So, another year is halfway down the chute and that old bike you've been steering around town on has just about had it. Well, like the auto industry, bike companies start rolling out their new lines over the next few months and there are deals galore to be found in bike shops across town.
Whether you're looking to pick up a blinged-out new aero bike for triathlons or a comfort cruiser to ride along the canal paths, it's important to think through the bike buying process before you drop a few hundred (or thousand) dollars, get the rig home -- and then realize you hate it. After all, you wouldn't just go down to the auto mall and buy the first car you see because it looks about right.
Never fear, 'cause Cycle is here with some help from Jim Anderson, manager of the North Tempe Landis Cyclery shop to guide you to your next new ride in five easy steps.
Step One: Do your research
It may seem obvious, but think about what kind of bike you want before you go out looking. Are you looking for a new mountain bike? Well, do you want a dual suspension or a hard tail? 26 or 29 inch wheels? All mountain or downhill? See...there's a few options.
"It's important that the customer has an idea of the range that they're looking for - range of bike type and range of price they're willing to spend," says Anderson. "If someone comes in and just starts test riding a bunch of different bikes, they'll lose track of what they like."
Part of that process is understanding your own capabilities and needs. If you are looking to break into mountain biking, you are not going to want to start out on a $6,000 downhiller's rig, or if you're looking for a mid-range commuter bike (say 5 to 10 miles each way) you will not want to buy a heavy comfort cruiser.
Anderson recommends checking out manufacturer websites to get a sense of styles, builds, colors and prices, but warns to not invest too much time in other review sites like Yelp or MTBr.com as they can easily be weighted by planted reviews or personal biases.
Once you've identified a couple of bikes that look good, find a few local shops that carry those brands and models and go check them out. Anderson recommends going to test ride bikes wearing what you plan to ride in once you've made the purchase, so if you have bike shoes and shorts, bring them.
REAL DEAL BIKE TIP #18: Avoid the Big Box. If for nothing else, you want to give your hard earned money to a local business, right? But also keep in mind that the bikes at WalMart, Target, Costco and other big volume stores are nowhere near the quality of what you will find at your local bike shop. Plus, you are not able to test ride, get follow up service, or warranty coverage from these retailers. At the local shop, the wheels are better, the frame is better, the components are better...you'll be spending more on service and replacement from one of those big chain stores than you will on a new bike from a local shop.
Step Two: Talk to the shop guys (and gals)
"We all love bikes and we love getting people on new bikes," says Anderson. "The only reason we have these jobs is to help people buy a bike."
Notice how Anderson says "buy a bike" and not "sell a bike." Go to any local shop and you will almost always get the same experience. So use their cycling knowledge and enthusiasm to your advantage.
The three pieces of information that Anderson recommends coming in with are what kinds of bikes you are looking for, how much mileage you are looking to ride on an average ride, and how much you are looking to spend. Anderson also reminds customers to include some other items as part of that spending budget.
"Also plan to spend money on things like a helmet, pedals, bike pump, water bottle cages, shorts, bike computer, inner tubes or lights if they don't have them."
Step Three: Find the right fit
Armed with the customer's information, the shop rep will now find the best options on the showroom floor. Anderson says that any good sales person can identify the customer's bike size just by looking at them to get things started.
It used to be that bikes were sized to the rider using a stand-over height check gauging the room between the top bar and the rider's crotch as well as where the saddle was hitting the pelvic bone. Now with new bike geometry those rules and techniques are useless.
"The top tube length is the primary measurement for individual sizing anymore and the only way to really know if it fits is to get the customer on the bike and let them test ride it," says Anderson. "If the frame generally fits, we can tweak things like stem length and saddle position to get the customer dialed in, but we'll do that in the parking lot before the purchase is made."
Be sure to test ride a few models and know that you can always leave to check another brand at another store and then come back if that's the one you want. But make sure the bike fits and feels good. If you don't like the bike, you won't ride it.
And for the ladies out there, know that there are more and more female-specific bikes and components coming onto the market to make sizing and comfort better.
Step Four: Find your price
So you have decided on the bike you want, the fit is perfect and you're ready to take it home and get to riding. All you have to do is buy it. Unlike the big box stores, there is often some room to negotiate a price on a new bike. It never hurts to ask.
But often, especially this time of year, the best deals are on outgoing or older model year bikes. Just because it is a new model year it doesn't mean it's a whole new bike.
"Customers should always ask about older year inventory if they are interested in it," says Anderson. "We want to clear those bikes from our stock and often there are very minimal changes from year to year so it's definitely worth it."
Step Five: Wrap it up
Anderson tells customers to make sure they go through a final checklist before leaving the store.
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"Once the shop has got all of the accessories installed, the customer should take the bike for one final test ride and then make sure they get a user's manual, warranty information and information on follow-up service." For example, Landis includes a full tune-up 90 days after any bike purchase to make sure any cable and shifting adjustments are made and the bike keep running smoothly.
As for Anderson's final bits of advice for buying a bike...
"Make sure the salesmen are listening to you and addressing your needs and interests. If they're not listening, they likely won't fit you on the right bike. The customer should make sure they're getting what they want."