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We get a lot of â€śwhich bike do I buy?â€? questions submitted to usâ€¦a LOT. While we absolutely love to help guide bike purchasers toward suitable commuting bikes, this is an incredibly difficult question to answer without relying on a bunch of generalitiesâ€¦with dozens of great commuter bikes and literally hundreds of other bike models on dealer floors at any given time, thereâ€™s a lot to wade through, especially for the novice bike enthusiast.
(image borrowed from jugsi.com)
So, I thought it would be a good idea to distill some of those generalities down into a handy â€śstarter guideâ€? for folks to use. I wonâ€™t be naming any specific brands or models â€“ thatâ€™s not the point of this exercise. Rather, this is intended to get bike shoppers thinking about what they need and expect out of a new bicycle.
Many people go into the bike purchasing experience with only one thing in mind: price. Price is important, of course, but it is only one of many aspects to be considered when selecting a new bicycle; different needs require different features.
Generally, when asked â€śwhat bike do I buy?â€?, I answer the question with a series of my own questions. In no particular order, they are:
–What is my price ceiling?
–Do I plan to use the bike for recreation purposes as well as commuting?
–How long is my commute?
–Is my area flat or hilly?
–Do I plan on hauling books, groceries or other cargo every now and then?
–How comfortable am I with the various gearing and braking systems on modern bicycles?
As you can see, the answers to those questions help narrow the field down â€“ a sleek fixed-gear or singlespeed road bike might be great for a fast, flat long-distance commute but terrible at hauling groceries and children around town, while a sturdy, clunky â€śgrocery getterâ€? would be great for around-town utility purposes but might not be suitable for some recreational uses. Complicated gearing and braking systems might be daunting for the novice bicyclist and utterly unnecessary for someone in a flattish urban environment.
Concerning the price ceiling â€“ be flexible with this. A little more money can mean a lot better of a bike. If this means putting off your purchase for a few more weeks to save up some extra dollars, do itâ€¦but donâ€™t forget that a more expensive bike does not mean a more suitable bike for you, merely that it probably has better-quality parts and accessories than a lesser-priced model.
One of the best pieces of advice we can give folks shopping for a new bike is to check out their local bike shops. Walking in and saying, â€śIâ€™ve got X dollars to spendâ€¦what do you have?â€? is an exercise in futility. But, prepared with the answers to the above questions, you and your local shops can help pinpoint something thatâ€™s actually suitable for your needs. Still, any old local shop wonâ€™t do â€“ they must understand your needs and be receptive to letting you try different models at different price ranges. No one likes the â€śhard sellâ€? â€“ if a dealer is trying to push you toward a specific model that doesnâ€™t do EVERYTHING you need a bike to do, youâ€™re probably in the wrong shop and should exit gracefully! Visit as many shops as you can…this gives you the opportunity to test and evaluate a whole range of different bikes (and find a trustworthy shop in the process).
The other critical piece of advice we like to share is this: buy the bike that you look forward to ridingâ€¦comfortable, pretty, feature-packed, whatever. Being excited to ride your new machine is half the battleâ€¦and youâ€™re far less likely to be excited by something that doesnâ€™t feel good or doesnâ€™t do what you need it to do.
Buying a new bike is a daunting process; thereâ€™s no doubt about that. Arming yourself with some answers and a bit of personal research under your belt can make the whole thing a lot easier to stomach.
Perhaps our readers have some additional considerations for the new bike shopper theyâ€™d like to share? If so, have at it in the comments section.
Have a cycling-related question? Just Ask Jack! Click on the link in the right-hand column to send me your questions.