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How to buy a bicycle?

Old 05-17-23, 12:55 PM
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How to buy a bicycle?

What is the best way to buy a bike? Small local shop for relationship and service? Big box store for selection and price? Buy online without ever sitting on it? What is the common wisdom? Are there specific bikes to look for or avoid? I'm looking to spend about $500 for a hardtail mountain bike.
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Old 05-17-23, 01:07 PM
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Usually, you won't find the best solution for you until you have experienced the bad things that might happen with any of the methods of purchasing a bike.

So just get a bike and begin your experience in finding what works for you.

Your biggest issue with any is that the bike you long for might not be the best bike for you and the type of riding you intend to do with it.
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Old 05-17-23, 01:08 PM
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Fit is super important so being able to try/ride a bike is key. A good local shop can help with that and with finding you the right bike. Online is harder to shop if you don't know exactly what you want and shipping can be prohibitive. Big box stores typically offer lower quality bikes. Used market can be great and save you money but requires more effort and knowledge and might require work to get the bike to riding condition, if you are not doing the work yourself this can add up. I would say start by doing a bit more research on bikes you think you might like and then try to go ride a few, at a local shop or in the used market. You should be able to find a nice bike in the style you want for your budget. $500 will buy you a really nice used vintage hard tail mountain bike.
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Old 05-17-23, 01:21 PM
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OP, your question was "What is the best way to buy a bike?"

1. Decide what type of riding you plan to do
2. Decide if there are bikes or brands that interest you
2. Go see a Bike Fitter and get a $300-400 bike fit
3. Ask the fitter to recommend the correct size and even bike, from within the bikes/brands of interest.
4. Purchase bike, not necessarily from the fitter location.
5. Go back to the fitter to have bike adjusted to your measurements

I don't think this process is applicable to your level of riding. BUT it sure does answer your question.

All the best

Barry
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EDIT: There is no worse feeling, than rolling your new bike into a fitter, only to find out its the wrong size!
So, Yes, a fit is recommended before the bike purchase, just ask any fitter.

Last edited by Barry2; 05-17-23 at 04:05 PM.
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Old 05-17-23, 01:37 PM
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Absolutely zero need to spend any money on a bike fitter. Maybe later on, when you totally want to dial some fit issues in. Many if not most of us have gotten along for years without a custom bike fit.

Your best bet is to go to a bike shop, have them set you up on a few choices, and test ride them. There is no obligation to buy. You will find out about what size you need, and probably a lot of very useful other information to help you decide if you want to go in a cheaper direction (big box) or even used. Don't be afraid to shop around. They can also explain why their wares might be better than cheaper options. This is one area of life when you actually do get what you pay for. If this is really something you think you might like, do LOTS of research.

OH...and a big box store may have the prices, but they certainly won't have the selection. And the person who builds your bike there likely won't be a trained mechanic, and probably won't be out of high school.

Last edited by smd4; 05-17-23 at 01:43 PM.
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Old 05-17-23, 01:39 PM
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This is the first time I've seen someone recommend spending $3-400 on a bike fitter before even trying any bikes. Whew!

I think one of the more patient and helpful workers at a well-stocked local bike shop might do the most of same things, for free. Or, maybe not. Knowing where you want to ride, and if that includes any off-road destinations, will be the most helpful info, besides your physical body, right there to size up bikes and try them out. Avoid too-small and cramped, and avoid too-big and awkward. After a summer or a year of riding, you'll probably have a MUCH better idea of what you want next.
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Old 05-17-23, 01:43 PM
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Old 05-17-23, 01:48 PM
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Originally Posted by instock
What is the best way to buy a bike? Small local shop for relationship and service? Big box store for selection and price? Buy online without ever sitting on it? What is the common wisdom? Are there specific bikes to look for or avoid? I'm looking to spend about $500 for a hardtail mountain bike.
There isnt a best way.

At your price point, go to a shop and buy whatever they have that fits- either new or used. It will be a very entry level model regardless of if you buy online or in a shop.
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Old 05-17-23, 01:49 PM
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Might help to note what the op has already been through:

Off to a Bad Start
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Old 05-17-23, 01:52 PM
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Going to the local shop you will find better bikes assembled by someone skilled and knowledgable. They can help you pick the right size and type of bike that will fit the style of riding you want to do. They will also almost always let you test ride the bike around the block.

Going into the big box store, you will find cheap, poorly made bikes slapped together possibly by someone that doesn't even know how to ride a bike. They will likely be a one size fits most and the styles will be limited in most cases. And I doubt you will get the opportunity to ride it.

In both cases, you will get what you pay for.

Perhaps middle ground is buying something used. Facebook marketplace and Craigslist always have something.
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Old 05-17-23, 01:54 PM
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Originally Posted by SurferRosa
Might help to note what the op has already been through:

Off to a Bad Start
Good observation.
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Old 05-17-23, 01:59 PM
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"The best way" varies.

For someone new to cycling and/or has little knowledge about bikes, my recommendation would be to buy from a LBS and lean on their knowledge to help you buy the bike that fits your needs - and your body - best, but also provide support for service or any other issues that you might need assistance with.

For someone with a lot of knowledge about bikes, parts, sizing, etc., and enough experience to know exactly what they are looking for, buying used isn't a big deal. If you have a knowledgeable and experienced friend, they might be able to help you shop the used market. This is where you will find your best deals. A decent bike can be found for $500, if you know what you're looking at, and are patient to find the right deal.

Buying a new bike online can save you some money, but - like buying used - knowledge and experience are helpful. Also like buying used, support from a LBS will come out of your pocket.

I will never recommend anyone buy a bicycle from a big box store.
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Old 05-17-23, 02:06 PM
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As a first foray into buying a bike, I suggest going to a couple of local bike shop. If you can get some ratings/recommendations, a good thing. Do not be shy about asking questions, especially about the fit. TBH, $500 is not much to spend on a bike, definitely a low level budget. Nothing wrong with that, but with a bit of searching and gaining a bit of knowledge, you may want to spend a bit more for a better equipped bike. Definitely find out about post purchase service. Many shops will toss in a free adjustment for after riding the bike for a while. Also, some will discount accessories when purchased with a bike. When riding a bike, being highly visible, lights/reflectors and brighter apparel, helps with the safety factor, but, no such thing as a risk free bike ride, same as getting up in the morning. No guarantees.
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Old 05-17-23, 02:27 PM
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Don't be discouraged by folks calling a $500 dollar bike "low level." I assure you, a bike shop bike at that price will be "top of the line" compared to any big box bike!
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Old 05-17-23, 03:07 PM
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The best way to buy a bike - take a friend along who knows what they are doing - You will value their input and they will have fun helping you spend your money
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Old 05-17-23, 04:00 PM
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Originally Posted by Trek1100FeltZ5
The best way to buy a bike - take a friend along who knows what they are doing - You will value their input and they will have fun helping you spend your money
Yeah, I love it when folks ask for help in buying a bike. Good opportunity to get back in a store and see the latest. Otherwise, I really try not to look at new bikes.
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Old 05-17-23, 08:24 PM
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When I bought my telescope, I was kind of in the same situation. I found something with good specs and good reviews online, but after trying to use it for a while I couldn't really make it work. I went on an astronomy forum and they were very familiar with this scope. They called it a "hobby killer". Good specs, but complete garbage as far as quality. They put an equatorial mount on it just so they could say it has an equatorial mount. The tripod is completely inadequate to hold the thing still. The lens caps all cracked. The finding scope is completely useless. I wound up getting a much smaller scope, but it is well designed and it is much more fun to use.

So for a bicycle, I want to avoid the same fate. I don't want to get the "hobby killer". With telescopes, the difference was very noticeable, even for a beginner. For bicycles, I'm not sure. How much does a beginner need to spend to have a good experience? I could increase my budget if that's really necessary.
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Old 05-18-23, 04:31 AM
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The best mountain-bikes were built in the late 1990s. For five-hundred bucks you can get a high-end MTB from the 90s that is light with great components and have a much better bike for the money than you will ever get if you buy the garbage they are peddling to the public today. Look for any old hardtail from the 90s with a double-butted steel frame that is in good shape and you are golden, and you will probably have enough money left over for new tires to boot.
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Old 05-18-23, 07:45 AM
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if you know nothing, go to the bike shop and see what they have

if you are experienced and know your size and component preferences, you can buy used on craigslist or Facebook market
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Old 05-18-23, 08:06 AM
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Originally Posted by instock
How much does a beginner need to spend to have a good experience? I could increase my budget if that's really necessary.
That's why you need to go to a bike store. When I worked in one, I didn't make commission, so my primary goal was to speak to prospective customers and get as much info as I could, to make educated recommendations--just converse with the customer about bikes. For me, "selling" was much more a "teaching" effort, or just talking with the customer, really.

I imagine it can be a little intimidating, going into a shop with "experts" milling about, and you're the "new guy." A good shop won't talk down to you. I sort of felt weird getting my son's bike during lockdown--I hadn't looked for a bike in a shop for 30 years, so it was sort of a new experience for me. So much had changed. But, a lot was still the same. Mountain bikes with 29" wheels and "clutches" on their rear derailleurs? Hydraulic brakes? What?? But they talked me through it.

People here are much more knowledgeable on modern bikes than me, and can speak to prices. I paid $700 for my son's bike, and that seemed like a lot, but today, apparently, it isn't. But it has features that were inconceivable to me, back 30 years ago when $700 would have bought you a top-end bike.

Five years ago I bought a Toyota Corolla. Pretty much the lowest-level car at the dealership. But it had a touch screen, Bluetooth, forward-looking radar, bright lights that went on and dimmed automatically! I mean, to me...this lowly Corolla was utter luxury! It was the most advanced car I had ever driven! Such is the way of trickle-down technology.

In other words, even if you buy a cheapie bike-store bike, it's gonna have the features that top-of-the-line bikes had 10 years ago or less.
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Old 05-18-23, 09:04 AM
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I guess not all bike stores are equal. First store didn't have anything under $700. Next place, there was only one guy working there and he was swamped with repairs, so he just vaguely pointed at some stuff that might work and told me to go try it myself.
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Old 05-18-23, 09:05 AM
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Originally Posted by instock
What is the best way to buy a bike? Small local shop for relationship and service?
price aside, yes

the fact that you are even asking, is a good indication that some personal attention would be good for you

bike shops in the US North East are getting busy now, so get in there!

you might try a cpl bike shops & see how you like the different owners / management / technicians? go in to 3 & ask the same initial question & see how you like the experience. have them suggest a bike & write it down & tell them you'll think about it. after visiting 3, make a decision
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Old 05-18-23, 09:06 AM
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Originally Posted by iride01
the bike you long for might not be the best bike for you and the type of riding you intend to do with it.
+1
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Old 05-18-23, 09:08 AM
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Originally Posted by mstateglfr
either new or used
+1
big fan of pre-owned bikes, myself
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Old 05-18-23, 09:24 AM
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Originally Posted by instock
I guess not all bike stores are equal. First store didn't have anything under $700. Next place, there was only one guy working there and he was swamped with repairs, so he just vaguely pointed at some stuff that might work and told me to go try it myself.
Yeah, that's true. Our shop had 4-5 full-time employees. I worked as a mechanic, but if we got busy, I had to hit the sales floor. Different times, I suppose.

When I got my son's bike, there were two people in the shop (a Giant dealership). Both initially working on bikes, but one left his station to help us. I wonder if you could meet up with a local and knowledgeable BF'er who could help you navigate a shop if the personnel aren't able to assist you? I don't know what the local bike shop scene is like for you.
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