I’ve written before about the interest in cycling I developed last year but I wasn’t able to buy a road bike at the time. A few weeks ago, that all changed as I found myself attracted to a beautiful piece of Italian machinery at just about the same time my bonus was paid…
Mrs W. may think it’s a toy but I’m currently building up to my first (sprint) Triathlon and hope to be riding from London to Paris with friends next year. That means that my Bianchi Via Nirone 7 Veloce Limited Edition is ridden several times a week as we enjoy the summer here in the UK and I try to build up my fitness (and knock off a few more kilos) – indeed I’ll be heading out tomorrow morning (and anything that gets me up early on a weekend must be fun).
The reason for this blog post is not so much to rave about my first road bike though (lovely though it is) but to commend the dealer where I bought it.
You see, I spent weeks looking at various bikes from Giant, Scott, Trek, Cannondale, etc. and I found many helpful dealers along the way. Unfortunately, I also found some who were less so – Pedalworks in Dunstable wanted to charge me so that they could spend twenty minutes working out which frame size would be right for me with the Scott Speedster 20 I was considering at the time. I managed to ride a machine from lower down the range at Phil Corley Cycles in Milton Keynes (they didn’t have a 20 in my size) but it just didn’t feel as comfortable as the Trek Domane 2.0 I rode next. The Trek was a lovely bike but this years colours are just so… dull (the 2.3 is OK, but outside my budget). I was tempted by the Giant Defy 1 (but struggled to find one in red/white) and I even gave Boardman Road Team Carbon Limited a try as it’s a stonking deal but a bit too racey for me (a*se up head down – as someone referred to it) and, despite their best efforts letting me ride one around the loading bay, Halfords’ staff just didn’t seem to know much about their bikes and how they compared with the competition (apart from on price). Then, when two people independently suggested I took a look at the Bianchi Via Nirone, I liked what I saw.
I called Epic Cycles who were a) incredibly helpful b) really friendly and c) willing to let me come and spend some time with them to work out what size bike I need. And when I say “some time” – I mean an hour and a half fitting session working out how best to set up the bike. I said “but I just need to work out my size” and they said they understood – this is a sizing evaluation – apparently a full performance bike fit is 3 hours!
So I set off to Ludlow, and Epic’s Ben Williams put me onto the turbo trainer, before setting about measuring various angles to get me in just the right position, each time explaining why it was so important and how it will make a difference on long rides (I have the measurements, but I wish I’d taken notes!). The thing is, it works – who would have thought that taking 1cm off the stem would make such a difference in comfort but it does – as does the position of my saddle (height and fore-aft), bar height, stem angle, etc. Not only that but it made a huge difference in my purchasing confidence and the order was placed very soon afterwards.
The Via Nirone 7 is available in various spec levels but Epic buy so many they’re able to have their own limited edition bikes built up. Mine has a Campagnolo Veloce groupset (roughly equivalent to Shimano 105) and K-Vid Kevlar/Carbon seat stays which really make it a smooth ride.
A few days later, and the bike was ready for collection – Epic would have delivered the bike to me, free of charge, but I elected to collect it – I didn’t want to entrust my pride an joy to a TNT courier. Even better, when I bought some pedals to go with the bike, Epic fitted the cleats to my shoes for me (even though I’d bought the shoes elsewhere) and helped me to get set up*. Great service, great bike, great experience – and hopefully the start of a great new hobby for me.
Unfortunately, Mrs W wants me to ride around in neon colours now so that I can be seen… ah well, at least that’s an excuse to buy some more gear…
* That still didn’t stop me from falling off after failing to unclip at the first junction on my first ride – but that’s something of a rite of passage, I believe.