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msnbc.com
updated 3/17/2005 11:56:17 AM ET 2005-03-17T16:56:17

The search is over. After weeks of looking, test riding and a fair share of procrastinating, I have purchased a road bike. My mean machine is a Trek 1500. In the world of triathlon Goliaths, I've opted for a lean and fit David.

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You can easily plunk down thousands of dollars on a top-of-the-line triathlon bike. The super cycles are made of ultra-light carbon frames, have supercalifragilisticexpealidous cranksets and are nuclear powered (reactor license not included). My bank account had more of a moderately priced, aluminum frame road bike in mind. And although the lighter frame is a gift during long rides (like, say, 112 miles), what it really comes down to is finding a good stable bike with good components and adequate climbing capability that feels comfortable and fits you. And like a good pair of shoes, the fit is everything.

For the past 18 months, I have been riding my mountain bike in training and during sprint triathlons. It's a great little bike but by the end of last August, I had pushed the gears as high as they could go and I knew it was time to start looking for a road ride. Instead of rushing out and buying one, Jeff, my coach, suggested borrowing someone else's road bike for a while, just to try it out and see what I thought. Fortunately, one of the women in our training group had recently bought a new bike and was willing to let me borrow her old bike, “Lucy,” for a few weeks.

“Lucy” was a steel frame beauty that immediately cut my 17-mile ride to work by 15 minutes just by being her lovable self. However, I never felt comfortable on the bike. I always felt as if I was about to topple over the bars and never completely felt in control. The reason? She was just too big for me. My arms were extended too far, which only added to the fatigue level in my shoulders and upper back.

So no matter what you do, be sure to go to a bicycle center and get fitted for your bike (if nobody offers to measure you or “fit” you, leave that shop immediately and look for another). Be clear about how much you want to spend. You can find a great bike without spending nuclear-powered moolah. Take a few bikes out for a test ride. You wouldn't buy a car without driving it first. Don't buy a bike without riding it either.

The crankset, cassette, derailleurs and tires you decide to buy will depend on how much you want to spend, what you intend to use the bike for and your fitness level. And of course, if you want to have a water bottle cage, aerobars and a speedometer, expect to add on a few more dollars.

I haven't settled on a name for my bike yet, but I'm leaning toward Napoleon Dynamite because it is looks like a medieval warrior and is sweeeet.

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