Saturday, June 07, 2008

Orbea Orca - how I got my bike

Here's the full (you may fall asleep) story about how I acquired a bike worth £2300-ish for £1100-ish. More photos here

At IBM we have a flexible benefits scheme. We can opt to take some of our pay in a variety of forms other than cash, typically without paying (as much) tax.

For example, we can get paid in food vouchers for use at work without paying any income tax on them whatsoever. So an 88p latte (mmmmm...) really only costs 52p for a higher rate tax payer. There's also tax free Child Care Vouchers which are great as people insist on being paid lots of money to look after my kids.

One of the options is to hire a bike for a year. Technically it is not a bike purchase scheme but in practice you always get the option to buy the bike at the end of year for 5%+VAT of its purchase price. You pay in 12 monthly installments so you also effectively get an interest
free loan.

We can choose to spend anything from £100 to £1500 on a bike and bike-related accessories each year.

So I started out thinking I'd spend about £600 post-tax = £1000 pre-tax on a bike. I found the Trek 1.9 for £1000 which is a nice looking bike, with fancy wheels.

Then Rob Smyth and I joined forces and looked at bikes together as we had the same requirements. We went to the Peter Hansford in Winchester to look at the Trek 1.9 but they didn't have one in the shop. Looking at the Trek, BMC and LeMond bikes they had (with lots of helpful advice from Richard who works at the shop) we left having decided that we now both wanted a Trek Madone 4.5 (£1400), leaving £100 for shoes, pedals, pumps etc.

Then we went to the Peter Hansford in Chandlers Ford and left there being very happy with the help from their road bike guy, Adam, and we were leaning towards getting an Orbea Onix. This bike seemed like a better overall package than the Madone, but it was close.

After some web research we finally decided to order 2 Orbea Onix bikes. Peter Hansford do an excellent bike fitting session where you get measured for height, leg length, shoulder width, arm length and get to try the different "clipless" pedal technologies. We compared Shimano SPD and Look and decided on the Look system. I had thought that I'd choose SPD so that I could walk around a town after cycling there but trying the shoes made me realise that there's no way I'd choose to walk for more than a couple of minutes in SPDs - I'd take a spare pair of shoes instead.

We were originally told that the bikes would take about 3 weeks to be ready. But after 3 weeks we were told that Orbea were struggling to source the Shimano Ultegra groupset for the bikes and there'd be a delay. After a while Adam persuaded Orbea that he would source the groupset in the UK and invoice Orbea, which they agreed to. But then after another week or two we were told that Orbea had said that they didn't actually have any Onix frames and that it would be another 3 or 4 weeks before they'd be built. Aaargggh.

BUT, they did have one top of the range Orca frame that they could let us have instead of one of the Onix frames at no extra cost. This is a frame that costs about £1800. It was used by the Orbea racing team during 2007/2008 - a serious piece of kit.

But there's 2 of us and only one frame. We agreed that we had to get the Orca - we weren't going to turn down their top of the range bike. But who'd get it? We considered tossing a coin, but neither of us were willing to risk losing the toss. We worked out that if £186 was to
be given from Orca-buyer to the cheaper-bike-buyer then the percentage discount we'd be getting would be the same. But we both said that we'd definitely give the other £187 to have the Orca. But we also agreed that if the other offered £250 then we'd let the other have it.

We finally agreed that if I gave Rob £210 then we'd both be happy. Rob chose Madone 4.5 and it would only take 2 days to be built. The Orca was shipped from Spain and built in about the same time so we both had our bikes by the start of the next week.

So Rob's got a bike worth £1460 (he got Look Keo Sprint pedals thrown in for free for the inconvenience) for about £650 and I'd got a bike worth about £2300 for about about £1100. Both bikes are beautiful frames to look at: full carbon frame and fork, decent groupsets and pretty wheels.

When my bike turned up I realised that I had also been given the top of the range Orbea seat post and handle bars (Zeus Cat III) so that's another ~£100? of value which I hadn't been expecting.

And yes, it rides like a dream. Worth every penny.

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