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If you’re in the market for a new bike but don’t know where to start, you’ve come to the right place. This bicycle buying guide will teach you how to buy a bike that suits your needs. It also covers the advantages and disadvantages of purchasing a bike from local shops, online stores, second-hand shops, and big-box stores.
You’ll also find helpful advice on what to look for when buying a bike. We will help you find your perfect match to ensure that your purchase is worthwhile and will last long into the future!
How to Choose a Bicycle in 5 Easy Steps
Step 1: Pick a Bike Type That Suits Your Needs
There is nothing worse than buying a bicycle that turns out to be useless when you get out on the road. Hence, let’s take a look at the following bike options and their main features:
- Road Bikes: These bikes are designed to be fast and aerodynamic. Road bikes are also lightweight, which makes them perfect for taking on long rides. The lack of suspension in a road bike means it is best for paved surfaces.
- Hybrid Bikes: A hybrid bike includes many of the features of mountain and road bikes, making them the perfect all-in-one option. It is also the right bike for commuting and cruising.
- Mountain Bikes: These are designed for riding on bumpy trails, downhill, and all sorts of off-road conditions. For the ultimate off-road cycling experience, buy a full-suspension mountain bike that will absorb the shock from rocks and tree roots. However, mountain bikes can be slow and heavy and not suitable for road riding.
- BMX Bikes: These are good bike options for riders with small frames, thanks to their compact size. At the same time, it is perfect for city living as it will easily fit inside a lift or under a restaurant table during a quick pit stop.
- Recreational Bikes: These considerably lightweight bikes are best suited for casual riding around town or short, less intensive trails. They take many shapes and forms, including beach cruisers, city bikes, folding bicycles, e-bikes, and more. Recreational bikes are perfect for those just getting into cycling or those looking for the right bike to ride on the weekend.
Step 2: Stay Within Your Budget
How much are you willing to spend on a bicycle? This is probably the most important question to answer for yourself when deciding which bike to buy. This will help narrow down your list of options and allow you to look at different bikes that fit your price range. Below are essential factors to consider when comparing bike prices:
Carbon fiber frames are stronger, lightweight, and more durable than aluminum frames. The downside is that they’re also much more expensive.
Aluminum bike frames are the most common frame material for bicycles because they’re reasonably priced and easy to work with. Aluminum bikes are not as strong or lightweight as carbon fiber bikes, but they do offer a good balance between cost-effectiveness and durability.
With an aluminum bike, you can expect to pay anywhere from $150-$2000, whereas a carbon fiber bike will be closer to $5000+. If you’re looking for something in the middle, titanium might be your best bet at about $2500. It is stronger than aluminum but still quite lightweight compared to most other materials like steel and carbon fiber.
On the other hand, steel bike frames are the most durable and least expensive frame material, but they also tend to be heavier. The extra weight is the reason why avid riders prefer other options like aluminum and titanium. These bikes typically come with a rust-resistant coating on their frames that will require regular cleaning and maintenance to keep looking good over time.
Suspension is provided by either a front fork, rear shock system, or both. The number and severity of bumps in the road directly correlate with how much suspension your bicycle should have.
Below are the benefits of the different bike suspension types.
- Front suspension fork: Most bikes will come standard with a front suspension system that features coil springs. A front suspension fork can be an effective way to lessen the impact of bumps in the road.
- Rear suspension system: This suspension type is typically found on mountain bikes and entails a triangular frame design with a shock-mounted above the rear wheel axle.
A bike’s gearing system is also an important factor to consider when setting a budget. You don’t want to choose a model that doesn’t offer the range of gears you need.
Basic gearing systems usually include seven speeds, whereas more expensive models can have 11 or even 21 different speed options. If you live in a mostly flat area, then a model with fewer speeds or no gears at all (single speed or fixie) may be more your style.
The brake system is another critical factor to consider when shopping for a bike. There are three common brake systems: rim brakes, disc brakes, and caliper (cantilever) brakes.
Most road bikes will come standard with either disc or caliper brakes, whereas mountain bikes typically feature rim brakes. You can upgrade your braking system later on, but it’s always best to purchase a model with the right type of brakes for how and where you plan to ride it.
The wheel size is another thing to look into. The bike’s frame determines it. You should also match your wheel size to how and where you plan on riding your bicycle.
A 26″ wheel will give you better speed than a 700c wheel but at the cost of stability. If you’re riding primarily on roads, then this is likely your best bet. If you plan to ride it in rugged terrain, then a mountain bike wheel size of 26″ is the way to go.
Bike Accessories and Add-Ons
It is a given that you will have to spend on accessories when buying a new bike. While it is up to you to decide what you need, don’t hesitate to pay the full price for safety, comfort, and convenience.
Here are some of the accessories and add-ons you should include in your budget:
- Helmets: It’s never a bad idea to invest in a good helmet. It could save your life.
- Bike lighting: These are always a good idea to buy if you plan on riding at night or through dark areas like forests and trails.
- Bike Locks: These are also a must-have for any cyclist. They will give you peace of mind when leaving your bike in public areas.
- Water bottle cages: These can be purchased later but come in handy when cycling for extended periods and need to carry water with you on the go.
- Panniers: These can be used for commuting or if you plan on biking long distances and need to carry your belongings with you.
- Saddles (seats): A good saddle will make all the difference in terms of comfort.
- Pedals and Pedal Straps: These will depend on how often and how far you plan on riding your bike. Basic metal pedals are inexpensive, whereas more expensive materials like carbon fiber can be pricier. The straps or clips are important to have if you plan to ride over rougher terrain.
- Chain Rings/Cassette: The type of material these are made from are important, especially if you plan on riding in different environments or for extended periods.
- Handlebars: These should be sturdy and comfortable.
- Pump/CO2 cartridge inflator: Having one bike pump with you is essential. These usually come in handy along with CO2 cartridges, which are great for an emergency fix.
- Tool Kit/Patch Kit: These are always a good idea to have just in case something goes wrong or if you need to change your tire.
- Shorts/Jersey/Gloves: It is always important to invest in good quality cycling wear.
- Seat Post: If your seat post is adjustable, it is beneficial to raise and lower it depending on how tall or short you are.
- BIke Stand and Kickstand: These are optional but helpful if you do not have a place to store your bike.
- Fenders: Fenders can be bought later, but they come in handy when you ride through puddles or wet roads.
Step 3: Get Your Ideal Bike Size and Fit
A bike that offers the right size and fit means that you are more likely to enjoy the ride. The perfect bike frame size for your body will be one where you can almost stand over the top tube without it touching you.
To ensure a proper fit, make sure that the distance between the seat and the handlebars is ample enough. You also need to ensure that there is enough space between how far you place your feet on the pedal when riding. It is wise to consult a professional fitter to ensure how your bike should be set up.
Step 4: Decide Where to Buy Your Bike From
If you’re wondering, “Where should I buy a bicycle” you have the following options:
Local Bike Shops
A bike shop will have experts who can help you find the perfect bike and accessories that suit your riding style and needs. Your local bike shop will offer a wide range of bikes to choose from, and they often offer warranties for their products.
They will also typically provide free adjustments and tune-ups. This is especially helpful if you’re just getting into cycling or don’t know how to tune up your bike yourself.
If you need to get a replacement part for a mountain bike or a road bike, most shops offer that service for an additional cost.
These online retailers will offer many of the same brands and styles you can find at a local shop. They also offer shipping and even free return shipping if you’re lucky.
Some downsides to buying a brand new bike online include how you can’t take a specific model on test rides. A test ride will tell you if it suits your riding style. Also, it is more difficult to get assistance should mechanical issues arise than a bike shop where help is easily available.
Second-Hand Bike Stores
One of the significant advantages of buying used bikes from a store is that you can get them cheaply as they are not as expensive as buying new bikes.
On the other hand, there is no guarantee of how well maintained or how old the used bike is. This means it might not be worth your time, even if you can save a few bucks. The same can be said when you are buying a used bike online.
Big Box Stores
If you’re looking for an affordable bike that will be used sporadically, then buying from these stores is your best option. Bix box stores sell a wide range of different bike models from many brands.
They also offer warranties with their products. However, the downside to buying a bicycle from these stores is that their offerings are not really intended for more serious cyclists.
Step 5: Take Your Top Picks on a Test Ride
Whether you’re buying new or used bikes, how a bicycle feels on a test ride will determine if it’s indeed a great bike for your needs.
When taking bicycles on a test ride, you will also need to bring someone who can help you check a few things like the frame, brakes, chain, and gears. If something doesn’t feel right during your ride, walk away. And once your test ride is complete, you should also double-check if the serial number has no stolen bicycle report attached to it, mainly if it is a used bike.
Getting the Perfect Bike
Bike shopping can be a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. With the proper knowledge on how to buy a bike and some planning ahead of time, you will find that getting your perfect bike is easier than ever before!
Whether you need a road bike or an off-road model, there’s one out there that’ll work just right for you. So don’t be rushed into buying something before taking some time to find out if it is the right bike for your particular needs, lifestyle preferences, and budget.
If you’re still unsure how to get a bike or need more bicycle buying tips, let us know in the comments. We can help narrow down your options!