“It’s the closest people can ever come to flying”
That has always been my favorite quote about cycling. It embodies everything I hold to be true about the beautiful sport / hobby / madding obsession.
My personal journey into road cycling started in 2006 when I purchased my first road bike. In the years since, I’ve purchased four more, ridden, crashed, flown and been humbled. I even invested in a local bike shop. It’s been an experience like no other, and I can’t wait for you to have it.
And it all started with buying a bike.
I’ve been asked by any number of friends what bike they should buy. It’s a hard question to answer. People’s needs are often so different. Here is what I think are the main points that I always like to tell people.
Note — I’m imagining here that you’re wanting to buy a road bike, not a commuter or something else.
- Set your budget. You’re going to need to be realistic here — you can’t get much road bike for under $1000.
- Don’t buy second hand. Unless you are a bike mechanic. You will have no idea what you are getting.
- Get the bike that feels most comfortable.
- Really, get the bike that feels most comfortable.
- Looks are a totally valid consideration, as long as they don’t violate 3 & 4.
- Test ride at least 5 bikes. They should be from different brands. You won’t know ‘the one’ until you’ve ridden a few.
- Test ride at least one more once you’ve found ‘the one’.
Where should I be doing all of this?
You need to do this in a real bike shop. Not some big box retailer or sports mall. Here is the industry secret that tells you why…
Real (independent) bike shops don’t make much (if any) money from selling you a bike. After they have purchased the bike, built it, stored it and spent the time helping you select it — it’s at best a break even deal. This is great for you. Why?
Because they aren’t trying to sell a bike. They are trying to win you as a customer.
Their business model works by you coming in the store time and time again. Need some new cycling shoes? A spare tube? Maybe you’ll swing by your favorite store. Want to give that bike a tune up now that the weather is better? Maybe you’ll swing by your favorite store. It’s these accessories and service that make the store money. If you love your bike and keep riding you will consume more of both. Trust me on this!
Therefore, the independent bike shop is totally incentivized to get you on the bike that’s right for you.
I do think it’s a good idea to also do some reading online. Not because the reviews help — they really don’t (remember 3 & 4). Where online stuff does help is in demystifying some of the technical terms. Cycling is a technical sport, that might be part of it’s nerdy appeal, so you’re going to be exposed to some new terms like groupset (“gruppo”). It’s a good idea to become passingly familiar with them — it’ll help you think more about the fit and less about all these new terms.
My last super secret tip…
The bike is going to settle in once you start putting some miles on it. This means that the cables will stretch out. If you’ve got the bike from a good shop they will invite you to come back in so they can tune things back in.
Take beer. Really, take some beer. You’ll thank me later.
So stop reading now and go find one that fits. Remember when you’ve found it — it’s a bike, it wasn’t built to admired — it was built to be ridden.