What You Really Need to Know About Buying a Bike, Part II

Photo: SprocketScience.com
Photo: SprocketScience.com

This is the second part in our two-part expert series in “What you really need to know about buying a bike.” For Part One, please click here.

Buying gear is at once exciting and intimidating. When it’s an investment as significant as a bicycle, you need to feel confident that you’re stepping into the right set up without paying for more bling that you need or necessarily even want.

Direct from the insiders – from the minds that spring the latest  innovations and the hands that craft the most effective designs – Mountain Diva presents Part II in our expert series on “What you really need to know about buying a bike.”

Last week, we checked in with Michael Brown, the senior product manager for Diamondback. [Full disclosure: Diamondback is a Verde client.] He gave us the rundown on materials, components and what we need to know for our first “test drive.”

This week, Michael takes us step-by-step in the progression of being a cycling newbie all the way through when we’re hammering alongside other ultimate amateur athletes.

No marketing magic and no sales persuasion. Read below to learn from Michael what to look for whether you are new to riding, looking to maximize return on the miles you’re already putting in, or taking it to the next level. With talk of materials components and geometry, Michael offers counsel on what you can learn from a parking lot test ride and when you need to get to Minneapolis…stat! Read on to see why.  [Ed. Note: Our conversation took place via email and has been edited for length.]

Mountain Diva (MD): So now that we have the primer on materials and components, let’s get to what we need at different levels of riding. When a women is new to riding and going to buy her first performance bike (versus “around town” bike), what factors will lead to a wise purchasing decision?


  1. Fit is important. Find the bike that feels right, and that you are comfortable on. This is where to start. You can change stem lengths and handle bar widths, as well as saddles, as you [get comfortable] on your new bicycle. If you are familiar with what you like and know what you are looking for, review the geometry charts [which every manufacturer provides] and match up your new bike closely to your current bike, but again do not get too caught up in the numbers.
  2. Give it time. Performance bikes can feel uncomfortable at first, typically due to the specific nature of their design or intended purpose. Ride the bike and do not be too quick to change anything. The thing I hate to see is a new rider get on a new bike and complain about the saddle hurting or their neck hurting. If you are new to a performance style rider position or configuration your first rides may offer a little bit of pain. It’s like showing up to the gym for the first time and putting in a good work out and saying the next day, “Boy that hurt, I hate working out.” In many cases your body will adapt, your muscles and bones will find their way.   Give it time. Ride the bicycle.
Mountain Diva, what you need in a bike

Diamondback Women’s Airen 4 (2013), carbon frame

MD: So, our gal has been riding for a while and she’s ready to upgrade. What design attributes will help her develop, get faster and encourage comfort for the long miles she putting in?

Michael: If our gal does not already have a carbon bike I would encourage her to look at one. [Diamondback] designed the Airen Womens Specific Carbon models (new for 2014) with the long distance rider in mind.

The frame is designed with Enhanced Performance Geometry. What this means to the rider is a frame with all the performance of a race bike, but with a taller head tube to position the rider in a more upright comfortable position. Along with the head tube positioning the frame is constructed to offer stable predictable handling and efficient pedaling while also providing excellent road damping and rear end compliance to keep the rider fresh and faster over the long haul.

For components, as mentioned before [last week], electric shifting on a road bike will really take her to the next level. The Airen 5 is equipped with the Shimano Ultegra Di2 Electric components.

Next, spring for a great saddle, like the Prologo Kappa. The Kappa is designed and shaped to be comfortable for longer rides. This saddle is found on the Airen 5 as well.

Mountain Diva, what you really need in a bike

Shimano Integra Di2

Mountain Diva, what you really need in a bike

Prologo Kappa saddle









MD: Once a rider has a better feel for bike performance (versus a cycling rookie), what qualities can she describe to get the sales team pointed in the right direction? (Hit us with the jargon and bike-talk.) 

 Michael: Letting the sale team know exactly how the bike is going to be used is key. Everyday commuting, fitness, event rides, endurance race events, criterium racing, road racing, cyclocross? This will let the sales people know right away what type of bike to lead her to.

In terms of jargon: For electric shifting bikes just say, “ I want a bike with Di2,” and you’re off to the races. If she wants a bike for triathlons or time trials [be sure to ask explicitly for those]. For road bikes with Shimano shifting, refer to those as having “STI” levers. In SRAM’s case you want “Double Tap” shifting.

MD: We’ve reached the ultimate. Money is no object. This women has moved from “enthusiast” to competitor or fanatic. She wants the top performing ride and will punish and love it equally. A Kentucky Derby jockey can control the finely-tuned tension of the best racehorses. These women are the Kentucky Derby jockeys of the bike world. What do they need to know about design, fit and materials of the top tier bikes to maximize their own performance?

Michael: For materials: It’s carbon. Carbon will provide the best performance no matter what it is shaped into – be it a road bike, TT bike a mountain bike or a set of wheels. It’s light stiff and strong.

For fit: Everyone is built differently. [Don’t deny] your body type, shape and flexibility to help determine how you fit on a bicycle.

For design: It all depends on what the bike is specifically designed for and what your chosen event is. When thinking about design I think about frame geometry and what performance goals are trying to be accomplished for a specific event. For TT it’s aero, for criteriums it’s head and seat tube angles coupled with chainstay length and BB height. This is true for grand tour road racing frames as well – only the numbers change a bit. Depending on your chosen path, find the perfect balance for you.

And please spend a ton of money on a specific fit session. Honestly, you need to see Steve Hed. Fly to Minneapolis and pay him whatever he is asking and he will position you on whatever bike you are riding and maximize your performance. Steve has done this for many years and with many top pro athletes – honing their racing and time trial aero positioning. There is nobody in the bicycle industry that has spent more time in a wind tunnel that Steve Hed. He and his team are the best – bar none.

Mountain Diva, what you need in a bike

An example of a bike fitting session, courtesy The Bike Rack D.C. This is not Steve Hed.

MD: I’m booking my tickets to Minneapolis right now! [Ed. Note: to our knowledge, Michael is just a huge fan and believer in Steve Hed, with no professional allegiance.] So once we’re throwing down over $5000+ on a ride, are there any special care and handling to take into consideration?

MB: Well, if this question falls under the “money is no object” question – hire someone.

MD: Well played, Michael, well played. Is there anything else you’d like to add? Anything super cool in the works over at Diamondback?

MB: Diamondback has long been well known for BMX and mountain bikes. Over the last 10-years we have grown and developed into a complete line including an industry leading road program.

We have been offering women’s specific bicycles for over seven years. Check out our Devine Designs, which are women’s models including: mountain bikes, performance hybrid bikes and road bikes. This year, we have made the investment in women’s specific Carbon Endurance Geometry road bikes, the Airen Carbon Series. [Ed. Note: refer to earlier in the conversation.]

For over the past five years, we have been involved with a local women’s mountain bike racing team, and most recently we have added local mountain bike legend Kat Sweet to our DF5 Development team. With the help of Kat and many other women here at DB we continue to develop and produce industry-leading bicycles for every cyclist.

Great info. Now we’re all armed and ready with the right questions to ask and the right leads for research before we step into the shop to test ride.  Thanks so much, Michael.


One Comment

  • George says:

    Hi, comfort is also a great consideration thus one should know what is the purpose of the bike. Is it for normal commuting or off road hence choose the appropriate bike.