It’s been almost two years since I sold my car at a local auction house. At first I planned on getting a car within three to six months but I did everything I could to hold off on another car payment in an effort to pay down bills. Before I knew it an entire year had passed and I was still car free. Did I mention, I did not want another car payment! And I must say there is a lot of freedom in knowing that I’ve saved thousands in the two years I haven’t had a car. A few weeks ago I started to think it might be time to consider buying a new bike. I mostly walk everywhere but as it has gotten hotter the thought of getting places faster got very appealing. What wasn’t appealing was the process of BUYING the bike. Holy batman was I ill prepared! There I was standing in the middle of a bike shop with a salesman salivating at the opportunity to sell, sell, sell. He was blurting out fancy terms like frame weights, distance and revolutions. I didn’t know if I was buying a bike or applying for a modeling contract. It was then that I realized I wasn’t just buying a bike, but rather investing in a piece of equipment that required more research.
Here are 7 tips on exactly how to buy a bike:
1) Road bike Vs Mountain Vs Hybrid.
Why the hell are you buying a bike? This is the easiest way to narrow down your choices. Are you hard core and want to hit trails, or are you just trying to get to whole foods? Road bike– Has a lighter frame, thinner tires and does not absorb shock from the road Mountain bike– Made for trails and mountains (hence the fancy name) has larger tires to grip the ground and has suspension. Note: suspension varies. Bikes will offer full suspension which is more expensive or hard tail suspension which is a bike that only offers suspension in the front. Hybrid bike – These bikes are the best of both worlds and are an excellent choice for someone who wants options but isn’t considered a hard core bike rider. They are built for ease of use and comfort and allow you to ride both easy trails and street.
2) Call your local shops.
Call the bike shops near you BEFORE you go in. Or look them up online. Find out what brands they carry and move on to tip number 3.
3) Research the brands.
Compare frames, components, sizes, and styles. At this point you should know why and what you want the bike for and you should be able to narrow down your search to a list of 3-5 bikes you are interested in. From there you now know what shops to visit. (Tip 6)
4) What is your athletic ability?
At this point you should know if you want a road bike, mountain bike or hybrid. Are you wanting to ride for occasional leisure, commuting, trails, or to improve your fitness?
5) Price range
Get ready to puke. You can nearly buy a car for what some of these bikes cost, BUT and I say this sternly, you get what you pay for. I stupidly bought a cheap $199 bike from Wal-mart and in three weeks the fourth gear went out and the back tire popped. Good bikes range from $300-$600. Great bikes range from $600-$1500 and excellent bikes are $2K and up! So heres the rub, if you know its for an occasional ride the $300 bike may do, but if you are killing it on the trails or commuting like me, invest in the right bike because you’ll be using it a lot and you want it to be reliable.
6) Visit your local shops
Once you have an idea of the brand you think you like, you’re educated on it and you have a price range, tell the salesman to sit in the corner so you can peruse the options without stabbing him in the eye with a spoke. Don’t let them push you into a bike you don’t want. This is for your benefit so take your time, breathe, and if necessary remind him you’ll stab him in the eye with a tire spoke if he doesn’t settle down.
- Test drive several at the shop.
- Try out the gears, and brakes.
- Is it comfortable, easy to handle, steer, maneuver, and pedal?
I researched a bike that I thought I liked and turns out when I rode the darn thing my shoe hit the fender every time I turned the wheel….very awkward and disappointing but I would not have known without the test drive.
7) Things to consider
When buying a bike here are a few quick tips to consider to know if the bike is right for you:
- Stand-over height – if the bike has a center tube from the handlebars to the seat (common in mens bikes) there should be at least 1″ preferably 2″ from your crotch to the tube when standing.
- Seat height– Your leg should be slightly bent when your pedal is all the way down. They call this the full petal revolution.
- Bicycle gears– Whether you choose trails or streets the more gears your bike offers the easier those hills will be!
- Handle bars – There are two styles of handle bars, drop bar and flat bar. Typically street bikes offer drop bar for comfort and speed. Flat bars are designed for upright riding which gives the rider more efficiency for the trails and adds comfort and easy maneuverability.
- New or Used – Many local shops will offer used bikes that are in excellent shape but half the price. This is an excellent way to get in a higher end bike on a budget that works for you.
- Wheel Height – Comfort bikes will have 26″ wheels and hybrid bikes have what are called 700C, which offers more efficient pedaling for street riding.