Q. I've seen the perfect bike but the company is based overseas - what do I need to be aware of when buying from abroad?
A. The first thing to consider is the setup of the bike. Depending on the country of origin, the brakes may be connected in a way likely to confuse - the rear brake will be connected to the right side, the opposite of what we expect in the UK. Have your bike shop switch the brakes and make any other alterations before you ride.
Secondly, you may be buying something that comes with specific parts or components available only in a foreign market. When these parts wear out or break down, you will need to go back to that market for replacements.
You must check the warranty cover, too. Manufacturers such as Cervélo and Trek offer a comprehensive warranty that covers defects in their products but it will only be valid for a product bought from within your own market. You'll then need a UK receipt and support from a UK dealer, which you won't have if you take the route you're considering.
Watch out for import duty and tax. Exchange rates might make it attractive to consider bringing something into the UK from countries such as the US, but remember that these products are liable to import duty and tax. The purchase must be declared to customs and the bill paid at point of entry into the UK.
Unless you have found an exclusive dream machine, and the offer is too good to pass up, you're better off developing a good relationship with your local dealer so he can offer after-sales support for a bicycle he can supply in the first place.
Jim McConnel is a coach with Driven To Tri (driventotri.com), a sports massage therapist and an XTERRA triathlete. He has been involved in sport since school. He began with track running but moved on to bikes and now races on the XTERRA off-road triathlon circuit in Europe. In 2008 he qualified for the XTERRA World Championships. He did his first triathlon in 1996. His motto is 'Train smarter, not harder.'