Triathlon bike shopping

I had a few client cancellations today and got the opportunity to check out some bike shops and scope out their inventory. I am looking for a difficult combination and the rising popularity of triathlon is making it hard to find the right bike: older models marked down with a good frame and decent components. I managed to hit a few shops and do a quick cataloging of their inventories:

Cynergy in Santa Monica is a great looking shop catering to the Santa Monica roadie crowd. For triathlon they carry Specialized, a fine brand with a great reputation. Specialized sponsors pro world champion triathletes that regularly podium. That means there’s a price premium for the brand. Cynergy has two models in stock:
’08 Specialized Transition Pro, full Dura Ace group, $4100
’08 Specialized Transition Comp, mixed bag of components (Dura Ace, Ultegra AND 105 front and rear derailleurs and shifters), $2700. 

Helen’s Cycles in Santa Monica is the choice for many SoCal triathletes and I get a 10% discount on bikes through the LA Tri Club. Their inventory is pretty picked clean.
’07 Cervelo P2 SL in grey, Dura Ace group, $2,000
’08 Cervelo P2 Ultegra group, $2500
Pinarello FT1 Dura Ace group, $4,000 (this bike was beautiful in the way only Italian bikes can be)
’07 Orbea Ora LTD Ultegra group, $1699
’08 Trek Equinox 7, 105 group, $1699

Bikecology in Marina del Rey was a bust. They don’t stock any tri bike inventory, and when I asked they said that “most triathletes want a custom build with preferred components.” The dude was right, but that puts their licensed brands of Felt, Giant, Orbea, Scott, and GT out of my range. Any BTO (built to order) bike of quality is going to be out of my reach.

Triathlon Zombies currently has the Jamis Xenith T1 and the Specialized Transition Comp with the mixed bag of components. I haven’t ridden the Specialized yet, though on Sunday I think I’ll ride to Cynergy and test ride both their Specialized in stock.

Lastly, I reached out to Triathlon Lab in Redondo Beach. As I’ve written before, the owner contacted me and apologized for the way I was treated and wanted to know how to fix their customer service. That counts for a lot when I had pretty much written them off. The reason I contacted them is that they appear to have the largest inventory of any shop in town, and a wide selection of brands. To the point – they have an ’08 Orbea Ordu with an Ultegra group for less than $3500. At the very least I owe it to myself to test drive this bike to see if the sexiest bike I’ve seen is worth the hype. One trusted mechanic poo-poo’d the aerodynamic sculpting as being unnecessary, and even said the thing “rode like a tank.” I have to see for myself.

I have an ethical quandary. I’ve been flirting with TZ for several weeks and I’ve told them I really want to buy my bike from them. But what do I do if the bike I want, like, at the price point I can afford is only available at the shop I’ve said I had problems with? Here’s one place where my mouth has put me in a corner – just by talking about my experiences I feel hypocritical if I buy my bike from Triathlon Lab. Friends keep telling me to stop thinking so much about it, that it’s a retail transaction and the only thing I should be concerned with is buying the right bike at my price point. Happy feelings don’t play into the purchase. But at my heart I am not a total capitalist. I’m a human being that cultivates relationships. TZ has treated me very well, but if I can’t get the bike I want/can afford through them I’ve got to go elsewhere. There’s no sane reason to spend an extra $1,000 I don’t have to assuage guilt.

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3 responses to “Triathlon bike shopping

  1. I would put myself in the “don’t think so much” category, mostly because you pinpoint the issue in your last sentence. There is no reason that, when the time comes for you drop serious coin on a custom bike you can’t go back to TZ and give them your business then. It also doesn’t stop you from recommending them, making smaller purchases from them, etc. The bottom line is…the bottom line – certainly to the tune of a grand.

  2. Cultivating relationships implies a 2 way street. You want to have a relationship with TZ…. but unless TZ is willing to meet you half way on a price negotiation because they want YOUR business, there’s no personal relationship there. There is a buyer-seller relationship. And in every buyer/ seller relationship there are 3 components: price/quality/service. But as a buyer, you can only have 2. So which 2 are critical to you? If price is an issue, you have to eliminate service or quality. Since quality will conceivably save your life or decrease your time, you will probably have to give up service. What are the most important components of the purchase for you. Hope this helps.

  3. Max,
    this is Justin from Predator, I just read through a few of your blogs, including the piece you wrote on us. I wanted to email you to speak with you further, email me please. I hope all is well with you and hope to see you out on the road soon enough.
    cheers!
    -Justin

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