It seems like such a simple thing - but buying your first bicycle can be a pretty overwhelming task. With prices ranging from $50-$12,000, how do you know where to even begin? Should you go to the big chain store in the city, or stop by the small bicycle shop down the road? What kind of bike do you need? There are a lot of questions that need answering before you buy your first bicycle, and you'd probably prefer to already be on your way, pedaling down the road by now, right? So that's why I've outlined the key points to consider when buying your first bicycle here, to hopefully make the process a little easier for you.
What you need:
When buying your first bicycle, there are 3 things you absolutely need:
- Warranty - even if you're buying a used bike from some sort of local cycling collective or refurbish center, make sure you ask the sales person what happens if the frame breaks when you drop off your first curb. Just about all bikes come with some kind of basic warranty, and if it doesn't, that is likely a good sign of whats to come with that ride.
- Mechanic - have a professional go through the bike and set it up for you. If no mechanic works at the location you're looking at bikes, it's a very good sign that the bikes are not high quality and are surely built poorly.
- Community - the cycling community is very close-knit. Everything from the best trail heads, to safest bike lanes can be learned by talking to a local cyclist for 5 minutes, and simple knowledge like this can make your adventure into the world of cycling way better. So when you're looking for a bike, talk to the people at the store. Are they also cyclists? You want someone with knowledge and experience to help you pick your new bike, and these are things only a cyclist will have.
What kind of bike:
Bicycles range from competitive road bikes on one end of the spectrum, to competitive mountain bikes on the other. In between these two ends, you have everything from hybrid bikes, commuters, BMX bikes, fixies, and the list goes on. How do you know what kind of bike you need? Again, the best way to find this out is to talk with an experienced cyclist, but here are the key questions to ask yourself before you visit the bike shop:
What will you use the bike for?
What kind of terrain will you be riding?
What is your budget?
This is probably the trickiest question when buying your first bicycle - how much should you pay? Well, unfortunartely there is not a simple answer here. You can find some very high-quality, used bikes through local cycling clubs or community bicycle organizations for 1-2 hundred dollars. If you're buying a new bike, you're looking at a starting price point of around $500 for a quality machine with warranties and an actual mechanic backing you up. However, this is still the very low end of the spectrum.
If you plan on this new bike being a serious part of your life for several years, it's smart to invest in a quality bike. A new bike around $1-2k is going to be built to last and will surely take you wherever you need to go.
You can also try to visit bike shops in early-mid fall, which is the time when their current year model bikes are being put on sale to make room for the new arrivals.
Where to buy:
Again, the cycling community is close-knit. The people who are out there advocating for safer bike lanes and larger trail networks are the same ones working at your local cycling collective or local bike shop. These are the same people with the knowledge to help you pick the perfect bike for the type of riding you're looking to do, and they're also the ones selling high-quality machines, with warranties, that are assembled by professional mechanics. Because of this, I always recommend starting your hunt at your local bike shop.