New Bike Day

23 May, 2017

I am a petite woman, 5'1'' to be exact. When I began cycling, I started out on a women's 1986 Schwinn World Sport road bike. It was perfect for me in height except my reach was too far, causing me shoulder and neck pain. I wanted to be more in an upright position for comfortable commuting so I did my research on how to convert my road bike to an upright commuter bike. At the time, women's specific designed comfort bikes were on the rise but personally I wanted the sports element with the comfort so I began the journey to converting my road bike to a more sporty upright commuter.

By changing stems, handle bars, and saddles over the years I found I could manage riding that bike comfortably with a few adjustments. Once it was stolen, gone were those days of long commutes and bike adventures. The last time I bought a bike was exactly for comfortable distances for commuting, with the occasional bike adventures on gravel, dirt, and uneven terrain with my trusty Trek FX S. This worked out fine till I joined my local cycling club and found myself struggling to keep up at a comfortable pace. In addition, cycling the local terrain of country roads had new challenges, hills, lots of hills. Wanting to spend more time outdoors, I thought the hybrid road bike would be fine but going long distances up hills was difficult, so I started looking to the road bike.

When I was in California over winter, I used Spinlister to test out a few different types of women's road bikes, from a Trek Lexa 3, Cannondale Synapse, Liv Avail, and Specialized Dolce. Not only was I looking for comfort but also an affordable price point. As much as I would love to drop a couple of thousands of dollars on a bike, I'm not at that stage where I am comfortable enough to drop that kind of money, especially with a mortgage, car/insurance payments, and a wedding to fund. It's also important to note that the average woman cycling (like myself) probably isn't racing or doing any century rides so an investment return matched with lifestyle convenience was also something I took on board.
With all these factors to consider, I drew out my list of pros and cons. Some bikes were better at shifting on climbs, some had more gears, some bikes were lighter than others, some bikes absorbed all the shocks, and some had better reach. Each rider is different and every bike is too but what worked for me was the reachable shifting/braking, comfort, and shock absorption. When I returned home to NY I visited a few bike shops that carried each brand so I tested some of their women's specific designs but was more disappointed by the color ranges than anything else. I have to admit, as function was my main focus for a bike I couldn't fancy the thought of buying a bike with a speck of pink on it or bad taste in decorative design. So, my options dwindled down to two bikes but what I ultimately chose was the Specialized Dolce 2017.

Over the weekend, I took the bike out for our first official rides together. On Saturday, out on the scenic Putnam Rail Trail, we managed to cover a steady 40 miles without feeling fatigued. In fact, I was wishing to ride longer but time and weather weren't on my side. On Sunday, I packed in another 20 miles on hilly terrain, still feeling pretty good and ready to ride more. What surprised me most was how fast I was and how easy climbing became. I wouldn't call myself a climber but how I quickly got up the hills sure surprised me! On the downside, I did begin to feel some aching in my neck so I will definitely be making adjustments before the next ride.

What I've concluded, without going into great detail, is that the Specialized Dolce is more of a beginners road bike at a friendly price point packed with a lot of purpose. With leisure endurance design in mind, the Dolce allows me to cycle longer distances faster and it sends me climbing uphill easier while flying me downhill. While these things are great to a novice road cyclist, an experienced road cyclist may wish for higher quality components, more shifting options, shock absorption, and a lighter frame. What I found to work for me on the Dolce was it's simple design, beginner friendly control, smoothness, comfort, and riding enjoyment. Personally, I don't think I'll be upgrading till I've improved my road cycling skills and have a bit more cash to trade in. At least for now, I'm having a blast and am extremely pleased as a petite woman smashing hills and distances on this bike.

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