Buying a new bicycle can be an intimidating experience, especially if you haven’t been on a bike in several years. That’s where a local bike shop like Century Cycles can be the best place to start!
1. Buy from a Local Bicycle Shop
First and most importantly, you’ll find bicycles that have been built by professional bike mechanics – they are much safer and function far better than bikes built by the person who stocks the department store's toy shelves.
At a bike shop, you’ll also find helpful and friendly advice to make the right purchase – the right bike, the right size, and the necessary accessories to make every bike ride more fun and enjoyable. Our experienced staff at Century Cycles excels at helping people become bicyclists, and we do not work on commission -- we will spend all the time necessary to make sure you get everything you need. Be prepared to spend a few hours with us as we ask you a lot of questions, arrange your test rides, and get your new bike ready to take home!
Most shop-quality bicycles for adults start at around $350. If you're looking for something to ride on a couple of weekends a month, that a bike in that price range is more than adequate. However, if you'll be riding a few days every week, then you should be prepared to spend a little more for a model that's more durable.
By talking to us, we'll help you find a bike that meets both your needs and your budget. Allow a little more in your budget for additional accessories (see #5 below). Depending on your needs, you'll probably want to budget from at least $50 up to about $200 or more for accessories.
2. Think about where and how you want to ride your bike
Do you want to ride on public roads and streets, or do you want to stick to dedicated bike paths? Will those bike paths be paved or unpaved? Do you want to power through the woods on rough mountain bike trails? Or do you just want to cruise the boardwalk down by the beach? There are bikes that handle each of these situations well, so you'll want to choose the appropriate style of bike to fit where you'll ride.
Will you be riding alone or with family? Will you be riding with friends? If so, you'll want to make sure you pick a bike that will let you keep up with your friends, perhaps something similar to what they're riding.
Do you want to enter competitive races, or just ride for your own enjoyment? Will you be taking a long-distance tour, going across the state (or even across the country) by bike? Will you need to carry all of your own gear? Or are you just going across town? Do you just need to carry a change of clothes and your laptop, or even a couple days worth of groceries, or maybe just a book to retun to the library?
Will you be riding every day? Or just a couple of days a week, or month? Will you ride year-round, no matter what the weather, or will you only ride on warm, dry days?
Are you upgrading from an old bike? If so, what do you like about your old bike, and more importantly, what DON'T you like about it?
You don't have to know exactly what style of bike you want before going into the bike shop. But, by being prepared to talk about these questions, you'll make it easy for us to guide you to the bike that's right to meet your needs.
If your anser to these questions is "all of the above," then it's doubtful that there is ONE bike that is ideal for you. However, if you can identify how you want to use your bike 80% to 90% of the time, then you're well on your way to selecting a bike that will give you your money's worth for years to come.
For details on the different types of bikes, and the best uses for each, see Bicycle Types: How To Pick The Best Bike For You.
3. Test-ride at least two or three different models.
After we talk about how you're going to use your new bike, we'll suggest one or two different models that match your needs. We encourage you to test-ride all of them. What looks good sitting on the showroom floor may not feel so good in reality, and vice-versa.
Wear shoes and clothing that are appropriate for test-riding; wear the same clothes that you'd be wearing to actually ride the bike after you buy it. If you already own cycling shorts and jerseys, wear them to test-ride. If you have cycling shoes, wear those, too. If you've got special pedals that work with your cycling shoes, bring them as well; we'd be glad to swap them onto our bikes for your test rides.
If you don't have cycling-specific clothes, wear clothes that are comfortable and won't interfere with the moving parts of the bike. Blue jeans are okay, but athletic shorts or pants are better (roll up your pant leg to keep it from getting caught in the bike chain). Women, don't show up in a skirt, unless you plan to ride in a skirt (and buy a bike that allows it!). Athletic shoes (running shoes or sneakers) are best for your feet; leave the heels, clogs, flip-flops, and work boots at home.
We usually have a wide range of bike styles and sizes in stock, but be patient with us if we need to get the bike you want to test from one of our other stores. There's absolutely no extra cost or obligation to buy on your part if we transfer a bike from one of our other stores to the store that's closest to you for test-riding.
Also be patient with us, as one of our mechanics will give each bike a quick once-over immediately before you test-ride it. It's impossible to keep every bike in perfect working order indefinitely while it sits on the sales floor, and when you take one for a ride, we want to be sure it's in top shape for a safe and effective test ride.
4. Let the bike shop staff choose the correct size for you AFTER you've selected the model of bike you want
Most bicycles come in different frame sizes (not to mention wheel sizes). You've probably heard it from us before, as well as from your biking friends: Buying the correct size bicycle is the most important factor in being happy with your new bike.
However, you can't put the cart before the horse. If you go shopping for a bike by size, then you could end up with a bike that fits you perfectly, but is the totally wrong bike for your needs.
Moreover, knowing that you need, say, a 56-centimeter bike before you go shopping for it is completely meaningless. Most road bikes are measured in centimeters, but most mountain and hybrid bikes are measured in inches. Plus, there is no standard for how the bike is measured from one manufacturer to another. Even within the same manufacturer, the sizing may work differently from one model of bike to another.
Once we discuss your needs and your budget, and we've identified what style of bike meets your needs, we'll pick out a couple for you to test-ride. We'll pick an appropriate size in each model that's close enough for purposes of the test ride. Once you've settled on what specific model of bike you'd like, we'll work with you to choose the correct size in that specific model.
Often, the process is made a little easier, because within a certain series of models from a bike manufacturer (e.g. all road bikes, all mountain bikes), the frame sizing is consistent. So, even if we don't have the exact model in stock in the size you need, we can determine the correct fit using a similar model.
Once you purchase the bicycle, our experts will work with you and make all of the necessary adjustments to the components so that it fits you perfectly.
5. Don't forget the essential accessories
Now, we know what you're thinking; "Geez, I've just shelled out several hundred bucks for this new bike; now they're really going to try to stick it to me with all these add-ons!"
Actually, we're really just interested in making sure you get the most enjoyment, and safety, from your new bike. Imagine that you're buying a new laptop computer. If you just walked out with the laptop, once you got home, you'd realize that it would be next to useless without a carrying case, spare battery, speakers or headphones, maybe even an extra mouse. You'd not only be disappointed, you'd probably be mad at the sales person for not suggesting these things to you! It's the same situation when it comes to your bike.
The first things we usually suggest are a kickstand (in some cases), and a water bottle holder (we'll throw in the bottle for free!). In addition to a helmet, of course, there are certain other essentials you should have on every bike ride, both for safety and convenience.
Most people like to know how far, and maybe how fast, they're riding--that's what a cyclocomputer tells you. If you're going to be riding in the early morning or at night (or on our Night Rides on the Towpath Trail), then lights for your bike are essential. If you're going to be carrying camping gear, groceries, or just about anything on your bike, you'll need cargo racks plus bags or baskets to put your stuff in. If you're going to be riding in every type of weather, you might want to think about fenders to keep the muck off your back!
You'll actually save money if you purchase these things at the same time as your bike. Century Cycles gives you a 10% discount on accessories with the purchase of a new bike (offer good for up to 30 days). Plus, many accessories, such as fenders and cyclocomputers, are quite involved to install. We usually charge an installation fee for items like these, but if you get them at the same time as your bike, we'll give you a discount, or in some cases, waive the installation charge!
This article was published on March 14, 2013.