So, you’re finally going to buy a new bike. Exciting, but where do you start? Buying a bike can be an overwhelming and intimidating adventure, unless you’re armed with these very basic tips.
1) Know how you want to use the bike.
Do you want to go fast and zip around town? Carry everything? Bike tour? Mountain bike? Race cross? Sit upright? You’re not going to find a bike that has it all, so think through what is most important to you. Also, what are the shortcomings of your current bike? Think about your dream improvements – they’re out there – and be ready to clearly convey this to the shop staff right away so they can steer you in the correct direction.
2) Go during off-peak hours.
All bike shops want to sell you a bike, they truly do. But how much time they have to devote to little-ole-you depends on how busy the shop is, so go during off-peak hours. Generally this tends to be early to mid afternoon on weekdays.
3) Bring your list.
Write down what you want and what your questions are so you’re prepared. It’s easy to get flustered when surrounded by all the pretty bikes – and lose track of your goals. Do not leave the shop until all your questions are answered and you’ve conveyed everything you want to say. Do not be afraid to ask questions. You should have lots of questions. See #7.
4) Don’t buy the bike today.
Your bike should be a wise investment that lasts you for many years to come. Three years from now you should be miles into your ride thinking “Dang I love this bike!” Don’t rush into the process. First visit shops to test ride, take your time and explore. Visit many shops, try bikes on a whim. Ask around, conduct online research and get second and third opinions. It is perfectly acceptable to test ride a bike more than once.
5) Make sure the bike fits you correctly.
I wish this one didn’t make the list, but unfortunately it does. The majority of bike shops are doing a fantastic job of providing friendly service to get people on the right bikes, but I’ve heard too many stories of mis-sizing to let this one slide. Have the shop adjust your seat before you hit the road on a test ride. If it’s not comfortable, it’s not right for you. Adjust the seat some more and try a different size. If they don’t have your size, ask if they can get it. Do not buy the wrong size just because you want that bike. It’s not unheard of (nor common) for a shop to try to push someone onto the wrong size because it’s a bike they need to get rid of. To be fair, it is also not unheard of (and probably too common) for buyers to fail to analyze their own comfort before buying a bike.
6) Consult Other Resources
Use bicycle guides or other forms of information as a reference to ensure you’re making the best decision.
7) Factor in accessories.
If you are new to owning a bike, it’s important to take into consideration your essential accessories. Your budget should include a high quality lock ($45), a helmet you’ll enjoy wearing (min. $35), front and rear lights (min. $30), a quality rain jacket that truly does the job ($100) and a home-use bike pump ($35). This could easily add up to $250-400 but these are long-lasting items you simply cannot do without.
8) You are in charge: do not be intimidated.
Bike shops can be intimidating for the uninitiated. Knowing what you want, research, your questions list are excellent tools to arm you with confidence. Don’t let shop staff make you feel nervous or uncomfortable. Remember: you’re the buyer, so you’re in charge. You should set the tone for how this transaction will go down. And when you’re relaxed, comfortable and excited, the result will be your dream bike and a bike shop filled with new friends. Or, hopefully something very close to that.
Happy bike shopping, and show us pictures of your new ride!