How to Buy a Bike

A basic guide to buying a new bicycle

Flickr/Stefan Georgi

Buying a bike is no easy task. I remember when I first walked into my local bike shop. There were bikes hanging on the walls, packed side by side with little room to browse comfortably. I was so stressed out that I had to leave the store in fear that I would accidentally knock a bike over and the domino effect would cause the whole store to come crashing down. That stress could have been prevented, had I known what I was looking for. Here I've compiled a list of basic bike buying tips that can make your trip to the local bike store a bit more relaxed.

Related: How to Sell Your Bike for Big Bucks

1. Know what type of bike you want to buy. This will depend on the type of riding you plan on doing. Put some thought into how often you plan on riding, where you plan on riding, and how intensive your rides will be. As you answer these questions, you will know the type of bike you need. These include:

  • Road bikes: These bikes are lighter with thinner tires and drop bars, meant for riding on roads and pavement. They are built for speed, so they are ideal for commuting and longer distances.
  • Mountain bikes: These bikes are meant to be used off-road. They have thicker tires, flat handlebars, and lower gears for hill climbing. Many have suspension for shock absorption.
  • Hybrid bikes: These bikes mix qualities of a mountain and a road bike so that you can do a little bit of both types of riding. They have flat bars like a mountain bike, but thinner tires similar to a road bike.
  • Touring bikes: If you plan on long trips, make sure you are in the market for a touring bike. These can withstand the intensity of long trips to keep you comfortable and feeling light.
  • Cruisers or Fixies: While cruisers usually have a heavier frame than fixies (fixed-wheel bicycles), they are similar in that they are one-speed bikes. These are best for less intensive rides around town. 

2. Know your budget. This will narrow down your search immensely. If you walk into a bike shop knowing this, an expert can help you find the best bike in your price range.

3. Know your shop. Do some research, and call up your local shops. See what types of bikes they carry (some may not have the type you are looking for). Then ask for brands. Now you can look up brands on your own before you head to the shop. Here it is important to note that going to a shop is not only helpful for its expertise, but post-sale amenities that you won’t get online, like tune-ups and maintenance.

4. Know your bike size. The National Bicycle Dealers Association asserts that the size of the bicycle is critical to riding comfortably.

Some bicycle models have eight or more sizes. The length of your inseam determines the correct frame size, in terms of stand-over height. The reach to the bars is also critical for comfort. Ask your bicycle dealer to recommend a proper fit for you based on the kind of riding you'll be doing. What is comfortable for one style of rider may not be for another. As with a shirt, fit is important for comfort and security.

5. Find what you like and test-ride. It is important to test ride your bike. It may sound like the perfect machine on paper, but if you are uncomfortable riding it, it does not matter. Take a few rides on bikes that meet your criteria, and choose the one that feels best.

6. Add accessories. Add a basket, or  water-bottle holder. Spruce up your bike to fit your riding needs.

Now that you've found your perfect bike, take a ride and enjoy your two-wheeled transportation. 


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