7 Things To Know Before Buying an Expensive Bike

Nobody likes to make a bad buying decision. Here’s a valuable primer and insight into the “seedy underbelly of the cycling retail world” 🙂 before you plunk down your hard-earned cash.

  1. Know thyself

It’s time for an honest accounting of your cycling habits. Even if you’ve been riding a number of years, your mileage from a few seasons ago isn’t an accurate reflection of your mileage today. And even though you might have raced before, that doesn’t mean racing is in your future. The opposite is also true—perhaps you’re just entering the cycling fray, and your modest riding today doesn’t reflect the type or style of rider you long to be.

Similar questions should be asked about your primary cycling goals: Commute to work? Do a triathlon? Aiming for the pro racing peloton? Riding simply for fitness on the weekends and the occasional weeknight? These will all have the greatest bearing on what type of bike you need, and by default, the options and features decorating those bikes that will have the biggest influence on price.


  1. Look at the frame first

You’ll do yourself a favor if you think of a bicycle not as one item, but rather as a sum of three main things: The frame, the components, and the wheels. And while the latter two can be exchanged for a different flavor, once you’ve bought a frame (and to a lesser degree, the fork), you’re stuck with what you bought.

It’s best to start your search—or bicycle material education process—for the frame material that best suits your needs. In today’s marketplace, that means you’ll probably be talking about the “big three”: Carbon, aluminum, and steel (and sometimes a combination of these).

Carbon usually comes with a higher price tag but can give some comfort due to its lightness and vibration-reducing effects. Aluminum is often found on lightweight road bikes and is prized for its responsiveness. Steel frames are arguably the most durable of the three, extremely comfortable, but carry a little weight penalty.

You can drop big bucks on carbon, but it might not be your best bet. Same for top-end aluminum bikes that are quick and responsive–but the ride can be much more harsh than you’d like. Refer to rule #1 as a reminder of how to match a bike to your riding habits.


  1. Not all brands are created equal

Here’s a secret many bike shops won’t share with you. Like car dealers, bike sellers often feel the pressure to move inventory of a particular brand. Wondering why that bike in the corner seems like the perfect fit for you, but the salesperson keeps steering you toward another model that he thinks is “really great”? Might be a sign that your friend at the shop doesn’t have your best interests at heart.paper

Do your research. Ask around and find a reputable brand or two before you start test riding. Equipped with some knowledge, you can then hit the bike shop. But be sure to shop with an open mind—most good bike sales people will help narrow down your choices and gently lead you in the right direction.


  1. Not all shops are created equal

Drawing another parallel to car dealerships, not all bike shops offer the same level of service, selection, and good prices. Finding that perfect mix is elusive, even in an area where there are plenty of bike shops. Some brands have price protections set by the manufacturer, so keep that in mind—if you like the service and convenience of a particular shop, ask them to match the price from a shop across town. You’ll be amazed how often they will honor your request.


  1. Don’t be sold by paint

Hey…there are a lot of sexy bike models out there, with enough glittery paint jobs and nice handlebar tape to cover an entire beauty pageant. But don’t be swayed by a nice paint job or a few design elements—as cool as they might look. After your research narrows down the candidates, take your prospects out for a spin: A test ride can help you separate the “wow” from the “meh.” Then, ask the more important questions: What type of warranty is offered? What about follow-up service in a month or six? Has the dealer heard of any problems of frames or forks developing cracks over time with a certain brand? Probe just as deeply as you would when buying a new car. It’s your ass on the line and in the saddle.


  1. Size matters

Whoever said size doesn’t matter obviously has never ridden an ill-fitting bike. While a test ride might be enough to wow you, moving from one size to the next (up or down) on a bike can make massive differences in how efficiently you ride and how much you enjoy your new expensive bike. Poorly fitting bikes might be the prime reason why people make an exodus from the sport—a bad fit leads to a sore body leads to the presumption that “it must have been the bike.”ad-1936-Mead-Ranger-792x1024

If your shop of choice doesn’t offer professional fitting and sizing services, move on. Budget part of your purchase for a good fitting, which is worth every penny and will help ensure you make the proper bike size choice.


  1. Pay it off over time

In tough economic times, there are a host of reasons why you might want to finance the purchase of your bicycle. Ask your shop if bike financing is available. You might find that some brands and shops offer financing, while others want the cash up front. If the installment plan makes sense for you, ask this question up front.

Click HERE for the next article in this month’s Chainrings: Survey


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About sunsetpdx

Bicycle Shop Owner

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