Step one in turning my plan to bike across the Outback into reality (before the new idea excitement wears off and I change my mind), I need to invest in a bicycle (and everything that comes with owning a bicycle).
Thankfully I am in Melbourne (Australia) and people here love their bicycles (there appears to be a clear divide between the hipsters and the lycra lovers in this place) – so I've got options (although I suspect finding the proper shoes for my 4E width foot will prove difficult).
My first two days of bicycle shopping have pretty much narrowed down my options to three different bikes: the Fuji Tour, the Kona Sutra, or the Vivente World Randonneur.
Just in case any of you are cycling enthusiasts, as undoubtedly many of you have far more experience on two wheels than I do, I'm going to preface everything I'm about to say with the fact that I know little to zero about bicycles and cycling (which is why I'm riding across a continent of inhospitable terrain – to learn).
First of all, there exists a category of bicycle (and style of riding) called touring; this is what I will be doing and what all the aforementioned bicycles are built for (aka they're heavy and you can put racks on them). Second of all, everything turns out to be a lot more expensive than I imagined (how a bicycle can cost more than a car, I don't know).
And once I get past the question of which bike to get, there's still the question of all the added things I need (which apparently goes far beyond a helmet and light), but that's better saved for another post.
Here's my understanding (as it now stands) regarding my current three bicycle candidates:
The Fuji Tour
Beginning with the least expensive (and therefore most favorable), the Fuji Tour is a touring bicycle from a company called Fuji. Yeah, that's about as sophisticated as my knowledge gets – I think I'm in trouble.
Fortunately, I found some nice local bike shop employees to guide me along in the process and they have assured me that this bicycle will suit my needs just fine.
It comes equipped with a rear rack, two water bottle mounts (which was something I assumed all bikes had), and that's about it? I don't know if I will need to invest in a front rack or not (hopefully not), but I do know that I will have to buy new pedals and possibly fenders and a new seat (although bicycle seats appear to be one of the most personal choices out there, and since I have no point of reference, I should probably just take what it comes with).
Other than that, its got regular bicycle brakes (I don't know what these are called), these weird new shifters that I've never seen before (they're at the ends of the handlebars), some gears, and brown grip tape.
The Kona Sutra
The Kona Sutra reminds be of Hawaii and looks a bit more badass than the Fuji Tour; it's also nearly twice as expensive (why there isn't something priced in the middle (that I've been shown), I don't know – maybe the Fuji Tour is just a fantastic value for the money).
As for the more objective evaluation of the bike, it's got fenders (which I am not sure if I need or not), a rear rack, a Brooks saddle (that's fancy cyclist talk for “seat” – and apparently Brooks is a good brand), disc brakes (I don't know whether these are superior to regular brakes – it's a divisive issue, I think), and has these strange new shifters at the ends of the handlebars.
Not really knowing anything more than that, it looks like a nice bike, but again, it's expensive (and seeing as how I know nothing about bikes, it may be difficult to justify buying things I cannot appreciate).
The Vivente World Randonneur
The Vivente World Randonneur is built to be a touring bike that you can buy, hop on, and be ready to go.
I don't know why, but I am usually skeptical of “ready to go out the door” type items since I can't accept that there exists one configuration that everyone could agree on being ideal. Nevertheless, here's what I've been told about (and seen on) this bike. That being said, it looks to be quite nicely equipped.
It's got a Dynamo lighting system, which is (again, apparently) an incredibly bright light that allows you to charge devices via USB as you ride (cool), some nice pedals, fenders, a rear rack, funky shifters, water bottle mounts (and cages), disc brakes, a kickstand, a seat, and some gears.
Sounds pretty nice, but at $1,750 it's more than twice the price of the Fuji – even when you take into account all the extras (although apparently that Dynamo lighting system can be pretty pricey to install – but I can just get a regular light instead).
I suppose I'll have to shop around a bit more and see what the bike crazies of Melbourne can convince me of.
If it isn't obvious, I have a lot of research and shopping around to do; good thing my departure date is less than a week away.
For the cycle-savvy of you, I would love to hear what you think I am doing right, wrong, or not at all. Leave a comment and let me know.