Have you ever helped someone buy a bike? Even though the cyling math rule says the number of bikes a person should own is three, the rule says, (N+1) because you can always use another bike. I’d love to buy a bike whenever the whim strikes or something catches my eye. It’s fun to shop and see what’s new in bikes. When I buy or help someone on the road to buying a bike I have a few things in mind.
Purpose: Consider what you want to do first and foremost with your new bike. Is this a bike that you will use to train for an event such as a triathlon? Or is it for some other purpose? Thinking of saving the planet from the harmful effects of CO2? Do you plan to ride year round? Be honest with yourself about what you want. Half of my garage is devoted to my bikes and gear. When I was a kid, that was my dream. Actually, it was the whole garage! All the bikes in my small fleet get used for different tasks. Plus, they represent an evolution in my biking life. I have sold two bikes in my life and I wish I hadn’t. I’m glad they went to good homes, but I don’t like parting with my bikes, so I’d prefer not to sell.
The Browse-About. It’s not a official term, but it’s browsing around and seeing what catches your eye. Along with that there’s the test ride. Start looking and test riding. It doesn’t cost anything to look, except time. Be realistic about your timeline. I think most will agree that if you’re in training for an event you should train with and on the bike you will use for the event. But I’m not an expert on event training. If you’re looking with the intent of buying in a few months then let the person assisting you at the store know you’re looking and hope to purchase in the next six months. Do your homework and visit multiple bike stores. Even if you have favorites, visit others and get a feel for their expertise. Introduce yourself and tell them about what you need.
If the thought of going into a bike shop is overwhelming, then find a bikey friend and tell them what you’re thinking. Don’t buy until you’ve tried out the bike. There’s no rule about how many times you test ride, just ride. I’d even suggest you test ride at least three bikes. You might have your heart set on one in particular, but still if I were your friend, I’d insist on trying a few others which are comparable to the one you’re considering buying. Know your budget. Talk about what you can get for $500, $800 and up. Disc brake will cost more than pads, but they are worth it! That doesn’t mean you have to have disc, brakes, but you should ask to try one with pads and one with disc just to feel the difference. If there’s some wiggle room then ask the bike sales person to show you something in a range of $whatever to $thelimit with similar components.
There might be someone in your life who says they’ll go to Wal-Mart or Target and get a bike. Reconsider that relationship. Just kidding! If you’re in that situation, counsel the buyer to have a bike mechanic put it together. It might cost $50 to have someone else do it, but at least it will be done right. Another option is to go with them and ask what they like about the bike they’re looking at. See if you can get them to elaborate on what exactly is drawing them to that bike. It could be about the color or the basket or something else. I’m not trying to be a bike snob about it, but there are countless reasons NOT to buy from the bike box stores.
When you decide to buy a new bike consider the other gear you might need. Locks, water bottles, kickstand (don’t let anyone shame you out of a kickstand) helmet, tire pump, extra tube, bike bell and other items since you will likely get a discount at that time. If you are an avid rider you probably know that you should get a new helmet every 4-5 years.
The test ride is very important. Wear clothes you would most likely wear for a bike ride. Put on that racing kit (road bike) or wear your shorts and Birkenstocks (cruiser or commuter) and see how it all feels. Remember that you can always upgrade your saddle so if you sit on the bike and decide right away you despise the ride, tell them what you don’t like. “This saddle feels like a plank of wood on my ass.” Use your words and explain what isn’t working for you so they can help tailor your needs. If possible, test ride the bike on a path that has some ups and downs. When you ride the new bike candidate you should get a feel for how the bike will perform in different situations. If that’s not an option because you live someplace flat and that’s not a priority for you then it’s not an issue.
Ask the good folks at your bike shop about getting a bike fitting. It will cost between $65 and $150. I strongly recommend it. A bike fitting isn’t always necessary, but I think if you are small or tall or maybe if you have issues with your shoulders or knees, a fitting can help dial in exactly what you need.
Last week I went to San Diego to visit family and one of the family wanted to buy a bike. I consulted with my cousin on buying his new bike. He has been biking with Zwift over the last year and he was interested in a bike that would do more and feel better. About a month ago he called me and we talked about what he was hoping to do. We talked about the purpose of the new bike.
It was great to be on the advice side of buying. I also enjoyed being present for someone else’s New Bike Day!
Danny bought the bike on Monday and we rode around each day of my visit. After four days of riding around together he went back to the bike store and Greg dialed in the ride a bit more with some fine adjustments made to saddle height and shifting. Bikes aren’t that different from any machine that needs attention. I take better care of my bikes than my one car, but often people think they don’t have to do anything except ride. You have to check tire pressure and look over your bike each time you ride.
Buying a bike is an investment in your health, wellness and well-being. If you love it, you’ll ride and find reasons to ride, so be sure you’re happy with every pedal stroke and every spoke. Plus, it’s good for the environment. Mother Earth will thank you. Another reminder. Ask the bike shop about their return policy. If by some chance you decide it isn’t the bike for you there might be a 30-day period when you can change your mind and choose something else. Talk about the details at your bike shop.
Now maybe you’re wondering how if I took my bike with me to San Diego. I didn’t. During Danny’s test rides I also took the bikes he was considering for a ride. We could compare notes and experiences. Also, I rented a bike for the time I was in town. Danny and I went out every day for a ride. I rode an FX1 and loved it. It’s a basic bare bones sort of bike. Nothing fancy and this bike is affordable. Riding it reminded me of my road bike except the FX felt more responsive and agile.
Yep, the rule is N+1. I was helping my cousin. That’s what family does. I learned that even when you’re not looking sometimes a bike finds you. I didn’t buy, but it was fun to look.
Thanks for reading. Now get out there and ride.
What suggestions do you have for buying a new bike? Leave them in the comments below. Thanks!