My search for a new bike has been keeping me busy this year and one thing that’s been really apparent is the need to see bikes in the flesh. Over the past few years I’ve been lucky enough to get to the UK bike shows but, unless I’ve made it on the trade days, it’s been difficult to ‘play’ with the bikes – lift them up, turn them round, generally them a good once over. So the only chance, like most cyclists, to get a real look at a bicycle is in a shop… or when a mate turns up for a ride on one… and a good local bike shop (the ‘LBS’) is worth it’s weight in gold.
I should probably point out that I’m a regular online shopper, especially for bike parts, and my Giant Anthem was a remote purchase, having read the reviews and tried some 26” full suspension bikes at the Bike Show.
I’ve been working through some options with Veloton in Tetbury for my new bike, but having failed to fall in love with a Bianchi Intenso in the classic ‘Bianchi’ blue-green colour scheme, they pointed me at a Bianchi Sempre. Although the Intenso and Sempre are fairly close in their geometries, I was keen to try a Sempre, as the lower headtube suggested going for a larger frame size.
Fortuitously Veloton had a bike available for a quick demonstration that was the same size and geometry as the 57cm Sempre that I was heading towards. However, this wasn’t a Sempre, it was a Bianchi Oltre XR.2 with a few trick upgrades – total cost just shy of £15,000. Fair play to Martin and Pete at Veloton for letting me their pride and joy for a two mile spin out to Long Newton and back, but you could sense them wince slightly as the bike was wheeled out of the shop.
The Oltre, and therefore the Sempre, was absolutely spot on… so comfortable in fact, that with hindsight I’m questioning whether the Intenso (my original choice) would actually have been the ideal choice.
I’m still torn over whether the majority of local bike shops give sufficient ‘value’, in terms of the service they give customers, to justify some of the prices they charge. So they key here is to get in the shop and build a rapport with the team… it’s in their interest to help you, find a deal that works and sell you a bike (or some other parts)… and that’s exactly what’s happening with the Sempre. I’m paying full price for the bike, but getting some discount back on some accessories, including a Kask Mojito helmet. Also the groupset is being upgraded to full Ultegra with the Shimano-branded calipers, it’s getting an upgrade to Fulcrum Quattro wheels,but most importantly I’m not getting the black frame that ships with the Ultegra grouspet – instead Veloton are ordering in a celeste-black version (which comes with Campag Veloce) and swapping the entire groupset… so my bike will be fairly unique. I couldn’t have done that easily through one of the remote dealers, and I suspect that when you compare all of the costs, my total price is more or less what I’d have incurred if I hadn’t stayed local.
By the way… I don’t intend to get into a Shimano vs Campag debate on this post… that’s for another day… suffice to say that my heart was screaming Campag through the whole bike search!