Thursday, November 10, 2022

I'm an idiot. New Trek 520 Grando bike woes

Hear now my tale of overly hopeful and unrealistically optimistic, painfully expensive bad decision making,

I wanted a touring bike. I'd signed on for two self supported bicycle tours and realized the bike I had wasn't ideal. It didn't have a way to attach a front rack, and trying to carry everything on a rear rack resulted in a very unbalanced ride.

In April 2022 we were still in supply chain hell. Buying a new bike was near impossible. But shockingly enough, when I was visiting the Trek shop in Geneva, NY they told me they had a Trek 520 Grando arrive that morning.

The Trek 520 is a classic road touring bike. It's darn near the gold standard for touring. I wasn't attracted to it because it ships with bar end shifters, which I find a pain to use.  But their new iteration, the 520 Grando model checked all my boxes. It was designed more as a bike-packing gravelish bike. It has brake-shifters. (check.) Low gears that feature a 42-28 double crankset (check.) High spoke count wheels (check) Included a front rack (check) but no rear rack (can't have everything.)

The Trek sizing guidelines put me exactly on the line between a 51 cm and 54 cm size frame. The model they had was a 54. I figured that the slightly larger frame would  be fine for touring, and still in within spec.

I was wrong. I thought I'd adjust. Sure, it felt odd at first, but all new bikes feel odd. And it wasn't horrible, just different... I thought.

But not only was the frame larger than I was used to, which made me feel more "on" the bike than "in" the bike, the cranks were 172.5 mm instead of the smaller 170 mm cranks like all my other bikes. Again, I thought "How much difference could that make?" It turns out it matters more than I imagined.

After a multi-day self-supported 346 mile trip on the C&O and GAP trails and a week touring in Cape Cod I had to accept that this bike was just not ever going to feel right.

So, what to do? After obsessing way too much, I decided I'd just have to start over. I'm not made of money, so this was a tough and painful decision. It feels a little like I'm borrowing money just to light it on fire in the back yard. But what good is a bike I really can't enjoy riding? 

I begin shopping for a replacement, but interestingly enough the Grando really does have the perfect spec for what I'm after. The only other possibilities were custom zillion dollar solutions that were out of reach for me.

I visited with the wonderful folks in the Geneva Trek shop and learned Trek doesn't have any 51cm Trek Grandos to sell.  They consulted their national database to see if there was a shop that could transfer a bike in my size. Alas, the only places that had one reported their model was shipping damaged and had issues.

But miraculously  an "out of network" independant Trek dealer in Rochester, and hour and a half away, had one. Geneve Trek couldn't transfer it from in independent shop, so I drove there and bought it. 

It feels soooooo much better. But now I have a hole in my wallet and a 54cm model of the same bike that I'll need to sell.  Here's hoping I can sell it for enough that my error won't hurt too much for too long.

Wanta buy a touring/gravel bike?

Added photo of the new bike in front of the falls.