Purchasing a quality bike can be costly. Here’s how to do it right.
Nothing throws an outdoor experience in the gutter like bad gear. The same is true for riding bikes. On one hand, there’s something to be said for working with what you have. But if what you have is a rust-addled, hand-me-down from Walmart, it’s more likely to lend itself to frustration than pleasurable pedaling.
If that’s the case, investing in a new rig is probably a good idea. Of course, you’ll want to ensure your ride-to-be is just right. But if you’ve paid a visit to a bike shop in recent years, you’ll know that may feel easier said than done.
Not only do makes and models abound, price tags can run the gamut. For instance, a quality hardtail mountain bike typically retails between $450-$750 for a basic model. Deluxe versions can bring costs upward of $1,450. Upgrade to dual suspension and prices jump to around $1,800. High-end rigs can bring costs well above $5,000.
For beginners or those looking to get back into the game, this can turn choosing into a daunting task. Surf & Adventure Company owner and longtime Virginia Beach–area bike enthusiast, Rob Lindauer, says buying a bike should be more joy than nightmare.
“It can feel overwhelming, but that doesn’t have to be how things plays out,” says Lindauer. Years of personal experience and working with customers has honed his purchasing techniques. “If you take your time, do a little upfront thinking and research, and try out different options, buying a bike can be a lot of fun.”
Below, Lindauer offers tips and tricks to help you do it right.
Consider the Application
Where and how do you plan on riding? Those are the big questions.
“There are bikes for all kinds of situations,” says Lindauer. “Getting a realistic understanding of your goals and riding intentions beforehand will help narrow the playing field.”
For instance, is your idea to simply pedal around the neighborhood en route to the beach? A single-gear cruiser would be ample. Or are you looking for hardcore exercise and lengthy road trips? That’s upscale road bike territory. What if you want to ride primarily on natural terrain in forested areas? For that, you’ll need a mountain bike. Or is it more pedaling down beaches and sandy shoreside trails? The scales may tip toward a fat-bike. But what if you’re looking to combine on- and off-road experiences? A hybrid might be the ticket.
“The point is, the answers to these questions are going to determine the type of bike you buy,” says Lindauer. “If you go into a store knowing the intended application, you can steer associates in the right direction. Then he or she can help you try out appropriate models.”
Ability Level and Room for Growth
While it may sound obvious, your physicality and riding ability is going to play a major role in determining your bike of choice.
For instance, if you’re itching to ride in the woods but have troubled knees, you may want to consider a pedal-assisted mountain bike to help with climbs. Riding a road bike for a 10-mile daily commute is different than putting in 120-mile weekends. If the former is your ambition, you can get by with cheaper wheels than someone aiming to put in serious miles.
“You don’t have to dive in headfirst, but you do want to consider your level of enthusiasm,”
If interest is lukewarm, test the waters with an affordable used bike. If you’re feeling gung-ho, buying higher-end can fuel excitement, lead to faster progression and greater fun.
Know the Lingo
Prior to visiting a store, familiarize yourself with some basic bike terms. The effort will help you understand available options and have a better dialogue with sales associates.
Frame—The metal core of the bike. Typically made of aluminum, but more expensive models can feature lighter, stronger carbon fiber. Different sizes fit riders of different heights.
Wheels—Comprised of the rubber tire, the rim and the hub. The hub connects to the rim by way of spokes.
Suspension—Front and rear hydraulic shocks that smooth out jolts and bumps. The rougher the trail, the more suspension you need. Pricier options are lighter and more adjustable.
Drivetrain—What makes the bike go. Ranges from one to about 30 gears, with upward of 12 in the back (in the form of a cassette or internal-gear hub) and one to three in the front (called chainrings). Most feature a standard metal chain.
Brakes—There are three types. Beach cruisers often have coaster hub brakes. Rim brakes can be found on models ranging from department store clunkers to the occasional high-end road racer. Disc brakes are hydraulic or cable-activated. They’re heavier but bring more stopping power, with less force, in all conditions.
Contact points—There are three. Seat. Pedals (options include flat, with toe-clips, or clipless). Handlebars and stem (with flat, curved, or drop options).
Buy from a Reputable Local Bike Shop
The truth is, online outlets can bring cheaper prices and wider selections. But there are big downfalls: Bikes are bought sight-unseen and customer service amounts to little more than chatting online with a remote agent.
For beginners and serious riders alike, you can’t beat a great locally owned bike shop. (See box for Lynchburg options.)
“Associates tend to be super knowledgeable and really friendly,” says Lindauer. Owners and personnel are community-oriented and seek to cultivate long-term relationships. “These guys and gals are going to take the time to work with you one-on-one to find the perfect bike. They’ll get you in the saddle, get you properly fitted and let you take it for a test spin. Afterward, they’ll talk to you about how it felt and probably make some suggestions.”
Better still, if something goes wrong two weeks or six months after buying? You know where to go and whom to talk to about fixing it.
Top Spots to Buy a Bike in Lynchburg
Stop by these locally owned stores for expert advice.
1312 Jefferson St., Lynchburg
1107 Main St., Lynchburg
Blackwater Bike Shop
18869 Forest Rd., Forest