Thoughts on Frame Material and Ride Feel
All materials fatigue when pushed, time after time, beyond their limit. Only steel can be flexed nearly infinite times when not pushed beyond its intended purpose. All other materials on Earth fatigue with every cycle. Wood, fiberglass, titanium, aluminum, plastic, they all degrade. Masi offers a lifetime guarantee on their steel frames and, like most other companies, only five years on non-steel bikes.
Buying a new bike is a special deal, but the biggest deal is when you want to actually ride the bike instead of finding ways to make it comfortable. After 3-4 hours on a steel bike on Nebraska roads and paths you will be exhilarated from the trip and not beat up. If you are out test-riding bikes around the area, be sure to find a really bad street and a hill and do the test. Are you avoiding the saddle because of the bumps? Are your hands buzzing? Do you feel comfortable taking one hand off the bars on a bumpy street? Does the bike feel active and alive or does it feel hard and inert? Then find a hill. Climb it. When you push on the pedals do the seem to get out of the way and assist you or does it feel like you're pushing against an immovable object? When you descend the hill does the bike float over the bumps and stay pointed downhill or does every bump jerk the handlebar and try to send you off in random directions? Do you feel comfortable with one hand?
A steel bike is going to weigh about 20% more than a comparably-priced aluminum or unpainted plasto-carbon bike, but when you add your body weight and your gear the difference is going to be 198lbs vs. 195lbs (2-3% based on a 175lb rider). So, you have to ask yourself if getting a lifetime warranty and a superior ride quality is worth a 2% cut in weight. Keep in mind that the overall average increase in speed of professionals since 1939 is less than 1.4 mph. So the type of bike you ride has almost zero to do with how fast you go, which begs the question...what's the hurry?
Swing by, test-ride a bike, climb a hill, ride some gravel.
It's all about the ride.
Resist Planned Obsolescence:
Having been in the bike business on and off since the late 1980's there are a few pieces of knowledge I can kick down to you that are going to save you headaches in the future.
1. Don't buy anything that you think getting parts for in ten years is going to be a hassle or impossible. Things in this category are: suspension, hydraulic disc brakes, funky wheel spacing, anything electric, anything from a company you haven't heard of before, and so on.
2. The cutting edge of tech is going to drain your wallet, fast. The bike industry (the guys in California driving BMW's with $15,000 bikes they didn't buy) is designed to make you think that everything you currently own is garbage and anything under 15lbs is heavy.
Bikes should be simple, affordable, easy to maintain, safe, durable and comfortable. Thankfully, the bikes I sell almost always check every one of these boxes.
3. I was taught early on that if you're out riding along in rural Idaho or Tibet and your bike breaks, it should be easily fixed by almost any local bike shop and the dude working there shouldn't have to call FedEx for parts and watch a Youtube video on how to do it. Keep it simple.
4. Far too often someone drags the super-bike they paid thousands for a few years ago and needs it fixed. I normally can, but if it's got crazy frame linkage issues, shock issues, electric shifting issues, or takes no-longer-manufactured parts, well, things just got a whole lot more expensive. Don't outsmart yourself and buy something that the builder is unable to support. Stick with SRAM, Shimano, Tektro, Avid, and other guys whose business it is to stay in business.
Why Buy From A Local Bike Shop?
You're thumbing out big money for a new bike and you want to get the best deal possible. I understand this. However, a bicycle is not a kayak or a pool cue or a sleeping bag or a tent. Bicycles have hundreds and hundreds of parts and if you're expecting 15-29lbs of bike to carry you and your gear down the side of a mountain at 55 miles per hour safely, then I would suggest maybe the best "deal" isn't saving money.
There are more super bike shops and super people staffing them in Lincoln than almost any other town of its size. They sell bikes they know. They order bikes that aren't painful to assemble and maintain. They want you to enjoy your bike and ride it SAFELY and not be bothering them weekly with nagging bike issues. I am almost certain that a bike that isn't perfect out of the box happens, but I know that if I or the other shops see five or six of them then that distributor/manufacturer would get shown the door.
We all want you to have fun and tell your friends that their new rig from Polkadot or Method, or Monkey Wrench or The Bike Rack is super sweet. It most likely is.
However, if you really need a bike from online and want me to take a shot at making it perfect, well, I'm going to charge you for it. That cost is $100 and up. It's not this amount because I am ripping you off. It's just that I have no idea if your online deal was manufactured to my standards and I cannot let something leave my shop that isn't perfect. Sometimes perfect isn't even possible with bikes manufactured in substandard third-world plants. Sometimes they have the wrong brake levers, sometimes the nipples on the spokes are all rounded off making the wheel unserviceable, sometimes the tires won't properly seat and I have to spend 40 minutes fighting them.
Like I said before, it's not a golf bag.
Buy a bike, have fun, enjoy yourself, be safe. If you want to gamble, please play KENO.