell what I don't have, or at least it severely handicaps my ability to do so, if you find a better deal, I will tell you. That way you come back to us for your new helmet or shorts (accessories are where the money is in shops... the markups are higher than bikes) so our philosophy is to be truthful with you and you and your friends will come to us when you want honest answers. That said, the honest answer is that high end bikes are fun to sell, but rarely as profitable as you might think. And between stocking 1 bike that costs me 2 grand or 10 bikes that total 2 grand, I will choose to stock the 10 lower priced ones.

I understand your frustration, but I am willing to bet you are newer to this situation than your LBS. When you get frustrated at that phone call sit back and think how many times per day the shop has to hear it too. I have been thru that conversation... I tell the customer it's up to you to tell me what you need, not the other way around. I can point you to all the online geometry charts in the world and compare them to your current ride, but ultimately I want to hear the customer say "I need a 56!" before I order the 56. But with a bit of research and some patience, you can easily figure out what you need. When I bought my Colnago 3 years ago, I didn't ride it first. We opened the account with a 3 bike order... mine, a friend's, and one for stock (which we had for 13 months before it sold, btw.) Same was true last year when I wanted a Pinarello. 3 bike order... mine, a two for guys who race at U of Florida. I had to pick what size I wanted and what model I wanted site unseen. So I do understand it, but I know what I like and I know what fits me. I measured my old bike and looked at the charts...everyone may measure to different spots, but you can still figure it out. And for me, ride feel is an easy one... I like stiff bikes, so I tend to buy overbuilt aluminium frames.

So, point of story.. do your research and get a base idea, then go to someone who's opinions you trust and ask them if they agree with you. If so, you should be OK, but if they disagree, it's not the end of the world, just listen to what they say and look a little deeper into it. High end bikes are too much money to purchase on an impulse, so don't. Take your time and listen to people you trust. I am sure most anyone here can get it right, even without riding one, if they take their time and make well informed decisions. The good thing about high end bikes is that it is rare they are a 1st bike for someone, so they should have an idea about proper fit and what ride characteristics they are looking for when buying one.
Warning!Mike Tea
Nov 1, 2003 5:58 PM
I have some good advice for you. DON'T go into retail sales! Read your own post 5x while saying "The customer is ALWAYS right even when they're 100% wrong as they are the ones with the stuff I need - money. They can manage without what I've got but I can't manage without what they've got". Do it!
You've got to be kidding, right?gav
Nov 1, 2003 6:23 PM
You may want to read your own posts a few times from a retailers perspective before you start giving out 'good' advice, especially if you've never worked retail.. I'm afraid that you're the kind of customer that retailers hate. I'm sorry to break this to you, but you represent a minority when it comes to customers. Having the attitude that the customer is always right means that the customers will walk all over you. I'm not saying that retailers shouldn't meet customers half way on some things, but customers who walk in expecting to have their way all the time need to realize that shopowners are just people trying to make a living.
I wonder if it'd help to talk to the manufacturer...NatC
Nov 2, 2003 11:02 AM
and tell them that you're hesitant to buy a high-end bike without trying it first. Maybe if you ask nicely they'd agree to ship out a loaner to the LBS for you to try. You might even offer to pay for shipping. It'd be minimal cost, risk, and hassle to the LBS this way. Anyone think this idea would work? It seems more likely to work with a small to medium size manufacturer than a huge corporation.
you jerk!_rt_
Nov 3, 2003 6:12 AM
;-P just had to get that in for good measure. hehe

find a new lbs. a good lbs allows test rides (never actually heard of a shop that didn't!) and will accomodate your request for a high end bike that you can try out.

i had similar issues when i wanted to buy my first road bike. i thought i was going to need a really tiny bike (46-48 cm.....turns out i was wrong and i'm currently riding a 50 cm frame, but i digress...) so i called around to see who had small bikes for me to try. a number of the shops said they simply didn't carry bikes in those sizes (because "there is no market for bikes that size"....apparently i'm the only small cyclist in the world....but i digress again), but they would be more than happy to order one for me (pay first, and get stuck with a bike i've never ridden and don't know if it will even fit). a guy at one bike shop even told me that they had a couple small frames in stock but he wouldn't build any of them up unless i was going to buy the bike.

in the end i wound up driving 50+ miles to go to a shop that had the bikes i was interested in, built up and in my size. it was worth the drive!

And you're a ..................Mike Tea
Nov 3, 2003 9:13 AM
.....jerkette but we already knew that didn't we? Bwaaaa.

Yeah you're right ArEtEA, I do need to find a new shop and minus the sh!tty attitude too. And I've found a few during my many phonecalls.

I just got off the phone to a Toronto Cervelo dealer. That bike, due to Tyler's TDF antics, is probably the hottest bike right now. I also just got off the phone to Cervelo itself in Toronto and their heads are spinning with the attention they're getting.

The dealer, bless his heart, when I asked the question -

"Err I'll bet I have to place a deposit for a bike unseen right?" answered "Yes".

When I asked the next question on my list -

"And what if I don't want the bike when I've seen it and ridden it?" he answered -

"No problem. We just refund your deposit."

THOSE are the businesses *I* deal with, not some of the ones I originally found or some of the ones mentioned in the "you gotta be joking and/or delusional" replies to my original post.

When I have the money in my pocket then I'm in the driver's seat. The stores that don't want to play my game have the right to do so. I don't care!

It's quite simple...ochsen
Nov 3, 2003 8:08 AM
You're just going to the wrong shops. You need to go to a high-end shop, that's all. No lower end shop can meet your needs to your level of expectations. You would be totally unreasonable to expect them to change their "business model" (no matter how casual or poorly explained) for you because "the customer is always right." (This is a good reason why that statement isn't true).

Can't find a higher-end shop? Well, it's much easier to run a bike biz the way the LBS posters described--carrying low end stuff they know they can sell. The few high-end specialists stay in business because they are so few. Now, if everyone specialized in high-end, no one could stay in business.

So sure, the way you describe the LBS in your situation sounds about right if they don't stock the high-end stuff. That's about all they can do.
Oh those stores.............Mike Tea
Nov 3, 2003 9:17 AM
......want to BE high end stores but they're trying to get me to fund their desire. I'm willing to go part way - pay for the stuff - but I'm not willing to do it all for them.

The world is full of wannabees.
Oh those stores.............ochsen
Nov 3, 2003 2:09 PM
Well, maybe they do. I used to think it was kind of weird that there are so many shops that don't carry high end, but they all could order you anything. I'd like to think I have a better understanding now...

If some people are willing to pay for it sight unseen, why not offer it?
Oh those stores.Mike Tea
Nov 3, 2003 2:27 PM
"Oh some people are willing to pay for it sight unseen, why not offer it?"

Oh for sure. If *I* owned a store I'm sure I wouldn't turn down anyone's deposit! Who would? But I would hope I'd be able, if leaned upon, to go the extra mile (kilometers up here in Canada) and service someone like myself.

Some of the other posters here keep saying "If you're in the market for this kind of bike (4-5k) then you should know what you want". I'll assume that they mean model and size (not to mention components).

Ohhhh I know EXACTLY what I want right down to the stem length and rim tape material. I bought my first custom frame at age 14 back in 1962 and I've been through the process many times since.

Of the bikes I'm looking at I'll bet I could take a written test about the product and score better than the people who're trying to take my deposit.

"So why the hell don't you just ORDER what you want" I hear people saying.

Let's go back to one of my earlier posts where I said I was looking for committment and product confidence from someone who is going to get my money.

I just got home from a Cervelo dealer (with two tri-bikes in stock) who was very negative about the company and who said glumly "Uhh I guess I could try to order one for you if you insist." He won't get my money either.
re: New bike hunt frustration.MShaw
Nov 3, 2003 11:45 AM
To answer your last question first, the LBS is there for the lower to mid-level bike buyer that doesn't know their arse from a hole in the ground. The wrenches (and accessories) are the place where the shop makes the most money, NOT bike sales. The more expensive the bike, the smaller the margin. Your $5000 bike isn't going to make the owner of the shop that much more than selling a $3-400 bike that he actually has on the floor RIGHT NOW.

Just so you know, the LBS is usually just barely afloat financially. You don't go into the bike biz if you want to be a millionaire! You asking them to front a $3000+ wholesale bike that they MAY (if you actually DO buy it!) make a few hundred on is simply not going to happen with any regularity.

I've been on both sides of the counter in the LBS. Having worked in one for 5+ years, I can tell you that your business is probably not worth the hassle. I'd be very polite, but in the end, unless you KNOW what you want and are willing to buy it right then and there, you're on your own test riding the really high end stuff. Like someone else in this thread said, I'll lend you my bike, the other guys in the shop'll lend you theirs, but I wouldn't order you a bike to just see if you'll like it.

That said, there's an ad for a 55cm IF Crown Jewel right now for $1500. Why would you go spend $5000 on a bike that if you know will fit, you can get for a third of the price online? I'll be happy to take your money and laugh at you the whole way to the bank...

There are LBSs that are aiming at the high end consumer. Nytro, High Tech, and B&L here in San Diego are the ones that come to mind if I want to go test ride say, a Colnago, Pinarello, or Merlin. They also stock Dura Ace, Campy Record, and all the cool carbon bits that the high-end guys like so much. Look around your LBS. How much Dura Ace 10sp stuff do they have floating around just because? If the answer is not much, you're in the wrong shop for what you're looking for! (I was in B&L yesterday, and they had a pair of cranksets in the case, Pinarello frames on the wall, etc...)

True story. I was working in the shop when a good customer came in and wanted a pair of Shamals (when they were brand new). No worries. I know the guy, he's good for it. (Hint: I know the guy!) Well, we ordered a pair of wheels for him. He came in, looked at them, saw scratches, and decided that he didn't want them. I tried to talk to him about it, but he wanted another pair. No worries, we'll send them back. Second pair came in. Same thing. Third pair comes in after a call to the importer asking them to check the wheels BEFORE we get them. There were a few small scratches on that pair, but he decided that he'd take this pair anyway. All in all, we probably didn't make any money on this sale after all the shipping back and forth... Sounds to me like you're striking your LBS as this kind of customer. Some times you make more money saying no.

I could go on, but I've wasted enough bandwidth (and time!). Sufficed to say that sites like rbr, ebay, etc. are doing so well because of what you're encountering. By the time a person knows what they want, the LBS usually isn't the place where they can get it.

re: New bike hunt frustration.Mike Tea
Nov 3, 2003 2:04 PM
"I wouldn't order you a bike to just see if you'll like it.

I've called many shops within an 80 mile radius in the past week.

One of them said he didn't have a frame I was interested in in stock but he'd call the maker (Marinoni) to see if they were interested in sending down a demo for me to see & try.

"What have we got to lose by asking?" he said. That was Saturday.

He JUST called me back - a top end Mariononi Vectra (carbon fiber) is on its way. Another store that I will visit tomorrow (50 miles away) has BOTH the bikes in stock (my size too) that I'm interested in.

I just got home from two stores that carry high end bikes but they don't have much stock and didn't offer to try to get anything either.

So stores DO exsist that are willing to go the extra mile. I've no problems with those that are not in the league. There are customers for them too. I'm just not one of them.
All that driving...dgangi
Nov 4, 2003 5:17 AM
Jeez - how much $$ have you wated in time and gas over the past few weeks? 80 miles here, 50 miles there (each way) must add up to hundreds of miles on the car and many hours of your time.

I think in your situation it is far more advantageous just to buy a bike on-line and cross your fingers that you get what you want. I don't know if you have read any of my own posts on the topic, but I have had *no* luck getting to try what I want at the 'high end' bike shops in the Phoenix area (and there are lots of them). All I ended up doing was wasting time, gas, and patience. And in the end I still have *no* bike to speak of and a worse attitude for it because I still cannot find an LBS that has the frame I want in the size I need to demo before I buy...

So I am now going the online route based on the information I have. It still bothers me that I have to go that route, but I feel strongly against giving money to my LBS to buy a bike sight-unseen at full price. If I am going to buy a bike sight-unseen, I might as well get it for a discount.

There are some online bike shops well worth your while. Check out WrenchScience ( They carry a lot of high end 'high zoot' road and MTB bikes. I spoke to those guys and they are VERY well educated about their bikes. And since they carry so many lines, they will give you the honest story about each brand vs. the LBS who wants to sell what he carries.

Well it's............Mike Tea
Nov 4, 2003 6:41 AM
.....a 50 mile round trip yesterday and it will be a 80 mile round trip today so that's not "weeks" and "hundreds of miles". Thanks for your concern. It's been a dozen (mostly toll free) phonecalls too.

I'm off in a few mins to feel, measure and test ride two of the three bikes at the top of my list. I can't think of a better way to spend a rainy 1/2 day! Oh yeah I get to meet & drink a beer with an old friend too.