For months I obsessed over a new bicycle, laying on the couch with my broken thumb in a cast, my 'beater' imprisoned in the garage, bent up and bloodied by my fall from grace. Craigslist promises unfullfilled by flake sellers and elusive size and condition requirements. I visited local bike shops, admiring the top brand flagship all that models that promised featherweight flickability, mountain crushing ascents and shock absorption technology derived from stealth bombers, with a price to match!
Those reasons and more led me one afternoon to press the "buy it now" button on an eBay listing for a "no name" bike sold by someone in Texas. I wasn't sure what I was actually buying, for the bike wasn't sold locally, and I had never seen or touched one personally. Bottecchia is a famed name in bicycling lore, but Wikipedia assured me that the name is perhaps the only thing it has in common with it's supposed ancestors:
Bottecchia USA assembles bicycles of Columbus aluminum and carbon frames manufactured in Taiwan. It is related to the long-time Italian bicycle manufacturer, Bottecchia, by an agreement to distribute bicycles in the USA under the Bottecchia USA name. The bicycles are sold by an eBay merchant in Houston, Texas.Wow, why on earth was I buying a bike I never saw and never rode? How would a $1,200 all carbon bike actually perform and hold up over time? Was I being fooled into buying something too good to be true?
The answers are still being revealed, but after a couple hundred miles, I can happily report that I am the proud owner of a carbon bicycle made in Taiwan and decorated with stickers that read Bottecchia Sprint CF 66Pro. The bike is an exercise in compromise. For $1,200, you get an all carbon bike that's much heavier than the top brands that sell for 2-3 times as much. You also get excellent components, including Shimano Ultegra derailleurs front and rear, Cane Creek Dual Pivot brakes and Vuelta XRP Wheels with Aero Spokes.
Now I have to stop right there and confess I am not an expert in the latest cycling technology. There are certainly people out there that will say my bike is rubbish through and through, and that I wasted my money. I will tell you that every bike mechanic I've shown my bike to marvels at the price I paid, and each one says the same thing: " The components alone are worth $1,200."
As for the ride, simply put it's a dream. Coming from a 1980's steel Schwinn, this bike feels like a fast moving cloud hovering hither and tither, carrying me along for the ride. The transfer of energy is unlike anything I've ever experienced. I am sure that I am getting a taste of what a $3,000 bike feels like, and that's just fine with me. For now, this is a leap forward in ride comfort and speed, and I'm stoked with everything the bike is and is not. At a touch over 20 pounds, it weighs about the same as my friend's steel single speed, but it's a versatile, quick and capable road bike that can climb, descend and take me anywhere FAST.
You would think that customer service would be non-existent. Not so! After putting the bike together (using assembly instructions that are beyond basic and not at all specific to the actual bike), I discovered a frayed derailleur cable. After a couple emails and a few days, an envelope arrived from Texas with a replacement cable.
Time will tell how this bike holds up, but for now, it continues to bring a smile to my face, and beckons me daily to be ridden.