The search for a new bike entails a great deal of decision making, irrespective of whether you are a first-time buyer or not. In addition, the factors that you will need to put into consideration have a universal application for different types of bikes designed for different purposes.
But what does it really take to buy the right kind of bike that will suit and meet your biking needs? This buying guide seeks to give you answers to this pertinent question so that when you walk down to that bike shop for the first or second time, you will be able to walk out with the right bike that you will be proud of. The guide will give you a comprehensive coverage of these answers so that you can avoid some of the mistakes that first-time buyers make or the ones that you made in your previous purchase or purchases.
As this buying guide unfolds, we are going to examine the following key pillars that constitute a right purchasing decision. Some of the areas that we are going to examine are as follows: Setting your goals right and defining your needs; Types of bikes available; Setting the budget; Testing the bike; Settle for the best bike shop; Maintenance of the bike; Bike Accessories; Look for reviews and other testimonials; Get the right size; Explore the alternatives; Balancing between brand and model; Gender matters also matter; Wrapping it up
Setting your goals right and defining your needs
Before you begin the search for a bike, you need to establish exactly what you need the bike for. You need to take your time and analyze your biking needs without any margin of error or assumption. If you need a bike for commuting around town, sporting or lifestyle purposes, you have to state and make it clear in your mind.
But why is it important to determine your biking needs? Why is it necessary for you to assess and define your needs? Listed below are some of the reasons for coming up with clearly defined biking goals:
- It will determine the price of the bike: Different bikes come at different prices. For example, if you need a bike for the sole purpose of moving from point A to point B you may not need to go for a bike that will cost you thousands of dollars. On the contrary, a simple bike worth a few hundreds of dollars will be suitable for you.However, if you need a bike that will enable you compete in a championship and win it, you will need a bike that will cost you several thousands of dollars. The same will apply if you were going for a fitness bike that you will use in a training gym because you will also need to cough more money than a person seeking a simple mobility tool for commuting around town and doing some simple household shopping.
- It will determine the features of the bike: Another reason why it is important to clearly determine your biking goals and needs is that it will help you understand the features that you will need the bike to have. This is because the ability of a bike to fulfill a particular kind of task is dependent on and enabled by the kind of features that the bike will have.For instance, if you need a bike to win a championship, you will need to go for features such as a higher number of gears because speed is paramount and a priority for a racing bike. In addition, different features are available on different types of bikes and this leads us to the following point below: the type of bike that you will need to buy.For a person seeking to get a bike designed for versatile domestic and personal needs, they may need to buy a versatile bike that has a rack to store their stuff, fenders and a bike that is fitted with wider tires as opposed to racing bikes which need to have thinner tires.
- It determines the types of bike that you will buy: When you clearly define and determine your biking needs and objectives, you will be better placed to know the best type of bike that will meet those needs. For instance, if you want to become a super cyclist, you will definitely go for a good quality road bike. If on the other hand you need to get a machine that will enable you to ride for leisurely purposes, then you will definitely go for a comfort bike.On the other hand, if you need a bike that will enable you to go for trips that will involve you boarding a train or a boat to cross over to the other side, you will definitely need a folding bike. This will make it easy and convenient for you to pack the bike and comfortably move with it.
Another core factor that you need to put at the back of your mind as you go shopping for a new bike is the availability of different types of bikes. This is because different bike types are designed for different purposes and they have different features that are intended to perform their varied and even specialized purposes. These different types of bikes are also designed with different users in mind; for instance kids and women. That is why this section is devoted to the unfolding and exploration of the different types of bikes available in the market so that you can land on the best type that will effectively meet your biking needs.
Under this section, we shall examine the main types of bikes in the context of their different advantages and disadvantages. Some of the common types are discussed further below as follows:
- Road Bikes: Let us start off on the road and cover road bikes. Road bikes are designed for people and users who are interested in engaging in long mileage biking activities such as touring that may take a couple of days. This is because these bikes are designed with a light frame and they also have a narrow seat and drop handlebars that allow the user to bend easily and also thin tires.In addition, road bikes are divided into smaller categories. For instance, we have a performance type of road bikes that are slightly different from the conventional road bikes in the sense that they have a shorter top tube and longer head tube that make it possible for one to ride in a more upright position. Another category under the road bike family is the cross bike. This kind of road bike is fitted with wider tires that are suitable for off-road riding.
The pros of road bikes: They are best suited for die-hard cyclists because they have drop handlebars that allow a rider to sit in a bending position.
The cons of road bikes: Even though these bikes are designed to give the rider a bending position while riding, some riders may not be comfortable with the low bend that the bike provides.
- Mountain Bikes: From the roads we take off to the mountains and examine mountain bikes. These kinds of bikes are designed and intended to give the rider the ability to stand up to rugged trails. This is because of the way the bikes are designed with shock-absorbing front suspension fork and a rear suspension. These two features ensure that the rider enjoys great comfort and control over the bike as they ride though rough and rugged terrains. In addition, the bikes are fitted with a wider saddle, flat handlebars and wider tires that are intended to withstand the ruggedness of mountain terrains.
The pros of mountain bikes: The first admirable advantage of this kind of bike is that it is more durable than the other types of bikes. Second, mountain bikes have a very strong shock-absorbing ability. Third, mountain bikes are well adapted for handling most off-road terrains, better than the other types of bikes.
The cons of mountain bikes: The first con of these bikes is that they are a bit heavier compared to their road and fitness counterparts. In addition, mountain bikes are not the best choice to use for road riding.
- Comfort bikes: These types of bikes are best suited for leisure, riding on smooth paths and pavements and they are the best option to use for recreation purposes. They are designed with high handlebars, a wider and soft seat, and they also have shock absorbers in the fork or/and saddle.
The pros of comfort bikes: They offer the ride the comfort of sitting upright and they also have a smaller number of gears that allow the rider to pedal even when climbing hilly surfaces. Lastly, they cost lesser than the other types of bikes that we have covered above.
The cons of comfort bikes: They are not the best machines to use during off-road cycling because of their wider tires. In addition, they may force you to engage in some sort of hard pedaling when dealing with hilly terrains.
- Fitness bikes: These types of bikes are the best bet for users who would like to have a machine that will help them shed off some unnecessary calories. In addition, fitness bikes are a good starting point for those who may need something to enable them to commute around town. These bikes are fitted with slimmer tires and they have a narrow saddle and they have a light frame compared to comfort bikes.
The pros of fitness bikes: These bikes offer a greater level of comfort than road bikes. In addition, they are a bit heavier and cheaper than road bikes and they can be a very good choice for daily commuting.
The cons of fitness bikes: The only disadvantage of these bikes when they are compared to road bikes is that they are less aerodynamic.
- Hybrid bikes: This is another class of bikes that is a combination of the strengths of the different types that we have covered above. These bikes are designed to allow riders to enjoy an upright position instead of leaning forward the way they would have done on a mountain or road bike.
The pros of hybrid bikes: They have slimmer tires and larger wheels that allow them to move faster while demanding very minimal effort from the rider. In addition, these bikes are a bit lighter compared to their comfort counterparts and that is why they are gaining more popularity. In addition, they are comfortable for use by new cyclists who are used to bend-over riding position not to mention that they cost lesser.
The cons of hybrid bikes: The main disadvantage of these bikes is that they are not best suited for long-distance riding because they become less comfortable.Moreover, they are heavier and some of them may have deficient frames.
Setting the budget
Another factor that you need to indelibly imprint at the back of your mind is the budget of the bike that you need. The kind of budget that you will set will be determined by a number of factors such as:
- The type of bike that you need to buy: Different types of bikes will cost differently. For instance, a high quality sporting bike will definitely cost you more than a simple comfort bike
- The features of the bike: This will cut across all the types and subcategories of the bike. The better and more advanced the features the bike will have, the better riding experience it will give you and this will require you to pay more for it. For instance, a bike that has 21 gears will obviously cost you more than a bike that is fitted with 7 gears.
- The purpose of the bike: Another factor that will greatly influence your budget is the purpose of the bike. For instance, if you are seeking a simple bike that will be moving you from one part of town to another, you can compromise on a few issues here and there so as to make everything fit into your budget limits. But if you are looking for a sporting bike that will enable you win a championship, there are issues that you cannot trade off so that you can maintain your budget limits.
However, the matter of budget should also be handled with other considerations that transcend just how much or how less the bike will cost. You need to strike a very delicate balance between a bike that will suit and effectively meet your needs, and one that fits well within your budget. In fact, a good bike budget should be designed to fit in your biking needs and not vice versa.
As a bike purchaser, you need to ensure that you get the right bike and not necessarily a cheap one. It is advisable that you do your best to keep off cheap bikes unless you need a simple bike for simple causal purposes.
Cheap bikes are the ones that usually retail below the $200 mark and in most cases they come unassembled. Many of them (but not all) come in a single size and they are made from cheaper materials and they are targeted at the mass market. They usually fall behind those bikes that are assembled in shops because the latter are assembled with professional hands and they are accompanied with expert service and counsel.
As much as possible, you can be patient enough to wait and raise at least $300 and more. This will ensure that you get a bike that has better quality because such a bike will be lighter and better compared to the cheaper ones. The bottom line in budgeting is simple: Create a balance between what you can afford at the moment and how well the bike will serve your needs for a reasonably long period of time.
Testing the bike
As you go out in search of a good bike to meet your biking needs, you should not forget the testing part of the process. This is because the testing will bring to your attention the possibility of any defect and deficiency in any of its main functionalities and features. You need to ensure that the testing is long enough to allow you to spot all the possible defects. The benefits of a good test ride are listed below as follows:
- You will be able to know how low the gears of the bike can go while tackling hilly terrains
- The test will enable you to know how well and easy the shifters and brakes of the bike work
- The test will enable you to know how stable the frame of the bike is
- Thorough testing will enable you to know how comfortable it is to use the bike
- The testing will help you to know how smooth the suspension system works when you are riding upon bumpy surfaces
- Testing will enable you to detect any defect in all the areas listed above and hence save you the hassle of having to return the bike to the shop
- The testing will enable you to know how well the bike matches your body size
To perform a good testing, you need to always remember the golden rule that goes: If you have not tested it, don’t trust it!
Settle for the best bike shop
Even though there is no statutory provision that compels you to buy a bike from a specialist bike shop, it is strongly advisable that you buy a bike from a reputable bike shop. As much as possible, you need to avoid general stores such as supermarkets and other outlets.
The reason is that they don’t have any specialized knowledge about bikes and they can’t offer you any expert advice and service. In fact, many of them are very good dumping grounds for cheap bikes that end up being costly in the long-term. Some of the advantages of identifying a specialist bike shop for your purchase are:
- You get specialized advice
- You get specialized service and attention
- You get the opportunity to test the bike properly as highlighted in the testing section of this article
- You will get bikes that are professionally assembled as opposed to online shops that sell you bikes that you have not tested to establish how well the bikes match your body
- In some specialized shops, you may get the benefit of swapping some bike parts that you are not comfortable with at a very negligible cost or even for free
- A specialized bike shop will allow you to get immediate answers to your questions
But how do you know a good bike shop? You will need to look at the following qualities: the friendliness of their floor and customer support staff; a shop that stock bikes that are designed for different users such as beginners, professional cyclists, kids, women and many others and; the ability and willingness of the shop to offer you post-purchase services such as checkup within the first month and also establish a long-term relationship with its customers.
Before buying the bike, you need to understand that you will need to maintain the bike. You need to factor in the ease of maintaining the bike after buying it.You also need to consider what it will cost you to maintain that bike and whether the parts that you will need to maintain the bike are available and also affordable.
If you fail to do all the above, you may end up with a bike that will give you unnecessary headaches trying to maintain it. This is usually very common with low quality bikes that are “doing rounds” on online outlets where you end up spending more on the maintenance of the bike than the initial amount you spent to buy it.
As you buy your next bike, you need to consider the availability or inclusion of accessories that may come with the bike so as to improve your user experience. Some of the accessories that you need to consider are:
- Gloves to help absorb vibration
- Glasses to keep your eyes safe from hot sun rays and also other flying particles
- A helmet to protect your head in case you get involved in an accident
- A water bottle to keep you hydrated during hot weather
- Cycling shoes with cleats to help you peddle more efficiently even though some of these shoes may require you to modify or replace your pedals
Look for reviews and other testimonials
User reviews and testimonials will help you get a clear bearing regarding the quality of the bike you have in mind. They can also save you the hassle of buying a poor quality bike that will give you headaches in the future.
Size is another consideration you need to have in your buying mix. That is why it is very necessary for you to buy a bike from a specialized bike store so that you can test the frame to ensure that it fits your body size. Make sure that you get the right size so that it is not too big or too small because the two extremes will be equally dangerous and they will also make riding uncomfortable.
Explore the alternatives
Well, I said earlier on that there is no statutory provision that compels someone to buy a bike from a specialized bike shop, even though bike shops are strongly recommended. But depending on the kind of bike that you need and the purpose for which you need it, you can explore other sources especially when you have a tight budget.
Some of the alternatives that you can resort to are: second-hand bikes from reliable users; and online stores. It is highly recommended that before you buy a second-hand bike you take it to a bike shop so that it can be checked professionally. This will save you the possible hassles of someone dumping on you a faulty machine that will give you headaches in the future.
Balancing between brand and model
Brand name is good, but you should judge and make your personal decision based on the kind and quality of model at hand and not just on the name. I have personally reviewed both good and equally bogus bikes from the same manufacturer and hence a good brand does not warrant a blind and blanket endorsement of every product that the manufacturer launches into the market. In short, you need to get your favorite brand name, and then look at that particular bike model on offer to make the final decision based on that,and not just the name.
Listed below are some of the most common brand names that rule the world of modern biking: Schwinn, Fuji from Japan, Cannondale from the US, Giant from Taiwan, Klein in in the US, Jamis from the US, Mongoose, Lemond from the US, Specialized from the US, Releigh in the US, and Trek from the US. All these world-renowned manufacturers offer different types of bikes that range from a few hundreds to several thousands of dollars. You can make the best comparison from what they have to offer, but at the end of the comparison, buy a bike that will suit your needs at your every level, and not just a brand.
Gender matters also matter
In your buying mix, you also need to factor gender differences and uniqueness. This is because the two genders are unique in the way they make their choices when it comes to purchasing. It is true that we have standard bikes that are built to accommodate the needs of both men and women.
However, a closer look at all the standard bikes proves clearly that most of them are built with a male orientation and thinking. This means that the male sex is more likely to accept them without any further need for modification with regard to how they look like or function. They are not built with features such as levers that can be easily reached easily by shorter or smaller hands.
That is why it is important for you to consider the gender of the user or your gender for that matter before you decide to settle for a particular model in the market. But with the modern trends in biking, most of the manufacturers are now building gender-specific bikes. We now have bikes that are suited and customized for female users.
Wrapping it up
Buying a new bike should be a moment of fun and serious reflection as well. In order for you to get the right bike, you need to assess and define your current biking needs. Your needs at the moment you are making the decision and your needs in the near future need to be balanced so that you can buy a bike that will serve you for a reasonably long time.
Another factor that you need to put into consideration is the budget that you have at hand. This will determine and influence other factors such as the kind of bike you will get and even the sourcing of the bike.
As you make the decision, you need to do it with the awareness that there are plenty of options in the market and they come at different prices while offering different levels of user satisfaction and experience. In addition, you need to factor in the size of the user in relation to the bike. Remember that their gender will also play a role in determining the appearance and features of the bike.
After you have put all the above factors that we have discussed in their proper perspective, you can be sure of getting a bicycle that will serve you better and for longer. Otherwise, you now have all the necessary guidelines that will enable you to make a smarter and more advantageous decision worth your money next time you go shopping for a new bike.