Buying A Bicycle
I ride bicycles a lot. Not winning-the-tour-de-france a lot, but some-people-think-its-all-I-do a lot. The bikes page on here says more, but to keep a long story short, people that don’t have bicycles tend to as me what kind of bike they should get and where they should get it from. The TL;DR version: Pick how much you want to spend, go somewhere where people treat you nicely and tell them exactly what kind of riding you want to do, and buy what they recommend. Here are the most common questions and the answers I’ve given over and over.
What kind of bicycle should I get?
This depends on the type of riding you will be doing most of the time. Not every type of riding you have seen on youtube and think might be cool. This also depends on how much time you want to put in and how fast you want to go. Brands like Surly and Salsa makes bicycles as specific as
"Moonlander, like its name implies, is meant to go beyond where normal bikes, even normal fat bikes, can go. It is designed from the ground up to ride where there are no roads, no trails, no people."
"The Colossal Ti is for riders that like going fast, but don't believe fast is everything. That dream of riding through the Alps, but recognize that beauty can be found by riding right from their own front door. That enjoy pro racing, but aren't disillusioned enough to believe their bike is keeping them from joining those ranks. That understand a heart rate monitor and power meter will never be as valuable as the discoveries made from turning onto an unknown road, and seeing where it leads."
so there is a bike out there for exactly what you plan on doing. Personally, I’m eyeing one of those Salsa Colossal Tis, but if you’ll always be riding the rough streets of Atlanta 4 miles each way to work, you should ask yourself if you’ll ride in all weather (if the rain is ok you’ll want a bike with fenders), if you don’t mind a backpack (racks and waterproof panniers), where you’ll be storing it (more expensive bikes will be safer indoors), etc.
Don’t just go buy a full-suspension mountain bike. Do you even like mountain biking? Not everyone does! Have you ever ridden a cheap full-suspension mountain bike on the road? They are slow! Will you ever even go mountain biking? That said, if this bike is just going to be used on technical downhills in the mountains with a mix of pedal-up and shuttle-up, it may be a good fit. If you’ll always be shuttling, or if you’ll really only be doing flow trails, there are different kinds of mountain bikes to get instead.
Don’t just go buy a fancy drop-bar road racing bike. Have you ever ridden in drop handlebars? Most non-serious-cyclists people stay on the ‘flats’ (Hint: they make flat-bar road bikes without the drops). There are parts that require maintenance, they can be harsh on bumpy roads due to their geometry and design, and aren’t engineered to be comfortable. If you’re looking to get faster and faster and find the biggest hills to climb, a speedy road bike may be for you. Depending on the roads that you’ll ride on, the company you’ll keep, and the hills you’ll climb, you now get to decide between ‘compact’ and ‘road’ cranks, and ‘roubaix’ or ‘endurance’ or ‘race’ geometry.
Don’t buy a ‘track bike’ unless you are racing at a velodrome. Want a simple bike for getting around town on? You can still get a ‘fixie’ that is a lot more comfortable and safe to ride that one that is meant for racing on a track. If you’re actually going to a track though, you may want to try that out before buying a bike.
The place you buy your bicycle can help you decide!
What about High Modulus Carbon Frames? Campagnolo EPS Components? Blended Compound tires?
See “Where should I buy a bicycle? What brand should I buy?” and “How much should I spend?”. Anything on a bike from a local bike shop that meets your price range is going to be the same as anything else in your price range from any local bike shop. Enjoy!
Where should I buy a bicycle? What brand should I buy?
Step 1: Go to the closest bike shop to your home/office/school. Step 2: Do they treat you in a way that makes you feel comfortable? If yes: buy one of the brands they sell from them! If no: cross it off the list and repeat Step 1.
Local bike shops have people working there that are knowledgeable, and they provide service, often for free with a new bicycle. Walmart/Target don’t count because they don’t have knowledgable staff or provide service, and I’ll leave comparing the ‘Big Box’ brands like Performance Bike to local bike shops like Loose Nuts Cycles to you based on how you feel about supporting local small businesses (you should probably support local small businesses).
Sure you can buy a bike from bikesdirect.com but you’re on the hook for picking the right one (there are 1000s of choices) and putting it together. If you are looking for a cheap non-name carbon race frame from Taiwan that you’ll race for a year, you probably haven’t made it this far through this post and bought it on e-bay already. You can also get a gently or harshly used bike from Craigslist and there are good deals if you know exactly what you are looking for. But if you knew that, why are you reading this again?
Your local bike shop will carry a small variety of brands, and can help you pick a bike. Any brand they sell you will be fine, and the people you buy the bicycle from matter far more than the stickers on the frame. They should give you a free water bottle too! Tell them I sent you.
How much should I spend?
First, know that a few things are not included:
- You'll need a helmet. $30 can get you one, but it seems like most are in the $50-$100 range these days.
- A basic flat-fixing-kit and multitool will run another $30 or so.
- Riding at night on dark streets? You'll want to spend $100 on a light to 'see' with. The $20 lights that let you 'be seen' won't show you the pothole you are about to run into.
- Riding to get to work? You may want some bike-specific clothes to wear on your commute, $50 for socks/shorts/shirt is probably as cheap as you can go.
- Riding 'seriously'? Those fancy spandex clothes sure look weird, but once you wear them you'll find they make riding long distances a lot more comfortable. There are backpacks that hold water for mountain biking, color-changing sunglasses, fancy lights, fancy shoes and pedals, etc. Helmet-cameras are pretty cool too. Don't get any of those yet, you'll know when you need to. Everyone gets one "showing up for a ride completely unprepared" ride, and usually (if you talk beforehand) the people you're with have things you can use a time or few to see if something is your style.
And now the easy part. Just pick how much you want to spend.
- Don't spend less than $500 on a new bike. Anything less than this will be frustrating. (Unless this not something you need to depend on. $150 on a every-other-week-coffee-shop run is just fine)
- $500 will get you a bike that lets you find out if you like the kind of bike riding you are doing (commuting, fitness riding, exploring, etc). If you do like it, you'll want a new bike next year.
- $1000 will get you a nice bike. If you like it, you'll be happy with it for a year or two and may start to think about upgrading parts.
- $1500-$2500 will get you a pretty nice bike that can last quite a while. Bicycles in this range can go 10s of 1000s of miles before 'wearing' out assuming you take them by the local bike shop you bought them from for a free tune-up every now and then.
- $3000 and up will buy you something fancy that while possibly impractical, may be the lightest/quietest/fastest/etc of the bunch. It's easy to find $14,000 bikes. Ouch.
So pick how much you want to spend, go somewhere where people treat you nicely and tell them exactly what kind of riding you want to do, and buy what they recommend.
Singletracks.com has a good How To Choose Your First Mountain Bike article too.