It’s Saturday afternoon.
The sun is shining, and you’re pacing on the sidewalk towards your nearest bicycle shop. Narrowing your determined gaze across the street, the destination that you punched into Google Maps is finally within sight.
You’re walking with one, and only one, purpose: to buy a new bicycle.
This is arguably the hardest task you will have to complete this weekend, maybe even this whole month. One wrong decision later and you might be stuck with a future 21-speed garage ornament rather than a trusty companion in the form of two majestically spinning titanium wheels.
Breathe easy, my friend.
Finding a proper ride doesn’t have to be like finding a birthday gift for your neighbor’s second cousin. Whether you’re about to step into Dave’s Bicycle Odyssey or an online retailer it’s best to have a series of questions handy to guide you through the shopping process.
What am I going to use this beast for?
This is the first question you should ask yourself. What exactly are your goals once you purchase this shiny new toy? Will you use this to commute to work each morning, go up the nearest mountain trail during the weekends or go touring with your co-workers? Do you want to use it for racing, for cruising, or maybe to do a little bit of both?
How much should I spend?
In the wonderful world of buying a bike the sky’s literally the limit. You can shop online or go to your nearest big-box store and get a Schwinn cruiser for as little as $100. Mid-range bikes tend to run between $300 to $1000. The quality of the bike’s parts will influence its price. Don’t forget about accessories such as locks, rucksacks, mudguards, lights, and of course bike pumps.
Will this fit my long legs?
The fit of a bike is as important as brushing your teeth each morning. For road bikes it’s best if there’s about 1-2 inches of clearance between the bike’s top bar and your crotch. With mountain bikes it’s 2-3 inches. Handlebar positioning and saddle height can be adjusted based on your size, but also for the style of riding you’re about to do. It’s recommended to have a professional help with this rather than attempt it yourself or rely on some Youtube celebrity.
Can I test this monster out?
One of the biggest benefits of doing your bike quest at an actual store, rather than online, is that usually you can take prospects out for a short test-ride around the block. This way you can pedal off a bit, shift through gears, get a feel of the brake pads, and decide whether this particular bike actually feels good.
Is this really the best price?
Maybe you’ve find the one at some specialty cycling shop but are feeling a little iffy because it’s more expensive than you were hoping. A little bit of haggling is in fact possible, but not guaranteed to reduce the price. It’s better to ask if that particular store has a sale coming up (they usually have at least one a year). What’s more, the magic of the internet now allows savvy buyers do their homework to see if the model they’re interested in is available at a more favorable price from a different supplier. Craigslist, Bike Exchange, or The Freecycle Network can be ideal references. This being said, stay alert for sketchy online ads.
Do I vibe with the folks selling to me?
First impressions are monumental in many of life’s social situations, and buying a bike is no different. If the sales rep at the store makes you feel like a dummy or seems perturbed when you try to ask a legitimate question, then your business should be taken elsewhere. Having trust is essential, and building rapport with the people who sold you the bike is key because they can be a great resource if or when something breaks or makes a strange creaking sound.
Does this bike match my personality?
At the end of the day, we want to feel good riding our newly purchased road/mountain stallion. It’s ok to be superficial while carousing through the various brands or styles. You deserve a bike that feels an extension of you and fits with your overall way of riding. Color, frame size, weight, tyre width, and even handlebars should be taken into high consideration. You’re unique, so why shouldn’t your bike be as well?