Help! How do I choose a new bike?

Almost 25 years ago I took out an endowment mortgage to buy my first flat. It was in the days when it was still possible, straight out of university, to purchase your own home. Before younger readers get too jealous, I should point out that this was shortly before the time when interest rates rocketed to 15 per cent. Meeting those repayments on income from freelance writing required a diet based almost exclusively on porridge.

When I took out my endowment policy the nice, shiny-shoed man promised a rosy future. A quarter of a century later my mortgage would be paid off with enough left over to buy a boat. I don't know why either he or I thought that a boat was a good idea in the landlocked Midlands but I admit that I was so much of a sucker that I went along to the local sailing club and took lessons.

So now I've reached the age that seemed unimaginable when I bought my flat. I've moved home several times and long-since lost the mortgage but I kept the endowment policy out of some kind of misguided nostalgia. At the beginning of June, my endowment policy matures. It will come as no surprise that it wouldn't have paid-off my mortgage. The yacht will have to wait a while.

It will, though, allow me to buy a new bike. But which one? How on earth are you supposed to choose? I've narrowed it down to three models. I've been into bike shops and asked online. In every case, the answer  seems to be that the perfect bike for me is the one they happen to sell.

Can anyone, please, help me?

These are the three bikes in my shortlist:

The Felt ZW5
This has the biggest gear range as far as I can judge. Perhaps better for getting me up the two big hills on the Ride London 100 course?

The Colnago CLD Ultegra Women's 
This includes the word 'Ultegra'. I know that this is a good thing.

Finally, The Bianchi Intenso Dama Bianca 105 Compact
This is beautiful and described as a very comfortable bike for my kind of riding.

By the time I buy my new bike I will, in effect, have been saving-up for it for 25 years. That knowledge makes it even harder to decide. I've got a responsibility to my younger, naïve self, to get some benefit from a bad investment.
So, I am short. Only 5ft 4 ins. I struggle a lot on hills. I am desperately trying to find anything that might help me get up to the 11.7mph average speed required for the Ride London 100. Also, I seem to have a weirdly short handspan. Not being a pianist, this isn't something that I'd ever noticed but on my current bike, I can't use the brakes on the hoods. I had to have a pull-up pair added to enable me to stop.
Which is another thing. The shop I quizzed said that it would be impossible to add these kind of brakes to any of the above bikes. Is that really true?


  1. The Colnago is the best in terms of specification, however all three have a mix and match groupset because the manufacturer is trying to save money.

    The Bianchi has the best wheels and the Felt, the worst.

    All Shimano STI levers come wit shims to pull the brake levers closer to the bars for small hands. Failing that you could always get a pair of cyclocross levers that go on the tops like these,

    1. Thank-you SO much Toby. That's exactly the kind of advice I need. Do you think I've chosen the right shortlist for the price? I have those brakes on my current bike. I would miss them enormously but the shop I visited on Monday said that it would be impossible to fit you think that's just that they haven't got a decent workshop?

  2. Hi there,

    I know this post is some time ago, but in case you haven't bought a bike yet, I'd point out that the gear ratios on each of these bikes are quite different. The largest cog on the cassette of the Colnago is a 25 (teeth), the Bianchi is a 28 and the Felt is a 32. The higher number means a lower gear (assuming the same size chainring at the front of the bike).

    You mention being worried about the hills of RideLondon - the only one where gearing really matters is Leith Hill. Here it is useful having at least a 28, if not a 30. Better cyclists will scoff at this, but my view is that you want to make this climb as easy as possible on your muscles. There is no point ruining your legs at 60 miles, with Box Hill still to do and then the long schlep back to the Mall.

    My bike has a Shimano 105 'compact' (like the Bianchi), with a 30-tooth largest cog on my cassette, and I'm proud to be a spinner not a grinder ;-)

    By the way, I have loads of stuff about RideLondon on my blog ( I did it last year, and have analysis of the route, the hills, what to carry with you etc. Please do give it a look if you have a moment.

    Good luck with your training,

  3. Thank-you so much Andrew. It is definitely the hills that worry me most. I love your blog, by the way.

  4. I definitely would have to go for the Felt ZW5 as beginners bike. Sounds absolutely amazing!


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